Tuesday, October 31, 2006

*too tired...*


...to blog!!

Check in tomorrow for Halloween photos galore: carved pumpkins and step-by-step roast pumpkin soup!!

Sweet dreams, all!

Monday, October 30, 2006

*Society of Secret Fairies*


After following a link on Gretel's blog, I signed up for the inaugural parcel exchange of the Society of Secret Fairies. The parcel I put together is currently mid-Atlantic, winging its way to Terri at Tinker Art but, joy of joys, my parcel from Terri arrived this morning. Even the envelope made me feel all warm and fuzzy - isn't this delightful:


And Terri put together such a lovely selection of goodies, all right up my street, and things I would have chosen for myself, including some scrapbook stash, and four eminently lickable toffee lollipops!!


I know that photo isn't great, but it was the best I could laying down on the floor trying to get it all in with no mess in the background!! The absolute pièce de résistance, however, is this gorgeous bracelet, in pinks and bronzes with flashes of gold, which went straight on to my wrist and is likely to stay there for the duration. It is so me, and I adore it.


So thank you, Terri - you have spread some fairy goodness, and I feel very happy!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

*autumnal fare...extra protein*

*scroll down slowly - do not read the end first!!!*

Ed came back from his mum and dad's today with some absolutely gorgeous ruby chard; I've never cooked chard before, and it had been plucked straight out of his mum's vegetable garden, so I thought I'd use it tonight whilst it was still beautifully fresh. I consulted my vegetable oracle, Sophie Grigson's 'Eat Your Greens' for a suitable recipe, and came across this:


Lovely, I thought. That will be just the job. I only had single cream in, but that would have to do. The chard looked so glossy and fresh that I thought it would be a shame not to photograph it to share, so here are a couple of pics of the raw stuff:



Isn't it pretty?!!

Anyway, I diligently followed the recipe, and when it was finished, although most of the vibrancy had been cooked out, it still looked (and smelled) fairly delicious. I'm going to hold off posting a photo of the finished dish for just a moment, whilst I tell you that the eating did not disappoint; both Ed and I cleaned our plates, resolved to eat chard more often (which we may end up doing on a fairly regular basis, as I think it may be a staple in our veg box over the winter months), and Ed tried to phone his mum to tell her what a hit it had been, but their phone was engaged. And now, here comes the rub. It wasn't until about half an hour ago when I was merrily cropping and re-sizing my photos to share with you, that I happened upon the reality of the extra protein. Here, in all it's glory, is my plate, just served, ready for me to enjoy, which I duly did, and, as already mentioned, I cleaned my plate:


Looks OK? Quite tasty? Not as great as the uncooked stuff, but still not bad? Look a little closer...can you see, towards the right-hand side of the plate, where the chard meets the rice, a sort of pale greenish bit of something. I noticed this when I was re-sizing the photo, and immediately thought, "hang on, that looks a bit like a caterpillar - I'll blow up the photo to reassure myself that it's just a rogue piece of chard stem, masquerading as a caterpillar..." This is what I saw:


Is there anyone out there in blogland who doesn't think this looks like a caterpillar??!!!

Sweet dreams, all :)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

*beaded beauty!*

Yesterday morning, F went to play with one of her friends, so A and I needed something to do to occupy our time. The day before, A had found a hair beading kit given to F for one of her birthdays, some time ago, which we'd looked at, put away, and forgotten about. Anyway, we decided we'd give it a whirl, since one of A's best friends at school, Ben, is half-Jamaican and often has beads in his sweet little locks. Ever the sceptic, I didn't think it would work very well, as A's hair is very fine, and my experience of kits like this is that the pictures on the box paint a misleadlingly optimistic picture of how easy it is going to be to do, and how good the results are going to be!! I have to confess to being pleasantly surprised; it was dead easy to do, and the results weren't at all bad! A was absolutely delighted, and kept going to check on the overall 'look' after the addition of each string of beads. Of course, she now wants me to put them in for school on Monday; not sure how well that will go down! Just a few photos from yesterday:




Have a great weekend, all!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

*organic food boxes*


OK, so I closed yesterday's post with the news (!!) that I have just signed us up for an organic veg/fruit box delivery scheme. I have been reading an awful lot lately around the subject of food miles, and the impact upon the environment of flying/shipping in out-of-season fruit and veg. I know it's common sense, but it's not until you sit down and really look at the food you consume, and its origins, that you take note of the possible environmental consequences of certain things in your diet. So, from a starting point of, at this stage, simply trying to be more aware of what we're eating, only buying and therefore cooking seasonal produce, and trying to be just a bit more environmentally aware, I am going to be taking delivery, once a week, of a fruit box and a veg box from Flights Orchard - the first box will be delivered next Wednesday, as I was too late for this week's drop. I am going to see how I get on, but am going to try and only use fruit and veg that comes in the box. I would be really interested to hear if anyone has any experience of this sort of scheme, and also any recipes anyone has for meals made with typically autumn/winter veg - pumpkins, potatoes, leeks, kale etc. I have the Guardian's guide to seasonal eating which came with last Saturday's paper, and is extremely helpful; it's written in conjunction with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall/River Cottage, but it's thin on recipes.

In other news, we spent a happy hour or so at the playing field with Vic and little Miss Elizabeth; all was well until F took a crashing tumble off the monkey bars and scared the life out of me for a good 15 seconds. She landed on her bottom, but very heavily, and at first was saying she couldn't move. Thankfully, I think it was just the shock, because she was soon on her feet again, although she was terribly pale for a good half-hour afterwards.


A was her usual charge-about self; she insists on jumping in every muddy puddle we come across, and, predictably, was filthy by the time we returned home. Note the layered look: Umbro football shorts over short trousers.


I will leave you this evening with a shot of the three monkeys on the climbing frame. They had a grand day!


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

*good to be back!*

Goodness, it feels like I've been away from blogland for days, when in fact it was only last Friday - which, I suppose, is five days, but it seems like a lot longer. We had an enjoyable, but very wet weekend in Brighton with my SIL, BIL and our two nephews. I love Brighton when the sun's shining; this weekend it was dull, grey, cold and decidedly miserable-looking!! Just as we were leaving on Monday morning, the sun came out...typical! Anyway, we spent Saturday afternoon at the leisure centre at Burgess Hill, plummeting down the water slides and generally messing about in the water. The children had a wonderful time; I was ever-conscious of the fact that, having shoe-horned myself into my bathing costume, there was always the chance that some part of my ample person was going to pop out at an inopportune moment. It detracted from my enjoyment slightly. We spent Sunday having a roast dinner at a pub on the Marina, followed by a highly competitive game of ten-pin bowling - with eight of us playing, it took ages to complete just the one game. F was ahead for the duration, her lead only threatened at the last minute by her daddy, who was making a storming comeback...until I promised him I'd kick him in the shins if he overtook her. He gallantly muffed his last two bowls, and she won by one point!! She was none the wiser. I came last.

Because the weather was so appalling, we didn't take many photographs. There were no opportunities to get the children outside, so the few that we did take were in the house where, of course, the lighting wasn't brilliant.


F and her elder cousin, J - kindred spirits, gentle and calm.


A, looking decidedly strawberry blonde!

I'm just off now to catch up with all of my regular blog reads, which have been neglected since the end of last week. We're enjoying a quiet half-term, here on the blossom trail; I have just signed up to an organic veg/fruit box delivery scheme, but more of that tomorrow...

Friday, October 20, 2006

*more halloween shenanigans*


Specifically, the annual Halloween Disco at school, which, as you can imagine, was a cause for great excitement as we got ready this evening. The girls are there at the moment - they were collected by the mum of one of F's friends, and I've just had a call from her to say that they all went in without a backwards glance! Such a relief. I took F to the same event two years ago when she was in Reception, and it was purgatory; she wouldn't let me go, nor would she dance/join in/detach herself from my side. I don't think either of us enjoyed it - I certainly didn't - and she hasn't been to a school disco since. She was SO up for it this evening, though; and I think the fact that her 4 year-old sister is clearly quite matter-of-fact about such things is a bonus.


...much pinkness, of course...


...very scary little witch...

And I post this, especially for Kirsty, just because of the expression on A's face, which I know will warm the cockles of Kirsty's heart!! Hope you're feeling better after your extraction yesterday, honey...


It's possible that 'on the blossom trail' may be on a brief hiatus over the weekend, depending upon the availability of internet facilities at my sister-in-law's; needless to say that if I can't post until Monday, I will be back with a wealth of photographs with which to bore delight you!!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

*girls' night in*

Ahhhh, catching up with an old friend... Have spent a lovely evening with my friend from school, Beck, who has come up from Wiltshire to stay with us for the night. We've had a proper girls' night in - take-away (tandoori king prawns - yum!), good telly (of which more in a mo) and easy chat. Beck and I have been friends since we started high school, pretty much, way, way back in 1983 *gulp* We have the sort of easy friendship where we can go a few months with absolutely no contact at all, and then pick up where we left off with no difficulty whatsoever. I blogged last month about our visit to Beck's for her Indian Summer party; she is a wonderful host and throws fantastic parties with amazing gourmet treats. I always feel as though she is slumming it when she comes to stay with us, because my cuisine just does not measure up!! Anyway, I took the easy option this evening, and had dinner delivered!

So, we watched the final episode in the current series of 'Extras' - what an absolute hoot this second series has been. I have found it both pant-wettingly, laugh-out-loud funny, and excruciatingly, head-under-the-covers cringeworthy - sheer brilliance! I will be first in line for the DVD when it is released, which will surely be this side of Christmas.



We then watched, at Beck's insistence, the second half of 'Ladette to Lady' - I'm not sure whether I approve of the premise, which seems to be to turn the spirited, lively, admittedly somewhat potty-mouthed 'ladettes' into 'ladies', by a process of (mostly) humiliation and constructive criticism. It's the final episode next week, which sees the contestants attempting to fool a panel of 'debutantes' (puh-lease) into believing they are 'one of them'. I don't know whether or not I'll be watching.

Next on my viewing agenda was 'Scrubs' - I just love the soft, quirky humour of this show. I find it a tonic - it's like someone is gently stroking your head for half an hour!


Thursday, 10pm, E4+1

And finally, the joy that is 'Kath & Kim'. This is one of my all-time favourite shows; again, it's gentle, harmless humour, but it's 'isterically funny!!

kath and kim

That was my night, bloggers; hope you've all had a good one!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

*the simplest of things...*


A beautiful card arrived this morning, bearing the image of this gorgeous creature, 'lilac elephant', from Gretel, the illustrator herself. It brought a smile to my face because a) it is so rare to get a good, old-fashioned piece of handwritten mail these days, especially one you're not expecting, and b) I am gushy and adoring of Gretel's work to the point of sycophancy. I happened upon her blog a little while ago, and we have discovered that we aren't that far from one another, geographically, and have therefore extended an open invitation for a drop-in for a cuppa!! If you're looking for something a little different in the Christmas card stakes, check out these beauties - they are top of my must-have list! Thank you, Gretel - I anticipate being in the vicinity very soon - get the kettle on, and I'll bring the cake!!

Monday, October 16, 2006

*halloween come early*

It was the last session of Rainbows before half-term tonight, and there isn't a meeting the first Monday that the children are back at school, so this was the night for their Halloween party - ooooohhhhh, the excitement!!! I got F and her friend ready (much to the disgust of A, who won't be 5 until February, and therefore not eligible to join Rainbows at the moment...) amid much speculation as to exactly what their friends might be wearing. I picked up F's outfit at Tesco for the bargain price of £8, to include a fabulous wig - I didn't think that was too bad... Anyway, here they are, in their finery, waiting to be collected. Apologies for the pixellated faces again, it's too late to ring and ask these mums for their permission to publish.




And here, with another two of their friends, just as they were about to leave:


Don't they look great!! That gorgeous little minx in blue is baby Miss E's big sister - she is a star, and has been absolutely brilliant since their new arrival joined them in August. Anyway, they all had a great time at the party, and will do it all again on Friday for the school's Halloween disco - yippee!

I am steeling myself for a battle with bureaucracy tomorrow; I have just been to a meeting of a sub-committee of the school's governing body, which is trying to halt the proposed termination of a free bus service for some of our pupils in an outlying rural area. The County Council has, in its infinite wisdom, decided that this is a suitable route for the children to walk to school, and is currently going through the motions of a consultation process. I believe that there have been some significant procedural defects in the way the Council has conducted its business, and I have been nominated to speak to the contact at the Council to ascertain the correct procedure, and see if we can buy a bit more time. I will not, of course, be suggesting to this person that we believe there has been a defect in the procedure, but I need something concrete in terms of the Council's policy for consultation before we can put something in writing to them to support our case. This is the sort of thing I LOVE doing; it takes me back to my days as a lawyer. I know it sounds terminally boring, but it floats my boat!!! If you're still with me, well done! I'll keep you posted...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

*country life!*

Yes, I know it's a type of butter - can you still get Country Life? It had an annoying little accompanying ditty, didn't it? If anyone can remember the lyrics, I'd be delighted to read them!!! Anyway, I digress...

So, it seems you all like your chocolate; thank you to everyone who left a comment on the last post; the response was quite overwhelming, and I enjoyed reading about everyone's faves. Quite diverse, they were.

We've had a fun, relaxing weekend with old friends. My friend Rob, who I met in my first week at university (15 years ago - eek!), and his girlfriend, Jo, came down for the night, and we just ate, chatted, drank, and Rob and Jo entertained the girls (or possibly it was the other way round!) Jo was even happy to let F play hairdresser on her beautifully coiffured and straightened hair. Ed, Rob and Jo took the girls out for a walk today whilst I was preparing the lunch.


The horses live with some pigs in the orchard, over the field behind the house.


Rudi had a good run out today!


When they returned from their walk, A had to be stripped of her wellies and trousers at the front door; she had enjoyed a certain amount of puddle jumping, and was absolutely filthy! If you can't do that when you're 4, though, when can you?!


In the few days since I last updated, I have been asked to join a new wind band (*insert your own joke here) which has formed in the village, taking members of all ages. I think it's make-up is going to be mostly younger students, but they are recruiting some adult players to help carry things along. I haven't played my clarinet for far too long - I wasn't even sure where it was - but Ed has found it in a box in the loft, and it seems I can still get a half-decent tune out of it. I used to absolutely love being a member of the orchestra at school, and I am really looking forward to having a go at this. Rehearsals are going to be every other Sunday in the village hall, which is a 10-minute walk from home. Couldn't be better.

Leaving you with a photo of F and I having a squidge this afternoon. Hope everyone has had a peaceful weekend...


Thursday, October 12, 2006

*mmmmm, chocolate...*



I have been a little piggy this evening, and scoffed my way through a bar of Terry's chocolate orange; just a bar, mind you, not a whole 'tap it, and unwrap it' orange (although I could quite easily have wolfed one of those as well...) No, this was just the bar, and it was the best that our local Spar had to offer. But as I was sitting here, eating it, it got me to thinking how it was really a very poor substitute for my much preferred organic, dark chocolate from Green & Black's.


"A poor substitute..."

Any Green & Black's is scrummy, but my particular faves are the Maya Gold, and the Dark & Almond.

bar-maya-gold-100g-thumb bar-dark-almond-150g-thumb

"Particular faves..."

So, I pose the question, what is your chocolate of choice? And marks out of ten for the inconsequentiality of this post!!!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

*rain, rain, go away...*


I feel the need to bring some warmth to blogland this evening, as it's been a wet, miserable day here today, and I am dreaming of faraway places!! I just fancy a week on a tropical island, with a good book and no interruptions! Is that too much to ask?!

Had a quiet day; walked down to school (in the rain) this morning; never ceases to amaze me, the number of people who get their cars out for the school run at the first hint of a drop of rain. But I'm not here to preach. Spent the day pottering around the house, doing not very much, before walking back to school (in the rain) this afternoon. Did I mention it was raining today?!! A went to her friend's house for tea, so F had two of her friends for tea at our house. They were absolutely no trouble at all; I hardly knew they were here, engrossed as they were in their game of Polly Pocket.

Not much else doing! Not a very exciting post this, is it??!! I'm off to dream some more of palm fringed beaches, and crystal clear waters...


Monday, October 09, 2006

*a Rainbow promise...*

Yes, today was promise day for the first intake of Rainbows at our newly formed pack in the village. I was reminded at 8.30 this morning that we needed to take some cakes for the promise party which was being held after the ceremony, so I whipped up a quick batch of rice crispie cakes, burning the first lot of chocolate, and having to resort to a bar of whole nut which Ed had hidden in the fridge!! Melted the second lot the proper way, with a bain-marie, and NOT the microwave. You wouldn't believe the amount of smoke generated by a small amount of chocolate catching fire...!!! Despite the lumpy nuts, the whole nut worked really well - the resulting cakes were delicious, if I do say so myself. They went down well with the Rainbows. I have a not-very-good photo of F saying the Rainbows promise; forgot to correct the red-eye, so she's looking a bit spooky!


And a much better one of F, A and two of F's best friends - one face is pixellated because I haven't checked that it's OK to post on the great www.


Had a real treat earlier in the day; looked after the divine Miss Elizabeth for a couple of hours whilst her mum went for an appointment. She was as good as gold - she can definitely come again!


Isn't she a peach?!! She was such a good girl.

Has been unseasonably warm today; I just hope we don't suddenly go from a mild autumn to a bitterly cold autumn/winter - that's too miserable to contemplate at the moment...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

*a weekend in pictures*

...well, not really a representation of the whole weekend, just selected parts thereof!! And, as usual, I've realised that I've forgotten to upload my photos to flickr, so bear with me a sec whilst I faff about doing that...see, almost imperceptible, wasn't it!!

The girlies went off to a birthday party in Malvern yesterday afternoon, and just as they were getting ready to go, I decided to take a few snaps as the sun was out, and it seemed silly not to. Caught this one of them just before they gave each other a real smacker on the lips (which I missed!):


And since I was out in the garden with the camera, I snapped a couple of photos of my chrysanthemums, which over the past week have really opened beautifully:


My free afternoon was filled mostly with boring old housework, necessitated by having friends for lunch today. I did, however, take a whole hour and a half out, somewhat guiltily, to watch 'Letter to Brezhnev', which came free with yesterday's Guardian. I hadn't watched it for years, and it didn't disappoint. I don't think I've seen it since before I went to university in Liverpool, and it took me right back to my student days, although it's a fairly bleak portrayal of life in Liverpool, and, six years on from when the film was made, when I started at university, the City was already experiencing something of a rejuvenation. I loved my three years in Liverpool, and I am delighted that it has been chosen to be the European Capital of Culture in 2008 - I will certainly be paying a return visit.

We had a fairly leisurely start to the day this morning; the children were up before us, and it was only their plaintive cries of "we're hungry!" that forced Ed and I to roll out of our pit. Roll on the time when they can bring us breakfast in bed. I'm just kidding...sort of...

Our guests arrived extremely promptly at 12.30; now, I don't mind guests arriving on time, but I am guaranteed still to be getting ready five seconds before their arrival, so I generally prefer it if they're maybe five or ten minutes late!! As it happens, I was just tweaking my fringe into place as they crunched onto the drive, and by the time they'd unloaded themselves, their two children, plus all the paraphernalia that a travelling baby requires these days, I was ready, smiling at the door to greet them, trying to calm two overexcited blondies.

Lunch was a culinary triumph. Actually, lunch was just about passable...the parsnips were roasted almost to a cinder, the peas were still slightly chilly, and the crackling stubbornly refused to crackle. So it wasn't so much crackling as soggling. The dog enjoyed it.

After lunch, there was much cuddling of babies, and playing in the garden. A, on the swing, her attire reminiscent of someone auditioning for a place in a 1970's glam rock group:


Observant viewers will note the wellies on the wrong feet...


The younger blondie and I enjoying a book together...


F, taking the job of baby minding very seriously...


A, watching the t.v. whilst baby minding...

Hope everyone has had a peaceful weekend. Wishing you all a good week ahead.