Thursday, November 30, 2006

*normal service resumes!!*

Good evening, peeps :) - yes, I'm back, after a self-imposed absence from being online - just needed a little time away from the computer, but now I am back and raring to blog!! Just to reassure any of my buds who may have been worrying that I'd fallen into a black hole, here I am, larking about last week taking self-portraits in the mirror:


And, especially for Charlotty, a cheery photo of the little beans:


So, I feel like I've been haring around all over the place over the past couple of weeks. Have been in school a lot, performing various governor duties, been on a school trip, have cooked lots (although managed to avoid any caterpillars that may have been lurking), perfected my carrot cake (one in the oven as I type), shopped for a couple of advent swaps in which I'm taking part (yay - first parcel opening tomorrow!!), rehearsed with the wind band (playing Christmas carols at the village fête on Saturday)...I could go on - but I won't!!! BUT!!! The biggest excitement of all, and something that I haven't dared to go on about before now, because I just didn't ever think it would happen, is that my little sister, who has spent the past 6 years living in Sydney, is coming home for good tomorrow! I am collecting her from the airport tomorrow morning - her flight lands at 11.40, and we are all extremely excited! I have just about managed to keep a lid on my own emotions, for the sake of the girls, so that they didn't get too wound up, but now, knowing that I will see her in approximately 12 hours, I am beside myself!! I will try and take photos tomorrow at the airport (through a haze of salt water, prob'ly)

By way of a wonderful diversion, I spent a good chunk of the middle of the day today with another friend I've made through the www. world of blogging - I had placed an order for Christmas cards with Gretel, and since she is only 35 minutes away, I went and picked them up, rather than have them posted to me. We went for a fab walk in some of the beautiful West Oxfordshire woodland, and then came back to homemade soup, and some of my carrot cake. A perfect way to spend a late morning and early afternoon. Had I not had to rush back to collect the chicklets from school, I could have happily spent the rest of the afternoon chatting to Gretel. A good friend.

And finally, thank you for coming back - I am going to try and get round my regular reads over the next couple of days, and catch up with everyone's news.

Monday, November 13, 2006

*weekend photos*

Well, this post will do exactly what it says on the tin!!! I was a lazy old blogger over the weekend - had great photos from Saturday AND Sunday, and was just too darn tired at the end of both days to blog them. Think I'll save the ones from Saturday for a rainy day (!!), but here is a small selection from yesterday afternoon, when Sue and I took our four girls (with Elizabeth in her new pushchair - no pram required!!), and one of their friends to the park in Pershore, and then to the lovely tea room in Pershore which is owned by our friend Debs, and where children are made to feel extremely welcome. It was such a lovely autumn afternoon yesterday; fresh and crisp, a dazzling sun bathing everything in sight with its cold glow. I have to start with a photo of this little cherub who, at 11 weeks old, is turning into such a little character. She is one of mellowest, most chilled out babies I've ever had the pleasure of knowing.


I love the photo opportunities available at children's playgrounds - the vibrancy of the play equipment lends so much to the end product!!



And, what could be nicer than pink lemonade and chocolate cake with your chums at the end of a gentle afternoon's play? Quite a lot, apparently; the chocolate cake was not at all well-received, and for the life of me I can't understand why. I thought it was delicious!! Debs has a wonderful selection of organic cake, but I treated myself to a slice of white chocolate and Amaretto ganache, which was absolutely delish.


Before I finish this post, I'm just going to post a photo of the home-made pizza my lovely hub made on Saturday night; he makes it all from scratch, including the pastry for the base, and it is the best pizza I have tasted: witness - anchovies, bacon, green and black olives, tomatoes and cheese - FABULOUS!!


Saturday, November 11, 2006

*chicken stock...*


...STINKS!!! Seriously, I have just, for the first time, made a pan of proper chicken stock using the bones and carcass left over from our roast this evening, and it whiffs. It's not a totally unpleasant smell, but it hangs heavy in the old nasal passages!! I have been poring over Lindsey Bareham's 'A Celebration of Soup', and many of the recipes advocate, nay insist on the use of proper stock as the basis for the soups. I know it makes sense, but it doesn't half pong!!! (That's a technical term, by the way...)

Just a short post tonight; it's way past midnight, and I should be tucked up in bed.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

*alternative Christmas giving*

We've done this for the past few years with some of the people for whom we buy gifts; it's not for everyone, and although I would be quite happy if all of the gifts I received were alternative, I understand that some people like to have a present for themselves at Christmas!! Anyway, although I'm sure all of my regular readers will already be aware of alternative giving, I just thought I'd post details of a few of the different sites where life-giving, alternative gifts can be purchased. I had fun trying to explain to my (now) 95 year-old grandparents why I had 'bought' them a goat a couple of years ago. I think they got it!!!

*Click on the name of the organisation to be taken to their site*


World Vision
World Vision


Life-giving Gifts
Life-giving Gifts

Christian Aid
Christian Aid

Save the Children
Save the Children

Practical Presents
Practical Presents

The gifts that keep on giving - peace out, people!!

Monday, November 06, 2006

*new beds!*

There was, indeed, great excitement yesterday afternoon upon the girls' return from grandma and grandad's house; Ed and I had worked very hard to assemble their new beds and get the rooms tidy, but these jobs always take longer than you think they're going to. Anyway, the girls had chosen their own bedding from the IKEA catalogue:



Both sets are really lovely; there are quirky little details, like mice peeping out, or the odd dragonfly here and there. Needless to say, the girls love them, which is the main thing. This is the corner of F's bedroom where the new bed is:


And, similarly, A's bedroom:
You can't see it, but to the right of A's bed there is a leaf like this one, the tip of which hangs over the end where she sleeps.

We don't think we've ever seen them as excited as they were yesterday; I wish I could bottle that excitement and enthusiasm. There is a dragon on A's bedspread, and she now wishes to be addressed as 'Prince George'.

F is Princess Rose...

The rooms aren't finished; we need to paint the walls and do a bit of rearranging, and I want to get lights for the play area underneath the beds, but for the time being, I'm pretty pleased with how they've turned out!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

*fireworks and glow sticks!*

fireworks 3

*not taken by me!!* Taken from here

Had a great evening at the village firework display last night; it was very fresh, but we wrapped up, and, apart from the feet getting a little numb from standing still watching the fireworks, we were just fine. The girls had a fantastic time, running around with their friends, munching on hotdogs, and waving glow sticks: glow sticks are the new sparklers. Sparklers were strictly off-limits, but in all honesty, the kids seemed to have just as much fun with the glow sticks, without the attendant hazards of burnt fingers and pokes in the eye. My efforts at photographing the fireworks were woeful, and certainly not good enough to share!! I take my hat off to photographers of fireworks - it is no mean feat!!

Anyway, here are a couple of shots from last night, wide eyes and cold cheeks!



Ed and I sampled the joys of IKEA this evening; the girls are at grandma and grandad's for the night, and we have rearranged their rooms with new cabin beds, and canopies over. Freya's is a sort of princess theme, and Anja's is more knights and nature - it's what she wanted!! They won't be properly finished until we give each room a lick of paint, but I think we've done enough to guarantee two very excited little girls upon their return tomorrow. Can't wait to see their faces!!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

*cold and frosty morning*

Brrrrr. This post is especially for my ma and pa, who yesterday jetted off to Australia for a month. It is literally freezing here now - you got away just in time!!! This morning, the grass was crunchy, the breath hung heavy in the air, and everything was crisp and bitingly fresh. Quite exhilarating, actually, but bl**dy cold!! We had to break out the hats, scarves and gloves from their box in the garage - I was impressed at how easy it was to put my hands on a full set: I must be getting tidier in my old age!


Crunching patterns in the grass was a lot of fun, although it meant that A went to school with damp feet, and blowing warm breath in to the cold air was a novelty. If you look really hard, you can just about see the breath!


Forgot to say yesterday that we took delivery of our first organic fruit and veg box, and it was absolutely brill. Potatoes, leeks, celeriac, carrots, savoy cabbage, winter salad leaves, a cucumber, tomatoes, onions, a yellow pepper, mushrooms, apples, oranges and bananas. I am sure it is enough for a week; I have the option to order 'extras' of all sorts of things, so I may add in some more potatoes, but I'll see how we get on with our first lot. It's very exciting, and is making me think a lot more about what I cook.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

*all things pumpkin!*


As promised, all manner of pumpkin-related treats from yesterday.

The morning saw me run out, on impulse, to buy a pumpkin to make some soup; A and I had the afternoon to ourselves, as F was being collected from school by Victoria's mummy, before their modern dance lesson. A usually likes to muck in in the kitchen, and I knew she'd enjoy being my assistant for a spot of flesh gouging (the pumpkin, not ours!!) Shock horror, our local farm shop was all out of pumpkins, so I was forced to drive about 3 miles to the next nearest farm shop, where there were not only some beautiful pumpkin specimens, but also some too-tempting squash, so I bought a couple of small pumpkins, and squash of the butternut, ambernut and spaghetti varieties, as seen above.

I prefer to roast my pumpkin for soup, rather than chopping it up and boiling it. You get less wastage with roasting, because the flesh just slides away from the skin, it's so soft, and I also firmly believe that it's much tastier to roast, than to boil all the flavour out of it. Just a personal preference, though. Anyway, I cut both pumpkins in half, scooped out the seeds and stringy bits, and then put the halves face down, i.e. cut side down on a baking tray lined with foil doused with olive oil. Roasted on a moderate heat for 45 minutes until it was lovely and squashy, and then just left it, skin still on, until the afternoon when A and I were ready to continue.

When we got home from school, it was straight into the kitchen to get our hands dirty!! This is the fun part! We had to scoop the soft roasted flesh away from the skin, using spoons, hands - whatever!


It was a messy, but satisfying job:


The flesh then went into the blender, along with a couple of potatoes which had been peeled, diced and gently boiled until soft in some vegetable stock with a pinch of saffron and a crushed clove of garlic. It was all whizzed together, returned to a big pot on the stove for a generous slosh of single cream, and then brought to the boil (but only just) to warm it through. Put into bowls with a swirl of cream and a twist of salt and pepper to finish it off, and it was absolutely deeee-licious!!!


And finally, from yesterday, our ever-so-scary window decoration which failed to deter the trick-or-treaters!! Carved by the girls, with grandad, on Sunday: