November 2007


well.. tomorrow I’m off to my Mom and Dad’s for Mom’s office Christmas fair for charity.. as i mentioned before I’ve been making Christmas cards to take with me to sell at that event, so the last few days have been somewhat frantic with trying to get enough made (and I’m still not done. I’ve still got all my own to make – although thats for when I get back).

However, since the majority of my cards are one-offs and unique (and even those that aren’t, there are, at most, 2 or 3 of the same ones) I’ve been taking photos of them all as i’ve gone along. If you like cards, you’re more than welcome to look, if you don’t, then skip this entry. Nothing but cards here to see!!

I’ll let you all know how it went when i get back – on Sunday. Planning to go shopping with Mum, visit with family (Dad’s family who live locally), and marzipan/ice/decorate 2 Christmas cakes. Its all go!

By the way: A lot of my cards have recycled parts from old Christmas cards (my family give them to me) which i then cut up and re-use. If you want to recycle yours, you can take them to a participating branch of either: M&S, Tescos, TK Maxx or WH Smith between 2nd and 31st January where they will be recycled to help The Woodland Trust – see the link for more details.

If you’ve bought a card at the fair, and you’ve come here to have a peek at who I am and what I’m all about.. *waves cheerily*.. hey, hope you enjoy your card!! Feel free to have a look around.. ๐Ÿ˜€

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I’m with Nigella on this. Food is comfort. I know its energy and sustenance and all that as well… but if i’m feeling down, there’s nothing better to pick me up than a bowl or plate of something glorious in front of me. Food is so intrinsically linked to moods.. there are specific foods for me, for specific moods. Here are two, recent ones.

In that “i’m not feeling so great, bit under the weather” mood, gonna snuggle down in my nice warm bed with a good book and my mug of hot chocolate with rum and squirty cream ontop, feeling gloriously decadent at all the cream, giggling at myself with the cream moustache, and finally snuggling down to sleep with a warm tummy. Just what the doctor prescribed.”

the weather is terrible outside. But in here, its warm and snug. Christmas is fast approaching. Winter is just beginning. How better to celebrate that fact than with some mince pies? Here, i adapted Delia’s Caramelised Mincemeat Ravioli recipe by using ready-rolled rough puff pastry instead of her flaky pastry. They looked so good like this i’m afraid we didn’t bother to carmelise them. Very easy, i’m definetly doing this again. And in the meantime, the house smelled all lovely with the mincemeat.. Home made, of course!

Although i’ve been walking Jess most days lately, i’ll confess that i’ve either been walking her too late or the weather has been too dismal, and, i suppose, there just isn’t that much to photograph any more.

However, i’ve a few to share. Behind the cut. Of course.

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after the ~ disgust ~ post, i ran across this poem on the net, and wanted to reproduce it here.

“It was the night before Christmas, He lived all alone
In a one bedroom house made of plaster and stone
I had come down the chimney with presents to give
and to see just who in this home did live

I looked all about, a strange sight i did see,
No tinsel, no presents, not even a tree
No stocking by the mantle, just boots filled with sand,
On the wall hung pictures of far distant lands
With medals and badges, awards of all kinds
a sober thought came through my mind
For this house was different, it was dark and dreary
I found the home of a soldier, once i could see clearly

The solder lay sleeping, silent, alone
Curled up on the floor in this one bedroom home
The face was so gentle, the room in such disorder
Not how i pictured a lone British soldier
Was this the hero of whom i’d just read
Curled up on a poncho, the floor for a bed

I realised the families that i saw this night
Owed their lives to these soldiers who were willing to fight
soon round the world, the children would play
and grownups would celebrate a bright christmas day

They all enjoy freedom each month of the year
Because of the soldiers like the one lying here
I couldn’t help wonder how many alone
On a cold christmas eve in a land far from home

The very thought brought a tear to my eye
I dropped to my knees and started to cry
The soldier awakened and i heard a rough voice
“Santa don’t cry, this life is my choice
I fight for freedom, i don’t ask for more
My life is my god, my country, my corps”

The soldier rolled over and drifted to sleep
I couldn’t control it. I continued to weep.
I kept watch for hours, so silent and still
And we both sat and shivered, from the cold night’s chill

I didn’t want to leave on that cold dark night
This guardian of honour so willing to fight
Then the soldier rolled over with a voice soft and pure
Whispered “Carry on, Santa, Its christmas day, all is secure”

One look at my watch and i knew he was right
“Merry Christmas my friend.. and to all a good night”

This poem was written by a peacekeeping soldier stationed overseas. The following is his request: i think its is reasonable. “Please would you do me the kind favour of sending this to as many people as you can. Christmas will be coming soon and some credit is due to our British Servicemen and Women for our being able to celebrate these festivities. Lets try in this small way to pay back a tiny bit of what we owe.”

I couldn’t put it better myself.

i had to go shopping, yesterday, in Manchester city centre, to pick up some more cards and other craft stuff. While mooching around in the swanky new indoor market in the Arndale Centre, i saw the fish section and i thought.. hmmm. Why not, fish for tea?

in my family, usually, we’ve not eaten a great deal of fish. Dad doesn’t do fish unless its white, battered and fried. He also hates the smell of cooking fish, it stinks the house out. Mom and I did experiment a couple of times – I’ve fond memories of a white fish rolled up with some prawns inside and cooked in a pink sauce, although i can’t remember what it was, this is going back about 10 years or so – but on the whole, fish was missing from our menu. I also have problems with bones in fish: picking bones out of my mouth (actually, not just with fish, with any meat, if i have to pick bones out, i retch) and its kind of put me off fish over the years.

Then i went to the Netherlands. The Dutch, having such a close intimate relationship with the sea, are very good with fish. Herring is a delicacy over there: the first summer we were there for Michiel’s sister’s wedding, the wedding happened to be the day after the opening of the official herring season. Or something like that. At the reception were some canapes of herring fillets atop a piece of dark, crumbly rye bread. I gingerly took a bit. the family around me watched while i popped it in (brave person that i was – they knew i’d not tried it before). I chewed. cold, wet, slimey, fishy texture filled my mouth. Apparently my face was a picture – one of Michiel’s uncles near collapsed laughing (I liked him, he had wonderful big bushy moustaches!).. but once i’d gotten past the unexpected cold, wet, slimey texture.. the taste was absolutely amazing. So much so that i went back for another one. And later that evening, at the wedding breakfast, the starter was salmon. raw salmon, thin slices of exquisite flavour, “cooked” in vinegar, that just melted on the tongue and.. ohhhh! my toes are curling just thinking about it. I’ve not had anything like it before, or since. and man, oh.. man.. i want to.

me, eating herring

me, gingerly eating herring the dutch way (with onion and gin)

And then, a couple days later, Michiel’s mom cooked salmon for me. fillets of salmon, gently poached in the microwave, until the flesh had just turned its familiar coral pink colour. Served with green beans and potatoes, and some kind of white sauce ontop… it opened my eyes to it all. Before this, i didn’t like salmon. Now i do. I love the stuff. And then, to top off my fishy experiences, they introduced me to eating herring the dutch way: fillets, held by the tail, dipped in finely chopped onion, and eaten with shots of gin. That took a little more getting used to, i admit, and i only managed half a fish. Michiel was very happy though!!

Michiel eating fish

Michiel, after eating his herring fillet.. a very fishy tale!!!

Anyway. i resolved then and there to try to eat more fish. I go through phases with it: i go months with no fish at all (except the occasional fish finger meal or tunamayo, which doesn’t really count) and then i eat a lot in one go, especially my beloved salmon. And with HFW of River Cottage fame doing a programme about fishing recently.. it stirred up memories for me.

[cut for length]

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Do you ever come across an article or bit of information that makes you sit up and take notice? i just have. I’ve read about some women who complained because part of “their” swimming pool was roped off for the use of injured servicemen, that they hadn’t paid for the use of it.

Yeah. you read that right. Men who have been injured in Iraq, in Afghanistan, some of them severely injured, had to endure abuse from these “people”, being screamed at that they didn’t deserve to be there.

Regardless of how you feel about the Iraq War, the Afghanistan War, the War on Terror.. don’t blame the servicemen. They’ve paid, in spades. Its just one more example of the “I’m alright, Joe” mentality, the selfishness, failing to think of the wider story. My great Uncle was part of the British Expeditionary Force in WWII, was at Dunkirk, and was captured by the Japanese in the Far East. he died a few years ago, but i often think of him, the hell that he and others of his generation went through, the huge debt that the world owes to men and women like him, whenever and wherever they served. The attitude that the veterans should not be allowed in the pool because “they might scare the children” or that they hadn’t paid well and truly stinks.

Full story to be found here and here. Thanks to Tony of Cynical Chatter for the heads up.

Life at the moment is extremely busy. The problem is.. i can’t write about a lot of it! It’s all involving Christmas, either presents or prep for the big day.. I know i’m being all mysterious but it really can’t be helped.

Although.. having said all that, the one bit i can share (mostly because the intended recipients don’t read this) is about the family history research. That’s proceeding very well – I’ve tracked down a modern day descendant and we’re getting to know each other. He’s a very interesting person, although i won’t put the details down here because i have to protect his privacy. I’ve started to write up some of what i’ve learned, but its a slow process. I just hope i get it done in time for christmas.

In Other News… i won my appeal for Disability Living Allowance benefits on Wednesday. It means that i get a bit of extra cash every week, but i also get it backdated to when i first applied for it, which means a nice lump sum heading our way. It should arrive in time for christmas. I won’t say how much, but suffice it to say that it will a) make a bit of a difference to our christmas holiday b) enable us to get some bits and pieces that we would otherwise have struggled with. We’re certainly getting a landline and hopefully a new ISP (we’re both quite fed up with our current one and the problems we have with them). So that’s good news all round.

I also got one other bit of good news on Wednesday. A while back i applied for a competition to win a compost bin from our local housing association: they got back to me on Wednesday to say i’d won, which is great news! They’re dropping it off this afternoon at 3pm, and i have to have my photo taken for publicity purposes. So in a minute i am diving into the bath to make myself look gorgeous. I’ll see if i can get a copy of the photo(s) to put on here so you can all have a good giggle at me, posing with a compost bin. ๐Ÿ˜€

ย the compost bin publicity photo

Yep, they very kindly sent me a copy of both the photos they took. This one is me on my own so i’ve posted this one, I don’t feel comfortable posting the other one as she doesn’t know about this blog. As you can see the sun was squinting into my eyes, but otherwise, i quite like this photo! The little blue bin ontop is a kitchen caddy that came with it, otherwise, the big black bit underneath is the composting bin. Its HUGE! i put it next to the greenhouse. for now, anyway.

One of the problems we’ve been having lately has been with our new front door. The old front door to the communal hall, because its sheltered and concealed from the road, was something of a magnet for Those Up To No Good, and was kicked in numerous times by people with Nefarious Motives (it being a simple wooden door that swung inwards, and had 4 letterboxes in it – one for each flat). The housing finally came up with a new door, a steel and glass door that swings outwards, so its not possible to break in, really, with fobs to open the door rather than specific keys. It is much more secure and we’re very grateful for it, but its opened up another problem: the postboxes are now inside the communal hall, and to post anything into them, you have to be inside the hall. (I might take some photos later to demonstrate). And the postman has to be buzzed in. If all the occupants of the flats are out/have their privacy button engaged, no post. Which has been a problem, as i’ve been getting a number of parcels (mostly associated with christmas and Michiel’s Birthday). Postman, when i spoke to him on Tuesday, said he didn’t have a fob key to get in. However i just went down to speak to someone at the housing association, i was told by reception that the Housing handed over 7 fob keys to the sorting office so that the postmen could get in (apparently we’re not the only ones that have complained about this). So either its not been handed onto the postmen yet, or someone’s lying through their teeth. The receptionist has left a note with the person responsible to check that the postman has the fob key and get back to me, and if we’re still having problems next week then the Royal Mail will be getting a stiff letter.

Mom's christmas cake

Mom’s christmas cake from last year, decorated with glazed nuts and fruits

I’ve also been commissioned to make a couple of christmas cakes. My Gran has commissioned me to make a small cake for her, for early new year – it seems she wants to have some friends round for a coffee morning and wants to serve them cake. Many of them are WI members and i’m all nervous at the thought of cooking for the WI! I’m sure i’ll be okay though. She’s asked for a 6 inch square cake so i’ve borrowed a tin from mum for that. Mum’s asked me to do an extra one for her at the same time… she sings in a choir and wants a cake to take to their christmas party. She also wants it iced with rough icing, so she can put some new christmas cake models on it. I think too that i’m going to make this one a non-alcoholic one, purely because many of the people there will be driving. I’ve not done a non-alcoholic one before so it should be interesting. I’m going to steep the fruit in cold earl grey tea, hopefully that should give a good flavour. I’m also heading down to Mom and Dad’s on thursday, taking the cake and marzipan/icing stuff with me. The christmas charity fair is on the friday, so i can help her sell off my christmas cards, visit with dad’s family (who i otherwise won’t see over christmas), and decorate both her little (choir) cake and the big cake that she’s been brandying for a couple months now and should be enough to knock someone unconscious at 30 paces!! ๐Ÿ˜€ It will be good to see them, and i can update Mom on the family history stuff too, before i come back on sunday. Michiel is staying behind, to look after Jess, but i think he will enjoy the time alone, he’s got some I.T. equipment to play around with and he can have peace and quiet to pull that to pieces without me complaining about stuff.

I’ll do another update soon. Maybe some more photos. We’re promised a sharp frost tonight (-4*C!) so that will make for some lovely photos tomorrow morning, if i manage to get up before the sun melts it all away. And then there’s christmas cards. and the cakes, when i’ve done them. And the decorations – when i get back, Sinterklaas is on 4/5th December, and after that the tree can go up, and then the decorations in the candle sconces (photo below so you can see what i mean)…

Christmas decorations

I do two of these every Christmas, either side of a pair of paintings by my Grandmother. The candle sconces stay up there all year round, but usually just hold a small white church candle.

the pair of christmas decorations

I have a ribbon that hangs from the wall bracket, and i staple my christmas cards to the ribbon – with two of them hanging down it gives the room a lovely symmetry for Christmas.

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