Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What is the opposite of a Green Tomato?

One of the unintended consequences of being off work at the moment is that I am spending rather a lot of time in the kitchen. After the Flapjacks of Redemption, today was the turn of Opposite Tomato Sauce, which I write about because I'm sure it will help a few of you out and frankly, is just tear jerkingly delicious.

Like a lot of folk, we have had issues with our tomatoes ripening this year. We had plenty of plants, all with plenty of tomatoes, but the stubborn little suckers seemed determined to stay green. Rather than waste them, we picked them and today I had the opportunity to put them to good use.

On Monday, Mum brought a chicken with her to make a batch of chicken soup. Not only did it make an eight person vat of soup, it then went into the oven to be roasted and fed the four of us, with enough left on there to feed another four people in style – never let it be said us Llanitos can't make the most of a tasty bird!!

This is also where the green tomatoes come in because part of the Garcia Mercy Mission meant we had a small tub of sun dried tomatoes in the fridge. Not to be outdone in the thrift department, I decided to do a chicken pasta dish using up the available tomatoey treats – a kind of opposite tomato sauce.

The recipe, in true Llanito fashion is somewhat open to interpretation but I would really suggest you try it because the result is the most incredible sweet and sour tomato sauce with just the merest hint of ooh la la!!

Opposite Tomato Sauce

1 red chilli
3 cloves of garlic
1 onion
10 green tomatoes
1 Small tub of sun dried tomatoes
1 Stock Cube
Sugar (to taste)
Sherry (large glug)
Water

Roughly chop all of the ingredients and stick them in a pan with a good slug of sherry and enough water to just cover everything.

Clamp on a lid and set on a really slow bubble for as long as you can stand to wait

Blitz the sauce until smooth and adjust the sugar and seasoning.

Mix with the pasta of your choice, either with left over meat or just as it is.

You can thank me later.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Flapjacks of Redemption

Day One of maternity leave and I have already been caught up in the baking and jamming excitement of recent days. Having some oat based crumble topping let from the weekend, my sister Mich very helpfully suggested I turn it into flapjacks without truly realising the magnitude of what she has said.

My last attempt at flapjacks was a disastrous tale of woe which frankly has left me in a cold sweat ever since. I’m not sure about anyone else, but I find that when I start to follow the teachings of a celebrity chef, allow them bit by bit into my world and give them the responsibility or my own culinary success. On the odd occasion that one of these chefs sells me a pup, it is of course their fault, and not mine.

So it was that when I bought the last Red Nose recipe book in a fit of charitable fervour and tried Mr Oliver’s recipe for flapjacks. I was a little curious at the time as to why it said I needed to use an entire stick of butter, but who (I reasoned) was I to challenge the great man in this regard? If Jamie says it needs a stick of butter then a stick of butter it shall have!! When the flapjacks came out of the oven they looked perfect, absolutely perfect, and it wasn’t until a short cooling period later that I realised that these flapjacks were in fact self greasing.

Yup, once the flapjacks were turned out, it was clear to see that the inch or so of perfect flapjack was in fact perched proudly on another inch of pure fat. I was crushed, not least because I hadn’t spotted it before handing out the first pieces to Keith and Bill, who had spotted this hideous buttery error before me and made good with the teasing.

Two years on and I am still waiting for them to get tired of this story.

I think I could have happily hung up my flapjack making pinny on a permanent basis after that episode, but I decided to give it another go this morning and instead of risking further chefly disappointment, I decided to invent a flapjack recipe of my own taking into account the ingredients already mixed into the crumble topping and the various bits piled into the larder.

These, my friends are truly flapjacks of a different colour, and probably a one off venture unless I somehow manage to stumble on a similar set of circumstances. Who cares though, they have done the trick and finally silenced my tormentors.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Making the Most of What we have Got

As with a lot of situations in life, the closer we get to becoming three instead of two, the more we seem to be crying to cram into our precious free time.

We were down in Essex this weekend which gave Keith the perfect opportunity to indulge in a spot of night fishing with Bill.

I use the term 'spot' advisedly, because in reality what the boys indulged in was 6 hours of worm drowning which as you can see was met with some success (I'm told the tally was 3 species).

The intended victims for this trip were whiting, which I'm reliably informed have just come into season and which are a nice sustainable source of fishy goodness.

The boys did a wonderful job coming home with some decent sized specimens which were duly breaded and fried the next day for lunch, with some chips. They were deeeeeelicious, just don't let on to the menfolk, otherwise I'll never hear the end of it.

Today was a horse of an entirely different colour because today, we went to a photo shoot for one of the most amazing buses Retro Custom have built – P1G Bus – so called because of the company who own it, not because it's a hideous swamp donkey of a bus or anything.

Better still, it gave us the chance of meeting up with the lovely Bryn who recently sold us the Mighty Benz (Pt 2) and who is always wonderful company.

He fell victim to the delights of the P1G Bus in all its glorious detail and spent many, MANY hours snapping it from every angle and in every detail. I can totally understand why, this bus stole 2 weeks of the boys' lives as well as many nights of earache for the rest of us having to hear about how the build was going and not without reason, it is an absolute work of art.

It was the first time I'd been to one of these shoots and it was fun, especially from my vantage point on one of the special pod seats in the corner. I'm not entirely sure that a round seat is a good look for me at the moment, but hell, comfort beats vanity right now, hands down!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Nyom, nyom, nyom

I forgot to say in my last post - Keith has decided that the first step towards his new role as domestic god is to start baking the family bread every week.

This is the very first loaf created by his fair hands and quite frankly, the picture doesn't so it justice.
This loaf is so large, it doesn't fit into an oversized bread bin ... or at least it was until we dispatched almost half of it yesterday.
And it is so very tasty, that when I took my tupperware out this morning to gobble a slice for breakfast, the bloke sitting behind my desk commented on how great it smelled.
My only slight concern is that with this new found talent will come a rush of blood to the head and the family Batsford will be subjected to Letitia Cropley style flavour combinations of, say, chocolate mixed with cod roe.
This is one situation in which one hopes the posibilities are NOT endless!!

A trip to the Pod


Over the weekend, we were invited by our lovely friends Abi and Andrew to take up some of their valuable racers tickets in order to go and chill with them, and to introduce the bump to the tickle of a V8 on idle and a Fuel Altered on full song. I had put up with several jokes about the noise making the baby come early but frankly, this being our son, I was expecting a “HELL YEAH!!” kick at most.

I haven’t been to the Pod in a while, but it was like coming home as soon as we drove through the gates. Even the weather was keeping us guessing as always although we had been promised 20o and sunny, clearly by a weather girl on happy pills.

The VWDRC (my old race club) were in the fire up lane when we arrived, so we parked up and picking up a much needed cuppa en route made our way down the pit lane.

Can I just say at this juncture, I know it’s been there a while, but a coffee bar at the Pod, selling latte, WRONG. When I go to the Pod I want teeth curling tea, ideally with a nice hairy cup to add to the manliness, not a latte with a light dusting of cocoa.

Anyway, tea in one hand, camera in the other, Keefy finally made it past the stalls and to the viewing area. Not that I’m saying he’s a magpie.We tried to blag our way into the grandstand on our way, but they were charging for tickets and clearly the grandstand gnome wasn't in the mood to be flexible. I'm sure they made all of a tenner from ticket sales so I can see why it was a resource worth protecting.

The idea was just to watch the ‘DRC and then go back to spend some time with our friends. That was at 10am, we made it back to the pits in time to wave them off for their next run at 1pm.The good news for all you crazy kids though is that Keith spent the intervening hours taking some outstanding shots all of which are now uploaded here

One of the best reasons to stay away from the Pod, and racing generally, is that when you next visit there are some knee trembling ‘new’ cars for you to drool over. This Pop in particular is an absolute work of freaking art, seriously, if I thought I could get more than the price of a pint, I’d sell the dogs and the old man to get my grubby little mitts on it. Only joking darling, dogs, I’m serious about you.

There were some awesome burnouts, and a brilliant range of classes represented this weekend, which is a real testament to the hairy mug tea drinking nature of racers, because if you were the betting type you really wouldn’t have put money on this being a total dream of a weekend weather wise.

One of the best aspects of the pits was the return of the ‘show and tell’ table. Way back when I first started going to the Pod, the top teams often put up pasting tables at the front of the pit when they were stripping down the engine between runs. I remember staring wide eyed at pistons the size of my head, and spark plugs that had done one run and looked like they had been used as a chew toy, plugs you could buy if you had a few quid to spare.


I’m not sure quite when, but that tradition seemed to fall slightly by the wayside and it wasn’t until yesterday that I saw the return of the pasting table and once again stood their goggle eyed – well just about eyed actually, but I blame an unnecessarily large amount of nitric acid that seemed to get funnelled right into my eyes while we were watching the quals.

And for all of that, the best bit for me was the chance to sit in the pits with some excellent friends for a few hours and shoot the breeze. Especially since Abi qualified first in VW Sportsman AND it turns out nobody has taken my old race number while I’ve been away …

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Finish Line is in Sight


When you’re doing a rapid fire set of updates on line, it is difficult not to run out of words as things come to a close, the photos often do all the talking you need.

What I do want to tell you about on this post however is the unbelievable Cheshire Cat smile that has been fixed to the face of my beloved these past few days since he was allowed to take his first shower.

There was a minor hiccough as he mastered the finer controls, but about 5 seconds after stepping under the dinner plate sized deluge head all was forgotten, including I would guess any sense of time or place.

From my perspective, the bathroom stood between me and being ready for a home birth, and now that obstacle has been removed, I really feel like I can settle back and relax into these final weeks knowing we’re ready when Alfie is.

I’m also going to be a little cruel after this post because we still have some painting and finishing to do before the bathroom is 100% there and I’m not going to post any more photos until it is all complete.

Sorry.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I’ll be eating my words then

Having made the point last post that the floor would be unveiled with much aplomb and that you wouldn't be able to see the under floor heating, what should happen, but the poor builder biting off more than he could chew and finally calling it a day at about 7pm on Friday leaving the floor half finished and the under floor heating visible.

Clearly by that reasoning, the statement I should be making today is that he'll never get the bathroom finished by the time he goes home.

Anyway, the floor, looks absolutely amazing being black, brick shaped (to match the wall tiles) and very, very highly polished. Believe it or not, highly polished isn't a trait most people go for in a bathroom floor and I can't imagine why. It's not like a highly polished floor turns into a skating rink when so much as looked at in the wrong way is it?

I maintain that the problem lies in the wax that the tiles were coated with my some well meaning porcelain worker. We were warned about this wax when we bought the tiles and I will be attacking them with window cleaner as soon as humanly possible. I'm not massively concerned about concussion potential at this point, if needs be, we'll implement Keith's suggestion and have a bath mat permanently installed to prevent anyone wandering sleepy eyed into the black run at Lillehammer.

What we weren't warned about – and to be fair this does fall under the category of "bleeding obvious" – is that these highly polished tiles of ours would take it upon themselves to form a kind of impromptu mirror, and actually, an amazingly effective one for all that. For anyone with an even slightly low body image, may I recommend not looking down when using our bathroom because an ant's eye view is something of a shock. For the rest of you, please confine yourselves to 5 minutes of curiosity, we only have one bathroom y'know.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The straw that broke the builders back.

I feel really, genuinely sorry for our bathroom fitter. If ever there was a man who has earned every penny of his fee it is this one, for putting up with clients who feed him dog milk and then mess him around mercilessly.

The list of fail on our part is growing ever longer and frankly, I can only blame my current state for the lack of planning.

I will spare my own blushes and refer only to the most serious of our transgressions which came to light yesterday – we forgot to ask for an extractor fan.

I should perhaps say that Keith has been entirely unwilling to compromise on the bathroom (it being “his” room apparently) and one of the things he hates beyond all comprehension is the towels smelling musty (see previous post for my own personal thoughts on the matter).

Since the widow in the bathroom doesn’t open, we were left with the prospect of fitting an extractor fan. And since the baby has eaten my brain, the poor bathroom fitter was yesterday presented with the prospect of having to channel a cable and create an opening in a newly skimmed wall for said extractor fan.

I felt very bad, especially as the walls did look so very lovely and smooth, which is exactly why I delegated the job of telling the builder to Keith. Genius.

So here is the result of our gallant builder’s efforts some 8 hours later. A perfectly formed hole which I am reliably informed will be used to house a humidity triggered fan supreme. I roll my eyes at the entire episode and turn instead to my new favourite bit of the room.

The tiles I had picked for the bathroom are in fact the ones I picked out some long time ago as kitchen tiles for my old flat and then rejected in favour of a cheap and nasty “paint ‘em black” approach when it became clear I wasn’t going to be there for very long. I now see that what was really happening was that these tiles were in fact being saved by karma for a truly deserving room, a room of sheer magnificence and splendour. A room not dissimilar from our bathroom.

These might look like plain white brick shaped tiles to you, but they are in fact more than that. These are bevelled white brick shaped tiles which look amazing in a Victorian terrace and fit perfectly with the design intention of the bathroom which was traditional, with some key nods to the modern. For some reason they put in mind of Sherlock Holmes, which I think is perhaps a clear sign that l’il baby chile has not only eaten my brain, but is pooping out insanity to replace it.

They also go perfectly with the floor tiles, which I have so far hidden from you as they are worthy of a very grand unveiling when they are finished, not least because of the under floor heating which my beloved husband fought long and hard to have included in our bathroom plans, and which of course you’ll be able to see in the photos, if you have been blessed with x-ray vision.

Anyway the tiles aren’t down yet, that’s my point (Chile, you had better be giving me my brain back!!) and it turns out there is more than enough heat matt for the bathroom floor so we may well end up with under shower heating, if for no other reason than the poor bathroom fitter has to use all the matt. It wasn’t an original part of the design brief, but I’m sure it will have its advantages.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Breathe In

Why is it I'm always tempted to assume a northern accent and say "Day x at the Big Brother House" when I make these updates? I hate Big Brother, I never watch it, and yet after 10 years, it has somehow invaded my consciousness.

Right, bathroom progress. As you can see there has been rapid progress, with the pipes being boxed in and the major appliances offered up to their final resting places. I am still in shock that it all physically fits although the toilet does now pose an interesting conundrum.

Say for instance, you are alone in the house and are taken by a call of nature and decide not to bother closing the door. While you're busy catching up on the latest edition of Classic Bike magazine (or a publication of your choice) you are surprised by your other half arriving back home. What do you do? Close the door perhaps?

Error!

It turns out that in my scramble to save space in the width department I have slightly overlooked the depth aspect of the dimensional dance.

If you are sitting on the toilet with the door open, there is no earthly way that you can later close the door, not unless you are one of those Chinese acrobats who can fold themselves into an origami crane while still smiling broadly.

Something to consider in the event you're at ours answering a call of nature.

And in other news, here is the first of the Autumn Cakes for the year:

It is an old recipe scanned and mailed over by my mum some time ago, and since I can't find a similar recipe online, I feel it is my duty to share it with you so you too can chomp down on a slice of moist, apply, cinnamony heaven.

And I ought to say thank you to Mrs R Pugh of Monkhampton, Shropshire who originally submitted this recipe to a publication lost long ago in the mists of time.

Autumn Apple Cake

2-3 Cooking Apples
150g/5oz margarine
150g/5oz brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp ground cinnamon
225g/8oz self raising flour
100g/4oz chopped nuts of whatever kind you especially like. Pumpkin seeds work very well, as do walnuts.
Grated lemon rind

Prepare and cook the apples with a little water and mash or sieve. You should end up with 100-175g/ 4-6oz pulp (dontcha love the waftiness of the measurements, this is my kinda baking!!).

Allow to cool

Cream margarine and sugar, add eggs. Add the cinnamon and four. Add nuts and lastly stir in the pulped apples and grated lemon rind to taste.

Put into a greased cake tin and sprinkle with castor sugar (if you like that sort of thing, personally I think it is the devil's own work).

Cook in a moderate over (180oc) for 45-55 minutes.

The final note from Mrs Pugh is that this cake keeps very moist and she wasn't kidding!! If you make one of these you can tuck into chunks of fruity mellow cakiness for days afterwards that give you a bonus burst of mellow apple every now and then.

Heaven.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Who knew walls could be so flat???

I have always seen FTC as a haven from the world, in common with a lot of Englishers who indulge in a bit of the home-as-castle mentality, but rarely have I ever driven the last mile or so through Arlesey with such a degree of anticipation as I am this week.

Latest report from the bathroom is that we now have smooth walls, as you can (finally) see. Honestly, I had forgotten that bathroom walls were supposed to look this way!! I now need to make the difficult decision of what colour to have the walls and while I fully expect the answer to be “the same colour as every other room” I do still like to play this little game with myself, just on the off chance that one day the answer might be different.

Now that the basics are slowly falling into place, I am now allowing myself the indulgence of starting to look at that section of the retail world entitled Finishing Touches. Toilet roll holders, soap dispensers, mirrors ... in fact anything the slightest bit shiny has me entranced at the moment. Also towels, which are a personal bugbear of Keith’s.

Apparently the new towels need to be the size of a football pitch, interesting to look at, and soft. They also need to not smell like damp brickwork which my husband stubbornly believes is caused by any number of things, other than the obvious one that he keeps leaving his towels in the bathroom which, until yesterday, was running a fine line in damp brickwork.

I have some potential candidates picked out for the new towels, although I have to admit I am really struggling to persuade myself that they are worth the money. I know they are, and I know both Keith and I will love using them for many years to come, but £32 per towel is difficult to get your head round.

I may fashion a toilet roll holder from left over pipe to compensate.

Monday, September 14, 2009

What a Weekend!!

Sitting here today, I’m glad I have a desk in front of me, if for no other reason than it stops me slumping over my keyboard and ending up with QWERTY stamped on my forehead. Since typing with your teeth isn’t a very efficient use of what energy I have left, I am relying on this sturdy piece of chipboard to prop me up long enough to report on the activities of this weekend.

Firstly the bathroom. Despite my numerous requests, I don’t have any photos of the other parts of the room to show you at the moment, despite the fact that the walls are now smooth for the first time in a very long time. It looks really rather odd, although I’m sure I will get used to it in much more quickly than I got used to the bare brick.

Being honest all I want in life is for the rest of the house to stop developing a layer of plaster dust every time I turn my back. I know exercise if good for me and Alfie but frankly I’m getting bored of brandishing a polishing cloth.

Progress is being made though, we now have a shower tray plumbed and boxed in. Had it not been for the weekend we would have had a full shower by now. Since the shower requires the toilet be moved slightly - in fact, everything has to move down a bit in a shuffle comparable to a fat relative arriving late to a wedding and demanding space be created for them on an already full pew - the builder refused to leave us without a toilet for the weekend, even if it did mean the shower stayed unfinished, much to Keith’s chagrin.

In order to take his mind off the shower, Keith decided to prepare for winter by creating a proper log store for us. What he in fact did was take the pallet that our lounge tiles had been delivered in, and clad it in corrugated sheeting that the farmers had left up at the workshop. Perhaps it isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I love, love, LOVE it!! It has been created complete with bags of character than normally take years to develop, and even better, when the rain falls, we will have the joy of hearing the water bounce off the tin roof, which frankly is just one of the best sounds going, especially if you are tucked up out of the rain at the time.

I’ve made him promise to make me a twin for the other side of the back door to house wellies and recycling out of the other pallets we have kicking about. That way it’ll be tin roof stereo come the rainy season!!

You might have noticed that this year we have been slightly quiet on the foraging front. Well in truth we have had a few other things on our minds and it has rather fallen by the wayside. Until this weekend that is, when we started the Great Autumn Fruit Pick with an afternoon wander up at the farm taking in the abandoned orchard and the hedgerow. I was on Sloe duty, which wasn’t bad although I had forgotten how excruciating Sloe thorns can be if handled with anything but the greatest of care. Keith was on blackberry duty and the less said about that the better. Red was on getting himself covered in burrs duty, which I think you’ll agree he accomplished admirably.

Finally we cut back up to the orchard where Keith thought it would be amusing to take photos of me shaking branches and then getting pelted by huge great yummy apples. We collected a bag FULL of them once I had used my powers of persuasive language to get Keith to put down the camera and come and help me. The prospect of having to peel, core and stew all those apples did occur to me at the time, but there is a kind of gluttonous madness that comes over me when faced with unlimited free food and it was more the prospect of having to find room in the freezer, and the lack of a second carrier bag than eventually slowed the frenzy.

Yesterday I made an early start on the apple processing and was actually surprised at how efficiently a bag of fruit can be reduced to neat little tubs of yum. This little stash was crow barred into the freezer and one kept back in the fridge for me to create an Autumn cake. Well that was the intention anyway, the reality was me falling asleep for the afternoon in front of the Grand Prix instead. Oops!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Bathroom Has Begun!!!

Oh yes indeed it has, and were I still able to do a little jig I would be doing one right now. Instead I'm just going to bore you to death with updates instead.

But first I will tell you of the pure naughtiness that is the hound Harry. We have our milk delivered to the back door and today's delivery was especially welcome because we'd run out of milk, and life cannot begin until I have had my morning cup of Earl Grey. Feeling generous, I chucked the boys outside as soon as I got up to create some more burn patches on our lawn while I emptied the dishwasher and put the kettle on.

When I looked outside I could see Red sitting by the back door looking really nervous, which is not unusual for him, but it was very early in the day for him to have done something he felt guilty for (I swear he was a Catholic in a former life!!).

I felt a bit sorry for depriving him of his bed so I opened the door to let him back in, and to see where Harry was - you'll probably guess where this is going – to see Harry, having carefully removed the lid from the milkbottle and his tongue shoved inside it, slurping for all he was worth.

6am is very early in the day to be turning the air as blue as I did, and I developed a mild eye twitch when Keith started chortling from the bedroom upstairs. Depriving me of my morning cuppa is a hangable offence, finding it funny that I've been deprived of my morning cuppa is on a par with murder. I never claimed to be reasonable or rational about these things.

In a bid to restore marital harmony, Keith took himself off to the shop (still chuckling) to get more milk and the half empty bottle was relegated to the side in the kitchen to be given to the dogs as a treat in the unlikely event that one of them actually did anything to deserve it.

This tale isn't just thrown in to demonstrate how grumpy I am, or how evil that cute little basset can be, it will become important later on.

For now though, back to the bathroom …

Having been let down for months, we finally got another fitter at short notice (Friday to be exact) who was due to start this morning. Bizarrely, he actually started this morning which is a departure from the no-show, no-call approach of the last bloke.

He's a fantastic bloke to boot, working non stop and coming up with all manner of solutions as to how to crowbar all our luxury fittings into a room the size of a postage stamp.

He requires one thing, and one thing only to keep him going, and that is regular cups of teeth curling builders tea. So nice a bloke is he that he won't even hear of me making him those cuppas, insisting that I stay on the sofa instead.

Cometh midday, cometh the lunch hour and I got up and wandered into the kitchen to throw some simple pasta creation together and waiting for the kettle to boil I glanced over at the side to see …….. a much emptier bottle of milk than the one I left this morning.

Dear Lord above, what kind of evil woman am I?!? I have fed our lovely builder dog milk!!! Even worse than that, I now have to sit by and watch as he drinks even MORE dog milk because what else can I do? How can I explain to him that he's been using the wrong milk without having to explain why?!?

I'm glad that miserable mutt is off with Keith today because I think I might well have done him a mischief for this little stunt.

And what has our builder done in return for this cruel and unusual treatment?

Well so far he has demolished the airing cupboard and channelled the wall for the shower controls with such a degree of accuracy, he has removed the brick and left the plaster in the lounge unblemished. THAT is how tight the measurements are for this blinking shower, this behemoth that the skinniest bloke in the world insists is vital to his future cleanliness.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New Bath Shocker

I had to post about this, even though in reality it is only a temporary fix to our bathrooms woes.


Bill, our plumber, was held up on another job y'see and I decided to come down with a bad case of pregnancy hormones and hand over strop throwing duties to my mum, who frankly, right now, is the most likely of everyone to take out a contract on the life of anyone even remotely threatening the mental well being of her heavily pregnant first born.


Something she said must have got through because before he departed for a 2 week "well earned break" he took the time to come and install our bath in a temporary fashion so we wouldn't be spending another few weeks with no way to wash.


Believe me, it is something of a blessing to me in particular, as I was fast running out of eco friendly ways to remove VW oil based Turin shrouds from the bed linen!!


So here is our little slipper bath. Please bask in its glory while studiously ignoring the walls behind it. If you squint it almost looks like a nice wattle and daub arrangement so please feel free to squint. Hard.


The only slight fly in the ointment (and you knew there had to be one!) is that because the bath is somewhat shorter, deeper and narrower than the old one, I have now reached the point where I simply cannot use it without the aid of a safety net. In fact, I tried the other night while Keith was at the workshop and I was nearly stranded for the duration.


I have now decided in the interests of not drowning, that I am going to stick to the shower at work until our own one is installed in a few weeks. Clearly upright bathing when I'm not trapped under a hundreweight of baby is the way forward.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The part where I apologise for the lack of updates

I know I have been somewhat lax in keeping this element of the FTC story up to date recently. I have no excuse except to say that I will do my best to report the exciting developments that will be happening in the next few weeks. I emphasise the word WILL because failure to comply on this particular subject is likely to end badly for someone, anyone, foolish enough to present themselves as the messenger.

The new bathroom goes in next week y’see, and for the eagle eyed, yes it has been delayed slightly. I blame B&Q. Not because we were stupid enough to buy a bathroom from another big company after the debacle of the kitchen, but because they, by association, have made undue calls on my bathroom fitter’s time and therefore left me high and dry.

A lengthy conversation today regarding the incompatibility of home birth and a lack of washing facilities left him in no doubt as to the current position and I am reassured that the threat of fire and brimstone raining down we will see some action next week.


In the meantime however, we are still without a bath as the floor had to be levelled last week and allowed to dry fully before the main work could begin. Needless to say I was also forced to explain the incompatibility of a husband working with oily cars and a lack of washing facilities. The baby wipes budget has gone through the roof, although I am now fully reassured that they have been road tested and will remove pretty much any kind of deposit from the human body, which is always nice to know.


Frustrated at a lack of bathroom activity, I made the fatal mistake of running into a Habitat I was passing while their sale was on. Error, dear reader, of epic proportions. Once they had relieved me of a substantial portion of my wages I went home with, amongst other things, a frame for a very special picture. It is a poster Keith and I bought in Ronda this year when we were away for his birthday.


You might remember the post from the Maybe Diaries when I described that day as one of the most miserable of my life, due entirely to my discovery of the true meaning of morning sickness. Anyway, we hadn’t done anything with the poster but I seized the opportunity of purchasing a 50 x 100 frame (I mean seriously, who in their right mind creates a poster in those proportions?!?) and framed it as a surprise for Keith.


Predictably, he fell in love with the poster all over again and set about painting the stripped hallway with a really remarkable degree of concentration. For my part, I can’t believe the difference something as simple as a coat of paint has made to the hallway, and I’m loving the poster in its new home, I think it really brings something to what has always been a bit of a ‘non’ space before now, albeit a non space with a stupid Mexican cantina motif painted round the top.


I have sneakily left the best news until last, but now I feel the time has come for the grand unveiling of the new bedroom carpet. Oh yes, you heard me right, the new, brand spankingly beautiful bedroom carpet.

As you can see it is in a dangerously light shade of cream, and as a result shoes are now banned, as are grubby workshop trousers from marring its beauty. It nearly ended before it began for the poor floor covering, Keith coming home at 3am from the workshop and forgetting there was a carpet barely out of the wrapper. He made it two steps into the room before I somehow sensed his stupidity, woke up and reminded him of his mistake in liberal Anglo Saxon.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Exciting Times at FTC

The progress of the nursery took a giant leap forward this weekend and I have to share the photos with you all, before I burst.

Matt came up and despite something of a crisis of confidence in his abilities, did an incredible job of filling in the rough pencil sketch I had done with something meaningful. George himself was beautifully shaded, along with the pier while Keith and I slapped the base coat for the sea on with carefree abandon.

The fish were an altogether different proposition and despite the genius idea of outlining them in marker rather than paint (it’s called knowing your limits) it was still tricky to plan the spread of colours and designs. Most importantly it was tricky to keep Keith and his pencil away from the wall long enough to prevent him turning every fish into a shark!!

The most exciting part of the fishy scene is actually something you can’t pick up from this photo (but fear not, once completed there will be more on the way) but a lot of the fish have actually been given a top coat of glitter!! This little masterstroke of genius is the absolute icing on the cake, as the light catches them beautifully as you walk around the room. And plans for glitter have grown (thanks to my picking up a multipack of different colours) so that in due course, the top of the lake will also be lightly glittered so that it looks as if the light is bouncing off the surface of the water.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Make do and Mend

Thinking back, I'm not entirely sure I have mentioned very much about the last vehicle to come into the FTC stable - possibly for good reason!!

Some months back, we bought what is affectionately known in the car world as a basket case of a camper van (VW of course!!) which has since been relieved of substantial sections of dubiously repaired bodywork.

I am very proud of Keith and his persistence with this project. I have known him have a first flush of excitement many times, but this seems like a deeper love, and he has rejected all attempts to snuggle up on the sofa to doggedly pursue his ultimate aim and give us a vehicle fit for our soon to be expanded family.

While clearly forbidden from helping in my usual power tool and chemical based capacity, one thing I have claimed as my own in this new venture is the design and furnishing of the interior of the van. It came with all the cushions newly covered and some of the original panelling, which has set the tone for interior to some degree. There is still plenty of scope to innovate however, and heated discussions have been had over the relative importance of sinks Vs cookers in what seems to be a giant game of facilities chess.

Some elements of the interior have been a little easier to organise. A lovely little extra that our particular flavour of bus came with originally was something called a cab bunk, which as you can see is a canvas hammock which is stretched from specially fitted brackets on the the bodywork of the bus.

For anyone wondering at the use of such a bunk, it is designed as a bed for little people, and quite frankly, I'm jealous I don't come in under the 5kg limit myself. As you can see from the photos of me leaning on the bunk, there isn't the greatest amount of head room either, but it should be perfect to post small children away for the night.

One other element of the interior which has been organised - and in fact my reason for posting about the bus - are the curtains. Many moons ago, a chance sighting on freecycle brought me a rather special haul in anticipation of my one day getting access to a sewing machine. I managed to acquire a large quantity of some quite special material which I presented to my darling husband as his Valentine's Day gift. This material has sat in the safety of a bag for a few months now, and finally, this weekend it was finally transformed into into its intended use. It was a pretty nerve wracking experience for me, not having used a sewing machine since I was about 14, but with a little help from Bill, Lindsey and failing all else the instruction manual, I think I managed to do myself credit.
In true FTC style here they are, a little bit kooky, a little bit pre-loved, but you've gotta love Fred Basset!!

Not content with sewing in nice straight lines, I decided to capitalise on my new found creativity and give my favourite skirt a new lease of life. It might be more accurate to say my ex favourite skirt because it had recently come to a sad end after an accident at work, which they very kindly reimbursed me for (and so they should, leaving screw sticking out of walls!!).

The design of the skirt was such that there was no way to repair it as a skirt without completed compromising everything that made it so lovely in the first place, so I decided to take a more lateral approach. inspired by a maternity smock I inherited from my mum, I decide that there was more than enough material to remove the offending section and still leave a lovely floaty top to house my ever expanding belly. It was a daunting task for me though, I suspect more because of my emotional attachment to the skirt than doubt in my ability.

Lindsey once again came to the rescue however and came up with idea after idea to help overcome each little niggle that would stand in the way of my new masterpiece.

Together we head-scratched and plotted and tried and refined all afternoon until finally we managed to turn that skirt into a quite stunningly pretty smock top.

I know I'm being a horrible tease by not posting a photo of the top, but I want to hold of wearing it for a few weeks and it would be a shame to spoil the surprise. Keep your eyes on the blogs though, because I will post a photo when the time comes.

Oh and I should say, anyone who wants to follow Keith's camper progress in more detail can find his thread here

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Testing, testing

I've finally given in to the nagging of my husband and added a new feature both to this site, and to the Maybe Diaries.

If you look on the right hand nav bar you can now subscribe to each of the blogs so that you will get a nice shiny email delivered to your inbox every time I update them.

No more need to come on here just on the off chance now ... aren't you the lucky ones!! ;-)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

So close, but yet so far!!

Well the tiler came, the tiler saw, the tiler asked many awkward questions (staggered or straight? Size of gap? Colour of grout? ... for the love of God man I don’t know, just stick the tiles to the ground!!) and somehow we muddled through. Luckily the weather held off because the poor bloke was both terrified of Red and also massively allergic to dogs in general, so our house must have been a living nightmare for him. Anyway, as the sun stayed out, we were able to leave the dogs in the garden all day which Harry took as license to cook himself, and Red took as license to sulk.

We had one tiny bone of contention with the tiler, and that was around the hallway, which he had included in the quote when I phoned him and had therefore massively underestimated the work needed to finish it. Turned out he hadn’t the time to do the job during the three days he availed himself of our hospitality, but very kindly offered to wave the “clearing up fee” instead.

Hold up - records scratch to a halt, piano players close the lid and scarper, darts halt in mid air - the, errr, clearing up fee? And what would that be then? Turns out the poor little pickle has to pay to get rid of the rubbish he generates on a job, but rather than leave it for us to take to the tip, he was willing to take it with him when he left. Right, so if you go to a restaurant and pay for your dinner, at what point do you generally discuss the “washing up fee” then? No? Didn’t think so. Keith being Keith dealt admirably with the situation while I foamed at the mouth from the safe distance of the office and the tiler both cleared up his rubbish *and* gave us money off the bill.

As a parting gift though, he reminded us that once the grout had gone off, we would need to spend a while washing down the tiles to get rid of that nasty white film that appears. This being Friday, I earmarked Saturday morning for the job which would still give me the afternoon to bake some cakes for the village fair and for us to get the furniture back in the lounge in time for the evening.
Turns out that was a bit of an error on my part. I stopped counting after the 8th time I went over the floor, and made the decision as day slowly turned to night that any white film still remaining would just have to come off in its own good time.

We are currently still sporting the minimalist look to the lounge, with sofa cushions on the floor and the TV in the corner because none of our friends have been able to make it over in the last week. One, who shall remain nameless, failed to appear due to a slight run in with the good men of the local constabulary after he decided to take his light aircraft out for a spin and then held an impromptu red arrows audition. Local residents were less than amused apparently.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Baby Steps

As promised, I made a start on the areas of the nursery wall that required least talent, blocking the colour for the riverbank and the letters and painting in a few of the less demanding outlines.

I fully recognise I am never going to be lauded as the new Da Vinci, so despite desperately wanting to get on and finish the whole wall, I am imposing a ban on myself even looking at the wall until Matt comes up to rescue the situation.

Hopefully his diary will allow for a visit before my resolve breaks.



There was another small step towards household nirvana this weekend, which was a nice antidote to the otherwise terminal decline of the kitchen. Keith finally got the kitchen larder to open all the way out.


His method: he pulled on it, hard. God bless brute force and ignorance, although it does make the fact that we’ve been living with a half opening larder for nearly 3 years a bit of a joke.

And in other exciting news: as I sit here and type, the tiler is in the lounge priming the floor ready for our new tiles. And I have to admit, I’m a little bit excited…. And now also needing to vacate the house to avoid noxious fumes.


Before I go though, I was sent a recipe for the most dangerous chocolate cake in the world yesterday (thanks Polly!!) and of course Keith gamboled into the kitchen to make one as soon as he saw the words "ready","five" and "minutes". I wouldn't say it was the greatest triumph of the modern culinary age - potentially due to the fact that a slightly too long cooking time had resulted in a cake with the ability to suck the moisture from every last crevice of your body. It was a laugh though, and for those of you in need, I include the recipe below:


5 MINUTE CHOCOLATE MUG CAKE!!

4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips or (optional)
A small splash of vanilla extract and your favourite tipple
1 large coffee mug (NB It needs to be VERY large, as we found out!!!)

Add dry ingredients to your largest mug and mix well.
Add the egg and mix thoroughly.
Pour in the milk and oil and mix well
Add the chocolate chips (if using), vanilla extract and a drop or two of your favourite tipple, then mix again.
Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts (high).
The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed!
Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.
EAT!

Friday, May 29, 2009

On Your Marks ....

These are trying times at FTC. The clock is counting down to the start of the mayhem and we have now run out of space to store 'things' which means the garden is being used as a temporary storage depot complete with upturned slipper bath which I'm frankly glad isn't in the house or I would be very temped to try it out for size, no doubt resulting in much "turtle on back" hilarity until Keith took pity on me and heaved me back out.

Anyway, first up is the new floor in the lounge. After 3 years, with a small sob of acceptance, the carpet was given up as a lost cause in the face of Harry's endless shedding. Instead I went online and found these delicious tiles which for some reason really reminded me of melted caramel and which I thought would look really lush with all the wood we have in the lounge already.

In order to lay these little beauties, we enlisted the help of a professional, as I had clearly run out of both time and talent on that front, and his instruction was to lift the lounge carpet well in advance to make sure the concrete slab underneath was level. Very sensible approach I think, one I should probably take in the future if I had any sense.

The one slight problem standing between us and a lifted carpet was of course the copious quantity of heavy furniture, none of which I am allowed to lift, so of course, we had to rope in some help. Bill and James who thought they were coming to ours for a weekend of relaxing at the local cider festival instead found themselves working off hangovers shifting bookcases and chests.

Luckily for us, the slab does seem to be in pretty good working order so the tiler is all set to start on Tuesday. In the meantime, I'm finding the new echo and student-esque lounge a bit disconcerting, especially as I don't have any slippers and concrete isn't so toasty on the tootsies. I have promised myself a sheepskin rug to go down in front of the fireplace once the floor is in place though, and be warned, come winter I will fight for occupancy rights with all my hormone fuelled might!!

The other piece of prep work that happened this week was the marking out of the feature wall in the nursery. The photos of the nursery being put together are being held captive on Keith's laptop at the moment, so you will have to wait to see the overall results, but this is a quick look at what will soon decorate the end wall.

I borrowed a projector from work and by making a tower of various pieces of furniture finally managed to get the image high enough on the wall to start drawing an outline in pencil.

Curious George was not my choice I might add; it seems that I led a sheltered and somewhat deprived childhood free of the adventures of the cute little monkey and his yellow hatted friend, but luckily my sister in law was well versed in the ways of the George and suggested him as the basis of the design.

Please excuse me dopey look in the photo. Having realised that the projector wouldn't enlarge the image to the size of the wall, I was busy trying to work out how I would extend various bits of it to fill the available space. The end result (of which I am extremely proud) basically involves a damn sight more fish.

Now I just need to get some tester pots and start blocking in the basic colours before the real artist comes along to make it look good!!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Look at the Windowwwsh!!

Back in January I might have mentioned that in the course of the regular social club revelries, our bathroom window was sadly dispatched to the great recycling bin in the sky.

Since then, it has become a neat little shelf for passing clientele to place unwanted glasses and cigarette butts and even for one brave soul to think it might be an easy way into the house: that was until he had opened the secondary glazing and come eyeball to eyeball with a rather intolerant rotter.

We've taken these intrusions with fairly good humour, mainly because the new landlord of the Social has been good enough to move the smoking area away from their back door which means that our garden is not permanently filled with butts, and a fug of smoke - which is a blessing when you have a nose like a bloodhound, as I currently do - and he is generally doing his best to be a good neighbour, which we really appreciate.

Anyway, I digress: Last week we took delivery of a fine specimen of a window, kindly paid in full by the good folk of the SC Arlesey and last night I woke up from a doze on the sofa to find the dogs sulking out in the garden and two men lumping the living bejeesus out of what used to be a bathroom window.

This was less than helpful to my rather full bladder.

And I must admit that I was dubious about the sensibility of the proposal put to me by two grinning, mallet wielding lads with the good sense to keep a brick wall between them and a tired pregnant lady.

When your husband and his friend tell you they are going to replace a window in 2 hours and not to worry, quite frankly the first thing I want to do is reach for the hard stuff. That not being an option I did the second best thing and took myself off to collect some Freecycle items for Maybe, who I must say, is really doing rather well for someone who isn't even here yet!!

It was a risky strategy, one that could have resulted in me returning to find half a wall missing, but I chose to have faith that fear of reprisals would keep one or both of them in check.

When I returned home about an hour later, I was nothing short of dumbstruck at what I saw: It was a blinking miracle! There was a frame, in the hole in the wall, and it wasn't upside down, or at an angle. It was however being held up with a plank of wood.

*sigh*

Apparently, while we had measured the visible parts of the window very accurately, what we had singularly failed to notice was the that old window sill was vastly thicker at the window than it was on the other side. I believe the technical term for this is tapered.

The other slight flaw in the Great Window Plan was while the new window looks like a positive beacon of shining newness in a bathroom of doom, it is also in desperate need of some of the other vital elements that the bathroom is missing - like plaster for example.

As a result our bathroom now takes advantage of the amazing acoustic properties of the alleyway beyond and provides a delightful soundtrack to any ablutive activity. The culprit for this are the numerous tiny nibbles around the frame through which fresh air can not only be seen, but can be felt gently caressing any skin foolish enough to become exposed.

It may be summer dear friends, but believe me, it's not that warm at 9 o'clock at night when you've just stepped out of the bath!!

A massive thank you to Fish though, for giving up an evening to come and help Keith, I won't forget it .....

Monday, May 11, 2009

Stotfold Steam Fair 2009

I'm sitting here with my shoulders glowing from slightly too much sun and I thought that while FTC is still in the lull before all hell breaks loose next month (bathrooms and new flooring a go-go!!) I would muse a little on the wonderful weekend just gone.

I don't normally get a chance to spend a whole weekend doing very little, so when i was offered the chance I grabbed it with both hands.

On Saturday, I went shopping with the sister-in-law Dawn. It was supposed to be a concerted scouting of the charity shops of Chelmsford for essential small person items. What it became was a concerted scouting for unusual household items, of which there were many. I am especially proud of my 1960s bunny egg cup holder. We then spent the rest of the afternoon having an extremely long lunch and putting the world to rights and it suddenly occurred to me that I really miss doing that. Not that anyone has ever prevented me from doing it, but it just seems to be one of those things that gets overlooked in the mad rush to Get Things Done.

Sunday, by comparison, was positively active and involved wandering aimlessly around several very large fields. It was the weekend of the Stotfold Mill Steam Fair, and for the second year, we were there for a day which is so British, it could have been organised by Disney .

There's a Wall of Death, which quite frankly is one of the most exciting things I have ever seen, there are cream teas, and pork rolls, and steam engines, and Victorian fairground rides, and little children from the local schools doing country dancing. There was even a crafts marquee, which is a sight no self respecting country fair should be without.

Numbers were slightly depleted this year following an attack of the pox at the Ferguson household, but Mr Baker made the trip and we convoyed over in what we realised (while scoffing scones and earl grey at tea time) was a pair of great British marques, an MG and a BSA. How very appropriate.

And to top it all off, the subject of my then delight and now consternation was the weather. Those frauds at the Met Office got it wrong again and we were blessed with gloriously hot sun all day.

So what is the point of this post? Well nothing much really, other than to share an amazing weekend. Call it my attempt to remind anyone feeling a little jaded that there are still some simple pleasure to be had from this country.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Spring has Sprung

I will open with an apology, because I feel bad that I have been so quiet on this blog recently. However, like a little place called Naseby on 14th June 1645, the mists are starting to roll back and the situation is about to change – radically.

FTC has been besieged in recent weeks by all manner of deliveries, and a small army of men sucking their teeth, kicking metaphorical tyres and making my inner fishwife come to the fore at the revelation of their estimates. I think what I resent the most is the fact that we could do a lot of this work ourselves. Were it not for my current condition, we probably would. Instead I am relegated to tea making and photographic duties.

On that note, I would just like to say that part of the hold up recently has been around the fact that our camera battery seems to have taken off without leaving a forwarding address, and the collection of snaps Keith had managed to acquire on his new phone was somewhat hindered by the incompatibility of mobile phones with brake fluid. Now that both have been put to rights, hopefully the flow of photos will pick up.

So to open the batting for the next few months, I give you the progress of the garden (selected highlights).


First, I want to point out the fact that our Rhubarb, seems to be slightly in love with our soil. Before any smartypants decides to inform me that I should have cut the flower off to encourage growth, I didn’t want to, so there.

The rest of the veg beds are starting to yawn and stretch into life after the recent sunny spell too. I am especially proud to announce that the asparagus has made a return visit, although it has displayed a distinct lack of progress from last year.










The blueberry and strawberries have shown no such coyness and have embraced flowering with admirable gusto. I give the blueberry about 5 months until Harry rediscovers it and chews it to matchsticks.





Finally for the garden roundup, I have to mention the chilli plants. Not because I actually care about them, but because my beloved is still obsessed by all things chilli-fied and will whinge at me if I don’t. As you can see we are growing a range of tongue killers, some I have high hopes for, some I suspect are heading for the compost heap. I try not to interfere in this area of the gardening however, that way divorce lies.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Freecycle In Restoring Faith Shocker

Firstly, I'm sorry things have been a little quiet recently. There are big changes afoot at FTC which will become apparent over the next weeks and months and these have rather taken over recently.

I just wanted to let you all know that we're still alive, back safely from our trip to Gib and that Freecycle is truly the antidote to modern living.

Our TV blew up two nights ago. well perhaps not blew up exactly, it was more of a "Phhhhhht" followed by a nasty burning smell than a full on crater in the floor.

But either way, we were looking at life without TV. A spine chilling and frankly quite horrifying proposition so I asked on Freecycle if anyone might have an old set gathering dust in the garage.

Not 24 hours after our dear TV had departed this world, we were unloading a very nearly new flat screen TV of fairly similar proportions from a fantastically giving young couple who had answered my cry for help.

Now I don't usually get overwhelmed by random acts of kindness, but in this case I am, and it made me think about Freecycle in general.

We are forever being told of how cutthroat and relentlessly commercial our society is and Freecycle is the very antithesis of that. It restores my faith in the sense of community that we are forever being told has disappeared.

Long may it continue I say!!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

I’m sure anyone with a pulse has noticed that there has been a reasonable covering of snow about this last week. I wasn’t going to blog about it because snow is one of those phenomenon guaranteed to make the press, and most of the public incandescent with tales of their own self importance, and I for one am just not interested in playing that game.

The press has been full of stories of people “battling” their way to work (one man taking 8 hours to hitch his way from Kent to London) and these people are lauded as heroes. Why? What does your average desk jockey contribute to society that means they cannot stay at home for a few days rather than put the already stretched emergency and recovery services under more strain when they inevitably have to drag these people’s sorry backsides out of a ditch? People bringing their kids to work (for shame!!) and insisting that they have to make their meetings (right because otherwise civilisation as we know it would cease to exist, yeah?).

Personally, we have taken a contrary view, and judging by the number of other snowmen in the locality, so have plenty of other people: when the snow comes and the roads look like they’re going to rip you a new one do yourself and everyone else a favour and take the opportunity to rediscover your inner child.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Oops

It has been brought to my attention that I have singularly failed to mention my recent DIY triumph!!!

There are no words that need accompany this latest feat of engineering prowess so I will merely say BEHOLD ......

Creole Lady Marmalade

I'm probably just getting old and grumpy, but it recently occurred to me that jam just seems a little bit, well, childish. It seems to me a little like the breakfast equivalent of sticking your face in a Dib Dab and inhaling deeply. From now on, I’ll be dedicating my attention to jellies and marmalades which are far more grown up, and considerably less temperamental.

To celebrate this decision, and the short Seville Orange season, I decided to make some very grown up Seville Orange and Whiskey Marmalade.

I learned a few small lessons in the course of this latest venture to add to the cannon of housewifely knowledge:

1. Marmalade is made over 24 hours, and not in a Sunday afternoon as planned
2. Whiskey and boiling hot sugar are not the best of friends. Neither are they happy bedfellows with skin.

Other than that, the whole process seemed suspiciously easy and worryingly satisfying. I mean I had even sterilised the right number of jars and wait as I might for something to go wrong … it just didn’t!!

At the end of the second day I was left with a line of the most beautiful clear amber marmalade studded with shards of soft bitter peel. It was, quite frankly, a complete bloody triumph!! So much so I burned the roof off my mouth tasting the superheated marmalade until I was lacking pretty much any feeling in my chops ... and possibly a little longer too if I’m honest.

Oh and for any of you finding yourself overrun by squashes and pumpkins (it is the season after all) and wondering what to do with all those seeds and mush, I have a yummy way of making use of them.

Tip all the seeds and smoosh into a colander and wash until you’re left with just the seeds. Stick them on a tray and sprinkle liberally with salt. Stick the tray in a 150o oven for an hour and you will have an incredible snacky type food. Simples!!

Join me next time for more fun ways to chunk up this winter ….

Monday, January 26, 2009

Redressing the Balance

Just when you think the month can't possibly kick you in the butt any more, Karma takes pity and gives you a break.

This weekend Keith and I packed up the hounds and went to Maldon for the weekend for a mini fishing trip.

Despite too much wine and not enough sleep, we saddled up and moved out to the secret location scoped out by Cap'n Bill at stupid o'clock on Saturday morning.

It was chaotic, it was freezing, it was too bloody early, but imagine the sight as you reach the brow of the hill and lying there, like little gnarled lumps of manna, were oysters as far as the eye can see. Not attached to rocks and needing to be hacked off, not empty shells already guzzled by some predator, but proper living, honest to goodness oysters.

I looked at my companions for some kind of confirmation of what I'm seeing but all I saw were sleepy eyes and hyperactive hounds.

I must still be asleep then. It's not normal to feel so chuffing cold in one's sleep, but it must be so, because after the epic fail of previous foraging trips, surely Keith would be a little more excited about the prospect of as many free oysters as our little hands can carry.

Clearly I have underestimated the lure of the fish ... and the stomach. Keith isn't disinterested in the prospect of free oysters, he is just more interested in Lindsey and I cooking him a bacon roll and collecting bait before the tide comes in.

Well not I!!

I go on a collecting mission, only to find my best efforts thwarted by the fact that my hands are small and I had no bag to hand.

Still, I collected a decent haul which survived long enough for the second minor miracle of the day ... Keith and Bill cooked dinner!!!

Not just dinner, they paid luscious, aromatic justice to those oysters, turning them into an incredible grown-up version of surf and turf with an immense dipping sauce.

Sunday evening came with another redressing of the Karmic Balance ... our bathroom window was smashed.

Well in actual fact what happened was we came home, Keith went into the bathroom while I put things away and noticed a note had been put through our door. The note was from the secretary of the social club apologising for the smashing of our window and wanting to pay for a new one.

When I mentioned to Keith that he might want to turn around and look at the window I was met with the sort of surprise I would have expected if I had just informed him an elephant had moved in for the winter.

How you can spend five minutes in a room and notice a hole the size of a fist in the window is beyond me, but there it is.

So in just a few short days, life has once again proven that sometimes, the best things come if you keep your mouth shut and your eyes open.

Oooh and one last thing: this is a photo of the best Christmas Gift I have ever received, a sign loving made for me by my wonderful husband. It says better than anything I could ever write what FTC is about.

Just in case you wondered, yes those are bits of Volkswagens. Did you really expect anything else?

Friday, January 23, 2009

January - Who's stupid idea was that then?

January really is a rotten month, with the dark and the gloom and the cold and the unremitting bad news. It feels to me like swimming through treacle and everything seems like more hassle than it is worth.

You’ll be in no way surprised to learn that progress has been conducted at a leisurely pace this month.

I took a spade to the garden in a bid to prepare the ground for a frenzied attack of “planning” from the male half of the partnership, and then I planted sticks. I was proud.

Only joking, I have in fact planted broad beans – they just look like sticks.

I also fixed the fence after the recent high winds. It was long overdue really but still slightly depressing to see the garden take a step back. Not to be deterred though, I went round to the Social Club side (which is on higher ground) armed with a pair of garden canes and some cable ties to splint the trellis back into place. Luckily for me, two fine examples of Arlesey localdom were stood outside at the time smoking and contemplating life. Better still, they were in the mood to “chat” ... by which I mean they insisted on walking up and down the length of the wall identifying each of my plants to me (Yes I know what they are, I planted them!!) and then commenting on the fact that the fence was, in fact, broken (do you think???) and needed something to tie it up (thanks, because quite clearly I was standing here trying to play the bagpipes). I found myself thanking the good lord for his bountiful gift of cable ties and the speed with which they allowed me to make my escape.

Inside the house, I decided to attack an unsuspecting hallway wall in the hope that I might have a quick and easy morale boost.

Foolish, foolish child.

When we moved in, the textured wallpaper in the hallway looked for all the world like it was put up by the first owners of the house. I had visions of blushing maidens being heaved over the threshold in full skirts and excitedly furnishing her new house (before a few decades of domestic drudgery and child bearing took over) and that the paper had been part of that first flush of domestic bliss.

Well, it might have been I suppose, but only if the house were previously owned by the “El Gringo” family because, when I had stripped the paper, I was faced with an English approximation to Mexican Cantina. Seriously people, it’s Room 101 time here. Who under the big blue sky goes into a DIY shop and says “I know darling, we’ll use sponges and bits of cut out plastic and make our house look like a mud hut in Tijuana”. Does that come shortly before or after you’ve discovered the racy new dish called chicken faj-eye-tas?

On the plus side, at least there was no mould (a first at FTC) and the plaster stayed in place – apart from the corner that Harry had decided to use as a chew toy of course.

Next on the hit list is the plate rack – abandon hope all ye who enter here!!!