Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Wise up, check up and be aware. #mesothelioma awareness week

I did it! You know the old adage 'the devil is a shadow and bring a shadow into the light and it disappears'? Well for me that held true.

I have had intermittent pains under my arms for a while, too long really. I had been checking for lumps and while there was none the pain still niggled. When a friend's sister had bad lymphatic cancer, I avoided thinking about the pain more assiduously. Finally today I went to the doctor and phew - it was nothing to worry about.

Smear test booked for next week and then if can cut out a little more sugar from my diet I think I will be doing my children proud.

Knowledge really can be power, helping us avoid pain and heartache. For all of us in the UK we recoil at the mention of asbestos. My in-laws have been builders for generations and their famed lucky gene stood by them when others died painful deaths from asbestosis. Did you know that of all the countries to have still not banned asbestos it is the one that you would least expect to still permit it's use? Yes, the USA.

The lovely @HeatherVSJ asked me to write about her campaign to for
Mesothelioma Awareness. Please do look at the link, she was given just 15months to live, but has her own very lucky gene and has defied the odds to see her daughter grow up.

Wise up, check up and be aware - knowledge really is power, I feel so strongly that we owe it to ourselves and to our children - I want them to grow up knowing me.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

#oneweek the rain


When that I was and a little tiny boy,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day.

Nothing is so sad as the sight of Dino Boy quarantined inside, nose glued to the window watching for a break in the rain, except maybe the sight of me having pushed a buggy over a muddy hill for an hour as I walked the dog.

The sights, the smells and the sounds have been out of the ordinary. Our daily routine veered away from the muddy hill and down to the ford to check the progress. The bird song was drowned out by the gushing noise from the drainage ditches along the lane as the flood water headed to the Loddon.







The babbling brook that we could paddle across in the summer has turned into a thundering watercourse, racing along manically. Everyday we watched to see if we could turn the corner of the lane to spy the depth marker. Some days it disappeared entirely.

The flood plane seems to be appropriately fluid here. For the old houses on the lane it is at risk enough for the environment agency to levy protection money, but across an invisible boundary meters away where they wanted to build the risk was of no consequence. strange then hoe the construction had to stop for five days as raw effluent gushed into the half built houses. Local politics, national politics and geopolitical posturing - it rains on our parade.

As the winter draws to a close, and the first blossom is promising the end to the rain quarantine. We look forward to spring, but maybe a little snow to follow - who knows?


Tuesday, 11 March 2014

#oneweek Yellow submarine

A square peg in a round hole, just three inches too long. Sprawling across the greedily, relegating play into big sister's room and toys abandoned downstairs adding to the general chaos. Eccentricities are charming in people but unacceptable in furniture.

Frustrated I commandeered a pencil and paper during a play date to try and reconcile the difficulties of a small room bright fish swimming across the curtains.




The quick sketch was followed by painfully stalled progress. I googled and ebay-ed until my eyes went boggle finding the perfect accessories: fish for the seaweed, sheets for the bed, a dog toy for the porthole (honest, I had limited budget but creativity to spare).

Before the winter was over we created space - and a very cool yellow submarine too.





Inspired as ever, by the amazing @older-mum and her #oneweek look back at this winter.

one week



Monday, 10 March 2014

#oneweek Miracle mirepoix

I love the seasons, I love the smell of winter, I love the first few weeks of chunky soups and warming stews. Then I remember that it is not called the hungry season for nothing. Each week I dive for the veg box and am left slightly uninspired. Celery, carrots and onions again!

Faced with that end of the week issue of nothing in the fridge to eat, but the veg box looks stuffed with rather sad looking produce, I got stubborn. I will not be beaten, I can eat seasonally!

I blitzed all the carrots, celery, leaks and onions into submission. Take that, I thought.





Serenaded by radio 6 music or charmed by radio 4 the next step was to switch off to the world for half an hour and slowly charm the sweetness from the blend with long slow cooking. Gently, gently, stirring, not rushing just waiting until the sharpness is gone and all that is left is a pan full of the sweetest base for the next weeks recipes.




Some to use and some to freeze. It is easy to slop into a pan and you are half there to sumptuous tomato sauce, a healthy soup or a decadent game pie. My dreary harvest has been turned into a miracle ingredient. Pasta in minutes, giving me more time to flop besides the fire and get creative.

I challenge you, batch up some mirepoix for the freezer, you will be grateful! The other recommendation is the other posts inspired by the amazing @older-mum's #oneweek linky.

one week

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

World book day - hat creation













The Pickle loves Pippi Longstocking! They can guarantee hours of filthy giggles, so naturally she is the first choice of costume for World Book Day. The outfit is pretty easy, a demon pinafore has been found on eBay and a few red patches need to be sew on and we are half way there. She wears odd stockings so I am cutting off the leg from a pair of grey school tights (the one with the whole in the knee, so no loss there) and the single leg tights will go over a pair of red and white striped tights.







Rather than an itchy wig I have orange hair spray and a few pipe cleaners to hand to get that characteristic look, then all we have to do is make the shoes. Rather than lending her big shoes that she will fall over I can just make a point from some soft foam sheet and tape it to her school shoes.





So far so easy, so time to go flying over the top and the excuse for a rough and ready hat tutorial (suitable only for fancy dress). Yes, Mr Nilsson must look cool!











Start by finding something that is roughly the right shape for the desired hat in my case a shallow plastic bowl, then tape it onto a wooden base and over with cling film.

















I had some hessian left over from another project to I cut out a few large circles and soaked them in some pva glue thinned slightly with a little water. (This is why this is for fancy dress only - but it is quicker than steaming smd stretching the material into submission).













Drape both layers over the base shape that you have created. Pop a few pin in to make sure that it stays in position. They slide in with a little encouragement under between the lip of the bowl and the wooden board. Then allow to dry, I put mine in a warm oven as it cooled down from some baking.











Once dry you can paint. Spray paint works best but I was doing this project from anything I could find around the house and it still worked well. Just to finish it off nicely when the paint was dry I ironed it all flat and neat using a tea towel to protect both the iron and the hat.











I could just have trimmed off the extra material, but I wanted a better finish so using a large stab stitch I finished the brim with a little white bias binding. Finally I stitched a thin ribbon around the crown. I pulled the ribbon taut as I went along, just sewing the hat into a more permanent shape, and added a little elastic to keep the hat on the monkey. Doesn't he look fine?


I hope I have inspired you to give it a go, there is still plenty of time before Friday. Xx

Friday, 7 February 2014

Redish Redish

I stepped outside Stepford Valley and my pulse quickened. It was the allure of the fluorescent strip lights and lurid packaging that made me giddy, the promise of five pommegranates for a pound having tempted over the threshold. Restraint is not really my thing, but I escaped with just plantain, fine Turkish pastry, an impressively fresh looking naan bread, a psueudo Bombay mix (but with zero cholesterol, apparently) and the pomegranates.

Choosing the bread was no mean feat - I could have gone for fresh pitta, a bread that would have doubled as a table cloth or the naan. For some reason I don't find making naan as comforting and satisfying as pitta nor my result so spectacular so naan it was.

I have recently bought some dried shrimp so along with the plantain I was inspired by the delicious Ghanaian stew red red. Admittedly the dried shrimp is non essential but the red palm oil and black eyed beans are, neither of which I had, so any resemblance is purely fleeting.

Redish Redish recipe





1 can chickpeas
1 can kidney beans
1 can tomatoes / a spoon of concentrated tomato puree, some decent veg stock and a small carton of passata (that is what I had, but a can of tomatoes sounds less random and the effect will be very similar).
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 desert spoon dried shrimp (optional)
1 teaspoon paprika
1 large pinch cayenne
1 teaspoon cinnamon (I love the sweet richness it brings)
1/2 inch of fresh ginger
1/2 a sweet pepper (red, orange or yellow)
1/2 lt veg stock

–-----

Start by sweating the onions in a pan, meanwhile blitz the spices, sweet pepper, dried shrimp and a little of the stock into a paste. When the onions are soft and almost translucent add the spice paste. turn up and cook for a minute of so, tasking care that is does not catch.

Next add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 10 mins. Slice and fry the plantain and serve with flat bread. Enjoy!