Saturday, 29 January 2011

Indian make-away...

...or in other words home made Indian meal!

My husband said earlier that he fancied an Indian takeaway, but with the job situation being as it is we really can't justify spending £25 on a takeaway when there is plenty of food at home.

Clockwise from in front of the poppadoms, in the little green jug minty yogurt sauce, "mock" Pilau Rice, Tandoori Fish Curry, Onion Bhajis' (or onion budgies as we call them ; D )  Bhuna Chicken.

The recipe for the bhuna chicken is from a book by Kris Dhillon called The Curry Secret . I highly recommend this book if you want to make Indian curries similar to those you get from the local takeaway. The other recipes are my own which I have given below, just in case I tempt you to make your own.

"Mock" Pilau Rice
Less of a recipe really than a cheat to get my dear husband to eat boiled rice! (He says he doesn't like plain boiled rice so it has to be either pilau with Indian food, or fried rice with Chinese.)  I simply add a little turmeric to the cooking water so the rice looks the right colour - he hasn't twigged yet!

Onion Bhajis'
Thinly slice two onions into a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon of garam masala, stir to mix. Add 2 cups of gram flour and 1/4pt water. Stir well. Deep fry dessertspoons of the mixture until crisp and well browned.

We also like the minty yogurt sauce that is often served with onion bhajis'. Mix together about 3 tablespoons of natural yogurt and 2 tablespoons of milk. Add 1 teaspoon of concentrated mint sauce from a jar, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and a pinch of turmeric and blend well.

The tandoori fish curry was an experiment that I made up as I went along. I chopped fish fillets into 1 inch cubes. I mixed about 3 tablespoons of natural yogurt with a dessertspoon of lime juice and 2 tablespoons of tandoori Masala (a ready mixed spice blend). I added the fish and stirred well to coat then left it to marinade for about an hour. I then heated a tablespoon of ghee (you could use any cooking oil) and added the fish and marinade. I stir fried it briefly then added a tin of coconut milk, gave it a good stir, brought it to the boil and simmered it for just a minute or two to just cook the fish. I removed the fish to a serving dish with a slotted spoon, then thickened the sauce slightly by mixing two teaspoons of cornflour with a little cold water, then adding it to the pan whilst stirring constantly.

As you may have spotted dear daughter and her boyfriend also added cans of beer!

(mine was still in the fridge)


Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Beaded Hearts

I can't believe it's almost a whole week since I last posted.

Things at work have continued to be hectic and increasingly stressful, culminating in a mock ofsted inspection today.

The pupils were at least as badly behaved as ever and in some cases much worse but I have come through it and not only am I feeling relief that the pressure's off for a little while (well until the real thing!) but pleased that I received very positive feedback on my lesson.

 I have been making sure that I make a little "me" time and have attempted to relax by making some beaded hearts.

They are made by simply threading beads onto wire, then twisting the two ends together and bending into shape. I then added ribbon et voila!

The red and silver heart is made with a mixture of round glass faceted beads and red bicones interspersed with small silver coloured beads that I recycled from a Primark necklace. The cream and gold heart is made entirely from beads recycled from a Primark bracelet and the wooden beads are some that I bought when I first started jewellery making, but have never got around to using till now.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Rock the Kasbah!

Google Images

Just before Christmas our local primary school held a Christmas Fair in the village hall, and one of the stalls was a lovely lady promoting a new belly dancing class that she was setting up for beginners in January.

I've always had a hankering after learning to belly dance, and I really do need to do something - in this age where fitness is touted as a goal for everyone, I do nothing.

No gym, no wii fit, no exercise videos. 

A little gentle stroll walk now and again, but nothing too sporty for me.
Frankly fitness regimes bore me.

Sooooo ... 

Belly dancing seems perfect to me, something fun, interesting and with a bit of an edge to it.

I attempted to persuade a daughter or two to come along with me for moral support...

Youngest daughter -"Errrrr no mam, don't think so!"
Eldest daughter -"I don't do that sort of thing, it doesn't interest me."
Middle daughter - "Yeh, that sounds fun! will Dave watch Flic for us?"

So I got me a dancing buddy, bought us a couple of these...

 ... arranged for grandad to babysit...

and off we went.
Was it fun? - Yes
Did it work the muscles?- Yes
Was I the oldest there? - No
Was I the only one with a big generous belly? - No
Will I go back? - Yes
Will I end up with a figure as good as this? 
Google images
In my dreams!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Pay it Forward 2011

I've just entered a "pay it forward" at Kel's Makes,  so here I am paying it forward :)

I promise something handmade to the FIRST 5 people who leave a comment here. However, to be eligible, you must repost this status, offering something handmade to 5 other people. The rules are that it must be handmade (or homemade) by you and it must be sent to your 5 people some time in 2011. Ready, set, GO!
I will contact the first 5 people who comment so that I can get your details in order to pay it forward.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Frugal Holiday Plans

The television is wall to wall at this time of year with advertisements exhorting us all to plan and book our summer break. In common with many this year, I'm having to tighten my belt, but I love a summer break, it gives me something to look forward to and affords a week away from everyday routine, cares and worries to recharge the batteries.

Now I'm never terribly extravagant in the holiday department, every year at this time my DH and I discuss where to go, we toy with the idea of venturing abroad this year and promptly discard it with "well there's still so much we want to see here - maybe next year." This leads to a discussion of possible holidays to the south of the country - not an area we have visited a great deal, so largely uncharted. Then one of us will invariably say, "if we go there though we'll only wish we'd gone to Scotland!" and so will begin the planning of another week in Scotland.

This year though the discussion centred less on where to go and more on whether to book a holiday at all - after all neither of our jobs are secure - what if one of us or worse, neither of us has a job?

After quite a bit of debate we decided to book a cheap self catering property that we can afford to pay for in full this month. The idea being that the accommodation is booked and paid for, we will have to buy food to eat whether at home or away and while we are working we will squirrel away a little each month for diesel.

OK - I've done this before when the girls were young and we had many many happy holidays on a strict budget. First thing is to decide a rough area where you want to go. A couple of years ago we toured Scotland by motorbike. One of the areas we visited was new to us - the Ardnamurchan peninsula. Ardnamurchan is situated on the remote west coast of Scotland, it is a long, narrow peninsula along the shores of Loch Sunart and marks the most westerly tip of the British Mainland. Our stay at that time was brief, but we vowed to  return so we decided that this will be where we holiday this summer.

One of the views taken on our previous visit to Ardnamurchan

The next thing to be decided was budget. We set this at a maximum of £250. Now when you consider we need to book within the school summer holiday period you will appreciate that this is a rather small sum of money - but I was confident that I could do it. I realised we'd be hard pressed to find a cottage for that sum, but reasoned that a caravan might be a possibility. I knew we didn't want to book onto a caravan site as we look for peace and quiet on our holidays so it was off to search Google for a farm caravan.

Googling "self catering caravan Ardnamurchan" threw up a few possibilities. The first choice had decided to suspend the letting of their caravan, the second was fully booked over the summer holiday period, but I struck third time lucky and was able to hire one of the two lovely caravans below - and come in under budget at only £190 for the week!

The caravans are set on a farm and each caravan sleeps up to four people, with one twin and one double master bedroom, and each unit has a shower room. There is a  large and comfortable lounge, equipped with colour TV and a gas fire which opens into a fully-equipped kitchen with a gas cooker, a fridge and a microwave. Gas is included in the rental and all linen and towels are provided.

Having booked the accommodation I'm beginning to feel quite excited - just need to plan the food now. It might seem a little early to be planning food, but if I plan a menu now, I can buy a little with each grocery shop and so cut costs while we are there.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Baking Bread

It is no secret that I love my food and also that I try to be frugal. 
What I don't like however is "cheap" food.

I want to be frugal and not have to spend a fortune, but I like to know what is in my food and in order to eat as few additives as possible, which for me includes pesticide and other chemical residues, that means organic.

The problem is that frugal and organic are not generally great bedfellows. There is no doubt that organic is a lot more expensive. This means that if I don't want to compromise on the organic part of the diet, I need to make as much as I can myself so that I know exactly what I am putting into it, and also in order to stretch and make the most of the more expensive ingredients.

For me bread is a key issue. When I grew up bread was by and large produced as it has been for hundreds of years, using flour, water, yeast and salt and it was delicious. Then in 1961 along came the Chorleywood Process and changed the texture and taste of manufactured bread into something which I personally regard as alien to real bread. It can be difficult to source good bread that is made using the four simple time honoured ingredients let alone organic bread and when it is found you need a kings ransom to pay for it.

It is for these reasons that I make my own bread, sometimes with a very traditional recipe where the dough is allowed to rise is knocked back, shaped and allowed to rise again and sometimes using a variation on Doris Grant's no knead wartime recipe, but now my favourite method has changed.

I posted in an earlier post that I got this book for Christmas...

I purchased it from here for only £4.99 and I have to say it was money well spent. I have no affiliation with either the authors or the seller, but wanted to post about this book because it has changed how I make my bread, and I am honestly producing the best bread I think I have ever made.

What I like about it is that it saves time and with our busy lives I sometimes feel that for me at least, time is a more precious commodity than money. You basically use 2lbs of flour to produce a loosely mixed dough which is allowed to rise for two hours at room temperature and is then stored in the fridge for up to two weeks. When you need a loaf you hack off a bit of the dough, shape it, allow it to rest and bake. The recipe says that the 2lb of flour will make four loaves, but I have to admit, I am only getting three. It does mean however that I can spend 5 minutes on a Sunday evening mixing the dough then leave it for 2 hours on the bench before bunging it in the fridge. When I get home from work on an evening it takes 2 minutes to hack off a piece of dough and shape it. It then sits around till I have cooked the tea, is bunged in the oven -

et voila...

...a loaf of freshly made...

...delicious crusty bread.

Monday, 10 January 2011

First Award!

I've been given an award!

The lovely Jenny form Buttons, Ribbons and Other Things  has passed this Stylish Blogger award on to me.

Thank you Jenny. Jenny makes fantastic sea glass jewellery among many other pretty things, if you aren't already familiar with her blog, why not pop over and have a look?

Now apparently I have to tell you 7 things about myself and pass on the award to 15 other blogs.

7 Things About Me

1. I have only been abroad once in my whole life, to Tunisia when I was 21.
(Photo from We Heart It)

2. I love to ride pillion on my husband's motorbikes and going away to bike rallies with him.

3. I have been married three!!! times - third time lucky!
4.And no I don't like wedding cake!

(Photo from We Heart It)

5. I didn't go to University until I was 35 and had four children - oldest 18 and youngest 4 at the time.
(Photo from We Heart It)    

6. I used to be a bit of a punk - this is a much younger me at a Souxsie and the Banshees concert!

7. My favourite band is the German Industrial Metal band Rammstein - I have a real crush on the Till Lindeman the lead singer.

Now I'm finding it too hard to nominate just 15 of the blogs that I read, I just can't make my mind up - so I 'm passing this award on to any of my lovely followers with their own blogs who want to take it up and reveal seven sordid secrets interesting facts about themselves.


Friday, 7 January 2011

Return to School Arghhhh

Well we've come to the end of our first week of 2011.

How's it been for you?

Better so far? Much the same? Or worse?

The new job has started and have to say not very well.
I was told not to worry about what I would be teaching or about any planning over Christmas as a supply teacher would be retained for the first week to ensure that I was given a proper induction. I arrive Tueday morning to be told "sorry we haven't got a supply teacher, your teaching three lessons of science this morning, but an HLTA (Higher Level Teching Assistant) has prepared some work and will be in with you." We are directed to work over lunchtimes supervising the pupils (even though this is illegal) and there is a staff meeting every Tuesday until 5pm (so an hour and a half when legally they aren't supposed to last more than an hour. ) Result being 1st day at new job working 8.30 - 5pm without any breaks, then shopping for food technology which I was to teach next day (planning for off the top of my head as I walk around the supermarket) Home for 7.30pm, quick moan to daughter and other half, prepare and eat a quick pasta dish then planning for next day's science and food tech lessons!
I'm shattered already and it's only the first week.


This in addition to pupils who throw chairs and other objects around in a hissy fit everytime they don't get their own way, swear constantly and tell you to f*** off at every opportunity - little darlings! It isn't all negative though, I am teaching food technology but am not expected to teach all that design a sandwich rubbish that previously dominated food technology. (I trained as a Business Studies teacher, but have never taught that since graduating!)  I'm able to teach the little darlings to make real food - and one heartening thing in this age of ping! food is how much they enjoy cooking. One of them asked me today if I was a "proper" chef, and when I said no, he said "well you should have been one miss, you're really good and know how to do everything proper like" (we were making pizza from scratch using flour, yeast, olive oil etc.)

Then another plus today was that I didn't need to cook when I got home tonight as my dear husband announced he was treating me to "happy hour" at the Italian restautrant in the next village to cheer me up.

I've had Ribs in Buon Appetito's special sauce -yum,
followed by Penne al Forno - yum, yum...
followed by Profiteroles - yum, yum, yum.

Off to crack open a bottle of red wine...
and just keep thinking it's only six weeks now to the next holiday!

Monday, 3 January 2011

A New Start

Firstly I'd like to thank all of you wonderful people who posted such supportive comments on my last post. The kindness and support of fellow bloggers never ceases to amaze me, I appreciate you one and all.


Tomorrow I begin my new job. As many of you will remember I posted at the end of October that I had been told I would be made redundant at the end of December, but shortly afterwards was given a bit of reprieve in the form of a one term secondment with behaviour support. Well tomorrow the secondment begins, and I have been told that there is unlikely to be anything further for me beyond the end of April, so I still need to re-evaluate what I will do then.

Still I have until the end of April and I am optimistic that new opportunities will present themselves before then. To be honest I have mixed feelings about the secondment and it is actually a relief that it will only last the one term. I will be working in a Key stage 3 Pupil Referral Unit as a classroom teacher. (For those that don't work in education that means I will be teaching pupils aged 11-14 who have been permanently excluded from mainstream school due to their behaviour.) I'm not new to this type of work, indeed this is how I began my teaching career, but that's just it you see - I feel like I'm moving backwards. Over the past 10 years I have striven to gain promotions, firstly becoming a Special Education Needs Coordinator within the Pupil Referral Unit, then securing the post of Head of Learning Support in a mainstream school. Due to the falling rolls in the school however I was first threatened with redundancy back in 2008, but secured a secondment into the local authority in an advisory capacity. This was always due to end in April, but due to government cuts the end for me was brought forward to December. So I am grateful that now I have work till the end of April as I first expected, but realise that I don't want to go back permanently to working in such a stressful environment.

In my last post however I said my word for 2011 was to be freedom, so really this has now given me the freedom to change my life, hopefully for the better. as a Head of Department I was enslaved by my earnings, worried that if I didn't continue to earn that level of salary I wouldn't be able to cope. The early wake up call has made me reassess my finances and how I live and made me realise I am fortunate. I could live on less and so now I have both the opportunity and the freedom to look for a job that will free me to have more time for things I really want to do - cook more, craft more and stop to enjoy the things that really matter.

So I'm beginning as I mean to go on. Making sure I reduce, reuse, recycle and live a more frugal simpler lifestyle that will continue to be sustainable when my salary decreases.

On New Years Day I made some Chilli Tomato Jam from this recipe. I've used it before and we have just ate the last of that batch, so when I got three punnets of organic baby plum tomatoes for only 20p each, I decided to make more.

Then today I decided to make plate mince pie for tea. Now usually I'd just have defrosted the mince and used the whole pack in one pie, but today I fried off a chopped onion, two chopped leeks and a large grated carrot before adding the mince to brown it then adding water, a little gravy browning and some cornflour to make gravy. This enabled me to stretch the mince to make two pies instead of just the one. I baked one which we had with roast new potatoes, carrots and parsnip cooked in the oven at the same time as the pie and froze the second pie uncooked.

I also cooked two sausages in with the vegetables and then chopped them up and added them to a tin of beans which made a filling for pasties to use as packed lunches. These were baked at the same time as I baked a loaf of bread.

Doing things like this isn't a chore for me, I thoroughly enjoy it, with any luck my enforced need to change will ultimately give me the freedom to do more.


Saturday, 1 January 2011

Tears for Freedom

I had planned on blogging about a round up of my year today, but what is it that they say about the best laid plans of mice and men?

All through the Christmas season I've kept myself busy, given myself no time to think, after all if I didn't stop too long to think I'd get through this Christmas ok wouldn't I? And it worked - well it certaintly seemed to, when the dreaded day dawned I had my darling graddaughter to watch open her presents and then spent a happy morning pottering in the kitchen making the Christmas meal while her mam and granddad played along happily with her. The only slight blip was when I took daughter and granddaughter home, and my daughter saw the tears beginning to well, hugged me and said "now come on mam, you've done really well this year, don't start crying now." so I didn't. Boxing day dawned and I'd done it! I'd got through a Christmas day without becoming a crying crumbling wreck. You see it was four years to the day that my dad passed away in the early hours of Christmas morning and though it was not unexpected, and was in many ways a relief as he had been in so much pain, I've always been a daddy's girl and it hit me hard.

So Christmas is difficult - but this year I'd got it cracked!

Till today.

Standing at the kitchen sink this morning washing the dishes the floodgates opened and I just sobbed. No idea what brought it on, but you know what? I think I needed it. I'd bottled everything up, so that everyone else could have a nice calm Christmas but hadn't thought that I need to acknowledge my sadness on this day. So what have I learned? It's ok to acknowledge the sadness I feel on Christmas day and while it needn't dominate the day and spoil it for everyone else maybe in the future I need to build in a little time to allow myself to grieve.

My mam and dad on their wedding day.

Which in a way brings me on to the subject of new year resolutions. I recently read this post by Pamela over at Magical Meadows about changing the approach to resolutions and choosing a word to encapsulate what you want to achieve. 

My word for 2011 is going to be ...


I realise now that part of my problem on Christmas day was that I didn't allow myself the freedom to express what I needed to and it is so often a fear of letting others down or finding reasons why I can't do or achieve what i really want that often holds me back , so I'm giving myself the freedom to do and be what I want to be. I'm giving myself the freedom to work towards the simpler life I keep dreaming of and ultimately gain the freedom from the rat race and consumerism that I have come to feel holds me back.

I'm sorry for the somewhat downbeat theme of this post, but I needed to make a start and give myself the freedom to express how I have felt today and then have the freedom to move on.

Wishing you all the freedom to achieve your dreams in 2011.

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