Thursday, 31 May 2012

Picnic Lunch and Stone Circles

It was so lovely last weekend a trip out was a positive necessity, after all in the UK you never know how long good weather will last!

We visited Ford and Etal, two villages in Northumberland, which are the home to a number of visitor attractions.

By the time we got there it was already lunch time so sitting next to a pretty field of wildflowers we tucked in to our picnic lunch.

Hummus with carrot sticks.

Cheese savoury sarnies.
(Grated cheese, grated carrots and chopped spring onion bound together with mayonaise)

Banana and walnut tea bread spread with butter.
(This is such a fantastic easy recipe and so very tasty I have given the recipe below.)

All washed down with refreshing camomile tea.
(Water took in flask, and tea bags carried separately.)

We visited Lady Waterford Hall, built as a school by  Lady Louisa Waterford who was also a keen amateur painter and spent 22 years decorating the interior of the Hall with Biblical scenes as a teaching aid for pupils.

The murals were truly stunning.

We then visited Heatherslaw Cornmill,the only working water-driven cornmill in Northumberland. I purchased some of their  stoneground, wholemeal flour ground from wheat grown in the surrounding fields.

For me, the highlight of the day however was the visit to Duddo Stone Circle.

I have an endless fascination for stone circles. They are so ancient and have such an air of  mystery and other worldliness about them, particularly when they are off the general beaten track.

This was certainly the case with this one, quite a walk from the road and stood in the middle of a rape seed field, which had to be circumnavigated before finding the narrow pathway through the yellow flowers...

...and there it was!

Up close and personal the stones have weathered to form amazingly surreal shapes.

There wasn't another soul to be seen for miles around and no noise other than the songs of the birds. It sounds corny but it was a truly uplifting experience to stand inside this 4000 year old landmark.

And now for that recipe...
Banana & Walnut Tea Bread

1 3/4 cup self raising flour
1/2 cup oil (I used cold pressed rapeseed oil)
2 eggs
1 cup golden caster sugar
1 cup mashed bananas
Small handful of walnuts roughly chopped.
Bung everything into a bowl and give a good stir. - Told you it was easy!
Grease a loaf tin, pour in and bake in a moderate oven 180C for about an hour.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Charity Shop Success at Last!

After bemoaning the rise in prices and scarcity of bargains in the charity shops of late, this week I seem to have struck lucky.

On my first outing at the beginning of the week I came back with ...

...this gorgeous amber pressed glass water jug and tumbler set (£2.99), a sewing pattern for kitchen accessories including a lovely apron pattern (50p) and a pair of rose printed pillowcases edged in a heavy vintage lace (80p).

I have bought the pillowcases to use in a scrappy patchwork quilt that I am making for my granddaughter in shades of pink. As well as a fair bit of fabric to add to use in the quilt I get the bonus of several yards of lace!

My second outing was following the announcement of partners in Lakota's Faith, Hope and Charity Jubilee Swap. After perusing my swap partner's blog, I headed off in the hope of finding a few suitable swap goodies at the only charity shop that is actually close to where I live. To be honest I wasn't expecting to find anything, thinking that I'd really need to travel the 15 miles to Bishop Auckland where there are more shops to peruse. luckily I was totally wrong in my assumption and as well as getting three perfect items for the swap (which obviously I can't show you yet), I also got a few very nice things for myself.

Now you know how I told you I had recently got an allotment? Well what with all the rain lately, it has been kind of muddy and it has proved to be a bit of a pain cleaning off my boots after every visit, so I thought a pair of wellies to keep at the allotment would be just the job. The problem is, as Alex pointed out in her recent blog post about wellies, they are generally just not made to accommodate those of us ladies blessed with well rounded calves. I was so happy therefore to find a pair of wellies complete with adjustable sides! The only problem is that they are three - yes three! sizes bigger than I take, however when I tried them on they weren't as big as I thought they'd be and with a thick pair of socks they'll do just fine. As you can see in the picture below they are also rather faded except on the inside of the leg, they must once have been a super bright paisley but have mostly faded to yellow and green. Again though not a problem for me as they will be kept at the allotment and only worn while I am there, so for a measly £2 they were snapped up.

I also got this pretty cotton top (50p) for the summer - in the hope that summer will arrive!

A smart dress for work £3.50.

Last but not least a small Phoenix casserole dish complete with stand. 

this is a perfect size now that there are just two of us.

Let's hope this is the start of more fabulous bargain finds.

Linda xxx

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Frugal Lunches

Now that I am doing supply teaching I never know from one day to the next if I will be working. My first assignment came with a telephone call one morning at 8:50am to ask if I could do a days work beginning as soon as possible! Luckily it was at the local primary school and I managed to be in the classroom teaching by ten past nine!

This does produce a challenge for lunch times mind you and I have started to make sure that there is something in the fridge that I can just grab and go. Dave takes a packed lunch to work each day, although he will get a bit bored if it's sandwiches everyday so I try to be a little bit creative. It's not only the desire to provide something different that motivates me however, have you seen the cost of cut meats lately? On top of that, I have never liked to waste food and in my current situation I need to watch every penny.

Despite what I said above, today's lunch for Dave was sandwiches. Having bought a small free range chicken from Lidl yesterday I cut off the legs and roasted them for today's lunches, took off the breast fillets for tomorrow's evening meal (not sure what it will be yet, but it will use said chicken breasts!) cut off the wings to collect in a bag in the freezer until I have enough for salt & pepper chicken wings and popped the leftover carcass into the freezer to make into stock at some future date. The chicken cost £3.68 - it would have cost me more than that for the two breast fillets alone! So Dave had chicken and mayo sarnies and there was chicken leftover in a bowl in the fridge in case I got "the call" to work. As it happened the call never came, no work today, so  a "scrape of the fridge" seemed in order to use up or freeze any bits and pieces left lurking there. 

 We had home made mince pie for dinner the other day and there was a fair size chunk of shortcrust pastry in there as well as some left over dough from the home made tortillas from yesterday's evening meal of Quesadillas. I rolled out and cooked four more flour tortillas and once cooled popped them in the freezer for another day. After that I decided on pasties for tomorrow's lunches. Having wasted spent some time earlier perusing one or two blogs, I had decided I just had to try this for lunch so the chicken that was scheduled to go in my lunchtime sarnie was now a "leftover" which I needed to incorporate into my pasties. 

Hmmm ... what to add?

I diced a couple of potatoes and carrots added a few frozen peas and boiled them together for 5 minutes whilst frying off a diced onion and a pepper that had seen better days with a little garlic and ginger. I added the drained veg (keeping back the cooking water) and lobbed in a bit of garam masala, a pinch of dried chillies and a dash of turmeric (all very scientific - not!). Gave it all a stir and added a few splashes of the cooking water and a couple of teaspoons of tomato puree. Another stir later I added some chopped (frozen) coriander, then tasted and seasoned with salt and pepper. The chicken was stirred in and then I left the whole lot to cool before making pasties.

My pasties generally have a rather "rustic" look to them, but that's how I like them- to me part of the appeal of homemade food is that it looks homemade and not like some sterile tasteless mass produced offering.

The last tiny bit of pastry made a titchy pasty for sampling purposes!

Purely in the interests of quality control you understand - it passed!

There was a bit of the filling leftover, probably enough for another two pasties, and that has been popped in a little tub in the freezer to contribute to a future lunchtime pasty.

I just have to leave you with a picture of my lunchtime sandwich ...

...fried egg and chorizo.

The inspiration was from The Quince Tree Blog . Thank you Sue, it was amazing, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven!
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