Sunday, December 08, 2013

Cheat's Christmas Cake

I'm a working mum, right?  So I don't call what I've done, cheating.  More like thinking smart.  Here's my Christmas cake: I bought the fruit-cake, marzipan and icing.  And assembled them.  A very quick way of making a Christmas cake!

If you're a student, you may not be thinking of buying or making a Christmas cake.  However, should you feel tempted, this does at least save lots of time and effort.  You do need a rolling pin, a bit of icing sugar, and a small quantity of marmalade or apricot jam to make the marzipan adhere to the cake.  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Washing Machine Upgrade Required

© Alstonefield Local History Society
Staffordshire Past Tracks
We've been here before. SuperSpouse insists women no longer do the laundry - their washing machines do it all for them.

 Now, I agree I can go away and leave my laundry in a nice tidy washing machine, indoors, and do something else of my choosing.  What I take issue with is the suggestion that women no longer have any part in the proceedings.

My washing machine does not gather, sort, load/unload, hang up, take down, fold, iron or put away the laundry.  If there is a machine that does all that, then it's time I had an upgrade.

Image from The Potteries website. 

Friday, November 08, 2013

Whose Sore Throat Was It, Anyway?

Viola-Kid has had two sore throats in a month.  Hardly surprising that I've now got the lurgy, is it?!  But at choir-practice last night, one of my sopranos was quite concerned in case she'd given me hers.  I think she was comforted to hear that there were sore throats closer to my home than hers!

I've slept most of the day, in between sipping Lemsip, reading Ann Widdecombe's autobiography, and crocheting edging round the blanket it has taken over a decade to complete for Viola-Kid.  (God help me if Cello-Man or Sax-Kid declare that they want one too!  That would make Sax-Kid about 35 before his is finished...)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

My Family Is Too Clean

Too many long showers are causing mould spots to form on my bathroom ceiling. And the blind, and at the top of the walls.  Dettol mould-remover is excellent stuff.

But hang on a minute - I'm the shortest in the house, by quite a few inches.  So what part of my anatomy makes me the most suitable candidate for Mould Removing Duty?  It's not even as though I have the long showers - mine are models of brevity, because I'm always in a hurry.  (That's because I'm out of the house the most hours in the week, too.)

I'm also the natural candidate to do ALL LAUNDRY, it appears.  And all tidying up.  And shopping.  For God's sake, why?!

The worm has turned.  When the ironing basket is overflowing, I just stop washing.  Watch this space.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Not so much a Bear as a Mère with a Sore Head

Toothache's a real pain, isn't it?  When your dentist cheerfully tells you that your root canal treatment 13 years ago has come to the end of its useful life, and no more can be done for this particular tooth ... 


I've got antibiotics.  I've taken paracetamol.  But I'm stuck with the sore tooth until a week today, because it's a busy time at work.  I hasten to add that no-one has said I can't go to the dentist this week, but - well, I don't feel I can.  

And this evening I ventured forth to get Student Son's return ticket to uni.  With my sore mouth.  (No, I wasn't going to buy the rail-ticket with my sore mouth, but the sore mouth had to drive to town with me.) The whole point was to avoid the £7 postage, which seemed a rip-off.

A silly old lady was at the car-park barrier.  She'd changed her mind and didn't want to go in the car-park.  (The sign did say, CAR .... oh, forget it! Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.)  Into reverse, and back she came.  Fortunately, her hearing was no worse than mine, and my irritated horn-blowing stopped her before she hit me.  However, she was determined to reverse away from that barrier, so I got out of the way, annoyed a taxi-driver who then couldn't get out of the taxi-rank, and finally, I parked.  

It turned out I'd come too late in the evening to buy an advance-booking.  I paid my parking ticket - less than £7, and let's pretend I didn't use any petrol or have other plans for my evening - as you can tell, a sore mouth doesn't improve my temper!  But at the end of the day, I still have no ticket.  Then I thought of a solution.   He can buy his own ticket, and I'll transfer the funds.  Why, oh why didn't I think of that in the first place?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Edinburgh Castle? No, Just a Round Cake

It's 22.32 and I'm waiting for a sponge cake to attain that perfect, illusive golden brown.  It's a birthday cake for our eldest son.  Earlier this evening, I asked him, 'Will you have time for cake before you go out with your mates tomorrow night?'

'Oh, yes - can I have an Edinburgh Castle cake?'

Where in the name of heaven did he get that idea?!  I'm by no stretch of the imagination a Delia Smith. I bake plain sponge cakes, sandwiched together with butter icing (if there's time) or jam (if not).  I've been known to make cakes in the shape of single numbers, but this guy's TWENTY tomorrow.  There will be one cake.  A round one, and the closest it'll come to Edinburgh Castle is an uneven surface!  There will be no bagpipes, and no Tattoo.  (Maybe I could find some tartan ribbon in my
lunch-hour tomorrow, though?)

The heroine of Allison Pearson's, I don't know how she does it, distresses bought Christmas mince-pies so that no-one knows she didn't bake them.  I don't do that - I just distress myself.

It's like this.  I work full-time and a few years ago, I did a PhD part-time, at the same time.  My contemporaries might think I'm nuts, but they do have the insight to imagine what the experience might have been like.  On the other hand, people older than me are grudgingly impressed, but I'm afraid they think I'm a selfish parent for doing it. After all, their generation didn't work while raising children, let alone work AND study. So, to atone for the neglect that I imagine other people suspect, I try to do the things that a stay-at-home mother might do.  And I bake birthday cake at 22.32.  How could I not?

More Norwich than Edinburgh!
My spouse told me I should have gone to Asda.  Well, I was out fetching Sax kid from windband at 9.30 pm, and Asda never crossed my mind.  In that case, quoth the sage, make your cake but don't you dare complain about it.  

I can't help thinking there's a flaw in the argument somewhere, but I'm too tired to work it out, Doctor of Philosophy or not!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

In Susan Boyle's Footsteps

No, I won't be singing, 'I dreamed a dream'.  I just went to Taylor Ferguson, Susan Boyle's Glasgow hairdresser!

My colleagues approve.  One son was sent a photo, and approved.  One noticed (hooray!), and one didn't.  Neither did my spouse.  And my mother disapproved.  Next time, I warn you, I shall have it dyed red!

Monday, August 12, 2013

There Will Be Hell to Pay for This!

Aids for the Elderly and Overweight?

'Someone' kindly left this sales catalogue on my desk at home.  You don't think - surely not! - they would have been so unkind as to have meant me to find this helpful garment:-

Well, all I can say to THAT suggestion is this, accompanied by a big raspberry.  Page 22 - it maybe wouldn't be big enough! Excuse me - I'm off to the swimming pool, where I propose to swim until I positively shrink. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Puritanical To The Last

Call me Griselda.  My virtue has been questioned, unjustly.  It's a good thing I read Chaucer at school.

Though I must confess, there's a flaw in my virtue: I don't cut the carrots small enough, and sometimes I use a washing-up bowl instead of the dishwasher.  A slovenly spouse, indeed.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

So I will drive 500 miles (and I will drive 500 more)

'Stout Supporting Shoes - God Help Me!'

The woman who fell on her toe
Suspected she'd broken it so
She saw her GP
Who inclined to agree
But said it was okay to go ...

So in trainers she drove to her Mum*
It didn't seem terribly dumb
Since she ably changed gear
For miles without fear
No niggles to make her feel glum.

Today she set off for the gym,
In hope that she'd soon become slim
But imagine her woe
When they said that her toe
Should be x-rayed- the outlook seems grim.

No workouts, no classes at all - 
And all 'cos she happened to fall
While grabbing the phone
She fractured a bone
And all for a redialled call!

* Yes, I drove 1000 miles last week.  I thought I had a fractured toe - and now I know!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Creativity Rules OK

I Can Still Sew!

Well, I made a dress and two jackets during this holiday.  Here's the ensemble I've literally just finished.  I must confess to being quite pleased with myself.  I haven't done anything but repairs for about 13 years - when I memorably made two sets of short summer pyjamas for my eldest and middle sons.  My colleagues fell about laughing and said that everyone else put their kids in pants and tee-shirts: why couldn't I do the same?

At this, I decided there was plainly no point in making clothes for the boys - George at Asda became my chosen source, and the sewing machine took a long rest, apart from when things needed mending.

However, it appears I haven't lost the knack, and making things for myself at least means they get seen, as opposed to tucked up neatly out of sight under a duvet.


My mother was a needleteacher.  Old needlework teachers never die, they remain as sharp as needles!

'The sleeves are too long', said she.  I've shortened them.

I decided all by myself that the dress was too long - shortened that, too.  

But Mother also  didn't like the border at the bottom or the red and black at the top.  It ALL came from the one fabric - black and cream leafy border down one side, and red and black stripes down the other.  All I had to do was lay out and cut the pattern pieces so the colours fell where I wanted them.  And I'm afraid I'm unrepentant about that - I happen to like it!  We sometimes have spookily similar tastes, but not always! 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Let Them Eat Bread!

Countdown to the end of my annual leave, so I'm eagerly cramming things into my day.

  • Today, I've been tweeting fast and furiously for Voices for the Library.  Here's my self-introduction blogpost on their website.  You can follow my tweets @VoicesLibrary.
  • Sorted out Smalley McAulay's work placement to my - and his - total, jubilant satisfaction.  At a university games software development department!
  • Had the engineer in to fix our washing machine.
  • About to set bread-machine going, and then I'll get back to dressmaking.  (Made the dress, now I'm onto the jacket.)
So --- in a few hours time --- let them eat bread.  Nothing nicer than home-made bread, even if I cheated a little!

Jelly Belly Diet

The mum with the wobbly belly
Denies that she views too much telly - 
Why, her viewing's so small, 
Almost no hours at all,
But from now on she'll only eat jelly.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Living off Beans

Tuna and Kidney Bean Salad - cheap and tasty!

I promised another thrifty recipe for starving students and non-students alike.  Suddenly, this idea popped into my mind.  I can't remember where the recipe originated.  It will serve four, with enough salad, or if you have any over, keep it covered in the fridge for tomorrow.  Healthy (beans + fish + salad), tasty, and quick.  Perfect student food.

Ingredients: tina of kidney beans, tin of tuna in brine, bottle of French dressing (or make your own with equal proportions of vinegar or lemon juice and vegetable oil), cucumber and tomatoes, any other salad you have handy.  Optionally, a pinch of Colman's mustard and a crushed garlic clove.

  1. Open tuna tin, drain, flake the tuna in a salad bowl/casserole using a fork.
  2. Open beans, drain, rinse, add to tuna.
  3. Add other salad stuff.  If you have lettuce and want to dress up your meal a bit, leave it out of the mixture and arrange round the edge of the bowl - or on individual plates.
  4. Add a couple of tablespoons of dressing (bought or made), and the optional mustard powder and garlic.
If you liked that, you'll like this:  Rose Elliot's book, Bean Feast, is full of easy vegetarian recipes.  It includes some using kidney beans - I shared them here a while ago.

Recipes more successful than Rants

Quick-Setting Jelly Desserts

It appears, looking at my blog stats, that I get more traffic to the site when I post food ideas, than when I rant.  Today, therefore, I must come up with some foodie inspiration for students and impecunious cooks everywhere.  You'll have to give me a chance to think up something, but I'll be right back ... honest!

Meanwhile, you might like my quick-setting jelly dessert suggestions.  The jelly will set much quicker if you do it this way:-

  1. Buy jelly sachets (optional - yoghourt or a can of fruit.  NOT canned pineapple or kiwi-fruit)
  2. Dissolve jelly crystals in microwavable jug in MINIMUM boiling water (I microwave the boiling solution for half a minute to hurry it up). 
  3. Now add icecubes, stirring as you go to help dissolve. 
  4. After 6 icecubes, it begins to set, and dissolution slows down. At that point, make up to a pint with cold water or yogurt - you'll need to whisk it in - or canned fruit. (Hint, don't go on adding icecubes when they struggle to dissolve.  And remember - a pint is the upper limit, including the melted icecubes!) 
  5. Refrigerate.