Saturday, 10 August 2013

Opening lines from Books

I can't give the opening lines to my favourite books because I don't keep books as such. My library consists mostly of reference books relating to arts, crafts, hobbies, religion and spiritual thought. It used to include books about politics but I gave up on that years ago. Novels come and go, year in, year out. When they are read they are passed onto family or friends. I particularly like historical novels or biographies. 
I have never owned a collection of classics and Shakespeare, since school days, has left no appeal.

Some of my favourite books from recent years include: 

The God of Small Things a story about childhood experiences by Arundhati Roy, winner of the Booker Prize in 1997
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, 2007
And the Mountains Echoed  by Khaled Hosseini, 2013
The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory, 2003

I managed to salvage five novels from my shelves, read, partly read and waiting to be read and I have taken the opening lines from them. 
Katherine Webb, author of The Unseen, 2011
'The first time Leah met the man who would change her life, he was lying face down on a steel table, quite oblivious to her. Odd patches of his clothing remained, the colour of mud, slick with moisture.'

Khaled Hosseini author of And the Mountains Echoed, 2013
'So, then. You want a story and I will tell you one. But just the one. Don't either ask me for more. It's late, and we have a long day of travel ahead of us Pari, you and I.

Kate Morton author of The Distant Hours, 2011
It started with a letter, A letter that had been lost a long time waiting out half a century in a forgotten postal bag in the dim nondescript house in Bermondsey.

Jean Auel author of The Plains of Passage, 2002
The woman caught a glimpse of movement through the dusty haze ahead and wondered if it was the wolf she had seen loping in front of them earlier.

Noah Hawley, author of The Good Father, 2013
Thursday night was pizza night in the Allen household. My last appointment of the day was scheduled for 11am; and at three o'clock I would ride the train home to Westport, thumbing through patient charts and returning phone calls.

Out of the five books listed above. the one which holds the most appeal to me right now is The Unseen. Maybe I should make a challenge to read it. Something for my ever expanding 'to do' list.

Day 10 August Blog Challenge

Thursday, 8 August 2013

A Guilty Pleasure :

An afternoon snooze
Is where to cruise
When there's time to lose
I stand accused

Of hoarding the treasure
Of sofa and me together
And being the wilful measure
Of my guilty pleasure

Day 8 August Blog Challenge

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Five songs that bring back memories

Me being psychedelic
I'm enjoying this challenge and even surprised at myself that I can be so creative with writing again. There is life in the old girl yet!

I've heard it said that if you remember the sixties then you weren't there. Well I remember with a smile on my face and Oh! the joy and freedom of youth, Lets go to San Francisco , conjures up all the excitement, the change and the rebellious breaking down of social barriers of that era... I'll never forget!

Isao Tomito with his album 'Snowflakes are Dancing', introduced me to Debussy in the late 70s. I remember being enraptured by the sound, almost like being transported to another place and time. I bought the album as a Christmas present for my parents and funnily enough, they had bought me the same. Probably one of the rare times we were on the same page!

Its easy to place the blame at someone else's door but Billy Joel eloquently turned things around with the Innocent Man in 1983, with really deep lyrics, ouch! The eighties started well with the birth of my third child, a beautiful son, but then became probably both the worst and best decade of my life. My parents divorced about this time and my mother became suicidal. Domestic issues were at their lowest and we were broke. We had to sell our home and we barely made even. My family was breaking up and my lovely family ended up with no home of our own and I lost my precious mother. Then along came Labi Siffre in 1987 with Something inside so strong . I could so relate to that song. It was if it had been written for me. Not just my life but my whole family's life had to be built back up again and I did it! I returned to my faith, we got our own place, I went back into education and then got a job I managed to stay at for nearly twenty years. Wow! that was some achievement I can tell you. 

Life can be a fairground with its ups and downs but hope is eternal and what better way to ignore the downs than to break out into song when your favourite song comes on the radio. In 1995 it seemed this song was never off the radio and I loved it. Especially when I was in the car and I could pretend I was really at the fairground singing along with Simply Red. It made my husband and I laugh so much and laughing can be so good for the heart and soul.

Hope to see you tomorrow.

Day 7 August Blog Challenge

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

A favourite quote and why it’s special

If you love something set it free, If it comes back to you, it is yours. If it doesn't it never was.
(author unknown)

I value my independence therefore I must respect the independence of others. Watching children walk away to forge their own lives for themselves can be heartbreaking. A huge wrench that tears emotions to threads and leaves a gaping hole. The empty nest in tatters. 
Drew walking away

One of the worst attitudes I think, is to take someone for granted. I would much rather set someone free and experience the joy of their return than hold them against their will.

My darling son and granddaughter

Day 6 August Blog Challenge

Monday, 5 August 2013

Something I wish I did really well

If I can't do something really well then I don't generally do it. I leave it to the experts. Knitting for example. My mother was and sister still is an amazing knitter. I've tried my hand at it but with poor results and practice didn't make perfect for me. So a knitter I am not and never will be. Thats OK, I can leave well alone. 

Something that springs to mind is the fantastic ability some people have to
be multi-lingual. That's not an ability I share though I dearly wish I could speak more than my native English. I have some mostly forgotten but could be reminded of, schoolgirl French and a teeny bit of holiday Spanish. While waiting to get through the Gibraltar/Spanish border one day my son who was working there at the time broke into a Spanish conversation with a difficult custom's official so easily and readily I was greatly impressed and proud. Another time (I'm told), my son and his friend were trying to chat up a German girl but all were having difficulty with each other's language. They ended up conversing quite well in French! 
My son Drew
Yes I greatly admire those who can speak multiple languages and that's something I wish I did really well.

Day 5 August Blog Challenge

Sunday, 4 August 2013

An Embarrassing Moment

I think I have learnt how to opt out of would be embarrassing moments. I must have experienced plenty in my time but I don't think I have blushed at one since I was in my teens. 

Feeling socially awkward can be part of an embarrassing moment but some people don't get embarrassed at all in fact they seem to thrive on being socially awkward. A case in point happened just recently when my husband and I had a day out at Souter Lighthouse, a visitor's attraction in South Tyneside.  The lighthouse keeper's living quarters has a box of dressing up clothes for children to entertain themselves with. Of course, my husband (well on his way into his second childhood), couldn't resist a bit of dressing up.  Its moments like this that a well rehearsed line comes to mind, 'Its OK, he is going home soon'.

To be fair, I have to balance the equation by admitting one of my own embarrassing moments which was at a staff Christmas Dinner, many years ago. Carried away by the joviality of the event and yes, civil servants know how to let their hair down, at my place at the table, I ashamedly enjoyed my neighbour's wine as well as my own. Hic! Oh my goodness! I didn't know how to apologise enough but she saw the funny side and said not to worry. I bet she was calling me under her breath though...eeek!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

A Treasured Memory

Its hard to choose a treasured memory, there are so many. They best come to mind when everything is quiet and there are no rattles of the day to interrupt my thoughts. My best time of the day is early morning when I can sit with my morning tea and look out at the world through my kitchen windows into the garden and sky beyond. A time of meditation brings all things to mind. Perhaps one of my most treasured memories was when I told my ten year old granddaughter I had stopped smoking. She was walking across the sitting room at the time, heading for the stairs when she stopped in mid track, did a double take and launched herself into the air, pirouetting as she did so, then bounced back down to the floor with a YEAH! She then sped off to do whatever it was she had in mind to do in the first place. I was speechless and thrilled at the same time. I wouldn't have missed that spectacular for the world and all because I had stopped smoking. I think I will treasure that moment forever.

3rd Day August Blog Challenge 

Friday, 2 August 2013

Five things about me most people don't know

I think this challenge is really difficult and so I have to question it. What are the five things about me most people don't know? 

I question why they would want to know... that I was dragged out of a very interesting coffee bar when I was fourteen by my mother? How mortified was I that day! 

Do I want them to know is my second question. That I can be really quite boring. I can't think of anything about me that is newsworthy or headline snatching or maybe that's just a case of my own selective memory. Lets get rid of all the embarrassing bits. I won't be sidelined, I'm a listener, not a talker though I do have my moments.

Question three: Who are 'most people' ? Is that a good percentage of the world population or just my little circle of friends, neighbours and casual bystanders? They surely don't know I am really a teenager at heart in an older person's skin. I get such a shock when I look in the mirror.

With many others I stood to be counted in defending the rights of the unborn, was jeered, mocked and spat at but I would do it all again willingly. I supported CND and wept for my sisters in the third world. I need not question this.

I have three children, ten grandchildren and four great grandchildren. My fifth question is, why does that raise eyebrows?

Day 2 of the August Blog Challenge

Thursday, 1 August 2013

The story of my life in 250 words

Gosh! How do I fit 64 years into 250 words. The answer is I don't! I can't even believe I've been on this earth for 64 years... but that I have, must be an achievement in itself.  Born in what used to be the workhouse at Balby, Doncaster, which was transformed into a hospital as many workhouses were; I was delivered there because I was lying breach or so I am told. The journey to hospital was drenched in a November pea soup fog, all too common in the colliery towns and villages of the Don Valley.  

I survived this rude awakening to 'life awareness' and endured the pollution of smog, smoky coal fires and bitter cold winters from my first childhood bed in a vacant drawer at the cemetery house where my grandparents lived to the back bedroom of a prefabricated bungalow built as temporary post war housing. I developed asthma and TB and at the age of three was not expected to live but I did, thanks to the village pharmacist who loaned out his oxygen cylinder and mask to help me breath and of course my mother's prayers.

Today I can look back at relationships broken and intact, generations of new descendants, adventures and experiences. The life changing sixties, the hates, the loves, the hard work and the seamless care that binds all together over decades and I wonder, how time flies and what more is still to come. No! 250 words are not enough. 

Day One of the August Blog Challenge

Monday, 6 May 2013

Definitely not Master Chef

Its May Bank Holiday and we have beautiful weather. Normally we would have the customary BBQ but this time because John is recovering from a terrible chest complaint I said 'NO' but I would put food out instead. 

We weren't prepared either, having done no specific shop for extra food, though my store cupboard and freezers are full. Its much more fun (and cost effective) to make something out of whatever there is than trawl the supermarket for impulse buys. The family were expected to arrive, grandchildren included and so I had a good sort through my food stash for bright ideas. 

store cupboard ingredients

The freezer gave up a bag and a half of cooked pork strips, a half full bag of frozen sliced mushrooms, and a half empty bag of mixed peppers. Out came the electric fry pan/slow cooker to become the focal point on the breakfast bar. I had a mega tray of Aldi's ready cooked egg fried rice languishing in the fridge with just two days to go before its use by date and was relieved to be able to add this to the pork and veggies when they were cooked. 

Jo cooking the pork

I heated some sunflower oil in the pan and added the frozen pork strips and let them sizzle away. Daughter Jo arrived just in time to take over stirring and I added the mushroom and peppers to the pork. They cooked some more and I sprinkled a tomato, pepper and chilli cupasoup mix over the whole concoction and let it cook some more again, while Jo continued to stir. The rice was added next with just a splash of hot water and then all the ingredients were folded together. The family loved it and tucked into garlic bread as well. 

ready for the oven

cooked lasagna

I had to make something gluten free for myself and daughter Barbara, so I decided upon a vegetarian lasagna. A tin of ratatouille, a jar of basic tomato and herb pasta sauce, 400grams of mushrooms in a sauce made from two mushroom cupasoup mixes and home made cheese sauce with some extra grated cheese for sprinkling, lots of pasta sheets and voila! I enjoyed it and I think Barbara did too and luckily there was some left for lunches through the week. Last week's chocolate cake was devoured in no time which means... I think I will have to bake some more.

Jasmine and Lily Jo

Mike, Jasmine and Natalie

After eating, grandchildren played and grown ups chatted the afternoon away. All in all, its been a very nice day. 

Thursday, 2 May 2013

cake and cookies

The old mojo seems to have gone to sleep again. I really had to kick it hard to come up with some creativity this week. I was stuck between projects and didn't know where one finished off and the other began! So I was reluctant to start anything else. 

I hate waiting around...waiting for something to happen and yesterday was just that. Husband was waiting for the acute nurses to visit and check him out and I was getting bored. Thumbing through recipe books and looking at pretty pictures gave me the urge to bake. Chocolate and peanut butter squares sounded good and I had all the necessary ingredients, so quick as a flash, the decision was made and I started to bake.

Before too long the house was full of nurses and surprise family visitors all arriving at the same time. I had plenty of helpers and who said 'too many cooks spoil the broth'? In this case helping hands certainly enhanced my efforts at making chocolate and peanut butter squares and the kitchen became a hive of activity while husband John was in the sitting room being looked after by amazing NHS nurses. 

The cake mix was done and Joanne poured it out into a baking tray leaving enough in the bowl for a good finger licking session afterwards and Alex broke up chocolate buttons to sprinkle over the top. The finished cake was so good. Definitely one to make again and it will go into Nana's favourite recipes book.

That was yesterday and today I thought why not try a recipe using gluten free oats. I had bought the oats at a gluten free fair last weekend and hadn't baked with oats before. I searched for a recipe on-line and found one for thick and chewy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies at . Its a great site and I visit quite often. The only changes I made to the recipe was to use mixed fruit instead of chocolate and I have to admit to being puzzled as to what the american term Baking Soda was. I could choose between British baking powder and bicarbonate of soda but which one? I finally used baking powder and hoped it would work. I also used less sugar and slightly more egg. 

The recipe was very easy to make and though I must have made the cookies bigger than they should have been (I made 18 as opposed to the 24 stated in the recipe) they turned out well and I think just one would make quite a filling and healthy breakfast. They taste very yummy too, crisp on the outside and chewy inside. 

I wonder how long these will last when shared out with family. I'm off to watch Master Chef now.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Playing at the kitchen table

Yesterday was special because it was my Mother's birthday and although she is no longer with us I think she must have been in spirit because she would have loved yesterday's play time.  Two of the grandies and Aunty Teresa all turned their hand in making flower wreaths, though not all at the same time I'm glad to say. C treatment doesn't allow for too much fuss all at once. Non of it was planned. It just seemed to evolve and before we knew it we were sharing an old family custom of creating wreaths and chatting at the kitchen table. My Trotter forebears would have all been familiar with this custom, albeit, their wreaths were the earthy plant type. Four of the wreaths shown above are now hanging from the door handles on my landing at the top of the stairs. It brightens the place up a bit. Aunty T's wreath is now hanging on her kitchen wall.

What birthday would be complete without handmade cake? 

At the beginning of the week I had made my very first carrot cake. The recipe was given to me by my niece Cheryle from an Asda magazine and it proved to be an enormous success. The recipe was for a double layer cake but I made just a single layer as I didn't want any to get wasted but I wish I had made two layers now, because it was so delicious. Even my husband who claims not to like carrot cake came back for seconds. Being gluten free and also lactose free meant it was suitable for all the family and I will certainly be making it again.

Home baked gluten free cakes and pastries are far better than anything I've eaten that is shop bought. It has taken a while to get the hang of gluten free baking but I'm getting there and well worth the effort. 

I'm looking forward to my next gluten free challenge.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Phew! that's a lot of greetings cards

I've been working hard this last two weeks putting together bundles of cards for fundraising. I'm so glad to be able to do it and if it helps Charlie Bear, the Church Roof and Cancer Connections in their good works then I will be a happy bunny.

I'm using up lots of craft stash that has been in storage for too long and also of course my laptop and printer that I couldn't do without. The cards are mostly prints of my own pressed flower artwork with some embellishments added. To add a bit of interest I've also included faded images on the card inserts.

It was fun making the mini cards. At only 4 x 4 inches they were fiddly and surprisingly time consuming but I think worth it. The tiny floral images are my own and they are layered on top of background paper cut to size  and a bit of glitter, gel pen and peel offs added to finish them off. They also have a decorative insert and a short message.

I owe my life to good surgeons, cancer specialists, my faith and the support I got from many wonderful people. The least I can do is give a little bit back and if I can encourage others to do the same then its all worth while.

Easter cupcake decorating with the grandkids

Easter is coming and I thought we could play at making some birds nests cupcakes with yummy teeny chocolate eggs.

It starts off well! Nanna does an example of one then leaves the grand kids to carry on by themselves.

 Jasmine very carefully adds butter cream to the mini cupcakes. This is the base of the birds nest.

Yumm, this is finger lickin' good! Sprinkling coconut on top comes next.

Wow! Jasmine is doing well and has a head start on Natalie. Three little eggs in each nest sounds right.

 Ah Ha! Who gets caught with their fingers in the bowl of chocolate eggs.  Never mind, Natalie's cup cakes are finished and she can eat the left overs.

 Granddad enters the room and his eyes light up at the sight of all those scrummy cupcakes just waiting to be eaten.

One little mite didn't get to join in because she wasn't feeling well. Poor Lils didn't even eat her snack. Maybe next time Lils.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Summer in Chains

I haven't done much in the way of creativity this last week but I did find a fossil lurking in my witches cauldron. The cauldron has had no attention for years but due to a kitchen re-vamp the cauldron was unearthed and you won't believe what I found inside. Last year's summer covered in cobwebs and tied down in chains. Before it got a clean up I thought I would take a photo 'cos I thought it looked quite arty and then I did a bit of digi manipulation and came up with the above image. I like it!

I've had a busy weekend...well busy for me! Still recovering and still on treatment but it was good to have visitors and I'm so thankful for young Marton our friend from Hungary who assembled some additional new kitchen units for us. John and I have a larder cupboard each now to house our hobby stuff. In my case its largely baking equipment and in John's case its his home brew stuff. I have my art and craft stuff in the spare bedroom and John has all his other stuff in the garage, garden, shed, greenhouses and loft. What a hoarder he is!

I still love playing with my mini cupcake maker and made some minis for breakfast. The butter cream is actually made with olive spread, not butter, so its nice and healthy and tastes nicer too. Each one an individual luscious mouthful and so quick and easy to!

Think I will make a card with my summer in chains image and show it next week... Bye for now.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Re-cycling Christmas cards

Two blogs in one day. My goodness, things are looking up! It goes to prove how creative I've been over the last week. Something that I have sadly lacked for too long. Its good to have my mojo back.

Christmas might be the last thing on people's minds right now but I couldn't help playing with last year's Christmas cards and re-cycling them. I have some mount board scraps that I squirrelled away several years back just in case they came in handy one day and I guess that day, or week or month has arrived. Time certainly slips away when you're having fun.

An ever breeding collection of cut outs from used Christmas cards, glitter glue, ribbon, peel offs, flowers and embellishments and my trusted glue gun and more took over the dining table like some rampant alien species until I was left with a six inch space to work on, so then I removed myself to the kitchen breakfast bar for more space. Crafter readers will know what I'm talking about at this stage and I'm sure there will be a smile and giggle or two.

My idea was to decorate mount board making them into plaques supported on plastic stands...the type that small plates are displayed on. My first effort took me absolutely ages but as I progressed each one got easier to make. The only trouble is I have run out of plastic stands and I can't remember where I bought them many moons ago. So now, my dining table is clear again, at least until I find more stands.

Maybe I will be able to raise a bit of money for worthy causes, next Christmas.

This one is my favourite.

Withered apples and all that stuff

What to do with withered apples? I have to say they stored well in my wooden fruit bowl and although now wrinkled and drying out they were still edible. Apparently, last week was Bramley apple week but I never got round to buy any, let alone make anything with them which is a pity because Bramleys are the best cooking apples. My withered apples were the Gala variety and as I loath wasting food I just had to do something with them.

withered gala apples

I found a recipe for a cake tray bake and using a bit of adding, subtracting, dividing and multiplying and a few additions I was able to create a recipe that was gluten free and happy with different kinds of fruit. My maths teacher would have been proud! I cored and chopped the apples but left the skin on and tossed them on top of the cake batter. The result was a scrummy cake, especially with squirty cream...yum! 

apple cake with cream

blueberry cake with cream
Blueberries work well too and my family love the cake so it was a bit of a scramble to get my fair share. 

Honestly! You would think they would consider who baked the cake in the first place...never mind she says, smiling.

blueberry cake tray bake

I'm really enjoying the discovery of baking all over again and experimenting with gluten free recipes makes it an exciting challenge. I bought a blank recipe book from Home Bargains the other day for only £1.99 or something near. Ridiculously cheap anyway. I have called it Nana's recipe book and aim to fill it with tried and tested family recipes, some of which I will enjoy making with my grandchildren.

making a mess

My first entry was a recipe for cheese scones which I made with the help of granddaughters Natalie and Jasmine...did I say help? Mum wasn't about so we had great fun making a mess on the breakfast bar. There were some squabbles as to who did what and I had to play referee at times but it was all worth it. 

more hands on mess

Amazingly, these scones had no egg in the mix and in the mayhem I forgot to add baking powder but I was amazed at how they turned out. They were the best cheese scones I've ever made. So maybe I shouldn't have been adding egg all these years. 

cheese scones

Natalie showed her appreciation by spreading hers with jam! Cheese and jam scones??? There's no accounting for taste! I suppose the added bonus was that the girls washed up and dried afterwards. What more could a Nana ask for? The scones were meant to be for Dad but I'm not sure he managed to get any.

Next playtime, the girls and I will make a scrapbook page about our baking fun afternoon. That should be

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Retreat to Ampleforth

Ampleforth Abbey in North Yorkshire is set in breathtaking scenery. My recent visit with a party from my parish church coincided with the worst snow of the winter so far but it didn't deter us and we had an amazing weekend staying at the Grange in the Abbey grounds. 

The buildings are as impressive as the landscape and I enjoyed exploring parts of the grounds and taking photographs, some of which are shown below.

The driveway from the main road into Ampleforth Abbey grounds. The Grange is centre background. It was very warm and clean comprising bedrooms, refectory, a chapel and a room for socialising and talks and a lounge and library on the top floor. We were very comfortable there.

This group of trees stood together in majestic dialogue in the snowy grounds.

The Abbey of the monastic community of St Benedict. The community also has a resident college for boys and girls and an apple orchard in site producing such drinks as apple brandy and liqueur. Monks from here serve eleven parishes in England and have also established a monastery in Zimbabwe.

The rear of the Abbey buildings shown here look out at stunning views across North Yorkshire.

The Abbey is as beautiful and impressive inside as it is out. This is the corridor to the Abbey church entrances.

Inside the Abbey is far bigger than this photo shows. It is actually huge and the ambiance amazing. On Sunday we joined the students for morning mass and the abbey was filled to capacity. They were all so well behaved and attentive to mass they were a credit to their teachers.

The monks and staff were very welcoming and looked after us well. Food was plentiful and they were kind enough to make some gluten free dishes. Even snacks of gluten free shortcake and scones served separately on doily decorated plates. It felt like they were made especially for me!

Chicken curry with a choice of rice or potatoes and broccoli

Gluten free plum and almond cake with custard. 
Doreen and me in the lower guest refectory having lunch.

A lot of the oak furniture in the Abbey was created by Robert (Mouseman) Thompson who lived in Kilburn in North Yorkshire. I found this mouse under our dining table.

We socialised on Saturday night in the Grange. The bar was open and we sang Geordie and Irish songs.

The following day we said our farewells to Ampleforth. It had been for me a spiritual journey and experience I'm not likely to forget. I think many others felt the same way. 

From Matins at 6 am with hooded monks in the dimly lit Abbey to coming together in prayer with one of the monks, Father Matthew, in the Grange and a full itinerary of devotions in between, felt at times a little exhausting and almost like a boot camp. But one well worth taking part in! Father Matthew finished off by giving us a prayerful talk on Sunday before we left for home. He had been very good and attentive to us during our stay. 

Despite the snow the roads were clear and we made good time getting home by coach...taking our lovely memories home with us.

I'm already thinking about going to Medjugore in September!