Attempting to make it as a writer

Archive for January, 2012

Apple Pork

I got caught out one time when on holiday with my husband’s family.  We were staying in a holiday cottage and I learned mid morning that 26 people were descending on us for a meal that night.
Not only was I flummoxed as to what to feed them, I was thrown by timings, we agreed on 7pm but some members were stuck on a sand bank and unable to make it till 9pm so I kept topping up my apple sauce and lowering the heat until I had a firm time.  My kitchen equipment was also sorely lacking and there was a lot of make do and adaptation before we served this very basic meal to a really quite appreciative family.


Pork chop / loin steak per person
Apple juice
Jar of chicken tonight white sauce or condensed mushroom soup

Lay the pork chops in a flat dish and cover with plenty of apple juice.  

Bake in a medium oven not allowing the apple juice to run dry, turning occaisionally.

Half an hour before eating add jar / soup to the dish and stir gently, turn heat up on oven.

Don’t let meat dry out.   Serve with mashed potato and veg of your choice.  Carrots or green veg add a great splash of colour.

On my return home I have varied this in different ways including,   sprinkling dried wild mushrooms in as I added the soup.   Also making a breadcrumb crust can add additional crunch.   I have discovered on particularly lazy days that Waitrose sell different crusts in little tubs.  Fabulously easy, looks and tastes a million dollars.

Home family cooking

Don’t you just find it so difficult to provide nutritious meals that all the family will eat.  I am a working mother also trying to find time to become a writer and sometimes preparing and cooking a meal the whole family will eat is not easy at the end of a hellish day at work.

 I hope that some of these meals will entice and delight your taste buds, whilst bringing a feeling of nostalgia to the table as you eat in a large family group.

I don’t always follow a recipe despite having a million and one different recipe books.  I prefer to use the books to inspire and adapt according to what is in the cupboard or readily available.  I measure in a very sporadic way, adding a bit here and not so much there depending again on taste and availability.  Often I will use a jar or ready prepared ingredient for time saving or taste.

I might credit the basic recipe to a book or TV chef but can never recreate the exact taste, as I don’t know which ingredient created the comfort taste the family craved.

Some recipes will be for the whole family, some will be for the children and some just simply for a quiet night ‘a la deux’.   Some will be taken from meals my children prepared or helped with. Some will be slow cooked to allow for working or a day out and some will be thrown together at the last moment.  All I hope will be delicious and easy to follow.
I will not include pepper and salt in a recipe as this is a matter of choice particularly where the children are concerned, if something particularly needs a bit of a kick I might add it but this is for your own liking and that of your family.

Cream can usually be changed to low fat fromage frais or low fat crème fraiche.  These recipes are not cast in stone.  You adapt them to your lifestyle and taste and they are here simply as a catalyst for your own creativity.

Please leave a comment if you try the recipes; there will be ample opportunity for your own additions so please let me know how they turn out. 

I am very much a gadget person and if there is an available gadget that I find invaluable I will use it and let you know where you can hopefully still buy them.



Victorian Attitudes

Behaving at school!


Times are a changing!

I guess for adults reading this your age will change your recollection slightly.  When you recall your school days some like me; will be filled with horror at the tunnelled opportunities and others will remember the expected respect and obedience.

I was limited to find a profession I would be happy following while at school. I eventually settled on wanting to be a nurse; it was a good respectable career, it also turned out to be one of the few acceptable jobs Sister Edward Mary our esteemed head would allow.  Coming from a medical background I was already comfortable with blood and gore.   The nuns at the school disguised themselves as teachers but in reality;  secretly were trying to recruit potential novices and I ticked all their boxes; except compliance.  So if they really couldn’t persuade me to be a nun, there were a few options left; housewife but I needed to find a husband and in our ultra protected girly environment that was never going to happen.   Teaching was an acceptable profession but as the availability of A’levels was decidedly inadequate; teaching was also a non starter.  Actually I had wanted to go to university to do Mechanical Engineering.  Even now I can see the tiny Sister Edward Mary wither visably at the sheer horror of it.

I did want to be a writer even back then but creativity was drummed out and it was certainly not a suitable calling for a young innocent catholic girl.   Stories with any imagination were rewarded with low marks and punishment for the insolence and lies told within them.  To be fair I spent a lot of time in punishment for other things I now consider very unjust.  Thankfully by that time castigation had moved from corporal punishment to sitting in the head’s office.    In my later years I now empathise with the likes of the Bronte sisters writing under the name of Bell and Mary Anne Evans who most people will only know as George Eliot.   Now it will not be disapproving  society perceptions that prevents my novel being sent away and published.

I, being the eldest of a dynasty of little catholics, three of whom were girls and would follow me through the school, gave me particular kudos.  The school struggling to survive and having to turn to non-catholics to keep the numbers up meant all “little birds” (catholic children) were particularly special to all the nuns which equated to most of the staff.  We were as spirited as other children but as long as we appeared penitent at the right times we could get away with a lot more.  I was particularly special, I was not really naughty but found myself removed from certain lessons where a clash of personality may ensue.  I ended up studying Latin with the aforementioned little nun, thus increasing my unique position in the school,  and opening up more channels to rebel.

Rebellion was slight and never malicious.   Life was too stern for that and you took your chances if you did step out of the deep accepted furrow of acceptable behaviour laid out ahead of you.   I probably still bear the scars mentally if not physically from rulers across my hand or chalk hitting my face.   I became rather practised at avoiding the blackboard wiper, which the girl behind me never quite forgave me for.   It would not actually occur to those of my school generation to talk back to an adult, or to be caught doing anything that could even be construed as really naughty.  We would not only be punished then but also with no questions asked be punished at home as well.

Times have changed a lot and some of it for the better.  Children can certainly enjoy their schooling and they have so many opportunities to really make it the best time in their lives.    They are involved in decision making and given the opportunities to discuss and make informed decisions ranging from projects at primary school right up to the myriad of courses offered at A’level, college and work experience.   Praised and encouraged to work hard, to express themselves  and to utilise the wonderful resources available, youngsters today have so many prospects to enable their lives to be enriched and their opportunities endless.

There is and always will be poverty which is as apparent now as it was in Victorian days.  There will always be adults who abuse and hurt children just as there have always been and no amount of freedom for the children to highlight it will prevent it happening and may keep it underground for longer.

Mini Son is studying Victorians at the moment in school.  He has found it hard to accept the barbaric treatment of boys in those days.  His class are going on a school outing and will be taken to an education museum where they will dress as Victorians, the teachers going with them are dressing up too and the venue will be set up as a school with the old desks and chair in the corner.

They have obviously been told how hard schools were in those days as he told me this morning that if the school caned him, he will sue….!

We enquired why he thought he would be caned and were told, “if I am naughty at school they put you on a chair and make you look at the corner and if you are still naughty they cane you”.  We suggested he behave during the trip and there would be no risk of him being punished.  Instead of promising to do as he was told he informed us seriously “I will sue, mummy if they cane me”.

I asked if he knew how to sue.   It involves sending a letter; he needs to practise his riting to send the letter, his reading to understand the reply and his rithmatic to count all that money.

How times have changed.

















Cunning Smoke

I, like hundreds of others tried smoking at a very tender age.  My parents were smokers.  They had grown up when the risks were not as emphasised as nowadays.  Everyone in their social circles smoked even their close friends the local Doctors and their wives.   As I reached my teenage years the risks were far better known and I watched my parents struggle to give up. They did both manage to kick the habit but it had been hard.

So, as a youngster I thought it best that I try it out. Being the eldest I would be called upon at some point in the future to show the others how to do it.    After one of my parent’s parties I, being an early riser even then, carefully gathered all the old dog ends I could find and created the beginnings of my pyre.  With my parents and any overstay guests still sleeping off the excesses of the night I launched into my first (and soon to be only smoking frenzy). I was adept at lighting the cigarettes and puffed on them quite contentedly and so grown-uply. Realising that I could not emulate the hypnotic smoke rings without inhaling as well as puffing, I lit up another.  I put the tip to my mouth and inhaled deeply, drawing in the dying dregs of nicotine before it hit me; that awful nausea.   I was so violently sick that day that I have never even been tempted to try another cigarette to this day.

At 15 I was distraught when my best friend did an exchange to Spain over the summer and came back hooked on the mild ciggies as she told me.  I was convinced she would not live to see out all our plans we had made.  It was other circumstances that changed our plans; her running off to marry and have children thankfully she is still here today and sadly still trying to quit.   I had come back from my summer exchange incredibly fit, radiant with sun kissed colour but with a broken heart having fallen passionately in love with the slightly older, tanned, sporty brother of my exchange friend.

Without being hypocritical I do have an issue learning that Middle Son has been caught at school smoking.  A few years ago I discovered that he was smoking while out with friends.  In a town as small as ours where we know nearly everyone, he will need to be a lot smarter than he currently is to keep many secrets from us.   We discussed it at the time and he assured me in his nicotine smelling breath that, it was his friends that were smoking and he was just there cos they were his friends.

A year or so later I did really believe that the novelty and defiance had worn off and he had given up. However even a mother can be hoodwinked especially when she wants to be. He had begun cleaning his teeth vigorously and discovered lynx deodorant which he used liberally.

Warning bells then rang when a few weeks before the end of last term the school called me to tell me there had been an incident at school, a near fight was averted with the timely arrival of the teacher.   Middle Son was about to turn on the boys tormenting him.  He was removed from the group and the boys were reprimanded.  They had been after his bag to get hold of the tobacco they believed to be in there.  He assured his head of year he no longer smoked and the boys were mistaken.

They had only been back a week and he was seen rolling papers on his way to school, which when confronted he emphatically denied the smoking and told Sexy Sporty Dad they were for the friend he walks to school with as she smokes and her parents are ok with that.

I now learn that he was taken out of school one day last week and spent the day with his tutor, other teachers having  to set him extra work to do as he followed her from lesson to lesson.  The head of year will be calling me to inform me he was caught smoking on the school grounds.   I dare say this same head of year, who has invested a lot of time in Middle Son will be more upset by his not telling the truth before Christmas than this latest misdemeanour .

How thin is the ice I am about to tread.  He is a teenager and I am afraid to say, it is in his nature to try these things.  I suspect there is nothing I can do to actually stop him, as he will do it behind our backs.  What I intend to punish is the fact that he lied to his head of year, to his father and to the boys who were punished for bullying him.

He is grounded for a fortnight.

It has all turned out ok because he has decided to take up running and he disappeared having borrowed Sexy Sporty Dad’s running shoes to go for a run all by himself.  A battle of cunning I suspect.  What he forgets is his parents may be aged and forgetful now but it was not that long ago we were teenagers and we helped write the book on rebelism.   We called him when we realised that the poor boy must have fallen in a ditch or been kidnapped by aliens he was running for so long.  We also called his friend’s father.    He returned needing a desperate wee in the downstairs bathroom that I now realise has acquired a spare toothbrush.   Sexy Sporty Dad delayed him long enough to receive a nicotine enhanced tang each time Middle Son spoke.

It is going to be a long fortnight.


Broken Resolutions

Happy New Year.

I hope the festive season brought all you desired wrapped in love, health and happiness.  My biggest complaint; that it was not long enough, and I feel propelled into the New Year having not stopped for breath.

Before Christmas my boys had a wonderful week of pyjama days, not emerging till late morning and thanks to CBBC entertained almost all day long.  By evening, emotions, ennui and exhaustion were taking its toll on their weary bodies as bickering, banal banter and boorish behaviour broke out.

That week, I worked hard. I ran round cooking, shopping, wrapping and delivering presents.  The mountain of washing generated by three boys in their pyjamas was phenomenal.   I met my mother on route to stay with my brother, to swap presents.  Actually she had been organised enough to give me hers the last time we had met.  I on the other hand had not actually bought mine then.

Christmas Day we had a quiet intimate day.  Following midnight mass, the hope the boys would continue to sleep late was a mammoth misconception.  Having got them all to bed and waited till I could do my Christmas Eve creeping around I finally rolled into bed in the early hours of Christmas morning.   Amazingly it was barely a few hours later when little feet crept into the lounge and sorted out how many presents had their name on.

I was prepared; thanks to Nigella the turkey was bathed and cooked slowly overnight so was out of the way.  The veg had been lovingly peeled and chopped in readiness the day before and a very rigid list had been prepared; starting with breakfast.   Why then did I still spend the day in the kitchen slaving over the hot stove;   and what is wrong with beans on toast?  Next year I vow to go to the pub for Christmas Dinner.

What is wrong with Baked Beans on Toast?

We spent the next couple of days visiting family, which was where I was given Herman the friendship cake. I would put it in the league of how to lose friends and upset people.  Apparently on the continent you give them instead of Christmas cards; imagine if you have a lot of friends.  Herman is a cake mixture which you are supposed to stir each day, talking to it.  On day four you feed it then continue stirring till day eight.  You feed it again, divide into 5 portions, the first of which you cook and eat.  The other four portions you give to your friends who covertly curse your generosity.

I have to confess; I accepted it grudgingly but resolved to do my best by it.  The first days I could be found stirring and talking to a bowl!   Day four I did stir but forgot all about feeding.  Day six and seven I forgot to stir or talk and Herman stuck together.  The thought crossed my mind that I should feed him but Herman was not salvageable.  He was sent with other excess food past its edible date to the great compost heap in the brown bin.

This led to one of my more inspirational resolutions for this year:  the word is no!  I am resolved to try to learn the word no, to use it and to allow others the opportunity to say yes.  Saying no will probably be far harder than the usual getting fit, losing weight and writing; some of the other resolutions I have again signed up to.

Returning to work my resolution ringing in my ears; the word is no! The word is no.   I discovered my colleague is yet again signed off sick possibly only for one week but most likely for three.   Would I cover her workload; pay outstanding invoices, advertise for staff, all as quickly as possible.  The word is n-n-n n-n-n – well what was I supposed to say?    She has been off sick having had multiple operations over the last two and a half years and I get pulled in to cover each time.  She never even made it back full time between these last two operations.

So who has kept their resolution?

On my list I was going to walk 1 km a day, it wasn’t far I know but in preparation of my friend and neighbour Natty who is planning to get me jogging again.  Last time I jogged safely was pre-complications that originated from caesareans.   I had managed my walk until yesterday when I ended up staying late at work, meaning I was running late to do the shopping.

Oh well there was the 100 words; I wanted to write 100 words every day, to help get back into the discipline of writing.  I did very well earlier in the week, then yesterday knowing I only had to work the morning I left it till the afternoon.  Being the first day back the morning was stressful enough.  Guess what; I was late back from work, didn’t have enough time to do a proper shop and hence never got to do my 100 words.

There is always the healthy eating resolve.  Unfortunately yesterday I ended up working till late with no lunch and being the first day back no nibbles in the staff room.   I came back starving and late, so I grabbed a few chocolates from the tin, you know the ones that get left as nobody really likes them.   I finished the three half biscuits in the biscuit jar and grabbed a glass of weak squash all that was left in the bottle,  to keep me going.  Having done the shopping and spent far too much because I was hungry and everything looks so much better, I got home and collapsed on the sofa with a cup of tea and Christmas cake.   So much for saying no!

I have however, resolved to overcome my big fear about sending out my story; Memories.   I picked three very dear people who like the friendship cake may not appreciate my generosity.  They have supported the story from the beginning and all three had read and commented favourable on the first three chapters, so I sent them the story.   It took me two hours to send it. The body of the email got longer and longer till it was nearly a book in itself, I scrapped it and began again.  I procrastinated, prevaricated and paused several more times before plucking up the courage to finally press that send button.   I hope they will come back with some glimmer they think it is worth pursuing with.

So having broken only my first resolution it resulted in the domino effect on all the other resolutions. What about yours?  Have you made any and have you managed to keep them going longer than a few days. I have managed to write at least 1 word this morning – just popping off to do my 100 km walk or maybe it is the other way round!


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