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Archive for December, 2012

Christmas Cheer

Weeks of preparation to reach this point, nothing left to chance to make this the best ever Christmas for my boys.  The work is done, the presents all bought and wrapped and  now we can enjoy the festivities.   A battle of giants has been fighting it out to claim the Christmas number one ratings with writers, producers and directors working hard for months to outdo each other with their showcase Christmas production.

We settle down for the final ever episode of Merlin; comfortable in the knowledge that Merlin will finally overcome the dark magic of  the once dear sweet innocent Morgana and Arthur will eventually discover Merlin’s secret then allow magic to return to the kingdom of Camelot.  Too much hatred, violence and evil had happened over the years to allow even a flicker of hope that Morgana will turn back to the good side.  However her brooding flashes of  evil, her sensual good looks and body-hugging dresses had coaxed many a dad to sit and enjoy the show with his children on a Saturday evening.

In the words of middle Son, who left the room angry and unimpressed with the BBC “What is the point?”  Words I might even utter myself;  allowing Arthur to die in the last scenes was not on the schedule of Christmas indulgences.  As a devotee of the program aimed at children  I felt the ending too brutal. We have seen the young Merlin arrive in Camelot unaware of his hidden powers, he has grown in magic and loyalty to the Pendragon’s despite their fear and intolerance of magic, to his final acceptance of the accolade of greatest sorcerer to ever live.  Here in the final episode could we not have a happy ever after.  Could Merlin with all his powers save his king one final time.   Could Arthur return to Camelot and allow magic to once again  be practised.  There were unanswered questions left hanging which can not now be remedied.   Arthur never knew, and I am not sure we ever heard the full story of the bargain with magic Uther entered; resulting in the loss of his wife in exchange for Arthur’s birth.  A back story which may have helped Arthur understand his father’s attitude and changed his attitude.

They could have kept the ending with the old Merlin still traveling modern  roads but left Gwen and Arthur together in earlier times.    The legend may state that Mordred kills Arthur but it also says that Morgana despite her enmity towards Guienevere was the one to take him to Avalon to heal him.     The program had veered far enough away from the legend that to leave them in our imaginations living happily ever after together would have brought a closure of peace and goodwill over this Christmas season, for my children at least.

Maybe the Christmas day Dr Who would placate my saddened children and replace my tear filled eyes with a sparkle.  Again great fans of the time traveller and still saddened by the end of the last series, we were optimistic for a new companion to  join the Dr.  Cast back again in time the Dr appeared in sombre mood as he refuses to help this planet of ours.   Scared of commitment following the sad loss of Amy and Rory at the end of the last series, he hides himself away on a cloud just above the curious goings on in the dated dismal streets below.  Goings on that include a green lizard lady and a soltarian warrior taking to the everyday town to  investigate strange events.

Predictably there is a girl who follows the doctor and convinces him to save the world, also predictably she tugs at both his hearts’ strings and is given the key to the tardis.   Back on course for a miraculous saving of the world followed by them travelling away to live happy every after or at least save other lesser known planets.

No!

The final scenes are at the grave side of the poor unfortunate girl who had ensnared the Dr back to his usual altruistic self.   I realise from the trailer and the Dr’s upbeat mood at the graveside that this is part of a deeper story which will see Clara reappear in future episodes as his sidekick.   In the reworked words of Christopher Ecclestone’s Dr “for once why can’t everybody live”

As we settle down for the evening with plates of snacks and nibbles, the children enjoying their hot chocolates and yet more sweets.  Dabbing the dampened tracks of my tears the evening calls for a bit of seasonal cheer as we tune into Call the Midwife, hoping for a more upbeat cheery ending.   We are not to be disappointed there is a happy ending; the girl gets to keep her baby, the old woman is remarkably cleaned and treated having come to terms with her tragic past.  Now able to help sew the wonderfully detailed costumes for the scouts and brownies as they put on their seasonal production of the nativity; everyone is happy.  My eyes still appear somewhat dampened but the sparkle is working its way through.

I do however wonder about the sense of putting on such graphic viewing at such prime time. I don’t remember this level of explicitness in the series normally.  Wonderful as it is for a baby to come into this world healthy and alive, to show it at such a prime time when children may still be watching is a little audacious.  No 1 Son’s comment “who would ever have a baby this is absolutely disgusting!”

By the end of the program and finally our happy ending all three boys had surreptitiously vacated the room and gone to find entertainment of their own in other rooms.   Even Sexy Sporty Dad had retreated to the kitchen for tea and further nibbles.

So I am left to indulge in my favourite Downton Abbey.  Settling in to a comfy seat and warmed by the flames of the fire I cast my mind back to the closing scenes last Christmas where Mary and Matthew finally after two series actually get together as the snow settles in front of the magnificent lit Abbey; a warm glow creeps over me in anticipation.

Having lost Sybil earlier in the series, it is worrying as Mary has twinges throughout the program. Surely they could not repeat the emotive loss.  Have the family and their loyal watchers not been through enough, are we not entitled to a little bit of joyous emotion on this festive night.  My heart lifts as I watch the antics of the upstairs and downstairs relationships now merging together, losing the class distinction that was once so sharp.  As the final minutes of the program climax we are rewarded with the safe delivery of  Matthew’s long anticipated son and heir.  A second joyous moment in the evening’s  television viewing. The relief is palpable, at last my happy Christmas cheer, the Downton family are rejoicing, their staff relieved and Mary’s smile is contagious as my eyes water and my smile widens.

No!

It is not to be. Moments later we leave Downton with the image of Matthew lying dead under his overturned car;  news not yet divulged to the cast.  Another beloved character killed off this Christmas season.  Trying to convince my disbelieving children that the red eyes and sniffs are only part of this never ending cold, I finally leave the my warm cosy chair to find a good book.

Is the news of floods and car accidents, war torn Afghanistan and Syria not sad enough.  Please can we have some happy programs.  What happened to the myth – go out on a high note,  yes we know with period dramas all the characters will be old and wrinkled if not dead by now.  We also know that they are only characters and if you watch them on I-player they will be alive again but so much anticipation and expectation are channelled into the Christmas scheduling of treasured favourites that negativity is not really required.

I note that another old favourite is revisiting our screens for one final time this coming weekend.  Dare I tell the children that Wild at Heart is back.   I have a forlorn feeling low down that the outcome may not be a happy one.  The memory of Danny returning to Leopards Den at the end of the last series was a great ending and one that should have lived in our hearts forever.

I hope your Christmas was filled with good cheer and happy emotions, surrounded by the ones you love and cherish.  Hopefully the only sadness tugging at your heartstrings this season was like mine lived out through the television.

Tiggy

Check out my cooking blog at Teatime Treats with Tiggy

 

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Festive Frolics

“Are we there yet?”

Simple words! They strike a chord, within the memory of any parent, who has travelled with children.  This Christmas we decided to break with tradition and travel up to Sexy Sporty Dad’s family for the festive season.  Rather than impose our whole family on any one person or family during this chaotic period we have taken a gamble against bad weather and booked a cottage deep in the heart of the Peak District.

It took a near military operation to be ready and organised to leave on time.

As the end of term bounded towards us I needed to find time to fit in a final week of school celebrations; nativity plays, and carol services all requiring our attendance.  A works lunch, and evening celebration of Christmas cheer; have all found space on to the once clear calendar.  Two poorly children laid low to the various bugs doing the rounds needing to be looked after and cossetted back to full health in time for the weekend trip added to the pressures.

Like every other family we had to meet up with family and relatives to transfer presents before the big day. Yet another trip to be pencilled in and the only time left to drop other items en-route to all the people we will not be seeing for at least a week.

Late at night or first thing in the morning I am moulded into my computer chair chasing online presents, long since ordered; now lost in the post.  Do I buy alternatives or another one the same from a different supplier? What exactly will I do with a second one, if they both now turn up?  Should I send it direct to the recipient as the item cannot possible arrive here before we leave.

A small card left amidst the mountain of Christmas cards from today’s postman greets me as I climb through the front door.  We tried to deliver but you were out; we have taken it away again… please call us to re-arrange delivery between 9 and 1.

I call immediately but the office is already closed, please try later.  I call first thing in the morning only to discover my parcel is already out on the delivery van, he will be with me sometime before 1pm. I try to explain that I am at work and will not be home but it can be left with a neighbour?  Certainly not madam it is for delivery to you and needs your signature!

Whatever it is do I really need this hassle.  I don’t even know what I am expecting that is that big.

I get home to discover the parcel has been signed for and delivered to a kind neighbour.  Four bicycle racks for the roof of the car have arrived; to aid Father Christmas with transporting two Christmas bikes.  We need the two extra for Sexy Sporty Dad and No 1 Son so they too can bring their bikes.    I breathe a long deep thankful sigh that five just could not fit on top of the car. I will be spared the cold, damp, effort of keeping up with them all, along the muddy, potholed, old railway lines trails that cut across the Peaks of Derbyshire.

Have we got enough clothes, will it be snowing, raining or is there any slight possibility of seeing any sun.  I wash, dry and iron on a daily basis each load planned to be the final holiday batch only to be presented with another pile of favourites not added to the already heaving wash basket.  Have we all got walking boots and do they all still fit, these boys grow so quickly we seem to be continually replacing them.  This is not the time of year to be buying shoes when there is so much else to be bought.

Another update on the Tesco shop, sensibly I booked them to arrive with all our food shopping late in the evening of our arrival.   This is the third time that I have remembered something extra to add then changed my mind about other items.  How much will we drink?  How many meals will we be eating out with family?  What will we doing about lunches, should I buy for them?

Most evenings I manage to wrap a few more of the ever increasing pile of presents getting them ready for delivery.  Such a shame all the elves in the world are busy helping Father Christmas as I could do with a little help myself.   The meagre pile for one child against the other worries me.  Careful budgeting has equalled itself three ways, but the size of the presents does not balance.  Will one child feel hard done by; fairness and replicating presents no longer works as they develop at their individual ages.  So the pile stands, ready packed for the journey.

And we are off, up early and filled to the brim in two cars as we cannot fit luggage, presents and children in one car.  I am permitted to take my new toy; an opportunity for me to show it off and make more wives jealous and more husbands question the wisdom of my husband’s precedence.  It may only take two of us and the odd bag but it relieves the space limitations in the other car and I follow at a sedate pace sure in the knowledge I will not be speeding as I follow the four bicycles along the motorway.

“Are we there yet?”

Six hours on the road and “Yes we are there”!

Five nights and we shall do it all again in reverse.
I wish you all a very happy, safe and peaceful festive season.

Tiggy

Check out my cooking blog at Teatime Treats with Tiggy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spicy Roast Beef

Sunday Lunch is the highlight of the week and the time when I like to push the boat out a little bit.

Sometimes I will roll my Beef in Mustard and cook it like that but I have taken to doing it this way instead.   There is no getting away from the fact the crust is spicy, so cut off this for fussy eaters.  It surprised me when two of my very fussy children tried this and loved it; they kept returning for more.

I have added my amounts in but this will vary  on who and how many you are feeding, how spicy you like your meat and how big the joint is.  These measurements are a good guideline to try for the first time you spice up your Beef then you can adapt accordingly.

Ingredients 
Mixed peppercorns 1 tbsp 
Mustard Seeds 1 tbsp
Fennel Seeds  1tsp
Red Onions cut into quarters 
Joint of Beef
Olive Oil

Gravy
Flour
Stock Cube
Red currant Jelly (although I had run out and used Chill Jam instead)
good pouring of Red Wine


It is so simple for such a deep pervasion of subtle spices



Crush the peppercorns then add the mustard seeds and fennel seeds crushing them as well.

Cover the joint of Beef with oil.

Spread the peppercorn mix over a plate or roasting dish and roll the oiled joint in the mix.

Leave this for a few hours if you can or even overnight in the Fridge (you could put it in a bag)

Before you are ready to cook take the beef from the fridge so it can acclimatise to the temperature of the room.




Rest the Beef on the onions so any juices drip down.




Cook in  a hot oven 200°C / Gas 6  for about an hour (depending on weight, preference rare or well done –  I like very rare the rest of the family prefer very well done an hour was more to my liking than theirs)

Take the meat out and let it rest for at least 30 minutes – if any longer cover with Silver foil to keep the heat.

Meanwhile using the onions and all the delicious scrapings in the pan.  Mix in a spoonful of flour which has been mixed with water.   Stir it in till there are no lumps of flour.

Add the stock cube, redcurrant jelly and the wine and mix well; over the heat.  If like me you use pampered chef stoneware which cannot have direct heat I put it in the oven remembering to stir regularly.

Serve with delicious Yorkshire Puddings, Roast potatoes and a selection of veg.  I confess to hide all the seeds and onions I strained the gravy before taking it to the table, but some tastes might enjoy the bits still in the gravy

I used the left overs for sandwich fillings and cold meat platters, the kick added to the beef was delicious but not at all overpowering.


Enjoy,  do you add anything else to your joints – let me have a try?


Tiggy

Find out what I am up to in my other blog  Tiggy Hayes

Curly Kale


I like my vegetable side dishes but so often to entertain the pallets of young unadventurous children I end up serving boring boiled veg day in, day out.    If I take the time and effort to produce a really nice meal it is good to have some side dishes that compliment the meal.  

This is definitely a dish to keep mum about the ingredients when talking to the children; yet it all disappeared so quickly.  We were having slow roasted lamb which had been infused with garlic and rosemary wrapped in anchovy fillets and the combinations worked really well.

Ingredients 
Butter
Olive Oil
Kale (stalks removed – cabbage or greens would work as well)
Onions sliced 
Garlic – chopped finely
Anchovy fillets – chopped very finely



Heat the butter with the oil to prevent it from burning. 

Add the onions and garlic and soften 



Chop the anchovy fillets very finely; don’t worry nobody will know you have them in there.  Add to the pan.



Meanwhile blanch the kale in boiling water for a minute or so.  This keeps the colour vibrant and rich and does not lose any goodness in over boiling.



Drain and add to the onion pan –  toss quickly with all the ingredients and turn into serving dish.




Both the garlic and anchovies are invisibly infused within the soft almost caramelised onions but they give a richness of taste with no salt required.

Give this a try.  See how it goes down particularly with the lamb or a fish dish would be good.

 Enjoy and let me know what other combinations you can come up with.

Tiggy

Find out what I am up to in my other blog  Tiggy Hayes





Party Pranks

“Can I have a party?”

Five simple words, that struck horror into my soul.  Long gone are the days of jelly and ice-cream with pass the parcel; I had spent hours earlier wrapping.    Now a muffled memory is the magic show which turned peaches into goldfish, even the three fish have finally departed to a heavenly goldfish bowl in the sky.   The waterpark with a KFC just isn’t cool any longer and the idea of a paintballing or karting party does not appeal to 17 year olds.

Thinking I had weeks to get out of this one I waved the idea from my mind like a bad smell wafting through the kitchen.   Just like the odorous aroma it continued to return.   Our nightly discussions over our meal took on an wave of repetitiveness.

Can I have a party?

No?

Why not?

‘Because I say so’ no longer holds the same air of authority when your son is approaching 17 and stands a foot taller than you.   Sexy Sporty Dad and I had to come up with a stronger objection than that and quickly.

What is the real objection here; why are we scared of allowing a group of hormonal, drunk and emotional teenagers take over our home and kitchen for a night?  They might be sick.  They might break or destroy something precious like the house.  They may get themselves into trouble or injured and being hormonal drunk and emotional would probably not know how to deal with it.

You hear on the news about children having parties and the house being wrecked or someone taking something they shouldn’t even have access to and becoming seriously ill.   Are we being harsh tarring our son with the same brush as those other children who absent minded allowed their secret party publicised and then were unable to stop the devastation as they were overrun with professional party demolishers.

I attended a charity ball some while ago now.  I had spent many weeks convincing friends and colleagues to join one of my tables for a wonderful evening of eating, drinking and merriment.  As we all sat down one couple turned to another and said thanks for having our son for the evening.  A bemused look appeared on their faces until it was explained their kind son had invited the boy to spend the evening at the his house.

Alarm bells did not ring until another couple arrived after the first course and mentioned that theytoo had stopped at the party to control some over zealous party goers as they dropped their son at the same house.   It was the comment about bravery allowing the party while they were out  that proved to be the trigger to galvanise him.  He fled the table returning home to a very loud and uncontrolled party.   We saved his main course and pudding, he managed to get back again for coffee, biscuits and the main merriment.    The now cancelled party at home was being cleaned up by his son and the remaining sons from our group who were now all suitably chastised.

No 1 Son was at least asking to have his party and I knew he seemed to be on a circuit of partying since his GCSEs last summer.  It was a small group of about 20 who were working round the houses in some sort of rite of passage.   The clue was that the group had been allowed back to the houses even after the party had happened.

Of course I at that age attended parties regularly.  I had my own circle of friends who all attended the more formal fundraising events and my right of passage was assured as we drank a little too much, partied too much and learnt quickly how to disguise a hangover from our parents.

Something still prevented my agreement to this transition through teenagedom.

Is it that I remember my party held at home as a teenager.  My parents were away for the weekend, a rare event in itself, I was looking after not only the house but some of my siblings as well.  We decided to invite a few well chosen friends over for the evening with a few beers and wine.

The night went well, everybody enjoyed themselves.  There were no broken glasses, no ruined masterpieces and the inherited family furniture had no carvings.  In the words of every Scooby-Do criminal “we would have gotten away with it except for the pesky dog”.

after party blues

after party blues

Don’t ask!

I feigned serious concern to the dog’s wellbeing after all maybe she had contracted the infamous blue doggy ringworm.  Had she had a serious allergic reaction to the blueberry pie she may have helped herself to. Or maybe the mushrooms around the trees she liked to play near really magic : blue magic.

My bewildered parents may not have guessed the whole range of our duplicity had one of my younger siblings not dubbed us in.    The same sibling whose friends I had not allowed to the party on the grounds they could not get to our house out in the back of beyond and I was not spending the night driving them to and from when I had been given the remit of staying and looking after the house.

I use the nagging tactic a lot.  No 1 Son has watched me hassle, harass and hound people to attend fundraisers or to support my attempts to raise money for his team.  He has grown up watching my determination, deviousness and dedication to a cause so inevitably he was going to use the same tactics with us.

We agreed to the party on condition.   It was invitation only and not publicised on social media.  The house was clean before and after.  Nobody smoked inside and no-one was sick.  Middle Son was invited.

My good friend Natty invited us around for the evening and mini son was allowed to stay the night with her.  With a bottle of wine and trepidation we were ushered smartly out of the back door as people began arriving at the front.  I did mention to the surrounding neighbours that there was a party and if there was any problem to call us.

The wonderful thing about Natty is not only is she a very good friend she is also one of my very close neighbours and hence Mini Son and Mini Nat watched the party from an upstairs window with running commentary on who was in, who was out and what they were drinking.  Unless we actually stood outside her front door we could not hear the noise or chatter.

We drank, debated and discussed the merits of home parties before finally dozing. We decided to return to our own beds.  Sneaking, like gatecrashers through our front door we climbed the stairs to bed about 12.30 in the morning.    At 2am I sent a text to Middle Son who was the only person aware of our return.

“please turn music down or I will have to turn it off”

The noise became a low rumble and I fell asleep only to be woken early the next morning to find youngsters busy tidying my house for me.   The only tell-tale signs of a party

empties

empties

were a table full of empties and the fact that the house was so tidy.

Tucking into my evening meal last night I coughed and choked on a chipolata when No 1 Son asked

“Can I have a new year’s eve party?”

Tiggy

Check out my cooking blog at Teatime Treats with Tiggy

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