Wednesday 26 February 2014

In the Garden - February

We've been fairly lazy in the garden during February with not much activity taking place at all ...... and it's not that there's nothing to do.  There's definitely plenty of tidying we could be getting on with.  We can't really blame it all on the weather but that really hasn't helped.

We did have a bit of a splurge on one job right back at the beginning of the month and we sorted out the strawberry bed.  Last year we had two random strawberry plants that had survived from previous years and we planted them up properly and, at the end of the season, Martin potted up the runners.

When we went to do our tidy up early this month we found we've now got 30 healthy looking plants.  Wow!!  15 from each plant.  So if the same thing happens this year with our 30 plants we could end up with 450!!  If that's the case I'll definitely be setting up the paste table in the front garden next spring and trading as Dunhill's Nurseries.

In spite of the weather we are starting to see the garden slowly coming back to life with lots of green shoots starting to appear in all the old familiar places.

In flower we have Hellebores, Snowdrops and some miniature Daffodils.  We also have a pot of Spring bulbs, which was a birthday present from our close friends Jo and Steve about 3 years ago.  This looks like it's going to make another great show this year.


The Hellebores are about the first thing to flower in my garden.  My Hellebores hold a special meaning for me, as do so many of the plants in my garden.  My Hellebores came from my oldest friend's mum's garden, who is sadly no longer with us, so every time I look at them I think of Beryl.  Lesley, my friend, and I were at school together and, apart from a shaky year, when we were at college, we have remained firm friends ever since. 

When Lesley lost her mum and her dad, a couple of years ago, we thought it would be good to take some memories from Beryl's garden, which she loved and spent many hours looking after.  Beryl was the mum that let you do things your own mum wouldn't and I used to spend lots of time at No 10.

Anyway, I've kind of gone off track a bit here but hey!!  My Hellebores are a purple colour (my favourite) and as there are 3 of them, all planted individually in a border, with not much else showing at the moment, it is quite hard to see the flowers.  I don't know what I was thinking of planting them all separately.  After all, anyone with any gardening sense whatsoever knows you should always plant in 3s or 5s!  As such I have decided that after mine have finished flowering (I might not even wait) I am going to dig them up and put them all together in a big pot.

Perennials in pots are great - very low maintenance.  For years I messed about with annual bedding plants such as Bizzy Lizzies or Petunias, which gave a fabulous show for the summer, but were mucho effort.

Once the flowers on the Hellebores have gone, the leaves will stay nice and green, right through till the end of the year, so the pot will still look interesting, especially if arranged with others with more colour.

My own mum has just bought some white Hellebores - I'm sure these will show up lovely in the border!


I've lived in my house for over 20 years.  I know 20 years here, 30 years at work, you can't say I'm not stable!!

My front garden is tiny, it spreads the width of the house, which is a Edwardian semi-detached, but is only about 7 feet deep, as the house is quite close to the road, walled off by a red & blue brick wall.  As well as being tiny, the planting area is even more restricted, just two narrow strips of border in a concrete slab base - sounds horrible, I know!  Anyway, one of the only remaining bits of planting from before I moved in is the Snowdrops. 
They are prolific, having spread like crazy since I moved in.  Last Autumn we had a really good tidy up out the front and we collected up all of the Snowdrop bulbs to try and plant them in a bit more of an orderly fashion - though not too orderly.

We actually had so many that we scattered handfuls in the top of the Bay pots, which sit either side of our front door. They are all now in full flower and look great.

We also planted some clumps of miniature Daffodils and Tulips, so hopefully we will have colour out the front all through the Spring.

Top Tips

  • When planting out, plant in groups of 3 or 5
  • For low maintenance pots, plant with perennials or bulbs
  • The best time to split Snowdrops is when they are 'in the green' - that is when they have finished flowering, not when we split them

Monday 24 February 2014

Pottering - Week 3

Martin has been off to London with work this week and was away for a few nights, which made for a fairly quiet week. You will have seen that I made my acquaintance with Davina and we kept in touch for four days.  I am planning the same for this week and have already had the exercise mat out again this morning!

I managed to have a good sort out of a couple of boxes of stuff that I'd brought home from work, including appraisals going back to the 70s!  Boy, things were different back then.  We always used to say that you could knit the sleeve of a cardi on a Wednesday afternoon on the counter - can you imagine?

One benefit of Martin being away was that I had the car for a few days and managed to make a bit of an effort to visit some friends.  I saw Jackie, who just lives round the corner and doesn't work on a Wednesday, not that I really need the car to pop round there!  I came home with a big bag of books, mainly Erica James, an author that is new to me.  I've nearly finished my first one already - it was definitely a quieter week!

I also visited Martha, as it was her 7th birthday.  She had a great time visiting the hairdressers with her friends where they all had their hair and nails done.  They all then went to Frankie and Benny's for tea.  Whatever happened to musical chairs and jelly and ice cream?  She is really growing up fast - it doesn't seem like five minutes since she was born.

Martin and I have spent ages looking through more of Peggy's treasures and have been fascinated by the postcards and cards from his granddad, William Preston Sidney, to his gran, Ethel Walshaw, in WW1.  It has inspired us to do more research and to try and put together an account of his war years, which I am sure we will be sharing with you all over the coming weeks.

This week my plans include another day in school, where we will be interviewing for a new teacher, more time with Davina, lots of research into Will Sidney's war and booking a big cottage for a family holiday in November to celebrate my 50th birthday.  I'll also be able to let you know how I'm getting on with 'making my money go further' and what's been happening in the garden this month.

I'm amazed at how quickly I've adapted to my new 'Life of Pottering' - long may it continue!

Mustardy Sausages with Apple

I'm always collecting recipes from magazines and I have tried to keep them organised, so they are easy to find.  I have a ring binder full of recipes I have collected, all stuck on white A4 paper, in plastic wallets (wipeable!). They are all categorised into sections, just like in a real cookbook ........ I know, a bit of OCD creeping in! 
It amazes me that we keep finding new things to try out and this is one that we had been meaning to try for ages.  We had a second go at it this weekend, camera at the ready, so we could share the results with you all.
Serves 4
Preparation time: 25 minutes
1 tbsp vegetable oil
8 sausages (we always use Lincolnshire)
1 medium onion, sliced
1 apple, cut into medium sized pieces
As many mushrooms as you fancy, cut into medium sized chunks
1 rounded tbsp redcurrant jelly
300ml chicken stock
1 tbsp grainy mustard
Rosemary sprigs (from the garden)
Cornflour for thickening if required

2 tbsps double cream stirred in at the end just before serving is not mandatory but does really give this dish a lovely creamy consistency and turns an already nice dish into something quite decadent.
  1.  Grill sausages and cut into chunks
  2. Heat the oil and fry the onion until it starts to go golden brown
  3. Add the sausages, mushrooms and apple to the pan, toss together and continue to fry for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are cooked
  4. Add the stock, redcurrant jelly and mustard to the pan and let bubble madly for a few minutes to make a syrupy gravy
  5. Lower the heat, add the rosemary and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes
  6. If the sauce needs to be thickened, mix 2 teaspoons of cornflower with a couple of tablespoons of water and add to the pan, bringing back to the boil
  7. If using double cream, bring the pan off the boil and stir this in now

This is a great dish as you can make it up earlier in the day and then just re-heat when ready to serve. Don't you just love it when the clearing up is pretty much done before you sit down to eat?   We served this in individual Yorkie Puds, with carrots.  
We were hoping to be able to share the recipe for perfect Yorkie Puds with you today, but unfortunately they didn't turn out to be that perfect, so you will have to wait for another day to see that one!

Thursday 20 February 2014

Me and Davina

Well, I bet you're all dying to know ...... have I?  Haven't I?  Well, I can tell you, I most certainly have ....... 4 times in fact, and actually, it's gone very smoothly.  I would even say that I've enjoyed it.

I got up Monday morning, nervous, and a little excited, if truth be told.  The cellophane was off and today was the day!

The lounge curtains were very firmly closed, I had my pyjamas on and I found the right remote for the DVD player, which hasn't been used in about 5 years.

I decided to start with the cardio session - it promised 15 minutes and I would be pooped!  I was!  I felt quite proud of myself, as well has having a mouth and throat that felt absolutely parched.

The cardio session is led by Jackie, who follows a lower impact version, so whilst Davina and Mark were bouncing all over the place, I have to confess to going for the more sedate version.  After all, I didn't want to have to call out the emergency services if I over-did it or to shake all the ornaments off the shelves.

The session includes a warm up as part of the overall 15 minutes. You then need to do a separate stretch session afterwards, which takes about another 10 minutes.  This was almost as hard as the cardio itself for me, but in a different way.  It's been a long time since any of my muscles have been seriously stretched.

As I was doing my exercising in the lounge, I had to consider all the potential risks, such as knocking the light fitting for six when waving my arms about.  I also got a bit concerned about the impact on the particular part of the carpet I was exercising on, it didn't know what had hit it!

I did the cardio session again on Tuesday and Wednesday and fancied a change for Thursday so I headed off to Argos for some 1kg weights and an exercise mat, to try and protect the carpet, and have given the arms session a go this morning.  I was a bit concerned that 1kg weights may be a bit light - I needn't have worried, they were just about right to get started with.

It was a bit more complicated to co-ordinate arms, weights and legs in the confined space of the lounge and I didn't keep up all of the way through, but I am sure a few more sessions will help with my technique.

That's it for this week as mum will be here on Friday and Martin will be around at the weekend and I'm certainly not ready for any form of audience.  Hopefully the break won't make it hard to get back into the swing of things on Monday.

Anyway, that's all for now.  I've tried it, I liked it, I'd recommend it.  Got to go though, my arms are aching ......... and it's ironing next.

A Potterer's work is never done.

Monday 17 February 2014

Pottering - Week 2

So, week 2 of my new life.  Am I still loving it?  You bet I am!

Last week felt really hectic.  We went off to Doncaster for the day and I spent a full day in school looking at policies and shortlisting for a teacher position, as part of my acting-Chair duties.  Very productive.  I've been a School Governor at the same school for nigh on 20 years and it's so nice to have the chance to spend more time there.

I've carried on with the blog and am having to ration myself as it could take over my life, it's the best leaving present ever.  I've had a few comments and I've even inspired a colleague to start blogging and my God daughter, Rachel, to make rice crispie cakes.  I'm definitely going to be keeping up to date with what's happening on Paula's allotment.

I also got to drive Martin's car and I am madly missing my Mazda.

I had a go with my Karcher window vacuum that I had for Christmas.  Best fun I've had cleaning windows ever, and no smears, bonus!!  Thanks Lesley, cool Christmas present, though it may not have sounded too exciting at the time.

One of my objectives was around making my money go further and I have discovered some really useful web sites which are helping with this, I'll tell you all more about these in the weeks to come.

On the getting fitter side, I have taken the cellophane of Davina.

I've cooked two new things this week, mustardy sausage with Apple, which we will have to have again so I can take pictures and share the recipe with you all, and an adaptation of an old favourite, sausage slice, made with haggis.  I have had two in the freezer for ages and am trying to be creative with using them.

We've started to have a real good look through Peggy's treasures and here is a glimpse of some of the vintage costume jewellery that she had. 
There are some really interesting stories behind some of the WW1 memorabilia too.  The dining room table is covered in bits and pieces waiting to be researched to see what they can tell us.

We've also been out for a nice walk and a spot of caching at Wall, following by cake of course. 

What's on for the coming week?  Not much from the looks of the calendar, I may have no further excuse for not getting better acquainted with Davina this space.

It's our friends' daughter's Martha's 8th birthday this week, so we'll be making a visit and Martin might be away for a couple of nights ..... Will I get bored on my own, or will I just watch all the soaps with no grumbling or snoring to interfere with my pleasure?

I also need to get out in the garden to take some more photos in readiness for my February 'in the garden' update.

I love pottering.  Desultory, definitely not me!!

Caching at Wall

Yesterday was such a bright and beautiful day, the driest for ages, we decided to get up, pick up mother, and get out and about.  It was my first proper day out since finishing work, so I was really looking forward to it.

We hadn't done any caching since the New Year and had a route planned for a nice 2.5 mile walk to get us back into the swing of things, around Wall, which is really just up the road and one of those places we've always being meaning to go and have a look at but have never got round to.

Now for those of you who don't know, Geocaching, or caching, is a form of treasure hunting using GPS, in which an item is hidden somewhere in the world and its GPS coordinates are posted on the Internet, so that GPS users can locate it.  Martin and I just love it and mum and dad are dead keen too!

Wall is an old Roman ruin site and used to be an important staging post on Watling Street, or the A5 as we know it, the Roman military road to North Wales.  It provided overnight accommodation for travelling Roman officials and imperial messengers. The foundations of an inn and bathhouse can be seen and the site is managed and maintained by English Heritage and owned by National Trust.

Wall Roman Site
There is a little car park in the village and we parked up, got suited and booted, and aimed for our first cache of the day which was to be found 'in the library'.

We discovered that the library was actually a converted phone box, where people could just borrow books and bring them back when they'd finished - how cool is that?  Martin had it in his mind that this cache would be hidden in a book, I completely disagreed, after all, what if someone borrowed it?  Me and mum let Martin have a good look through half of the books, before I turfed him out and had a look myself and, as I thought, not in a book.  We came out away from the phone box to sign the log in the cache, which is what you do when you've found it, then had to wait a while for a number of visitors to pass before being able to put it back.

The Library

Now, caches come in all different shapes and sizes, the cache that we found in the library was hidden in a magnetic key holder.  It was nicely tucked away - easy enough to find if you know what you are looking for, but very unlikely to be stumbled across by accident.

We set off on, what was a really lovely walk, which took us round the back of the Roman Site, up past the church, down a very muddy lane, across open fields and back into the village down a green lane.  Whilst it did get a bit breezy out in the open, we had sunshine and a bright blue sky ...... we've not seen either of those for a while.


So, what makes a good day out caching then?

First you need cachers, generally speaking, the more the better.  We just had the three of us today (dad had stayed in to watch the footie).

Of course, you also need hidey holes, for the caches.  Stickoflage (a well known Geocaching term meaning hidden under a load of sticks), tree roots, ivy, under stiles, behind water or gas pipe markers all featured in our hunt today.
Hidey Holes

You've also got to be prepared to search and it's not always easy ........
Another thing that you tend to come across, though it is not absolutely mandatory is mud!!  We just had the one stretch today which wasn't too bad, considering how the rest of the country is looking.
And what do you get from your search?
You might make new friends along the way, hopefully you will find the caches and, if you've planned it well, you will get a good walk, generally in the countryside with some good photo opportunities.
What do you get?

And when you've finished, it's almost mandatory that you find a tea room, garden centre with a restaurant or very nice pub to get warm, make use of the facilities and have a nice big piece of cake!!  It was a garden centre for us this time and we would all definitely recommend the cake!

Madly Missing my Mazda!

What am I missing most in my new post work life of pottering?  Honestly?  As of  this week it is my company car.  For the last three years I have been driving a Mazda 3 Sportnav.

What am I driving now?  A V reg vauxhall Astra - one day a week!!

The Old Girl!!
I love my husband Martin dearly and one of the things we agreed when I gave up work was that I would be able to have the use of his car for one day a week if I needed it.  He has looked after it really well with not even a minor bump or scrape.
It was a bit embarrassing putting me on the insurance.  I had a letter from our car lease company confirming my accident history.  It didn't read well, and that was without the car park scrapes and bumps that the car was sent back with. 

It's a good job the guy collected it in the dark.  But Martin went ahead anyway and added me on, bless him.
I went out on my first sole foray last week, over to Rugeley for a Governors meeting.
Actually it was a very nice drive, for an old girl, and she did hold the road really well, though 30 felt about 60 and 60 felt about 80.  She most definitely got me from A to B and back again
There were things I missed though - top 10, in no particular order, as follows:
  1. Blue tooth phone connection
  2. Steering wheel controls for radio
  3. Integral sat nav
  4. Electric adjustable wing mirrors
  5. Central arm rest
  6. Air conditioning
  7. Keyless access
  8. Push button start
  9. Heated seats
  10. 6th gear
Martin is missing the Mazda too.  He said he most misses the power and the improved technology. Funny how differently boys and girls look at these things.
It's got a sun roof though!!  Not sure how useful that will be this year, with all the rain were having.

Wednesday 12 February 2014

Off to Doncaster

We had a really busy day ahead, no time for much of  lie in or breakfast.  We were off on a two hour trip to Doncaster to visit Martin's mum's (Peggy) doctors, her care home, the good old Co-Op Funeral Services, the Registry Office and Social Services.

We were armed with lists of questions and a sackful of forms and were hoping to do all we needed to do in the one visit.

The weather wasn't good when we set out, it was raining really heavily, which made for slow going on the M1.  We stopped at Tibshelf services for petrol and a comfort break and the breakfast muffins were just calling out to me.  We sat in the car at the services and filled up for the rest of the day.

At this point the rain gave way to snow ..... Happy days.

We started out at the Doctors, where we picked up the cause of death certificate, which we needed to be able to register the death later.

We then moved on to Social Services where we were presented with a box full of Peggy's bits and pieces that they had been holding for safekeeping.  It took a good while to check the inventory against the contents of the box.  There was all sorts, from really pretty costume jewellery to pocket watches to a bird's foot on a key ring and postcards from Martin's granddad to his gran in the 1st world war, along with two of his war diaries.  We were going to have a fascinating time looking through it all back at home.

We then made a visit to the care home where we collected Peggy's personal bits and pieces from her room, including some photo albums we had put together for her.

Just round the corner was the Co-Op Funeral Service where the very nice Jacquie helped us arrange what would be a very small and simple service at the Rose Hill crematorium on 3 March.

Finally, the Registry office.  The sun had made an appearance and the first crocuses were starting to make a show.

All in all, for what could have been a really stressful day, it went well.  Everyone had been really kind and helpful and we'd achieved all we'd set out to do.  Tired, but feeling very productive, we headed for home and a really quick and easy tea.

We'd leave the next batch of paperwork and a good old look through Peggy's treasures for another day.

Monday 10 February 2014

Rice Crispie Cakes

Really cheap and simple to make, pretty low in calories too

Whilst these are dead simple to make, with not many ingredients, they get a bit tricky when putting the mixture into the paper cases as the mixture gets very sticky, so I always need Martin on hand to help with this bit.  Definitely a favourite, especially for taking into work.

Serves 20 (55 calories per serving, without mini-eggs on top!)
Preparation and cooking time:  30 minutes
Freezing not recommended



150g marshmallows
25g cocoa powder
15g butter
125g rice crispies (We use Asda Smart Price)
Chocolate mini-eggs for decorating
  1. Place the marshmallows in a bowl over a pan of simmering water with the cocoa powder and the butter and heat gently, stirring, until the marshmallows have dissolved and you have a smooth chocolatey mixture.
  2. Stir in the rice crispies and mix well.  Divide the mixture between 20 individual paper cases, decorate with mini-eggs and chill for 1 hour.

Pottering - Week 1

I wanted to just do a bit of an overall view of my first week of pottering.  I have to say that I'm loving it so far and, though it is early days, I can't see that changing.

Whilst we have had sad news over the last week, firstly losing poor William and then losing Martin's mum on Friday, it has been quite a restful, in an exciting kind of way, week.  Martin's mum had been poorly for some time, having suffered with dementia for a number of years.  We both know she got no enjoyment from the life she had, so whilst the news was very sad, we know that it will have been a relief for her.

As you will have all seen, I've really got into blogging.  I love it.  This has really been my big thing for week 1.  When I started I was worried I would have nothing to write about, I couldn't have been more wrong.  I am having to ration myself, making notes of topics that I'd like to cover, to come back to at a later date.  I also can't quite believe how many people are reading it, both people I know and people I most definitely don't.  So far people have read my blog in the UK, the USA, Indonesia, Germany, Poland, Belgium, Canada and Russia!!  How amazing is that?

So far, I have had 909 all time page views.  Admittedly, a huge number of these will be my own as, for some reason, I don't seem to be able to discount my own views..  But, I do know that 37 are in different countries, so they aren't me and 180 are on an I-Phone, so they definitely aren't me either.

I've also had some really lovely feedback about the content of the blog and the style of my writing and I've had 9 comments, which is really exciting, so please do comment, it's really easy to do.

I think I've made real good progress with my 1st objective, which was to start the blog.  It's also helping me with two of my other objectives around being more creative and taking better photos.  I actually had a go with the tripod this weekend, it was hard getting Martin to let me have a go, but I think I managed to master it in the end.

On the getting fitter front I've done three things so far
  • I've eaten all of the remaining Christmas chocolates, and those I had as a leaving gift
  • I've measured my vital statistics, though I definitely won't be publishing them here and
  • I've ordered Davina's latest fitness DVD - Fit in 15!!  After all, it's only 15 minute sessions, how hard can it be?  It's been delivered this morning and I'm starting to feel a bit nervous.

So, what's on for this week? 

I've got a lot of school governor commitments coming up.  We had more sad news over the Christmas period, in that our Chair passed away.  As vice-chair, I've said I'll stand in until we know how we want to go forward.  The other key focus for this week will be travelling up to Doncaster to sort out Martin's mum's affairs and the funeral, so it might not be quite such a fun week this week, though it will be lots less stressful than having to fit these things in around work, so that's all good.

My latest recycling tip

It was Saturday evening and I was sat on the stool in the kitchen whilst Martin was preparing tea, Chicken Dhansak, lovely.  Martin was taking the label off an empty lentil tin, so that he could recycle both the tin and the paper label separately.  I know, who can be bothered?

Anyway, the tin was just sitting there on the draining board and I suddenly had a thought.  We had a pot of basil on the window sill, sitting in a cereal bowl, and I said to Martin, what do you think the basil would like like in the lentil tin?  Obviously he brought up all the practical difficulties of taking this course of action, mainly that there would be no drainage, but he went with my thinking and transferred the basil to the tin.

As you can see, it looked pretty cool.  Our kitchen is tiled in charcoal, cream and a lighter grey, so it looked great on the windowsill.  We would just have to remember to water it ........... but not over water it.
We saved the plastic pot that the basil came in for planting in the greenhouse and I sent Martin out to the 'pottering shed' to see what other herb seeds we had as I could quickly vision a row of tin can pots of herbs growing on my windowsill, just like in all the TV cookery programmes.

I must have been watching too many Great Interior Design Challenge programmes - they have been pretty inspiring.

Tuesday 4 February 2014

Desultory? Not me!

When I decided on the name for my blog - Life of Pottering - I thought it might be interesting to look up a dictionary definition of the word 'pottering'.

When I searched of a definition on Google this is what I found .....

Pottering - "Occupying oneself in a desultory or pleasant way"

Desultory - I didn't much like the sound of that, but thought I'd have a look and see what that meant too .....

Desultory - "Lacking a plan, purpose or enthusiasm"

Oh dear!  Desultory is most definitely NOT what I am looking for from my new life.

As I have always been big on having a plan or a purpose and would, generally speaking, consider myself enthusiastic, I felt the need to record some personal goals for my new life.  Not work type, must be SMART kind of goals, just things that would give me a plan and sense of purpose that I could get enthusiastic about, so in no particular order of priority, here goes .....
  1. Start a blog
  2. Be more creative
  3. Learn to take better photos
  4. Get fitter
  5. Keep in touch
  6. Make my money go further
  7. Be happy
  8. Add value to Society
  9. Keep on top of general household and garden activities
  10. Have less stress
I know, woolly!  But hey, as long as I know I'm progressing on each one each week (or maybe month), and I'm sure I'll be sharing this with you all, then I'm happy.  See - Number 7 well on the way already.

There was another definition that I came across for the word 'pottering'.  Probably easier to show you than to try and explain it.

Happy Pottering everyone!!

Monday 3 February 2014

Blog Comments

Lots of people have asked me how they can comment on my Blog posts.  How exciting is that?

I've had a bit of a play and have changed settings so that anyone can comment without having to register any accounts anywhere.

Martin has done a test and all you have to to do is:
  1. Click the link on the left hand side of the 'Home' page to select the post that you wish to comment on.
  2. At the bottom of the post you will see a thank you for your comment message from me and a text box.  Click in the text box and enter your comment.  Keep it clean, please!
  3. If previous comments have been posted you will be able to either reply to a previous comment or add a new comment of your own.
  4. Click in 'Comment as:' box and select 'Name/URL' and type in your name and click 'Continue'. There is no need to worry about the URL bit, that sounds far too technical for me.
  5. Select 'Publish' and type the text that appears in the box.
  6. Select 'Publish' again.
  7. You will then receive a message confirming that your comment will be visible after approval.
This is all very new and I am learning as I go, so if you need to comment to say that this post about how you comment isn't quite right, then just go for it.

Abruzzi Lamb

Our Favourite Slow Cooker Dish

This is our favourite of favourite slow cooker dishes.  It's real comfort food and smells gorgeous whilst it's cooking.  We just keep having it again and again.

Serves 4-5
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 8-10 hours
Cooking temperature: Low


1 Tablespoon of olive oil
750g lean lamb, leg or chump steaks cubed (we sometimes use boneless rolled shoulder)
75g pancetta, diced
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
300 ml lamb or chicken stock
1 tablespoon tomato puree
2 teaspoons light muscovado sugar
2-3 sprigs of rosemary (from the garden)
250g cherry tomatoes
salt and pepper
Cornflour for thickening, if required

To Serve
Rigatoni, pappardelle or taglietelli
Green salad
Garlic bread
  1. Because we shouldn't heat our slow cooker whilst it's empty, we always start by mixing the stock, tomato puree, sugar, rosemary and salt and pepper, and then putting this in the slow cooker and switching it on whilst we get on with the next steps.  When I say we, of course, I really mean Martin, as any slow cooking is normally started off whilst I am having a lay in.
  2. Then heat the oil in a large frying pan, or a wok, if you want to try and avoid splattering the hob with grease, and add the lamb.  Fry over a fairly hot heat, stirring until evenly browned, then lift the meat from the pan and transfer to the slow cooker.
  3. Add the pancetta, onion and garlic to the pan and fry, stirring, until the onions have started to soften.  Add to the slow cooker.
  4. Give the whole lot a final stir and place the cherry tomatoes on top.  Cover and cook on low-medium for 8.-10 hours or until the lamb is tender.
  5. Check a couple of times during the cooking time and give a gentle stir.  If the mixture is not thick enough, add some cornflour, mixed with water, an hour or so before you want to eat.
  6. Serve spooned over cooked pasta and accompanied with a salad or garlic bread, or both if you are starving.

Sunday 2 February 2014

Poor William

Our close friends will all know how much we loved William.  William was the most loving, lovable, curious and playful cat ever.

He started visiting us when we lost our old cat, Monkey, and pretty much moved in, only going home at breakfast and tea times.

He actually lived across the road with three other cats, a couple of dogs and some people too, of course.

We think he loved coming to us for the peace and quiet and to be able to get all of the advantages that would have come with being an 'only cat'.

He could drive us to distraction, he was literally into everything, but we loved him to bits and we think he loved us too.

He'd often sit on our front garden wall and delight at being fussed by random passers by, who all thought he lived with us, and he was always waiting for us when we got home, either just from work or when we'd been away on holiday.

He had lots of favourite spots to sleep the day away, but once it was time to settle down for the evening and a bit of TV, there was only one place to find him.  That was on Martin's knee, either being inquisitive as to what Martin was looking at on the iPad, sniffing Martin's whisky or just curled up having a snooze.

We will both miss him lots, our lives just won't be the same without him.

Night night William, we love you.

My Last Week

I had a top last week at work.  I started out on Monday with my last visit to the Area Office in Hinckley, where I have been based for more years than I can remember.  I'd already had a clear-out of 30 years worth of 'stuff' over Christmas, so there wasn't too much to do.

I got to see John and Caroline which was lovely and I visited Tina at home to hand in my keys, as she was off for the day.  I got to meet Maddie (her new puppy), so gorgeous, before heading off down The Fosse to Swindon for one last time.

I managed to catch up with loads of old friends whilst in Swindon, people I'd not seen for years.  I squeezed in a last visit to the Rendezvous for all you can eat Chinese with Charlotte, Catherine, Lucy and Helen, lovely.  Big thanks to the girlies for the bracelet, I love it, and the chat about cashback sites, selling stuff on e-Bay and looking for bargains.

On my last day, I was spoiled rotten, with cards and gifts and bets as to what time the tears would come.  I think I did quite well. We managed a last visit to Fratello's for pizza, for my leaving lunch.  Mmmmmmmmm pizza, my fave.

I am so pleased I managed to catch up with so many people this week, and I've been overwhelmed by how lovely everyone has been.  Whilst I am really excited about the future it was sad saying good bye to lots of friends.

I have been committed to blogging, as having mentioned it as a bit of a random idea, the team have set me up a 'domain' (I think that's what you call it anyway) and I guess it would be incredibly rude not to deliver.

A massive thank you to all my work friends and colleagues for all your gifts, kind words and good wishes.  I will miss you all loads.

One of my post work objectives was to learn how to use our new digital SLR camera, the Canon EOS 700D.  Martin and I spent 2 hours in the kitchen having our first real play with the camera and the tripod to take pictures of my leaving gifts.  I hope you like them.  I have also managed to find a Website that allows you to build collages, really easily.  It's called PicMonkey and I would most definitely recommend it.  There are loads of YouTube clips showing you how to get started.