Thursday 29 April 2021

Random Ramblings :: Teddy Bears' Picnic

Hi there everyone 😀

Now you may be forgiven for any confusion about why I have linked this post in with Astrid's Photo Scavenger Hunt for this week and I must admit ... the connection may be just a little be tenuous.

Image from Google
The word for this week is ... 'Bubbles’

I have to admit I was struggling a bit but then I suddenly thought about how the word 'bubble' has been taken to mean something completely different to normal for us over the last year and thought that ... yes, that was the way I would go.

Since we lost dad, back in January ... under the UK Government Covid rules mum, as a single person living alone, was able to create a social 'bubble' with one other household. As Martin and I live closer than my brother or sister we decided that we would form a 'bubble' with mum, which meant we were able to do more things together and actually spend time in each others houses.

As part of our 'bubble' we have had a few adventures and this is one of them ...

Earlier this month my brother had his 40th birthday. Whilst there were no real big get togethers or celebrations his partner had asked if we could all film birthday wishes and send them through to her before the big day.

Now, I’ve only ever really made a couple of videos but this felt like a good challenge to get a bit creative with and I’d been racking my brains for something that we could do ... including mum, as it
was unlikely this would be something she would have a go at on her own.

A week or so before my brother's birthday it was Martin’s 60th and when asked what he’d like to do for the day he said he fancied a walk in a local country park that he’d never visited before. I knew it was mainly woodland and started to have an inkling of an idea for my brother's birthday video message.

So ... on the Monday we headed over to Hartshill Hayes Country Park for a walk and to scope out how we could put together our video.

All looked good and we could see that we could have some real fun with a Teddy Bears' Picnic theme. Tuesday night was spent making and gathering props for our film and we headed out, on what was the warmest and sunniest day of the year so far, to pick up mum ... and her disguise ... and we were on our way.

We parked up in a spot on the roadside we’d found the day before and headed down into the woods to start our adventure. I can't share the video with you but I think you will be able to get the gist from the pictures ... apologies up front as some of the photos are not brilliant quality as they were all taken either on my iPad or taken as stills from video clips ...

Teddy Bears' Picnic
If you go down in the woods today
You're sure of a big surprise ...
If you go down in the woods today
You'd better go in disguise!

For every bear that ever there was will gather there for certain
Because today's the day the Teddy Bears have their picnic

Picnic time for Teddy Bears
The little Teddy Bears are having a lovely time today
Watch them, catch them unawares
And see them picnic on their holiday

See them gaily gad about
They love to play and shout
They never have any cares
At six o'clock their Mommies and Daddies
Will take them home to bed
Because they're tired little Teddy Bears

Every Teddy Bear who's been good is sure of a treat today
There's lots of marvelous things to eat and wonderful games to play

Beneath the trees where nobody sees
They'll hide and seek as long as they please
'Cause that's the way the Teddy Bears have their picnic

Picnic time for Teddy Bears
The little Teddy Bears are having a lovely time today
Watch them, catch them unawares
And see them picnic on their holiday
See them gaily gad about
They love to play and shout
They never have any cares

At six o'clock their Mommies and Daddies
Will take them home to bed
Because they're tired little Teddy Bears
Because they're tired little Teddy Bears

Back home, after gaining advice from a younger person than I, I downloaded the iMovie app to my iPad and put together my first 'Movie'. It was a mixture of video clips and photographs that we'd taken on our day out, with The Teddy Bears' Picnic music accompanying the film. I was actually quite proud of it in the end ... it was quite professional looking. The app made it all so easy ... to cut bits out, speed things up and slow things down.

My brother appreciated it ... and I guess that's the main thing 😀

Now I'm off to see how everyone else has interpreted this week's theme 👋👋👋


Monday 26 April 2021

Random Ramblings :: The Proof of the Pudding is in the Eating

Hi there everyone 😀

As promised I'm back to let you know how we got on with our first Gousto box and the four recipes that we chose, starting with ...

Lemony Chicken & Crushed Potato Colcannon
This is what the box provided us with ...
This one took no time at all to prepare, the recipe was easy to follow and it was absolutely delicious. We will definitely be having it again, though probably with larger chicken portions.

I did thicken the sauce with a teaspoon of cornflour and I did add a portion of carrots, but other than that we cooked exactly as the recipe. It was a real success and a great start ...

Next up was the ...

Creamy Chicken Potato-Topped Pie
For this one I opted to add in additional leeks and carrots, mushrooms and a half tin of sweetcorn. I also added extra potatoes for the mash and a portion of cauliflower as an additional vegetable.

I opted to make two individual pies and, to be fair, with the extra veg, there would have been enough for three people ... though we did manage to polish them off ...

Again ... I can't fault the recipe, the quality of the ingredients provided or the flavour. It was another real success and will definitely be made again.

We were on a bit of a roll and were looking forward to the third of our four dishes ...

Oven-Baked Cheesy Portobello Mushroom Risotto
Again, with this one I added more vegetables ... an extra leek, more fresh mushrooms and a pack of dried shitake mushrooms ... and a pack of bacon. We also had a small baguette on the side.

It was a new experience for us ... we normally do our risottos on the hob, but it was lovely sticking it in the oven, getting the kitchen tidy and then just sitting back and waiting.

It was absolutely lovely. Really creamy and full of flavour. The cheesy topped portobello mushroom was a really nice touch too.

So, there was just one more to go ...

Baked Creamy Chorizo & Leek Pasta with Rocket
This was the one I was least enthusiastic about from a portion size point of view. There didn't seem to be much pasta for two. I added mushrooms, another leek, half a red pepper and prawns. Then included a baguette and a portion of green beans on the side. We used double rocket with the risotto.

This one was OK. Very flavoursome, but a bit watery for me. Whilst it was lovely being able to bung it in the oven and, again, get tidy and just wait for it to cook ... I think if I did it again I would probably do it on the hob and thicken it before serving.

I don't think there would have been enough of this dish for two without all of the added bits, but then I do know we have a bit of an issue with portion size, so for normal eaters it may have been fine.

So there you have it ... our first four dishes. All pretty successful. All definitely added to the repertoire to have again.

Do you want to know my overall thoughts on Gousto? Well here you go ...
  • The menu selection is great, lots to choose from
  • Not having a specified delivery time before the day of delivery is a bit of a pain
  • There is a lot of packaging, though a fair amount can be recycled
  • The quality of the ingredients was great
  • Portion sizes were probably normal, but some were on the small side for us
  • Recipe instructions were clear and easy to follow
  • All of the meals tried so far have been tasty and full of flavour
  • The eat by dates for the meals are quite short ... not sure if you could freeze the meat or not
  • At full price it works out pretty expensive
  • The recipes we've tried so far all seem to have left us with a tidy kitchen before we sit down to eat
So far so good. We will definitely carry on with the next three weeks with the 30% discount, though of course this makes it even more expensive than just buying the ingredients yourself.

By the looks of things the majority of the food delivery companies offer the same kind of discounts so may be that when this discount runs out we try another one ... or we may just add a stack of new favourites to our recipe list and go back to doing it all ourselves. I will keep you posted 😀


Friday 23 April 2021

Photo Scavenger Hunt :: April #4 ... Earth

Hi there everyone 😃

It’s Friday and time to catch up with Astrid’s weekly photo scavenger hunt ... this week’s theme is Earth, tying in nicely with yesterday’s Earth day.

Finally we have had a few days of sunshine and warmer temperatures which have spurred us on to do a few bits in the garden and to get a bit more planting done.

Yesterday I just happened to notice that the flowering Cherry was in full bloom ... it’s right at the back of the pergola and unless we go down there we don’t tend to notice it, but it is looking stunning ... we obviously didn’t really think it through when it got stuck in the corner ...
We also managed to pot up all of the summer annuals that we picked up from Aldi last week. They are all looking really healthy and I’m starting to let them spend their days in the sunshine, though we have had frosts overnight so I keep bringing them back in at teatime ...
The cobea we planted back in January are more than ready to plant out but it is still too cold. I really hope they make it through to May as they are really far too tall for their current pots. I have tried putting them out during the day but they really haven’t liked it at all ...
We have started a few more bits off ... parsnips, beetroot, coriander, sunflowers, cosmos, basil and French climbing beans ... these are all in the greenhouse and we have a few signs of life ...
I did try a sacrificial tomato plant in the greenhouse overnight, but it was most definitely too cold, so it looks like our kitchen will be full of seedlings for a little while longer ... I just hope they don’t get too mollycoddled and struggle when I finally get to plant them out.

That’s all from me for today ... I am finally off to the hairdresser for a long overdue cut and colour ... so hopefully the grey will be banished and I will be able to face the world again 😃


Monday 19 April 2021

Random Ramblings :: Trying Something New

Hi there everyone 😀

I’ve been contemplating trying out a meal delivery box for a while really ... but had always thought it a bit unnecessary. Both Martin and I enjoy cooking and have a real wide range of favourite meals in our repertoire that we like to cook from scratch.

Saying that ... every now and again we struggle for inspiration and choosing another seven meals we fancy for the coming week can be a bit tedious.

A few weeks ago the timing just fell right and an ad with a 50% discount code for the first week, followed by 30% for the rest of the month, appeared on my Facebook timeline for Gousto. I clicked through just to have look and easily saw four recipes that I liked the look of and decided to give it a go.

I timed our delivery for a Friday ... on the basis that we have our weekly shopping delivery on the Sunday. This would give us time to have a good look at what was provided and, if the portion sizes looked small, I could add extra veg or sides to our normal shopping delivery.

Whilst you can't opt for a delivery time ahead of the delivery day, which is a bit frustrating, we did receive a text on the Friday morning specifying a two hour delivery slot, which is trackable.

Friday came and there was much excitement. We had our text telling us our delivery would arrive between 8.10am and 10.10am and our big red box arrived well on time.

We couldn't wait to get the box open and see what was inside ... it was only at this point that I really thought about the amount of packaging involved ... though a fair amount is recyclable ...

The box was really well packed, with recipe cards for each of the meals that we'd chosen and all of the fresh ingredients looking really nice and fresh ...

There were a couple of effective ice packs keeping any meat or fish cool and an envelope pack of bits and pieces to accompany each recipe ...

We unpacked the whole of the box and checked off all of the ingredients against the recipe cards ... we were pleased to find that everything was as it should be.

We had ordered Lemony Chicken & Crushed Potato Colcannon ...

Oven-Baked Cheesy Portobello Mushroom Risotto ...

Creamy Chicken Potato-Topped Pie ...

And ... Baked Creamy Chorizo & Leek Pasta with Rocket ...

Whilst we could see that the portion sizes would not be what we are normally used to, they were reasonable and we could easily see how we could add a bit of bulk by adding extra veg here and there, which we tagged on to our supermarket grocery order.

So ... four meals sorted, so only three for us to have to think about ourselves. The meal planning and shopping list felt nice and easy.

Just as a bit of a tester from a value point of view we decided to cost the ingredients by putting them into the Tesco shopping site to do a bit of a price comparison. The total cost with Tesco came out at £19.25. We'd paid £17.50.

It wasn't a total like for like comparison as I didn't include the store cupboard ingredients ... as we already have all of those so, if needing to buy those, that would account for a bit more.

Also some of the fresh ingredients came in higher quantities from Tesco ... so would yield a bit more.

My initial verdict on cost is that, for us, it definitely wouldn't be worth paying the full price for the box of  £35.00, though we were very happy with the value with the 50% discount.

I'll leave it there for now, but I promise I will come back and let you know how we got on ... what the meals were like and what, if anything we added.

Please note ... I am not affiliated to Gousto in any way and this is a totally independent review of my own personal thoughts on the box ... though if any of you are interested in trying a box I believe I am able to share a discount code with you that, if taken up, provides me with a £15 credit towards my next box.


Friday 16 April 2021

Photo Scavenger Hunt :: April #3 ... Purple

Hi there everyone 😃

I’ve had the heading ‘The Colour Purple’ and the first paragraph of this post sitting in the notes pages on my iPad since March 2018. With Astrid setting ‘purple’ as the inspiration for this week’s photo scavenger hunt, I thought it was high time I got round to finishing it.

When was younger I seem to recall my favourite colour was blue.

Now it’s most definitely purple, no particular shade ... I love them all, though I do tend to steer more towards the bluey purples rather than the reddy shades.

I don’t really know when it changed and I’m sure there was a long period in between the blue and the purple when there was nothing that really stood out for me.

Thinking back, I would say that other people probably realised that purple was my favourite before I did.

One of the earlier gifts that my husband bought me was a Chamelia bracelet ... it’s bit like a Pandora ... with charms. We all joked after he’d bought it me that he just went in the jewellers said I want a Chamelia bracelet ... it’s for my wife ... she likes purple.

These are the charms I ended up with ...

I don’t really wear it anymore ... whilst I love it, it’s just a little bit cumbersome and very rattley

I do occasionally take the odd charm and add it to this purple leather Pandora bracelet I had as a gift when I retired from work back in 2014 ... they all knew I loved purple too ...

There is so much more purple stuff going on in my life that I struggled really with where to draw the line this week, so I did a bit of a trawl of my iPad photo library and just picked a bit of a selection ... starting with the garden ... where purple definitely stands out throughout the summer months ...

I also find myself very much drawn to purple when out and about ...

I set up my little craft business in purple ...

I most definitely craft in a lot of purple ...

There is purple inside the house too ...
And sometimes ... I like to wear purple ... 

And my favourite chocolate ... well yes ..l that’s purple too ...
So yes ... purple is definitely for me and it was the obvious theme for my blog when I first set it up as you may well have noticed.

Thank you Astrid for making me pull this post off my notes page and finally get round to sharing my love for the colour purple 💜💜💜


Monday 12 April 2021

The Day I met The Duke

Hi there everyone 😀

It was with sadness that we heard last week of the passing of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. It seems a shame he didn’t quite make his 100th birthday, but what an incredible life he must have lead.

I felt it might be worth a little trip down memory lane to share some very old, and fairly rubbish, photos of the day that I got to meet him ... fairly up close and personal.

At school I’d participated in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, achieving Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards ...

I still have my little log book where records were kept of all the activities that I carried out whilst participating in the scheme ...

I can’t for the life of me remember being presented with my bronze award but the silver was presented by the Earl of Lichfield at The Friary School in Lichfield.

At some point, I’m not entirely sure when, for some reason I was selected to represent our school at an event held at the Staffordshire County Showground, where The Duke was due to visit. Here is a picture of us all waiting to meet the man himself ... in case you are wondering I am third from the right on the back row ... looking very slim and with some very serious flicked out hair going on ...

It was possible to take photos, no selfies back then, and whilst they aren’t my best work ... you can definitely tell who it is ...

I have a couple more very old photos of me whilst taking part in the programme. This one was taken by a local paper of me volunteering at an adult literacy class ...

... and here I am ready to set out from a Youth Hostel on an expedition up in The Peak District. Not quite sure what I'm holding, but it could be my trusty Silva compass ... no GPS in those days ...

That actually wasn’t the only time that I met the Duke. Having achieved my Gold Award I did get invited to St James's Palace in March 1984 to be presented with my award by The Duke and had a big day out to the capital on the train ...

Here is a picture of me in my requisite hat mooching round the capital before heading to The Palace ...
I think that these two occasions are the only brushes that I've had with royalty ... I must admit on both I did feel quite proud ... though incredibly nervous 😟

I got so much from taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme ... in addition to meeting The Duke ... I guess there are two keys things that have always stayed with me since then ... the importance of being able to give something back, through volunteering and a love for the countryside and getting off the beaten track ... in particular The Peak District.

It's good to know that the scheme will live on under the watchful eye of Prince Edward, The Earl of Wessex ... though I did read the other day that eventually he will inherit The Duke of Edinburgh's title, which seems quite fitting 😀