Monday, 30 November 2009

Prawn Cocktail Tales

My grandma loved prawns, especially just bought ones from Brixton Market - which she'd peel, and eat a couple for luck. She made a fantastic prawn cocktail, and I've only just remembered her secret - Marie Rose Sauce.
Essentially, its 4tbs of mayonnaise, 1tbs of ketchup, dash of Worcestershire saure and a little lemon juice. Can't wait to make it. Of course I'll be using my vegetatian Worcerstershire sauce, with my um, fresh local prawns, which will of course be real.

Perfect starter for Christmas day, followed by stuffing and the works.

Can't wait.

She's moved bedrooms

The hamster, Billie has stuffed all the bedding and sawdust in to her giant face and moved in to her hamster wheel. Well, it is a modern sort of wheel, which is actually a ball. She's got all her food in there too and has spent the evening and night making it right cosy.

Of course I feel bad because her other bedroom has a door which means we've been picking her up from it. Which she clearly does not like. So she's made her point in her inaccessible wheel stuffed with bedding and wee.

Am hoping this is a temporary set back in bonding, but could mean we are not succeeding as decent hamster owners; she bites M too (though not anyone else and I tell him it is because he is always eating so smells of food and doesn't wash his hands first).

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Money Saving Expertise

This year, well the last couple of years to be more precise I've been busy honing by money saving skills culminating today in my bestest ever money saved. I've managed to save nearly two hundred pounds on our home insurance, and it was only two hundred and ninety five to start with.

I followed the Money Saving Expert guide, by using search engines for cheap insurance in a particular order and reached an offer of one hundred and fifteen pounds, for a no direct debit, buy it straight away deal. I'll admit I have not heard of the specific company but the dealer is Columbus, who are legitimate so I have not many worries about it. Absolutely fantastic.

Apologies if this sounds like an advert but I am so so pleased. Then, of course we just popped out to Eastbourne and probably spent the difference. We bought a fake Christmas tree, the first one we've had for years. I got put off real trees last year, when we used the one we'd saved from 2007 in a pot in the garden. We bought it in and slugs came out of it, and weird jumping insects. Very grim. Cutting down a tree every year to bin seems wasteful, so I suspect if our plastic type tree is good enough quality (and it should be at forty quid) then it is almost as environmentally justifiable.

The rest of the afternoon was spent quietly cutting out shapes from last years' Christmas cards with the children to make labels with. We have slightly over done it, and possibly have enough labels for many years, particularly as quality control over only classy cards most certainly slipped this afternoon in childish excitement.

Next Saturday the tree is going up. It will be December after all.

Oh, and in other news, I went ice skating yesterday, loved it. May have looked ridiculous as could not get hang of it for first twenty five minutes of thirty minute session, then have managed to really really hurt my foot. Spent most of evening yesterday dragging it around like a club foot.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

OK so I used firelighters...

But that doesn't take away my sense of achievement. I've finally lit a fire! After two and a half years of living with a lovely little wood burner I've learnt how to light a proper fire that stays alight, and isn't out with the newspaper.
Absolutely delighted.

And in other important news I have just deleted my email account, after it pestered my friends to go shopping on its own, or a virus thing's accord. For ten years I've had the same address - ever since I lived in Clapton and used to get the 106 bus in fact (to Stoke Newington which I loved back in the day). But nowadays people were starting to suspect I was, in fact, a secret Eric Clapton fan so I'm not exactly sad to lose the name. Still its a little bit of change I did not expect to under go today.

However onwards and forward marching with google by my side...

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The Green One

I've been 'into' green issues my whole life. I can't remember not recycling - even when it meant carrying empties on the bus to the supermarket centre. I was an early member of CND, a vegetarian for numerous reasons from 13 (although no political ones until a bit later), and believed in 'saving the world'.

But you know what - I've realised today that I've just been drifting along for the last few years. I've been freecycling, hating the landfill, recycling, trying not to use packaging and so on but not thinking about it. In all honesty this carbon neutral stuff has left me cold; especially when I see big companies and organisations and the government getting away with not doing their bit. I've been sick and tired of water companies trying to make us save water, when they have leaking pipes themselves. Then sick and tired of their agreement with local governments to force all house buyers to change to meters; which by their own admission cost around double for a family of four. Interestingly there have been no save water campaigns through our door since we went to a meter.

But on a less ranting note - actually I've just read a fairly old book which reminded me its both the political and the personal that count. Yes, on an individual level there is loads we can do from reducing use, to buying locally and so on however unless we combine it with a political level - both community, national and international then it is all cold and sad.

I feel renewed by energy in this. The first thing I intend to do is sort out my own views; re-join CND and work towards renewable energy. I need to remember to turn off lights, and to turn off appliances at the mains. Plus, I need to combine journeys when I need the car - to kill many birds with one stone if you like. And I need to re-join the neighbourhood association to make our little corner of the town better, plus keep in political touch.

It's the new enthused green me. And as for the Green Party - I must do the research. (Or Mr Grey Area could just tell me - R?).

Bill the Baby comes home...

He's there in his top den; a real live sleeping baby hamster. Now you might ask where this came from, as last blog about animals, in fact possibly last conversation was about the fake hamsters which are much desired. Well on Sunday night a very kind freecycler offered this cage; as her hamster was a bit chubby for the tubes. And I said to M that we'd get it and hide it away in the loft for a year or so until the children were old enough to look after their own pet.

Of course come Monday morning I couldn't resist telling them about it, and just having a little look at hamsters and their accessories and requirements. The little look involved a trip to a pet shop, where worryingly all hamsters were nine weeks old. I'm hating any thought about what happens to ones that don't sell - although to be fair the lovely assistant told us she'd adopted one with a hurt leg that could not be sold, and they did have a little adoption centre. But still frozen hamsters!

Anyway - we had a little look, and fell in love with one. The timing was crucial; as you buy them in a little cardboard box, then transfer them straight to the cage when home. Luckily we managed to buy little Bill; pop her in a double cardboard box, get all her accessories and on the way home pick up the cage. Trouble is, about ten minutes in to the short journey she'd chewed through the first box and was well into the second. I had to ask Ol to hold Bill, in her box, and hold the flaps down. He was fantastic and very responsible, and I think maybe that experience of keeping Bill safe was great for bonding.

So we get Bill home, sort her cage out, pop her in a shoe box for a few minutes and she has lots of poo's. That of course entertains the children; and now we're just waiting for her to settle in to her new home before we move to stroking and cuddling.

And I simply must share some new hamster knowledge with you all that I've learnt;

  1. Hamsters (as in Bolt) really do like to watch telly.
  2. Hamsters like classical music.
  3. Hamsters can recognise their owners voices.
  4. Apple pips are poisonous to hamsters.
  5. When hamsters want to play with you, they sometimes do star jumps to show you.
  6. Hamsters get an illness called wet tail; which is an upset tummy mostly.

Any other hamster tips gratefully received, and yes, I do realise Bill is sort of more my baby.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Possibly this is the most rubbish reason to be awake at 4am but...

I really want one of these, and they are £80. Which, is, after all an awful lot of money for a sleeveless jacket. I'm also having twin worries that I'll look too twinset and pearls, and/or too fat in a kind of bulked up Michelin way.

I've got a friend who's worn bodywarmers for years, but is incredibly specific about the ones she wears. And I know they are handy, specially when you drive and are in and out of cars and for Christmas shopping in town centres when you don't want the hindrance of a bulky coat etc.

I also woke up with a jolt thinking about a couple of friends I haven't seen for ages - weird because I would like a long chat with them, and we used to speak all the time. I actually blame it on living down here by the sea - it is easy to forget there is another world out there. Sometimes the long train journey to London, or the alternative torturous journey down the A21 country road just seems so long. But in my sleep deprived way I have vowed to get better at being in touch, and have written a long to do list.

Night everyone.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Top of the Pops - Come back (nearly) all is forgiven

We watched Rock the Children, Gary Barlow's charity concert from the Royal Albert Hall last night and all I could think, is we've come to this. We're watching a Pudsey Bear effort with that Horrible Fat Man from Radio One (with another fatty from Up North) presenting. And with people like Annie Lennox and Paul McCartney and Leona Lewis on.

But...there was a lovely collaboration between Lily Allen and Take That; and Snow Patrol and Cheryl Cole. I enjoyed seeing some of the other bands live, big noses and all and really enjoyed a 'proper concert' feel.

It just went to show how much we're missing live music on TV these days; even Top of the Pops has now gone. Although at times, especially with the presenting skills of that Reggie it was unbearable at least it offered music that was not all Simon Callow and X factor approved.

Bring back TOTP please BBC - but with new presenters; and NOT ones from Radio One.

Monday, 16 November 2009

It's like a school but in a forest...

I'm off to join a forest school this morning, not quite the circus but certainly a bit of a novelty factor. Not the least in that part of the principles of the school is that school goes on whatever the weather. And we have a rainy storm here - which may or may not get worse. Plus, on a cheery note I've volunteered for the next ten weeks - basically through the worst weather of the year. And unlike the children who will all have lovely waterproofs I've only got a cheapie Millets version.

I am, actually very excited to be spending some mornings in the forest, well, actually some trees behind the Old Town so the children can walk to their school/wood. I adore the woods, and making things in them, and imagining them (sometimes better than actually being in them). I blame Enid Blyton and the Enchanted Wood/Magic Wishing Tree and of course my parents for bringing me up in the country right next door to some lovely woods. Sadly there was a Bad Man who lurked in our village woods but as far as I remember only for a couple of years before he went on to scare other little children with his willy in the next village.

As I'm writing this the weather is clearing, and the coffee is kicking in. Yay, for Bev the forest helper!

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Yes, they are chestnuts...

Now as some of you will have figured out I am afraid of spiders. Really afraid; I do believe they are True Evil and will get me in a bad way one day. They're just waiting for their chance.

So to mitigate any chances they might have I decided to get some horse chestnuts and place them in a barrier around the house. A friend gave me some, and the others I spotted over by Alexander Park in Hastings. When I picked them up I was amazed to find that there were three to five nuts in each casing. So amazed I kept some casings intact and intended to talk to someone about my findings. Of course I'd heard on Countryfile that our natural chestnut trees had some serious diseases and presume it was all connected.

Now, of course I can imagine you've realised my error...but I did place the chestnuts in a ring of protection around my house and yes, no spiders at all (well bar one tiny one) since I did that. So of course last week, I had a friend who is known for her no nonsense attitude over last week and she spied a bag of chestnuts I'd bought from a supermarket in my fruit bowl and asked why I hadn't just headed over to the park and picked some up for free. Cue much hilarity and a shocker of a realisation that I hadn't actually discovered an interesting new variety of horse chestnuts in the park.

So today, I decided to cook the supermarket bag of chestnuts; in the oven; then warm them up over the evening on the wood burner. They were great, although of course not as fab as ones bought on the street from 'proper' sellers with grubby blackened fingers. But...I've done it again.

I realised whilst eating one that I'd burnt a bit of it and had a hard bit in my mouth. Which I just swallowed. To be sharply followed by the realisation that I'd also eaten a bit of my back tooth, with the yummy chestnut of course. The filling broke on my tooth, and the edge of my tooth had disappeared.

I'm very embarrassed to go back to the dentist and confess my error, and to pay again for treatment. My poor dentist knows me now, and will, for sure want an explanation.

Friday, 6 November 2009

It's the Great Electricity Challenge of Hastings

I'm taking part in this... as part of 'Users of the Bridge' team. We're hoping to beat the council, and the environmental network, oh and sea space (whoever they are?). Very exciting, and frankly anything I can do to save money - oh and of course the environment is a bonus. One of our main problems is probably ourselves though - the usuals; leaving things on standby ('specially the telly which despite being quite new really does not have an off button and the plug is hidden at the back of a cupboard), and of course leaving lights on.

So let's see if we can get better...and Zap Carbon (what does that actually mean anyway?).

Miaow, Miaow let me in

I now have the definitive answer. Cat flaps do all use exactly the same magnetic key. Therefore if those, as yet, not so clever clogs cats all realised every one with a magnet key collar could access, and thus burgle each others houses.

We know because Seren, the cat lost her magnet key and after a month or so of sellotape holding the cat flap open and feeding all the neighbourhood cats who sneaked in we found an old one. And it really works - totally different manufacturer and design and everything. So much for new technology, mind you it does beat leaving a window open and having random cats enter your house to wee in your toaster.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Flat White with semi skimmed please...

Now, in my world there are three kinds of milk;

Whole milk, for children, and for men who may sample it with a biccy and cuppa. Never to be put in an instant coffee as a 'skin' may form, and never to be put in a real coffee as it will make me feel sick.

Semi-skimmed, for everyone else, good 'normal', healthy*, and to use in coffee, drinking, for cereal etc. etc.

Skimmed milk, for everyone who is watching calories, and can handle the skinny version. Although I do prefer the taste of skimmed milk in tea, I think it is too weak for a real coffee, I do acknowledge that others like it.

Oh - and of course soya, for vegans, and health reasons.

But Costa Coffee in Hastings, oh yes I am naming and shaming them only have full fat or skinny (skimmed) milk here. And it has ruined by coffee drinking experience many a time.

Luckily, the Bridge Community Cafe (mostly) has semi-skimmed milk, lovely bullet has semi, eat@ has semi and so on. Shame on you Costa. Even Starbucks offers a variety of milks.

I'd love to know what the other local independents serve, of course I must try them...I do find asking if a cafe has semi skimmed, then walking out, or ordering a bottled water or something quite excruciating though.

Oh, the things I worry about. But still - let's start a campaign. Bring back the semi. It's healthier and nicer than the full fat. And in any town without decent health food cafe's we need all the help we can get.

*If milk is actually healthy, particularly the non-organic variety which someone once told me is a third pus and antibiotics, although safe to drink.

There are lights and lanes...

On reflection I was most interested in the amazing lines of work traffic going in to the 2012 site. There is actually a motorway toll type system with loads of little cabins, and lanes and lights. It's fascinating to see - and somehow makes the complex task of the whole building works make sense. (One hopes).

East London is a changing...

On the drive back yesterday from East London I was at first awed by the gorgeous sunset over, as usual the Asda car park in Leyton. Oooh, the glamour, but it really was lovely. Then I glanced left and was amazed at the changes to the Hackney Marsh/Leyton Mills/Stratford landscape.

It is all becoming new and modern and shiny, the Olympic stadium can be seen very clearly, plus I think some of the accommodation and well, all sorts of structures. Three years ago the land there really was quite derelict - there used to be a big road junction, with some travellers camped underneath, a cycling track that was shut and covered in glass, a road with some industrial units on it that led to Hackney from Stratford. Cunningly this road also had lots of warren like used car parts shops, well I hesitate to use the word shop, sort of caves with men who knew exactly where all the bits were - if they just climbed over mountains of metal. Oh yes, there was also a big yard full of old fridges. The fridges never reduced in number as far as I could tell, but just sat about leaching evils out.

Perhaps that is unfair - there were also some allotments, people who ran the local business' were apparently not paid enough to sell up, and I guess there must have been some kind of community down there as I think there was a cafe. We also used to live very close to the site, so were never terribly keen on the area. I have to say I'd rather the Mayor of London had greened over the polluting A12 rather than built over any allotments. The air quality in Leyton, particularly down the High Road used to be so bad sometimes I'd worry I should not take my baby out in the buggy to the library as his head was level with the traffic fumes.

Anyway - the Olympic area looks great, and I understand it is now on time or ahead plus running to budget, or at least to the new budget. The challenge will be to make sure the whole area benefits; that walls are not put up around the site to stop locals getting in (as in Canary Wharf which only has one little path from the traditional poorer areas). And that somehow the money gets out to the local area, as well as letting people in.

An intriguing problem - one which I have to say I don't have enormous faith in Seb Coe (Conservative and I think, according to my mum once spat on the ground), and Boris Johnson (so obviously Conservative, albeit with a big bit of Posh and sometimes a smaller c) sorting out. But good luck guys, don't forget we're all watching you though - and it is not to see how many medals we get).

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

A beautiful day

We said goodbye to a friend today, who had time to plan, and think about the funeral. It was lovely, humanist, perfect and all about him. A true celebration of his life.

And as always with these things it was wonderful to see the old community, the friends, the groups of family, and old friends. I was fortunate in being part of a wonderful Leytonstone community again today for a little while.

The Tree of Life

The death of each of us is in the order of things; it follows life as surely as night follows day. We can take the tree of life as a symbol. The human race is the trunk and branches of this tree, and individual men and women are the leaves which appear one season, flourish for a summer and then die. I too am like a leaf on this tree and one day I shall be torn off by a storm, or I shall simply decay and fall and mingle with the earth at its roots. But, while I live I am conscious of the tree's flowing sap and steadfast strength. Deep down in my consciousness is the consciousness of a collective life, a life of which I am a part and to which I make a minute but unique contribution.

When I die and fall, the tree remains nourished to some small degree by my manifestation of life.
Millions of leaves have preceded me and millions will follow me; but the tree itself grows and endures.

from the British Humanist Association

When Sleep is the Opposite of Restful

Just had a terrible night's sleep. There was all sorts going on in my head. I think someones boss appointed me to a job, then changed their mind when they saw how much baggage I had. Literally, in the dream I was packing up boxes and boxes of too small clothes, and knick knacks.

Hideous, then I hated them, taunted them behind their back, and was scared of their four month old kitten as it had really long claws. Somehow the Evil boss pair fooled me in to them getting hold of my lovely, real blue car. Evil boss man then drove it in to a fence in a park - leaving me to piece it together and call the police as it was a write off.

Finally it ended with some Nice People wanting to get to Church Street, N16 which had somehow moved to Spitalfields. They got there, climbed a giant church (it would be wouldn't it?), then I worried about them falling off the church and woke up.

Suspect it all means I am a bit loopy and am mixing up all Very Important Things in my head. Must remember not to Taunt Baddies behind their backs though as like my lovely car in one piece (plus it is Wrong).

I've got a sad, big day today in town going to a funeral - so I guess that it explains some of it.