Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Creativity Rules OK

I Can Still Sew!

Well, I made a dress and two jackets during this holiday.  Here's the ensemble I've literally just finished.  I must confess to being quite pleased with myself.  I haven't done anything but repairs for about 13 years - when I memorably made two sets of short summer pyjamas for my eldest and middle sons.  My colleagues fell about laughing and said that everyone else put their kids in pants and tee-shirts: why couldn't I do the same?

At this, I decided there was plainly no point in making clothes for the boys - George at Asda became my chosen source, and the sewing machine took a long rest, apart from when things needed mending.

However, it appears I haven't lost the knack, and making things for myself at least means they get seen, as opposed to tucked up neatly out of sight under a duvet.


My mother was a needleteacher.  Old needlework teachers never die, they remain as sharp as needles!

'The sleeves are too long', said she.  I've shortened them.

I decided all by myself that the dress was too long - shortened that, too.  

But Mother also  didn't like the border at the bottom or the red and black at the top.  It ALL came from the one fabric - black and cream leafy border down one side, and red and black stripes down the other.  All I had to do was lay out and cut the pattern pieces so the colours fell where I wanted them.  And I'm afraid I'm unrepentant about that - I happen to like it!  We sometimes have spookily similar tastes, but not always! 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Let Them Eat Bread!

Countdown to the end of my annual leave, so I'm eagerly cramming things into my day.

  • Today, I've been tweeting fast and furiously for Voices for the Library.  Here's my self-introduction blogpost on their website.  You can follow my tweets @VoicesLibrary.
  • Sorted out Smalley McAulay's work placement to my - and his - total, jubilant satisfaction.  At a university games software development department!
  • Had the engineer in to fix our washing machine.
  • About to set bread-machine going, and then I'll get back to dressmaking.  (Made the dress, now I'm onto the jacket.)
So --- in a few hours time --- let them eat bread.  Nothing nicer than home-made bread, even if I cheated a little!

Jelly Belly Diet

The mum with the wobbly belly
Denies that she views too much telly - 
Why, her viewing's so small, 
Almost no hours at all,
But from now on she'll only eat jelly.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Living off Beans

Tuna and Kidney Bean Salad - cheap and tasty!

I promised another thrifty recipe for starving students and non-students alike.  Suddenly, this idea popped into my mind.  I can't remember where the recipe originated.  It will serve four, with enough salad, or if you have any over, keep it covered in the fridge for tomorrow.  Healthy (beans + fish + salad), tasty, and quick.  Perfect student food.

Ingredients: tina of kidney beans, tin of tuna in brine, bottle of French dressing (or make your own with equal proportions of vinegar or lemon juice and vegetable oil), cucumber and tomatoes, any other salad you have handy.  Optionally, a pinch of Colman's mustard and a crushed garlic clove.

  1. Open tuna tin, drain, flake the tuna in a salad bowl/casserole using a fork.
  2. Open beans, drain, rinse, add to tuna.
  3. Add other salad stuff.  If you have lettuce and want to dress up your meal a bit, leave it out of the mixture and arrange round the edge of the bowl - or on individual plates.
  4. Add a couple of tablespoons of dressing (bought or made), and the optional mustard powder and garlic.
If you liked that, you'll like this:  Rose Elliot's book, Bean Feast, is full of easy vegetarian recipes.  It includes some using kidney beans - I shared them here a while ago.

Recipes more successful than Rants

Quick-Setting Jelly Desserts

It appears, looking at my blog stats, that I get more traffic to the site when I post food ideas, than when I rant.  Today, therefore, I must come up with some foodie inspiration for students and impecunious cooks everywhere.  You'll have to give me a chance to think up something, but I'll be right back ... honest!

Meanwhile, you might like my quick-setting jelly dessert suggestions.  The jelly will set much quicker if you do it this way:-

  1. Buy jelly sachets (optional - yoghourt or a can of fruit.  NOT canned pineapple or kiwi-fruit)
  2. Dissolve jelly crystals in microwavable jug in MINIMUM boiling water (I microwave the boiling solution for half a minute to hurry it up). 
  3. Now add icecubes, stirring as you go to help dissolve. 
  4. After 6 icecubes, it begins to set, and dissolution slows down. At that point, make up to a pint with cold water or yogurt - you'll need to whisk it in - or canned fruit. (Hint, don't go on adding icecubes when they struggle to dissolve.  And remember - a pint is the upper limit, including the melted icecubes!) 
  5. Refrigerate.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

There will aye be critics

A timely proverb from my Johannesburg friend:- 

"Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage."
 The trouble is, my instinctive reaction to criticism is, 'What if they've got a point?'  So, here we have SuperSpouse who thinks I need a corset - and his male friend agrees.  

Gym trainer pees laughing

---  doesn't say much for those core muscles!

His female gym trainer, on the other hand, burst out laughing and demanded, 'YOU DIDN'T SAY THAT TO YOUR WIFE?'  But he did.  He then asked someone he knows through work.  Same age and sex as the gym trainer.  Same again: 'You told your wife WHAT?'

Septuagenarians fall off chair, Octogenarian just nods

Four hundred miles south, and with no collusion having transpired, a septagenarian couple fell off their chairs in peels of laughter.  For me, though, it was time to face my mother.  'A gym trainer?  Yes, you could do with one of them, TO GET RID OF THAT TUMMY.'  Gives it straight between the eyes, does my mum.

'And your hair is too long, you look like the wild woman of Borneo.  Get a haircut.'  Politically incorrect as well as tactless, then.

Self-portrait, July 2013
I discovered last night that - for the first time in my life - I can actually put my hair up.  Not in a bun, but an elastic band on top of my head - it didn't look too bad, though I say it myself.

All by myself, I reached a couple of decisions this morning.  I shall get a haircut.  I shall go to a top hairdresser and get an extravagant haircut, leaving my hair long, but getting some shape into it and tidying up any split ends.  I will not colour it, so it'll still be grey-streaked.  Then I'll go to the gym and see about a gym trainer.  I'm doing this so my clothes will be looser.  A short course with a gym trainer is cheaper than a new wardrobe.

And then, if my family objects to my appearance - TOUGH!  I'll have to hang out with my friends more!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Step we gaily on we go - heel for heel and toe for toe

 "Step we gaily on we go - heel for heel and toe for toe"

This has NOTHING to do with the song, Mairi's Wedding!  I seem to have fractured a toe.  I was using my mobile phone when the landline phone rang.  I dived for it.  Crash!  Banged my knee, bashed my toe, and here I am, battered and bruised ... I can drive.  I can swim.  I can - just about - play the organ.  But I can't go to the gym or attend exercise classes, which is annoying.

Q: How do you play the organ with a possibly-fractured toe?
A: Frac-cato.

Q: How does a possibly-fractured toe help weight-loss?
A: You should see me hop on the scales.

Q: How does a possibly-fractured toe improve your Sunday-best shoe-style?
A: It doesn't. They're lucky I won't be wearing slippers!

 Mairi's Wedding - lyrics.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Straitlaced Maybe - Tightlaced Never

I've spent a week going to enormous lengths to lose weight so as to avert criticism when we go to visit my family in England.

I've swum seven times, been to the gym four times, and been to three exercise classes.  Bodypump nearly killed me, but was far more to my liking than Zumba.  You won't catch me in another Zumba class!  Maybe it's my left-handedness.  Maybe I have a touch of dyspraxia - though I can drive a car, operate a sewing machine and play several musical instruments.  However, my handwriting is despicable, I am hopeless at ball-games, and it turns out I cannot watch a dance instructor and make my feet (forget the arms and hands!) do the same thing at the same time.  I just can't coordinate myself.

All but the swimming came screeching to a halt when I fell over my own feet diving for the phone on Thursday morning.  The doctor thinks I may have fractured my toe.  (See?  I'm uncoordinated!)  So although swimming doesn't hurt, I can't go and do 45 minutes on the treadmill, cross-trainer or rowing-machine, and I certainly can't take exercise classes until I get back from England.

So I shall have to present my overweight self for comment.  I do not have a tumour or a large cyst - Mother suggested that last year, and I've had all the blood-tests.  There's nothing wrong with me.  I'm just overweight.

SuperSpouse, trying to be helpful (he says), suggests I should "wear a corset" to "improve my figure".  I took the huff at this.  To me, corsets go with domination, inhibiting natural movement, and trying to turn a perfectly normal human body into a decorative Barbie-shape.  Why should I?  Why would I want to?  He asked his friend.  "Yes", said the friend, "Quite right.  Wearing a corset would improve your wife's figure." 


Unless you want to frighten yourself, don't look up "tight corsets" on Google.  And "Tightlacing" on Wikipedia is scary, too.  Don't scroll down.  Stop at the hideous travesty of a female image at the top of the article.  Truly, you don't want to read on.

I found an utterly enchanting black and pink butterfly-patterned corset by Googling images.  Thankfully, they  don't make it large enough.  (And believe me, I may be overweight, but in no sense am I clinically obese - nowhere near it.)  But I still don't fancy spending a week in a sweaty nylon corset, in temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius, trying very hard to look as though I haven't had three children.  

No thanks.  Back to starvation diets, I think.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Wimbledon Finals and Full of the Joys of Summer

Ah, a lovely July day! The sun's shining, we have company coming to lunch, and an afternoon of Wimbledon-watching beckons.

Smalley McAulay is cross.  OF COURSE he should have a large bowl of cereal 40 minutes before his mum triumphantly serves up a roast lamb dinner with all the trimmings.  OF COURSE he will disregard threatened sanctions.  And will we all sit nicely and be pleasant around the dinner table?

Oh, I do hope so!