Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Clash

Tomorrow evening we were all set to go and look around a local secondary school.  I say we, but actually I mean Ethan and I were.

This evening I reminded Dave about this, which meant he too became all set to visit the same local school.

Then Hannah announces that the tutor evening she mentioned a while ago is actually happening tomorrow, in the evening, at the same time as the open evening at the secondary school.

Well not quite at the same time, but there's a significant overlap.

So we had two places to be, at the same time.

We started to try and choose which activity had the highest priority.  Then Dave decided that we both ought to look around the school.

The problem is that the school open evening started at 5:00 but Dave wouldn't get there until 5:45.  The tutor evening started at 7:00 but was half an hour's drive from the open evening.

The final solution is a game of tag.  I get to the open evening at 5:00 do the tour and then Dave and I will overlap for about 30 minutes and then I'll go to the tutor evening.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Stupid sales strategy


I wanted to buy something on Amazon and needed three of them.
At the checkout I needed to adjust my quantity down because I was being restricted to just one item.
I have an Amazon Prime account so bought one item anyway. I tried to go through the buying process immediately to buy another and the site stopped me.
The next day I went back to Amazon and purchased a second item without any problem. 
The day after that I tried to buy another but they were on to me. They wouldn't let me go through checkout. So I used another Amazon account.
This means that instead of paying for one delivery service, Amazon are paying for three deliveries. This makes no sense to me at all.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Mild Panic

Having dealt with solicitors and wills I know that getting my affairs in order would be a really useful thing to do for my children.

I read of Lynda Bellingham's news that she has terminal cancer and has chosen to die naturally by stopping chemotherapy.  

I experience mild panic when I hear things like that because if that were to happen to me then I haven't got things sorted.  My life isn't organised enough for me to die.

When I sort through things I'm keeping in the loft, for example, I try to have rules:

  1. Will I need it again in my lifetime?
  2. Is it sensible to store this or would I be better to buy another when I need it?
  3. If my children were sorting through my affairs would they choose to keep it or ditch it?

I'm not very good at sticking to my own rules and I know that my children won't choose to keep the majority of my belongings.

I'd quite like to ask their advice so I can be more efficient at sorting things but what they say now won't be the same answer I'd get from beyond the grave.

One thing my husband is taking control of is large, bulky photo albums.  We are sorting our photographic life before the digital camera and after the digital camera.  We are getting books printed that contain our memories.  They take up less space and are pre-sorted.

At least we don't have a three piece suite in the loft anymore, although there is a bed there.

I'm not "the hoarder next door" but I would quite like someone else to go through the loft and ditch stuff for me.

I have a horrible feeling though my legacy will be a mess requiring several skips and trips to the tip.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Great Expectations

This is school choice time.  The time of year when pupils and parents visit schools to decide which is best for their little darlings.

We're considering grammar schools for Ethan because he's bright.  That isn't just my opinion  and I am aware parents are prone to over-estimating their offspring's abilities.

Other people tell me Ethan is bright: teachers tell me (as well as telling me his handwriting and presentation is dire), parents tell me because their children sit in the same class as Ethan and that is their view of him, and relatives tell me because Ethan memorises books full of facts and can appear knowledgable through the reciting of these facts.  I am well aware that others at Ethan's school are brighter; they just might exhibit more modesty.

People know Ethan's doing the 11+ exam.  I know how competitive the 11+ is and I am most definitely not sure whether Ethan will do well enough in the exam to gain a place at his school of choice.

Everyone else seems absolutely sure Ethan will do well and will "pass".

The problem with everyone else's expectations is that it piles on the pressure.  The "Oh, he'll be fine!" just increases the stress.  

Nobody wants to fail.  If there are no expectations then there is no failure.  If there are great expectations then there is the opportunity for great failure.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Chocolate fondant pudding

Ethan had been drooling after an episode of The Great British Bake Off and was bemoaning his lack of culinary skill.

I told him to pick something he wanted to cook from my recipe book shelves and we'd give it a try.  If it was something I'd not made before then we'd both learn.  He chose Tana Ramsey's Hot Chocolate Puddings which are chocolate fondants in all but name.

I'd never made these before and I left Ethan to it.  Hannah joined in when she arrived in from school.  They were just the way they should be: cooked on the outside and gooey in the middle.

I needed small pudding moulds.  Posh Silverwood pudding basins are £3.29 each in Steamer Trading Company

NewImage

Sainsbury, on the other hand, have four non stick pudding moulds for £4.50.

You need six pudding moulds for this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 250g plain chocolate (if you'd like it a little sweeter I'm sure milk chic is fine)
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 heaped tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp plain flour (I'm sure gluten free would work)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

I'm sure you can add orange zest and that would make them very tasty.

 

Method

  • Grease your pudding moulds with butter.  I'm sure ramekins would work but turning them out might be trickier.
  • Pop butter and choc in a bain marie (bowl over a pan of simmering water and don't let the bowl touch the water)
  • In a mixer whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract until frothy.  (You can do by hand if you're a sucker for punishment.)
  • Sieve the flour onto egg mixture and fold in.
  • When the bain marie has done its job and the butter and chocolate have melted, add it gradually to the egg mixture folding gently with a metal spoon.
  • Pour the resultant mixture into the greased pots.
  • Rest for a couple of hours.  The puddings, not the cook.  Now we put our puds in the fridge which I think means we could have increased the cooking time by 30 seconds.
  • Preheat oven to 180°C (for fan oven) and cook for no more than ten minutes (unless you rested them in the fridge in which case ten minutes and 30 seconds should still be fine.

They are just as they should be with a gooey middle and, whilst we served with ice cream, I think clotted cream would be perfect.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Smart marketing

I'm on too many mailing lists.

I don't mind a lot of the stuff that comes through the letterbox but I do get irritated when it's clear that the company sending me stuff hasn't put any thought into the mailing.

The Great Little Trading Company is a case in point.

I have bought from them when my children were younger but my children are now of an age where the GLTC products aren't suitable. My family has outgrown that retailer.

Surely there is a profile that would indicate that I'm no longer worth the investment.  I probably haven't bought anything for over five years.

Why are they wasting their money on me? Why aren't they applying a data-based approach to their CRM strategy.

Just doing the same old thing just because you always have isn't a good enough reason.

Use analysis and data to drive your strategy. Mailing everyone on your list is lazy and wasteful.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Savoury cake recipe

Ian made this and brought it in to the office yesterday.  At my request he brought the recipe in today.  The recipe used cup measurements, Fahrenheit oven temperatures and imperial loaf tin size.  So I've taken all of this and made it look like a normal recipe.

The concept is a cake like texture in a loaf tin but with savoury elements providing the flavour instead of sugar.  It's a very healthy option, I think.

Savoury cake

Ingredients

  • 250g plain flour
  • 1tbsp baking powder
  • 4 eggs (I used large eggs)
  • 60ml milk
  • 60ml plain yoghurt - I didn't have this in the fridge so I made my own buttermilk with milk and a dash of lemon juice and used that instead
  • 160ml olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Savoury filling - I used 150g cooked chopped chorizo, half a cooked chopped pepper, half a cooked chopped onion and chopped double Gloucester to the same volume as chorizo.  The recipe calls for 140g French sausage or salami (finely chopped), a handful of pistachios  (roughly chopped) and a handful of prunes.  The idea is to use up leftover bits and bobs that happen to be in the fridge.  

 

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C (for fan oven) and line a 400g loaf tin (loaf tins are sold in two sizes - this is the smaller of the two sizes).
  • Put the flour, baking powder and savoury bits into a bowl and mix.  This coats the filling in flour and helps individual bits to stay suspended in the mixture when baked.
  • Put the eggs in a separate bowl and whisk until thick and pale in colour.  Gradually add the milk, yoghurt, oil and seasoning, whacking all the time.
  • Fold in savoury flour mixture.  Scrape/pour/tip into loaf tin and bake for 40 mins or until an inserted skewer comes out without any cake mixture clinging to it.

I'll be slicing this and freezing it.  For packed lunches I'll be grabbing a slice from the freezer in the morning which will defrost by lunchtime.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Planning

Planning food isn't really my thing.  

I generally buy ingredients and then invent ways to combine them.  Recipes are for cakes, bread and pastries not for a pasta dish, risotto or jacket spud.  My home cooking really isn't very inspired.

But I found this, which I quite like.  Tesco Meal Planner.

I haven't used it, but I think I might.  I know Tesco has been in the news today because they don't seem to be very good at counting (massive profit overstatement) but they can get some things right.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Parental sexism


Hannah took the 11+ two years ago. Ethan took it this weekend.

I remember thinking there were a lot of girls in the same boat as Hannah when she went through the process but I was not prepared for the number of boys who took the exam at the same time as Ethan.

It might be just perception, but I'm fairly sure there were far more boys doing the exam this year than there were girls when Hannah sat the exam.

I wondered if this might have anything to do with birth rates, and it could.  There are probably a thousand other, plausible explanations, including my faulty memory, but I just wonder whether one of them is sexism.

Do we expect more of our boys? Do we care more about their education?

I discussed this with a friend who had sisters and one brother. The girls all went to the local school, the brother went to a private school.

I'm not asking whether you specifically give your son's education more thought than your daughter's, but do you?

Or is this something that we don't realise is happening because it's unconscious and is only obvious at a societal  level?

Or is this just the mad and crazy imagining of a mother who doesn't have a clue what she's talking about?

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Supper darling? Darling supper.

I've been to a few supper clubs.  Thought you might be interested.

Katherine (@mustardseedcook on Twitter) runs occasional supper clubs from her home.

A supper club is an occasion in which one opens one's house up to people willing to pay for your cooking.

The most recent one I've attended at Katherine's house had a Mexican theme.  I booked, in advance, with friends.  Other people also booked and we all turned up hungry with BYO bottles in our hand on Friday evening.

Katherine starts with a theme which evolves into a menu.  The price is fixed in advance, a deposit taken with payment finished after the meal.

Katherine turns one of the rooms in her house into a dining area for up to 24 people.

It's a relaxed environment where you can be with friends, or meet new people, or both.

 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Mixed emotions

Just after I'd got to work, plugged the laptop into the docking station, sat down with a cuppa and opened my email there was a call on my phone.

The owner of the company building the flats next door to us was on the line.

He opened with "Are you in a good mood?" to which my rejoinder was "Why? What have you done?"

It transpires the builders have knocked our wall over.

This will be the long, single skin, six foot high wall that separates us from the building site.

Nobody was hurt.

My initial reaction was boiling rage but I suppressed that and asked how bad the damage was. John (the contractor) didn't know so I asked for someone to send me pictures.

He apologised and we talked about possible solutions; either a patch fix or a new wall.

Apparently the wall wasn't pointed on the side of construction so they had wanted to build a new wall anyway.

We had been told by other contractors working on our property that single skin walls shouldn't be six foot high.  I had been worried it would be knocked either by construction traffic or by residents' vehicles once construction was complete.

So the good news is that the children weren't hurt and this might result in a new, more substantial wall.

I don't know what other damage I might encounter but I can't undo what's happened.

The initial anger lasted a while and resulted in a fair amount of venting once the phone call finished.

The anger was replaced by nervousness because the extent of the damage was still unknown.

I'm sure I'm working through a cycle of emotions and, at some point, I'll get to acceptance. I'm not quite there yet.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Dentists

I visited the dentist the other day.

I hate visiting the dentist.  I hate the intrusion; someone I barely know sticking their fingers, mirrors and sharp, pointy, metal instruments into my mouth.

And does anyone else experience jaw ache after a dentist visit?  It hurts to eat and open my mouth and it's over a day since my ordeal.

I had a couple of x-rays while I was there.  No reason for them other than it had been a while since I had some.  That was horribly uncomfortable; being asked to bite down on some hard, sharp plastic to keep the film in place.

And then there's the scrape and polish which just sounds disgusting.  The "something and something" as a medical procedure.  I don't know why but it makes me think of D&C which is a very unpleasant connotation.

So scraping and polishing means using what my dentist calls the "Instrument of torture" combined with a metal scraping tool to clean the teeth.  When that ultrasonic thing hits the gum and not the tooth my nails dig into my palm to divert my attention away from my discomfort.

And the dentist said it would feel good afterwards.  It didn't.  My teeth felt scratchy and sharp and not good sharp.  

And because I don't know any better I have to trust that what the dentist is telling me is true.  In this case there was no work required but if had said "Five root canals needed to day Mrs Cardus" then I wouldn't have known whether he was right or not.  I'd have said "Er, OK" and gone along with it because that's what you do.

I posted that I felt "a little violated" after a dentist visit.  I seemed to be alone as nobody else felt the same way.  Just me?  Really?

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Bounty bar

Julia recommended using coconut oil on hair about 20 mins before washing it and then washing it but not using conditioner.

I bought some coconut oil for the first time. Weird stuff. It's a solid until at body temperature when it turns to liquid.

I did as Julia recommended and it works quite well (but I found it easier to use conditioner too.)

I also did as the packaging recommended and used it as a moisturiser. It does this job very well but does leave you smelling of desiccated coconut.

The children don't like the smell of coconut and ran away when I went near them.  To overcome this I use the coconut oil followed by cocoa butter moisturiser. This means I smell like a Bounty chocolate bar.

This makes me hungry.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Boys books

If you're stuck to choose a book for a ten year old boy who do you ask for advice. Well you could visit a bookshop and ask in there or you could ask in a library. Or you could steal into someone's house and take a peek at what's on the bookshelves of a ten year old boy.

Ethan is ten and has a good reading age. These are the books on his bookshelves.











There are more books downstairs and on the landing but these will do for starters.

Based on this selection what would you recommend he read next?