Friday, 24 February 2012

Great night out

It's not every day you get to lick out a walnut whip.

The PTA organised a quiz night at the school.  I say PTA but I think that means Jenny and helpers.  I'm on the PTA but I didn't even make it onto the PTA team.  I think I'm an also ran.

My team was great.  I'm not entirely sure about the team selection process.  I think I just happened to be staying in the right place at the right time at the school pick up.

Anyway - booze was really cheap because it was a bottle from the wine rack.

Food was really cheap as it was just a bag of crisps and a bag of Japanese cracker things that were in the cupboard.

Company also shared my base sense of humour.  Either that or they were very polite and tolerant.

I drank, I laughed, we didn't win, but I didn't care.

Next time, same team, more fun, some cheating (can't believe they didn't want to cheat at all) and more winning.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Naughty Boy Pancakes

Ethan was mean to Hannah yesterday.  It was completely unacceptable behaviour and it required a tough punishment.

He had been waxing lyrical about how much he was looking forward to pancake day and that was his undoing.  His punishment was to have no pancakes on pancake day.

He cried.  I felt guilty.

This morning he woke up crying.  I felt guilty.

This afternoon when I picked him up from school he cried.  I felt guilty.

He told me that this was probably the worst day of his life.  I laughed silently and invisibly at the lengths to which he would go to try and get me to change my mind.  Outwardly I was considerate but firm and stuck with the punishment.  I also explained to Ethan that in a normal year there are about 362 days that are pancake free for him and perhaps he should re-evaluate the disastrous nature of the predicament in which he found himself.

Hannah had pancakes (about ten of them), Ethan and I had none.

I thought you might like a recipe for pancakes.  Let's call it Naughty Boy Pancakes although in reality it's merely Nigella's recipe repackaged.


Makes ten (ish) pancakes:


  • 150g flour
  • 1 egg
  • 325ml milk
  • 30g unsalted butter melted and cooled a little
  • More unsalted butter for cooking


  • Take flour egg and milk and put into a tall jug (the sort that comes with those whizzy blender thingies).  Use whizzy blender thingy to mix batter then stir in melted butter.
  • Melt some butter in a frying pan.
  • When butter is sizzling a little then pour in enough batter which when swirled around the pan adequately covers the bottom of the pan.  I find that when poured the batter covers about two fifths of the pan before swirling.
  • You need to cook until nicely browned on the underside.  This should be less than a minute.
  • Flip the pancake with either panache and style using just the pan and a toss or, if you're like me, using a fish slice.
  • Cook for same amount of time on this side and then serve.
  • I find I end up being a pancake factory on Shrove Tuesday constantly serving hungry mouths but if you want to make this more of a sit down at the table affair then cook all you need and just ping in microwave to warm them up before serving.
  • Serve with whatever you fancy.

Ethan's talking to me now and I think we're friends again.  He has a short memory.



Monday, 20 February 2012

Solar panel installation part cinq

It's over, or has it just begun?

The panels are installed, the bills have been paid and we're just waiting for the certificate, a copy of which needs to be sent off to our energy supplier.

This weekend was the first time we'd had the chance to see whether the panels were working properly.

They are.  We're happy.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Help required

On 25th March there is a half marathon in Brentwood that (literally) runs past our house.  It's an annual event and we can usually be found enjoying a coffee whilst cheering on the runners.

Last year though the half marathon happened soon after the terrible tsunami that hit Japan.  We decided we had an ideal opportunity to harness the money-making potential of other people who watch the marathon near our house.

With Hannah and Ethan as top salespeople we ran a homemade cake stall and raised about £175 which we sent off the the Red Cross Tsunami Appeal.

Given that it worked so well last year we thought we'd do it again this year.  This year though we thought we'd raise funds for Hopefield Animal Sanctuary, which I think is our closest charity.

The baking has started and so has the resultant freezer filling.  Clearly the freezer capacity I have dictates the amount of cake I can make ahead and make available for sale.  Unless of course I enlist your help.

Would any of you bake cakes that we could sell?  A cake or batch of muffins from every reader of this blog would be amazing.  A casual chat at a tweetup has already generated the offer of some cakes which got me thinking that other people might be willing to pitch in.

The experience from last year taught me that sale of hot drinks would be appreciated.  I can get my hands on an urn but I would love some extra hands to help sell, serve and drum up business.  Could you help?  Do you have access to another urn?  Do you have any access to free cold drinks that we can sell.  I plan to ask Sainsbury but do you know anywhere else that might be able to help?

I don't want this to be the Ann show.  Basically I have a location that is brilliant for taking advantage of an event that is already being organised.  I want to raise as much money as I can for a very worthy cause.  I don't care who you are, if you want to help me do that, you're very welcome.  Can you help?


Friday, 3 February 2012

Solar installation part quatre

There's an expression that starts "If you can't stand the heat…" but there were no kitchens involved in this installation so it doesn't really fit.

The best expression that might fit would be "The sun always shines on the righteous."  Allow me to elaborate.

CB Renewables sub-contract the fitting work and the first of these sub-contractors to turn up this morning were the roofers.  I was in the shower when they arrived and wasn't really looking my best.  Dave sorted access to materials in the garage and moved my car while I rushed to to make myself presentable, or at least put some clothes on and dry my hair.

I made tea for the roofers and the electricians who had also arrived.  It was just after eight in the morning and we needed to leave for Ethan's saxophone lesson.  I promised I'd be back at about nine.

When I returned I popped the kettle on again and warmed up some pre-baked banana and chocolate muffins that were in the freezer.

I figured we might need more muffins so I baked a batch of double chocolate muffins which came out of the oven just before the guys had reached this stage of the installation.

Solar install 1a

Everything seemed to be going well as I went outside to sort deliver round two of tea and muffins.

About an hour later and the kettle went on again and out went a tray with tea and double chocolate muffins.

I decided I needed more muffins and knocked out a batch of orange and date muffins which accompanied another round of teas another hour later.  The install still seemed to be going well and panels were going up on the roof.  There were some questions about the electricity earth arrangements that I couldn't fully answer but which were cleared up with a few tests.

Solar install 1

I waited another hour before refuelling the install team with tea and orange and date muffins and thought I might need another muffin variety to entertain the troops.  I looked at the ingredients in the cupboard and found some cranberry sauce.  The next batch I churned out were therefore orange and cranberry and by this time the install looked like this:

Solar install 3

The team and I were keen to test the output.  A worried spark came into the house saying there was a problem.  The system was generating 660V and the inverter was only able to take an input of 550V.  The only conclusion was that we'd need a different inverter.  The day had been so sunny, and so cold, that conditions were perfect for optimal power generation.  Solar panels like it sunny and cold.  The panels had exceeded our expectations to the extent that the inverter couldn't cope.  Whilst that means a delay to the completed install, it also means more power generated than we expected which is fantastic news.

The kettle went on for the final time and I served up the experimental orange and cranberry muffins with a hot mug of tea.

The sparks will be back to redo the inverter installation, so I'd better get baking because the sun always shines on the righteous.


Thursday, 2 February 2012

Solar installation part trois

One of the things we had to do ahead of the installation was get the ivy removed from the roof.  It's a shame that the tree surgeon only took it off the roof and not the wall too.  Luckily the lovely Matt at Prince trees sorted that out today, or rather his super speedy team sorted it.

Four blokes turned up and, in the time it took me to make coffee and them to drink the coffee, they'd finished the job.

The other thing we needed to do was to send the Wattson off for upgrade, transmitter and Easifit kit.  We did that too and haven't had it returned yet, but if my luck goes well then it'll arrive back tomorrow.

The last thing was to clear the garage to make space for the solar panel delivery.

We have sifted and sorted and got rid of a ton of stuff to charity and Freecycle.  Today we had two deliveries even though I was only expecting one.

To the first van driver that arrived I said "Have you got some solar panels for me?"  He didn't, but he had the hardware and the inverter that would would be needed to fit the panels.  The panels arrived later via lorry.  It was a good job we had cleared a space in the garage because the panels were delivered on a pallet and they are huge.

So we're ready, and we're really excited (or I'm really excited).