Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Summer Sundae days

So, how was it for you? Did everything live up to the hype? Did you  have a wonderful time? I'm talking Christmas here...and yes thank you, it's been lovely.

Now the celebrations  are over....I feel full, flat and flustered  - I really I don't like this time, this hiatus between Christmas and New Year. It's neither one thing or the other...after Christmas day itself, I don't want to look back at the last year -  I want to move on. I want to look ahead to the wonderful possibilities that the New Year could bring....

But I'll make an exception for Summer Sundae, an annual music festival. Tomorrow at 6pm on BBC Radio Leicester,I am looking back at this year's festival ...have a listen to the trailer....

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For three days in August, an alternative world is created in the heart of Leicester ..it's Summer Sundae.I love this....it's got everything I want in a festival....there's always an eclectic line up of  want to see plus new discoveries of exciting new ones. It's a safe,friendly and family friendly festival, with outdoor stages, marquees and the grand old Demontfort Hall which seats over 2,000 people and has flushing toilets.(And that's one hell of bonus at a festival !)

 Set on a compact site where you don't have to walk for miles between stages, there's nice food stalls, and a relaxed atmosphere where people of all ages get together and get on.

It's a yearly  must see for me....and over the years, I've  interviewed bands such as Elbow,Editors,Lemon Jelly, the Magic Numbers,Idlewild, teenage Fan Club, Mr Hudson, the Guillemots, the Pigeon Detectives and so many others in the outdoor backstage area at the back of the main hall or in their dressing rooms for BBC leicester..

Here's last year's review

  Last year I spent two  hours recording with Mumford and Sons for a BBC 6 hour long Mercury Prize  documentary ....but this year I did something different. I just soaked up the atmosphere, talked to lots of festivalgoers, people working at the festival , and some artists who've never appeared at Summer Sundae before...for their stories.

From Sarah and Andy who fell in love at Summer Sundae and hurried back from honeymoon to be at this year's festival, to the four year old at her first festival, to the workers offering HIV tests and results in 60 seconds....there's some lovely stories .....do have a listen darlings....Wednesday 28th December at 6pm on BBC Radio leicester 104.9 FM or you can listen  again on I player for upto one week afterwards.

So, I have been looking back over this year after all....and I can't wait to hear the line up for 2012.
In the meantime, here is the beautiful voice of Newton Faulkner who was at Summer Sundae this year....whether he's playing on the main stage or accoustically by the BBC bus...he wins over his audience by being pitch perfect, funny, and engaging

Friday, 23 December 2011

Happy Christmas days

It's not even 7am and I've been busy.So many things still to do, so many things to remember to do........
Today's list is written....

Yesterday was manic....changed sheets,did lots of washing,did the supermarket shop, bought the tree, delivered the village cards, and Mama arrived for Christmas(my lovely Mum).
In the afternoon there was a change of pace....a lovely quiet time decorating the tree and Mama and I made a wreath to put on the front door ...

It 's amazing what a bit of foliage from the garden, a few pine cones,some cinammon sticks and a bow knicked off an old Christmas present turns out like....it may not be perfect but it's the first one I've made .....

So in the midst of so much to do...why am I sitting here in my jammies writing a blogpost? Well, everyone else is asleep....the prezzies that still need wrapping are in my bedroom and I don't want to wake my OH. Likewise I can't make the soup yet....curried parsip soup is an absolute favourite but even I can't stomach the smell before breakfast!

I used to be indecisive but now I'm not so sure - that's me this morning...I still haven't decided how I'm going to cook the turkey on Christmas Day.Mind you I only decided two days ago that it was going to be turkey....it's not one of my favourite meats.....I'd flirted with the idea of a goose, a three bird roast....but no, we haven't had a turkey for years....so turkey it is.

I definitely know what I'm cooking on Christmas Eve though...because it's a tradition every Christmas Eve...and we all love it. I'm talking gammon.....Nigella Lawson's gammon cooked in coke. Yes...the drink.It's absolutely delicious, succulent and very moreish !It has to be accompanied by a creamy, garlicky potato dauphinoise and roasted vegetables such as courgettes, peppers, mushrooms etc, oh and peas. That's the law.

The funny thing is I can't remember why we started having gammon on Christmas Eve...I know that all the children were tiny...but they demand it every year!

Likewise, there's one film that we have to watch every year at Christmas...and that's National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Yes, we know all the lines, we know when the squirrel comes out of the tree and why Griswold says " Bend over and I'll show you"....but that's what makes it even funnier. And we do laugh a lot....

So do you have a traditional meal on Christmas Eve and what is it? What's the one Christmas film that you just HAVE to watch every year?

Right ...got to go....places to go, people to see, and lots to do! Before I go though....this track always gets me in the mood.....my daughter will be driving home later than usual for Christmas, but my oldest son will be driving home this morning...can't wait to see him at lunchtime....and yes, the curried parsnip soup is his favourite....

Happy Christmas everyone!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Gin fuelled days

A wet, wild and windy week,so in the kitchen where all is calm...and warm, I've been busy.One of the loveliest moments was decanting some raspberry gin I've had hidden away doing it's own thing for about five months.

Summer in a glass.....the most beautifully flavoured raspberry gin.
Made lovingly in the summer with raspberries from the allotment...and tasting ...if I say so myself....bloody gorgeous!

It's a recipe that I was given years ago by Vivienne ,and it's not a just a case of throwing raspberries in a jar and adding sugar and gin. Oh no, there's an extra vital step.....so here's how I did it....

Gorse lane Raspberry Gin

2 pounds of ripe raspberries
1 pint gin
2 pints water
1 pound of sugar.


Place the cleaned fruit and gin in a large ,screw top jar and leave to stand in a warm spot for 4 to 5 days.Shake the jar occasionally.

After 5 days, bring the water to the boil in a large saucepan, add sugar and boil gently for 10 to 15 minutes.

Allow to cool then add to the fruit.Screw the jar lid on tightly and store in a dark cupboard for at least 3 months occasionally turning the jar upside down.(Do be careful darlings - you did screw that lid really tightly didn't you???)

When you're ready , strain carefully through a fine jelly bag and decant into small bottles.

As you will have noticed, I've not actually managed to get out and buy some pretty bottles yet...but even so....the gin looks jolly good to me....

The gin sodden raspberries which were left behind didn't look quite so pretty.

However "waste not want not"being my new recession proof mantra, I decided to use them.It's too cold for a trifle this week, so decided to make a rather alcofrolic raspberry crumble.

I simply made my usual crumble topping, flung it over the fruit..baked and added double cream and hey presto! Wow - What a humdinger of a pudding and just the sort of thing for a cold, wintery night.
The raspberry gin took five months to mature - I wonder how long will it take to drink though? You know, I wish I'd made some sloe gin too....

The sloes are still in the freezer actually so I could make some for when the weather gets nippy next Autumn  , but until then here's a track called the Sloe Gin set from the bright and breezy Bellowhead at the Royal Albert Hall three years ago.

I saw them in August at the summer sundae festival on a nice warm weekend afternoon.They performed a rollicking set, were great fun,and got everyone clapping, tapping their toes and joining in. I dare you to sit stoney faced  and not moving to the music....

Monday, 12 December 2011

Days of saying hello and goodbye

He came, he partied , he left....a week ago.

Yes, the boy who came home at the beginning of November has now gone back to the land he loves- Australia. By working three months on farms, he's got his second year visa.

It seemed such a short visit, but boy, did he pack alot into four weeks.The bunting came out


the first Friday night.his brother, sister and sister's boyfriend. came home,we sat down for a large meal,  drank lots, laughed lots, and danced in the kitchen to Motown, Foster the people and more Motown tracks.For some reason his big brother ended up at one stage wearing a garish hawaiian shirt and a hat, and the boy a bear suit....

Their sister is far more restrained and usually keeps her clothes on....

The four weeks has gone so fast in a flurry of his friends popping into see him, the fridge being constantly ram raided and putting out industrial quantities of budweiser bottles outside for recycling...and so many hugs and chats.

Not seeing him for a year was hard...welcoming him back was wonderful, and saying good bye a week ago today wasn't easy.For any of us..so we had a final Friday session in the kitchen...all back for more music, more food and laughs.

Now all the gang have gone back to their other lives and it's rather quiet at home. Very quiet.Even in the kitchen . In fact, it's been rather a week in more ways than I imagined  so I've cheered myself up by keeping busy. And playing more music - loudly!

Today's track? Well it has to be Foster the people 's "Call it want you want" Great song which is my favourite on the album ....and I'm thinking of  the boy back in Oz who also loves this band.....


Sunday, 4 December 2011

Days when nothing but a leek or Ben Howard will do....

It's nearly dusk, and the cold is intensifying .It's gone past the nippy stage -it's feeling downright parky with ice on the way and snow will be moving in from the north. I've been at the allotment where the lush greens of summer peas , lettuces, beans and courgettes are just a distant memory .

Now, there's only dark brown earth, the muted beige of a number of carpets that I've put down to inhibit the weeds and the only things really still growing are a tiny patch of chard , some swedes and the silvery grey - green leeks standing to attention in slightly uneven rows.

I was stone cold sober when I planted those rows -I promise - and I'm sure they were straight, but looking at them now...they 're cockeyed.How did that happen?

But nothing is ever as it seems in a garden or allotment is it? There's always something that turns up out of nowhere.If you're unlucky they're pernicious weeds , or like a couple of summers ago, some beautiful foxgloves that I certainly didn't plant but love where they've just established themselves.

Last week I cut off the seed heads of the one remaining leek in the allotment from last year.I left it on the windowsill for a week to dry out...and look


Not only is it beautiful...but there will lots of lovely leeks next year too...

It was quite therapeutic sitting at the kitchen table collecting all the seed.....

As a child I hated eating leeks ...leeks a la school lunches meant flaccid , slimy leeks interspersed with gritty bits of earth and smothered in a glutinous "cheese "sauce. The sauce never tasted of cheese though.

Now I adore leeks - their sweetness and their versatility in the kitchen , and the smell of leeks sweating in some butter in a pan must be one of the homeliest and most welcoming smells ever.

Tonight's track....from the wonderful Ben Howard .Every kingdom ,his album, has been on repeat in the car ever since I got it!(Thanks Lucy!xxx)

He sang to me on the way down to Bristol on Thursday and on the way back on Friday.He has such a beautiful voice ..I love his guitar work....and some very clever songs.Some are great to sing along to,but I don't think he would have been too impressed with my efforts accompanying him as I sped up the motorway. Let's put it this way....I don't think we''ll be doing a duet in the near future....

Friday, 25 November 2011

Foodie Friday

There were six of us around the table today for lunch.Snowy white tablecloth, crisp linen napkins, delicious food and lots of noise.We giggled through the starter , mains, pudding and coffee .

The other diners (three tables of two) were probably slightly stunned by our rising voices, but what a lovely lunch.

The girls as I think of them (we'd all be prosecuted under the trades descriptions act if we were being advertised as such and I'm the youngest!)and I meet up once every few months or so. We're a disparate group, but Gill, Jill, Alanda, Kim, Lorna and I all got together years as ago through being on a fund raising committee for the British Red Cross. There's usually ten of us , so we may have been a smaller group today but we certainly weren't any quieter.

We were at Paul Leary, The Woodhouse in Woodhouse Eaves. A stylish restaurant decked out in shades of grey. Kim decided that she would only have two courses, I agreed ,but the others weren't so sure.

But when we saw the menu , we all pretty much decided there and then that three courses would be necessary. Having the will power of a gnat myself, I wasn't surprised.

Alanda and I had the mushroom risotto.I love risotto but am sometimes wary of ordering it as like Forest Gump says in the film about a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get.
What we did get was ....cue heavy breathing..rich flavours, great texture and a saucy richness which made me sigh.

I chose chicory tarte tatin,with polenta chips.choux farci and cointreau and orange reduction.

A pretty looking plate, perhaps the tarte tatin was a little too well done,but the polenta chips packed a punch and the orange and cointreau reduction added a welcome sweetness.I wish there had been more of it though.It may have been a reduction, but I just wished they hadn't reduced it by so much. Less may be more but for me, when it comes to sauces and gravy, more is more .

Then came the pudding.Alanda and I had both chosen the mango and passionfruit mousse with the coconut .It came in a glass.We looked at each other, tried a teaspoonful and then looked at each other and grinned.Like Monica does with Gregg Wallace on Masterchef on BBC 2,and then you know the chef is doing ok.

Ok, imagine intense fruit flavours...mangoes and passionfruit...clean, zingy flavours that make you wake you up plus the unctous coconutty richness... with a hint of coriander.That's the sort of flavour that says Hello! I'm here...

At that point I was prepared to kidnap the chef. Abduct him and order him at gunpoint to bring all the ingredients for the risotto and pudding into my car and I would drive off into the sunset.Then make him cook for me...in private.

Unfortunately that wasn't an option, so I settled for a coffee,with accompanying chocolate and hazenuts pralines and turkish delight, said goodbye to the girls and drove off .

The track for today is what I listened to on the way home to darkening skies at just before 4pm. Angus and Julia Stone...who I saw live in Freo ,Western Australia two years ago.The title..."Mango tree" Damn, I knew I should have kidnapped the chef.....

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

days of signs....

Have you ever felt that you were being pushed into something? I don't mean physically and I don't mean being bullied into anything.No, I'm talking about signs, portents,indications of something important about to occur.

I feel like that at the moment...that I'm being pushed towards fate. Oh, doesn't that sound melodramatic? Like an old film when the plot is going to go into overdrive, the violins start screeching away.- signalling madly THAT SOMETHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN!

Don't worry, i'm not hearing things, but I've got a feeling.....

Once upon a time, there was a journalist who wrote a novel for young adults. When I say once upon a time, it was a while back. She finished the novel...with lots of encouragement from lots of writer friends....but never did anything with it.She merely put it away in a box...and carried on with her busy life.

That was me, but out of the blue, a few months ago my writer friend Liz suggested that I get out the novel, have another look at it and perhaps send it off somewhere.

I said I would. I found the old hard copy, had a quick look ,but in the intervening years, with changes of computers etc, I'd lost my digital copy.I did nothing.

Last month, another friend , children's author Ros suggested that I meet up with some other children's writers. I did, and listening to them talking about their latest books , I felt a stirring. I wanted to do this...I wanted to write again.

Last week, Ros couldn't go to the Society of Children's book writers and illustrators conference in Winchester.She asked me if I would like to go in her place. I did.

I went with two other children's writers Pippa and Alex for two packed days of workshops and discussions about children's publishing today.There were lots of laughs and so much talent about.....and I came away absolutely inspired. Both by the conference and the genuine camaradie there...and by Pippa and Alex on the road trip there and back.

I still can't believe what happened today though.Cue the sound of violins - very loud violins.

Sitting in my jammies with a cup of coffee at the computer before going to work, I was having a chat on facebook with another friend Lesley who lives in Somerset.

After the usual catching up natter, I mentioned that I went to Winchester (Lesley is another writer friend who also happens to make rather gorgeous jewellry)and she immediately asked me about my book, even though we haven't spoken of it for years.She urged me to send it off....and then ...here comes the killer moment for me ... said...completely out of the blue....I've got a copy of that on my hard drive.

Flummoxed and flabbergasted, I watched the copy arrive in my inbox moments later. Now if that isn't a bloody sign,I'd like to know what is. I'm not fanciful, but this has got to be more than coincidence.
So to Liz, Ros, Pippa , Alex and Lesley - thank you...all of you.Guess what I'll be doing this weekend?

Watch this space.....

tonight's track is "Every day I write the book." A fab song that I haven't heard for ages...I like this slow pared down version...I also like the 1983 version too but watching the old videos of it are excruciating.So here for you...elvis is making an appearance on my blog .At least, Elvis Costello is...

Thursday, 17 November 2011

A foody friday

(but a little early)

Close your eyes.. Imagine you're in the kitchen. A warm , wintery, fuggy kitchen .Inhale. The sweetness of roasted tomato, the pungency of garlic, the sheer summery tang of basil, and the seductive plummy whoosh of red wine.

That's my kitchen as I come to the end of the tomato season.As I've said on an earlier post, the tomatoes were late to ripen, and most of them have had to turn red on the windowsills.The first ones basked in the sun rather smugly I thought, but within days, more were jostling for pole position in direct sunlight.

I'm sure they were breeding, they seemed to multipy - there wasn't one single windowsill in the cottage free of them and an alarming amount decided to ripen all at once.

Lycopene is supposed to be very good for you...so I 'm feeling very virtuous at the moment. And versatile..At least when it comes to cooking tomatoes.....

Two of the simplest ways to use lots of them up have been the tastiest according to the gang of four (the rest of my family)

Roasted tomato with basil...

Place sliced tomatoes in a ceramic dish, overlapping each other.
Tuck some fresh basil leaves in between them.
Throw a glug of exra virgin olive oil over them, add salt and black pepper and grate some parmesan cheese over the top.Wang in the oven at 190 degrees fahrenheit or gas mark 5 for about 20 - 25 minutes.

As the meerkats would say - SIMPLES! (It's an ad campaign in the UK , fronted by meerkats who talk , for those of you who are wondering what the hell I'm talking about.)

I've also been making quite alot of pasta sauce to put in the freezer...again , so simple to make, and it's a firm family favourite.

A gutsy tomato sauce

First of all line a roasting pan or baking sheet with aluminium foil. Cut about 10- 12 tomatoes in half , put on the foil cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil.

Wrap a small bulb of garlic (do not skin) in aluminium foil and place in the middle of the tomatoes.
Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes.Throw the tomatoes into a liquidiser, squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins , add them to the food processor and then add a third of a glass of red wine, and about 6 or 7 basil leaves..Whizz into a thick sauce.

Job done. That's it. As the children used to say easy peasy, lemon squeezy!
And you will have the gutsiest, garlicky sauce which you can simply pair with your favourite pasta and top with parmesan.

Or, sometimes I saute courgettes , mushrooms and peppers and add to the sauce, or add mince.

There are just a couple of caveats when making this sauce.

The first is , don't add too much red wine. Difficult I know.But with this sauce if you do add too much wine, and I have in the past, it makes the sauce too thin and looks unappetising. Unless you're a vampire that is....

Secondly, do remember to make sure the lid of the liquidiser is firmly on. I didn't (only once mind you, and it was the first time I made it) and the kitchen looked like a crime scene. A little tomatoey pasta sauce , like blood, goes a long way!

And the the last caveat....do not eat this sauce if you 're going out on the pull. You will have liked eating this sauce, but those you may kiss at the end of the night won't.Especially if they are vampires...

So what have I done with the rest of the tomatoes that I simply can't eat this week?


Today's track.....nothing to do with tomatoes whatsoever! Just one of my favourite songs,from an amazing album...and as I sit in the kitchen ., on my favourite wicker chair with a glass of wine, this is playing.....

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

days when what goes around comes around...

What goes around comes around.....it's a phrase you hear quite often. I've been thinking about this saying quite alot recently.In both a good way and a bad way....

Shall we concentrate on the positive first? Last week, a bag of apples was at my desk...a present from Herdle, one of the presenters at work. A lovely tasty present that I made into an apple crumble.

At work yesterday I was told there was a certain something waiting for me in a pigeon hole. Now that interested me...something I wasn't expecting...and the very phrase "a certain something" was laden with promise.It conjured up visions of something serendipitous. Well, the very wording....it wasn't going to be something horrible was it?
It wasn't...a rather lovely bottle of merlot from a gardening expert and friend of mine.Why the wine? I couldn't honestly think....but then I realised why.

I had a ticket to go and see the wonderful Kasabian the other week...ah kasabian, I've followed them for years....

Well in the end , it was rather hectic at work.Should I go to the gig and return to work and work into the wee hours ? That was the plan until I heard Ady really wanted to go, so no contest. I've seen the band many times.Since before their first single soared into the charts.So this evening I've been drinking a glass or two of red wine...and yes, you've guessed, I'm listening to Kasabian.

They say everything , like buses, come in threes.So last night I had an email from my dear friend Ros.She'd booked to go to a writers conference this weekend in Winchester. She couldn't now make it, would I like her weekend ticket? Gratis. Would I? Do bears poo in the woods?

Now that's what I call what comes around goes around.I'm absolutely overwhelmed by Ros's generosity...and I just know that something wonderful will wing its way out of the ether to her very soon.

Now before you reach for the sick bag at such a luvvy post, I also firmly believe that similarly , vicious, spiteful people will also be on the receiving end of what goes around comes around....

I'm thinking of the certain rugby player who played against my elder son two weeks ago. The player, who with only five minutes left in the game, kicked my son on the knee with such force his anterior cruciate ligament has been damaged, possibly beyond repair. (My son had already passed the ball.)
He's already had one operation on the same knee...now we don't know whether he will ever be able to play again.He's hobbling around on crutches until the swelling goes down and an operation can be performed.

As I said, I firmly believe what goes around comes around...and I think it will for that player....someday.

But the track for today? Let's get back to the positive shall we? Another beautiful blast from the past...for Ros....

Friday, 11 November 2011

A day of remembrance

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month

Such a sad day for so many...when millions of us think about the sacrifices made by so many in wars past and present. When we remember those who lie in a foreign land...

I always feel very emotional on this day every year.....and today the day is as depressingly dark and grey as I feel.

This is the view from my kitchen window at 2 o clock in the afternoon. 2pm- talk about matching my mood

My grandmother Annie was one of three children,the baby of the family, born years after her two older brothers.They both fought in the First World War. Percy, the youngest brother was a young lance corporal when he died in 1915 - he was 19 years old.

I know in which foreign field he lies, I have photos of his grave in France.There is also just one precious solitary photo of him shyly smiling into the camera, standing in uniform outside a military tent ,so heartbreakingly boyish.

Albert, her older brother died during the Second World War.He was a Major by now, wore a much smarter uniform, but it wasn't enough to save him.

Annie went on to have a girl and two boys too.One of them was my father Freddie who continued the family tradition - I have two brothers. One of them was only a teenager when he got caught up in the Falklands War.He was in the Royal Navy - he signed on to see the world for three years.He was coming back home across the Atlantic from the USA on his final trip when his ship was redirected down to the Falklands.

Instead of bringing out the bunting and hugging my brother...I didn't see him for nearly a year.A year of avidly listening to the news every day, waiting for his letters,and praying that I wouldn't have to face what Annie went through .Luckily I didn't....

But like my great grandmother, grandmother and father ....yes, you've guessed ..I have a girl and two boys.

And I hope with all my heart that they will never have to make the sacrifices that Annie, Percy and Albert made all those years ago.

Today's track? Not from the First or Second World War - it's an anti war song that defined a different generation from theirs...From 1970...Edwin Starr

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Days on death row

I love gardening in the sunshine. I was at the allotment this morning wearing sunglasses and weeding away around the leeks as the church bells started their Sunday song .

I'd planned to do much more but although it was a beautifully sunny day, it was a bit nippy and the soil felt cold against my fingers. I'd forgotten my gardening gloves , so instead I took down the canes supporting this year's borlotti beans.

I came back home and after a quick cup of coffee, I brought in these

some herb cuttings I potted up a few months back. Applemint, spearmint and rosemary just in case this really cold winter we've been promised kills off the rest in the herb patch.

I'm nervous of bringing them though...usually bringing in a potted herb plant,house plants or anything similar to put on the window sill is like condemning them to death row .
It's as if I give them the bloody kiss of death just bringing them in through the kitchen door It shouldn't be - they're looked after, fed , watered but do they appreciate such good treatment? Obviously not.....

There's been one exception this year..and that's a Waitrose basil plant.I bought him in March for £1.79 , have cut and snipped away ever since,and he's only just given up the ghost.I can't believe it - usually any supermarket herb I buy dies within days.

So why has this one lived way past the sell by date? Who knows- but he's been the best value basil plant ever. Yes the plant is a he...he had to be.Sharing my kitchen for so many months ,I named him - BB (for Best Basil)

But now,BB has gone to that great compost heap in the sky ,I've been back to the same supermarket and bought a replacement.

I'm hoping that this new plant will be as long lived as BB as there's lots of tomatoes which have ripened and need eating up.Basil and tomatoes - an award winning combination,and I've got a few delicious standbys I want to make .

Let's just hope the basil doesn't die first.....

And this post's track has to be Eric Clapton -Let it grow. You can all join in singing the chorus.....go on, you know you want to -for Basil.


Wednesday, 2 November 2011

A day of anticipation

I can't help this feeling I got....I've been like it for a few days.I'm fidgety,or antsy as they say in America.
I like that saying...I really do feel as if I've got I've ants in my pants -i can't settle or concentrate.

But there's also the most delicious sense of anticipation....my youngest son is coming home. I've not seen him for a year.That's twelve long months..and I can't wait to see him. Last year he was at school...now he's coming home from Australia.

He's been working in Freemantle for nine months and three months on various farms in Mildura near Melbourne.He's learnt how to prune citrus and olive trees, drive a minibus, he's developed pecs and muscles, and he's changed, grown up.

I can't wait to see this new incarnation of my youngest.He's flying in tomorrow to Heathrow Airport
Of course we've phoned, facebooked, and skyped...but it's been hard to say goodbye after skyping sessions, blowing kisses at a face on a screen .Tomorrow he's going to get the biggest, longest hug and kiss from me.I have warned him ...and I may cry...but hey, I'm his mother.

My daughter and eldest son are coming home later this weekend too...so it's going to be great having us all around the kitchen table once again.The youngest has asked for one of his favourite meals to be cooked....lamb cooked in red wine, with mushrooms, peppers,snd carrots.Roast potatoes and peas on the side, followed by apple crumble.He shall have it!

With all of them back home it's going to be noisy, there'll be music blaring out from every room,lots of their friends will pop in, I'll trip over all the huge boat like trainers on the kitchen floor. My husband and the boys will be talking sport, sport and more sport and my daughter and I will escape somewhere for a girly chat .

I can't wait.It's less than 24 hours away,I've waited a year...so why is now time dragging so slowly?

On the other hand , it doesn't seem long since I took him to one of his first gigs....just the two of us.Razorlight (remember them?) were appearing, it was an over eighteens gig - he was eleven.I was reviewing the band so he was let in. A small place with just room for about three hundred people , it was heaving....hot, sweaty, packed and atmospheric. It was too loud at the front for my son,but being so small he couldn't see a thing at the back.The next thing the roadies picked him up and stood him on the merchansise table.He had the best view in the house and loved it.

That was nine years ago. It seems like yesterday....now I'm just waiting for tomorrow.

This post's soundtrack has to be Razorlight- I can't stop this feeling I've got.


Friday, 28 October 2011

Love apple days...

They took a long time to germinate,then pots of pots of them took over the dining room until the danger of frosts was over, and I've been a watering and a spoiling them ever since.

I'm talking tomatoes..little ones(cherry), mediumsized ones (roma) and some larger ones but I haven't a clue what they are as I did a swap with my mate Keith in our village. I grew most of them at my allotment but kept all the little cherry tomatoes here in the courtyard at home.

Those were the first to ripen...one by one, they took their time..and every morning I looked eagerly outside the kitchen window to check how they were doing.

The allotment tomatoes grew well enough,a few turned orange and red,so I whisked them smartly into the kitchen to be sliced,and have olive oil,black pepper basil leaves thrown over them.

The rest of them have been obstinate little devils - refusing to ripen, like teenagers kicking their heels....and shouting "No! Won't!"
As with teenagers sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind....with a cold frost forecast last week they all were all taken off the tomato plants, before they died.

Since then , I can't see any of my windowsills...the tomatoes are lying in the sunshine there, finally turning colour.They're the ones in pole position for the race to ripen.

I'm having to help the less fortunate ones...I've taken this lot out to bask in the sun today.

I was going to make a rich sauce with some of them today but as it's such a beautiful day here, I've decided to make one last summer tomato tart.

It's a recipe I've loved and cooked for years... by the wonderful Tamsin day Lewis.She makes tartlets but I like to see a big tart...

Tomato , camembert and herb tart


1 tbspn Dijon mustard
A large shortcrust pastry case - prebaked
100gm Gruyere or parmesan cheese
8 -10 firm ripe tomatoes, thinly slcied
1 whole camembert , quatered and thinly sliced
6 tbspn olive oil
2tspn finely chopped fresh thyme
1 tspn fennel seeds
2 garlic cloves
salt, pepper

How to make

1.Heat the oven to 190 C (375)F Gas 5 and put a baking sheet in the oven to pre heat...this will keep the pastry base crisp

2.Spread the mustard thinly over the pastry base then sprinkle with the gruyere or parmesan/Arrange overlapping slices of tomatoes, then a row of slices of camembert, another torow of tomatoesetc

3.Put the oil in a small bowl, add the thym,me, fennel seeds, adn crushed garlic.Brush the tomato and camembert slices and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

4. Bake the tarts on the hot baking sheet until golden and bubbling - it only takes about 25 minutes.

5.Serve hot, warm , or at room temperature...I prefer warm.

One last reminder of summer....

The soundtrack for today's post was going to be something else....but in view of the pounds and pounds of tomatoes here , it's got to be Paul Simon - 50 ways to leave your lover.
Only I'm singing 50 ways to cook tomatoes at the top of my voice alongside the chorus.Go on , try it....it fits!You may get some odd looks who cares? The sun is shining!And this is such a snazzy version.....

Sunday, 23 October 2011

rugby days

I don't know about you, but I'm exhausted.
I've spent a weekend watching rugby -one game having a slightly more higher profile than the other though.....

Yesterday's game was in Leicestershire where my elder son won man of the match scoring 17 points. Standing on the sidelines, squinting in the sunshine and feeling elated as he ran and scored a try, feeling frightened as I saw him at the bottom of heap of tangled bodies on the ground....and relieved at the end when he came off the pitch without being injured.

Being a rugby mum isn't easy - that queasy feeling of anticipation, pride and worry never goes away no matter how many matches I watch my son play.

Watching the Rugby world cup over the last few months has been a completely different ball game altogether.Sitting in front of the telly cheering on England , shouting at the referee ,jumping up for joy when we scored. screaming in frustration when we lost...it's been addictive but relatively pain free.

And this morning , it's been a joy to watch New Zealand play France .There's been blood,guts and a primeval pleasure watching thirty athletes at their physical peak ,who are primed and pumped for 80 minutes of gladatorial action.
Running , tackling , rucking, mauling ,these are what I call real men....not the poncy metrosexuals who waft around a pitch for 90 minutes chasing a round ball, who cry and throw themselves on the ground when another player comes near.

Quite a few of my friends are now converts to the more beautiful game - and it's the men who've converted them. Their pecs and abs defined in the tight fitting rugby shirts , their height,strength ,power and sheer physicality
are attracting my friends' attention - no matter what team they play for.
The French team may have lost this morning,but in a quick straw poll amongst the girls, the French were fitter in more ways than one.(Rougerie,Dusatoir and Szarzewski warranting special attention).

The world cup is over for another four years, but in the meantime I think I can persuade my friends to start coming down to watch the Leicester Tigers with me at Welford Road. A superb rugby team, who'll supply enough drama, testosterone and players in their prime of physical perfection to keep them entertained until 2015.

Today's soundtrack has to be Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple -an old song but it gets me going as the Tigers come out onto the pitch at every home game.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

thinking of the days

To be fair, I don't quite know what I'm doing or why I'm here.

I'm talking about the blogging world and not real life -although come to think of it...no, no, I think I''ll be ok.

But back to blogging - it's true I don't know what I'm doing technically.I'm about as useful as a gnat's whatsit when it came to following instructions on blogspot.com .Setting this up has not been straightforward and I've found many new words I don't understand like link fields and float alignments.They mean nothing to me, but I've been saying the word "bollocks" alot...now, that's a word I know well.

SO why am I here?

Well, I love reading other people's blogs - all these windows on others' worlds that delight, entertain and intrigue.You could call me a blogging tart as I read blogs about gardening, self sufficiency, writing,music, beachlife - you name it, I'll read it.

But who will read this? I have no idea. What will I write? I don't know yet, anything that tickles my fancy I suppose.

In my working world I'm a journalist, I appear on radio and give talks. I'm really nosy so I get to go to some places others don't and I get to meet such interesting people.So this blog "thinking of the days" will reflect those, and also the days I spend doing what I love and being with the people I love.

Oh, and music.I can't not write about music - the tracks I adore,and the bands I see .

So,here we are...first blog nearly complete.But not quite....the soundtrack to this first blog has to be "Days " by the Kinks.

"Thank you for the days
Those endless days, those sacred days you gave me
I'm thinking of the days
I won't forget a single day, believe me.......
Here's a lovely version of the song performed at Glastonbury last year

So here we are.....hello!