Friday, 31 August 2012


Two years ago I stumbled upon my own personal Holy Grail of beachcombing on Breton sands.  It was the first sea urchin shell that I’d ever found in my entire forty five odd years on this planet.  Unwisely I gifted it to Louis and within a day or two it was broken beyond the scope of a repair by Superglue.  I reasoned that the fragility of these structures must be part of the reason, along with their comparative rarity, that they’re not a more common find.

So, we’ve been on  a mission during our coastal excursions to find a replacement with no success until yesterday.  Lo and Behold!,  we found ‘Spike’ minding his own business in a deep-ish pool amongst the rocks at Lesconil, the nearest beach to our campsite.   Unfortunately he wasn’t too taken with the idea of us keeping his exoskeleton as a souvenir as he needs its protective properties to stay alive.  But he did acquiesce  and allow us to gently lift him  temporarily from his watery home and take a mugshot.   Maybe this is a better memento of a trip than a lifeless piece of calcite.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Yee Haa! My Little Star!

It’s been a bit of a while since I’ve posted about Louis’ specific learning difficulty. I am still trying to get my head around how to deal with his diagnosis which has confirmed that  problems that he has within the domains of dyslexia, dyspraxia, attention, planning and auditory memory weren’t  just figments of my imagination.

Louis’ school has been given an excellent seal of approval by Ofsted.   As other parents have commented, it’s ideal for  compliant, sporty children, those that seem to be  in the majority in the middle class catchment area that it serves.  But it doesn’t suit my son who must present a  challenge to a class teacher with thirty odd kids in their care.  I’m well aware, from the dressing and teeth cleaning debacle that takes place most mornings that my intelligent, inquisitive lad’s attention start to wander and his  behaviour can deteriorate as soon as he’s presented with a task that doesn’t sufficiently grab his attention.  However those difficulties aren’t deemed severe enough to warrant any kind of special needs status.

I’m a klutz myself, and indeed someone who in all likelihood would have been diagnosed as dyspraxic  myself had the condition been around in Essex in the 1970s.  As such I’ve felt sport in school, with its emphasis on team games and athletic prowess, sets us nerdy, wimpy kids up for failure.  P.E. teachers, who let’s face it, are Jocks themselves, want to focus on nurturing those kids who can win the inter-school competitions with the kudos that goes with that.  So, let’s coach the aspiring Beckhams and Bolts and leave the less able throwing a bean bag around at sports day.  No wonder we have a ever increasing problem with obesity when children aren’t encouraged to develop a love of physical activity that might not involve winning.

It  feels that I’m taking the task of helping Louis attain a sense of accomplishment from sporty stuff which involves motor skills  into my own hands.  I encourage him to be proud of his prowess on his bike and  scooter.  As my regular readers are aware we do lots of outdoor ‘stuff’ together.  And I’ve thrown a bit of money at the dyspraxia problem with good effect.  A little bit of private coaching last year  gave Louis a kickstart he needed to develop the potential to be an pretty nifty skier when he’s older.  It’s all stuff that will keep him fit, engaged and on the straight and narrow.   A reasonably cheap investment I feel when its potential benefits for later life are considered.

Yesterday, Louis found he had a hidden talent as a lasso-ist.  He took to this swirly-whirly skill like a duck to water and got to perform at last night’s circus at the camp.  There was extra brownie points from me as he saved us money by winning a free ticket for his efforts.  Hearty thanks to the folk at Cirque Dumas for giving my  son a rare chance to  show off his own special gifts and shine!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Thought for the Day: Getting Set and Going Away

Before motherhood, annual leave was used to participate in a maelstrom of activities, trekking in the mountains  and getting caught out by unpredictable weather fronts being the main one.  I’ll never forget on the ‘Tour de Mont Blanc’ when we left Switzerland in shorts and  prematurely ended the day making an emergency descent in a blizzard!  One day when I’ve persuaded my son to like hiking or when he’s flown the nest I’ll don my backpack and set off on foot for some more wilderness adventures.  For I am really a female Bear Grylls, except I don’t give myself enemas on dodgy looking rafts.

But at the moment my holidays are much more sedate affairs - a bit of gentle cycling, swimming, reading, kipping and the occasional trip to a tourist attraction.   Oh! and there’s a lot of waiting around whilst Louis plays with newly acquired friends.   But hang on!  I live on the edge of Dartmoor, just a short drive from Devon’s beautiful coastline with a wealth of things to do on my doorstep.  It begs the question.  Couldn’t I just save myself an absolute packet and holiday in my well equipped home instead where I don’t have to be inventive and cook with two pans on two rings?

The short answer is a resounding NO!  Allegedly there’s gypsy blood in me so that may be the reason why the urge to travel is so strong.  But I think it’s really that I couldn’t abdicate responsibility for all the routine things to do in my own house.  Read four books in a fortnight?  Not when there’s a pile ironing  or long grass nagging away.  I have to go away to make myself stop and slow down.  Putting distance between Lovelygrey Cottage and myself allows me to forego my domestic goddess tendencies, have a bit of fun and gather those important thoughts that have limited time to come to the forefront in my normal hurly-burly life.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Anyone for Lapin?

One of the things that Louis wanted to do on this holiday was try different foods.  Don’t let that kid you into thinking that he isn’t a fussy eater.  Believe me, like most children there’s plenty of pernickety-ness in evidence. Not only is there loads of stuff that  he refuses to  eat but his likes and dislikes change in tandem with his underpants.  And that’s often whilst he’s living under my roof.

So,  I’ve been stretching his gastronomic repertoire with mixed, and sometimes surprising, success.  I thought he’d love florentines given that chocolate and nuts are among his staples but they were rejected.  However the paté-like rillettes of scallops and red mullet, bought directly from a god-like producer whom I’d marry purely for his culinary skills even if he looked like Shrek (which he didn’t!), were hoovered up.  Two varieties of nem from a street food stall in Concarneau market went down a treat in spite of having been bought for my own lunch.  I suppose the cosmopolitan out there will know that these are Vietnamese pancake rolls but such oriental delights  haven’t yet reached us straw suckers from Devon.  Chicken tikka massala is still quite a novelty!!

And from the kitchen of Lovelygrey came pan fried  duck breast fillets and then sauté potatoes cooked in the rendered fat the next day.  Both of these got the thumbs up from my own little Egon Ronay.   The one pot rabbit with tarragon, lemon andgarlic adapted from my Camper Van Cookbook by Martin Dorey,  a charity shop find, wasn’t so well received.   It’s featured in today’s picture that took just twenty minutes to download.  We’re experiencing the frontiers of technology at this spot, I can tell you!

Now, I  heartily beg to differ with my son.  It was totally delicious even though I deviated from the original recipe, replaced shallots with sliced onions, added a carrot to boost our five a day count and found out that rosé, being all I had in the fridge, is perfectly acceptable for white as a cooking wine.

The French seem to have a much higher regard for this meat that isn’t common fayre for us Brits.  It was much more expensive than I’d imagined that eating an animal, commonly regarded as vermin, would be.   For grown ups out there who haven’t got an aversion to feasting on Bugs, Hazel, Thumper, Jessica and the rest of their mates I’d urge you rustle up this easily prepared pot of yumminess and try it for yourselves. 

Monday, 27 August 2012

Chocolate Willy Anyone?

Well, I’d hoped to present you with a picture of the magnificent anatomically correct specimen attached to a lion that we spotted  in a confectioner’s shop in Concarneau.  Completely crafted from Lovelygrey’s favourite sweet stuff of course.  Sacre Bleu!  Thank your lucky stars that my shot of the leonine 83% cocoa jubblies came out blurry so you’re spared those blushes.

So what shall I show you instead that will tempt you to this wonderful town with its fortified heart that I  am happy to return to again and again?  There’s endless beautiful beaches in the environs, a great market on Mondays and Fridays,  lovely shops and an aire de camping car to die for, right by sports facilities and the sea on a wooded promontory at Porzou about a mile from the centre.  It doesn’t come much better.

As I said the other day the freezer is stacked with multi-pack desserts to keep our costs down but that doesn’t mean that the art of the glacier is by-passed altogether.  For two days in a row we succumbed to excellent  sugar cones and enjoyed it whilst listening to the sound of Micamac. These  extraordinarily skilled musicians site themselves just within the citadel walls, yards from a glacerie.  I understand that they’ve been a bit of a feature for a few summers past so if your family holiday brings you to these parts you may well catch them.  Even if folksy type of music is not your bag it’s well worth hearing the interesting interpretation of Irish crooning by an out and out Breton bloke.  As well as songs from the homeland of Guinness, these chaps play  an eclectic mix of Breton, Andean and ancient music on a range of instruments that  include a good few which seem to have been  crafted from garden canes.  And surprisingly good it sounds too.  If you can’t get to the westernmost reaches of France to check out Micamac and the ices yourselves, get a Magnum out of the freezer and follow the link here to see if these minstrel types from this ultimate seafaring community float your boat.

For a few years, I’ve noticed that holidays let me listen to what’s going on in my head and my heart. What I’ve found I’ve had a chance to be still that’s been rumbling on in the background whilst I’ve been working, making a new home and dealing with everyday stuff isn’t entirely comfortable.    

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Dirt Cheap Data Download Solution!

Well, it’s been a week and I’m now back to the land of connectivity in a campsite with free, albeit sluggish and unreliable, Wi-fi.  Download speed here mean you'll only get one picture each post from here!  Here's Louis on our very own beach on the Ile de Batz.  This little ditty  was prepared on Saturday but may not been published until Sunday or beyond, given the ropiness of the signal here.  Who would have thought five years ago that being without the Internet would have been such a big deal.

In my last post I said that I’d crack those high data charges when abroad and I most certainly have.  However, it’s not been done by finding the best deal that a European provider can sell me.  I’ve been visiting remote beautiful parts of Brittany where bakeries rather than phone shops are de rigueur.  It’s meant that I’ve had to go back in time, revisit my Luddite past and  do without the ability to communicate on a worldwide platform.  Instead I’ve read, sewn, swam in the sea, snoozed, cycled, beachcombed and trashed the nuts off Louis playing Top Trumps Sharks.   And my low tech solution has cost de nada, not a bean, b*gger all. That’ll go some way towards offsetting those sneaky creepy increases in food and fuel costs on Mainland Europe.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

A Break not a Blow Out

Later today Louis and I sail for Johnny Onionville, incidentally  one of our favourite places in Brittany, for the start of our fortnight long rip roaring holiday that I hope would make the Famous Five envious.  Lots of picnics, adventures and, of course, lashings of ginger beer from the underseat storage. Leftovers from our festival revels.   Even though money is way tighter than it used to be when I was married, travelling is the thing that I am most reluctant to forego.  In order to continue to experiencing different cultures I've got to keep the costs down.  Here's what I've planned to achieve that.
  • Although I'm travelling at a weekend in high season some  crossings on my beloved Brittany Ferries are cheaper than others.  I've saved a packet by not sailing at peak, peak rate prices and have chosen day crossings where I don't need a cabin.  An essential these days on night sailings I'm afraid as I've turned into a right Walter Softy.  Those days of recliner seats or sleeping under tables in public areas, whilst as frugal as frugal can be, are long gone.
  • There's been no new holiday wardrobe .  I'll make do with what I've got already.  After all I'm going to be meeting a whole load of strangers who've never seen me in my old clothes before!
  • We're going to places where we make our own low cost entertainment.  Beaches, parks and attractions will all feature.  For the first week I'll be using those ubiquitous inexpensive or free aires for parking up the van, heading for old favourites and hopefully discovering some new ones on the way.
  • I'll be on a mission to cut mobile and data charges and will let you know how I get on with negotiating this overseas minefield.
  • I've used Flexicover travel annual insurance policies for years and shaved pounds off the prices charged by some of the better known companies.
  • I'm keeping my driving to a minimun and staying in Brittany to reduce diesel costs.
And you won't be surprised to hear that eating and drinking will play a big part in my holiday experience but to save the pennies I'll be:
  • Emptying the fridge at home before I go and taking what's left with me.  It'll cut the cost of our first shop and there'll be no nasty furry surprises waiting at home for me when I return.
  • Looking at my recipes books before I leave and choosing some tasty things to cook.  I'll tailor the store cupboard ingredients that I take accordingly.
  • Swapping eating out with trying food from local shops and markets for much of the time. I'm planning a seafood feast, rabbit and cassoulet to give Louis a taste of things that he's never tried before.
  • Buying packs of ice cream and putting them in the freezer rather than forking out regularly on expensive cones in glaceries.
  • Hanging on to the principle of using up leftovers.  After waste not, want not refers to times when I'm abroad as well as at home!

Friday, 17 August 2012

Keeping Afloat

I'm starting to feel all nautical in preparation for the ferry crossing at the start of the holiday in a couple of days time.  So to celebrate my fortnight long escape from the shackles of the NHS, healing the sick and all that, here's some bits of maritime inspiration.

Does anyone else out there subscribe to emails from Fab, the design website? As well as being an almighty source of temptation for shopaholics it's also quite inspirational for the artsy-crafty folk amongst us.  I was quite taken by Mini Modern's Whitby range of furnishings, wallpaper and homeware  featuring fishing boats that was featured a couple of weeks ago.  Fans of all things retro are urged to feast their eyes by following this link.

And  how about a nautical soundscape too? Eschew old favourites like  Rod Stewart's 'Sailing' and  try Freight Ships by Small Town Jones instead.  This bloke, who I suspect from his accent, hales originally from a similar part of the South East as myself, now lives in North Devon. I discovered him via a local BBC TV broadcast. making news by being given the honour of  playing for athletes in the Olympic village to help them chill out before their competitions.  His music is haunting stuff which is currently keeping me company as I zoom around those holidaymaker's bimbling around the lanes around here at the moment.  Don't they realise that some of us haven't got time to drive at 20mph staring at ponies.  We've got work to do!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Last of the Rogers?

Photo: Wilfried Wittkowsky
It's likely that this post may be entirely lost on most of my overseas cousins as slang  varies so much from country to country.  For example, to the bewilderment of my American friends I titter rather immaturely whenever they mention that the pastor of their church is called Randy.  It gets even better when they add his surname into the mix but to preserve his privacy and dignity  I'll keep this gentleman's full identity to myself.  After all, he's not to blame, if to English ears, his mother saw fit to give him a  name that seems far  more conducive to a gay pin up artist rather than the devout man of God that I'm sure he is.

My active little mind started ticking over yesterday after I'd read an article on the BBC website asking whether any recently born baby boys go by the once popular name of  Derek.  It got me thinking.  Does anyone dare christen their children Roger or Fanny anymore?

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Short and Sweet

On occasions, when life is busy, blogging has to be on the short sweet side.   So, here's a quick thought that I had yesterday.

Sometimes we'll do pretty stupid things in a hurry that seem to save time but then end up costing hours and hours at a later date.  I was operating on auto pilot whilst giving my bedroom a quick and superficial tidy. and I stuffed my favourite fleecy hat in the drawer where I keep the extra bedding.  Happily though I woke up and smelt the roses just in  time   A few extra seconds later and it was reinstated to its rightful storage place with my winter sports clothing.  Come ski season,  I'll now lay my hands on it immediately and won't have a massive and time consuming hat hut on my hands!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Blacksmith and the Tortoise

Today's title sounds like it's straight out of Aesop's Fables.   Goodness knows what the story would be like though.  Perhaps it would have something to do with the smithie forging tiny little shoes for his reptilian customer to give him a greater chance of competing on equal terms in the race with the hare.

Way back I asked where all the tortoises, that were so ubiquitous in my seventies childhood, had gone.  So it was delight that we discovered this breeding pair at love summer 2012 sharing the enclosure with the blacksmith. An entirely logical pairing of shell and steel.  These creatures aren't the cheap and cheerful pets that they once were.  The owners told us that the two of them cost £250, they have to be bred in the UK and you have to keep a licence to keep them. No wonder that Louis has never had the chance to handle one before or go foraging for their favourite food, a thick plantain-like grass.
Time for a another photo but before I change subject, let's talk a bit about tortoise sex.  We reckoned the male was a feeder as his 'wife' was about three times the size of himself.  Apparently he has been observed to mount her gingerly and then end his exertions with a satisfied squeak!

On that note we'll turn to the blacksmith and a example of his lovely work on the end of a poker. There was an owl too that Louis was rather taken with but seeing as this is my blog I can choose what I put on it!  I forgot to ask his name and have tried to find him on Google to no avail.  But if anyone out there stumbles across this and knows the blog who makes gates, owls and sheep let me know who he is and I'll be more than happy to give this nice guy a mention.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Hey Nana! I Want Some of These

My regular readers will be aware that both of Louis' Nanas are avid but surreptitious lovelygreyday blog readers. They stay firmly in the background, neither following publicly nor posting comments, but my online diary has brought them closer.

Respect for my elders is one of the reasons that my posts stay on the whiter of side of grey.  After all, you don't want your mum to know just how many porno films you've starred in.  I jest, of course, as there's no way I'd take my cosy clothing off and  bare my naked fat bits to an audience.

Nana and Mama Lovelygrey are multi-skilled women.  They both cook the type of wholesome good food that would make the Hairy Bikers groan with pleasure and throw their diets to the wind.  Take   Nana Lovelygrey's sponge topped stewed fruit as an example.  Drizzled with pouring cream it's a thing to behold. And Mama Lovelygrey, my own mum has all round creative abilities that are second to none.  She cooks, grows things, sews and likes to mess around with wood as I've shown here and here in previous posts.

Lou and I have been festivalling this weekend at love summer 2012, a teeny tiny do in the Devon countryside.  Now no gathering of this type is complete without someone teaching wholesome circus skills and we got to grips with stilt walking.  I have to say that for a klutz, I'm pretty good at it.

Anyway, Louis phoned Nana just after this picture was taken to ask her if she could make a pair of stilts for him that are EXACTLY the same as the ones in the photo including the Rastafarian paint job.  Can you rise to the challenge Mama Lovelygrey? xxx

Sunday, 12 August 2012


Popping corn has got to be one of the  food bargains of all time, currently  89p for a half kilo bagful in Sainsburys.  As it's super quick to prepare, in about the time it takes for me to harangue Louis to put his shoes and coat on for school,  it's become a lunchbox staple prepared just before I head out of the door each morning. Whilst its calorie count per serving is on a par with crisps there's much more fibre and anti-oxidants in this wholegrain snack.

You really don't need a fancy pants popcorn maker cluttering up the kitchen. just a good old multi-purpose saucepan.  I use a tiny bit of  rapeseed oil to 'aid thermal transmission' and add a handful of kernels.  Then, this is the important bit so pay attention.  Put the lid on.  Otherwise you'll have an unholy mess as those enthusiastic cereal grains come to life and start jumping out of the pan.  After a couple of minutes or so, you'll here them propelling themselves upwards, trying to make the great escape.  You can view what's going on in their by following the link here.  Give the pan a couple of shakes and once all has gone silent it's time to take a peek.  Then I shake in just a little salt and transfer to a lunch tub.  The whole lot is normally gone before I've drunk my first cup of tea in the office!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Double Tena, Knicker Wettingly, Exciting Upcycling!

I recall in the past saying I wasn't going to show you any half completed projects anymore. But to hell with it! I'm going back on my word. It's not as if I'm a reformed armed robbery going back to crime after all.  Work in progress so far has only involved peeling a few stickers off this old eye testing equipment, so that hardly counts.  Does it?

Under the back staircase at work has provided rich recycling pickings for me and my magpie-like colleagues in the mental health team.  It's where things that have been deemed past their sell-by date accumulate until there's enough rubbish for the hospital to hire a skip.  Barbie Nurse has had a couple of metal trolleys and a coffee table and the Master of Love snaffled two wardrobes when twenty three of these solid wood beauties were just about to be turned into firewood.  Needless to say, I saved one from imminent death too.  It can be spotted, perked up and painted in my 'Big Boy Bedroom Makeover' post.  They were disposed of on the grounds that they were wooden and therefore a hygiene risk to life and limb. I'm firmly of the believe that a little dirt never hurt anyone so ignored the comment, from a  person who will remain nameless.  They gave the opinion that given its provence, it was highly probable that some  poor confused psychiatric patient had peed in it!

After seeking permission, of course, I've had a couple of trolleys which have been useful for tool storage, a wheeled table (more work in progress!), a bin,  a low level cupboard and this, my most recent find -  a thing of beauty!  Or is that saying about this being in the eye of the beholder correct?  It's in full working order and the only thing wrong is that one of the lettering plates is cracked.  Nothing that some judicious gluing won't put pay to.

As I am so truly thrilled by my find I don't think that it'll be long before it's transformed.  I'm going to saw off part of its supporting pole as it's a bit high at the moment.  Then with the aid of a couple of cans of black Hammerite paint, some new eco-bulbs and maybe a funky new monochrome flex, it's going to be transformed into a must have object that will make any doubting Thomases out there green with envy!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Crushing Puppies

Whoah! - hold it there animal lovers!  There's no need to let your heckles rise to the point where you're compelled to get on the phone to the RSPCA. No animals were in the vicinity, let alone being hurt, whilst I was writing this post.  The puppies that I refer to are the perky pair attached to my torso and yesterday they were subjected to their first routine mammogram.

Those wise old women, who are older than I,  relish telling horror stories about this procedure to us youngsters.  So much so, I was convinced that my breasts were going to be squished down until they  resembled the consistency, depth and colour of   those corn fritters that I made the other day. After this  sadistic process it seemed inevitable that  I was going to need the strongest analgesia that I could persuade the pharmacist in Asda to sell me.  In fact the squashing  action was much less severe than those drama queens had me believe,  I'd say the plates were tightened so that they were  just about the height of a rather generous burger bun apart.  Although there was a  bit of discomfort lasting a few hours afterwards, I felt  no need to reach for the pots of painkillers at any stage.  

Now like Danny Boyle , I'm a big fan of the NHS.  After all it pays my wages and possibly saved my life last year.  It's easy to applaud those who're so visible on the  frontline who're there in a crisis when we need them.  Today I'm also showing my appreciation for all those unsung, proactive, good souls, like my radiographer today, who've carried out  preventative work during my lifespan.  To the nurses who've given me painful jabs and healthchecks, the dental folk who've cleaned, polished and X-rayed my teeth and health visitors and midwives who set me on the path of being a reasonable-ish mum, I salute you!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Onerous-less Ironing!

A while back I wrote about how I'd had a change of heart about the once loathed task of ironing and I'd made it more enjoyable by adapting the way that I do the task in true occupational therapist style.  Now in my new home I've made it even more stress free and I thought I'd demonstrate with an annotated photo.  Excuse the childish hand.  This illustration represents one of my first tries at playing with a graphics pad and drawing package.  It's not yet brought out my inner Leonardo da Vinci.

  1. You'll note that my ironing board is set to a low height.  There's no rule in the universe that says that you have to waste energy and do the job standing up!
  2. I've got a comfy seat.  Yes, it's a  Lloyd Loom that needs a makeover.   But it's not one that I acquired whilst recently kitting out the house.   Me and it go back a long way.  I loaned it to Nan when I was a child after she'd had a stroke and suffered hemi-paresis that she never recovered from.  Rumour has it that she died in this self same chair but that doesn't give it an aura of spookiness or anything. Nan's probably far too busy in the next life keeping Grandad under control to have time to come back and haunt me!
  3. There's a giant cup of tea for sustenance.  Sometimes this can be a glass of wine or beer if I'm in the mood for something a tad stronger.
  4. I keep a full jug of water nearby so I'm not constantly running out for refills for the reservoir.
  5. I plonk my laptop on a little folding table that's usually kept behind the wardrobe and catch up with online TV whilst smoothing my smalls!   There's a subconscious rule that this is a time for light entertainment and even total tripe at times.   This week's offerings that soothed the horror of an overflowing washing basket was of relatively high quality compared to some of the muck that I've thoroughly enjoyed.  There were two episodes of  the zany US comedy New Girl and the Hairy Dieters who've given me a great idea of what to do with the leek in my fridge.  
  6. The knicker, T shirt and trouser drawers are within reach so things can be put away as I go along.
  7. Ditto the wardrobe where my skirts, dresses and outdoor gear live.
  8. That leaves the bed, that is right behind me,  free for Louis' freshly pressed clothes and airing cupboard stuff that can be put away after the task is done and dusted.
Now here's a little exercise for you lot out there.  Take a household task that you loathe and see how you might change it so it's a mite more pleasurable!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Veg Box Tales: Corn Fritters

Am I the only person out who gets excited about the contents of their veg box.  Discovering those seasonal goodies is just as rewarding for a forty seven year old as finding out what was in my  Christmas pillowcase at the age of ten.  And this week I was truly thrilled as sweetcorn is back!  To celebrate its return I thought I'd do something special with my two ears.  The cobs of corn that is and not the ones attached to my head.  So, inspired by those naked people  that I stumbled upon a few days ago.  I thought that I'd rustle up some fritters.  Mine though didn't come from this website but is based roughly on an ancient but still useful cookbook from the eighties, Vegetarian Meals by Rosamund Richardson,  one of the collection that I used to pick up in Sainsburys along with my bananas.  Vegans, look away!  This version contains dairy and eggs - and I cooked them with my clothes on.

Here's those lush beauties fresh out of the veg box.  I took off their papery coats, held them vertically on my chopping board and ran a knife down to release those delicious kernels.

The result....a load of corn nibs and a rectangular thing that looks a bit like a loofah that can be thrown on the compost heap if you have one.

For each cob's worth of corn add an egg,  a tablespoon of flour and a dash of milk.  Oh! and seasoning of course.  Whizz just for a little.  What you'll end up with is a sloppy mix like this.  Don't fear.   All will be well!

Heat a little oil in a frying pan and add spoonfuls of the mixture and cook on one side for a couple of minutes.  Don't be tempted to mess around with the little pools of slop in the pan too soon.  All well be well if you leave them for long enough before turning.  They stiffen up nicely and look like this.

Serve with....? Well, here I've diverted way off the vegan track.  There's a portabello mushroom with a scattering of cheese and some fried cherry tomatoes with cubes of chorizo. Yum!  I'm sure smaller versions would be lovely served as a starter with a chast meat, dairy and egg free dipping sauce as the recipe that first gave me the idea suggests!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Unconventional Use of Ordinary Objects

Think outside the box and throw those manufacturer's instructions for appliances to the wind!  I've written before about how the kitchen is stuffed full of craft tools and have also been known to dry shoes in the microwave and wash baseball caps in the dishwasher.  These little experiments into uncharted territory don't always work out. Be mindful of Brainiac before you go too far. The laws of physics and chemistry are universally applicable.  Nibs of fountain pens aren't robust enough to withstand the forces involved to lever open a walnut as Louis discovered a couple of years ago.

For obvious reasons I don't normally take pictures in  public toilets but just had to pull the camera from the bag when I popped into to the ones at Tavistock Bus Station last week.  Some health and safety officer must have had a vivid imagination.  Has anyone out there ever tried to light their cigarette from a hand drier?!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Posh Kid at a Wedding

Now I know that I am his mum and I know that makes me oh so biased but doesn't my lovely, lovely boy look incredibly smart and handsome here? Yesterday we spent a delightful day in rural Somerset at Crowcombe Court for the marriage of Louis' cousin Ben to the wonderful Sarah.  I would have liked to have posted loads more shots of this glorious day but, for some reason unknown to mankind, most of my pictures turned out to be cack!  Let's hope that someone else in attendance took some more inspiring shots.

So, instead of the pseudo-feature from 'Wedding' magazine that I'd planned, I'll do a thrifty kids occasionwear post instead.  It may come as a bit of a surprise but Louis doesn't dress like this very often. His usual activities, that seem to involve copious amounts of grubbing about in mud and muck, are not conducive to the suited and booted look at all.   Middle of the road high street stores all do their own versions of  formal wear for kids that would have kitted him out nicely but I balked at paying upwards of forty five pounds for something that's only likely to be worn once.

Ah! here's one of my few successful photos.  Don't you think that the far right carrot would make a wonderful snowman's nose in more chilly seasons?
Anyway I digress from the the point in question.  Ebay is brimming with outfits that young whippersnappers have probably  worn just once at weddings.  Looking though the current selection I think that I might have  paid over the odds for Louis' waistcoat and cravat, originally from Debenhams .  I 'won' these for £9 including postage costs and I reckon if I'd have held out for a better bargain I could have got away with a fiver.  Even so,  teamed with school uniform items totally £6.75  from Asda,  I managed to put together an outfit for at least a third of the price of  comparable ones from Marks and Spencer, Next, John Lewis and the like.  And of course, the trousers will come in very nicely for the impending autumn term!

Addendum:  I knew that  if I was patient Facebook would yield rich pickings and make up for my less than David Bailey like performance yesterday.  So here, mainly for Nana, Mama and Papa Lovelygrey who follow this blog incognito are the radiant bride and groom.....

....and my wonderful niece Charlotte and her fella Chris.  She's turned out okay considering that I  kicked her in the head on our first meeting. The moral of the story is, don't let accident prone would-be aunties try to teach toddlers how to do forward rolls!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

The World: My Oyster!

Photo: Riley Huntley
At the risk of repeating myself, it never ceases to amaze me just how much information is at my fingertips on the  glorious World Wide Web.  In celebration of this here's a taster of what I've discovered over the last week.

  • Now I knew that the hues of those lovely  hydrangeas, that are abundant at the moment indicate soil pH but I didn't realise that they are in constant disagreement with litmus paper.  For them, a blue flower indicates an acid soil.
  • Contrary to the beliefs of my work colleagues I'm not eccentric.  I have to say that I'm a little disappointed!
  • Facebook alerted me to the fact that a potentially wonderful store Social Fabric which will run creative workshops as well as selling fabric and stuff is soon to open in Totnes.
  • There's a Briton in Iraq who was tortured and unfairly tried.  Now he's been sentenced to fifteen years in prison after trial lasting a quarter hour.  I've signed Amnesty's petition to request his release
  • I dream of a house of my own.  This one at nearby Haytor would fit the bill nicely with its attached studio.  At £480,000 it's out of my price range and I'd have to win.....
  • Euromillions!  Even though I'm not a regular lottery player I'm considered playing for the 148 million Euro jackpot.  I could do a lot of good for myself, friends and family and yes, complete strangers with that kind of wonga.
  • My hose reel is misbehaving.  It's blocked and I still haven't found a solution. Still I know that others suffer similar angst over garden equipment!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Dedicated to Snobby Friend

Now the rather gorgeous Snobby Friend lurrrrves to shop and jolly good she is at it too!  She's always picking up rather beautiful things for her home and garden and her wardrobe is second to none.  No-one  could accuse her of being a bargain hunter though.  Her immaculately made up eyelashes do not even flicker, let alone bat twice, at the thought of buying something at its full price.

Being in an office of many like minded souls who often share thrifty tips must be rubbing off a little.  Last week she waltzed into the office with swathes of expensive cloth trailing from her body and announced proudly that she too is economising - in her own inimitable style of course!

'Mr SF made a list so he could cook lots of lovely recipes from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's Veg Book.  Then he went to Waitrose and our whole shop only came to eighty pounds!'

The jaws of Scary Secretary and I hit the floor with a thud and did so again a few minutes later when a realisation came to my esteemed typing whizzkid.

'And she's got an allotment!'  came the cry of disbelief from the other end of the office.

I thought that I might have persuaded Snobby Friend to try the cheaper  supermarkets a couple of years back after a Lidl vs. Waitrose cheese straw taste test  but the message clearly didn't sink in.  She insists she loves the ambience of the 'posher' gaff so I thought that I'd try again to demonstrate just how much more that she might be paying for her upmarket shopping experience.

On Monday I visited Lidl in Tavistock, mainly to stock up on lunch box essentials for Lou.  He's attending holiday club at the moment and he too might be getting ideas above his station as he's developed a penchant for cucumber sandwiches!

Anyway here's a list of the items that I bought and I compared the prices, as closely as possible to the Ocado website from whence home deliveries from Waitrose come.  I've doctored my shop a little.  Where I bought multiple items I've only shown one on my spreadsheet.   Also, to the best of my belief, Waitrose don't sell blackcurrant gum so I left that off.  And where there wasn't an exact match for an item I've substituted the nearest item - Waitrose cheapest butter for example and a different sized pack of Typhoo with the cost adjusted on a per teabag basis.

Shopping at the discounter saved me just under 28% on the cost of my total shop.  For that, I'll stomach a questionnably less pleasant shopping experience. Furthermore, the punnets of home ripening peaches at Waitrose are achieving reviews that only take them a smidgeon over 1 star out of five.  Mine from Lidl are absolutely lush!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Don't Curl Up Yet Spike!

Photo:  Lars Karlsson
Let's start this morning with a teeny tiny snippets of information about both the natural and virtual worlds.  I bet that you didn't know that there is a type of  hedgehog that goes by the name of the 'Algerian Black'.  Also the fact that Sonic, that trusty Sega favourite has a rather cool spiky mate of the same hue known as Shadow may have passed you by.   However, this chap, a baby of the common European variety, with his cutesy dark tipped nose is ideal for illustrating a mad idea that I've been formulating in my head over the last few days.

Now you'll be hard pressed to find me praising  Tory politicians but I take my hats off to Charles Walker who, in an effort to break the taboo around speaking about mental health problems, shared his experience of  living as 'a fruitcake' with  obsessive compulsive disorder and to  Sarah Wollaston who disclosed the severity of her bout of post natal depression.     Kevan Jones Labour MP who has suffered a bout of depression in the past also joined the debate and in the process showed solidarity with me, a fellow pinko leftie, who has also 'outed' myself about my own mental illness. Without my long term Citalopram I go from being carefree, perky and appreciative of all life has to offer  to nihilistic, paranoid, anxious and unproductive in a very short space of time.   Blow me how one small white pill can make so much difference but I assure you that it does!       I'm absolutely 100% certain that I should openly talk about this to dispel misguided stereotypes about what having mental illness means and demonstrate how, in spite of a diagnosis, I'm living a extraordinarily fulfilling and wonderful life, thank you very much!

It's commonly known that another Conservative MP,  Winston Churchill was periodically visited by his own black dog.  Now behold I bring you my own inner animal, the  hedgehog of depression!   He first came to me when I was having a bad day where everything was getting on top of me and represents where I am at the moment - mostly well but with a few blips. After all he's not completely black and it's only his nose that's dark!  I have bad days where my mood is lower, I'm more anxious or feel less resourced but hell, don't we all whether we've got a diagnosed mental health problem or not?  It's part and parcel of being human to go through good and bad patches and  experience a range of feelings.  When emotions become fixed for a few weeks might be the time to worry. Even excessive happiness in the face of extreme adversity could be the sign of a problem.

Anyway let's get  back to 'Spike'.  He's sitting precariously on the side of a hill and, like me, wants to curl up and do nothing.  However, if he does this he'll roll down and then it would  be super hard to crawl back up to the top of the slope, the place he wants to be.  It might even involve outside assistance of others.  Being an independent resourceful little chap he, instead, braces himself and reluctantly starts to gingerly climb.  In doing that he's can still get out of his predicament by his own efforts and he's got a coat of spines to protect him against other sh*te that's being thrown at him on the way up!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

A Clean Slate

Today's post illustration could have been a mouldy old blackboard but I resisted and went off in search on good old Google for something a bit more aesthetically pleasing.  I reckon this lovely slate ball by James Parker Drystone Sculptures does the trick blooming well.

I'll 'fess up now and shamefacedly admit that July's attempt to live on a budget of £20 a day was a bloody disaster.  'Charalatan!' I squirm as I can hear some of you saying it.  'Call yourself a thrifty blogger!'  But a fill up of fuel for the motorhome and my massive clothes blowout to combat my lardy blues tipped the balance.  However I've done some back of the envelope sums and reckon that August could be a different kettle of fish even though there's a wedding, a festival and a holiday on the cards.  The car was filled up with diesel tomorrow, the fridge is chock full of groceries.  I'm starting the month with that clean slate and there really is nothing else to there?

This morning Lou and I are making the most of unfettered water use for the last time.  The dishwater and washing machine are loaded and humming in the kitchen, Louis' bath was as deep as it could go and I'm filling the vans before I go.  Because today the meter cometh.  The question is - Will I be able to resist the copious use of buckets of grey water to save a bob or two?