Saturday, 19 June 2010

a thrift life

Over the past few weeks, I've been busy sorting things, late Spring cleaning and ebaying for my sewing machine fund. I've been turning my fiver a week on tat to good use. The local Sally Army shop can be a thrift treasure trove, everything is cheap, and if you rummage and are lucky you can find some gems.

Over the past few months, i've noticed a lot of West German 1950's and 60's stuff in the shop. It started with a little Bay Keramik vase I found, and since then i've picked up some Emsa eggcups and bowls too. Emsa is eminantly collectable and very rare, if you see some with cursive joined up script logo, get it, it is pre 1971 at least. Early stuff is very sought after, particularly in the USA. It is just the sort of stuff that gets chucked or given to charity, but 50's and 60's plastic kitchenalia is VERY now, there are scores of collectors who love this stuff. Actually, I love the eggcups. How great is it that they stack up? Then some lovely late 50's Arcopal (very early French shatterproof), just begging for iced cupcakes and serviettes in candy colours, in gentle opalescent glaze. The colour deepens when there is warm liquid in the glass, just darling. And some 1950's USA CorningWare, in blue cornflower, hardly ever seen here and mostly a USA obsession. The Sally Army gets some house clearance willed to it, I have in my mind now a house that was in the forces, moved through France and Germany in the 50's and 60's, maybe friends with a USA family who gave them some corningware. Either way, it's been quite pleasant and sad at the same time to think about. However, the stupendous amount I won for the Arcopal and Keramik vase have helped to ease the melanchony and edged me nearer to my Janome of choice, which was more than my mother was prepared to stump up for, though she has helped!
I have been melancholic, in the true sense. Weepy and fretful, awaiting scan results and so on. I'm all clear from severe nasties, which leaves me with the horrid probable outcome of early menopause. I'm 38! I know it is linked to my thyroid condition, so i'm steeling myself for the worst. I've been referred to hospital again to check me out further. If someone could give me the choice between being baldy and menopause, I would take baldy, I think. I know menopause doesn't have to be terrible, but as i'm so early, and my medication precludes HRT, I can safely say that everyone who knows me would be far happier without me being hormonal, they'd learn to love me bald in preference to having me going crazy at them and then weeping while sweating.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

one child booty

Husband took son up to Yorkshire with him today. For the first time since she was born, 15 months after son, Daughter is enjoying the status of the firstborn: mummy all to herself, all day and night! And my goodness, one is SO EASY! She is napping now, I am writing and sipping a glass of wine (naughty!). We took the bus to Ely to avail ourselves of the toy shop there, and have returned laden down, partly because at the back of the toyshop there is a superb haberdashers. I now own, along with a vile looking Barbie doll which daughter weeping, refused to leave without, a cutting mat and rotary cutter and 5 fat quarters that I just picked up and didn't need, but which will now have to be made into something. I have never used a cutter or mat before, all previous efforts have been manhandled using the kitchen tiles as guides, and cut with (whisper it) kitchen scissors! When daughter goes to bed (and i'm expecting that will be late, as a treat we will stay up and watch the recorded Trumptons she is obsessed with, and eat eggy toast with too much sugar), I will fuss and cut and chop the squares for son's quilt. I am making the pattern one rectangle two squares to each patch rather than the nightmare of oddments daughters was. Then I plan to finsih her dolls house. Today I bought permanant markers to do the little plug sockets and switches with, and teeny pots of Humbrol to paint the details with, flowerpots, roof tiles and decorations.
I am stunned at the difference one child makes. We had an entirely civilised cafe lunch, lit a candle in the cathedral (SO cool today in the heat, it was mobbed!) and wandered the market and river. Then we did the essential girly thing of buying her new shoes (she has short fat feet like mine, so there was weeping when the shoes with houses on were too big, but she copes when the silver and pink sparkly sandals came out, sigh. ) Nary a row, nary a squabble and a bus ride to boot. I'm expecting she'll be missing him by bedtime though, and in truth, so will I be. It's too quiet!

Ladybird chickens

I have been amassing a collection of vintage ladybird books, and selling them off on ebay one by one once I can't bear reading them anymore or the kids have lost interest. I pick them up for 10p, good ones can resell for upward of 30 quid. A "Well loved tales" Cinderella series 606D can go for 50 quid or more if it's in good nick. I love the illustrations, they are so evocative of my own childhood. I'm just about to post one off to an ebay buyer, it's "The Farmer" from the "People at Work" series, illustrated by John Berry. Narrating the farming world of the 60's, the combine pictures drew sons' interest briefly before he became motorbike obsessed. I love the drawings of the hop pickers, presumably some rough old cockneys employed at slave wages in yesteryear, but I love best of all the chickens and the text alongside that describes their lovely life in the shed: "In batteries and deep litter the hens are kept warm, well fed and have plenty of light": yes, for 24 hours! See how happy the battery hens are! See how they love their lives in the shed! Forever! Till they die prematurely!

I have a coop waiting to be built. I was hoping for hens this year but we have too much to do beforehand, a fence, a lawn. Our garden is 250ft long but mostly gravel for now as the previous owners of the house had 5 cars and a love of long driveway from the rear access. We stupidly thought it would be a quick job to do a lawn, now we know it will involve a mini-digger hire, which son will love. So the hens are next year. How happy they will be, though, to be garden hens and not ladybird battery hens.

Friday, 4 June 2010

little morrocan-ish meatball stew

This recipe is ideal for me with meat-loving veg hating boy and veg loving meat-hating girl. I simply dole out different bits from it onto cous-cous and hope that meat-loving gets some veg juice that way and veg-loving gets some meat juice that way. It is a bastardised Nigella one, smaller in scope (she always cooks enough to feed a film crew, and they do live with her, I suppose)and less fussy, with the addition of pulses for awkward daughters protein intake, and different veg entirely. I also add the meatballs to the stew to cook, I think it makes them smooshier, if that is a word. I don't normally like her, as I couldn't get over the vision of her sitting in a London bus looking exactly as if she'd never sat in one before, pretending she had, in the last series, and I can't read the chumminess of her books without wanting to shake her. Give me the Hairy Bikers anyday, but she does do the odd good recipe, if you just read the instructions and not the waffle about her terribly lovely life. The only way I would really like her is if she revealed she was bald. Anyway....
To make the meatballs:
1 pack of lamb mince (500g)
1tsp all-spice
1tsp cumin powder
very finely chopped spring onion
1 tsp cinnamon.
1 beaten egg
Really, it's a kids recipe in the sense that even they can do this bit. Smoosh it all up, that's it! Then the difficult bit comes when you have to roll the meatballs up. Usually I would go for bigguns, but in this instance I advise going for teent tiny 1/2 teaspoon sized ones. You should get about 50 out of 500g. Then, a quick flip on either side in the frying pan to firm them up. This takes a short while and I usually end up with about 5 less afterwards as I eat them. Set aside.
For the stew:
1 green pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 butternut squash
1 can chickpeas
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
2 cans chopped tomatoes
1 chicken stock cube or stock from freezer.
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp tumeric

Chop everything up, you want it a little bigger then the meatballs for a nice mouth feel. The squash you can leave quite big as it's nice to have big chunks of it along with the teeny meatballs. Fry it all with the garlic, tumeric and ginger for a wee while till getting soft-ish, then add the tomatos and chicken stock cube, along with a tin can or two of water, depending on how runny you like it. Add the chickpeas, and stir, then add the meatballs and stir. Set it all to a slow "blurp" on the hob and leave for however long you like, really, I usually give it 45-60 mins, but you can turn it off, leave it and reheat it if you like. Serve it with a dollop of cous cous and some toasted pine nuts and pomegranate seeds on top if you want to be posh. There are no pictures because I ate it all before I thought about it.

If you are me, place meatballs and cous-cous in one plate, assiduously removing all veg, and veg and cous-cous on the other, removing all meat. Wonder why on earth I do this fairy-tale like task every meal time. Next week: spinning grain into gold.