Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Who turned off the outside central heating?

Since Friday, we've endured a cold spell of epic proportions. Friday was a hot, sunny day - perfect for the BBQ I spent the day waiting to be delivered. By midnight, it was raining and the temperature was dropping. By Sunday, I was so cold that I was playing Exalted at the Club wearing 2 fleece, my fluffy-lined coat and gloves. About half way into the session, I wrapped the just completed sleeve of my Snowflake Cardigan around my neck to act as a scarf. On Monday, Britain hit the news as being colder than Siberia!

I just looked. We were even colder than Melbourne's minimum temperature of 12.7C and that's their winter compared to our summer!

Today, I'm sitting in the office wearing a cardigan under my suit jacket and fingerless gloves. I'd put my coat on, but it makes it harder to type (the gloves make it hard enough). Facilities Management have finally conceded defeat and put the heating back on, so I hope to warm up soon. My only comfort is that the annoying colleague who opens all the windows is missing today. (We usually have a ratio of 12 people freezing to death to her feeling too hot. She is a director's secretary. She wins.)

- Pam

PS: Oh, and if you're interested, the minimum office temperature allowable under British Health and Safety legislation is 16C.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Chicken Stew with Cobbles

Dinner last night was a rolled turkey leg roast, which should have resulted in plenty of leftovers. (What can I say? We didn't have lunch!!!) Amongst the options for the leftovers was a cooked meat version of this stew, which I invented one day when I wanted a stew with dumplings but not the calories. So I decided to put a cobbler top on instead.

Then I decided to cook it all in the crockpot and, amazingly, it worked! I’ve put an oven-cooking method at the end. For a cooked meat version, follow the oven version and skip the first hour in the oven. Use 300g cooked chicken or turkey.

Weight watchers points-wise, the stew costs 3 points, the cobbles another 2.5 each. The stew serves 4, whilst the dough makes 8 cobbles.

This is one of the few recipes I cook which uses margarine. Normally, I can’t stand the stuff but when you cook kosher, there are times you have to use it.


500g/1lb cubed chicken breast
200ml/1 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons corn flour
1 chicken stock cube
1 large onion roughly chopped (or use 1-2 large leeks sliced)
150g mushrooms sliced
1/2 teaspoon tarragon
1 clove garlic crushed
1 tablespoon tomato puree
4 carrots chunked

For the cobbles

50g/2oz margarine or butter cut into small cubes
175g/6oz self raising flour
1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
10 grinds of black pepper

Crockpot Method

1) Rub the margarine into the flour, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the herbs and the black pepper. Add sufficient water to make a firm dough. Form dough into a roll and cut into 8 equal slices. Set aside whilst you prepare the stew.
2) In a jug, combine the corn flour with the white wine. Make up to 400ml with water.
3) Layer all the other ingredients into the crock pot, starting with the meat and ending with the mushrooms and onion. Level off the ingredients.
4) Pour over wine mixture. Position the cobbles evenly around the stew. Cover and cook slowly for 10 hours.
5) Serve with a green vegetable.

Oven method

1) Preheat oven to 180 C/gas mark 4/350 F.
2) In a jug, combine the corn flour with the white wine. Make up to 400ml with water.
3) Combine all the other stew ingredients into a flame proof/oven proof casserole dish. Pour over wine mixture. Position the pot over a medium flame; bring the stew up to simmering point, stirring occasionally.
4) When the stew is simmering, cover the dish and place in the oven for an hour.
5) In the meantime, make the cobbles. Rub the margarine into the flour, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the herbs and the black pepper. Add sufficient water to make a firm dough. Form dough into a roll and cut into 8 equal slices.
6) After an hour, remove the stew from the oven and give it a good stir. Add additional liquid if necessary (use boiling water). Position the cobbles on top of the stew and return it, uncovered, to the oven.
7) Cook for another 30-45 minutes, until the cobbles have browned, and serve.

- Pam

PS: Cobblers are so called because the scone topping resembles cobble stones in a road way.

Friday, 25 May 2007

8 Things - playing with the cool kids :o)

Jan really threw me when she tagged me for a meme. My problem? I don't know 8 bloggers! (Sorry, CK, Jan got me first.)

Here are the rules:

Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves. People who are tagged, write a blog post about their own 8 random things, and post these rules. At the end of your post you need to tag 8 people and include their names.

So here are my 8 things:-

1) Within my family, I am the youngest person of my Generation. I have cousins with grandchildren older than me (Auntie Zara's mob). It's because my parents were 47 and 49 when I was born (just before their 48th and 50th birthdays).

2) "T" is for Tired (and also, Thyroxin). I never knew bone-weary tiredness until I developed hypo-thyroidism. Everything slows down and you ache; it's like the 10 minutes before the cold symptoms kick in with the flu. There were days when I'd be ready to go back to bed at 9am, having got up for work at 6. I fell asleep on the couch more evenings that I can remember. After 2 years, I'm still not sure I'm on the right dose of thyroxin - I'm getting tired too often for my liking, but as I'm losing weight on Weight Watchers I don't think I can argue my case effectively. My blood levels have fallen within the normal range since my first post-thyroxin blood test (and they doubled my dosage after that). In our house, Thyroxin is also known as "Kick-Start". The worst part about having a thyroid problem? It’s ruined my memory. I used to have really good recall and now it's gone.

3) I hate being stereotyped. Nothing annoys me more than people assuming I won't be interested in something because I'm a woman/white/Jewish/middle-class/sing opera/went to a private school/knit/sew/whatever. Why assume? Why not ask me instead? (Radical idea, I know.) Yes, I drink wine - but I like dark beers. My birthday is usually celebrated at the Great British Beer Festival. Yes, I studied opera singing - even passed an exam in it - but I listen to Rock. I'm seeing 13 Proms this year, but the last CD played in my car was by Linkin Park (Minutes to Midnight - I like about two-thirds of the tracks). I may wear make-up, but I know more about car engines than either of my husbands.

4) For the record… Besides the usual academic subjects, I studied woodwork at school together with pottery, singing, cooking, dressmaking and tennis.

5) I’m a born procrastinator. Witness it taking over a week for me to respond to Jan’s Meme. When I’m procrastinating, I don’t tend to do related activities – I just avoid them all together. A good example? I need to block the fronts and back of my latest knitting project, so that I can ensure the design on the sleeve is placed in the correct position (got to get the lines in the colour-work matched up). I’ve never blocked a thing in my life but I’ve purchased all the kit. The sweater’s been at the critical stage of “got to do it now or can’t knit any more” since yesterday. I’ve been home all day waiting for a delivery – guess what hasn’t happened? I’m afraid I’ll ruin something, so I’m avoiding starting.

6) I have never dated a Jewish guy, nor did I marry one. Never, ever. It wasn’t deliberate; it just didn’t happen. I don’t think my mother despaired of me, but she did try to matchmake a few times.

7) I’m left-handed, but I play golf, knit and crochet right-handed. Since knitting requires the use of two hands, I’ve never understood why a left handed person has to do it differently from a right-hander. You don’t need a huge amount of dexterity to knit (unlike writing or drawing), so why confuse the learner with mirror knitting? To me, it’d be like creating a special keyboard for left-handed typists. The golf is easier to explain – I figured that there was little difference between hitting a golf ball left-handed and hitting one right-handed, so went right-handed because clubs are cheaper/more readily available.

8) If you want to sell a gadget to me make it small with zillions of features and a huge amount of memory/storage space. For example the next mobile phone I buy, I want to be a cross between a phone and a palm pilot, with a built in MP3/MP4 player, full internet functionality (and access), a 5 mega pixel camera (with flash), and at least 2gb memory plus cards. Oh, and it has to be less than 3 inches by 2 inches and not more than 2 cm deep. Oh, and my preference is for Samsung since I’ve already got 2 of their chargers. Impossible, probably, but that’s what I’d like. The key words here are “small”, “compact”, “packed with features”, “multipurpose”, “sturdy” and “cheap”.

- Pam

I tag: Kara , John, Polarg (at least I hope it's her), Stephanie and Very Herodotus. Piney, I'm sorry, but I've lost my link to your blog.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

I'm bored

If I told you I hate my job, it would be an exageration. I'm bored - and I hate being bored. I'm waiting for the project to kick off - and I hate waiting. (I've always said that I wasn't premature, I was just born impatient. Why wait to 40 weeks, when 31 will do?) I'm so far away from the centre of activities for my project that I am the last to find out what is going on. As far as the project team are concerned, I'm just an expense, forgotten about until it's time to send the vendor invoices off for approval. I have so little work to do, that I'm begging stuff off colleagues and grateful for getting something to do.

It should get better soon. I'm in Manchester for a meeting to hash out the main project's job set up. Things are starting to happen. If my situation isn't different by my birthday in August, I'll consider job hunting.

- Pam (hate being like this)

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Going to the Proms

The annual Prom Concerts are back in the middle of July, at the Royal Albert Hall. I think it's the 112th season. DH and I started going regularly about 5 years ago, after I got £6 tickets to a Friday evening concert, packed a picnic and took him along.

For the last few years, DH has applied his organisational skills, rounded up some friends to come along with us, and booked tickets well in advance. We always go for the cheap seats in the circle (there is little point paying more - they've sorted out the acoustics so the sound quality is the same everywhere and it's not as if the view is important). For most of them, I'll pack a picnic and cold drinks and drive to the RAH straight from work. For the late ones, we'll have dinner at home first. I'll also pack a sock to knit on bamboo needles (although sometimes it is just too hot to do anything).

This year, DH has booked the following:-

Prom 6 – Tues 17th July 10:15pm - Striggio
Prom 7 – Wed 18th July 7:30pm - Tchaikovsky & Bruckner
Prom 18 - Thurs 26th July 7:30pm - Vaughan Williams Symphony No 5
Prom 20 - Sat 28th July 2:00pm - Piano music including Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition
Prom 23 – Mon 30th July 7:30pm - Ravel & Berlioz

Prom 27 – Thu 2nd Aug 7:00pm - Debussy, Prokofiev (Violin Concerto No. 2), David Matthews (new) & Ravel (La valse)
Prom 29 – Sat 4th Aug 6:30pm - Aaron Jay Kernis (new), Prokofiev (Piano Concerto No. 1) & Shostakovich (Leningrad)
Prom 34 – Tues 7th Aug 10:00pm - J S Bach various Cantata’s
Prom 41 – Tues 14th Aug 7:30pm - Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue
Prom 48 – Sun 19th Aug 6:30pm - Shostakovich (Symphony No. 10) & Bernstein (West Side Story)
Prom 52 - Thu 23rd Aug 7:30pm - Handel's Fireworks Music plus other Handel stuff
Prom 70 - Thu 6th Sep 7:00pm - Berlioz Faust
Proms in the Park Sat 8th Sept – from 4pm

- Pam

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Minced (ground) Beef and other possibilities

Today’s recipes are built around basic recipe using that stalwart of the British kitchen, minced beef (a.ka. “ground beef” or “hamburger”).

A word about using spices: mix the spices first in a small bowl (I use the dish from a microwave egg poacher – designed to hold 1 egg). Add a bit of water to make a paste and leave until you need to use them (this will stop the spices burning so easily).

To cook rice: use ¼ cup of rice per person (or double if your DH is as big an eater as mine). Combine the rice with twice as much boiling water – so 2 cups water to 1 cup rice – bring back to the boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes for white rice/basmati, up to 40 minutes for brown, or until all the water is absorbed.

All variations serve 4-6.

Basic Beef Mixture


250g minced (ground) beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 aubergine (eggplant) - see method, below
100-200g mushrooms, sliced
1-2 carrots, grated
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 beef stock cube
1x400g can chopped tomatoes
¼ cup split red lentils (optional)


1. Chop the prickly end off the aubergine, prick it with a fork a few times and zap in the microwave for 10 minutes.
2. Dry fry beef until brown. Add the onion and the garlic and fry until they're soft. Add the mushrooms and fry until the "water" has evaporated.
3. Stir in spices if using (see below). Fry until the aroma rises.
4. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato puree, carrot and stock cube (in that order).
5. Add additional ingredients as listed per individual recipes.
6. Cut the cooked aubergine in half, scrape out the pulp with a spoon (careful it is hot!), then chop the pulp until it has the consistency of mush.
7. Stir the aubergine into the sauce. If using lentils, add together with 1 cup hot water (sauce should be very runny at this stage).
8. Bring to boil and simmer until you can't see the aubergine, the lentils are dissolving and the sauce is very thick. Serve as directed, below.

Beef Chilli

I don’t usually add lentils in a Chilli. Serve with rice.


1 teaspoon ground chilli or to taste (I like a medium heat)
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika

Additional ingredients

2 x 400g cans cooked kidney beans or black beans
1 cup sweetcorn (optional)

Keema Curry

Good with mango chutney. Serve with rice.


1 teaspoon ground chilli
1 teaspoon Nigella seeds (also called “black mustard seeds” or Kalonji)
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric (careful it stains)

Additional ingredients

1 tablespoon tamarind puree (gives a sweet/sour flavour)
1 cup frozen peas

Spaghetti Bolognese

Serve on Spaghetti. Good in lasagne.

Additional ingredients

1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon soft dark molasses sugar/muscovado sugar
1 glass red wine

- Pam

Sunday, 13 May 2007


No, not mine. :o)

Two friends of mine were expecting babies in May, so I got busy with the knitting needles last month. Both sets of parents wanted the sex of their babies to be a surprise, so choosing yarn was limited to white, cream, yellow or possibly green. We went visiting the parents yesterday, delivering the results of my endeavours.

Baby Zoe was born a couple of weeks early. She’s tiny, red haired like her mummy and the photos didn’t really show her off, so I’m omitting them. I made her this:-

It’s the Five Hour Baby Sweater in Plymouth’s Encore, colour Aqua, (I got the yarn mail-order from the Yarn Barn of Kansas. Many thanks to Melissa for her help choosing it). The colour is a bit more bluey-green in real life - I spent several hours praying she'd be a red head like her mum, or a boy, since it looked much more blue in the skein. It turned out to be an exact match for the blouse her mother was wearing yesterday. (Yay me!)

As Tama says, the sweater really does only take five hours, but I’d swear there is an error in the increases since I got to Row 26 and didn’t have enough stitches on my needles (I had 92 at the end of row 25 and not 103). I ended up throwing in a load of increases at the top of the sleeves so that I got to the correct number. Am I the only knitter who’s had this problem? Incidentally, I only used 75g of yarn and not the 120g required by the pattern.

Baby Bump hasn’t been born yet but will get to wear this:-

It’s my version of the Baby Kimono from Mason-Dixon Knitting (I put in buttons). The yarn is Rowan’s Cashmerino from my stash. Again, it only used 75g or so. I'm now praying that Bump is tiny, since it knitted up smaller than the Five Hour Baby Sweater.

- Pam

Tuesday, 8 May 2007


I've decided that Tuesdays shall be Recipe Day.

I'm going to start with a kitchen essential: base. Base isn't really a recipe, it's a time-saving cheat. 99% of my recipes start "Fry onions with garlic, add mushrooms" (if one of my recipes doesn't involve onions or garlic, it's a cake). So what I do when I have time is make up a batch of this starting base, use one portion and freeze the rest. Making base adds about 5 minutes to the time it takes to cook a meal.



2 extra large onions chopped (I use "Spanish" onions)
500g mushrooms sliced
4 large cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil

NB: I tend to clean and slice the mushrooms, peel the garlic, peel the onions, put the oil on to heat AND THEN chop the onions. This minimizes the time available for the onion fumes to make me cry.


1) In a large frying pan or pot suitable for tonight's dinner, heat the oil. Add the onions, cover if possible, and cook over a medium heat until softened.
2) Add the mushrooms. Fry until they make water and the water has evaporated.
3) Add the garlic. Fry for 3 minutes.
4) Divide the mixture evenly between 3 microwaveable freezer containers and a suitably sized bowl, until the pan is empty. (I ladle it out.)
5) Pour the contents of the bowl back into the pan and continue with the recipe for tonight's dinner.
6) Cover the freezer containers and allow to cool. Seal, label and freeze.

To use the frozen Base, either defrost it completely, defrost it for long enough that it'll turn out of the container (20 minutes or so in my kitchen) or zap for 30 seconds in the microwave and use from frozen.

- Pam (who amazingly only started doing this a year ago. It hadn't occured to me until then.)

Sunday, 6 May 2007

What do I do with this?

What do I do with this? I have about 15 balls of Rowan's handknit cotton DK (50g/ball) in a shell pink:

Or check out (the website doesn't do the color justice - it's much paler in real life, think little girl's ballet clothes pink).

I had this moss stitch sweater in mind when I purchased the yarn:

It’s from Pingouin, Classic Knits for all the Family by Sally Harding, published in 1994. The sweater is called “Irish Moss Sweater” and has a ribbed lace trim (I tried to cut a close-up but failed to get anything decent). I started work on it over New Years and promptly abandoned it a week later. When I tried to swatch the moss stitch, it was impossible to work out if I had the stitch count right or not (I think I got the rib right). So I decided I needed a bigger swatch and might as well start on the back. Six inches in to the main section and it wasn't working. The sweater would probably have fitted my husband. So I've ripped it out and the yarn is now sitting, sulking in a corner of the stash.

What on earth do I do with it? It is like knitting string; the texture is smooth and slippy and hard at the same time. The lace trim was a nightmare - no give when you slip the needle in to knit two together.

It's too big an investment to ignore - cost close to £50, so $100.

- Pam

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Wing Yip is "Evil"

I phoned DH when I got back to the car. Tongue firmly in cheek, I informed him, Wing Yip is evil. They mesmerised me and before I knew it, my shopping trolley held 12kg of baking soda and 20 litres of vinegar. I just don’t know how it happened…..” :o)

Friday afternoon, I rounded off a quick shopping trip to Brent Cross with a side visit to Wing Yip. Wing Yip is probably Britain’s largest Chinese supermarket and cash-and-carry with several branches, including two in London. I was after the spice mix for the green-coloured curry they serve in virtually every Chinese takeaway in England. In the end, I didn’t find it. I purchased two tubs of “cook’s curry concentrate” and hope that is what I was after (mixes up 1 part concentrate to 3 parts water to make a sauce).

I was there for about an hour and had a quick look at their warehouse as well as wandering the supermarket. This is what I purchased:-

Baking Soda 4 x 3kg £6.98
White vinegar 4 x 5 litre bottles £6.95
Rubber gloves – box of 6 pairs £6.50
500ml vegetarian oyster sauce £1.00
500g palm sugar £0.80
600ml Soy Sauce £0.88
Rice wine vinegar £2.68
1 jar white peppercorns £1.35
1 jar tamarind puree £0.98
1 bag dried shitake mushrooms £2.28
Noodles, 2 x 500g £1.30
400g Chinese 5 spice powder £0.98
Coconut cream 2 x 200g blocks £0.60
100 plastic forks £0.98
100 plastic knives £0.98
300 bamboo skewers £1.44
Cooks curry concentrate 2 tubs £1.30

For a grand total of £42.86 including VAT. [I think that's everything]

A little translation for the non-metric amongst you: 12kg baking soda = 24lb; 20 litres vinegar = 5.2 US gallons or 4.4 Imperial ones.

The first two items are my main cleaning products. At the supermarket, I’d normally pay £0.50 for 200g of baking soda and £0.68 for a pint of vinegar. In the quantities above, that translates to £30 for the same amount of baking soda and £24.50 for vinegar. Most of the other things were about half the price I’d pay at the supermarket, if I could find them there.

Two weeks ago, at a friend’s house, we were discussing the merits of Costco membership (£25 per annum last time I looked). DH and I drove home debating whether we’d recover our costs when our main purchases would be very basic staples: cans of tomatoes, rice, vinegar, baking soda, flour. The jury is still out but, given my quick look around Wing Yip’s warehouse (no membership required), I don’t think we’ll bother joining Costco.

- Pam

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Yarn lust

The snapped needle was sent back to on Monday. The replacement arrived yesterday. Their customer service is very good.

I've been lusting after the hand-dyed sock yarn on their site (, particularly Aurora (dark blue/red), Graphite (grey/black), Lush (pink/blue/green), Colourway 1 (neon blue/green), Colourway 6 (pink/blue) and Colourway 12 ( muted purple/green). Thing is, I don't need more sock yarn (I have more than enough) and I don't really have £12.50 a skein to spare at present. My craft budget is going towards buying the Sweater Wizard software, which I should be able to purchase this month.

I'm finding it hard to resist…. Help!!!! ....... I've got as far as putting a skein of the Aurora in the shopping cart, together with some stitch markers and a set of Addi bamboo dpns… Must resist! …. The total cost including shipping is £25.57.....My hand is itching to hit the "continue" button …. Must resist!...... I've just checked the wallet card for my Sanity Fund. Could use my clothing budget (all £25 of it)……Must resist! ….. I'm running out of arguments ….. Must resist! …. Willpower slipping…….


Too late! It got me!

- Pam

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Wednesday Update

Visited Ikea on Friday night. I could spend hours wandering through that shop just inspecting the mocked-up apartments they have on display. I like the amount of thought they put into utilising the available space. We purchased a computer desk for DH ( - the Mikael Workstation in birch and white), some cushion/throw pillow pads (for 65p each) and a new rubbish bin. As usual, spent as long queueing for the checkout as we did selecting our items. There were still cars arriving when we left Ikea at 11pm! The shop closes at midnight.

This means that I get my pine blanket box back to use to store my stash. DH used it as as temporary desk for nearly 4 years (which meant sitting on the floor to type). I haven't looked yet, but I'm wondering if it contains the missing needlepoint of Simpson's Gap, my longest standing UFO. (This is what the Gap looks like in real life )


Sunday was Eldest Sister's birthday. We had a long and rambling chat on the phone. She's a chronic migraine sufferer and tomorrow they're going to investigate whether she has a small hole in the heart that may be causing them. (See this article from the BBC: They'll do an echocardiogram. I'm not sure if they'll do the procedure to plug the hole then or not. Fingers crossed this is the cause of her problems and that the treatment works!


At singing class on Monday night, I performed Kelly Clarkson's "Because of You" having purchased the backing track and sheet music last week. I didn't do too badly when you consider that I'd only sung with the backing track 4 times before the class (and that was in the car on the way to class, whilst I was stuck in traffic).

The sheet music came from , who allow you to print off the music twice once you've downloaded it. The download also contains a player which enables you to practice the melody and/or singing along to the accompaniment with the aid of your computer. I haven't had the chance to play with it yet.

The backing track came from . I've purchased tracks from them in the past and they vary in quality. Because of You is excellent, whilst Evanesscence's My Immortal which I got last year was dreadful (the pianist went mad in the chorus and their right hand notes are 1000 times too loud).


My friend A and I have just signed up for the Windsor 8km race on 28th September. See . As the picture at the bottom shows, the route is through Windsor Great Park. We're racing as "Big Girls Don't Walk".

I may be after you later for sponsorship, but in the meantime wish us luck that we survive the training. :o)
- Pam