Monthly Archives: January 2015

What is love anyway?

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Have you ever stayed up waiting for a telephone call?

I’ve fallen in love, big proper love, three times. There’s a box full of cassettes in my mother’s attic with associated tunes that if I was to listen to without distraction I’d be transported back to those days in the 80s, to my first love and the days that the sun always shines (on TV). Music played an important part in falling in love and being a hopeless romantic Piscean dreamer I hear a song and I think of someone.

As well as being in love 3 times I’ve known what love is 3 times. I can’t describe baby love, it’s like heart thumping love with tiredness, but without the romantic music. The love I feel for my children is like no other love. When they were born I almost felt myself roaring and each time I bent down to smell them I was both leaving my scent and breathing in the heady aroma of new baby. Perfect skin, tiny little hands that either flailed around hopelessly, gently kneading me whilst feeding or being looked at in wonderment.

And in times of doubt have you ever tried to work it out?

I love my friends regardless of what they look like, what they wear, say or do. There’s times I don’t like things that they do or say but I don’t stop loving them. It takes a lot for me to fall out with people and when I do I grieve for them and a small part of my heart freezes.

The word love is a funny one. It can mean so many many things to so many people but to me true love goes hand in hand with happiness, acceptance, wonderment and awe. The people I love and whose love I bask in is unconditional, all encompassing and there, just there.

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Slow cooked tomato sauce

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I love my slow cooker and use it most days. Sometimes twice a day. Over the last week or so I’ve made Tarragon Chicken, Beef and Mushroom, Roast Chicken, Slow Pork with cider, Thai green chicken curry, I’ve used it as a keep warm dish for meat whilst I’ve fried the onions and leeks to name but a few uses. It’s so easy and anything goes!

This morning I picked up my order from Tesco and dashed home up make a tomato based sauce for the cauldron of bolognese sauce I’m making.

I always use a variety of leeks and onions (red, onions, shallots, white, spring) which I throw in followed by a generous slug of olive oil

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After which a pile of red peppers (you’ll never catch me cooking with green peppers, ugh)

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In go the tomatoes (I’ve used cherry tomatoes today)

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A bay leaf (if you’ve not got any I’ve got plenty – this was my 99p plant from Safeway ages and ages ago!)

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Maybe a sprinkling of herbs (fresh, dried or frozen) and then lid on and leave to bubble away on low heat.

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Give it a quick stir as and when, adding in a small glass of red wine until it’s all reduced into a mushy mass of tomato sauce to be used in soups, stews, pizzas, bruschetta or marinades. If I’m doing a big chilli cauldron I’ll put in some red chilli peppers to give it some kick but whatever you add it’s up to you!

Enjoy!

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Village life

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I grew up in a village called Hurst, near Reading and Wokingham in Berkshire. Back in the 70s it had very few pavements and no street lights. Life was very easy then and it didn’t seem to rain.

We lived in an old forge, close to the pub (of which there were lots) with fields behind us stretching as far as the eye could see. We used to ride on the fields, part of which became a golf course and country park. When the fields were being dug up the lorries carrying the gravel to the A329M used to rattle past the house on a regular basis.

With no public transport we rode or cycled everywhere, carefree, we used to amble on horseback for hours or scuttle off on our bikes – no cycle helmets and flared dungarees flapping in the chains. Danger didn’t seem to exist in our childhood, all we knew was we needed to cross the B3030 or A321 safely, don’t talk to dirty old men with boiled sweets, be home on time and go somewhere safe if the Broadmoor alarm sounded and it wasn’t Monday at 10am. And the sun always shone.

The village had lots of large houses with sweeping lawns and grand driveways where we used to play with our friends or grandchildren of the owners, sometimes we would have to sit quietly whilst the grown ups chatted and drank tea out of dainty cups with tea leaves. Apparently famous people lived in the village but they were just people we knew and we were never star struck. A regular visitor to our friends was Christopher Biggins who we saw a lot of, his laughter filled a room. I remember the fist time I saw him on telly and was gobsmacked – there was someone I’d had lunch with and he was on the telly!

I went to the village school for a time and hated it. Maybe my experiences would have been different had my father not died when I was 9 and I was bullied for not having a father, who knows, but I did use my bullying experiences in the assemblies I gave when I was in the police. My brother went to prep school at the age of 7 and I missed him dreadfully, I wanted to go too!

My brother and I used to get into scrapes together and then lose our voices whilst staring at the ground. One day we were climbing over the hay bales and Amy from the pub came round to shout at Mum. Blimey she could swear and loudly. Mum stood by the fence with us either side, keeping us out of sight, whilst we were taking it all in. After that we were even more wary of Amy who could easily have been a Dickensian character.

There were 2 shops (Bagleys and the village shop), a butchers, another shop that became the newsagents for a while and a petrol station. And pubs. Lots of pubs! The Cricketers is now long gone but there’s still 4 left. Speaking of cricket there’s a cricket club where I met Big Welsh, we had joy we had fun, we had seasons in the sun! We got married at the village church where my father’s funeral was and where Mook was christened.

Shortly after meeting Big Welsh I saw the bright lights of Wokingham and before I could scuttle back to my childhood home in the village I had bought a house. It was only after being stuck in a traffic jam that I realised the bright lights were infact the level crossing, but too late I had swapped my small, sunny village life for a life in a market town.

Parenting

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I recently said I’d write a book about parenting which was, of course, very tongue in cheek because I don’t get over excited about experts telling me what I should be doing and how wrong I’m probably doing it from the pages of a book nor do I welcome parenting advice from anyone who calls themselves an expert.

Why? Because every family is different and what works for one might not suit another.

What actually makes an expert? Who is the highest law in the land that suggests that their way is the most superior way? Which book? Which regime? Will a certain way work for every family? What if you don’t do it that way?

In my recent research (for research read overhearing) I heard a mother with a toddler give expert advice to a frazzled mother with a baby whose face screamed “I don’t want to know what worked for you” but whose polite nods actively encouraged the other mother further. I remember being a new mother and being asked by a group of mothers how old my baby was so I said proudly 12 days. One of them said in a sanctimonious way “oh days, I remember don’t you when our babies were just days, now we talk in months”. I think that was the cut off point for me and I distanced myself from that group of “experts”.

I’ve just read a great article by Bryony Gordon about the baby industry and I have to agree. Nothing, but nothing can prepare you for parenting and I firmly believe that bringing up a child should be how you want it with who you actually want to be with and not like an episode from The Crystal Maze with everyone shouting advice at you and then expressing annoyance or shock when it doesn’t work.

Now I’ve got 3 girls aged 10-16 I could call myself a girl expert or a teenage expert but I won’t. Why not? Because I’m no expert. I’ve also got a car and I can do basic maintenance but it doesn’t make me an motor expert.

As a first time mother with a tiny bundle that was as new to me as I was to parenting I used to dread the Health (Hell) Visitor appointments, I’d avoid peak times at weigh in clinics where groups of new mothers would wave the red book around and talk about their busy and stimulating day. Instead I’d sneak in early and then go back to bed or to the gym or meet with friends and family that were glad to see me and my small bundle.

I sometimes think that the word expert gets muddled with the word experience; they’re very different words!

Polly’s Venison

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Recently saw a friend who had some venison and the discussion of course went to the cooking thereof, I’m not a dedicated follower of recipes so my mind was racing with the possibilities (or pollybilities!). I use my slow cooker loads so allow 8 hours, or 2 hours in an oven proof casserole on 175 deg for 2 hours. I do laugh when something takes 35 minutes preparation, it takes as long as it does!

Ingredients

Venison
Red wine
Garlic
Onions
Leeks
Carrots
Parsnips
Flavoured flour
Juniper berries
Mushrooms
Stock

Potatoes for mash or bash*

I’d go with soaking the venison in red wine on a bed of onions and garlic to add to the stock or make a jus, sauce or gravy. What red wine you choose depends on you, I’d suggest staying away from rich red wines as you want the venison to soak up the flavours and not get drowned.

24/36/48 hours later take the venison out of the wine and cover it in flavoured flour (I use flour, salt, pepper, mixed herbs and chilli but you choose – maybe add in some dried juniper berries?), then fry it off, transfer to a plate to rest (you can rest too!). Keep the onions and garlic to one side and pour the wine into the casserole or slow cooker dish.

Peel and chop up your root veg (I go for bigger chunks if using the slow cooker) and throw into the dish with the stock, venison and half the onions & garlic. You might want to add in the mushrooms whole in which case do it now or cut up halfway through cooking. Add in juniper berries.

Either caramelise the rest of the onions and garlic or add them to a few scooped off scoops of stock and make a gravy.

Serve up with mash (traditional method) or bash (boil potatoes in skins and when cooked just bash them!) and a big bowl of greens.

And invite me!!!

Positively happy

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I was asked this morning if I’m truly happy. My answer could have been along the lines of “oh umm yes because of ……. but not entirely because of ….” but instead I said “no” because I was asked a simple question and I gave a simple answer.

In saying no I wasn’t being negative I was being honest and in my mind I thought of all the things I could be doing to make it a yes, but in order to make it a big fat positive I need to be more positive about what makes me happy and less negative about the things that need changing, we all need to be positive then we’ll have more of a chance of being happy.

I would like to climb high in the trees
I could be happy, I could be happy

Routine

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As much as I like spontaneity, impromptu and off chance I also crave routine.

At school we were governed by bells, the bell that jangled first thing in the morning indicating it was time to put our cosy toes onto cold Lino, the clanging bell calling us to breakfast where we would line up outside the dining hall ready to take our places at our tables for the term, the ringing bell that chivvied us to assembly, then the end of lesson bells that were like torture when it was a double lesson. No need for timepieces as our world was determined by bells.

Going to college was a different bell game, there were no bells for wake up calls as we were expected to wake up and get to breakfast ourselves, we looked at our watches and made our way to lessons where there were bells indicating the start and end of lessons.

During the holidays the Broadmoor alarm rang out at 10am every Monday reminding us that the alarms were being tested and then a few minutes later the all clear. If the alarm went off at any other time we were made aware that we had to go somewhere safe or not leave where we were.

The bells, the bells – they ruled us, they made us get to where we were meant to be and in hindsight it made us a tad lazy.

Working in an office there were no bells, no end of the working day klaxon but we knew we had to be at our desks for 9 and at 530 we would throw whatever hadn’t been done into the intray and we’d file out past security to the trains where the whistle blew or the guard would wave. No beep beep beep like the trains of today, when the doors shut the train would leave.

Now though the bells have been replaced by different triggers – alarms on phones, the news on the radio with the presenter saying “here’s insert name with the insert time “, a clock watching child who hates to be late to school and then the plain old body clock.

Oh yes the bodyclock. During the holidays I woke up at 615 with no alarm clock, yesterday I turned over at 630am and went back to sleep until 7am, waking in a panic at 745. Today I woke up at 520.

I long for routine!