Have you read?
- Wake up and smell the coffee
Tales from the Hamlet, Week 2 Wake up and smell the coffee…. For me, it’s a maxim to live by. This is especially true when it’s cold and dark outside (w...
- Coffee and haiku for Christmas
Last week was another frought one, in which I failed miserably to savour the moment. Well, until now.... This morning, after dropping Boy off, I took som...
- Roasted brussels sprouts with shallots plus
Make Christmas tasty and easy with this twist on the classic brussel sprouts This week's #tastytuesday recipe sees me trying out another recipe for Christm...
- CF Week. Highs and lows
Living with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), the highs and lows It's day 5 of CF Week. And, far from running out of steam, I feel like I'm getting into my stride. Bu...
- Wake up and smell the coffee
This week’s #tastytuesday recipe sees me trying out another recipe for Christmas.
OH is a big sprouts fan and definitely takes the view no Christmas lunch is complete without them. I prefer my vegetables a little more imaginative than just plain boiled, so this recipe, adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg Everyday strikes just the right balance. It also suits me because you can prepare it, leave it and pop it in the oven when you are ready. For me, this beats trying to synch lots of pans on the hob.
I also kept it local, with sprouts and shallots from C & R Family Grocers in Cricklade.
- Olive oil (about 3 tbsp)
- 400 gr sprouts, washed, peeled and halved
- 350 gr shallots, peeled and sliced in half
- Several sprigs of thyme
- 100 g chopped pre-cooked chestnuts
- 4 rashers of bacon, cut into lardons
- Preheat the oven to 190 C, Gas Mark 5.
- Cut the bacon and prepare the vegetables.
- Fry the bacon until lightly cooked. Add chestnuts.
- Arrange the sprouts and shallots face down in a large roasting dish.
- Trickle oil and bacon mix over, add sprigs of thyme and a few slices of lemon. Season to taste.
- Roast for 35 minutes.Check and turn about half way through.
- Serve. And enjoy.
Variations on roast brussels sprouts with shallots
I have also tried this substituting carrot batons for the shallots, adding onion to the bacon mix and incorporating chopped hazel nuts and grated fresh ginger into the mix (extra yummy). Don’t be afraid to experiment!
Joining with Honest Mum’s Tasty Tuesday (I’m making a note to myself to try a new recipe at least once a week, and to try to make it as seasonal as possible. See, I did get around to the sprouts.)
Last week was another frought one, in which I failed miserably to savour the moment. Well, until now….
This morning, after dropping Boy off, I took some time out. (Well, I reckoned I earned it for getting Boy out of bed, phyiso’d, medicated, dressed, to school on time and remembering a bottle for the tombola).
I wandered down Cricklade High Street, breathing in the woodsmoke and looking at the Christmas lights and decorations. I’m not a Winter person. However, even I couldn’t help marvelling at the patterns of frost on the shop windows, the festive displays and the sense of expectation.
Over the warmth of my coffee, before setting off on the perilous journey home, I put pen to paper. I’m not usually a poetry person, but a couple of haiku seemed, right then, to capture the shifting moods of the past week.
The list grows longer, a worm
that threatens to burst
its guts bound in sticky tape.
Dark nights growing darker
watch the ice break
open frozen lids of starlight.
Joining with Oliver’s Madhouse #magicmoments to kick off my week with some feel good factor.
That’s the countryside for you.
I stifle the urge to roll my eyes.
Making faces at OH’s back is rude. The wind may change and then I’ll be left looking like Kermit in a bad wig. Worse than that though, I know I am sounding less than upbeat myself
Nobody likes listening to a litany of whinges, unless, of course, they can join in.
Writing this post, then, may be a bit of a mistake. Even if I don’t incite a lynch mob, and I avoid the village stocks, I risk sounding like a paler, less witty, version of Liz Jones.
That’s the countryside for you, OH opines again.
Come-what-may, however, I have to exorcise those words. The saying has become a sort of default setting for OH, trotted out whenever I get onto either of my two current bête noirs, next-door’s chicken and (chicken apart) how quiet the Hamlet is.
You remind me of those City women. You know the sort. OH pauses for maximum effect. They think the world ends with the North Circular.
A one-time resident of Surrey, I relax a bit. OH, however, knows how to twist the knife.
One moment, they can’t survive without their 24/7 delis, their double skinny espresso caramel mocha lattes and their spelt and pumpkin seed breakfast muffins. Then they turn thirty. Their biological clock kicks in, their hormones balance out the caffeine and all the bullshit, and they start talking about work life balance.
And what happens next? He asks.
I stay silent. I let him vent. It’s healthy. Besides, I know where this is going.
They move to the countryside. They buy a house next to the village church. Then they spend Sunday mornings complaining about the bells waking them up.
Fair enough. At least, OH is right about the coffee. And, despite some initial dark fantasies (which had started to morph into a feathery splatter movie featuring the George Clooney incarnation of Fantastic Mr Fox), I’m getting used to the chicken.
I know that the chicken, like the bells, were here first. I get it. They’re here to stay. I just hope that, one day, their squawking will wash over me, as the rattle of underground trains once did. (If not, I suspect that the chickens will outlast me).
Autumn, any way, is bringing its own comforts. By the time I get back from the morning school run, the chickens have usually quietened down. Instead, I find myself pausing to talk to the cows, and their lumbering calves, before going indoors
An early symptom of Cabin Fever, perhaps, I don’t mention this to OH. I do mention the unremitting quiet.
You see, the Hamlet really is the Middle of Nowhere, but with a road running through it. Nothing happens. A car shunt, a stray commuter braking suddenly to avoid a tractor or disappearing into the mother of all pot holes, is about as exciting as it gets.
But… that’s the countryside.
Bells, screaming chicken, deadly silence, mist floating over the empty fields. (In my more fanciful moments, I imagine myself trapped in a post-apocalypse world populated only by mutant cockerels and Fourtrak-driving zombies).
None of this, however, apparently, matters to OH. The countryside, whether noisy, or dull, is exempt from any criticism because….well…it’s the countryside.
There’s no community, I chirp up. Community, I know, is a good word. Inwardly I congratulate myself on having got my point across without mentioning the absence of decent Broadband, patisseries and nail bars once.
OH, however, has an answer, and, for once, he’s not stuck in his countryside as higher order loop.
Why don’t you give the village coffee morning a go?
Now a while back, I would have filed his suggestion away with the invitation from the WI to dress up in a pirate theme and join them singing sea shanties. It would hit the recycle pile faster than the flyers from the PCC asking us to spend Sunday morning checking the highway verges for ragwort.
However, even the most fiercely independent woman has to question the quality of her social life when she spends a fair chunk of the day talking to animals.
It’s at the Black Hart, OH adds, so they’ll probably have proper coffee…
Well, that wins my heart, if not my mind. Friday is coffee morning, then.
It’s hardly Gawker material. However, at least I now have something to tell the cows.
More tales from the Hamlet soon. There may even be a shot of espresso.
Living with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), the highs and lows
But rather than flood the blogosphere with my ramblings about 50 shades of mucus, poo diaries and hospital food reviews, I’m going to say a few words about some of the highs and lows of life with CF.
And, partly, because I want to end on a positive note, I’m going to start with the lows.
Low number one, the diagnosis. The doctors at Tooting were amazing. (A fact I didn’t appreciate fully at the time, when all I wanted to do was get home). But there’s no easy way to break the news. Or to distill the brutal facts of CF.
CF is a genetic condition that primarily affects the lungs and digestive system. In CF, the gene controlling the transfer of fluid lining the airways and other organs doesn’t work properly. Mucus builds up, creating an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and infection. It can block the bowels (hence the need for J’s operation when he was three days old).
However, repeated chest infections is the most common complication of CF. Over time, the lungs become damaged and scarred.
I remember asking whether CF was terminal (my words). And that was when I first heard the phrase, life-limiting. (It’s become a turn of phrase I hate. With or without CF, life is as limiting as you make it. To a large extent. And, however, the doctors phrased it, Life-limiting was just a more gentle way of saying my baby had little chance of seeing out his allotted three score years and ten.)
At the time, the average life expectancy for somebody with CF was 31 years. That hit me hard. When you’re a kid, 30 may seem like forever. But I was looking at it from the other end, an elderly prima gravida.
J would need to take a plethora of medication, every day, for the rest of his life. He’d need regular hospital treatment, but nobody could tell me how severely CF would affect him.
With hindsight, I can understand how every case of CF is different. I can see that treatment, a child’s overall genetic make-up, his environment and pot luck can play a big part in how the disease progresses. But at the time all I wanted (or thought I wanted) was some certainty. So I googled CF.
(If I could give parents of a newly diagnosed child one piece of advice, it would be Don’t google randomly. Go to the CF Trust’s web site, talk to other CF parents instead. )
True, there’s a lot of information about CF out there, but much of it is alarmist and out-of-date. I soon became overwhelmed by the hopelessness of it all, and not just CF. I started reading about other conditions and diseases. Sometimes OH would remind me, there are worse things than CF. And there are, but this did little to reassure me at the time. It just became further evidence of how unfair and uncaring the world was. I lost faith, for a while.
Collecting money for the CF Trust outside Tescos, a mother pushed some notes into my tin. She told me about her baby son. After lots of tests, she discovered he didn’t have CF. But she described something much deeper than relief. It was heart-break and elation, cojoined. For a while, we had shared the same journey. She understood how I felt. And, when I wished her well, I really meant it.
We’ve seen too, the NHS at its best. The nurses and doctors treating Boy have so often gone the extra mile. And we’ve met some wonderful people through CF, other parents, carers, people working to find a cure. As OH puts it, it’s a great club, but I’d still rather not be a member.
Above everything, CF has made me more aware of how precious life is. I will never take good health for granted again. Everyday things take on a new poignancy, the birthday party celebrated becomes all the more special because of the one you missed.
In many cases, the highs and the lows become inextricably linked. For example, when Boy was one-year old, he grew a bacteria called pseudomonas. We were gutted. Without getting too technical, Pseudomonas is a CF baddy that can colonise the lungs. (I was still in my google phase at that point. I read a lot about pseudomonas and morbidity).
It was another big low, three months of oral ciprofloxin (which gave J loose stools and meant we had to smother him in Factor 50 every time he went out in the sun) and nebulised Colymycin. I held a mask over J’s face twice a day, trying to distract him with CBeebies, hoping he’d take in enough of the drug to fight the infection in his lungs. And, just as importantly, I hoped that he wouldn’t hold the white lies and occasional headlock against me.
But we were fortunate. Boy’s swab results indicated that he’d kicked the bug out of his system. High-fives all around.
Fingers-crossed, it’s a scenario we’ve repeated, with subtle and not-so-subtle variations, several times over the years. And each time we get a good result, or see an improvement in Boy’s lung function, it’s a cause for real celebration. If I was feeling poetic, I’d call it euphoria. It reminds me of how I felt eight years ago, in my pre-CF days, when I first saw that thin blue line appear, and Boy was just a hope for the future.
With CF, I’ve come to live in the moment much more, to appreciate the little things. I strive (not always successfully) to focus on the positive. I don’t google J’s symptoms anymore. I try and use the internet more purposefully, to visit the parents’ forum on Facebook and at the CF Trust’s website, to read about people with CF who are making a difference, people like Trunki inventor, Rob Law, and singer, Bianca Nichols.
And, above all, I hope. I believe that we can beat CF. It may not be tomorrow. I’d like to believe it will be in time for Boy to benefit from it. There are no guarantees. However, if the funding continues, the outlook is promising.
Please do something to make a difference. Join the Organ Donor Register. (One in three people with CF on the transplant list die waiting).
Or buy one of the lovely bracelets Wish Handmade Jewellery have designed. 25% of proceeds from the CF range go to the CF Trust.
Lots of us aren’t flush with money at the moment, but why not support a good cause and treat yourself, or a loved one. It’s a win-win.
Get ahead this Christmas with my easy Christmas flan
We will be having a low key (read easy) Christmas lunch. There will be no turkey, no bread sauce, just a nice simple roast and some yummy puds. However, we will be keeping a traditional theme with the starter, this seasonal take on the quiche, or flan.
And, if you’re having the traditional Christmas lunch, it’s a good way of using up some of the left overs!
- Jus-Rol puff pastry
- Olive oil for frying (about a tablespoonful).
- 6-8 teaspoonfuls of cranberry sauce
- 100 g chopped pre-cooked chestnuts
- 3-4 eggs (depending on size)
- 225 g ricotta cheese
- 2-3 slices of roast turkey
- 3 good quality sausages
- stuffing mix (to taste, but about 2 teaspoonfuls).
- 2 chopped onions (or use 2 tablespoonfuls of frozen pre-chopped onions)
- large handful bacon lardons
- flour for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 200 C, Gas Mark 6.
- Lightly grease a flan dish (I use a piece of kicthen towel lightly covered in olive oil).
- Roll out pastry, using flour to dust so it doesn’t stick, fill flan dish, trim edges, and bake blind for 15 minutes, using baking parchment and baking beans to flatten (prick the surface of the pasrty with a fork first). Take out, remove paper and baking beans. Cool. Leave the oven on, but turn down to 180 C, Gas Mark 4.
- Chop the onions, chestnuts, bacon and slice the sausages.
- Add oil to a deep frying pan. Fry the onion until soft, add the chestnuts, lardons and sausages and fry until they start to turn brown. Add the stuffing.
- Break the eggs and beat. Add the ricoota and beat until combined.
- Shred the turkey, add to the baked flan case. Add a few dollops of cranberry sauce.
- Arrange the onion/meat mix in the flan case aswell.
- Pour the egg/cheese mixture over the top.
- Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until mixture has set and the party is golden. Remove. Cool (or serve warm). And enjoy.