Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Look, Mummy...

This is one for my 'Not Quite Right' gallery, but in case you miss it... a Home Bargains cracker from a few weeks ago.  

Adam:  Look, Mummy.  Knobhead...
Me: Oh bloody hell...


It's always my children that notice these things.  Cait with the 'Cock Soup' in Tesco, and now Adam with the 'Knobhead' in HB.  Is there a #filth gene that I've passed on to them, or something?  

To lose against Toulouse - not such a bad thing

Off we went to the Racecourse on Sunday, a little excited to be playing against fresh blood, and a French team at that (ooooh how fancy!) but also fully expecting to have our arses kicked.  Toulouse, who are top of League 1, have drawn one game and won all the others.  It didn't bode well, really.   At our last home game,  Keighley beat us 22 - 30.  A week later, Toulouse humiliated Keighley 84 - 6.  So for our final score to be a very respectable 14 - 32 wasn't quite the kicking we were expecting, and you couldn't help but feel upbeat, despite a home loss.  Fans were in good voice, I was hoarse coming away from there.  Some pics from the event :-)

The fab 'Cambria Band' who played for us at half time


Adam wanted a hot dog, ended up with a baguette with a large sausage on it - still ate the lot...


Final score


Jonny Walker receiving a cake after reaching 100 appearances for the club

Another 'home' match this weekend against Coventry Bears but this time it's been moved to Chester RUFC.  Stereophonics play at the Racecourse on Saturday and after that the pitch is being relaid, so we Crusaders are going to be like nomads for the next few weeks ;-)

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Recipe - Seekh Kebabs and Chickpea 'Wraps'

I've had a row from a friend for not blogging for weeks so I thought I'd best pull my finger out.  Just been... busy.  Can't tell you doing what, but it's nearly July so... I must have been doing something!  

A recipe is long overdue, I think.  But first.  Mr G has come out with three howlers over the last few days.

Me:  Have you ever had halloumi, babe?
Mr G: *pauses*  Is that a food or an ailment?

Although knowing him, if I'd said ailment, he'd have probably contracted it!

Stood in the kitchen yesterday attempting to make Smoked Mackerel kedgeree with cauliflower rice.  Don't ask.  Never again.  However...

Mr G: *looks warily into pan*  So, what's this called again, menagerie?
Me: ...

And then this afternoon, taking the dry washing off the line together.  I stepped onto the grass where he'd reseeded the other day.

Mr G:  Don't step on the (what sounded like) Core Bits
Me: *stops*  
Mr G:  Don't step on the grass seed.
Me:  *looks puzzled*  What did you say?
Mr G:  Don't step on the grass seed?
Me:  No.  Before that.  It wasn't 'grass seed'
Mr G:  Shut up.
Me:  Tell me.  Or no kebabs tonight.
Mr G:  *mutters*  Corbetts.  I said 'Don't step on the Corbetts.'
Me:  Corbetts as in...?  What the hell?
Mr G:  Corbetts as in Ronnie.

I wet myself, laughing.  I swear, this man of mine is b-r-o-k-e-n.  If you shook him, you'd hear bits clanging about inside his head.  Bless him.  Too funny.

Back to the recipe!


For the kebabs: (makes 6)
500g 5% minced beef
100g Onions
3 small hot green chillies
Teaspoon minced garlic
Teaspoon minced ginger
10g Dessicated coconut
1 Egg
2 tbsp Greek Yogurt
2 tbsp Elmlea Single cream
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1 tsp All spice powder
1 tsp chilli powder
Salt to taste

6 skewers, presoaked if wooden

Put the mince in a food processor and blitz.  Put into a bowl.
Put the onions, garlic, ginger, chillies and coconut into the food processor and blitz to a paste.  Put into the bowl with the mince.



Add the beaten egg, yogurt, cream and spices and mix until well combined.
Separate the meat into 6 even sized portions.  Roll into a sausage shape and thread onto a wooden skewer.  Brush with a little olive oil. 



Preheat your grill to low to medium and cook for 20 - 25 minutes, turning regularly, until the meat is cooked through and the kebabs are nicely browned. 

For the Chickpea wraps/pancakes:
5 oz Besan (Gram flour/Chickpea flour)
Water
1 tbsp Olive oil
Seasoning of choice - salt, pepper, spices, chilli flakes

Put the flour into a bowl and add the water gradually, whisking until you have a reasonably thin batter.  This will start cooking instantly so don't worry if you think it's too thin. 

Heat a non stick frying pan and add a ladle of the batter, swirling around to coat the bottom of the pan. Cook for a few minutes before turning over.


For the Easy Raita:
50g Greek Yogurt and 10g Mint Sauce - mixed together.

Serve the kebab on a chickpea wrap, with salad and a dollop of minty raita.  Really tasty and spicy, this recipe is definitely a keeper!

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Frazzled Shell's Guide to Camping - Part Two

As promised, part two of my guide to camping.  Part three will be along soon to wrap up all the loose ends, a few more things to consider, and some recipe suggestions.

Keeping Clean:  I hate showering on campsites.  Especially if it's those fixed head showers that you have to keep pressing the button to get 5 seconds worth of water out of.  If you have long hair, it's a nightmare to rinse.  And pray tell, how on earth is one meant to rinse one's undercarriage of bubbles if one can't remove the shower head?  You're stood in a pool of someone else's shower water, your clothes are getting soaked while you try in vain to get dry and get dressed in a tiny cubicle.  No thanks.  Anyhoo.  Detest.
Toilets.  Again.  I'm not good in a toilet unless it's my own, I can't go with an audience, which means that invariably, I don't... go... for the duration of the camping trip.  Which cannot be healthy.   We do have a Kampa Khazi, which we are allowed to pee in, but as for number two's... no.   There was an... incident, shall we say, a couple of years ago.  An incident I have never blogged about, it was mortifying, and I still cringe about it to this day.  Yes, of course I'll tell you, we're all friends, right?

Well, it happened really early one morning, maybe about 6 am.  I woke up, I needed the loo, as you do upon waking.  I sat down and... nature unfortunately took it's course.  Against my will.  Against my better judgement.  As it will do if you haven't been for four or five days, right?  I was horrified.  Mr G was going to go nuts that I'd crapped in our new Kampa Khazi.  I couldn't very well leave it in the tent, I had to get rid before he ever found out about it.  So, I unzipped the tent, and looked out.  Gloomy, pouring with rain.  Of course it was.  I look back at the bucket, and I have visions of myself walking with it to the shower block, slipping on the wet grass and the bucket spilling.  So, I sellotaped the lid on.  As you do.  I made the walk to the shower block, taking every step gingerly.  Thankfully it was empty.  I emptied the contents of the bucket into the toilet.  I muttered 'Jesus H Christ, that's not going to flush...' and crossed my fingers as I pressed the flush button.  As the water level rose higher and higher, I watched in abject horror, praying that it stop.
After about seven flushes it was evident that the monster log was not going anywhere without the aid of a large stick and possibly Dyno-Rod.  I tentatively creeped out of the shower block, back to the tent, and sat in the porch with a coffee.  In time Mr G woke up and went to the loo.  We sat with our breakfast watching the commotion going on in the shower block.  'Ladies is closed' he told me.  'Toilet's blocked.'  I nodded innocently and sipped my coffee.  It's really not easy being me, sometimes.

It's like that, y'all

So, for this season we have invested in *fanfare* - a shower!   It's a Hozelock thingy that you fill with warm water, pump it up to get pressure and then it showers :-)  I figured that if I could have a good strip wash in a bowl, then use that water to wet and lather my hair up, I can use the shower to rinse it out.  Can but try, anyway, and can't be any or much worse than the showers I'd face otherwise.
A pop up shower/toilet cubicle to shower in...  and the pièce de résistance...  a fold up toilet where you poo in a bag!  I shit you not, campers!  No pun intended!  It's a folding stool (again!  No pun intended!) with a loo seat on, and you attach a bag, and hey presto.  I wish I was joking but, alas, you know by now.  Puts a whole new slant on 'Be more dog' eh?  Mr G pointed a finger at me and said 'I am not carrying human faeces around in a bag'.  We'll see.
Water.  We've tried those big floppy water carriers and they leaked and were cumbersome, so now we buy the big 5 litre bottles of water from the supermarket, and once we've used those, we refill them from the tap.  Much sturdier.

Boredom:  If you're going with children that are anything like mine, I feel your pain, brothers and sisters.  Much wailing and gnashing of teeth at the lack of electricity (we don't pay for an electric pitch, because we're camping and if they were going to be permanently glued to their electronics all day, we may as well have stayed at home) and almost zero phone reception and no Wi-fi, and no TV and no way to straighten hair and oh my God... this is when either Mr G or I will break into 'When I were a lad/lass...' and regale the children with tales of how we were outside from sun up to sun down, and how we only had three television channels, and if you wanted to use a phone, you had to go to a neighbour's house or a phone box.  We continue in this vein until they go glassy eyed, stop complaining and their spirit is generally broken :-)  

Not being completely heartless ;-) we have an electric inverter, which plugs into the cigarette lighter of the car.  I also have a multi charger which charges 5 USB devices at a time.  So this is handy for most things, cameras, mp3 players, phones, Kindles.  A portable battery charger would also come in handy for emergencies.  We take (as a rule) a football, sketch pads and pencils (because my children are arty), fishing nets (for the stream in the campsite), playing cards, and the boys take their Nintendo DS's.  Sometimes you have to choose your battles, and it is no fun sat in a tent with miserable, bored children when it's raining, and you've insisted on a technology free holiday.   Because when they're sat glaring at you?  As rogue raindrops drip onto their heads through your (supposedly) 4000mm HH tent?  They're actually visualising shoving your colouring books and felt tip pens up your arse.  One by one.  Trust me.

First Aid and illness:  When you've decided where you're going camping, make a note of where the nearest hospital and GP surgery/Walk in Centre is.
Regular medications:  Take more than enough, just in case you lose some.  Far easier explaining this to your own GP when at home than trying to get more tablets from a GP that doesn't know you and doesn't have your medical history to hand.
Analgesia:  Paracetamol.  Ibuprofen.  Liquid forms for the children.  If you rely on stronger, prescribed pain relief like myself, for back problems or the like, bring that too.
Plasters
Bandage
Steri Strips.
Antiseptic cream.
Antihistamine tablets/liquid.
Antacid.  Even if you don't normally need or take them.  If you're going to be eating fried foods, and adding alcohol to the mix, a packet of Setlers or a bottle of Gaviscon might be an idea.
Insect Repellent and Bite and Sting relief spray - on a lot of campsites we've been on, midges have been an issue at certain points in the day.

This concludes part two of my camping guide!  Look out for part three coming soon :-)

Frazzled Shell's Guide to Camping - Part One

Ahhh... camping.  This lovely weather really has made me think about camping, I wish we'd known how nice it was going to be and we could have booked something for half term.  We were sweltering yesterday as the kids went back to school, temperatures mid to late 20's, thunderstorms and bouncing rain that has done nothing to clear the air.   6 am, as I type, it's already 16 degrees C outside and I'm sat with both windows open.

It really does seem to be a subject that splits opinion, people seem to either love it or hate it.  Although I was a relatively late first-time camper at the age of 32, I was hooked from the get go.  All the stuff we have now has been accumulated over the course of the last eight years.


The first tent aka 'Divorce Tent'

First and foremost, a mistake that a lot of people seem to make is to think that it's a cheap do.  It can be, if you're hoiking a two man tent on your back and you sleep in a field and pee behind a tree, eating chocolate bars and cold baked beans out of a tin...  It depends on your own personal comfort level, what you're willing to do without and what you absolutely won't compromise on.  Once you've ascertained that for yourself, then welcome to cheap(er than paying for a hotel for a family of six) holidays!  We're by no means the most experienced campers but we know what works for us and what hasn't, over the course of the last eight years.  I've lugged four children with me, from toddlers to teens, and we've survived storms, high winds and wash outs.  I'd say we're quite luxury campers really, in terms of home comforts, although those who 'glamp' would be inclined to disagree!  So here's the benefit of a normal Mum's camping experience - if you're a first time camper, or you're thinking about camping, or even if you're the sort who always forgets the pillows or the tin opener.

The first thing I do is make a list.  Yes, yes I know, me and my lists...  And on my list, I work through an average day in my mind, from dawn until dusk, and detail everything that we may need.  I read it out to the kids and Mr G and they then shout out things I may have overlooked.  What I could do, is make a master list and use it every year... but where would the fun be in that?  Tell me?

Tent:  This is a personal preference.  Always go for a larger tent than you need, we are still using an 8 man tent now, even though only five of us camp.  Divorce tent (see picture above) had three pods.  It took three years to erect, nearly cost us our marriage on three occasions, and not even freak summer storms could destroy it - although we prayed.  A whole campsite decimated, only tent standing?  Ours.  It was like the cockroach of tents.  In the end we gave it away.   In our personal experience, a tunnel tent is easiest.  Easiest to erect, to put away, bedroom either end, with a large living space in between for the British summertime. Read the reviews.  If there's no or few reviews on the website you're buying from, or if you're buying in store?  Stick the tent name into Google and look for reviews on other sites.  We prefer one with a sewn in groundsheet.
What else you'll need - Spare tent pegs, a mallet (for the love of God, don't forget the mallet.  Take two, because you will invariably, lose the bugger as you're putting the tent up).
Optional extras - Tent peg remover, spare guide ropes, tent footprint (if you have one), tent porch (if you have one).  A windbreak.  We always put one up around the cooking area, it's fab if it's breezy.

Sleeping:  We've thrown away so many airbeds that it's ridiculous.  We've had single ones, double ones, couches that turn into beds, self inflating ones, I've slept flat on the floor (not recommended).  We've now invested in camping beds for everyone, larger ones for Mr G and I and smaller ones for the children. 
Bedding:  This is a personal preference. Pillows, obviously.  Sleeping bags and/or duvets.  I personally can't sleep zipped up in a sleeping bag so I don't get the warmth kept in.  I put a heavy patchwork quilt over my open sleeping bag, and coupled with my fleecy onesie and beanie hat... I look like a right tube :-)
Lighting:  We have all sorts of lights, Poundshop ones to proper remote control lighting.  The remote control ones are fab, we have one in each bedroom pod, so that makes getting up for a pee at night a lot easier than fumbling around in the dark and cold.  I also take a head torch with me, that's handy for reading in bed when it's dark, without keeping Mr G awake.  
What else to consider:  There's nothing worse than being cold at night when camping, which it is compared to your own bed, no matter how nice the day has been.  Fleecy bed socks, fleecy onesies, woolly hats, hoodies are also fab, and everyone in my tent always has a hot water bottle in their sleeping bag about half an hour before bed.  It does make a difference.  Layer up, it's not a fashion parade.

Eating and Cooking:  This can be as simple or elaborate as you want.  Sometimes when we go camping with friends, we cook on their gas barbecue.  Other times I've just fried bacon and sausage on a single camping stove.  But our cooking equipment now is a double burner gas stove, with a little mini grill underneath for toast, we have a special stand for this that keeps the stove at a cooking height, and we also take a single camping stove that is generally just used for boiling the kettle.  Sometimes we pick up disposable barbecues, which are handy for the children to toast marshmallows and make S'Mores.  A kettle type barbecue is also good to hold disposable barbecues and keep them off the ground.
Dishes:  We found some great melamine sets in Aldi a couple of years ago, heavily reduced, I think they were something daft like £2.99 for a set of four bowls, side plates and dinner plates.  We bought two sets.  We take some additional enamel plates too and some mess tins.  If you're only having something light and dry, use paper plates to save on washing up, and they can be recycled.
Cutlery:  A mixture of heavy duty plastic ones (for the children) and old oddments of cutlery.
Pots and Pans:  We take a Gelert stackable set of pans and kettle, a griddle pan, and a frying pan.  This pretty much covers anything we're able to cook at one time.
Tables and chairs:  We take two, one that folds into a case and has four separate stools inside, and also a lower table that the legs clip into the underside.  Two camping chairs and that's us.
What else you may need:  Tin opener.  Bottle opener/corkscrew.  Plastic wine glasses.  Fish/Egg slice.  Tongs.  Sharp knife (try cutting onions with a plastic knife...).  Drinks bottles for childrens drinks (easier than constantly washing up cups).  Cups for tea or coffee, or insulated travel coffee mugs.
What you don't necessarily need but if you see one heavily reduced as we did:  A camping cupboard.  Heavy duty canvas, zips up fully, so nothing slimy or crawly can get in, and on top, it rolls back to provide you with a kitchen sink.  Handy if you're some distance from the toilet block, or it's raining.

Food Storage:  We take what we refer to as 'The Coffin'.  It's so big that we're burying someone in it to save on funeral costs.  It is a cool box that will keep food frozen for a few days if you add ice and ice packs to it.  It has been invaluable for us as a large family on a budget.  I've taken homemade curries and chillies, frozen in plastic containers, and we've had a decent meal for a few nights that doesn't involve burger or bacon ;-)  We store our milk, butter, bread - anything that needs keeping cool in there.  While coming home from a day out, buy a bag or two of ice, top it up.  Our friends who travel as a couple have an electric coolbox that works off the car battery.  You don't have to go to such lengths, a normal coolbox with ice blocks and ice would suffice to keep milk and butter cool.  But for a family of our size, eating out all the time isn't an option, so we need to plan ahead, and have adequate storage for food.
Tinned and dried stuff is kept in the abovementioned camping cupboard.  Not a necessity, but another Aldi ridiculously reduced camping bargain.  Before this we used plastic storage boxes with lids on and kept them in the tent or in the car, depending. 

Part two coming up - do not read if offended by toilet humour.  Literal toilet humour.  I'm not joking...

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

The Nifty Little Tomato Trick

I love tomatoes, I love growing them, and I love eating them.  To me, nothing tastes as good as a homegrown tomato, sliced, sprinkled with a little salt, between two slices of wholemeal bread.  I have my hanging basket of Tumbling Toms, which I do every year.  In my greenhouse I have three different varieties that I've never grown before, that I bought from a car boot sale when we were in Whittington.  I don't know what made me think about it, but I was thinking about suckers, which are the little shoots that come off the plant, between the stem and the leaves.  Opinion is divided but general consensus is that you should pull these off.  As I was reading up on it, I saw that you could grow a new tomato plant from the suckers.  Just stick them in a glass of water for about a week, and it grows roots.  Pot on.  Bingo!  As I was reading this article though, I saw another little trick.  Someone had grown a massive... bush is the best word I can use to describe it.  They'd put a plastic waste paper bin, with holes drilled in the bottom, and near the top, buried into the ground, with the top layer of holes just showing.  A couple of shovels of compost in the bin.  Around it, they planted four tomato plants, in a NSEW position.  Put canes and wire around to contain the plants.  Within a space of a month, it was just one big mass of tomatoes.  You pour the water into the centre 'well' and it waters above and below the soil.  Today Mr G had a crack at a slightly amended version today.

We didn't plant into the ground as our soil isn't that great, plus space is getting less and less in our garden!  We bought a big pot, a smaller pot and three well established tomato plants, as it was a slightly smaller space than if it was being planted directly into the soil.

Large pot filled with compost, and a smaller pot embedded in the middle


Tomato plants planted, spaced apart, and canes and wire added to secure the plants in place
  
Put in a sunny spot, see the water in the inner 'well'

So, that was today's gardening job, most other things having to go on hold for over a week because *someone* forgot to put the green bin out and it is rammed...  I can't wait to see if it works, the one I saw online was pretty impressive.  I'll update in a month.  Let's just hope the weather stays this good!  
 

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Summer Garden

What a glorious Sunday, 19 degrees!  The garden still needed a fair bit of work on it, after the rain we had recently, things just seem to have sprung up out of nowhere.  Which is ok if you're talking plants and flowers, but not so great when you're talking about the hedges in our back garden!

We also have this big spiky lethal plant that we wanted to get rid of.   The leaves are really sharp and it was growing really untidily, overshadowing all the other plants and flowers.  It was only small when we bought it and we planted it next to our palm tree.   Jesus H Christ on a bike.  Put it this way, it broke a prong of our fork and then the fork actually twisted while Mr G tried to get the roots out.   Still, it's done now.  Outside it's roasting hot and it smells of barbecue.  I hadn't paid any attention to the weather forecast for this Bank Holiday weekend, if I had I could have bought some baps and finger rolls and we could have had a barbie too.  Maybe tomorrow?

Here's some pictures of the garden, still a work in progress, as it is every year...




Open for business






I love these two bushes, when they bloom they're beautiful



Three weeks ago, these were tiny, tiny seedlings when I bought them in Whittington!

Caitlin ambled into the room with her iPhone and headphones in.  She of the purple hair and black lipstick and Bring me the Horizon and general adolescent misery.  That Caitlin.

Caitlin:  ♬ Bet on it, bet on it, bet on it, bet on it...♬
Me: ...
Caitlin:  Oh my God.  High School Musical.  I am the shittest emo in the world, aren't I?
Me:  Pretty much, yes.
Caitlin:  I can't remember simple math formulas but I can recite this whole movie word for word...

It's all good ;-)   Next jobs - weeding near the decking area and by the bottom shed, staining the decking, shed, summerhouse, trellis... meh.  We need to empty the large wooden planter Mr G made a few years ago as our passion flower has snuffed it, and something has done that, whether it's ants or woodlice or what remains to be seen.  We've got a honeysuckle and a clematis to grow up the trellis instead.  And I have found a really nifty little trick online to grow loads and loads of tomatoes, so I want to see what Mr G thinks when he gets home, as he loves creating things in the garden.  He's currently made up another excuse to leave the house drive his car.  Boys and their toys...