Tuesday, 20 December 2011


The latest production by the "Heeley Hoofers" was last month, a musical comedy called "Crazy Capers, Dodgy Deals". The play was set in 1971, hence the somewhat disturbing costumes.

 This group picture has just over half the cast, that's me on the far right, but what is most disturbing is that my  costume came entirely from my own wardrobe, and yes I was supposed to be a Hippy.
Maureen is wearing a wonderful Crimplene Vintage blouse that I found in a local charity shop.  Liz is wearing a blouse I made using a period pattern "Style 1144",

 This is John in his "Burglar" jumper.  The stripes really should have been wider, but I had only budgeted for one pot of fabric paint.  Never mind "Fluffrick really likes this t-shirt, it may find it's way into his wardrobe.
  A fancy dress party was a plot point in the play, so here we have the Wicked Queen, Snow White and a Princess.  The Wicked Queen costume was far more dramatic in person, or maybe that was Jeanie's performance.  I have to say I did put off making this costume for a long time, but it turned out better that I expected. I did enjoy making the Snow White costume and it wasn't too difficult to make.  Fortunately Lola fitted in the the "Princess" dress I made for our last production, can we work a very slim princess into our next show?
 Another recycled costume from our "Treasure Island" production, I just had to make the mask
Marcia as a wonderful Bumble Bee, I'm sure she was very glad she was only in the costume for ten minutes as it was made of fur fabric and rather warm and boy was it hot backstage. 
 Luke, on the right, was so ecstatic with is Batman costume, even more so when I found him some tights that he could get past his knees.  Women's tights are not designed for men who are over six feet tall, who knew.
 Chris and John in drag, they did make such classy women.

This was a massive production in terms of costumes, I had to procure 46 different costumes for a mere 16 cast members and I'm no good at delegating when it comes to costumes.  We are running out of space under the bed for all the costumes from the last three productions, all I can say is thank goodness for vacuum storage bags.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Why do I feel like I'm being taken advantage of?

I don't dress my dog up as a fashion accessory, but with the weather being so cold and wet at the moment, the only way to get her out the door is to put a coat on her.  Then she will happily scamper about in the park, or maybe she is trying to fling the coat off.

So I bought this pattern last week, it is a Simplicity Sew Simple sewing pattern, containing only one sheet of tissue paper and three pages of instructions and priced $1.49 (or so it said at the bottom of the catalogue page).  However this isn't the price I paid here if the UK, where $1.49 translates to £0.96, no I was charged £3.45, a 250% mark up.  I really do feel that I am being ripped off.

Sprout Soup Anyone?

This is not a recipe of my own invention, it is courtesy of Mary Berry's Family Recipes circa 1979 and she called it Frugal Soup, did she not think Brussel Sprout Soup would be appealing?

Ingredients -  serves 4

225g Brussel Sprouts
1 Leek
25g Butter
500ml Stock (from a cube, I use Kallo) Chicken or Vegetable
25g Plain flour
300ml Milk

Wash and roughly chop the sprouts, you don't need to trim them other than to remove the bottom stalky bit.  Wash the leek and cut into rounds.

Melt the butter in a large pan, add the leeks and soften gently for 5 minutes, don't allow to brown.  Add the hot stock and then the sprouts and bring to the boil.  Cook for 10-15 minutes or until the sprouts are tender.

Blend or liquidize the cooked sprout mixture, I use a hand blender, but they weren't around back when this recipe was initially written.  Whisk the flour into a little of the milk and add to the blended sprouts, followed by the rest of the milk and mix thoroughly.  Bring the soup back to the boil, stirring until slightly thickened, season with salt and pepper.  Serve with a little grated nutmeg.

You could make it even more festive by adding some cooked chestnuts after the soup has been blended, I keep meaning to try it like this, but have yet to get sound to it.

If you wait until next week to make this soup, you should be able to buy a bag of sprouts that the supermarkets are trying to off-load for mere pence, just don't try to give this to anyone who doesn't like sprouts.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

What to Eat This Week

Although most of the focus at this time of year seems to be on what to eat next Sunday, we still need to eat this week, so this is what I'm going to inflict on the family.

Mushroom and Stilton Pie with Creamy Potato and Celeriac Bake and Carrots

Norwegian Fish Pie - from the wonderful show Economy Gastronomy, why did they never make a second season?

Vegetable Fahitas

Stuffed Cabbage Leaves

Vegetable Lasagne

Smoked Salmon Tartiflette

Courgette Spouffle

Festive Burgers

I wasn't going to write up this recipe as it is only 3 ingredients and beyond simple, but then I realised just how festive it is.  Green pepper, red onion and turkey mince, you can't really get more in the season.

Ingredients - for 8 burgers

1 450g Pack of Free Range Turkey Mince
Half a Green Pepper
1 Red Onion

 Chop the green pepper and red onion finely, it has to be fine as it is cooks with the burger, then add to the turkey mince.  By far the best way to combine the ingredients is just to get you (clean) hands in there, squidge everything together so that the pepper and onion is evenly distributed.

Divide into 8 equal (hopefully more equal than mine) portions and form into burgers.  Then chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Fry in a little olive oil for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.  Ensure that the burgers are cooked all the way through, before serving.  If you are an over achiever like me, serve them with home-made spiced oven chips and home-made baked beans, but you can serve them with whatever you like.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Yummy Aubergine Bake

For quite a while I never knew what to do when an Aubergine arrived in the veg box.  Of late I have been making Moussaka, with either a turkey or vegetable filling (no cute little baa lambs eaten in this house), but the frequency with which the Aubergine shows up has sent me looking for other recipes.  One of these days I will post a recipe that does not include tinned tomatoes, but that day is not today.

Serves 4 -  Ingredients:
1 Large Aubergine
2 Eggs
50ml Milk
50g Plain Flour
150g Breadcrumbs
1 Medium Onion
2 Cloves of Garlic
2 Tins of Tomatoes
Olive Oil
125g Mozzarella
250g Ricotta
50g Parmigiana
Peel the Aubergine and cut into slices just over 1/2 cm thick. In a shallow bowl mix the milk with 1 of the eggs, put the flour and breadcrumbs into 2 other shallow dishes. Flour the aubergine slices, dip into the egg & milk mixture and finally into the breadcrumbs.  Put in the fridge for half an hour to dry a little before frying.
 Fry the breaded Aubergine in olive oil (it may take quite a bit of oil)until golden, then drain on some absorbent paper.
Now for the tomato sauce.  Finely slice the onion and garlic, gently fry in a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for 5 minutes then add the tomatoes and continue to cook for a further 15 minutes on a medium heat.
For the cheesy layer. In a bowl combine the half the grated mozzarella, the tub of ricotta, the parmigiana and the other egg.
In a large oven proof dish, put a third of the tomato sauce on the bottom and over with half the Aubergine slices.  Top with a further third of the tomato sauce and then all the cheesy mixture.
Top with the other half of the Aubergine slices and then cover with the remainder of the tomato sauce and the remaining grated mozzarella.
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5 and bake for 30-40 minutes until it is bubbling and the cheese is melted.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Disgusted of Sheffield

As I've said here before "I don't do Christmas", but I do do Christmas lunch. What can I say, I'm a Contrary Mary. But what I heard today, just disgusted me (and resulted in a few choice swear words).

Can you imagine charging someone to come to Christmas lunch? I'm not talking about a restaurant or hotel or a pub, they earn every penny they charge. No, what I heard today was about an individual's own Mother asking for payment from her own child. I don't meaning asking someone to bring the sprouts, or a bottle of bubbly or a bag of prawns, but asking for £30 hard cash. I know many people are feeling the pinch this year, but even still who among us would demand cash from their own family for the privilege of sharing Christmas Day with them?

Warming Food for Cold Days

The weather has been cold, wet and horrible; which just puts me in the mood for warming and hearty food. So let me introduce you to Chicken Casserole and Dumplings. It's also pretty damn easy to make.

Ingredients for 4 Hungry People:

For Casserole
1 Large Leek
2 Parsnips
2 Carrots
Half a Celeriac
5 Mushrooms
1 400g Tin of Tomatoes
8 Chicken Thighs or Drumsticks
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Plain Flour

For Dumplings
200g Self Raising Flour
70g Vegetable Suet
1 Tsp Mixed Herbs

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5/190 oC/375 oF. Wash and slice the leek, both white and green parts, the long cooking makes it all tender.

Peel and chop the root vegetables into 1-1.5 cm dice. You don't have to use these vegetables, it's just what I had to hand. Also great would be, swede, turnip, jerusalem artichoke, sweet potato, I wouldn't use potato as they tend to turn to mush.

Quarter the mushrooms and remove the skin from the chicken portions.
Heat a large casserole (with a lid) on the hob and add the olive oil, gently fry the vegetables for 5 minutes with a little salt and pepper. Add the plain flour and stir it in well. Add the tinned tomatoes and then 1 tin full of hot water. Finally add the chicken portions and try to submerge them in the liquid. Heat on the hob until it is bubbling, then put on the lid and put in the oven for an initial 1 and a half hours. Now go and snuggle up on the sofa and keep warm, or as we did today go to a cold and wet Sharrowvale Market.

Now for the dumplings. Put the self raising flour, suet, herbs and seasoning in a bowl and mix together. Add enough cold water to make a soft slightly sticky dough. Spoon golf ball sized portions on top of the casserole, then return to the oven for a further 20 minutes, this time with the lid off.

Serve up to hungry people, all that will be left is the bones.
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