Something to consider. . .

Freedom QuoteThere was a discussion on the dreaded Facebook yesterday about banning the wearing of the burka [not sure if the niqab comes under that ban as well] in the UK.  As many of you will know it has been banned in France already.  Now, I have to say at this point that I totally understand the security based reasons behind this school of thought.  However, looking at the bigger picture from a different angle, I am worried that we are picking away at our freedom of choice that we are so famous for as a nation. If we start dictating what people can wear then where will it end? 

Historically, I can remember a nurse and a British Airway’s clerk both of whom were banned from wearing a christian cross at work.  I wear my crucifix all the time, in fact I rarely take it off.  Although wearing a cross or similar is not a security issue, I can see similarities here, and feel an equal amount of injustice at both situations.  Again, removing our freedom of choice, and this is supposed to be a christian country first and foremost!!

I know that for those muslim women who choose to wear the burka for the right reasons [i.e. based in faith as an informed choice, not through fear or oppression] being told they can’t wear it in public would cause, at the very least, feelings of distress, anxiety and frustration.  They would feel they are compromising their beliefs.  Interestingly, part of the discussion produced the comment that ‘they should go to a country that shares their religious views’.  Fair point, but that could be tricky if they’re white british.  White british muslim converts are often the most devout and passionate about their faith, which has lead to some of them choosing to take the veil.  These women belong in the UK regardless of their religion, their lives and families are here.  We have a huge, and still growing, muslim convert community here in MK and I think that’s something to celebrate.

So, going back to my initial fears, how free to choose are we really?  I’m starting to wonder in this rapidly developing ‘Nanny State’.  I used to celebrate and feel lucky at being British and living here.  At times now I feel suffocated by, and disappointed at the country I live in and some of the people I have to share it with.  I am obviously aware of the terrible extremist based crimes taking place, but in my opinion they have nothing to do with real faith or religion.  God/Allah pbuh, does not sanction genocide or terrorism, so no religious label or scripture will ever make that right, no matter how hard they try to justify their crimes under that banner.

I found these quotes last night and they really made me think:~

      “Not enough people know or understand just how little freedom we have left.”  Korban Blake

      “As free as you allow others to be, such freedom you create for yourself.”  Bryant McGill

Finally, I found this in an article in The Guardian by Andrew Brown and I wonder if maybe he’s right:~

      “The burka debate is not so much about religious obligation, as about the public rejection of the surrounding society, and society’s tolerance for that.”

Chocolate Sundae quick update. . .

Here are a few photographic updates of my Chocolate Sundae blanket. I’ve not done much crochet over the summer as too busy doing ‘outside’ stuff especially with my ‘boys’ being off with me. Anyway, the sudden arrival of rather autumnal feeling evenings [chilly or what?] has inspired me to pick up my chocolately goodness and crochet my evenings away in front of the TV. It’s starting to look quite blanket-like I think and it’s certainly getting heavy already.

Chocolate Sundae Aug'14 (2)It’s lovely and warm under here.

Chocolate Sundae Aug'14 (3)

Chocolate Sundae Aug'14It’s actually starting to look like a proper blanket and it’s very heavy already.

Helpful Honey (3)Helpful Honey warming my feet.

Not So Ordinary Time. . .

Chapel at Turvey Abbey on Ordinary Time

Chapel at Turvey Abbey during Ordinary Time

Hi everyone xx.  I know it’s been a while and yes, I did ‘hide’ my blog for a few weeks while I was deciding whether to continue with it or not.  I have this inner battle every now and then, usually when I realise that I’m blogging for my readers more than I am for myself.  This leads to self-imposed pressure that I don’t enjoy.  Time to take a break when that happens.  I’ve also started a hand-written journal that I’ve kept up with faithfully for quite a while now.  It’s a lot less pressured as I’m the only audience so there’s no pressure to perform as it were.  There’s something very satisfying about putting pen to paper and just spilling your thoughts onto a crispy fresh, clean page.

However, that said, today I have something to share so was inspired to blog.  I saw this thought provoking article about Ordinary Time posted by the Nuns of Turvey Abbey on Facebook yesterday and was inspired to respond.  The article talks about OT being a period of waiting, a lull in our liturgical year and, for some, a time of restlessness between pivotal [more exciting?] points in our church calendar.  It’s a really good read, and I am always interested to see how others travel through the religious seasons. 

For those who are not certain, Ordinary Time starts after Pentecost, which was June 8th this year, and carries right through until the start of Advent.  There is also a period of OT which runs from the feast of the Epiphany in early January and ends on Ash Wednesday, being our marker for the beginning of Lent.

Personally, I love the gentle rhythm of the liturgical year. It was the one thing I missed during my denominational discernment [2006-2009], especially when venturing into the more evangelical ‘happy clappy’ churches [great singing though ;) ]. I was bereft at the lack of liturgy and ceremony. I think that’s what drew me to Catholicism in the end. I don’t ‘need’ all that ceremony and all those feast days to be catholic, but they’re a great reminder of how important my faith is because so much effort and value is placed in the Mass and all that it holds/offers.

Ordinary Time is a gift really, a time to take a breath, take stock, think about my faith without the pressure of Lent or Advent to distract me from the simplicity of my faith. Just occasionally it’s good to be your own focus and hopefully, whilst taking a good look at yourself, you might even see Jesus walking right there beside you….

photograph courtesy of Turvey Abbey

pointed-cabbageI spend a lot of my life trying to come up with new ways to cook and prepare vegetables.  We eat an awful lot of veg and very little meat.  Today I thought I’d try stir-fry cabbage with garlic and lemon.  No idea where that idea came from.

I used the following: ~

One de-stalked, very finely shredded sweetheart cabbage, ‘cos that’s what I had  growing in our garden, but your favourite cabbage will work fine I’m sure.  I don’t have a food processor so I just used a knife and cut it across the leaves to make thin shreds. 

One clove of garlic, crushed.

Good slug of extra virgin olive oil.

1 oz butter.

Juice of half a lemon or a good slug if you have the concentrated bottle variety.

Black pepper to taste.

Shake of garlic salt.

Place the oil and butter in a large wok or heavy based frying pan and heat until it starts to foam.  Add the crushed garlic but lift it straight off the heat to avoid the garlic burning [never nice] and just swirl it around for a few seconds to incorporate the flavour of the garlic into the hot oil and butter.  Place the pan back on the heat and straight in with the cabbage.  Stir immediately and keep stirring until it starts to soften.  At this point add your lemon juice, pepper and garlic salt to taste.  Serve immediately. 

I have to say this is now probably my favourite way to eat cabbage, truly delish.  I think you could also add a pinch of chilli flakes or finely sliced fresh chilli if you like a bit of heat.

It would go very nicely with fish due to the lemon.  We had it with chicken breast that I’d marinated in Thai sweet chilli sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, chilli flakes and black pepper.  Potato dish was crushed, roasted garlic new potatoes.  It was an absolutely lovely supper and very light and easy to eat given the heat of the day.

Apologies for no photo but it really wasn’t much to look at,  just a shredded cabbage :D .


Click on the image to view the book on Amazon.co.uk

Well, who’da thought it?  I bought the lovely book on the left there from Amazon Market Place, second-hand for a 1p plus p&p.  It’s hardback and, to all intents and purposes, was in ‘VERY GOOD’ condition.  So a real bargain for£2.81 in total.  I’ve only just discovered J. Rees Larcombe, but she’s my kind of Christian.  This is a lovely daily devotional book with thought provoking reflections.

So, today the book arrived.  I was initially quite concerned as the packaging was not up to the job, just being a grey plastic bag really, which had worn open at the corners in transit.  The corners were a little dented but hey, it cost me a penny. 

When I opened the book I was really chuffed to discover that it had been signed by the author.  Not dedicated to anyone in particular, just a general ‘With love from Jen x’ and her signature underneath.  Hmmm, this made me curious to find out, with no particular dedication, if I’d also struck on a First Edition, maybe handed out at a launch or similar.  And oh dearie me yes, after I’d done some research, I found that it is indeed a FIRST EDITION.  So, all in all rather a gem I’d say. 

It kinda makes no difference in the great scheme of things because I won’t be selling it at any great profit [if it's even worth anymore at this point].  I shall just treasure it and relish in the fact that it’s a real find with a lovely personal touch that I wasn’t expecting. 

Fly away Peter. . .

Quick post to share that while we were sitting in Tesco’s car park yesterday, waiting for the car to cool a little, these two sweet little baby Starlings came and sat at our open window.  They were there for ages.  Even when we finally started to drive very slowly away they stayed put for quite a while.  We thought they were coming home with us at one point.  They were so tame we could actually touch them.  Just had to share….

Baby Startlings at our open window...

Baby Starlings at our open window…

Pimp that journal. . .

I haven’t posted for a while.  I’ve been caught up in the lovely busyness of being at home full-time for these couple of months between jobs.  To say that I’m having a blast is an understatement, I’m totally loving it!  So much cooking, crochet, reading!! 

I’ve also bought/made myself a new journal that is totally my own design using the ARC system from Staples.  It’s great to make a journal/planner/organiser [call it what you will] that is absolutely suited to your own needs and desires.  It also means you can pimp it up with all manner of lovely papers, stickers and ephemera.  For those, like me, with a bit of a stationery fetish it’s all rather addictive and is growing far bigger than I first thought.  Might even have to split it in the end into a Journaling/Inspiration ARC and a more practical Diary/To-Do-List/Addresses/Contacts type ARC.  The planner will hold up to 200 sheets depending on the size of disc you put in, so it’s expandable. 

I didn’t realise when I started making this planner that it’s actually got quite a cult following.  Filofax, ARC, Smash Journaling ~  they’ve all gone a bit viral, and if you look on YouTube or search the blog world then they’re absolutely everywhere.  I did have a very brief look at a Filofax but the price quickly convinced me that it’s just not worth it.  Ridiculously expensive!

Anyway, here are a few photo’s of some parts of my ARC.  Obviously the cover is bought from Staples and some of the inserts, but I quickly realised that I could add my own things.  I’ve made some of my own dividers and decorated the plain ones I bought.  I’ve also bought an ARC hole punch so that I can add my own things without having to just use the rather plain ones that Staples sell.  These are also sold in the States and, typically, they have a huge and colourful variety of accessories for their ARC range over there.  The UK has a way to go to catch up as our range is rather conservative in comparison.  Hence it’s better to use your own imagination and turn it into a craft project.

PHOTO’S. . . [finally ;) ]

ARC beginnings (1)

Hot pink A5 leather cover, with the 200 sheet expansion discs. All decoration I’ve added myself.

Inside the front cover, Gratitude Journal tucked in the left flap.  Favourite bible quote as a fly leaf.

Inside the front cover ~ pretty, flowery ‘Gratitude Journal’ tucked in the left flap. Favourite bible quote as a fly-leaf which I made.

ARC beginnings (4)

Post-it’s which I also added, bought them from Paperchase.

ARC beginnings (5)

Post-it’s page. Owl sticky post book mark at the top with my shopping lists also poking out. List pages [task pages they're actually called] courtesy of ARC/Staples. Owl sticky book marks from Paperchase.

ARC beginnings (6)

Monthly major events so I can see what’s coming up each month at a glance. Also made these, just cut and punched some coloured index cards.  I’ve also added some adhesive ribbon to the blue poly divider to add some prettiness.  These poly dividers are from Staples.

Next comes my ‘Diary’ section, and then my ‘To Do’ lists which are a bit private so no photo’s of those.  The pages for these are bought from Staples, they do generic diary pages which you date yourself and special ‘To Do’ pages.  Each pack contains 60 sheets of each and are between £2.20 and £2.60 depending on the type of pack so pricewise they knock Filofax into a cocked hat.

Blank journalling pages.  Pages taken from an old A5 journal and decorated myself.

Blank journaling pages all ready for my thoughts. Sheets taken from an old A5 journal and decorated myself with journaling cards, washi tape and vintage stickers.

Some of the journaling cards I bought from Hobbycraft and some I downloaded and printed myself. There is a plethora of free material out there if you have a look.  Here is a great blog site that offers some lovely free printables…  Miss Tina, Digital Art

ARC beginnings (13)

‘Prayer and Scripture’ section… showing ‘The Mass’..

ARC beginnings (12)

Favourite piece of scripture…

Craft Projects section.  Here I write down what I've used to make a particular project and also any ideas or inspirations for new projects.

‘Craft Projects’ section. Here I write down what I’ve used to make a particular project and also any ideas or inspirations for new projects.

ARC beginnings (15)

Home-made dividers made from card and decorated with washi tape.

ARC beginnings (18)

And again, but this time decorated with adhesive ribbon.

ARC beginnings (16)

Next is the ‘Inspiration’ section. Just quotes and images that inspire me or that I simply enjoy. Quotes written on journaling cards and punched with the ARC punch.  Pink sheets taken from an old journal and decorated with washi tape and vintage stickers.

ARC beginnings (17)

Art that inspires me!!

Books and Films section.  A list of books I want to read and films I'd like to see.  Also some reviews of what I'm reading or have read.

‘Books and Films’ section. A list of books I want to read and films I’d like to see. Also some reviews of what I’m reading or have read.

The next three sections are ‘Food & Recipes’,  ‘Useful Stuff’ and ‘Contacts’.  There’s not much in the ‘Food’ section and the last two are too private to photograph but you get the idea.

Finally. . .

A little pocket I bought from Hobby craft in a pack of three different envelope/pockets.  There are some little things Ethan has given me over the years and special cards and things that I hold dear.  I've stuck this inside the back cover.

A little pocket I bought from Hobbycraft in a pack of three different envelopes/pockets. There are some little things in there that Ethan has given me over the years and special cards that I hold dear. I’ve stuck this inside the back cover with double-sided tape.

So, that’s quite a long post for me with more than my usual quota of photo’s. I’ve really enjoyed making this journal and it’s a constant work in progress as I keep thinking up new ideas for how to make it better or add new sections. You can see why it’s going to outgrow itself quite soon, and become two journals ~ one practical, one inspirational. I won’t buy another leather cover as I’m pretty sure I can make a very pretty one myself out of card and decorative paper. I’ll share if and when I do that.

Hope you’re all inspired to do something similar.  You can even do something with just a normal note book or journal by covering it, decorating the pages, adding tabs, sticking in photo’s, pictures, stickers etc.  It doesn’t take much imagination and it’s really great fun.  

My day in pictures. . .

Today I managed to take some photo’s of my roasted vegetable ratatouille which I made another batch of this morning.  Beneath that are a few shots of my Chocolate Sundae blanket which has come on a little over the last week or so.  Enjoy!!


Raw veg prepped and chopped. Used some button mushrooms this time.


Dry seasonings and a stray onion lol


Veg after the first 45 minutes of cooking


Time to add the tabasco and chopped tomatoes


Ready to go back into the oven for another 20 minutes


Finished product just waiting for our supper later


Chocolate Sundae blanket with some fragrant Sweet Peas from the garden


Really starting to come together now


Reuben loves smelling the flowers, sooo helpful Reu lol…

Just a tiny bit left

Just a tiny bit left ~ not a great photo but you get the idea

Here, as promised, is the recipe for my roasted vegetable ratatouille.  As with everything I make it started out as a way to use up left over veg that was starting to look a bit sad.  It’s also great for taking advantage of any veg that’s on special offer or cheap in season.  You can use quite a variety of veg depending on what you like and what you’ve got in.  At the moment aubergines are very cheap, 50p each for a huge one in Tesco, so I’m buying them weekly.

Here’s what I used yesterday and this served two of us amply with a tiny bit left over which is in the photo above.

1 aubergine 

1 medium/large red or white onion

3 carrots

1 medium sized sweet potato

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed with the back of a knife

1 400g can of whole or chunky chopped plum tomatoes.  Aldi sell the chunky chopped variety which are lovely quality, they also sell them with herbs already added which you could also use.  If you use whole ones then just break them up a bit with a fork as you add them.  Same difference really.

black pepper

garlic salt

all purpose seasoning if you have any [see below**]

two shakes of tabasco [I use a lot of tabasco ;) ]

generous slug of extra virgin olive oil.  I buy mine in Aldi, cheap and very nice flavour.

I have also used parsnips, courgettes, fresh tomatoes, peppers and new potatoes in the past.  I’ve tried open cup mushrooms but not a great result, I think button mushrooms would have been better.

Preheat oven to 190C.  Wash all the veg and chop it into decent bite-sized chunks, not so big that they take ages to cook but not so small that they melt away in the cooking process.  I cut the onion smaller as I’m not keen on great big bits of onion and it caramalises better if cut smaller.  Place everything, apart from the tin of tomatoes, in a large roasting dish.  I use the one I do my roast spuds in. You don’t want the veg too deep, a single layer is best so it cooks quickly but I do pack it in, there’s not a spare inch of tin showing.

Place a good glug of olive oil over the veg, enough to coat it all  but not so much that it’s swimming [get your hands in at this point and give it a good mix].  Give the veg a good shake and add your dry seasonings but not the tabasco yet.  Stir to get the seasoning on all the veg and add a bit more seasoning if necessary.

Place dish in the middle of the oven for about 30 – 45 minutes stirring once halfway through until veg is starting to brown and cook down.  At this point open your tomatoes, add the tabasco to them and stir in a bit.  Pour the tomatoes over the veg and combine well.  Put back in the oven for a further 15 – 20 minutes.  That’s it!!  Enjoy because it’s absolutely delicious.  We eat this on top of jacket potatoes, with roast chicken, fish/fish cakes or mixed through pasta.

You can also add a broken up mozzarella ball 5 minutes before the end if you want to.  It creates a lovely stringy, cheesy texture and suddenly it’s a bit like an aubergine parmigiana.

**A quick note about All Purpose Seasoning in case you’re wondering what I’m on about ;) .  I bought this in the world foods aisle in Tesco and  use it for lots of dishes from potato wedges [white or sweet] to roast vegetables and soups.  I also sprinkle it on my roast chickens before they go in the oven.  It’s main ingredients are: paprika, coriander, mustard, chilli, garlic, onion and celery salt.  It’s one of those things that I bought on a whim and it’s turned out to be really useful for all sorts of things.  There are other varieties: chicken, fish, tropical, caribbean and barbecue being some of them.  I chose ‘All Purpose’ because it contained a lot of the spices I use anyway but in one tub.  Again, very cheap too.

All Purpose Seasoning

All Purpose Seasoning



Image courtest of the BBC.co.uk

Image courtesy of the bbc.co.uk

It’s not often I post an actual recipe for something I’ve cooked but today is going to be the exception.  We had Thai-style fishcakes with creamy dipping sauce and roasted vegetable ratatouille.  All the recipes are my own, they’ve kind of morphed out of trial and error over the years, with a splash of inspiration thrown in from other recipes that I’ve seen in books or on TV.

Sharon’s Thai-style fishcakes

These are Thai-style because they’re not very authentic if I’m honest, but they have overtones of Thai in them because I like a bit of heat.

1lb [approx] of mashed potatoes or any that you have left over which is the best way, as I’m all for using up leftovers. 

1 can of tuna – whatever sort you usually use.

1 large or 2 small fish fillets, cooked, you can use absolutely any fish you like, even smoked.  I used  two small frozen cod fillets today that have been lurking in my freezer for ages.  You could just use one type of fish if you prefer.  I’ve made them with just tuna before and they’re just fine.

4 spring onions/scallions chopped into tiny discs.

3 oz grated matured cheddar [optional]

1/2 teaspoon of dried chilli flakes [cheapest by far bought in the World Foods aisle, usually to be found in rather unglamorous plastic bags, but just as good as the expensive little jars and last a lot longer if you transfer them to an airtight tub]

1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

salt and pepper

whole egg

good slug of lemon juice

flour for dusting

oil for frying

Quite simply break the fish up into small pieces and then mix the whole lot together in a bowl being careful to season to your taste as you go, especially with the cayenne and chilli flakes, heat is not for everyone so you could leave them out.  Try not to mash it together too much or you’ll end up with a paste rather than a fishcake, a bit of texture is good.  Then form it into patties using floured hands.  This made 14 small to medium sized cakes today.  I froze half of them for another time.  I make them small so Ethan can actually pick them up and eat them with his fingers once he’s dunked them in his dip of choice.   I always chill them for at least an hour or so if I have time, as they hold together better when being cooked.  Fry for about 7 minutes on each side.  I served them with roasted vegetable ratatouille today (recipe to follow tomorrow) but they’re equally lovely with a crispy green salad and freshly buttered, brown bread.

* * * * * *

I always make a dip of some sort with these depending on what I’ve got in.  Today’s was…

Sharon’s Thai-style creamy dipping sauce

1 tablespoon good mayonaise

1 tablespoon of half-fat creme fraiche or sour cream

shake or two of tabasco

pinch of cayenne [optional]

generous teaspoon of thai sweet chilli sauce

half a teaspoon of hot horseradish sauce/cream

good slug of lemon juice

Mix and pop in the fridge to allow the flavours to blend a bit.  If you don’t have the thai sweet chilli sauce you could just add a good squeeze of tomato ketchup instead, the tabasco and cayenne will give some heat and spice.

I apologise for not having any photo’s but as I don’t usually post recipes I hadn’t planned ahead and it’s all eaten up now :D.  The borrowed image above is exactly what they looked like though.  Thank you bbc.co.uk.


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