Friday, 28 October 2011

Give for free

This entry has
1) Charity: Can you click your mouse? You can donate for free!
2) Sundried and tomato Bread Recipe
3) Knitting Myth Buster
4) Site seeing
5) Podcast of the week

1) Charity: Can you click your mouse? You can donate for free!

Came across this amusing spoof
Which as you will see is part of Comic Relief.  But that only happens once a year, and it is possible to continue to give to good causes throughout the year For Free!!!   So consider visiting such sites as these, where “clicks” benefit a charity.  Some of them are one off, some could be visited more frequently, and for those who like puzzles they are catered for too, here are some examples:-

Sun dried tomato and olive bread rolls

If anyone wants to do these and not used to baking breads, and finds my description not in enough depth, just contact me via comments and I will help.
12oz strong white bread flour,
 packet of easy blend yeast,
1tsp salt
1tsp sugar
About 4tbs dried sundried tomatoes cut into small pieces
6 (at least) stoned olives cut into quarters
 tepid milk/soya milkwith 3tbs olive oil and squidge of tomato puree to make half a pint liquid.  (need not be all milk it can be half milk half water)
Add the easy blend yeast to the flour, and then all other dry ingredients.  Adjust the tomatos and olives quantities according to personal preference.
Add the liquid slowly until a good soft dough is achieved.  If the dough remains too crumbly add more liquid, if the dough is too sticky to knead add some flour.
Knead dough for about 10 mins by hand or 3 mins in a Kenwood Chef type mixer.
Leave to rise till doubled in size, I put mine on the top of the stove, (freestanding stove), and put the oven on, this accelerates the rising and the dough ready in an hour.
Take the dough from the bowl and divide into 6 or 8 pieces.  6 makes nice larger size baps, 8 makes smaller ones!
Form the pieces into round balls and knead into flattish shapes, and place on baking tray.  Dust the baps with light covering of flour and put to rise again for about 20 mins so double in size again.
Oven number 7 for about 9 mins.   To ensure they are cooked tap the base and the bap should sound hollowish.
Put on a rack and cover with clean cloth to cool. 
Sit back with smug glow at how clever you have been 

3) Knitting Myth Buster
Unbelieveable though it is, there are still people out there who think knitting is old fashioned, “something my old gran did”, fuddy duddy etc.  So to nip this misconception in the bud……
The name Vogue has always been associated with stylish dressing, and Vogue knitting site is not deviating from this concept.  The link here is for their free patterns, but do look at the main stuff as well.  But I give the free pattern links as starting points, as there is also the conception that "designer" knitting is too expensive. One doesnt have to use the yarn suggested, more budget priced yarn can be substituted if the original is too expensive. .
Another site with a modern approach is
There are others which I will mention in future too

4)Other Site Seeing
This week satirical magazine Private Eye celebrates 50 years.  Current editor Ian Hislop is known to most as panellist on “Have I got news for you”. 
The site is: gives a good indication of  the excellent value magazine.
For intellectuals who are not after satire but political awareness, then perhaps New Statesman should be the destination but personally it is a bit heavy for me at times, but it is a thought provoking site.

 5)Podcast of the week
For potted biographies of an eclectic mix of people, try
Some of the subjects are modern, some from history, but many interesting ones.  I like to think of these as “tasters” and then decide if I want to go on and read more about that person. Check out the site and see for yourself the enormous choice of biographies from which to choose.

Friday, 21 October 2011

A rare event and a secret

Being a vegan means “the dining out experience” or lunch in a cafĂ© is somewhat problematic.  It pays to always ring before and check “special diets catered for”, and inevitably results in there being no choice but to have “the option”.  This is usually either pasta in tomato sauce or salad and chips, oh yes I have had baked beans and chips, and lets not forget the old standby “nut cutlet”.  I can count on one hand how many nut cutlets I have had but do know they have all been when eating out.  When the waiters bring round the meals they enquire politely who has ordered the Steak this or Chicken That,  until it comes to my meal and they yell scathingly “Who is the Vegan?”   If a customer has an allergy they are treated with more respect than the “nutter vegan woman”.   It is because of these experiences I decline to eat out.  Being away from home when working meant my weight was kept in check because I was afforded so little to eat in even “good hotels”.  I am aware I am in the minority, but feel as a paying customer that if  my money is good enough for them to take, I should be offered at least a choice.  Where is this leading?  Well, on Saturday Dominic took me to lunch in a restaurant in Wolverhampton.  No prior notice required, and for the first time ever I was spoilt for choice.  It was not a vegetarian restaurant.  It catered for those eating dead stuff too.  But the menu was clearly marked for a number of diets.  So a big thumbs up for a tasty meal at 
So if you have vegan friends who appear not to relish the thought of a meal out, perhaps it is the discrimination they fear and do not want to spend their hard earned cash on baked beans and chips at inflated prices whilst watching their friends enjoy gourmet food they would not create at home.  If you do come across restaurants that cater well for “special diets”, then spread the word.

This week the remainder of this contains 1) Jars, 2) Worth a Look, 3) Worth a  Read, 4)Worth a Listen

I tend to keep some jars and not throw every empty one away, and once this habit is formed it poses the question of what to do with them!  Well here are a few suggestions.   And this is where the secret mentioned earlier appears.  The net is awash with chutney and preserves recipes, but not Runner Bean Chutney.  This recipe was handed to me only after I had been friends with an old lady for many many years and she decided it was time to hand it on having stalwartly refusing to reveal anything about it for decades!  And lucky me, it was me to whom she passed the recipe.  But I think good things should be shared, and having kept the recipe for 30 years without sharing it, I too think I have come to an age where it is appropriate to share it with someone special.  And as you are reading this, it must mean you are special!

Runner bean chutney
2 lb runner beans cut up, 4 or 5 large onions diced, 11/2lb Demerara sugar, 2pts vinegar, 11/2 tbs each of cornflour, mustard and turmeric.
Boil beans and onions in salted water, and cut them up fine
Put in a pan with 11/2pts vinegar and the sugar and boil for 15 mins
Mix cornflour, turmeric and mustard with the remaining vinegar and add to the boiling mixture.  Boil for a further 15 mins and then put in sterile jars.

Cake in a jar
If you like the idea of hand made gifts for friends and relatives then these suggestions are worth considering.  The jars can be decorated as little or as much as desired, and they make unique gifts for the recipient. Either the jar is just prepared with ingredients for the recipient to mix and cook in the normal way, or the jar itself becomes the cooking container too.  These sites have ideas for both methods.

Knitting in a jar! The kits that are available may seem rather expensive but one could buy the separate components and pack them in this novel way. and 
 So am I suggesting plagiarism?  Yeah!

2)Worth a look:
With the colder weather coming thoughts might be turning to knitting and crocheting winter projects.  Red Heart have a couple of excellent free ebooks of afghan patterns and they suit crocheters of all skill levels, even if patterns are not followed absolutely the patterns may inspire.  Take a look at

3)Worth a read:
Elizabeth Gaskell was born 29th September 1810 and wrote some books that are still popular today.  Probably many  of us know her through her book Cranford that was serialised successfully on tv.  A novella called “The Moorland Cottage” is available free on sites like Gutenberg where books in the public domain are kept.  The Moorland Cottage is not heavy but does give insight into lives people lead when it was written in 1851. It is a romantic novel but not soppy.  And I am not going to spoil it by giving the end away!  If Cranford is too long as a taster then try The Moorland Cottage.  I did and now I am looking for another book by this excellent writer.
4)Worth a listen.
A playful day   pleasant knitting biased podcast and available on the libsyn link, or playfulday blog or itunes.  Check out the blog which is nice and I liked the recipe Munch Burp Schlurp  I know I don’t say a lot about the podcasts and books as I prefer each person to determine themselves if the subject matter is to their taste when looking at the link.

Friday, 14 October 2011


 Cooler weather calls for food of a more comforting nature than the Autumnal salads and salsas.  It was with this in mind that I revived my interest in a couple of sites I used last Winter and will share them here.  My limited imagination means that somewhere in “comfort food” category there must lurk potato.  Probably because it has the ability to make one feel full to the paste beads. (More about such sayings later). 
Time has passed quickly this week; well it would wouldn’t it, because I have a new toy.  Have bought a Kindle.  Yes, I know I have a perfectly good Sony ereader, but it was the software that was “doing me head in”.  Synchronisation is either instant or a matter of hours.  No, this is not an exaggeration, hours.  I went on different forums and tweaked around to hasten this procedure.  But it meant that I had to shed some of the documents and books I had on there.  Will not go into long diatribe about it, but suffice it to say I bought a Kindle.  New verb in our house now “Are you kindling?” “I am Kindled out” etc.  But thus far it does work at lightening speed when downloading, and hasn’t groaned at me for having the audacity to put a pdf knitting pattern on.  So occasionally on here with the recommendations I may put one for an ebook.  But can give assurances that anything I suggest will be free.

This week then, there follows 1) Recipe with allied site recommendations for the aforesaid potato.  2) Book recommendation, 3) Podcast recommendation and 4) craft site suggestion.


The potato has many sites dedicated to its existence, but for recipes besides those I give below its worth visiting what the Potato Girls dont know about potatoes twopence wouldnt get their hair cut! 
For Mother and Father Earth there are sites on growing and cooking spuds like
this site has some interesting takes on what to do with a spud: 

No doubt once on the potato fest you will come across hundreds of other sites that raise this "boring" veggie to another level.

Here are my recipes which, as always, are "suggestions" rather than instructions.
For every pound of peeled potatoes you cut into chips you will need in a large bowl:
1 tbs vegetable oil
salt and pepper to season
and according to your personal preference you can add all or some of the following garlic (cloves or puree) Squidge of tomato puree or tomato ketchup
Squidge of mixed herb puree 1 tsp curry powder 1 tsp turmeric ( snazzy coloured chips!)
So having decided on which of the above is going in the oil in the dish, give the lot a good mixing up. If you are unsure just go for the garlic if you like it and or the curry powder.
Add the chips a few at a time to the oil and stir them in so they get evenly coated with the seasoned oil. Eventually you will have added them all.
Spread the chips evenly on a baking tray. (You can line this with parchment and dispense with the washing up!!!)
Cook for 20 mins at mark 7/220/425 they should be brown on the outside and soft on the inside. Don't tell the family how healthy these are compared to ordinary chips or they wont want them!!

Medium similar sized potatoes
Garlic Butter & Herbs to taste (don't worry we will talk about this in a while.
Tin foil cut into squares — one square for each potato.
Put the oven on No7/220/425
Peel the potatoes
Carefully cut the potatoes into slices about quarter of an inch thick DON'T cut through the potatoes entirely, leave them whole. Place each individual potato on a square of tin foil.
Now it’s time to put the garlic butter into the potato slices. You can use bought garlic, butter, or make your own by adding cloves of garlic, or squidges of garlic puree to butter or margarine. At this point mixed herbs can be added from a tube or jar. Of course it goes without saying I like vegan margarine the best for this. Mix the garlic in the margarine in a small dish.
The garlic butter can be inserted into the slices with a knife, or it is easier if the butter is slightly melted and poured into the crevices with a spoon.
Wrap the potatoes in the tin foil and put on a baking tray, and bake for 20 mins and then check to see if one is cooked. A fork should glide into the potato. Unwrap it first! Now you know why they must be a similar size, when one is done they are all done. These are a handy alternative to baked potatoes because they cook so much quicker being sliced through.
Select about 3 medium potatoes per person — normally two would be sufficient serving per person wouldn't it? But remember these are scrumptious! If no medium ones to hand use the ones you have it doesn't matter.    Decent olive oil
Sea salt — oh alright ordinary salt will do at a pinch (pinch gettit?)   Posh foodies might like to add a sprig of Rosemary  or sprig of vine tomatoes.

Peel and halve the potatoes.
Parboil the potatoes. To the uninitiated in the culinary world this means partially cook them only.
Put the potatoes on a baking tray — it's a good idea to put parchment on — but don't go hungry because you have no parchment.
Take a potato masher and give each spud one bash. No masher? Use a fork prongs upward then.
Sprinkle with salt
Steadily drizzle the olive oil over the potatoes. Don't be mean with the oil unless you have bought an inferior one, and then you wont want to taste that anyway. Put in the oven to finish cooking and brown, not forgetting to decorate with the rosemary and or vine tomatoes if used. Now it really doesn't matter if this is a fast or slow process you will have to decide, but let what else is in the oven be the determining factor.
 is Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat.   Available free from your library, free as an ebook, or if you really must it can still be bought and I suggest you nip in Amazon site for absolute bargains on hard copies. Written over a hundred years ago but in such a conversational way that the style isn’t difficult to follow.  The plot is about three hypochondriac blokes who decide to go on a trip to help recuperate from their various imagined ailments.  This book is nice to escape in.  No violence, nothing heavy, just pure pleasantness.  No, it will not challenge the intellect I accept, but reading is to me a pleasure not a chore.  Take a look and see what you think

Earlier I used the phrase “full to the paste beads”, this is a phrase that was common years ago but no so now.  There is a podcast that reveals the meanings and origins of such phrases, (And don’t be prejudiced thinking it will be highbrow), it also mediates between people on correct grammar usage.  I was immensely disappointed to learn this week that it is ok to end a sentence in a preposition.  I have spent the last 50 years assiduously avoiding doing just this.  It is an American podcast called A Way with Words
Available on itunes.  And from the site given.

The humble potato isn’t just for eating!  No no no!  There are crafters who like to do clever stuff with their spuds, (sometimes under the guise of entertaining children, but really it is for their own satisfaction!!!).  So take a look at:  of course Martha Stewart’s site as one would expect has shedloads more than potato stuff!!  So worth a visit even without potato interest.
Clear instructions on this next site for creating the renowned potato stamp

Friday, 7 October 2011


I do paid surveys on line (more about that later).  Today there was a quick poll on the site asking which season is your favourite?  And it took me no time at all to think of my answer as it is autumn.  And for anyone wanting to know the entire quote for the heading of this blog today it is from John Keat’s poem and can be found here
As a person who likes to indulge in woolly crafts like spinning, knitting and crochet then summer is not ideal.  My “big” project at the moment being a classic traditional creamy heavy cotton double bedspread.  It is ok doing the triangles and making those into squares, but assembling an entire bedspread and adding an edging means its weight precludes doing much work to it in warm weather.  Autumn is when I decide on projects that I am going to do in the winter and spring, and so is full of anticipation, and excitement at procuring the materials.  Its like a new dawn of crafty goodness every year. 
Autumn is good baking weather too, the bread doesn’t take forever to rise, and the kitchen is not searingly hot.  Hands are cool enough to work the flour and fat into a pastry that is not going to resemble playdough. Pickles and chutneys can be laid down in a relatively conducive climate.   
The garden chores are winding down too, but most days are pleasant enough for forays outside not to need swathing oneself in scarves, hats and gloves just to go out to the dustbin!!  So lets raise a glass to a long Autumn!

Entries for this edition are:
1)    A penny for your thoughts
2)    Autumnal Salad
3)    Heard this podcast?
4)    Seen this site?

1)    A Penny For Your Thoughts
Readers will know I like sites withmo ney saving ideas, but this item is about “earning” money on a survey site.  Many sites offer incentives to those willing to participate in market research.
  Rule Number One is that this is not going to create much wealth for the participant!
 Rule Number Two is that some sites want so much input over such a long time before a meaningful reward is achieved that the participant could be 100 before this is achieved!  I would also be loathe to put in a number of links to these sites of which there are plenty without having first hand knowledge.  The site I use is Valued
One can “earn” vouchers for well known outlets like Amazon, M&S, Argos, Tesco etc. The company emails a survey offer and  if the participant wants to do that survey they answer a couple of questions to ensure they are suitable and then do the entire survey.  Some surveys pay more than others.  I have earned vouchers (got one in the post this morning!), so do know it is not a con.   In fact I went to the site on recommendation of a colleague. 

This is a nice Autumn salad and only needs decent bread to complete the meal. The basics are suggested, but as always feel free to add extras like grapes/walnuts.  For the latter just raid the larder and experiment
1 Fennel bulb ,2 leeks, 12 oz tomatoes
4 tbs olive oil,  1tbs lemon juice
salt and pepper to season
Finely chop the fennel bulb, I know the feather bits if left on are pretty but that is all they are. Finely slice the leeks having chopped off the ropey dark green tops.
If the tomatoes are large chop them up, if you have those nice cherry ones just halve them and congratulate yourself for choosing decent ingredients which don't need a lot of preparation.
Put the fennel, leek and tomatoes in the best bowl you have (this does not affect the taste but aesthetically you can feel smug at your skills in food presentation). Mix the dressing up and pour over the salad and mix thoroughly.
Now serve this up to someone who will be impressed that you actually know what to do with something as exotic as a fennel.

Easily downloaded from itunes is Craftlife podcast. An audio podcast Craftlife Or from the blog This craft related podcast has excellent reviews on itunes including a good recommendation from the highly rated Martine of imake.  The site is worth viewing and check out the Monkey bread recipe!!! 

4)    SEEN THIS SITE? It came as a surprise to me that this upmarket site not only showcased current patterns and yarns, but also has an excellent selection of free patterns.  Many of these patterns were previously in their paid for publications.   This site is inspirational and never fails to whet the crafting appetite.  The free patterns cover wide range of projects of wearables and projects for the home.