Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Preston Community Choir sings a Christmas carol for a musical Advent calendar

Preston Community Choir is just over one year old, and on Thursday a man with gadgets presented himself at our rehearsal!

Apparently we were to be videoed rehearsing one of our Christmas carols for the Lancashire Evening Post's musical Advent calendar.  Sadly they didn't ask or warn us in advance, so no immaculate coiffures, no fancy clothes - just us, as is, in a rehearsal!

If you're brave enough to click on the link you can see us, still slightly shocked, rehearsing "Believe" from Polar Express.  You may require ear - plugs, or to remember where the "mute" button is on  your pc!  I'm on the far left in first sopranos. Happy listening:)


Monday, 9 December 2013

Delicious Christmas Vegan gluten-free meal at The New Continental in Preston

It's that time of year again when diaries fill up with Christmas outings of one kind or another - and my heart sinks every time a meal is booked, because I dread being served slices of melon, followed by something cardboardy or a large plate of lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber, culminating with a fruit salad whilst around me everyone else is tucking into something special, and festive.  I pay the same as everyone else, but seldom do I feel I'm getting value for money.

However, I'm pleased to tell you that the Preston Community Choir Christmas meal at The New Continental in Preston was a delightful surprise:)

My starter was a variation on the vegetarian starter, which was a local blue cheese salad.  For my plate the same base of tangy watercress and rocket leaves were wrapped around some sun blush tomatoes, then topped with sliced olives and chopped walnuts.  I wasn't sure what the scattering of small things on the plate was until I put on my spectacles (it's so sad when you need to put glasses on to be able to see your food properly, isn't it? glasses should be full of wine!), but once on my nose, I could see that there was an artful scatter of small brown lentils - an unusual garnish that really worked well with the walnuts.

My main course was a delicious risotto, with an assortment of griddled vegetables.  A very colourful and tasty assemblage of ingredients, don't you agree?  I was really quite heartened by the meal so far - how often to you get to say that in a busy local pub?

For dessert the wonderful chef had created a vegan pannacotta, accompanied by festive berries - it tasted as good as it looked, I promise, and I savoured every mouthful.

Thank you to the chef(s) for producing such a lovely eating experience at a busy time of year - it was much appreciated.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Fiskars Garden tools - my wish list for Father Christmas!

Whilst visiting my parents a while ago I spotted bright orange plastic peeping out from  a corner of the garden room.  Naturally, I had to investigate!

I've bought Fiskars tools for years, they're reliable, long lasting, and bright orange, so hard to lose!  This was Fiskars' orange that I had spotted!

Mum showed me the long handles loppers and the secateurs she had acquired.  Mum's getting on in years and her hands don't have the strength they once had.  I was amazed at the lightness of the tools.

What makes them easy to use is the "Power Gear", which is essentially a ratchet.

As the majority of the tools consist of tough plastic, with only the blades (and screws!) being metal, the cutter remains remarkably light in weight:)

The secateurs are equally to be drooled over! 

Very lightweight and easy to use, but very effective.

So, Santa, if you're reading this - this is my grown-up Christmas Wish!  And yes, I've been a good girl:)

Monday, 25 November 2013

Design Your Own Cookies, the book to encourage you to branch out of your comfort zone!

Design Your Own Cookies by Rachel Cotterill will encourage you to bake delicious cookies, and go on to devise your own variations. 

Design Your Own Cookies (Design Your Own Baking)

Rachel provides 50 basic cookie recipes, both sweet and savoury, then encourages you to break the mould, and develop your own, personalised cookie.

You like chocolate chip cookies? Try adding peppermint oil to dark chocolate chips, or orange essence.  Perhaps instead of dark chocolate you might prefer white chocolate - maybe with some freeze dried fruit mixed in.

The basic recipes have been tried and tested - the wonderful permutations that are waiting are down to your imagination - go for it:)

TWELVE - we ate vegan, vegetarian and wheat free in Thornton - wonderful!

Wow! Four friends met up for a meal at TWELVE in Thornton. Four friends to challenge a chef! Me, vegan and wheat free, a vegan, a vegetarian and a wheat free vegetarian who really doesn't want to eat vegan. I hasten to add that we did explain this when booking, we didn't just turn up, that would be plain cruel:)

So, passing though the bar area,

and having walked past the mega magnificent wine rack

(you'll notice the ladder to the left to be able to access the top bottles!), we were shown to our table in this modern, stylish interior. The seats weren't as comfortable as I would have liked, offering no back support, but that was only a small niggle.

After we were seated bread was brought to the table, including two warm vegan gluten free rolls.  Butter was on the table in the shape of 12s, we asked for olive oil to dip our bread into, and were asked if we would like balsamic vinegar, too.  Thoughtful, and a lovely touch. 

Our starters were Carrot and Ginger Soup, served with a mini onion bhaji "lollipop", very pleasant

A Beetroot and Walnut Salad, very elegantly presented and tasty

And my choice, and one other, a Mushroom Fricasse, with grilled salsify, delicate and scrummy

All were delicious, and as you can see, beautiful!

Our main courses were a Thai Broth with Rice, well seasoned

Mixed Vegetable Risotto - I asked if there was any asparagus to add to the mix of vegetables, and some was provided:), this was a robustly flavoured rice dish with a basil oil dressing

Mushroom Risotto, delicately flavoured

And to my shame, the dish below whose title I can't for the life in me remember! Sorry:(  But doesn't it look great?

We were also served a small bowl of vegetables each

The vegetables were lightly cooked, and good, but I question the value of adding potatoes to vegetable selcection when rice is served - I would have preferred a green vegetable for interest and variety.  Again it's only a small niggle.

The dinner offer was for 2 courses and a glass of wine for £17.50, which, in my opinion, was excellent value for money.  We thoroughly enjoyed our meals and will certainly return - I wish I lived nearer to Thornton!

I made a point of asking to speak to the chef to compliment him on the quality of our meals.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

General Embossed Birthday Card

One of my favourite shops has been open five years today, so I decided to mark the occasion with a birthday card.

It's not quite the same as making a birthday card for a person's birthday, is it? Not much point in putting cake, or fancy clothes, or handbags on the front is there?

So I decided on the simple approach. I wanted to say "Happy Birthday", so that's what I did!

I made a tent fold card, with cut away lower corners, and embossed the front, then inked it with a sparkly blue ink, fading towards the centre. I then embossed a sheet of white card, and cut a tag out of it, I threaded dark blue and green ribbons through the tag before mounting it on the base card. I then stamped the Happy Birthday greeting onto blue paper with the same shimmery blue ink, cut it out and stuck it on the white embossed panel.  I trimmed the top of the card with self-adhesive fluffy ribbon.  

The result is simple, yet has an understated elegance which I like.  I hope Julie and Geoff will like it too, and will have many more happy years in Preston.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

West Hollywood, USA, gets my vote - it's banned trade in fur - hurray

"West Hollywood is the first city in the US to ban fur.

Stores can no longer sell, trade, or distribute it." 

That is what I read in a blog article by Vegan Richa.  I was 

amazed and delighted.  I wish places in the UK would be so 


I remember, when I became vegetarian, hanging on to my 

sheepskin coat for a while with the justification that the 

animals were already dead.  I didn't last long, I gave it away

to a charity shop reasoning that if somebody bought my 

almost new cast-off, then perhaps a new animal skin coat

might not be bought.

Now, of course, I don't buy anything with wool, silk, leather 

etc content or decoration - and sometimes manufacturers 

make it very difficult, adding "a touch of luxury" with 2% silk, 

or 5% cashmere and so on!

So, good on you, West Hollywood - I'm proud of your 


Friday, 6 September 2013

Free electricity, sunny or not, here it comes:)

I suspect most people who've had solar panels installed become addicted to watching numbers changing on their meters - sadly, I too make regular trips to the garage wall to gaze at the meters, then up at the sky, then enter the figures in a small notebook.

Well, when you've spent thousands of pounds on 10 glass panels to grace your roof it's only natural to want to monitor the progress, isn't it?

In fact, I don't really think of it as "free electricity" at all, because my bank account is thousands of pounds lighter, so how can I call it free?  On the other hand, once all the paperwork is finalised, I will be paid for generating that electricity whether I use it or not, so, in that context it will be free.

Anyway, you'll be fascinated to know that on the day of installation it was quite overcast, and the team didn't finish work until gone 4pm, yet still those clever little units managed to cull 1.4 units of power from the atmosphere.

The next day had quite a few sunny spells, and they magically produced 8.88 units.  I used the washing machine 3 times that day to make the most of the sunshine (I don't have a tumble drier), yet altogether I only used 1 unit of electricity, so that was pretty impressive I thought.

Today it's raining, so the panels are having their first shower - I hope they wash behind their ears!  Nonetheless, they have already generated 0.3 units, so it's true, you don't need the sun for solar panels to work.  Even on a rainy day something is captured.

So, this is your solar energy bore signing off for today - I may well give you more figures another day - well, count on it, I will:)

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Solar Warmth - my panels are fitted!

This morning my roof was quite boring, just a single Velux window and lots of tiles.  This evening it sports 10 solar panels, 5 to the south elevation and 5 to the west, as suggested by Stephen, the surveyor.

Sorry, the photos aren't the best quality, I left my camera at my parent's house when last I visited, so my phone has been obliged to become a camera for the day!

 Liam getting ready
 Mark at the consumer unit in the garage
 Liam working on the roof
The well stocked van!

As a team the boys worked well, each had his own role to perform, and they just got on with it.  Very impressive.  Mark worked in the garage on the main part of the electrical work, young Liam ran the cables around inside the house and fitted the inverter, and the Liam you see in the photos worked on removing tiles, fitting the supporting bars and brackets and fitting the panels themselves.

I'm pleased with the way they worked.  I do wonder if the panels on the west elevation should have been placed higher up to catch more of the afternoon/evening sun.  I had understood that they were to be in the same formation as those on the south aspect, in a 3:2 pattern.  I shall have to watch how they're affected by the shadow of the neighbouring house.

I shall be taking regular readings to see how much power I'm generating - but it's already over 1 unit, and it was overcast, so I'm pleased with that.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Knock knock knocking on Malta's door

When I'm away from home, whether for a day or on holiday, I enjoy studying the architecture around me.

As I looked at the houses on Malta, mostly terraces or apartments as Malta is such a small island, I noticed the door knockers.

Wherever you are on Malta, the sea isn't too far away, so it's no surprise that fish swim into view quite often.

Lions were also much in evidence, the first looks a little glum, possibly at the indignity of having a hoop through his jaw!

this one looks very angry

slightly pensive, I think

quite regal and serene
Simply elegant, don't you think?

The Maltese Cross was awarded to the whole island of Malta to recognise their war efforts in the Second World War, and it, too, appears as a door knocker.

What's your favourite door knocker design?

Meet my Maltese camel

We've been to Malta three times now, and have booked to go again; we enjoy the gentle warmth instead of our cold winters, and meet up with many of the same people each year for day long walks around the island.

There are some quite hilly patches on Malta, and a walking stick is a sensible thing to take with you on a day out.  Fortunately bamboo grows abundantly in the countryside, and a fallen stick can usually be found which will act as your third leg.  We normally pick up a couple, cut them to size, and use them for the holiday, then stick them in a hedge near the hotel for someone else to utilise later - a trick we were shown by folks who've been travelling to Malta for years!

Last year I found a camel to accompany me.  He wasn't absolutely ideal as he was a little warped, but I couldn't resist him - could you?

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Ebay cheek!

Mostly, Ebay deals work out fine.  Just occasionally they don't.

I took delivery of a batch of 6 LED lightbulbs, ready for my inspection pre solar panel installation.  5 of them were fine, the sixth had one of the prongs missing from the bayonet fixing, so it won't sit in the light fitting.

I wrote to the company concerned asking for a  replacement.  They asked for a photograph.  I complied.  The resultant communication from them was ridiculous, unprofessional and downright cheeky!

I was informed that they only sell batches of 4 and 10 bulbs.  Untrue as my order was for 6 bulbs.  Therefore if I wanted one replacement bulb it would need to be ordered from abroad and would take 25-30 days to arrive!!!!!  Clearly not an appropriate timescale for a replacement.

Finally they said "How about we send you a pack of four bulbs and you just pay for three?"  You see what I mean about lack of professionalism and sheer cheek.  I don't need any  more bulbs, and if I did, I wouldn't be buying from them after such an attitude to customer service.

Naturally, I refused, and requested an immediate replacement for an item they had supplied that was "not fit for purpose".  If they don't send a bulb this week I shall name and shame them.  Watch this space!

Solar Panels - the adventure begins

Yesterday Stephen from Solar Warmth came to measure up my roof to give me a quotation for the installation of solar panels.

The back of my house faces South, the ideal direction for maximising input from the big golden globe in the sky. Consequently, I'd assumed that the sections of the house and garage roofs that face South would be the ones best suited to having the panels affixed.

Not so, in my case!  Stephen explained that because of the design of the roofline, the shadow caused by the house roof in the afternoon would fall on the garage roof, reducing the ability to gain maximum exposure.  Instead he suggested that I would generate more electricity by installing panels on the West facing house roof, which is not overshadowed.  Smart man, Stephen!

I was naturally guided by his expertise, and next Wednesday the team will come and fit ten solar panels to my roof.  I shall take photos and you can share the adventure with me.

The Life of a Cow

I saw this on Vegan Richa's site, and just had to copy it out.  The images may be cutesy, but the message is serious.  We have the phrase "it's a dog's life", but maybe it should be amended to "it's a cow's life"?

I know otherwise compassionate people who say that taking milk from a cow doesn't cause any deaths to animals, not like eating them does.  I've known for decades that this isn't true, that male calves are imminently disposed of, and the cow's life is ended when she is no longer able to produce commerically viable quantities of milk.  This graphically illustrates the point, well done PETA for producing it.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Make an 80th Birthday Card for someone special

I wanted to make an 80th birthday card for someone very special so went to some extra time and trouble.

I die cut a butterfly using my big Shot from a sheet of pink paper, then embossed the sheet with a floral embossing folder.  I mounted the embossed sheet onto lilac paper.  I took some gold heart peel-offs, and used them to infil the butterfly, trimming a couple down for the body and antennae.  I stuck a gold 80 across the top left of the panel, with a tiny gem.

I took a smaller sheet of pink paper and embossed it with a butterfly border, and mounted this on lilac paper, too.  I attached a gold peel-off greeting and another heart.  I mounted both panels to the white card, with a ribbon bow at the left, and 3 pink gems at top right.

Inside the card I put two layers of paper, pale pink and the deeper pink of the front.

I die cut a butterfly from the pale pink, so that the darker pink showed through, then mounted the pale pink butterfly on the dark pink paper, as you can see.  Below the pale pink butterfly you'll see that I cut an aperture using a thinlits dies - through the window you can see the month of June, with the date highlighted.

I had previously printed out a calendar from 1933, highlighted the birthday, and in the Important Dates section at the bottom of the calendar I inserted the birthday of the recipient.

I die cut some flowers with the Big Shot, in pinks and lilacs, and assembled them inside on the dark pink sheet.  I stamped "Happy Birthday" in purple ink, and affixed a couple of gold butterfly peel-offs to complete the card.

This is how the various layers actually work together.  It took a little time and effort, but looked really good.  I hope you like it.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

A very happy new year to you all.  I hope you enjoyed a fantastic Christmas with family and friends and didn't slave over a hot stove for too long!

Have a healthy and happy 2013:)