Frugal February: Post No 2

February 6, 2013 at 9:02 pm | Posted in Baking, cooking, family, food, Recipe | Leave a comment
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Today, children, I made, in my humble opinion, an almighty apple crumble.

As a child, my mother used to make the most fantastic rhubarb crumble: the rhubarb was just the right side of sour and the topping was caramelised and crunchy.

However, rhubarb is not a fruit to eat raw (although I must declare a penchant for sucking on those deliciously sour stalks of goodness), and thus, unless one intends on cooking with it, it is not a foodstuff one would have in the house by chance. It is not a frequenter of fruit bowls.

So, why did I decide to make this apple crumble? Well, in the spirit of limiting food waste, instead of throwing away the browning apple segments which Jude refused, I decided I would actually use them. And, as luck would have it, I had all the ingredients I needed.

I’ve adapted a recipe from Annie Bell’s Gorgeous Desserts. The original recipe uses apricots, but I used apples for reasons I’ve already explained.

4 apples, whatever variety you like (I used Coxs and no sugar), peeled, cored and diced
160g unsalted butter
150g golden syrup
150g rolled oats
1/2 tsp sea salt
Tbsp light muscovado sugar

1) Preheat oven to 180 degrees/Gas Mark 4.
2) Melt golden syrup, salt and 150g butter in a pan on a medium heat. Stir in oats.
3) Put apples in a medium-sized dish (although I used a cake tin lined with baking paper, so you can improvise) and dot remaining butter around the dish.
4) Place oat mixture over apples. Scatter over muscovado sugar. Cook for 30 minutes.

And that’s it. I ate this for breakfast and later on cold from the fridge.


To My Darling Mum, Tess

March 18, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Posted in Children, family, love, motherhood | Leave a comment
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Dear Mum,

We’ve not always seen eye to eye, have we? And I think that as well as having very different ideas about raising children sometimes, we clash in so many other ways: I can think of nothing lovelier than a holiday filled with history, bookshops and shopping; you would rather sun worship on a Florida beach for two weeks. I love to cook and have enough cookbooks to cook something different every day for the rest of my life. Yet I must have inherited this from your mum, Cicely Hannah, because dad does all the cooking in your house. In other food news, garlic to me is as essential as salt; to you, it means vampires, crucifixes and halitosis.

Then again, you keep all your receipts and diligently note all your transactions; I check my bank balance as often as I go to church, and might as well gamble my money away. I have an English degree, but you are much better at crosswords than I will ever be. You singlehandedly raised my sister and my brother when their dad lost interest; I, on the other hand, have a fantastic support network of you, dad and Asher to help me raise Jude.

So mum, on this day of all days, I take my metaphorical hat off to you and raise a G and T: your life has been so much harder than mine, and yet here you are, sacrificing a quiet childhood to watch Bob the Builder and play Cor Blimey with your youngest grandson. Mum, I love you so much and am eternally grateful to you for your love in return.


Amy Jessica

I don’t half love ’em

February 26, 2012 at 11:40 pm | Posted in Childhood, family, love | Leave a comment
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I read a very interesting article in today’s YOU magazine about the rise of the half sibling in Britain. I have written about being a quasi only child before, and have also defended my right only to have one child in a 2010 post. But I have not yet written about my siblings Christopher, Kelly and Jools.

They are half-siblings, of course; though the fact that I only share my mother with Chris and Jools and my father with Kelly has never bothered me. The fact that they are all half-siblings makes it less of an issue, perhaps.

That’s not to say there haven’t been issues. My sister Kelly and my mum had, shall we say, a fraught relationship until a few years ago, and all three of my siblings would probably agree that they envy the stable childhood I experienced. But, until the age of 10 or so, I don’t have many memories of my siblings. In fact, I’m closer in age to my my nephews Michael and Tom than any of them, making them seem more like brothers and Chris, Kelly and Jools more like extra parents, or older friends, depending on where I’m at in my life. Jools and Kelly have certainly always offered great advice, particularly when it comes to parenthood and property, having tackled both of those milestones oh so many years before I did.

So for me, it really doesn’t matter that my siblings are ‘only’ half (please don’t call them step – then you will upset me!). I know plenty of people who are ‘full’ siblings and don’t even talk to each other. Perhaps sharing only one parent helps: being that little bit separate biologically has meant that we get on much better than we might have done.

Oh, go on then…..

January 15, 2012 at 7:46 am | Posted in family, friends, motherhood, Waterstone's, work | Leave a comment
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Ladies and gents, roll up, roll up: yes, it’s that time of year again.  The time when we decide we need to lose three stone, or stop robbing cheese or graphic novels (you know who you are), or give up crack for Lent.  Don’t make me say the R-word – here are mine:

1) Be a better mum. Patience, time, and most of all, love.

2) Go to Italy, for god’s sake.  It’s ridiculous I haven’t been there yet.

3)  Get an AM job in the next year. It will happen.

4) Get in touch with people I’ve not seen in christ knows how long.

5) Give up the cancer sticks.

That’s all.

Home is not so sad

January 18, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Posted in art, cooking, dreams, family, gardening, home, house, money, mortgage, women | 1 Comment
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It’s official – the owner of what will very soon be my new house has agreed to my offer!  I am absolutely thrilled. The house is beautiful, it’s in a road down which you only drive if you’re specifically going to that road, and it will blatantly sell for much more when the markets improve.  Not that I have any intention of selling it in the next ten, or even the next twenty, years.

Obviously, I feel extremely lucky.  How many people of my age own their place outright, let alone have mortgages?  It’s scary out there for people of my generation when it comes to home ownership.  Yes, I know that renting’s always an option, but I for one would rather have my own place which is mine and mine alone, thank you very much.  An Englishwoman’s home is her castle, as the saying (almost) goes.

I’m already envisioning the sheet music on the piano, the tomatoes I’ll grow in the greenhouse (once I’ve babyproofed the entrance with crime scene tape), my cookbooks, food-splattered, dominating all four corners of the kitchen.  The art I’ll put on the wall is my favourite fantasy; some years ago, I saw a painting of The Deal Beach Parlour and I would absolutely love to see that hanging on the wall.  it would make me a very happy lady indeed.

Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh…..

January 16, 2011 at 2:25 am | Posted in books, dreams, family, house, insomnia, work | Leave a comment
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…………or not.  Not only can I not sleep, and have been forced to confront the Clipper Sleep Easy tea which smells of manure and other unwanted countryside fragrances, but I also still have the freaking Carpenters in my head (Goodbye to Love, to be precise).  Nice and uplifting for 2am on a Sunday morning in winter.

If I lived here, I would go outside for a cigarette, or, better still, have a cheeky fag in the flat, but this is my friend Emma’s place, and she probably wouldn’t be too impressed by the smell of tobacco, given her ex-smoker status.

So, I have work tomorrow at 9:30; great, let’s hope I’ve managed to actually get some sleep by then, given the fact that I have to drive to Thanet and may have to cash up/operate heavy machinery (ok, well, Phoenix is neither ‘heavy’ not a ‘machine’, but there you go.

I’m not prone to imsomnia, but I am susceptible to bouts of nervous energy; it’s one of the reasons for my recent weight loss, along with too many fags and an aversion to breakfast.  My brain is at its most active at the most inconvenient times, lately, mainly because I am no longer living with my son and therefore no longer need to be a lark.  I’ve never quite decided if it’s a lark or an owl I am naturally; I was an owl at university until prescribed Prozac, which turned me into the larkiest of larks, for want of a more suitable epithet.  If you need to be wide awake and raring to go at 5am, I heartily recommend it.

It is now 2:10am and I am starting to worry, given the fact that my morning shower and subsequent attempt to get a comb through my sodden hair really require me to rise at 7:30.  Yes, many an all-nighter was pulled during my university days, but I would not advocate doing so when you actually have to work for a living.  Nevertheless, despite the hour and the fumes of toxic, manure-esque Clipper tea invading my nostrils, I am decidedly bright-eyed.  I need a lullaby from W H Auden.

The other day, my dad (I am chez parents while waiting to move into my new house) walked in and woke me from a delicious dream.  I was playing a clown on Eastenders and Hilary Mantel had offered to give me free piano lessons and pay me £350 a week to write.  Nice work if you can get it, eh?

One is the loneliest number

June 8, 2010 at 8:05 pm | Posted in debate, family, motherhood, Uncategorized, women | 2 Comments
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Does this baby look lonely to you? Does he????

It’s a strange fact of parenthood that you exchange all ownership of your life for this strange beast called a baby (it doesn’t make sense initially that even your pregnancy will result in a baby, let alone the idea that that baby will be a child, and that child will be an adult…………..).  Bizarre that somehing so biologically related to you can seem like a hostile takeover of your single life at times of nostalgia.  But more on that topic later.

What I mean is, as soon as you are pregnant, everything you do will be judged in relation to how it affects your baby.  I kid you not, the foul look bestowed on me by one person when I dared to ask for a glass of wine haunts me still.  Others warned me not to stress myself out, because it might ‘affect the baby’.  Frankly, that had the same effect as ‘calm down’ usually does on me: to abbreviate for the sense of decency, FOAD was my mental response.  A lot of people have this hippy idea that every pregnant woman should mellow and ‘glow’ in preparation for her new earth mother persona.  Because becoming a mother means surrendering all traces of your former personality, right?  Hmmm………..

The latest I’ve experienced is the ‘When how are you having another?’ question.  Jeez, because being pregnant was such a blast that I want to do it again six months after giving birth?  Erm, no.  It seems that society expects you to fill this 2.4 child ideal, either out of some crazed old-fashioned Tory attempt to keep Britain traditional, or because the person in question has fulfilled their family quota and now expects you to go through the same ‘joy’. 

Let me explain the root of my ranting: as a quasi only child, my half brother and half sisters being eleven, twelve and sixteen years older than me, I spent quite a lot of time alone as a child.  Obviously I had friends, but I treasured the time I spent alone for the independence it taught me and opportunity to develop my imagination.  Not to mention the chance to cycle around the garages for ages with my parrot on the handlebars.  In no way did I ever feel I’d missed out; let’s face it, unless you live in the Gobi desert, you are going to go to school/brownies/ultimate frisbee and meet your peers.

So please: don’t think me selfish, or call me so, as some idiot man did last week.   I think it would be more selfish to have another child to satisfy other people’s opinions.

Rant over.  You can take out your earplugs now.

P.S. The title is an Aimee Mann song and yes, I’m being ironic.

I came, I saw, I decorated

May 3, 2010 at 8:09 pm | Posted in cake, family, motherhood, party, women | Leave a comment
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Last Wednesday, I started my niece’s 16th birthday cake.  I spent all of Thursday doing it, baked one of the cakes Friday morning and finished the icing Saturday morning before work.  This was the result:

I am not the world’s best icer; you are not going to walk in on me creating homemade tulips out of sugarpaste I’ve coloured myself anytime soon.  So what I would say to any of you women out there, mothers or not, who don’t exactly have time on your hands, is this: listen to the god of ready-to-roll.  Because making a cake doesn’t have to be a competitive sport.  It just has to look presentable when it comes to eating it.

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