Sunday, 19 June 2011

Good Day at Good Food

I had a great time at the Good Food show yesterday with my old school friend. You know you are meant to be friends when you independently choose exactly the same three courses at lunch and you both pick the best sausages in the show!

(Thanks, H, for organising the trip when I was too stressed to think about it!)

I was overexcited watching John Torode and Gregg Wallace in full flow hosting a Masterchef cookoff between Dhruv Baker and Tim Anderson. I chose Tim's dish, but Dhruv won; I never pick the winner.

I watched a bread making masterclass by Paul Hollywood from The Great British Bakeoff:

Unfortunately, they sold out of his book at his booksigning, so I didn't mangage to get a signed copy, but I have his recipe for stilton and grape flatbread that I just have to make.

I had lunch at the Masterchef restaurant (courses inspired by those made by Masterchef winners) and enjoyed an hour of peace eating good food and drinking good wine with good company, before hitting the stands again.

I sampled lots of fabulous food and purchased a few, including this:

Well, how could I resisit cheese with chocolate?

(click on the picture to go to the website if you want to get some yourself)

Believe me, it is delicious; I sampled it four times, just to make sure. Just had to.

I got home just before bedtime and told husband and daughter all about it and they, being great Masterchef fans, are so jealous that they have insisted that we all have to go next year.

I think I could manage another visit!

Stuck in the 1950s?

Today is Fathers' Day and earlier in the week I asked husband what he would like for Sunday lunch.

"Pork chops, stuffing and those roast potatoes you do with goose fat"

No fruit, vegetables or anything vaguely light and healthy was mentioned.

Have his taste buds not entered the 21st century?

I'm surprised he didn't ask for Spotted Dick and custard for pudding!

(He's getting this)

Friday, 17 June 2011

Food, Glorious Food

Yes, well done to those who guessed Masterchef.

I'm going to the Good Food Show!
(with tickets to see Masterchef in the kitchen theatre)

Being an almost lifelong subscriber to Good Food Magazine I've always wanted to go, but the show was always in November which is the busiest time of year for me, so I've never managed to go.

Funnily enough, daughter has been. Our fabulous childminder took her. I was so jealous.

Now they have a Summer Good Food Show and a while back an old friend of mine,"old" as in I've known her since we were 10, not that she is old, asked me if I wanted to go.

I was super stressed out at the time and couldn't think about it, so I said "Yes, if you organise it" and organise it she did!

So I'm off to my mum and dad's tonight for a quiet night's sleep (no snoring) and she's picking me up in the morning.

We've got tickets to see John Torode and Gregg Wallace of Masterchef and I'm going to stuff myself with samples, buy lots of goodies and generally indulge my love of food!

I'll let you know how I get on.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

In which I look for the silver lining

It's been a bit of a week.

Short story - slight car crash on Sunday (husband's fault, no one hurt, two cars a bit crumpled), lots of hassle, lots of driving hubby to work at 7am and many hundreds of pounds worse off (mainly due to finding out hubby had points on licence which I hadn't told insurance company, because I didn't know, so they've bumped up our premiums by £250, trebled the excess from £125 to £375 and charged two admin fees of £15!)

Well, at least I've got something to look forward to this weekend.

Guess where I'm going.......

Clue: I'm going to see John and Gregg

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Cupcake Consolations

Today was the school summer fair. Thankfully it only rained for a little while at the start and then the sun came out and a good time was had by all.

There were lots of stalls, games and demonstrations in the arena, but the item daughter was most looking forward to was the cupcake decorating competition.

Well, she would, wouldn't she?

She spent hours this week making flowers, leaves and butterflies and then, on Friday evening she assembled her creation:

Unfortunately, she didn't win.

(I think the judges couldn't believe that a 7 year old could make such a creation by herself!)

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Let them bake cakes

So daughter had an idea re my pension or rather lack of pension problem. She said that we should move to the country and then I could bake cakes all day and sell them to people.

"Why do we have to move to the country to do that?" I asked.

"So that I can have a horse!" she replied.

I see, an ulterior motive!

Monday, 6 June 2011

With a heavy heart I fill in my ballot paper..........

I wasn't going to blog about the strike ballot that's going on at the moment, but, this is a blog about a working mum and my job is teaching, so I shall.

When I started teaching I joined a very moderate teaching union that never, ever strikes and has always dealt with issues in a calm, rational manner whilst keeping us informed of the facts. I never wanted to be faced with a decision about whether to strike or not. Unfortunately, the government have decided to making sweeping changes to our pensions without any consultation and are not prepared to even give the unions vital information to understand their plans, never mind consult us or negotiate with us, so I find myself in a position of being balloted to vote about strike action for the first time in my career.

I'm not going to go into all the complexities of the problem, and believe me, it is complex, but I'll give you a quick precis in case you don't know what's going on.

To start with there is the fact that I will have to find an extra £1000 a year to pay into my pension (why? when we had a review of teacher pensions that we accepted in 2006 to ensure the future viablility of the scheme) or leave the teacher pension scheme altogether, there is the changing of the way they calculate the pension we will receive and future pension increases that mean I am going to be far worse off than I had planned for. Not to mention the fact that the government say I may not be allowed a pension at all!!

This is a big moving of goal posts. When I chose a career in teaching I accepted that I would earn less than my friends in other graduate professions, but that I would get good holidays and a half decent pension at the end of 40 years of lower pay.

However, the big one that scares me to death is the increase in retirement age. I know very few teachers who manage to keep going beyond the age of about 57. Most change to part time in their fifties to cope with the workload, stress and exhaustion before retiring early (on an actuarily reduced pension). It just isn't a job you can physically do for forty years.

Now, I've been teaching for eighteen years and in that time, in amongst all the coughs and colds, I've had the following:

  • I've developed asthma from using chalk
  • I've suffered two bouts of tendonitis in my shoulder (from writing on a board) so severe that I threw up with the pain
  • after one cold I suffered Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome for almost a year and was unable to do anything but work and sleep
  • two years ago, following a cold, I suffered Chronic Bronchitis for six months
  • I suffered a bout of debilitating migraines that led to my being on medication that knocked me out for ten hours a night
  • after being forced to cover lessons for a sick colleague on top of my own timetable I suffered Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • I've currently got Plantar Fasciitis in my foot which can't heal because I'm on my feet all day
  • I've been rushed to hospital in an ambulance with chest pains and an irregular heartbeat
And I'm only 41.

Do you think I can teach until I'm 68?!!

I reckon it's the government's way of making sure that all teachers die before they retire and then they won't have to pay the pensions at all!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Nearly Perfect Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

My favourite dessert by far is Lemon Meringue, so it makes sense that I would want to make Lemon Meringue cupcakes. I've made a few using different recipes, but never quite been happy with them. I can't quite master the meringue part - too crunchy, too gooey, not cooked through, etc.

Well, yesterday daughter and I went to a friend's for a barbecue and I was asked to provide cupcakes as my contribution. Perfect excuse to try out lemon meringue cupcakes with what I thought may be the answer to my problem, Italian meringue.

Here are the results:

Almost perfect.

The meringue was fabulous, just what I wanted. However, to make them perfect I think I need to make my own tangy lemon curd. But in the meantime here is the recipe for the nearly perfect cakes:

WM's Nearly Perfect Lemon Meringue Cupcakes
(makes about 18)

For the cakes
6 0z butter (room temp)
6 oz caster sugar
6 oz SF flour
3 medium eggs (room temp)
zest of a lemon

For the filling
jar of good quality lemon curd

For the topping
3 egg whites
170g caster sugar
small silver balls

Heat oven to 160 deg C.
Put cupcake cases in muffin tins.
Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time beating until combined.
Add flour and a little milk until a light batter consistency.
Fold in lemon zest.
Put 1 tbsp of batter in each cake case and bake for approx 45 mins.
Cool on wire tray.

When cool, scoop out a teaspoon of cake from each one and fill with a teaspoon of lemon curd.

To make the meringue:
Beat the egg whites until soft peak stage.
Put sugar in pan and cover with water.
Heat gently until boiling.
Boil until syrup reaches soft ball stage (a small amount on a teaspoon dipped in cold water will form a soft ball when rolled between your fingers).
Then slowly add the sugar syrup to the egg whites whilst whisking on medium speed.
Turn up to high speed and whisk until bowl is cool.

You can now pipe the meringue on to the cakes and decorate with small silver balls.

The meringue does not need cooking since the sugar syrup sets the eggwhite, but I flashed them under the grill for 30 secs to brown just for aesthetic purposes.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Shops are So Last Century

So, following on from the last post, we set about looking for a DS for daughter.

Being a savvy internet shopper, I searched and researched, price compared and decided on a pink DSi from Tesco Direct. All without leaving my sofa.

Husband, being an old fashioned kind of shopper, wanted to actually go and visit a shop with unhelpful staff, no stock and no interest in actually getting us what we want. So I indulged him and we set off for that temple to commercialism, the Trafford Centre.

After an hour of

"We don't have any in stock but we could order you one" (John Lewis)

"We only have a preowned one with no instructions" (Game)

"No, we don't have any pink left" (HMV)

"We don't sell pink ones" (Currys)

etc, etc, he admitted defeat and we returned home with a very disappointed seven year old.

So it was mummy to the rescue; I fired up the laptop, found Tesco Direct's pink DS, used their voucher for £10 off, used my Tesco Clubcard vouchers to pay for it and gained 240 extra points at the same time! (So basically they've paid me £2.40 to take a DS from them)


Her DS arrives tomorrow!

Husband has now learned the power of the internet vs the inadequacy of shops. Even my mecca, Hotel Chocolat, didn't have the whisky truffles I wanted for my dad - they told me to order them on-line!

Well, since they've sent me a 10% off voucher for entering their Easter Competition............

Hmmmm, must try their new Summer Desserts, Peach Melba Knickerbocker Glory, Cherry Pop Slab and Making Sandcastles Raspberry Puddles.

Oooooo, the Summer Collection comes with a bottle of Sparkling Rose and a bottle of Prosecco!

Ooops, think I've discovered a drawback with internet shopping - far too easy to add stuff to your basket!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

To DS or not to DS?

Unbeknown to me, husband told daughter that he would buy her a Nintendo DS when she got her 400m badge at swimming. Well, last Sunday she did just that and returned from swimming lessons shouting, "I get a DS, I get a DS!".

I was not happy.

I am not happy about my daughter plugging in and checking out.

We have a laptop and a Wii, both of which she can use under supervision and usually together with me or husband. Things like Wii Sports or the Horrible Histories Game on CBBC (love Horrible Histories!). Sociable technology.

As far as I'm concerned DS = antisocial.

Husband did admit that he thought it would take her longer to get her 400m badge, but a promise is a promise.

So we've compromised.

A DS she shall get, but it will live in the games cupboard in the lounge (that's proper games like Uno, Pictionary, Scrabble and my latest acquisition Acuity) and we will ration its use.

So that's another thing to create arguments, whinging and sulking.

Thanks, hubby.