Tuesday, January 31, 2006
It's Blogichef week at Blue Witch, in which we are supposed to post our favourite recipes that are "tried and tested, quick, cheap, easy ...the sort of thing that you can make in not much more than the time it takes to microwave a ready-meal, for a fraction of the price.". This one is definitely a favourite - in fact, Cameron had it for his special birthday tea - and sort of qualifies in the other criteria: it takes about 25 minutes (only 5 of which involve active cooking) and is cheap in the sense that all the ingredients bar chicken are storecupboard items (they are in this house, anyway). I won't buy cheap meat, so it isn't that cheap, but it isn't completely disgusting made with veg either. I give you my famous peanut-butter curry, which is much tastier than it sounds. As follows (serves 4):

Warm 3 tbsp (1 good glug) of vegetable oil - I use a wok. Fry 3 tbsp curry paste and a shake (more than a pinch, less than a tsp) of ground cumin, ground coriander and I usually add a wee pinch of hot curry powder. Add 120 ml (about 1/3 of a tin) coconut milk and reduce the heat.
Add 4 chicken breasts, cut into chunks. Stir until spices and coconut milk are blended.
Add the rest of the tin of coconut milk then stir in 2 tbsp granulated sugar and 2 tbsp fish sauce; you can also add about 1 tbsp kaffir lime leaves at this stage if you have them to hand. Bring to the boil.
Simmer for a couple of minutes then add 2 tbsp peanut butter* and a pinch of salt. Simmer for 20 minutes (you'll know it's ready because the oil separates out). Serve with rice.
*If you have normal sunpat-style peanut butter, that's fine. If you have wholefood-style peanut butter, like me, you might need to add a little more sugar.

The picture makes it look alarmingly red: I assure you this is exaggerated. It actually comes out sometimes orange sometimes yellow, depending on the brand of curry paste used.

Saturday, January 28, 2006
I have the most disgusting cold; am running on sudafed. Tonight I have to go and be jolly at Cameron's 10-year-service dinner. It should be good, except we are being collected at 6.30 and not brought home again until 12.30. Far too late for me, and being jolly for such a long time is going to be quite taxing given that I really want to snivel into lemsip and watch soppy telly. C is hardly going to be much use either, given that he is not yet home from Houston (expected around 3). So one jetlagged and one full of cold. I hope nobody expects much from us. Poor Cameron's birthday (today) is going to be quite low-key this year.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006
There's nothing quite like a looming deadline to focus the mind. I must do my tax return tonight. I have a (large) tub of smarties* cookies to help, and, as I had zero income in the 04-05 tax year, it can't be so hard, can it.
Wish me luck.
*I know they are Nestle and we don't buy Nestle. But Morrisons don't make smarties cookies with non-Nestle products: what is a girl to do? While we are confessing, I also have a tin of evaporated milk in the cupboard. Nobody but Nestle makes it.

Sorry for the silence: I've been having a lovely time with Katy and Megan. (Megan needs to update her website.) Cameron is deep in the heart of Texas and working hard. Megan is a real cutey - I'd kind of forgotten about babies - and very placid. And I know Katy thinks I am a real soppy, but it is lovely to have a friend I've known for 30 (THIRTY!) years. I didn't feel I had to sit and chat politely but could abandon her with babies and playdough and go and make the tea. (Gosh, how rude. She'll probably never come again.) Maggie loves her, probably because she is much, much better at drawing than I am. When Maggie demands giraffes and deer, it's all I can do to construct a four-legged mammal (brown with antlers = deer; orange with a long neck* = giraffe); Katy's animals actually look like they should. Maggie was rather less keen on Megan: thought she was OK unless I was holding her, when we had baby down. Maggie cuddle - she doesn't like to share her Mummy. Sweet.
*and a blue tongue. Did you know that?!

Sunday, January 22, 2006
We had an extremely exciting Saturday night with the last two episodes of Lost. I just can't wait for the next series (I am terribly old-fashioned to have hoped they would wrap up loose ends at the end of season 1). Maggie is much better. Cameron is off to Houston tomorrow so we had to go this morning and buy a new suitcase. Is a lovely day here, foggy and sunny. If I didn't have a manuscript on the go, I'd want to dig the garden. His silly travel people couldn't get him on a nice flight home so he will arrive mid-afternoon next Saturday: not only his birthday, we had planned a walk in Daresbury Forest as his ex-boss' retirement do. And in the evening is his 10-year service dinner, it all happens at once. Our car doesn't pick us up after that until 12.30: a bit late for me, I'll be asleep in the corner. Probably with one of the girls who started the same week as him - her baby is due this week.

Thursday, January 19, 2006
Must remember to buy some cheap chocolate. Scoffing Green & Blacks in sleep-deprived/sick-baby/house-nightmare stress is not helpful. I just feel a bit sick now.

It's amazing how much better you feel after a proper chat. C tracked down the phone number of the house we are buying and gave the vendor a ring last night in a highly successful attempt to bypass the estate agent's game of chinese whispers. I'm sure the agent would be most distressed; they don't like you to communicate directly. But he was worried we were backing out, we were worried he hadn't sent the contract. Sorted out in 10 minutes: on course to move in March.
Or we were, until an hour ago. Our buyers just lost their buyer. Again. I have no words.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Oh dear: poorly baby. Have been up since 5. Am incoherent with tiredness (what do you mean, you can't tell any different). She's sleeping like a baby at the moment - I know, I know: sleep when your baby sleeps. Ha ha ha. But has only eaten 1 tsp porridge, 1/2 tsp yogurt and 1 malted milk biscuit in the past 48 hours. Which is not a. enough or b. very nutritious.
On the other hand, it meant when I took her to meet Aunty Sara at Starbucks for lunch (is that mean, when she's not feeling very well?), she sat still and didn't run about causing havoc: a bonus for me. I got to eat both sandwich and cake, and drink my latte, in unusual serenity.

Saturday, January 14, 2006
A mystery. I've just taken delivery of this book from this company. Which I didn't order. I'm assuming it might be a belated birthday present, given that it was ordered the day before my birthday, but there is nothing to say who it is from. Would anyone care to own up? I am very grateful, anyway - it looks like a nice book and I always like to discover new recipes. Haven't heard of Sally Clarke before, but the pictures look quite inspiring on a quick flick through.

Friday, January 13, 2006
More name-related irritations: surely the Inland Revenue shouldn't take it upon themselves to change somebody's name on the system merely because their spouse has their tax credits? Have just been through all sorts of difficulties, finely establishing that the reason they were being offhand was because they are taxmen I was giving the wrong name. Now I have to wait a week before it can be changed on the system. A week! Is ridiculous.
And I have accidentally deleted my spreadsheet containing all last year's earnings. So next year's tax return will be lots of fun.
Updated to add: I just re-rang the tax people and spoke to a most helpful girl who was quite happy for me to give either/or details given that I knew all my security information. I take it all back. Some of it back. And it has apprently been changed already - so, 3 minutes, rather than a week.

Monday, January 09, 2006
Who watched the first episode of Balderdash and Piffle last week?
We were half-heartedly watching in a Sunday-night fashion - I wasn't even looking at the screen but rummaging through a box of chocolates - when Cameron started to gesticulate at the screen in some excitement. The ploughman they interviewed about the origin of the phrase ploughman's lunch? My uncle. How bizarre.
The programme had me reassessing my opinion of Victoria Coren, who comes across as terribly smug and unpleasant in her Observer column. However, my uncle, via my dad, tells me that my original opinion was correct and that she isn't very nice.
I'm just a friend to the stars, me.

Saturday, January 07, 2006
Bloomin' jobsworth estate agents. Sigh. We have to send in some contractors to quote on various repairs to the house we are buying, as a result of the survey (nothing drastic or unexpected: it's an older house). I had the landscape chap - needed to lower the ground level further below the damp course - ring the agent to try to make an appointment. Only the agent refused to speak to him because he told them my maiden name (which I use, I always use, and have used to them every time I have telephoned: I never call myself Mrs Watson unless it is a dire emergency). I then called them and told them (again) that I prefer to use that name, and insisted they change their file while I waited. All done - in fact, they wrote to me this morning to confirm (fantastic). And then the gardener rang back and asked for Watson, because I had explained the situation to him, and they refused again, because I was no longer called Watson on their file. Arg! How many Cameron-and-Lisas have they got trying to buy the house, anyway?
I might ring and insist they change our titles to Dr, just to mess with them. (After all, I am now on their file as Mrs maiden-name, and that's not right, is it.)

Friday, January 06, 2006
Just how unlucky will we be if I don't take the wreath down tonight? It's cold and dark out there. I've done the indoor decs, that must count for something. If it's low-grade unluckiness (nasty cold, cut finger, that sort of thing) I am prepared to risk it. If we're chancing losing the house sale again, I'll get my wellies.

Thursday, January 05, 2006
Got the easel and paints out in the kitchen this morning to occupy the monster while I made bolognese sauce (book group tonight and it pays to be prepared). Was half-listening as she chattered away, so when she started up with oh no! oh no! oh no! (she has Ruth Archer as a role model) I could go and pick up the paintpot/brush/reattach the paper/wipe her hands. However, toes! toes! didn't really register - I was at the tricky stage of putting the ingredients into the slow cooker - until she expanded red toes! red toes! at which point I focussed back in the room. You've guessed it, she'd painted her feet. And some of the floor; and the easel legs.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Today is Cameron's first day back at work, so my first day back as full-time Mummy. We are currently engaged in a power struggle regarding Maggie's afternoon sleep: she didn't have one at all yesterday but today I am going to win. I've got Things To Do. She is currently jumping up and down in her cot singing loudly about the three little monkeys. And not sleepy at all.
Fortunately, it is also our cleaner's first day back - left a bombsite at 9.30, returned to a sparkling abode at 12 (albeit a sparking abode covered in small heaps of stuff waiting to be sorted out and put away).
The gym was full of resolution-makers in their aging gym kits (I actually saw a leotard and footless-tights combo), huffing and puffing and doing a lot of sitting motionless on the machines/walking slowly on the treadmill. The cafe was even more full, people treating themselves to cappuccinos and cakes after their workouts. I bet it doesn't last. (Hark at me: I'm no gym-bunny myself.)

Sunday, January 01, 2006
I've got a nice new project: Pewari's Wheel of the Year. The idea being that you take 12 photos on the 1st of every month - I have only managed 10, but I don't think she'll disqualify me. Mine had to be quite vague because of the move (and have been put straight up from the camera with no 'tarting' - I hope to find time to polish a couple before next month's set), and can be seen here. My subjects are:
- Books. Actually, all reading matter - I've included today's paper and a magazine. Not those waiting to be read (that would have to be shot from far, far away) but those I am actively reading. Given that there are 10 in the pile (and I couldn't dig up the bookseller of Kabul, which should also be included) I have made a New Year's resolution to finish some of these before I start any more.
- Dinner.
- Whatever is looking nicest in the garden - this month, some spectacular yellow holly berries.
- Toys: those played with today.
- The patio pots.
- The view from the front
- and back bedroom windows.
- Me: at present I am intending this to be a representation of whatever I do while M has her nap. (Today I gardened)
- Maggie.
- Somebody we speak to. If we don't see a soul, I'll have to rethink this one.
- (Sneaked in on the 3rd) The veg rack. The organic box arrives on a Tuesday so this photo will have to wait until the nearest Tues to the 1st (if I take it on the 1st there is every chance it will contain two sad-looking wrinkled spuds and a yellowing cabbage. There is always a cabbage. Of course, that might be interesting, too).