Scottish Vegan Homemaker

Making a home for my vegan family in the heart of Scotland…

She’s Leaving Home OR The Times They Are A-Changin’

Posted by Penny on 30/08/2015

My goodness me, but it’s been a long time, hasn’t it?  Sorry about that…

And in the time since I last spoke to you, there have been quite a few changes in the life of this Scottish Vegan Homemaker and her family, some sad, some happy and some bitter-sweet.  Let’s get the very sad one over with first.

Loyal readers will know what a special relationship my boy, Tom, and I had.  This is a pic that Jenny took for my sixty-seventh birthday change-of-profile-pic.  Tom was purring so loudly!


Three months later my darling wee boy was dead because of some kind of lung disease.  Words can’t express how much I miss that wee fellow.

If he was in the house, he was with me.


And if he’d been out and about, he announced his presence when he came back in, and roamed the house till he found me.  If I’d been out, he was there with the dogs to greet me on my return, so I had to sit for ages with a pooch on each side and Tom on my lap, trying to snuggle them all impartially.  Now he’s been gone for well over a year and I miss him still.

Just before Christmas last year, these two wee monsters came into our lives.


They’re very sweet and full of personality,


(It was difficult to get a clear picture of Hamish as he was (and is!) so lively)

and didn’t take long to become part of the family




but they can’t match my boy.


OK, let’s dry our eyes and move on to a happy change!

This year, I finished my studies with the Open University and will graduate in October with a BA (Hons.) Upper Second in Humanities with English Language.  (Note to self:  If I don’t get this out before then, change this to the past tense!!!😀 )  I’d hoped very much for a First, and it seemed to be within my grasp, but it wasn’t to be…  Ah well.  Everyone tells me that a 2:1 is great.

So, no more studying and essay writing!  With or without study buddies!

7 1st April 2015 Organising my conclusion, with moral support from Hamish!

And I hope to take off the two extra stones I gained (28 lbs for my American friends) because of the inordinate amounts of chocolate I consumed to aid concentration!  I’ve already shed half a stone…

And now to the bitter-sweet changes.  Have you guessed from the title of this blog post?  My baby girl is about to set up home, in Edinburgh, with her beloved Marc.  They met, after I last spoke to you, on-line, on a dating site.  Jenny was about to give up on it.  She was fed up with messages along the lines of ‘Hi, Gorgeous!’


many from older men who lived far, far away.  Or from boys who said they didn’t like complicated books with long words…  Or who turned out to be Right Wing.  But she decided to give it one, last try.  And Marc, whose favourite book was Great Expectations and whose politics were the same as ours (left wing and wanting an independent Scotland), had just joined…

When he suggested they meet, John and I went with her, of course, and hid round a corner to check that he wasn’t another fifty-year-old man…  He wasn’t!  He was young and sweet and shy and they’ve adored each other ever since.  And he LOVES our dogs and cats, who’ve reciprocated in full since he stepped in the door on his first visit here.



He’s still a student (like her mother, Jenny’s gone for a younger man, though not with her parents’ thirteen year age gap!), which is why they’ve chosen Edinburgh to set up home.  We’ll miss her terribly, after twenty-six years of togetherness,




14 11th February 2015 My beautiful daughter

but are so happy that she’s happy…

And so to Book Corner!

One of my most favourite books of all is Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery


This is one where Anne leaves home, Green Gables, to live with friends, while studying at Redmond College.  Here she has encounters both romantic and amusing and here (spoiler alert!) she becomes engaged, at the end, to the ever-faithful Gilbert.  And there are cats.

And, lastly, Recipe Corner.  Here’s a recipe I’ve changed a lot.

MANY years ago I made friends with a fellow home-educator/homeschooler in the USA.  I wrote a couple of chapters for her books…


And we corresponded for several years.  She sent me a recipe for muffins which I’ve veganised and further adapted over the years.  So now I give you my recipe for Blueberry Muffins.


125g margarine

125g sugar

One and a half teaspoons egg replacer

255g self raising flour

85g frozen blueberries

2 teaspoons baking powder

Three quarters of a teaspoon of salt

200ml soya milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Set the oven to Gas Mark 5 / 375o F / 190 o C / 160 o C (Fan)

Mix the egg replacer into the milk and whisk for a wee bit and set aside.

Mix all the other ingredients together, and then add the wet stuff.

Divide among 12 lined muffin cases.

Bake for 30 minutes and then leave on a cooling tray for as long or as short as you wish…

Well, now we’ve caught up, I really will try to blog more often!  Still lots to tell you!

Title: She’s Leaving Home, Lennon McCartney / The Times They Are A-Changin’, Bob Dylan

Today’s smoothie: Oatly, bananas, dates, frozen red gooseberries (from the allotment) and frozen blueberries.  Soooo good!

Posted in baking, books, cats, family, home education, recipes, vegan | 29 Comments »

Summerhouse, and the livin’ is easeeeeeeee!

Posted by Penny on 05/09/2013

Well, it is now, as I’ve finished studying for a wee while.  (Well, I had when I started writing this blog post, but I’m just about to embark on more study for my next module!)  I was doing a lot of hard work in the summerhouse up until the beginning of summer.  But hold on!  Let’s backtrack a bit!  And, first of all, here’s a pic of a girl who’s been enjoying the summerhouse, too!  (Please ignore the highlighted ‘summerhouse’ all over the place.  It’s an annoying adverty thing…)

Susie inspecting the summer-house

And now I’d better explain about the title of this blog post.  (I swithered about calling it “In the Good Old Summerhouse”, “The Summerhouse Rules”, or “Summerhouse, I’m Cumin’ In” and those would have worked, too, I think…)

Anyway, to get on with explaining…  We love our garden.  We love planting things in it.  We love sitting in it.  We don’t really do any weeding, as the plants grow so thickly together that weeds tend not to stand a chance, apart from ground elder and goosegrass (known as ‘sticky Willie’ round this neck of the woods)… And since these are particular favourites of the chaps

Ground elder! Mmmmmm!

then I see them as legitimate crops!  So there isn’t the problem of backbreaking labour.  (The allotment’s another story and we’re (literally) not going there at the moment.)

However, there was a huge problem with the garden last year, and the year before.  Pretty flowers?  Yes. Comfy sun-loungers?  Yup.  Lovely weather?  Ah, you’ve got it in three.  Nope!

Rainy garden...

For the two summers before this one, the weather here in Dunblane, in the Central Lowlands of Scotland, was AWFUL!  It rained and it poured and it deluged.  So although the flowers looked lovely, we weren’t able to sit in amongst them.  And then I had a brainwave!  What if we could be out in the garden, in among the flowers, but sheltered from the weather?  A summerhouse was the answer!

A preformed one wasn’t possible, as all the bits wouldn’t have fitted through our wee, terraced cottage,

The front of our wee home...

so I asked a local craftsman and handyman if he’d design and build us one from scratch.  Which he did.

If you’re like me, you’ll want to see ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos.  If you’re NOT like me, you may want to scroll down, but resist the urge.  I think you’ll be impressed.

So, this first pic was taken last November, when the fence between our garden and next-door’s had blown over and it had been dumped on our back border.  It remained like this until what was officially called ‘Spring’.

Garden looking very sorry for itself

If you’d like to see the different stages, have a look in my Flickr set here.  (Yes, this is a real link, not one of those annoying adverty ones!)

But if you prefer to cut to the chase, here’s a more recent pic, taken from the same spot, just at the gateway from the courtyard.

That's better!

Quite a difference?  Oh, yes!

We’re thrilled with it!  John uses it for growing lots of delicious tomatoes, cucumbers and basil

Tomatoes, basil and cucumbers

and as well as relaxing, studying (see above), marking essays and exam papers (albeit with a bit of distraction),

John was trying to mark essays...

writing journals and snoozing during the day, we use it as an evening sitting-room, too.  It stays light till after 10pm, in the summer, here in these northern-ish climes, but the sitting-room in the house is darkish after about 2pm.  So it’s lovely to be able to sit ‘outside’ and read our books, in amongst the flowers, but safe from midgies!

Interior of the summer-house

(I hope you like my home-made bunting!!!)

And so, seamlessly (unlike the bunting) on to Book Corner.  Hmmm…  Books that feature summerhouses…  Well I read one where one of the protagonists is in love (unrequitedly) with a young man who breaks her heart in a summerhouse and I’d love to tell you about it.  But I just can’t remember which book it was!  Was it perhaps one of Elizabeth Jane Howard’s ‘Cazelet’ novels?  Your guess is as good as mine…

So Jane has suggested that I just tell you about books I’ve READ in the summerhouse.  Hmmm….  I think I may have to go along that route…

Well, obviously there were the books for my module on Children’s Literature, which I posted a photo of, l-o-n-g ago in my last blog post (I know!!!)  But now that the module is over, I’ve managed to do some other reading.  One of the books I read and loved was Kate Atkinson’s latest novel, Life after Life.

Life after Life

Have you ever thought, ‘If I hadn’t gone there that evening/moved to that house/chosen that route, my life would have been completely different’?  Well, Life after Life is based on that premise.  It starts with a baby being born, but neither the doctor nor the midwife gets there in time and the baby dies.  Then we start all over again.  The baby is born, but lives…  For a wee while…  Then we go back again and she survives into early childhood…  Each time, a different chance happening changed her life and she survived, or didn’t…  I won’t give stuff away, but I found it totally fascinating and very thought-provoking.  You might enjoy it, too…

Alice’s Tulips, by Sandra Dallas (whose Persian Pickle Club is one of my favourite books) was interesting, funny and touching.

Alice's Tulips

It’s an epistolary novel, the letters written by a young woman, the eponymous Alice, to her sister. Alice’s husband is away fighting in the American Civil War, leaving her with his apparently cold and undemonstrative mother.  As in PPC, there’s a bit of a murder mystery, but also lots of detail about the hard lives experienced by women left to farm the land when their men were away, and the terrible worry when they had no way of knowing if their loved one was alive or dead.  (He was alive when he wrote the letter that took some time to reach you, but he could have ‘stopped a bullet’ the moment after… )

Again, I don’t like to give away too much of the story, but if you like books about history, relationships and quilting, give it a try!  It’s not as dark as it might sound.  I think you’ll like Alice’s sense of humour!

And today’s surprise entries are the Inspector Rebus novels of Ian Rankin!

Here’s the one I finished yesterday, in the summerhouse…

Dead Souls

As you know, I like a mystery, but of the cosy kind, where it’s mostly puzzle and no gory details.  I can’t remember what made me lift one of these books from our shelves, but I was soon totally immersed in it.  They’re kind of ‘Edinburgh gumshoe’, so are dark, humorous and exciting.  I love the way Ian Rankin uses local dialect and real places in Edinburgh, which I know quite well.  John and I have enjoyed the television series, but there is much more to the books – to which the second TV series bears little or no resemblance – with lots of different strands, rather than just one main story.

I now have a list of his books in my ‘Filofax’ (which will be featured in my next blog post…  And I’ll try not to leave it for another nine months…) so that when I’m in charity shops I know which ones I’ve already got.  I’ve now read several and enjoyed them all.  It doesn’t really matter what order you read them in and, in each, a wee bit more of Rebus’s personal history is revealed.

And I must also mention this weighty tome


which I’m reading in advance for my next module: Myths and Legends in the Greek and Roman World.  I’m enjoying it a lot.  I’ve been steeped in Greek and Roman myths since before my age reached double figures.  Well, with the name ‘Penelope’ I would be, wouldn’t I?

But it’s not just fiction I’ve been reading in the summerhouse!  I’ve also been browsing through recipe books…  Here’s one …

Sexy Vegan?

… which I’ve just reviewed for the Vegan Society magazine.  No, the book is not intended for sexy vegans (though obviously, if it had been, it would have hit the mark with me!), but refers to the chappie on the cover……

So, for Recipe Corner, here’s my adaptation of one of his recipes, which has become a HUGE favourite with the family.


You’ll want, for four people (though, as you know, I’m a wee bit vague about quantities, and usually play some things by ear, so to speak.  I’m sure you’ll cope…):

Some sweet potatoes (just judge how many you’ll need.  You’ll be cutting them into slices.  I reckon on about four big slices each…  Or more…)

Sugary/spicy stuff:

1 heaped tablespoon soft brown sugar

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

½ teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon garam masala

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper


Tahini or nut butter

Some slices of brown bread or rolls (you’ll know how many you need for four people, won’t you?  Yeah, of course you will! )

Salad leaves

1 or 2 tins of mango slices (depending on how much you want.  You know yourselves better than I do…)

How to do it:

Peel and slice the sweet potatoes (about ½ inch thick) and boil them until they’re softish, but not falling apart.  Rinse them in cold water.  Otherwise you’ll burn your fingers in a wee minute…

While they’re boiling, mix up your sugary/spicy stuff.

Lightly oil a baking tray.

Dip your slices in the sugary/spicy stuff (this is why you need to cool them!) and place them on the baking tray.

Bake them at 200 Centigrade/180 Fan/ Gas Mark 6 for 20 minutes.

Toast your bread or rolls, spread it/them with tahini or almond butter, place the sweet potato slices on top, with the mango slices right on top of them.

You’ll have washed your salad leaves?  Good!  You’re well organised!  Serve them on the side.  Oh, sooooooooooooo tasty!!!

Today’s smoothie: oat milk, banana, gooseberries from the allotment, frozen spinach, soya lecithin granules, vanilla extract and maple syrup.  Sooooooooo good!

Today’s soup: Courgette, made with some lovely yellow courgettes from the allotment.  Very nice!

Reading at the moment: Dead Souls by Ian Rankin; The Queen of New Beginnings by Erica James (rereading); The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend; It’s a Don’s Life by Mary Beard; Rebus’s Scotland by Ian Rankin, Reputation for a Song by Edward Grierson (an old green Penguin) and quite a few more…




Posted in allotment, books, cats, dogs, food, garden, green smoothies, guineapigs, House and home, recipe books, recipes, soup!, Studying, vegan | 41 Comments »

The rooms they are a-changin’

Posted by Penny on 11/11/2012

Now, don’t look at me so accusingly!  I know!  It’s been many months since I last posted and some of you have wondered if I’ve given up my wee blog.  And have been sweet enough to say that you hope not.  No, I haven’t (well, that’s pretty obvious now, I suppose…), but I HAVE been up-to-my-eyes over the last few months* and haven’t even been reading blogs, far less writing and taking photographs for one.  However, let’s put the past behind us and move on now…

I was going to call this post, ‘Don’t go changing’, because, in fact, we haven’t actually changed bedrooms yet (It’s OK!  There’s other nice stuff in store!), but John, on bended knee and with tears in his eyes, begged me not to use a Lionel Ritchie song, so what could I do???  (OK, a wee bit of dramatic licence there, but those tears were damn close, I swear!)

Alternatively, I could have called it ‘Fangs ain’t what they used to be…

because there HAVE been some changes in the SVH household.  As I said, we haven’t changed bedrooms with Jenny yet.  It’s a LONG process!  On the other hand, I hope you’ll like the changes we HAVE made to the house.  Where will I start…?

OK…  Firstly I’ve made a few wee changes in the sitting room.  In the summer, I moved my desk away from the draught coming under and round the front door. (Wise move?  But not really necessary in the summer?  Ha!  Don’t get me started on our ‘summer’ weather!!!)  And I’ve brought down one of the bedroom bookcases to sit beside the ‘To Be Read’ one.  I’ve also stuck braid on the fronts of the shelves in an attempt to make them look more hippy and less like the cheapies that they are.  So instead of looking like this
















this bit of the sitting room now looks like this.

And I got a new, wee bookcase for the top of my desk, which holds my books for my Open University courses*

A much bigger change, however, has taken place in the back of the cottage!  I’m squeaky with excitement about it!  Our kitchen was a poky wee room, always dark and with never enough room.  Yes, I did my best with it.  I took off doors and replaced them with gingham curtains.  We removed wall cupboards and put up open shelves.  We replaced the horrible sink with an old stone sink and hung a patchwork curtain,

but the fact remained that it was just too wee!  When the dishwashing was not… er… quite up to date (blush), there was no room for the cooking and baking I enjoy.

Then one day this summer I said to John, ‘Here’s an idea!  How about we get the wall knocked through between the kitchen and the dining room and make it all into a bigger kitchen?’  And we did!!!

Our (former) dining room is a conservatory and was used mostly for tutoring and eating.  The furniture was moved around on a pretty regular basis, as the whim took me.  Here’s what it looked like at one point.  A nice wee room, I hope you’ll agree?

However, my pupil numbers have dwindled, as they’ve mostly reached the age of having sat their final exams and left school, so I don’t need the shelves of tutoring books and materials anymore.  And at my advanced age I’m really not wanting to get any more pupils, to be honest.  The few I still have, the enormous amount of typing I do for John for his Open University tutoring, my own studying and essay writing*, as well as looking after the home, are enough to keep me busy.  I AM well past retirement age after all!  So the time was right…

The wall was knocked through…

…and here is the new bit of our kitchen!








It’s not finished yet!  The cooker hood has still to be installed and there’s still some painting to be done, as you can see, but we’re getting there.

As well as cooking, baking and eating, and crafting, I tutor my few remaining pupils in here and also work on my essays*, often with a certain chap as my ‘study buddy’!








The old bit, which you can see past the kettle, remains as a cross between a utility room and food storage area.







We love all the light and the extra space!

*OK.  You’re wondering about those asterisks, aren’t you?  Well, if you cast your mind back, through the mists of time, to when I last made a blog post, you may remember that I said I’d started another course with the Open University.  Well, that one’s finished (just waiting for the result of my end of module assessment, which I’ll know mid-December) and I’ve started another on Children’s Literature.  Here are some of the books I’m studying…

I’m thoroughly enjoying it and managed to get 90% for my first essay (small bit of boasting there.  Sorry!  But with the state of my brain these days, I was rather pleased!), but I don’t expect to keep that up!  The only fly in the ointment is hearing some people saying how much they hate Treasure Island and are bored by Little Women!  I know!  Makes me almost sob out loud!

Anyway, back to the theme of changes in the house…

Another change is to Johnny’s room because we’ve added to our family!  Now our companion animals include two guinea pigs!

Daisy found them while she was out for a walk with Johnny and Bobby.  They were huddled together in the undergrowth, terrified out of their wee minds.  To cut a very long story fairly short (unusually for me…), once Johnny and I managed to catch the wee chaps they came to live with us and when the original owner finally got in touch she was happy for us to keep them!  She said they’d escaped from her garden (they were a LONG way away from her place, so we don’t know how they got there!), but she had heard they had a good home now…  This seems unimaginable to us, as our animals are very much part of our family, but it takes all sorts…

They seem to think they have a good home now, anyway!  We’d never even thought of having guinea pigs before, but with lots of help and advice from some good friends and regular supplies of hay from Sylvia, who gets it for her rescue goat and sheep (the latter now numbering three!), we’re able to keep them in a fair degree of luxury.

They’re nervous wee animals at the best of times, but we’re winning their trust…

Bob is fascinated by them and follows me upstairs when he thinks I’m going to visit them.  He’s been nose-to-nose with them through their run, but I’m wary…  He IS a terrier.  And his favourite toy is a squeaky ball…  You know what I mean…  So the piggies live in Johnny’s room, which has a sturdy catch on the door…

And so onto Book Corner

Well, I think most, if not all, books feature change of one kind or another,  but I’ll talk about ones that feature changes in the home, just to narrow it down and make it more appropriate for this blog post…

So let’s kick off with The New House, by Lettice Cooper (aunt-in-law of Jilly Cooper).  This is one of the books I was reading when I wrote my last blog post.

It tells of the day when Rhoda and her domineering mother move into a smaller house.  Their large family home has been sold, to be pulled down by a developer.  Rhoda longs for freedom, for the chance to work in paid employment and to have her own life, away from a mother who has always expected to have her own way.  Her sister has escaped from the family home and is about to be married, and her brother has a wife and child.  So it’s Rhoda’s duty to stay at home…

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which is published by Persephone, as you can see from the photo.  I so hoped Rhoda would be able to break away.  Her mother’s acid tongue has already ruined her chance of romance with the man she’d loved and she dreads ending up like her spinster aunt…

But I’ll let you find out for yourself what happens…

Norah Lofts wrote many historical novels, several of which are set in Suffolk and feature the changes to a house through the centuries: Bless this House; A Wayside Tavern; Pargeters are three of them.

Her ‘House’ trilogy, a great favourite of John’s and mine, comprises The Town House, The House at Old Vine and The House at Sunset.  The first book, The Town House, appears to have gone temporarily missing, but here are the other two, well-worn and well-read.

They chart the story of a house that was built in mediaeval times, the people who lived in it and the changes that were made to the house itself until the twentieth century.  Well worth a read!  And a re-read!  And more re-reads after that!  But don’t expect happy endings to all the tales… No, really.  Don’t.  In fact, there aren’t that many happy endings.  But it’s fascinating just the same, as are the other ‘house through the centuries’ books she wrote.

And recipe corner?  Well, we vegans are used to changing recipes!  ‘Veganising’, we call it.  I know!  With all these recipe books,

why would I need to veganise anything?  Well, some of the meals I make were changed before vegan recipe books were so thick on the ground, like this one for chocolate muffins.  (Forgive me if I’ve blogged about these before, but I don’t think I have…)  I got the original recipe from an American friend in the 1990s and it contained eggs and cows’ milk then.  I veganised it and have used my version VERY often.  And now that I have my lovely new range cooker,

with TWO fan-assisted ovens, I can bake more than one batch at a time!  Twelve muffins don’t last long in a muffin-loving family of four!!!

OK, here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Muffins – makes 12


130g margarine

130g sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons egg replacer

26g cocoa powder

224 g self-raising flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

200 ml. soya milk


Set oven to: Gas Mark 5; 375F;190C; 160 fan assisted.

Add egg replacer to milk and whisk together.  Put aside.

Weigh out all the dry ingredients into a large bowl.

Add the margarine and the milk/egg replacer mixture.

Mix everything together and then spoon into muffin cases (I sit my cases in a muffin tray.  I also use an ice-cream scoop for filling them.)

Bake for 30 minutes.

And so we come to the icing.  Now, I’ll be honest with you: I can’t really give you any measurements for the icing, as I always judge it…  So, sieve a goodly amount of icing sugar into a bowl.  Add a fair amount of cocoa powder.  Throw in a dollop of marg (but carefully, or the icing sugar and cocoa powder will puff up into your eyes.  Trust me.  I know what I’m talking about here…).  Mix everything together and, once the cupcakes are cool, swirl lots of icing on top or use an icing bag.  Very nice!  My mouth is watering as I type…

I have a request from the family for some of these very soon.  So, my dilemma is this:  do I wait and take a photograph, or will I get this posted now and you can just imagine them?  You know what chocolate muffins look like, don’t you?  Yes, I thought so.  So we’ll just get this show (alias blog post) on the road!

Now, it is HIGHLY unlikely that I’ll blog again before Christmas, so, although it’s a wee bit early, may I wish you all, dear readers, a happy mid-winter festival of the kind you celebrate and a 2013 filled with joy, love and dreams-coming-true.  (Not the nightmare variety, obviously.  The good ones…)

Lots of love from me to you.  I’ll try to be a better blogger next year…

Title: The Times They are A’Changin’ by Bob Dylan

Alternative title: Fings Ain’t Wot They Used to Be by Lionel Bart

Reading: Slightly Foxed ( a quarterly magazine about books – not the best-seller type, but interesting, quirky books); Understanding Flash Photography (hoping for a new flash gun for Christmas…); Sunrise by Rosie Thomas (I haven’t read any of her books before, but I picked this one up in a charity shop and am enjoying it); all my OU books…

Posted in baking, books, cats, cupcakes, family, food, guineapigs, House and home, recipes, Studying | 68 Comments »

So tired, tired of waiting…

Posted by Penny on 05/03/2012

Well, I hope you’re not, because I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait a wee bit longer, because…  Oh, hang on a wee minute.  It’s just that I promised Tom…

 I told the wee fellow that I’d put a pic of him right at the top of my next post.  He wasn’t included in the last one, you see…  An oversight on my part, for which I’ve felt thoroughly ashamed…

And that reminds me…  I’ve been meaning to mention this before…  You know I’m Scottish, right?  Well, there’s an enormous clue in the name of my blog and, if you’ve ever spoken to me, there’s an equally enormous clue in my accent.  However, I’ve never spoken what we call ‘broad Scots’.

When my wee sister, Sylvia, and I were at primary school, we were quite unusual in that we didn’t use expressions such as ‘Ah dinnae ken’ (when asked something we don’t know); ‘Ah hivnae goat wan’ (in reply to ‘Where’s your hankie?’); ‘Whit did ye dae that fur?’ (when wondering about the reason for another person’s actions).  We said ‘marbles’ not ‘bools’ and ‘April Fool’ rather than ‘Huntie Gowk’.  And how would you describe this? (Careful what you say now!  It’s me!)

Well, the people in our street would have said it was a ‘photie uv a wee lassie’ or (and I hope I’m not being too immodest here?) if they really, really liked it, ‘an awfie braw photie uv a bonnie wee lassie’.  (Translation:  a really nice photograph of a pretty little girl.)

Some Scots words, however, were a natural part of our vocabulary; indeed, for many years I didn’t know some of them were Scottish.  A very small river is, of course, a burn. This is the burn that we walk beside for much of our daily walks.  At the end, I say to Daisy, ‘Daisy, wash your feet!’ and she goes into the water.  (She gets much muddier than Bob…)

 If I get a splinter of wood in my little finger, I’ll say I’ve got ‘a skelf in my pinkie’.  I’ll say that someone with a vacant look on his face and his mouth hanging open ‘looks glaikit’ and I’ll describe a cold, damp miserable day as ‘dreich’. 

But the Scots word I use most is ‘wee’.  And I use it a lot!  My spell check doesn’t recognise it as a word.  Tsk!  I use it affectionately, as in referring to Tom, who loves his food and has the weight to prove it, as ‘my wee fellow’. 


I use it as a modifier as in ‘a wee minute’ (a moment); ‘quite a wee while’ (a long time) and ‘a wee bit more’.  And I use to it show sympathy, as in ‘Wee soul!!!’  The family are used to me exclaiming this as we watch films and programmes on television.  In fact, if it’s a film the offspring have seen before, they can tell when I’ll first express sympathy in this way, and, if I glance across at them, I’ll see them grinning affectionately.  I believe a person who elicits this response is called ‘a woob’.  The other evening we were all at home and so we took the chance to see (500) Days of Summer which The Offspring had been waiting to watch with us for a while.and, as expected, I was ‘wee-souling’ all the way through.  I mean, how much of a woob was poor Joseph Gordon-Levitt in that film?  Wee soul…

Of course, ‘wee’ is used by non-Scots, but, as I explain to my pupils when they’re analysing poems and texts, when an unusual word is used, it’s done for effect.  When Frank Sinatra sang ‘In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning’ it was for emotive effect. 

And when, in one of my favourite books ever, Jane of Lantern Hill, by L. M. Montgomery,

one of the characters says to the eponymous Jane, ‘Don’t you think you’re being just a wee bit ridiculous, darling?’ the use of ‘wee’ emphasises her patronising tone and makes the reader bristle in Jane’s defence.

Anyway, where was I?  Tom…  Scottish words…  Oh, yes!  I was saying you’d have to wait a wee while!  For the revamp I mean!  You see, Jenny and I are going to swap bedrooms! She has a square room with a big window at the back of the house and John and I have a colm-ceilinged room with a dormer window at the front.  I’m excited!  So’s she!  So’s John!

Long before I was vegan (but not long before I was Scottish!) I was a bit of a homemaker.  When Sylvia and I were wee girls we had a shed in the garden as a playhouse and I loved fixing it up.  Anything with a cover over it was a potential house for me.  In the long, Church of Scotland, sermons of my youth, while waiting for the minister to finish, I would sit and imagine how I’d turn the church into a house (little knowing that this would, indeed, happen to many church buildings later). 

(Now I would have put a photograph here, of a converted church building a couple of towns away from here, but it would have meant putting off posting this up and I didn’t want you to wait any longer.  Right decision?  I hope so…)

So the thought of having a new room to fix up is very exciting!  The walls are already purple, though at present they’re covered in posters and pictures.  So that will go nicely with the ‘new’ bedding I bought from a car boot sale for £2 (about three dollars?)

and with the sheets and pillow cases I dyed navy.  This is rather a dark photograph, but it shows the bedding, Susie snoozing on my pillow and the comb ceiling, so I think it serves the purpose…

So…  Sorry… I hope you’ll think it was worth the wait when you eventually see our new bedroom!

You know I like to have a bit of a theme to my blog posts and the theme of this one is…..  Wait for it…..  Waiting!!!  (See how I did that?)

So…  Books that feature waiting…  Well, one I read a year and a half ago, and loved so much I want to read it over and over, was Marianna, by Monica Dickens, written, amazingly, when she was only twenty-four!!!Mary has fled to the seclusion of her holiday cottage in the country while her husband is at sea during the Second World War.  Switching on the radio, to listen to the news, she hears that his ship has hit a mine and has sunk with several lives lost.  The next of kin have been advised…  But if a telegram has been sent to her, it would have gone to their London home, and with her telephone line down because of a storm which is still raging, Mary has no way of finding out if he is dead or alive.  She must wait till the morning, when she’ll be able to walk to the post office/telephone exchange in the village…

Most of the book takes the form of a flashback of her life: her childhood; her holidays in the large, family home; her infatuation with her cousin; her work in France; her love for Sam…

In the final chapter, she walks, after a sleepless night, into the village, to find out if Sam is still alive or not…

What?  No, of course I’m not telling you!  Sheesh!  You’ll just have to wait till you’ve read it!  You’ll love it!!!  And why Marianna, when her name’s Mary?  Well, you’ll remember Tennyson’s poem, about Marianna in the Moated Grange?

 She only said, ‘My life is dreary

He cometh not,’ she said;

She said, ‘I am aweary, aweary,

I would that I were dead.’

Well, Marianna was waiting, too…  And this was the poem that Maud tried to teach young Albert, the page, in A Damsel in Distress by the inimitable P.G. Wodehouse.I couldn’t wait for The Offspring to be old enough for me to read P.G. Wodehouse to them and this was the book I started with.  They LOVED it!  Maud is waiting at the family’s ancestral pile for the unsuitable young man she’s fallen in love with to get in touch with her.  George, however, a young American songwriter, who was able to give her assistance in avoiding her overbearing brother in London, has fallen in love with her and he comes down to the castle to try to further their acquaintance. Maud is miserable and heart-sore and likens herself to Marianna, hence her love of Tennyson’s poem, which is, unfortunately, murdered by the page’s strangled vowels!  A perfect Wodehousian treat!

And so, seamlessly, on to Recipe Corner, with a meal that requires a bit of hanging about waiting.  It’s pancakes, known in this family as ‘Punks’.  We love Punks!

When I was a wee girl, we used to visit certain friends of my parents for afternoon tea and the table was always groaning with goodies.  ‘Aunt’ Lizzie would say, ‘I had a wee boy visiting the other day and he managed six pancakes.  D’you think you could manage more than that?’  What a delightful challenge for a child!  (And yes, I could!)  I should mention that these were wee pancakes, also known as ‘drop scones’.  And, of course, they were made with eggs and cows’ milk.  Here’s my vegan version. 

Penny’s Punks (serves four punk-loving vegans who either don’t have to worry about their weight or who are trying not to think about that for a wee while…)

300g self-raising flour

About ¼ teaspoon of salt

150g sugar

4½ teaspoons egg replacer

Soya milk

Now, I’m going to leave the amount of soya milk you add up to you.  Play it by ear!  Judge it for yourself!  It really depends how thick you want them.  Just make sure you have at least a litre in the house though…

Whisk the lot together until all blended and smooth.  You can use a liquidiser if you like.  Or a food processor.   Or a blender.  Whatever gets the job done…

Pour a ladleful into a lightly oiled frying pan and swirl it to cover the bottom.  Cook at a medium heat and wait until the bubbles rise to the surface and burst. 

 Flip the punk over.  Not in the air!  Sakes!  Just carefully with a ‘fish’ slice. 

Let the other side get nice and light brown. 

Fold it tenderly in a thick dishtowel to keep it warm and then do the same with the rest of the mixture.

While this is going on, I like to ‘fry’ some mushrooms in water and stockuntil the stock has evaporated and the mushrooms are nicely cooked.

This can be cooking away on another ring…

I make the first four punks quite thick and we have them with baked beans and mushrooms and possibly some Redwood’s Rashers on top.  We didn’t have any rashers when I took this photo…  But it was still VERY tasty!I then add more milk to make the mixture thinner and so the remaining punks are more like crepes.  I used to always have my second punk with maple syrup until I followed Jenny’s example and had it with sugar and lemon juice…  Oh, my!  I’ll never have them with maple syrup again!  Mmmmmm……

I’ll admit it’s a bit tedious, having to wait for eight punks to form bubbles and then for the bubbles to burst.  I usually lean on the worktop reading a book, while waiting…

Some of my kind readers have been sweet enough to say they look forward to my blog posts.  Well, I’ll tell you why they’ve had to wait so long for this one.  Last month I started a new course with the Open University.  It’s called Worlds of English and, funnily enough, not long after I’d written the bit about using Scots words, in preparation for this blog post, the topic came up at my first tutorial.  Anyway, I’ve been writing an essay.  Not much of an excuse I know…  But I’ll be writing one a month for the next six months.  Just so you know…

And, as a wee extra for the ‘waiting theme’, here’s Bobby.  He’s heard the postie coming along the street and is just waiting for him to reach our door, when he will tell that man what he thinks of him!  As you can see, Daisy doesn’t take guarding duties NEARLY as seriously as he does…

Now, here’s a wee test.  The wonderful Laurie, who blogs in Mehitable Days, sometimes has an alphabet theme in her posts.  Emulating her, I thought I’d just ask if you can see how often, in this post, I’ve used the word ‘wait’ in any of its forms?

Today’s title: So tired, tired of waiting by The Kinks

Reading at the moment: Good Wives? by Margaret Forster, a fascinating look at the wives of four famous men; The Iron Hand of Mars by Lindsey Davis, fourth in a series about Marcus Didius Falco, a detective in ancient Rome – great fun!; The New House by Lettice Cooper, a story of an overbearing mother and her gentle, downtrodden daughter when they move from the family home to a smaller house.  I have to read other, cheerier things in between stints with this one, but it’s beautifully written and I care about the characters.  It’s one of my Christmas Persephones; Thanks for the Memories by Cecilia Aherne, an attempt to get one of my pupils to read something and therefore improve her vocabulary – I think this is the first book she’s ever enjoyed! – I’m reading along with her…; study materials for my course.

Posted in books, cats, dogs, family, food, House and home, recipes, Studying, vegan | 63 Comments »

Just like the ones we used to know…

Posted by Penny on 11/12/2011

‘Wait just a minute!’ I hear your puzzled voices.  ‘I thought you were going to show us your revamped bedroom???  Surely this is a line from ‘White Christmas???  And that doesn’t look like a bedroom photo to me…’

You’re right, and I’m glad (though not surprised) that you recognised those words.  I DID intend to show you the revamped bedroom, but it is, as yet, still in the mid-vamp stage and it’s time now for Christmassy stuff.  And I did promise you a post about Christmas books, last year.  So what’s kept me from posting for so long?

Well, for one thing there was the Compassionate Living Fayre in Edinburgh.  It was organised by Ethical Voice for Animals and Scottish Vegans had a stall there, as usual.  Here I am with my friend, Christie, giving away free samples of vegan home-baking (donations welcomed!). We raised over £112 for VegFam (feeding the hungry without exploiting animals).  But it wasn’t just the stall.  I had agreed, again, to do a talk on a compassionate Christmas dinner.  With a PowerPoint.  It took quite a while to make up my talk and to set up the PowerPoint, I can tell you, and I’d love to show it to you, but I have no idea how…

Anyway, it seemed to go well, and if you’d like a copy of the recipes I handed out, e-mail me at and I’ll send you one.

Also, I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but my beautiful daughter was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (M.E.) at the beginning of the year. We’ve had problems with the benefits agency and a deeply traumatic tribunal.  We don’t talk about it anymore. But it made it difficult to think about blog writing for a while this autumn…  Jane’s now having Kairos therapy and is beginning to feel a difference in her sleep patterns, so that has to help.

You know that John’s a tutor with the Open University don’t you?  Well he’s got two courses running at the moment which means rather a lot of essays to mark.  And as he’s a VERY conscientious and helpful tutor, his comments are lengthy and his tutorial notes copious.  I type them all out for him…  Each essay takes me, on average, 45 minutes, and the tutorial notes a lot longer.  It adds up…  And has meant that I’ve had very little time to READ blogs, far less WRITE them.

John is so busy with his marking that he even took some to Johnny’s graduation and marked them while we were waiting to go into the hall.See what I did there?  Popped in that information, very casually, about Johnny’s graduation?  Yes, our sweet son has passed his post-grad course and was awarded the degree of Master of Science (M.Sc.) (with merit) in Museum Theory and Practice, last week, at Glasgow University!  We’re all thrilled and delighted!Excuse the wrinkled top!  I was so excited when I saw him walking towards us in his gown and hood that I just had to get John to take our photo right away!  Does my excitement, joy and pride show?  Just a tad???

But back to the real subject of this blog post:  Just Like the Ones We Used to Know…

Well, actually, not quite.  We remain a very Christmassy family. Well, you know that, don’t you?  I’ve blogged about our Christmas decorations here, about our favourite Christmas films here and about our snowed-in and flu-plagued last Christmas here. But things have, of course, changed over the years.   No more do we have rosy cheeked tinies hanging up their stockings excitedly on Christmas Eve.  No longer do they sit on my lap, or cuddled in beside me, while I read them their favourite Christmas books.

But we’ve always been a read-aloud family and still are.  Not long after I met John, I started reading aloud to him.  We like it as a way of sharing a book instead of reading it one after the other and having to keep saying, ‘Which bit are you at now?’  The children were both able to read fluently when they were very young, Johnny when he was three years old and Jenny when she was five, but this didn’t stop them from enjoying having me read aloud to them.  When they were wee, our favourite Christmas book of all was probably Lucy and Tom’s Christmas, by Shirley Hughes.We loved all of Shirley Hughes books and enjoyed her illustrations.  When I read a book aloud, I always began by saying its title, followed by the author’s name.  This way, the children got to recognise the names of authors they liked and could look for them in the library and bookshops.  Also, as soon as they could talk, I taught them to say their address, as a safety precaution.  When Jenny was three, we lived for a year at 39 Kinloch Terrace.  Jenny, who pronounced  ‘Shirley Hughes’ as ‘Solly Ooze’, was so used to hearing that name tagged on at the end of book titles that she thought it went at the end of her address, too.  So, when asked where she lived, she would say, ‘Tutty-nine Tinnoch Tellace, by Solly Ooze’!  Wee soul!

Here she is, reclining beside the truly horrible Christmas tree we had at the time, avidly watching something on television.  Don’t you love those wee, crossed feet?  And the engrossed wee face?  I do!Anyway, Lucy and Tom’s Christmas is still a delight to us and the ‘kids’ love to browse in it and reminisce.  This was always one of our favourite pictures from the book.Another favourite was The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, which I valiantly tried to read in an American accent.  The kids were uncritical of my efforts and enjoyed it every year for a long time.When they were older, we all enjoyed Jostein Gaarder’s Christmas Mystery and Jenny still rereads it for herself.  This year she’s reading it on her Kindle, her main Christmas present which we gave her early, to cheer her up after the tribunal (which, as you’ll remember, we’re not talking about…)

When they were older still, another Christmas book we loved was Envious Casca, by Georgette Heyer.  We were all big fans of GH’s historical novels, but she also wrote several Golden Age detective stories.  Envious Casca is one of them and we read it so often that our copy fell apart and we had to buy a new one!  The family loved me doing all the different voices and acting out all the parts.  Really, I’m a great loss to Hollywood!  Given a different life, my mantelpiece would be groaning with Oscars! 

I’ll stick my neck out here (though I realise that’s NEVER an attractive look, unless you’re a goose) and say that Envious Casca is the best Christmas ‘who-dunnit’ ever!  It’s a country house, locked door mystery, well told, with a large cast of characters, all with motives.  And it takes place over Christmas!  Perfect!  Do give it a try!Taken by the Hand is one of my favourite O. Douglas books and it features Christmas, so merits a place in this post!

When her mother dies, our heroine is a young adult, now left orphaned.  She’s a shy young woman who has never had to take control of her own life.  To begin with, after the funeral, she leaves Glasgow and travels to London to live with relatives, very busy socialites who, while being superficially kind to her, find her a bit of a drag. 

Luckily, when visiting a woman whom she met on the journey down, she’s invited to stay with one of this woman’s friends for Christmas, in the Suffolk countryside.  There she finds friendship, confidence in herself, people who value her and, of course, love! 

Another book that John and I love is Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher.  (They made a film of the same name…  Don’t let anyone, not even your nearest and dearest, persuade you to EVER EVER EVER watch it!!!  Appalling!  Awful!!!  Nothing like the book!!!  OK?  Fine!) 

We love Rosamunde Pilcher’s way of describing attractive and interesting rooms and houses, and her gentle stories with interesting characters, and this one is typical.  There’s tragedy near the beginning, but then a journey to Scotland, and an interesting house and nice people.  And, as in Shakespeare in Love, and as usual in RP’s books, there’s ‘a part for a dog’.  She knows her dogs… 

Also as usual, there’s lots of smoking and meat-eating, both of which are anathema to me, but we non-smoking vegans are used to having to accept that in books… 

If you like the kind of books I do, give it a try!  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.  But remember what I said about the film, OK?  I’ll be deeply saddened if I hear that you’ve watched even 10 seconds of it.  No, wait.  Let’s be honest.  I’ll be horrified if you watch even ONE second of it!This year, John and I are re-listening to it on talking book, read by the WONDERFUL Hannah Gordon.  She is SO GOOD!  Her acting is perfect, so natural, and she does all the voices… (And, since she’s from Edinburgh, there are no fake (shudder) Scottish accents!  Phew!)  It’s like listening to a cast of actors.  Don’t accept any alternative readers!!!  We’re loving spending the odd half an hour or so in the evenings, John putting aside his essays and me having a break from typing, and crocheting a throw for the couch.  (I’ve hurt my right thumb cutting up vegan dog treats – how unfair is that??? – and can’t knit…) 

So, picture, if you will, the scene…  Hannah Gordon reading Winter Solstice to us via the hifi.  A fire burning in the stove.  A dog leaning into each side of me on the couch.  A cat (usually Tom, of course!) on my lap.  The other three cats reclining about the room.  The offspring to and froing in the background.  A very pleasant way to spend an evening!

Now, I’m going to put my (Christmas) cards on the table here.  Despite my impeccable literary taste, at Christmas I’m not averse to a bit of girlie reading.  As long as it’s well written…  (Though it feels a bit weird that the protagonist’s mother – ‘still quite active and attractive for her age’ in one such book! – is usually my age or younger!)  The Twelve Days of Christmas by Trisha Ashley is good for a chilly afternoon, curled up on the couch with some treats to hand. Holly lost her husband at Christmas and now doesn’t celebrate it any more. Eight years on, she takes a house-sitting job in the country, expecting just to look after a couple of animals and keep the house warm and clean and to be able to get through Christmas far from any celebrations.  However, the absent owner’s family live nearby and they expect to be invited to the big house for the festivities.  And then they’re all snowed in!  You might enjoy it too…

So here’s a photo of our favourite Christmas books.  (The children’s ones are at the end.)And the picture at the top of this post (which I hope wasn’t too much of a disappointment) was of our Christmas mantelpiece.   This is Jane’s domain and I have to fight my corner for any changes I want to make.  There was no argument about this year’s addition, though: an extra Santa,made by our friend Kris, who makes cute and lovely ornaments, earrings, cake-toppers, stitch markers etc., from polymer clay.)

And here, because an SVH blogpost wouldn’t be an SVH blogpost without at least one furry person, is Molly, ‘helping’ me to make Sylvia’s Christmas placemats (remember them from last year???)Well, I think I’ve gone on long enough and you’ve probably got plenty of other things you need to be getting on with.  Normal features (Tom asked me to say; I wonder why…) will resume in the New Year, but in the meantime, I wish you, my lovely readers (and especially those who leave comments!) the kind of Christmas you like best and a 2012 filled with peace, happiness and love. XToday’s title: From White Christmas by Irving Berlin

Today’s breakfast:  thinly sliced homemade toast, marg, marmalade and a Redwood Rasher, washed down with a mug of sweet nettle tea.  Set me up nicely!

Today’s dinner will be: Advent Dinner!!!

Posted in books, cats, Christmas, family, House and home, sewing, vegan | 93 Comments »

Be it ever so humble…

Posted by Penny on 02/09/2011

… as it says in the song*, there’s no place like home.  And it’s just as well I feel like that, because it’s where I’ve spend most of the last twenty-six years, home-making; home-educating; and working from home, as a telephone canvasser for a couple of charities (I know!  Let’s not dwell on that!) and as a private tutor. I also enjoy welcoming visitors to our home.  Won’t you come in?

Yes, this is the house… 

 This photo is a wee bit deceptive, as Johnny’s bedroom is out of the picture, to the right, over next door’s kitchen.  (A longish story, which I won’t bore you with…) This row of cottages was built in the eighteenth century as weavers’ cottages with thatched roofs.  Here’s a photo from the nineteenth century

Ours is the second door from the left.

But back to the present day, and your visit!  The door bell doesn’t work (like so many things in our house…), so you have to knock.  Don’t worry about the barking.  I know it sounds as if Bobby and Daisy want to tear you limb from limb, but it’s just them defending the house against burglars, and protecting us from axe murderers.  You’ll be fine once they know you’re neither (I’m assuming that’s the case???) and after welcoming you in, they’ll settle down on the couch…  

Do you like my wall painting?  John and I decided that this blank bit of wall needed to be brightened up…  Trouble is, I now have to repeat the process on the other side.  Some day…

And here’s the sitting room. 

Yes, it can be rather draughty in the winter, when someone comes to the door, but it’s still only September, so not TOO bad yet.

No, we won’t go upstairs this time. 

We’ve been revamping our bedroom, so I’ll wait until it’s finished and then let you have a peep.  It’s nearly there, but not quite…

Instead, we’ll head along the aptly named ‘back passage’.  You don’t want a look inside the bathroom, which opens off it, do you?  It’s got the usual stuff…  No, I didn’t think so.  But here’s the wall of the back passage.

 And now we’ve reached the kitchen…

Unfortunately, unlike my sister, Sylvia, we don’t have a lovely country kitchen, complete with Rayburn, comfy couch and pine table.  Ours is damp, draughty, dark and pokey.  But we do our best with it.

And we’re planning on redecorating.  Once the bedroom’s finished…

For ages I’ve wished I could have a walk-in larder, but then a visit to Sylvia’s home recently made me realise that a cupboard could fit the bill.  But there was no room for another cupboard in the kitchen, nor could we afford one.  So I bought a cheap bookcase and put it in the dining room.  Maybe I’ll make a patchwork curtain for the front, sometime, but for the moment it’s quite a nice piece of changing artwork.  I’ve seen art ‘installations’ that weren’t as interesting…

Of course, it meant quite a bit of upheaval for a while… 

… but we got there in the end.  Here’s the tidied up (or as tidy as it’ll ever be!), and rearranged, dining room… 

I use this room for tutoring; preparing lessons; eating; sewing; relaxing when it’s sunny, but cold outside, and, in the past, the kids often sat here to do ‘paper’ lessons. It’s a well-used wee room, though the cat flap and the dog flap make it pretty draughty in cold weather.  (Are you seeing a ‘draught’ theme here?)

As the name of my blog implies, I love home-making. And when the offspring were younger, I loved home educating.  Johnny and Jane were great kids to work with.

They were interested in everything and we had a lot of fun together.  I wish I could turn the clock back and relive those happy years!


I even wrote a chapter for each of these two books. 

In them, I detailed a day in our ‘homeschooling’ (as they call it in the USA) lives. 

And talking of books (as I very often am!) here are some that continue the home and homemaking theme. 

How could I resist a book with this title? Jane Brockett is by no means vegan, but she shares many of my other loves: family; baking; knitting; crochet; cosy books and films…  Her book is lavishly illustrated and is the inspiration for my ripple crochet throw and my sock knitting!  (And I’d be glad to show you them, if I could lay my hands on them!  But I won’t hold this blog post up any longer, to widen the search.  They’re somewhere…  <Looking around vaguely>

Like Jane, the eponymous homemaker in The Homemaker, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, is neither Scottish, nor vegan.  Nor, in fact, surprisingly for the 1920s when the book was published, is he a woman!  (There was a clue in the pronoun there, wasn’t there!) 

I suffered as I read the first part of this book.  Evangeline Knapp is a housewife with three young children and her frustration with her lot is shown in her lack of sympathy for, or patience with them.  Her youngest son, Stephen, suffers particularly and is a thoroughly unhappy wee fellow.  Their father, Lester, is a much kinder parent and when he has an accident and is bed-bound, he takes over the care of the children while Eva goes out to work, where she finds fulfilment.  However, then Lester’s health improves… I won’t tell you what happens.  Read it for yourselves and enjoy it!  I loved this book and will re-read it soon.

Home, by Marilynne Robinson, is a book with a deceptively gentle pace as it deals with the temporary homecoming of Jack, the son who had never fitted in, the so-called ‘black sheep’ of the family of a Presbyterian minister and his wife.  When the book opens, the wife has been dead for a long time, and now her husband is dying.  Their daughter, Glory, has left her teaching job and has come to look after him.  Then Jack turns up.  He’s trying, mostly successfully, to beat his alcoholism and he and Glory build a loving, caring and jokey relationship, which they never had the chance to do before.  Jack has a secret and so does Glory…  There’s no happy ending, I’m afraid, but it was so beautifully written…

The House that is our Own is another of my favourites by O. Douglas.  

Kitty and Isobel are friends who’ve met in the hotel where they live, in London.  Kitty is fairly newly widowed, after nursing her husband for a long time.  She decides to get her own place and moves into a flat, where she gets a lot of pleasure furnishing it and having it decorated the way she likes.  Inspired by this, her friend Isobel decides to spread her wings, and Kitty recommends that she visit Scotland, because although Isobel is Scottish by descent, she has never been there.  Kitty suggests she stay in a village she herself visited as a child and where a distant cousin of hers, Gideon Veitch (my married surname!), who’s now living in Canada, owns a farm.  Isobel falls in love with his house, which she buys.  And then, on a visit to Canada, she meets him… I love this book with its talk of cosy rooms and book-y things!

Some things jar, such as O.  Douglas’s ardent love of Empire, but readers of Penny Plain, which I spoke of in my last blog entry, will be delighted to recognise the ‘nice looking people’ Isobel comes across as our friends Jean Jardine and her family!  I love cross-overs like this, being able to meet friends from other books and see what’s happening to them now!

And for a spot of home-y non-fiction, I can thoroughly recommend At Home by Bill Bryson. 

It’s not laugh-a-minute, like his travel books, but is full of fascinating historical information about our homes, told in an interesting, caring and humorous way.

Now, does anything epitomise Scottish home-making and home-baking more than scones?  I don’t think so!  Here’s my recipe…  It’s adapted from this old recipe book. 

Penny’s Fruit Scones


450g self raising flour

¼ teaspoon salt

100g margarine

50g sugar

100g sultanas

150ml soya yogurt

150ml soya milk


Set oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.

Prepare a baking tray.

Wash the sultanas in hot water, to clean them and plump them up.

Rub the marg into the flour until it’s all combined and there are no lumps.

Add the salt, sultanas and sugar and stir through.

Mix in the yogurt and the milk and knead together as quickly as possible.

Flatten to about a thumb thickness and cut out with a scone cutter.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes.

It couldn’t be easier, could it? 

Oh-oh!  Tom just strolled in and when he saw what I was doing he reminded me of my oft-quoted maxim that a house is not a home without a cat…  You see where this is leading, don’t you?  Sigh…  Sorry about this…  Putty in his paws, really… 

*Today’s title: Home, Sweet Home by John Howard Payne

Reading at the moment: Mrs Miniver by Jan Struther (to John, in bed at night) – far better than the film!; Shadows in Bronze by Lindsay Davies – hard-boiled detective, with a heart of gold, who lives in ancient Rome; One Day by David Nicholls, on my Kindle.  I also have several other books on the go, but these are the ones I’m mostly reading at the moment.

Today’s breakfast: porage (Scottish spelling!) made with oats, water and salt and topped with 2 tablespoons of freshly ground seeds (sunflower, flax and pumpkin) and a goodish flood of maple syrup.  I like to think it’s a happy trinity of good Scots food, vegan healthiness and decadence!



Posted in baking, books, cats, dogs, family, food, home education, House and home, recipe books, recipes, vegan | 109 Comments »

What’s in a name?

Posted by Penny on 08/07/2011

Yes, it’s none other than The Bard himself who’s supplying this blog post’s title!  My readers are a cultured lot, so it makes sense… I know you get the reference, so no caption is necessary here, except to say that this rose, which grows in our courtyard, is John’s favourite plant in the world, ever!  (And he never used to like roses!  By any name!)

So, what IS in a name?  Well, quite a lot if you’re a wee girl growing up in a small town in Scotland in the 1950s and, among a sea of Margarets, Isobels, Marys and Doreens, your name is Penelope!  Oh, I got so fed up with hearing my name pronounced to rhyme with ‘antelope’!  And since I was brought up to be polite to older people, it was very difficult to keep smiling when old men invariably called me ‘Tuppence’ because ‘you’re too wee to be a penny.’  Though of course, dear readers, to understand this witty remark, you have to realise that this was pre-decimalisation and a penny was the largest coin… 

(Please ignore my hair! It’s naturally straight, so my mother decided to give me a home perm.  As you can see, she wasn’t very good at it…)

But now I’m an ‘older’ person myself and, with the memory not being what it was, I decided, a couple of years ago, to try to learn the Latin names of some plants.  Don’t you admire all those people in gardening programmes who can just rattle them off?  Or maybe you can, too?  Well, I managed a few, amongst them aquilegia; alchemilla mollis and pulmonaria.  The family all give me an affectionate and highly amused hug whenever I say, ‘Oh, look!  Alchemilla mollis!’  I don’t know why…

I love aquilegia, which is also known as Columbine and Granny’s Bonnet.

And Foxglove.  Isn’t that a great name?  Can’t you see all the foxes wearing the petals of these on their paws?  Well, maybe not, and there is a theory that it might be derived from folks (as in fairies) glove.  Which is sweet…  

This foxglove has been at the receiving end of some pretty fierce winds and has grown up rather twisted by the experience, I’m afraid.  But the flowers are still lovely.  Apparently in the south of Scotland it’s called ‘bloody fingers’ and, further north in Scotland, ‘deadman’s bells’! I’ll stick with the fairies’ gloves!  

This is quite a pretty wee flower, isn’t it?  With an interesting wee butterfly perched on it. 

But have a look at those leaves.  This plant is pulmonaria, or lungwort, so called because the mottled leaves look like a diseased lung…  Hmm…  I’m beginning to come round to old Will’s thinking, after all…

In the foreground of this photo is a lovely little gentian (I ADORE blue flowers and you don’t get much more blue-flowery than a gentian.) 

Gentian… Now there’s a name with unpleasant connotations for me, despite the prettiness of the flower.  Come back with me to the 50s again (it’s almost like time travel, isn’t it?)  Lots of children then (including, I’m afraid, your humble blogger) were plagued by a horrible skin infection called impetigo.  The treatment was to coat the offending eruptions with gentian violet, a purple (as the name implies) powder that proclaimed to all the world that you had… a horrible skin infection!  Ah, those were the days…

In the background (the soft focus is deliberate.  I like a narrow depth of field in my flower photos…), what can that plant be?  Why, it’s an alchemilla mollis!  (Jane always reads my blog over my shoulder. I know she’ll laugh and give me a big hug when she reads this! (She did!)  Some people call it Lady’s Mantle, but I know the Latin name!

Yes, what’s in a name? Take this pooch for example.  (No, you can’t really take him.  We dote on him too much!) When we were looking for a dog to share our lives, John and I decided that we wanted one who looked as if his name was Bobby.  He couldn’t really be called anything else, could he?  (For any new readers, he’s the bristly brown chap on John’s right and your left…)  I have to say that he also answers to the name of Bobster MacLobster…

And could Mimi really be called anything but Mimi?  I don’t think so!

Like her operatic namesake, she is often to be found in a garret (snoozing on the bed in our attic bedroom) and she has a lovely voice.  She’s also looking very soulful in this photo, but I think she was watching a spider, with a view to snacking…

Now, what about Frankie and Stankie

What can I say?  How un-appealing a name for a book is that?  I only picked it up because it was by Barbara Trapido and I’d read good things about her.  I’m glad I did!  Frankie and Stankie are the nicknames two wee girls, Dinah and Lisa, give to each other and the book tells of their growing up in South Africa in the dark days of apartheid.  Now, before I began F&S I knew as much as most people about apartheid.  But, interspersed with episodes in the girls’ lives is a history of what was going on in South Africa at the time and it’s fascinating, though obviously depressing, reading.  And the lives of the girls, though taking place so far away from Scotland, mirrored so many of my own experiences, fashions and foods!

Despite my own trials with the name, Penelope Lively is an author who was obviously going to appeal to me!  But it’s not just for her name that I love her books (I’ll probably write one of my brief reviews in a later blog post…) If you don’t already know her, have a look.  She writes well and engrossingly.  I’ve read several and have a few more in the TBR bookcase.

When I was growing up, the small bookcase in the hall cupboard, where all my mother’s book were kept, contained one called Penny Plain.  This fascinated me, of course, but, since it was a ‘grown-up’ book, I never investigated.  Many years later I came across the title in a second-hand book shop and decided to have a look.  Interestingly, the fly-leaf shows that it was present ‘To Auntie Jan with love from Fiona and Patricia, Christmas 1947’ – my own first Christmas!  How appropriate!  I read it and was hooked and have since collected all O. Douglas’s books.  Some can be obtained online and deserve, in my opinion, to be much better known.

O. Douglas was the pen-name of Anna Buchan.  Her big brother, John, was what she considered a ‘serious writer’ of imperialistic adventure yarns and she felt it wasn’t fair to use the same surname.  Her own stories deal with daily life, mainly in Scotland, and include details and conversations she observed taking place around her.  They don’t shy away from sadness, and the part in Penny Plain where the family’s beloved terrier is lost is clearly written by someone who has loved a dog. But the truly tragic aspect of them is that the wee boy who is an important character, under different names, in many of the books, is based on her own, adored, youngest brother, Alastair, who was killed in the First World War, leading his men ‘over the top’. 

I admit I often cry about fictional characters in books, but knowing that in real life this bright, funny, mischievous wee character will die tragically young is heartbreaking.

Unforgettable, Unforgotten is her autobiography and is well worth reading, if you can get hold of it (my own copy was also a Christmas 1947 present to someone!) as is Farewell to Priorsford, ‘a book by and about Anna Buchan’.  ‘Priorsford’ is Anna’s fictional town, based on Peebles.

And now on to soup… What else?  Today I made Jenny’s favourite: Silione.  ‘Silione?’ I can hear your puzzled voices as you leaf through the indexes of your recipe books.  Wait!  Look no further!  It’s actually minestrone soup, but when Jen was wee, she couldn’t pronounce it properly and the name has stuck. (And don’t bother looking up a recipe.  I’m about to give you one.)

 Here’s how I make silione soup:


A few onions, chopped up nice and small

Some vegetables (I like to use sweet red pepper with courgettes in season, or green beans when not), chopped

2 cartons chopped tomatoes

2 ½ litres water

1 tablespoon tomato puree

2 teaspoons dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon dried rosemary

¼ teaspoon fennel seeds

2 large cloves of garlic, crushed

A couple of bay leaves

1 tin baked beans

A fistful of spaghetti broken up small

Salt, to taste


I normally chuck everything apart from the beans and spaghetti into the pressure cooker and cook for about 20 minutes.  Then I add the baked beans and spaghetti and simmer, off pressure, until the spaghetti is cooked.  I serve it with home-made focaccia or, as we did today, with toasted paninis and marg.

Today, however, my pressure cooker lid gave up the ghost!  Horrors!  So I boiled everything up for about an hour and it tasted just fine.  No fat (except on the paninis) either!

This is even better when left for a day, but we didn’t…  Also, John and I love potatoes in silione, but the offspring don’t share our taste for potatoes in soup.  (I know!  Where did we go wrong?)  So I boiled up a wee pot of potatoes and John and I had them in the bottom of our bowls with the soup on top.  Mmmmm!

And why am I showing you a photo of my desk?  Just so you can see where I spent a very happy time responding to all the lovely comments my wonderful readers left for my last blog post.  Please don’t stop!  I loved hearing from you and now the newbies among you know how easy* it is, I hope you’ll keep commenting!  And come back soon after, as I always reply!

*For those of you who haven’t yet dipped a toe into the warm, limpid pool that is ‘commenting on my blog’, just click on ’Comments’, below and, as if by magic, a box will appear, all ready for you.  If you don’t have a blog yourself don’t worry!  Just type in your name and your e-mail address (the latter won’t appear; it’s just a security thingy, I think) and type away. Then click ‘Send’.  What could be easier?  Not even falling off a log.

From a favourite soup to my favourite cat!  If you’ve read my blog before, you won’t need me to tell you Tom’s name!  Here he is, looking up at Jenny and smiling at her.  (You know that when a cat squeezes his eyes at you, he’s smiling?  Squeeze your eyes back!)  Isn’t he a sweet chap!

Today’s title: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare:  ‘What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’

Today’s breakfast: porage made with water and salt, with, on top, a mixture of freshly ground sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and brazil nuts, a banana and some maple syrup.  Mmmmm…..

Some of the stuff I’m reading at the moment: Penny Plain by O. Douglas (for the nth time!); The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson; Behold, Here’s Poison by Georgette Heyer (again…); Falling by Elizabeth Jane Howard…




Posted in books, cats, dogs, family, food, garden, House and home, recipes, soup!, vegan | 81 Comments »

My left hand…

Posted by Penny on 31/05/2011

They say that injuries come in threes, don’t they?  Well my left hand can certainly attest to the truth of this.  But before we get onto the gory details, here’s a quick look at Tom’s right hand…  And his two feet…

(I know!  Anthropomorphic or what?  But I have to bow my head in shame and admit that in this family we refer to the pooches’ and kits’ front feet as ‘hands’.  Well, they use them like hands a lot of the time.  Dabbing.  Grabbing.  Flicking.  Washing their faces…)

Anyway, where was I?  Ah, yes…  My left hand.  So…  There I was, in the garden, looking for a watering can to give the plants I’d bought for Sylvia’s anniversary present a wee drink.  And a rose thorn embedded itself in the back of my left hand!  Am I a wimp?  No, sirree!  I plucked the offending thorn from my flesh, with a (fairly) mild expletive, and carried on with what I’d been doing.

However, ‘in the wee small hours of the morning, when all the world was fast asleep’, I woke with the most agonising pain in my hand and I found that I couldn’t bend my fingers at all.  Eight o’clock found me sitting in A&E; eight thirty found me getting injections in both of my buttocks…  And, after that, a course of antibiotics that made me feel wobbly, exhausted, nauseous and thoroughly depressed for the next week…

But the week passed and I was able to enjoy a local plant and book stall where John and I came back with this little haul…

I’m sorry!  He jumped onto the table while I was taking the photograph…

The bottom two books were for John, the top one was for Jenny and the rest are mine.  I don’t know if I’ll enjoy them all, but at £2 for the lot, it was worth the risk!  Any I don’t like, the charity shop will benefit from.

So then I was measuring the clothes-line stretcher.  With a steel rule.  See where I’m going here?  It retracted, slicing into my left thumb as it went.  Ouch!  (Or something like that…)  Why was I measuring the clothes-line stretcher?  Too boring to bore you with…

Then, several years after finding this wee folding stool at a car boot sale…

… I decided to get round to revamping it.  I took off the old, torn canvas, painted the frame and fitted some new canvas.  Unfortunately, as I was making the holes for the screws, the bradawl slipped…  Where?  Into my left thumb, of course!   This time, after swearing (not so mildly), squawking a goodish bit and hopping from foot to foot, I washed the wound, put on antiseptic cream and bandaged it up.  I wasn’t taking any chances!  But it was almost worth it…

This meant, however, that I wasn’t able to make the rhubarb and apple crumble I’d planned for dinner that day.  You can’t really ‘rub fat into flour until it resembles breadcrumbs’ with your thumb dripping blood or covered in a plaster, can you?  I made it the next day, however…

 … and my thumb was only a WEE bit sore…  Now, I know you*.  You don’t really need a recipe for rhubarb and apple crumble, do you?  However, I thought you might like the recipe for the first course we had today: pan fried pizza.  So here it is…


Some oil

A couple of onions

A red pepper

Three tins/cartons tomatoes

A wee drop salt, to taste

A goodish sprinkle of dried basil

A goodish sprinkle of dried oregano

A packet of melting Redwood Gouda Style Cheezly, grated

Fry the onion and pepper in the oil.  I like to have the gas up full and stir the onions and peppers constantly until they’re soft.  It smells great!

Add the tomatoes, salt and herbs; bring to the boil and simmer until reduced and cooked.


170g self raising flour

¼ teaspoon baking powder/bicarb. of soda

25 g margarine

6 tablespoons soya milk

About ¼ teaspoon salt

Mix together the flour, salt and baking powder.

Rub the fat into the flour until etc.

Add the milk and squidge the mixture together until it forms a ball.

Roll it out until it fits the bottom of a large-ish frying pan.

Heat a wee bit of oil.

Place the base tenderly in the pan.

Cook for a couple of minutes until nicely browned.

Turn over and ditto…

Add the tomato topping to the nicely browned base.

Sprinkle on the grated Cheezly.

Place pan under the grill until the Cheezly is melted.

 Serve with a salad…

 Tasty!  And very easy!

*I say I know you, but I only really know those of you who comment.  Looking at the stats I see that there are several people who read and don’t comment.  I know…  I’m like a worn-out record…  But please, if you read my blog and like it, do leave a comment.  It really makes my day!

Reading at the moment: Oh, so many books on the go at the moment.  A photo might be easier…  On the Kindle, my current reading is Dombey and Son; Room; Tom Jones; Wolf Hall and Sense and Sensibility (for the nth time).

But I have to tell you about The Fortnight in September.  I saw this in the Persephone catalogue some time ago and liked the sound of it.  Then, as I was reading it, I kept thinking, ‘John would LOVE this!’  So as soon as I’d finished, I went right back to the beginning and started reading it to him.  Part way through, he interrupted me to say, ‘This must be the cosiest book in the world!’  I think it is!  It’s charming, sweet, cosy, well-written (essential!), heart-warming and heart wrenching. 

The Stevens family: father, mother and three offspring, two of whom are young adults, have a fortnight’s holiday in Bognor every year.  We see them making their preparations for this year’s holiday; taking the journey to Bognor; settling in at the down-at-heel boarding house they have always stayed at; during the fortnight, thinking about their lives and working out solutions to their problems; finding romance…  It’s just SO GOOD.  Unless your taste is for killer crabs (and we know who you are!) you’ll adore this book!  John and I do!

Today’s smoothie: orange juice; water; apples; brazil nuts; ground flax seeds; ground pumpkin seeds; maple syrup; soya lecithin; cinnamon; mesquite; barley-grass powder; frozen raspberries.  Yum!

Today’s title: My Left Foot – book by Christie Brown; film starring Daniel Day-Lewis

Oh, by the way, Susie* has approved the wee stool for her own, personal use…

  *or ‘Scarface’ as I now call her.  I don’t know WHAT she’s been up to!

Posted in books, cats, food, green smoothies, House and home, recipes, vegan | 66 Comments »

If they asked me, I could write a book…

Posted by Penny on 26/04/2011

… about books about books!  (OK, a tad hyperbolic there.  But even if ‘they’ don’t ask me, I could write part of a blog post about books about books, which is what, dear bookie readers, I’m about to do…)

However, don’t worry, dear non-bookie readers!  I haven’t deserted you!  After all the bookishness there will follow flower pictures, photos of adorable animals and a recipe…  Just hang on in there…  Here’s one to keep you going…  

I’ve always loved reading ABOUT books, as well as reading the books themselves, but in the old days I was confined to volumes like this.

Now, of course, in these days of the internet, there are lots of book blogs, where I can read the musings of people who like the same kind of literature as I do, and there are lots of books about books, too.  I have a small selection…

 Let’s pick out a couple…

I resisted ‘Howard’s End is on the Landing’ for some time, as I’d read that Susan Hill didn’t like Jane Austen.  What??? 

However, I picked it up in a bookshop last year and found myself enjoying it.  And it was on special offer…  I have to admit, her name-dropping annoys me hugely.  Although she doesn’t actually say, ‘Charlie Dickens was telling me the other day, over a cup of tea in the drawing room at Gad’s Hill, how much he enjoyed my “Woman in Black”’, I feel that’s only because time travel has defeated her so far.  However, I found lots to agree with in it and plan to re-read it and annotate it with my own comments.

The ‘Child that Books Built’ is one I’m reading in instalments.

Francis Spufford’s wee sister died very young, after a childhood full of illness and disability, and he writes about this, and his reactions, with wonderful honesty.  He, as so many of us booklovers have done, found that he could lose himself in books when the real world wasn’t going well.  I’m enjoying this book about books very much.

There is no tragedy connected with ‘The Bad Book Club’ by Robin Ince, unless you count the potentially horrific embarrassment of the offspring, when John inadvisably took this book to read on a train journey and then showed me why he was laughing so much.  I suppose seeing both of your parents gasping and squawking with uncontrollable mirth, in public, tears streaming down their faces, would be a bit of a trauma for most young people.  Our two took it in their stride, however.  They’re used to us.

Robin Ince is a stand-up comedian who tours the UK with his act.  When he’s hanging around various towns and cities, waiting to appear on-stage in the evenings, he trawls the local charity shops, looking for unbelievably awful books (which he writes about here VERY amusingly) such as ‘Crabs on the Rampage’ (’…the world of devouring, sociopathic crustaceans’), ‘Vets at Cross Purposes’ (‘…some disagreement over the treatment of colic in horses, some ill puppies that get better, and finally, love in a Land Rover on a muddy lane’) and Sid Little’s autobiography (’nuff said!)  Read it!  But not in public!  It’s the funniest book I’ve ever read, and that, as I’ve been an adorer of P. G. Wodehouse since my youth, is saying something!  But don’t even open it if you’re not broad-minded…

One of the places where I love to read is on the swing seat in the garden.  I also love to photograph the flowers that grow there.  (Good link, huh???) Thanks to the wonderful Barbara (who has four gorgeous cats and takes beautiful photographs of them (go to her blog.  It’s SO good!) who told me about it, I’ve signed up to a ‘photography bootcamp’ and am re-learning how to use my camera properly instead of just ‘point and click’.  I’m loving experimenting with apertures and depth of field and so on.  Here’s a couple of flower pictures…


What do you mean, ‘not a flower picture’?  Don’t you see the rose leaves in front of Tom?

And these wee people (who, unlike Tom, were wide awake) strolled by while I was clicking away the other day…

Food?  Oh,yes!  There has to be food!  Here’s something I adapted from ‘Vegetarian Cookery Without’.  The ‘without’ refers to animal products, gluten, etc.  The recipes do NOT lack taste!  I’ve tried several and we’ve loved them all.

The reason I adapted it was I didn’t think the veg. would cook enough, the way the recipe said to do them.  And also, I made a mistake with the method the first time round and actually liked it the way it was…

So here goes.  I bring you ‘Vegetable and Chick Pea Bake’.  (Sounds good, eh?  It is!)

Preheat oven to 200C/400F/Gas mark 6


  • A goodish stack of vegetables.  The recipe says 1.01 kg, but I wasn’t about to weigh them.  Use your own judgement. You’ll be fine.  For my latest version I used onions; red pepper; carrots; green beans; butternut squash; mushrooms
  • Some oil.  I used rapeseed.
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil (Oops!  I forgot this last time… Tasted fine, though)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (I used big, fat ones.  It’s up to you, depending on how garlicky you like your food.)
  • 350g drained, cooked chickpeas
  • 3 tablespoon tahini (well, that’s what the recipe says, but I realised I didn’t have any while I was in the middle of cooking last time – happens to me often – so I subbed cashew butter.  Nice!  And cashewy…)
  • ½ teaspoon dried marjoram
  • ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 300 ml stock (I used Marigold Bouillon powder in boiling water)
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard or 2 teaspoons made-up mustard
  • Sesame seeds (enough to cover the completed dish)

Fry the onions and mushrooms until the onion is soft and all the liquid has evaporated.

Meanwhile steam the rest of the veg. until soft-ish but not too well done – we don’t want mush here!

In a food processor, blend the chick peas, tahini (or cashew butter!), herbs, garlic, lemon juice, stock, mustard and salt and pepper.

Tip all the veg. into a baking dish.

Pour the stuff out of the food processor over the top.

Sprinkle a goodly amount of sesame seeds over it all.

Bake for 40 minutes and serve with a green veg and potatoes, or a salad. 

Use your imagination as to what it looked like:  a serving dish containing brownish stuff covered in seedy stuff…  VERY tasty, though!

Today’s smoothie: apple juice; orange juice; spinach; celery; cinnamon; agave nectar; pumpkin seeds; flax seeds; frozen raspberries, a wee drop water.  Tasty!  And so nutritious, I could almost fly!  (And at my weight, that’s saying something!!!)

Reading today: ‘An Uncertain Death’ by Hazel Holt (for the trillionth time!  Perfect cosy, undemanding crime from Barbra Pym’s friend); ‘The Fortnight in September’ by RC Sherriff (adorable, cosy story of a family’s holiday at Bognor.  I just LOVE this book and am going to read it to John, once we’ve finished ‘The Body under the Beach Hut’); ‘Passing On’ by Penelope Lively (Penelope Lively is a favourite of mine and not just because of her first name!); Frankie and Stankie by Barbara Trapido (fascinating story of two girls growing up in South Africa during the dreadful days of apartheid); The Body Under the Beach Hut by Simon Brett (reading aloud – from my Kindle – to John.  This was held up when I had laryngitis for a while…  Better now…)  As you can see, I like to have a few on the go, so that I can pick something to suit my mood…

I know!  Where’s Hazel Holt?  I put her down somewhere….

 Today’s title: ‘If they asked me, I could write a book’ by Rogers and Hart

Posted in books, cats, dogs, family, food, garden, green smoothies, recipes, vegan | 39 Comments »

Baby, it’s cold inside!

Posted by Penny on 13/03/2011

No, on this occasion I’m not referring to this draughty, but colourful cottage!  (Home may be where the heart is 

but it’s also where the cold toes are!)

No, this is the baby I’m talking about – our new wee freezer!  We have no room in the kitchen, so he’s in the dining room, which meant a bit of reorganisation.  I must therefore ask you to excuse the mess; transitions are never pretty, are they?  Just concentrate on the white goods, OK?

Ah, yes… ‘White goods’.  Well, as they say in some circles, I ‘don’t do’ white.  (You’ll probably have worked that out for yourselves?)  If something’s white and can’t be painted, I’ll cover it as much as possible.  So first of all, I tried a throw, but it just LOOMED.  So then I put some sugar paper against the door, held in place by pictures of pretty things, cut from magazines and made into fridge magnets by the crafty use of self-adhesive magnetic sheets.  It’s a work in progress…

So, why did we need a new freezer, you ask?  Well, I’ll tell you…

Last year, at my special request, John grew enormous quantities of greenery for us.  There was cabbage, kale and purple sprouting broccoli almost covering the allotment.  I was ecstatic!  Lots of fresh wonderfulness for our smoothies or for steaming gently, within an hour of picking…  We were going to be bursting with goodness all winter and spring!  And then the snow came…  And killed the lot…  It still hurts…

Anyway, the plan is now that John will again grow wads of the good stuff this year, but this time we’ll harvest it and freeze it before there’s any chance of snow.  That’s the idea, anyway.  And since this wee chap was in a sale, and we wanted a bit more freezer space anyway, we snapped him up.   He’s now home to lots of frozen blueberries and a variety of Grassington burgers and will be very handy for freezing small meals for me to take to the Aged Parent (lovers of Great Expectations will understand this literary reference! :) ) under the Food on Foot service I give her.  (No, not Meals on Wheels.  I usually walk…) I’m also going to use him to freeze leftovers as ‘convenience foods’ for the family.

And with that in mind, I froze some left-over peanut sauce the other day.  It didn’t stay there long.  The day after I froze it, it called to me in a voice that could not be resisted, so I heated it up and had it for lunch. 

You may remember that I had tofu in peanut sauce on noodles at the 13th Note recently.  Well, since then I’ve been lusting after more.  We eat a lot of tomato-based meals, and I’ve gone right off them!  I WANT PEANUTTY STUFF!  I tried a recipe I found for a satay sauce, but it wasn’t quite right.  Then I spotted the one in Vegan on the Cheap.  Perfect!  And exceptionally quick and easy to make!  I added a packet of Cauldron Marinated Tofu cubes and then noticed that there were some left-over roasted veg. in the oven.  I added them too.  We all loved the meal and want it again, often. I had it on udon noodles with some spinach.  (There would have been more spinach in the photo, but I kept eating it while waiting for the noodles to cook…)  I plan on making this in larger quantities, especially to freeze! 

I made it again today, but this time I adapted it so that I could use ingredients we always have in the house.  This meant that the only ‘unusual’ ingredient was the toasted sesame oil, which I couldn’t really sub anything for.

Here’s how I did it:

Into a bowl I put

130g smooth peanut butter

¼ cup of soy sauce

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

1½ tablespoons agave nectar

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon chilli sauce

2 teaspoons ground ginger

I mixed it all together, adding water till it was the consistency I wanted.  Then I warmed it up on the cooker.  The sauce can be made well within the time it takes the noodles to cook.  Very quick and easy! And delicious!

And, since we’re talking of it being cold inside (see title), here’s our fridge.  I know lots of foody people like seeing inside others’ fridges, so…


Top shelf: chutneys; pickles; lecithin and organic lemon juice

Middle shelf: Cheezley in box; Tofutti cream cheeses; marg.

Bottom shelf: in round boxes – 1. chickpeas (I soak and cook a large amount of chickpeas, kidney beans and butter beans in rotation. Then I keep them in the fridge for use in various dishes.  This batch of chick peas has been in a chickpea bake and this evening they were an important ingredient in chickpea, mushroom and spinach curry.  Mmmmm…. (Sorry, I was too hungry to take a photo.  But no photo could have done it justice…) 2. spinach (when we don’t have any home-grown, I buy a big bag of organic spinach which we wash and store in one of these boxes.  Then it’s ready for munching as and when…) 3. stewed  apple (I buy bags of organic apples (eating apples, as it’s impossible to get organic cooking apples here) and I stew them with some agave and some cinnamon.  This then goes in the fridge to have with Yofu.  I alternate this with a combination of stewed prunes and apricots, also to have with Yofu) 4. a bowl of soaking walnuts (I soak walnuts and almonds alternately and keep them in the fridge along with washed dates (out of the fridge at the time the photo was taken) to be available for healthy snacks) 5. Yofu (see above).

Drawer: tofu and other bits and pieces

And here’s the door, outside

and inside:

Top shelf: organic tahini; organic marmalade; organic chutney; very lazy chilli; organic apple jelly made by my dear wee sister, Sylvia

Middle shelf: organic curry paste; redcurrant jelly; Meridian organic blueberry spread; Meridian organic berries and cherries spread; Sainsbury’s organic strawberry conserve; organic cashew butter

Bottom shelf: Tesco’s organic soya milk; Rice Dream organic vanilla rice milk, Aloe Vera juice; organic maple syrup; omega blend oils; Heinz organic tomato ketchup; Reggae Reggae sauce; chilli sauce.

I cleaned and tidied the fridge just the other day.  Already people are putting stuff back on the wrong shelves!  Tsk!

And when it’s cold OUTSIDE, there’s nothing a chap likes better, apart from snuggling with his human Mummy, than cuddling with his feline ‘Mummy’. 

Why the scare quotes?  Because Susie isn’t Tom’s genetic Mum.  His birth mother was, however, black and white and when Tom saw Susie, who was already an adult when we brought him home, he decided she’d do instead.  She didn’t accept his devotion too enthusiastically at first, but now, as you can see, they’re pretty good pals.

What next?  Ah, yes, books!  Last time we met, I was reading South Riding

What a great book!  I can’t understand why it’s not up there with the classics that are known to most people.  It deals with love (romantic, familial and for one’s home), loss (ditto), the machinations of corrupt and honest local government politicians and trying to keep going when you just can’t afford to.  It’s beautifully written and very sad, but with lots of humour, too.  And I even found myself caring about a Tory foxhunter!

Another book I’ve just finished is The Whole Day Through by Patrick Gale. 

I had enjoyed another of his books, Notes from an Exhibition.  This one deals with Laura and Ben, who were lovers at university, many years before.  But when Ben met Laura’s mother at a party, she, not knowing that Ben was her daughter’s boyfriend, advised him to avoid any serious relationships as it would interfere with his career.  So he left Laura, breaking her heart in the process.  And then he married someone else.  But now they’ve met again.  The story takes place over one day, with flashbacks.  As with Notes from an Exhibition, the writing really draws you in.  It’s unnoticeable.  I hate, as I read a book, being conscious of the writer and I always give up on that kind.  Unfortunately, our library doesn’t have any of his books, so it’ll be a charity shop search, to find more.

And that’s me till next time!

Today’s smoothie: Didn’t have one.  I had bread, marg and blueberry spread for breakfat.

Today’s title: Baby, it’s cold outside (my favourite version is sung by Ray Charles and Betty Carter)

Currently reading: Tom Jones (Henry Fielding) and Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel) on my Kindle; Hostages to Fortune (Elizabeth Cambridge); A Very Great Profession (Nicola Beauman); Buried in Books (Julie Rugg, ed.); Greenery Street (Denis Mackail) – I’m reading this last one aloud to John, in bed

Posted in allotment, books, cats, food, House and home, recipes, sewing, vegan | 33 Comments »


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