Thursday 30 April 2020

Ta Dah in April

I wasn't expecting to have much to note down for this Lockdown April, but it turns out that not being allowed to leave the house for more than an hour a day means I've achieved more than I thought I would ...


I'm learning Spanish on Duolingo.  I started at the end of March and have managed to do at least one lesson every day in April. Not that I will be going to Spain any time soon to practise it but it's good to be prepared! Bravo!


We are growing runner beans, courgettes and tomatoes from seed.  We've had varied success in the past but this year, things are so far looking good.  We'll never be self sufficient but there is nothing nicer than picking fruit and vegetables from the garden and eating them fresh that day.  We also have raspberries and strawberries growing and at the moment, the snails and slugs seem to be leaving them alone - famous last words.


I've learnt how to sew face masks.  They aren't mandatory here - yet, but if it should come to that I am prepared!


I have discovered that with a bit of foreward planning, detailed shopping lists and meal plans, I can shop just once a week.  I can't wait to see if we end up spending less!


I've finished my dvd box set of Season 15 Grey's Anatomy ... and already can't wait for Season 16 to be released over here.  Lots of loose ends that need tying up!

I read two books this month.  The first was one from our Online Book Club, Recipe for a Perfect Life by Karma Brown and the other was written by one of my favourite authors - Diane Chamberlain - Big Lies in a Small Town.  I would recommend them both.

Maybe being confined to the house is not too much of a hindrance in achieving things after all.

Tuesday 28 April 2020

Spring Recipe Swap Blog Hop

Welcome!  We're in the middle of an exceptionally weird time when we can't pop round to anyone's house for a chat but no one can stop us going on a Blog Hop can they?  So thank you for visiting, if you were here in person I'd offer you a glass of something chilled while we join in with Leslie's Spring Recipe Swap where she asked us to share our favourite spring recipes.

Now we do have to bear in mind that because I'm in the UK, the recipe I'm going to share will be suitable for spring in England.  Which can be warm, can be cold, can be rainy, can be dry - or all four in the same day!  So this is a dish that is a family favourite of ours which can be eaten hot with a full on roast dinner, or if the sun is shining, made into a warm salad to eat with pitta bread.

The inspiration for this dish lays firmly with the Domestic Goddess herself, Nigella Lawson, who looks far more glamorous than I do in the kitchen and remains the epitome of calm should 8 people suddenly arrive at her dinner table.  The secret to this is that this takes 5 hours to cook - yes really! But it requires no attention after you put it in the oven so you are free to swan around in a silk dress, with a glass of champagne in your hands waiting for your guests to arrive.

So, let's get cooking so we can enjoy warm shredded lamb with mint and pomegranate.

Gather your ingredients:

1 shoulder of lamb (approx 2 kg or 5 lb)
4 Shallots (or ordinary onions)
6 cloves garlic
1 carrot (peeled and halved)
500 ml / 2 cups boiling water
Small handful chopped mint (I don't always use this if there is none growing in the garden)
1 pomegranate (or a tub of pomegranate seeds from the supermarket)

Heat your oven, 170 C/Gas 3/ or 325 F

On the hob, brown the lamb joint with the fat side down, in a large roasting tray until the fat has browned slightly.  Take the meat out of the pan then add the vegetables and fry them briefly too.  Pour the boiling water over them, then replace the lamb (fat side up this time) Cover the whole pan with foil and put it in the oven.


That's it.  Put it in the oven for 5 hours and forget about it.  Could not be easier right?
Half an hour before you want to eat, take the lamb out of the oven and leave it to rest on a carving board. The meat will be so tender it will fall off the bone.  Then simply pull the joint to pieces with two forks and scatter the shreds onto a serving plate.  If having hot, take veg out of the cooking juices and then pour the juices over the lamb.  Sprinkle with mint leaves and pomegranate seeds and any pomegranate juice that may be there.  

Delicious with roast potatoes and your favourite veggies or if you want it to let it cool a little, it goes really well with a spoonful of hummus inside a warm pitta bread.

This would have been our Easter Sunday lunch if lockdown hadn't happened but as there were just the two of us here I couldn't really justify buying a whole shoulder of lamb just so I could take a photo of it to go with this post!  So there is no photo to share with you, but I can show you what it looks like in the recipe book 

So, that's my favourite Spring recipe, I wonder what everyone else has to share with us?  Join me and click through the links

  1. You are here - so please now visit 
  2. Lauren Kim at Mom Home Guide
  3. Laura Bambrick at I do deClaire
  4. Joanne Rawson at My Slices of Life
  5. Carrie Albrecht at Curly Crafty Mom
  6. Penny Struebig at Penny’s Passion
  7. Dani Doman at Faster than Forever
  8. Dani Park at Family.Love.Inspiration
  9. Our hostess with the mostest - Leslie Clingan at Once Upon a Time & Happily Ever After
  10. Cindy Handy  at Seasonal and Holiday Recipe Exchange

Friday 24 April 2020

Popping round to Ruth's

A few weeks ago I received an email from Ruth over at This West London Life asking me if I would write a post as part of a mini series she was featuring on her blog, showing how Covid-19 was affecting lives all over the world.  It's fascinating to see how different countries are reacting to the pandemic, so if you would like to see how life has changed in my little corner of the United Kingdom, please do click HERE.

Since I wrote that post, we have had our lockdown restrictions extended by a further three weeks and we have just completed the first of those extra weeks.  Whilst it would be nice to think that in two weeks we will be back to normal, I think that is just a pipe dream and any return will be very gradual.

So let's think about what positive things have happened recently ...

I won £25 on the Premium Bonds!  It's not a life changing amount but has thrown up its own little dilemma.  How do you pay a cheque into your account when you are in lockdown?  I am hoping that one of the banks in town is still open - maybe on restricted hours - I'm going to venture out later this morning - oh the anticipation! 

Supermarket shelves are well stocked again.  Well, except for flour. It would seem that I'm not the only one filling their time by baking!

Queues to get in the supermarkets are getting shorter.  In fact when I went to Waitrose earlier this week there was no one waiting to get in!  Nor was there a queue at the butcher or the bakery.  What a pleasant surprise.  I was especially pleased by this as I think it's very important for us to support the smaller local shops to save them for the future.  I'm not sure what the residents of our town will ever do if Dorringtons Bakery shuts - their doughnuts are absolutely the best in the country, don't take my word for it, you can ask anyone who lives here.

Our garden is looking tidy and colourful.  We are also growing runner beans, courgettes and tomatoes from seed, all of which are growing well.

Our food waste has reduced dramatically - with weekly meal plans and detailed shopping lists, there are no impulse buys that may not get used and we are buying just the right quantity of what is needed.  

Leo got allocated a place at their first choice of primary school!  It was oversubscribed so it wasn't a foregone conclusion that he would get in but now they can relax.  Now all we have to do is hope that schools are reopened in time for him to start in September.

and finally ...

I leaned a new sewing skill.  Making face masks.  We haven't been told we have to wear them yet, but if that is the next thing to happen - I am prepared!  

Saturday 18 April 2020

Another week done

As I stood on my doorstep on Thursday at 8 pm I could hear the clapping and cheering going on in the streets around me, the odd firework lit up the sky and I found myself feeling even more emotional this week.  Was it because we've been told there's at least another 3 weeks of lockdown ahead?  The increasing feeling of grateful thanks to all those NHS staff who are battling to save as many people as possible? I don't know why it felt more intense this week but it did.

Maybe it had something to do with seeing the news and watching Tom Moore in the days leading up to his 100th birthday, doing 100 laps of his garden path to raise funds for the NHS charities.  His original target of £1000 was so modest and the latest news is that he has raised £21.5 million! How proud his family must be and how lovely to see our whole country supporting him.  What an amazing achievement.  In exceptional times it really does pull our country together.

Do you have friends or family in the 'front line'?  My son's sister in law is a midwife so is carrying on her normal job, but the maternity unit is part of a hospital whose general wards have seen 118 coronavirus related deaths, including one of the midwives.  My cousin's daughter is a carer, not in a hospital or care home, but visiting patients in their own homes.  Every day, no matter how emotional they are feeling, they have to put on a brave, reassuring face and hope that the protection they have is enough to keep them, and their patients, safe.  

It is so important that we all do our best to stay home and although we are all desperate to go out and socialise, the longer we distance ourselves, the sooner the pressure will be off our wonderful health service. 

You know that tv programme, Big Brother, where you take a group of people, lock them in a house for a month or so and only let them out in the garden to do a bit of exercise - well that's how we all are now!  I guess the 'Diary Room' is our blogs where we can come and share thoughts and opinions ...

So, how are you keeping your spirits up during this time of forced isolation?  Let's share some ideas!  A friend of mine shared this youtube video on Facebook and it made me smile, I hope it does the same for you!  (Please do watch, even if you aren't a dressmaker, it really isn't a proper tutorial!)

Tuesday 14 April 2020

1 photo - twenty words

Sun is shining, time to get the cushions out for the patio furniture.  Guess who was first on the sofa?

Friday 10 April 2020

10 on the 10th

This month's theme for 10 on the 10th over at Leslie's blog is sharing 10 favourite quotes Bible verses or songs.  As I am in England, and Leslie is in the US, I always post early for her themed posts so you may have to pop over to hers later for her selection!

I've decided to concentrate on 10 favourite songs so bear with me as we may not share the same musical tastes.  Thanks to Youtube for all the video clips that I've added.


When my son was a teenager I once overheard him chatting with friends and they were joking about the music cassettes their parents used to play in the car.  His friends were laughing about getting fed up with the same nursery rhymes tape, or Postman Pat.  Then I heard Jon laugh and say 'we had to listen to Simply Red'. It's true, they did, they were in the back seat and I was in the front with full control of what went in the cassette player.  So I feel that I should start with one of my favourites there.  Which one to choose though?

Simply Red - Stars

For my Christmas present in 2006, my daughter took me to see George Michael in his 25 Live tour at Wembley.  It was, hands down, the very best concert that I have EVER been to.  (And I've been to some good ones - Santana, George Benson, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross ...). I loved George Michael, right from his WHAM days, and I was so sad when he died.  I have a programme about him recorded on our TV  and I have locked it so it can't accidentally be deleted and it still makes me cry at the end.  Oh so many favourites of his, can I choose two?  

George Michael - Careless Whisper

George Michael - Faith

Next up are some that bring back happy memories of my youth!

Average White Band - Pick up the pieces

The Isley Brothers - Summer Breeze

And now it's time for the one that was always the last record to be played at discos and if you were really lucky, you got to slow dance to it with whoever you had your eye on all evening ;-)

Santana - Samba Pa Ti

Then one from the late 70s that reminds me of when I first met Paul.  Paul and I have VERY different tastes in music but there are a few bands that we both like and this next song is one of our mutual likes!  

Earth Wind and Fire - September

And some more recent ones 

Queen - Don't stop me now

And we are living in strange and stressful times at the moment, so let's end on my two current feel good songs to leave you with a smile on your face.  Take care everyone, stay home and stay safe x

Justin Timberlake - Can't stop the feeling

Pharell Williams - Happy

Monday 6 April 2020

'Ta Dah' in March

Well.  March.  What can I say?  It certainly wasn't a normal month and not one which captured many 'ta dah!' moments.  There's been enough negative moments documented, let's see what what things I can find to celebrate (other than managing to find a dozen eggs to buy in a local supermarket!)


I celebrated a birthday!  We went out for a meal on the Saturday and had a big family get together on the Sunday, both situations are unlikely to happen again for a little while!

Rachel's friends used to refer to me as Mumma Keys and the name has stuck 
(For those who don't know me in real life, my surname starts with the word 'Key')

Yes it was raining on our walk around the lake but the two littlest members of the family were in desperate need of a nap after lunch, so it was umbrellas out, coats on and off we went!


The only other 'ta dah' I can mention this month and is definitely one that needs recording for posterity is that we managed to follow the rules of lockdown.  From the day it was announced to the end of the month (and beyond) we have not left the house other than to buy food or pharmaceutical products, exercise or walk Coco in the park.  No socialising, not even with family.  Probably the hardest 'ta dah' so far.

Keep safe everyone - and stay home!

Sunday 5 April 2020

Another week bites the dust

Well done to all of us that have survived another week of lockdown!

Time to try out one of those samples of gin and vodka liqueurs that I had for a birthday present.  Cheers!

(happy to report that the Hotel Chocolat Cocoa Gin was absolutely delicious.  Will report back on the salted caramel vodka liqueur after Sunday lunch!)

Have you kept busy?  Luckily the weather has been nice so we have planted some tomato, courgette and runner bean seeds in the home made newspaper and toilet roll homemade seed pots.

We have had a Zoom family chat

Some lovely long dog walks over the park, sticking to the new rules

We have started an alphabet game with Leo where we each have to find three things that start with the same letter each day.  Naturally we started with the first letter of his name

I've done two Zumba online classes - again, using Zoom - which were great fun and really lifted my mood

Our teacher also organised a 'happy hour' for us to have a virtual get together on Friday evening which was lovely - especially as I used it as an excuse to suggest that Paul should cook dinner while I was quaffing prosecco with my Zumba friends ;-)

Last night we took part in a virtual pub quiz on Youtube which made us realise how much you need a team of others to share your knowledge with, as out of a possible 50 points, we only got 25!

So we are getting through it and having been in touch with a couple of friends who live in Spain, I realise that restrictions could be even tighter if people don't comply to the rules we have in place now.  My friend has a daughter who lives in Hong Kong and things were getting back to normal there, and then they opened the borders, and people returning have started a new wave of cases so everyone entering HK has to go into 14 days of quarantine automatically now.  They have curfews in place still and she knows of people who have been arrested by not complying.  So, bad as things are here, it could be worse!

What's been the highlight of your week?  Let's share some ideas of things to do!

Thursday 2 April 2020

Currently ...

What day of the week is it?  They are all blurring into one and now having been early with yesterday's post I am a day late with this one!

I am again joining in with the 'Currently' series hosted by Anne, and I think that this month is going to look very different to normal!

Sharing - Humorous videos and snapchat photos with various friends and family to brighten our moods during this very strange time of not being able to see each other properly.

Writing - Very detailed shopping lists.  As we are only going to the shops once a week, there is no opportunity to just pop out for a few items, if we don't get it on our weekly trip, we have to live without it for 7 days!

Wishing - So many things!  Mostly wishing that this situation does not go on for too many more months, we need to get it under control as soon as possible.  I will definitely be making up for lost time when we do get to see our family in person once again.

Investigating - new recipes so that we use every scrap of the food mentioned above!  I don't think we normally throw away much food, but nowadays nothing is going to waste.  

Buying - very little!  I didn't realise how often I would pop in the car and have an hour or two just browsing around the shops.  So, basically at the moment the only new items arriving in our house are edible!

Wow this would have been very different if I'd written it last year!  

Wednesday 1 April 2020

A sentence a day in March

'Mad as a March hare' - that's what they say, and it does certainly feel as if the world has gone mad this month.   Let's have a look at the month in which, worldwide, everyone's life changed dramatically ...

Day 1 Started the month off with a fun family dinner as an early celebration for our son's 30th birthday 

Day 2 Bit of a damp, miserable day - was supposed to have a gas and electricity 'Smart' meter fitted but they cancelled at the last minute

Day 3 Almost acquired a new pet - when we went to collect Leo from nursery, the school cat jumped in the bottom of Rosie's buggy

Day 4 Actually got to do a bit of gardening this morning, until I filled the brown bin and had to stop pruning shrubs, I do have a tendency for getting carried away with the secateurs.

Day 5 Our son celebrated his 30th Birthday today - (he thinks it sounds old, little does he know!) and I had a manicure that perfectly matches the hyacinth bulbs flowering in my kitchen.

Day 6 Warm and sunny day today, dry enough to mow the front lawn for the first time this year, also went to a local pub to listen to The Beatniks - a brilliant acoustic duo who play mostly 60s and 70s music.

Day 7 Bright and dry again today, mowed the back lawn in the afternoon and went to friends for a curry night in the evening.

Day 8 A lazy Sunday started with a lovely dog walk around the lake where we noticed that two swans have appeared in the last week

Day 9 Met up with my sister for coffee in town in the morning, then popped over to see our grandson Max in the afternoon

Day 10 Childminding day - pretty exhausting now Rosie is walking, she's so quick, if you turn your back for a moment she is half way up the stairs!

Day 11 Paul went in for day surgery to remove a gastric polyp, felt pretty groggy for the rest of the day, not to mention very hungry and he wasn't allowed anything but fluids for 24 hours.

Day 12 Had a 'smart' energy meter fitted in the morning, and met up with three friends for a meal in the evening, went to Cote restaurant and had salmon on a bed of ratatouille, delicious!

Day 13 Coronavirus is on all the news reports, but the supermarket this morning was not as busy as it had been last week, and the shelves were better stocked too.

Day 14 Another birthday celebration, this time for me - celebrated with a lunchtime Thai tapas meal at a local restaurant, it was delicious!

Day 15 Sunday lunch for the whole family at Rachel's - what a treat!

Yes we went out for a walk in the rain, the two littlest family members needed naps!

Day 16 The latest advice in the Coronavirus is ambiguous to say the least, avoid unnecessary social contact, don't got to pubs, theatres or restaurants ... good job I got my birthday celebrations in when I did!

Day 17 Childminding day - news about this virus goes from bad to worse, I think this situation is going to last longer than any of us thought.

Day 18 I had my 3 yearly mammogram appointment, I was surprised a bit surprised to hear that they were still keeping appointment schedules, I had envisioned it being cancelled in light of the crisis at the moment.

Day 19 My last Zumba Gold class for a while - oh how I will miss this hour of uplifting dancing but my instructor is investigating offering an on line class.

Day 20 Schools closed for the foreseeable future and Rachel has decided that she does not want to risk us looking after Leo and Rosie on a Tuesday 'just in case' - that is going to seem REALLY strange.

Day 21 Coco had a well needed hair cut - I had wondered if the groomer would still be working but it is run from her home and she is operating a strict 'one in one out' system with no human contact - dogs handed over at the door!

Day 22 Mothering Sunday - and no one was allowed to visit their mothers - social distancing is taking its toll

Day 23 The day it all changed - the UK went into lockdown, only allowed out for grocery shopping and exercise, no groups of more than two, 2m distance between everyone if you are in a shopping queue.  But it is a nice day so time to wash and polish the car!

Day 24 My Zumba teacher has devised an online class via the Zoom app, so I was able to do an hour dance in the privacy of my own lounge this morning, it was so good to dance out a bit of the stress.

Picture shows my iPad wedged onto the mantlepiece of the fire, instructor is in the main part of the screen and that little square in the bottom right is me!

Day 25 Baby Max had to go to hospital as his lips turned blue and he ran a very high temperature - blood tests came back ok so he was sent home.  As he had a temperature they were rushed through the 'red zone' with staff masked and gowned and only one parent allowed in at a time.

Day 26 Back to hospital for Max as temperature spiked and he seemed really listless - you worry just as much about your grandchildren as you do your children.  Checked over and sent home again.  Paul did a supermarket shop and hopefully that will see us through to the middle of next week.

Day 27 A day of long dog walks, meal planning and a bit of gardening.

Day 28 Am becoming obsessed with food; cooking food, planning meals, suspect my waistline is going to suffer!

Day 29 British Summertime officially begins - I felt a bit anxious today, I wish they could give us an indication of how long this lockdown period will be lasting so I could mentally tick off the days- in other news, for some reason my son decided to shave off his beard today, he looks so different!

Day 30 Felt sad today when I realised that we probably won't see Max at all in the crawling stage, or maybe even get to celebrate his first birthday with him in July.  Also dismantled the high chair we keep here as by the time Rosie can come back for us to look after her she will be much too big for it.  Reality is setting in.  Started decorating our bedroom.

Day 31 What a glorious day for a dog walk, I'm feeling slightly less apprehensive today as the news last night was that social isolation is starting to show benefits.  Signs regarding rules and regulations have been displayed at the entrance to our lovely park and it felt like I was the only one there this morning apart from the ducks (I think that may actually be true!)

We all know what comes next - here's the visual version of 1 Second Everyday

I honestly can't remember when everyone else is posting their sentence a day posts, I suspect I'm early, but if I am please do pop back at a later date and see who else has linked up!

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