Thursday, 21 February 2013

are handkerchiefs disgusting?

In a recent bedroom clear-out I came across a pile of my Mum and Dad’s old handkerchiefs (yes, I know, weird what we keep!) and they got me thinking.

Some time ago I read a post on a message board decrying what the writer considered the disgusting habit of using a tissue to blow one’s nose and then putting it back in a pocket, or even (horror!) re-using it. There is a current infection control campaign to “Catch it. Bin it. Kill it”, which is encouraging us to carry tissues so that we can catch a sneeze in a tissue and then dispose of it. But where? If you’re on a bus or out in the street, where is the vile object to be deposited? I also find that carrying a number of tissues in a bag results in a horrible papery mess that’s no use for anything. Googling the slogan “coughs and sneezes spread diseases” led to some funny public information films from the 1940s encouraging that generation to catch their sneezes in a handkerchief.

As someone who grew up in a less wasteful and possibly less hygiene-obsessed age, I was taught to use my cotton handkerchief at one corner first, so that it could be used more than once. And (unless I actually had a cold) it was expected to last all day. “Have you got a clean hankie?” was my mother’s invariable farewell call as I left the house. Since those days I have, like most of the rest of the population, taken to using tissues and my mother would be ashamed of me because I often forget to supply myself with one before going out.

I was really interested, therefore, to find a tutorial for hand-hemmed hankies on a craft blog and comments which make it clear that some people do still use them, either for preference or on “green” anti-waste grounds. Since then I’ve been going out with a cotton hankie in my pocket. Whether I’ll be organised enough to keep on top of the laundry is another matter.

What do you think?  Handkerchiefs:  disgusting or green?  (Before someone else suggests it I realise that green and disgusting is also an option!)

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

happy soup

Some left over roasted beetroot and butternut squash made the basis of a lovely colourful soup to brighten a grey day.

I just added chicken stock and a couple of chopped potatoes, bubbled it for twenty minutes and whizzed with the hand blender. The addition of a dollop of creme fraiche and some bread and cheese made a cheering lunch for three.

Monday, 18 February 2013


Well, at the weekend my sister finally made her twice-postponed Christmas/New Year Visit. I was beginning to think it was going to be the subject of perpetual rearrangement until next Christmas. January/February also had other postponed visits because of bad weather and illness, so I was beginning to feel a bit jinxed.

Fortunately we were able to assemble the local family for an evening gathering on Friday when we all ate together early enough to accommodate small children’s bedtimes. We also exchanged some belated Christmas presents, which felt very strange! 

On Saturday we went shopping! Not a particularly favourite activity for either of us, but Sheila needed some office clothes and a second opinion, so off we went. We got that sorted reasonably painlessly and met up with Steve for a snack lunch at the lovely refurbished Bristol Guild Cafe.

Next stop was a bit of culture at the Museum where it was the last weekend of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. Footsore by now, we trudged home for tea, cake and quantities more food.

Sunday with visitors always means some kind of walk. So we headed off to Leigh Woods for a wander and even saw a bit of sunshine and blue sky.

It was a very good weekend, so I woke this morning feeling a little more optimistic about the eventual arrival of Spring and the prospect of more trips and visits.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

marmalade (again)

It’s that time of year again; the internet is awash with marmalade posts. So here’s my annual update on the marmalade ritual. In fact I am a little late to the party – largely because the 28 jars I made last year did, in fact, last a full year and we’re only just on the last one!

I didn’t have the energy for another marathon session, so bought a modest bag of Seville oranges from our local greengrocer. We had a similar number in the freezer from 12 months ago and they combined to produce about 1500g. I also had quite a number of lemon “shells” in the freezer, which I save after squeezing as described in this post last year, so they were included in the mix as well.

I noticed that a friend had used Nigella Lawson’s recipe*, which involves boiling the fruit whole.  As I had frozen fruit which would certainly be rather soft and squashy by the time it thawed out, this seemed to be a method that would embrace that characteristic rather than make a problem of it. I found that it worked pretty well. Once the oranges have been cooked and sliced open, it’s very easy to scoop the flesh and pips out leaving softened peel which is easy to chop finely for inclusion in the marmalade.

I used “jam sugar” with added pectin rather than the usual granulated and it reached setting point quite quickly. (The sugar also has added citric acid, so the remainder was delicious on our Shrove Tuesday pancakes!)

Ta dah! Another lovely addition to the store cupboard. Whoever invented marmalade was a genius. I know that my husband will be quietly twitching about the skew-whiffy labels, but  hey – he gets to eat the gorgeous stuff.

*(Having just gone back to that recipe to put the link in, I discover that it's not actually a Nigella recipe, but one posted on her community boards by someone under the alias "chocolate nemesis" so the credit should go to him/her).