Making precious memories: Thomas Hardy’s poems

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violin

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Thomas Hardy  has always tended to be better known for his novels than for his poems, but among the hundreds of poems he wrote on a wide range of subjects, there are some very memorable ones. This has always been one of my favourites:

The Self-Unseeing

Here is the ancient floor,

Footworn and hollowed and thin,

Here was the former door

Where the dead feet walked in.

 

She sat here in her chair,

Smiling into the fire;

He who played stood there,

Bowing it higher and higher.

 

Childlike, I danced in a dream;

Blessings emblazoned that day;

Everything glowed with a gleam;

Yet we were looking away!

Hardy here is describing a scene from his childhood: it’s a family occasion with his father playing his violin as the young Thomas dances and twirls and his mother looks on smiling. The last two lines are the most poignant since they carry the message that this family time was a very precious moment  but, sadly, they had not appreciated this at the time. Continue reading

What can I do with all those apples?

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apples

You know autumn’s here when you hear someone moaning about all the apples they’ve got and don’t know what to do with! Really, though, this is nothing to complain about – far from it.

It’s been a few years since we had a couple of nice apple trees in the garden. We used to have loads of apples every autumn and, over time, I’d collected some lovely recipes which I looked forward to using each year. Sadly, both trees caught some nasty disease and died. We miss them! This autumn, though, I’ve been lucky enough to be given some apples by family and friends who do have trees and it’s been good to revive my favourite apple recipes and pass them on. With careful planning, your apple tree can give you pleasure all year round.

General information about apples

If you’re not sure whether they’re cooking or eating apples, try a sample when they’re ripe (i.e. the pips will be brown). If they’re cookers, they’ll taste very sharp and they also tend to have thicker peel. You could also try cooking one. A cooked eating apple doesn’t taste of much at all whereas a cooked cooking apple is delicious.

Divide your apples into blemished and unblemished ones. The blemished ones need to be used first, whereas those with no marks on them can last for months if you wrap them in newspaper and store them somewhere cool. Just make sure they’re not kept too cold, because frost will spoil them.

Blemished eating apples need to be eaten quite quickly and you don’t have many options except to cut out the bad bits and eat them. So if you’ve got a glut, pass them on to friends! Cooking apples, however, are a different matter and there are lots of wonderful things you can do with them. A simple idea is to peel and slice them, then put them into plastic bags for freezing. They’ll be great stewed for desserts or to put on breakfast cereal and they combine well with most other fruits. They’re also lovely when added to savoury dishes such as Normandy chicken, roast pork and curries. There are hundreds of lovely apple recipes to choose from. Here are my favourites, all tried and tested year after year.

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Top Twenty Healthiest Foods #2 Broccoli

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When my children were small, I encouraged them to eat broccoli by calling it “baby trees”. If time permitted, we could make dinner look more appealing to young eaters by arranging the food on the plate as a garden with a forest of broccoli on the plate rim. Actually, it is one vegetable which appears to be quite popular with young children. Apparently it’s a regular favourite in school dinners – as far as any vegetables are favourites with children, that is.

And there are so many reasons for encouraging both children and adults to eat broccoli! Continue reading

Herbs #1 Coriander Leaves (Cilantro)

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Apparently some people don’t like coriander (known as Cilantro in North America)! I find that hard to believe. There’s even a website for people who hate it! How could anyone possibly hate the fragrant, distinctive flavour coriander brings to so many dishes.?Though, if overdone, I suppose  maybe it can be a bit insistent at times.

Anyway, for those of us who do cherish a pot of coriander on the kitchen windowsill, here are 10 tasty ways to enjoy it:
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Top 20 Healthiest Foods #12 Carrots

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What’s not to like about carrots?
Carrots are cheap, readily available, eminently versatile, easy to store, filling, nutritious – and colourful. What’s more, you can enjoy them both raw and cooked. No wonder carrots are the UK’s favourite veg!

Beware, though, of cheap uniformly shaped and sized supermarket carrots which have often been frozen with a resultant loss of flavour and a tendency to rot quickly. These have often been treated with pesticides too so, if prices are reasonable, it makes sense to buy organic. Carrots fresh from the ground have unbeatable flavour. (Actually, they’re easy to grow – why not give it a go?)

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