Thursday, 29 October 2015


Good Morning to you,

Have you ever felt the need to practise the way you smile?

Have you even thought about the way you smile? 

Well my answer to both questions, is no. I have never practised my smile,  and I have never really thought about how I smile.... I just smile.... it's a part of me.

.... aah but there lies the quandary. It seems that as I've got older, my smile has changed. Apparently, nowadays when I smile, I scrunch up my eyes..... who would have thought it.

The giver of this information is my lovely daughter, Danielle. So to see if she was right, I stood in front of my mirror and smiled and there they were those scrunched up eyes... yes, it is official, I certainly do scrunch my eyes when I smile.

Now why on earth do I do that..... I really have no idea.... and when did it happen.  When did the eyes go from wide open to half asleep.... and more to the point, why had I never noticed.

I don't know about you, but  I am very critical when I see myself in photographs and between you and me, I have sometimes thought to myself "Is that really me, I thought I looked much better when I looked in the mirror this morning". 

So Danielle decided, it was time we rectified the scrunched up eyes.

So there we were.... still in our pyjamas, curled up in our arm chairs practising our smiles.  

Now Danielle has her smile down to a tee.... but then she has been the keeper of the information I am about to share. I can't help but wonder, without this information, would Danielle have drifted through life unaware that she smiled with her eyes half closed. Probably not, as the younger generation are more self aware when it comes to photos.

So Danielle put me through my paces and when she felt I had practised enough,  it was time to put into practise what I had learnt. 

Well, when my first effort was photographed and I looked at the result, I burst out laughing. I looked like a rabbit who had been caught in a cars headlights. I looked hysterical, I would go so far as to say I looked like I had been given an electric shock..... but minus the frizzy hair.... not a good look I might add... so that photo was deleted.

I began to think, my scrunchy eyes were a much better look, but Danielle did not give up, she persevered until I perfected the look.... well sort of, I like to think I perfected the look.... but I don't think I really did.

.... and where did this advice come from.  Well it appears that this is the advice given by the super model Tyra Banks.... and she knows a thing or two when it comes to photographs.  Now here comes the fun part, this is what you have to do.

Turn your head to the side, open your eyes wide, then lower the eyelids slightly and turn to the front, ready for your photograph to be snapped.... oh yes and don't forget to smile.... which is what I did. I was so focused on the eyes, I forgot about the mouth.... hence the many dreadful photos.  By all accounts, follow these instructions and you will always have gorgeous photos.... or if you are like me, probably 30 photos which are dreadful..... yes we practised that much.  It was so much fun.  At one point George came into the room to check what was happening because we were laughing so much.  When we told him what we were doing, we invited him to join us..... and do you know, he smiled, with scrunched up eyes I might add, and turned around and walked out of the room. Now why on earth would he not want to practise his smile.... could it be because he doesn't care what his smile looks like when he is photographed.... mind you, he does have a lovely smile.

So the upshot is, Danielle continues to have lovely photos..... but me, not so much.... but I will continue with my lessons. You never know, there may be 1 out of 100 photos which will be acceptable. Thank heavens we don't have our photos developed any more, we can just delete the awful ones.... now that saves us a small fortune doesn't it, as we don't have to waste our money by developing awful photos.

.... or maybe, I will just return to my old ways and smile with my scrunched up eyes.... at which point I will have to say, sorry to Tyra and Danielle.

.... but I make no apologies for what I am making today.

spicy lentil soup with cumin, ginger, garlic and curry powder. This soup has a little heat, but not too much, it just leaves in its wake, a lovely warm glow.

So it's 'on with the pinnie', and the music I am listening to this morning is,

Simon and Garfunkel's album, Wednesday Morning, 3am, which I have listened to since I was a teenager. Back then I loved folk music, well I still do. There is just some music which travels with you through your life time and which you never tire of.... and for me this is one of those albums. Do you know, I was just working out how long I have been listening to this record and it's 47 years.... goodness me.

I feel sure none of these tracks need an introduction, but I have decided not to choose the obvious, such as 'Sound of Silence' or ' The Times They Are A-changing', instead I have chosen,

for you to listen to.

So while I gather my ingredients, I am listening to


1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 large onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of fresh ginger
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 400g tin of tomatoes
1 400g tin of Bijoux Verts Puy lentils
850 ml of chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper


Finely chop the onion.

Place the olive oil into a large saucepan
add the chopped onions.
Cook over a medium heat
until the onions are golden in colour.

Whilst the onions are browning.

Peel and grate the garlic
set aside for the moment.

Using a teaspoon
remove the skin from the ginger
and then

When the onions are golden, 
the grated garlic and the grated ginger.

add the ground cumin to the pan

the curry powder.

Move around the pan for a minute or two
or until you can smell the 
aroma of the spices.

Chop the tomatoes
add to the saucepan.
Stir the ingredients together.

Add the chicken stock

bay leaf
bring to the boil.
Reduce the heat to a simmer,
then place a lid partially on the saucepan.
Simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the puy lentils
and bring back to the boil.
remove the pan from the heat.

Season with sea salt


freshly ground black pepper.

Carefully remove half of the soup
 and blitz with a hand held blitzer. 
Before I owned a blitzer, I used
 a potato masher.... there is 
always an alternative.

Return the blitzed soup to the pan and stir.
  Now then, if you can wait for
 20 minutes or so, then do so, because you
 will find as the soup cools, it will thicken....
 and if you can wait until the following
 day, the flavours of the soup will be enhanced.

.... and then, all there is left to do, 


If you find, the first time you make this lentil soup it has a little too much spice for you, then don't worry, 

just add a tablespoon of Greek yoghurt to your bowl of soup.... give it a little stir and the yoghurt will quieten down the flavours.

Then maybe, just maybe, someone special will say,

Thank you.

Take care and I will see you next Thursday.

This week I will be joining,


Thursday, 22 October 2015


Good Morning to you,

Yesterday I had one of those days,  so rather than staying indoors, I decided to wrap myself up in my warmest coat, put on my hat and gloves and off I trekked.... at quite a pace I might add. The speed at which I walk is always indicative of my mood, if I am upset about something, I walk at a very fast pace, but if I am calm, I love nothing better than a gentle stroll.

.... but yesterday, I have to tell you, I walked at quite a pace.... so you know how I felt. 

I always find, there is nothing like a long walk to clear the mind.

.... and it certainly worked yesterday.

I find, when out walking, each season brings with it, its own personal pleasures. For instance, because we are so far into autumn, the trees are losing a great deal of leaves at the moment, and they lay on the ground, in colourful heaps, just waiting for the right person to walk by.

.... and yesterday, that right person, was me.

As I walked along the pathway I could see up ahead a large colourful heap of leaves. Firstly, I looked around to see if anyone was looking, yes, I have to tell you, I felt just a little self conscious of what I was about to do, and then, when I was sure no one was watching, I walked through the fallen leaves, kicking the leaves high in the air and I loved every minute of it. Do you know, it felt very therapeutic.

Then, just as I had finished having fun, around the corner walked a young mother with her little girl. We smiled at each other and said good morning and as they passed me by,  I turned around to see if the little girl would notice the leaves lying on the ground, or would she ignore the leaves and just walk by.... and do you know what, she did notice the leaves, because when she saw them, she shook loose her mother's hand, and starting running towards the fallen leaves. When she reached the pile of leaves, she did not slow down, she ran straight into the centre and started kicking the leaves in the air. As they floated around her, she bent down, and picked up some more leaves and threw them into the air as well, so she was showered with autumn leaves. They floated down onto her head and the leaves began attaching themselves to her long hair, which she loved and found very funny. 

This little scenario all took place in a matter of a few moments, but what a lovely few moments they were.

I turned away, ready to carry on with my walk and all I could hear was the squeals of laughter each time the little girl, kicked more of the leaves up in to the air.  

.... and do you know something else, it was such a tonic. To think, a heap of autumn leaves and the sound of a little girls laughter could make me feel so happy.... it really is true isn't it.... it is the simply things in life which make us really happy.

So by the time I returned home, I was in a better place, but, my oh my, I was really hungry.... a long walk often does that to me.

I had some tomato soup ready and waiting, but I wanted something a little more than bread, so I decided to make,

some cheese muffins, which go perfectly with tomato soup.... what is nicer than cheese and tomato.

So 'it's on with the pinnie' and the singer I am listening to today,  has only just come to my attention. 

I heard Jamie's record the other day while listening to BBC Radio Newcastle.... a radio station I love, because I hear all sorts of new music.

The first time I heard Jamie's song, I was so caught up with the words, that I did not find my pen and paper, in time to write down Jamie's name.  So I decided to leave my pen and notepad on the sideboard, ready to pick up when I heard the song again. The song which you are about to hear is really lovely.... just listen to the words.

I promise you the video will bring tears to your eyes, so please have the tissues at the ready. I believe the album has been out for 4 years, but has only just captured people's attention. I loved the album so much that I instantly bought it from Itunes

So now, while I listen to 'Sometimes It's Hard, I will organise my ingredients.


Makes:  8 small cheese muffins

You will need: 1 muffin tin
 8 small paper muffin cases

100g wholegrain bread (approx 2 large slices)
2 tablespoons of milk
pinch of salt
pinch of black pepper
75g of Cheddar cheese
3 large eggs


Pre-heat the oven to 220C
200C if you have a fan assisted oven.

Cut the slices of bread into fours and place into
a food processor.  
Whizz for a few minutes until the slices of bread
turn into breadcrumbs.

Tip the breadcrumbs into a bowl


add the salt,

the pepper

and the milk.

Mix the ingredients together.

Grate the cheese
add to the mixture.
Mix to combine the ingredients.

Set aside for the moment.

Separate the egg yolk and the egg white
gently whisk the egg yolk.
Set aside for the moment.

Place the separated egg whites 
into a clean bowl

whisk until the egg whites form fluffy peaks.

Add the egg yolks to the egg white and whisk together... this should only take a minute to combine.

Using a metal spoon gently fold in the bread mixture a couple of tablespoons at a time.

When completely folded in,

spoon the mixture
into the muffin cases.

Bake for 12 -14 minutes.
 I would recommend that you start checking the muffins
after 12 minutes.

When cooked, remove from the oven


by the time you have heated up your tomato soup

the muffins will be at the right temperature,
ready to eat.

So all there is left to do,

Now if you prefer you can use the larger sized muffin cases and make 6 instead of 8.  You will have to cook the cheese muffins for a little longer, about 18 minutes.

You can also, change the cheese and add Parmesan, or any other cheese which you enjoy, but it has to be a hard cheese.  

I find these cheese muffins make a nice change to the heavier winter dumplings which George loves.... but I will leave it there, as they are for another time.

Take care and I will see you next Thursday.

This week I will be joining,


Thursday, 15 October 2015


Good Morning to you,

Two posts in one week. These days, that's unusual for me isn't it, but the reason I wanted to write to you again, is that firstly, Tuesday's 'around the corner' news was much too exciting not to share.... I say that with a smile on my face, because I was a little mischievous wasn't I, as I  really didn't share any news with you.... I just hinted about something wonderful, which might happen in the future, but I have to tell you,  once everything is confirmed you'll be the first to know, because without my wonderful friends that 'something' would never have happened.

Now, I think I had better tell you about my missing couple of weeks, well not exactly missing, because I knew where I was, but of course you didn't.

The reason I was away, was because at the beginning of October, George and I celebrated our 45th Wedding Anniversary and we decided to pop down to visit Danielle, who lives in Dorset.... and we had such a wonderful time. I love nothing more than sitting in a comfy chair, drinking coffee and catching up with Danielle.  Do you know we can talk for hours. If we decide to do something on a certain day, we have to be strict with ourselves. We agree a time and when the time arrives, we have to move from the chair to get dressed.... yes, that's right, we are usually in our pyjamas. By agreeing a time we manage to get to where we are going, otherwise we would probably sit in our chairs and continue chatting.  Shall I tell you something else, I am the same when I am with Natasha.... we sit and we chat for hours on end about this and that.... and I love it. I love it when I can catch up with both my daughters.... it truly makes me so happy. Their lives are so busy, that these moments we share are so precious to me.

.... and while we were in Dorset, we had the most wonderful weather.... it was so mild, compared to Newcastle, that I actually managed to go out and about without a coat.... which I certainly couldn't do here.

I love living here in Newcastle, but oh those North East winds, how they can howl.   

What I do miss, about living here in the North of England, is those days when the sun shines and the wind is still, and as cliched as it sounds, where you can just be still. Where all you can hear are the sounds from the garden and nothing more.

Talking of the garden, I was speaking to a friend of mine, the other day, who is a keen gardener. My friend has an allotment and was telling me about the vegetables which she was harvesting, onions, potatoes and runner beans to name a few and I asked her if she had ever grown garlic, as this was something I wanted to grow.... and of course, being the wonderful gardener she is, knew exactly how to grow garlic.  What surprised me the most, was that I could plant a garlic bulb which I already had in the kitchen.... the bulb has to be fat and juicy though, don't try planting garlic which is wizened, as it won't work.

So I feel sure you have guessed what we are going to do today,

yes that's right, we are going to be planting garlic, so that we have lots of free garlic cloves to cook with next year.... and I think you will have noticed that I use a lot of garlic in my cooking, so anything which saves me money makes me happy.  

Just to say, there is no music to share today, as I was in the garden when I planted the garlic bulbs and often as not, I tend not to listen to music when working in the garden.... now that's a surprise isn't it. 

You will also be so surprised to learn how easy it is to grow garlic. 


gently pull the garlic cloves apart and don't worry about any of the papery outer covering which is left attached to the cloves.

Find a good sized pot, which has holes in the bottom for drainage.... I'm sorry about the shadow, but the sun was behind me and it was the same where ever I moved in the garden.  My space is limited because my garden is small.

Place broken terracotta crocks or gravel, in the bottom of the pot as this helps with drainage.

Then fill the pot with all purpose soil.  I did ask if there was any specific soil needed, but apparently not.

Find your bulb dibber..... this will see a lot of action later this week, as I am going to be planting my spring bulbs.

If you don't have a dibber, you can use a pencil, but just make sure the holes are big enough for your garlic cloves to fit. Just a thought, don't make the hole so big that when the clove is planted there is air around the clove, as the clove needs to sit in the soil.

Prod the soil with either your dibber or your pencil

place the garlic cloves into the holes.... top side up.... the professional term is the pointy end... only joking. The bottom of the clove is the piece you detached from the bottom of the bulb. 

Look who popped by to pay me a visit when I moved from my seat. Now on this occasion, the sun behind me has resulted in some lovely shadows.

Cover with soil.... leaving just the tips of the cloves peeking through the soil.

let's see how long it will take before we see some green shoots.

I would love it, if you decide to plant garlic, to let me know how you get on and we can compare results.
Maybe you will have some tips to pass on to me and vice versa.

I keep checking the pot, but as yet no green shoots. I know, I am going to be like a jack in the box, popping in and out of the garden to check on my babies.... but when they start sprouting I will let you know.

Take care and I will see you again next Thursday.

This week I will be joining,


Tuesday, 13 October 2015


Good Morning to you,

Age is a quality of mind;
If you have left your dreams behind,
If hope is cold,
If you no longer look ahead,
If your ambition fires are dead,
Then you are old.

But, if from life you take the best
If in life, you keep the zest,
If love you hold,
No matter how the years go by,
No matter how the moments fly,
You are not old!

Norma aged 93 years

Here's a question for you.

Is age a barrier to the fulfilment of dreams?

I certainly don't think so.


I truly believe, you are never too old to realise your dreams.

..... but let me go backwards just a little bit.... to when I was a young woman in the late 1960's. Life was very different for women, we were not encouraged to have dreams. We left school not expecting to have careers, but to get a job.... hopefully a good job. 

... and in my case, Gramps decided that I should train to become a secretary, he said I would never regret it.... and so a secretary I became.... there was no consultation, it was decided and that was that. University never came into the equation because my father really thought that it was a waste of time sending girls to university. I really don't hold that against him, because it was a different time.

.... and so office work, in one form or another became my working life.

... but I always had hobbies, I loved making clothes for myself and the girls, and I enjoyed knitting. I think I knitted every Hayfield knitting pattern for Natasha and Danielle. Yes I loved to knit, with a little crochet thrown in for good measure.

..... but what I loved the most, was cooking for George, Natasha, Danielle and the extended family. I loved trying new ingredients and as you know I cooked so many dishes from my very first cookery book. I thought I was so shi shi creating dishes like Hungarian Goulash, Minestrone soup and Nasi Goreng.... but that was it, I loved to cook and never thought of it as anything more than that... there was no dream.

I never dreamt that I would write a cooking blog, but three years ago, Ivy, Phyllis and Me! was born and I started to record all our old family recipes and I shared some new ones.

.... and because of Ivy, Phyllis and Me! I was interviewed by Gillian Harvey and was featured in the Woman's Weekly Magazine.  The article was about bloggers over the age of 50 with me being the oldest as I was over 60.

It was a dream come true, who would have thought it, I was thrilled.  I never imagined that something so wonderful would happen to me. You can imagine what Natasha and Danielle said, they never doubted it for a minute that I would be successful and are continually surprised, that I am surprised, that Ivy, Phyllis and Me! is doing so well.

..... and now, something, completely out of the blue has happened, which I am over the moon about... it is truly a dream come true.

..... and do you know what, I can't tell you at the moment, because that 'something' is not set in stone, but if it happens, you will feel my happiness.... you will feel my joy.... when I write and tell you about it.

..... and so the reason I am writing to you today, is to tell you, this is the year 2015 and not the 1960s. We can have dreams whatever age we are.  So please don't give up on your dreams, believe in yourself, don't listen to what others say.... and you never know, you just never know, what will be waiting for you around the corner.

..... as soon as I can tell you about my 'around the corner' moment, I promise you I will.

Take care and I will catch up with you on Thursday.

As always,

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