Every now and again I am surprised by the things that make me smile, even when I am having a crappy time of it a little ray of light pops up and makes me think "you know things aren't always so bad".  In this case happiness is a spotty red toilet seat.

I recently broke the loo seat in our bathroom, no i wasnt tap dancing on it, I sat on it in the middle of the night and ooops the seat hinge just snapped.  I can't tell you the hilarity this caused, the other half was highly amused. But serendipity struck, we were going to replace the loo seat with an ordinary white one but as we wandered around Wilkinsons we spotted this wild red toilet seat with white spots, very much in the style of Minnie Mouse, although I won't be wearing Minnie Mouse ears to use it, I am however tempted by the hair bow.

We were however forced to buy a matching mat, toilet roll holder and toothbrush holder.... well, it would have been rude not to really! 

So in the new year there has got to be a revamp of the bathroom, I am thnking white walls (they are blue currently), with white and red lino, hopefully something with really small tiled squares and a new blind in red and white... we will see.

In the meantime everytime I open the door to the smallest room in the house a spotty toilet seat makes me smile... long may that continue.

With the country struggling along under the weight of the global recession it's tough out there for everyone.  I do find it highly amusing that when the current government came into power they used the whole "we're in this together" line to try and make us all believe they were on our side and now that the chips are down the truth really does come out.  Really the Conservatives have just not changed, its still a party of dissention and division, now trying to create division within our nation, pitting Private Sector against Public Sector. 

Why?  At a time when we should all be appreciating each other and understanding that we all have a place within society and we all have a role to play to get through, what is going to be, a very difficult trying time.

Demonising a specific portion of our society is not the way to go.

I was very supportive of the industrial action that the Public Sector took this last week, in my opinion they were pushed into an action that none of them actually wanted to take but felt that they had nowhere else to turn.

There is this attitude that the Public sector doesn't earn its way... but the truth is the Public sector isn't supposed to, the Public sector supports the Private Sector, the Public sector feeds the Private sector, without one the other would struggle to survive.  The Public sector provides the education, the medical support, the training, the infrastructure that allows the Private Sector to exist and prosper. 

The Public Sector is the foundation of our society and the people that train our future workers should be valued, supported and praised instead of bullied, demonised and blamed for the poor financial choices made by successive governments and the banking sector. 

A huge proportion of the Publc Sector are women, these attacks by the government are being aimed at women but then so far in the Conservative history when hasn't it been women they attack? Women are encouraged and bullied into going back to work before they are even ready, blamed for not leaving their children and taking on low paid jobs, women are blamed for leaving their children to go to work and for the subsequent behavioural issues that pop up from that lack of one to one supervision by a parent.   The blame for the large numbers of single parent families... you got it, laid at the woman's door. 

What this Government is forgetting that women are also their voters and that really these endless attacks on women will come back to bite them... in the ballot boxes.
How much fun is this site??? Ohhhh so much fun.

When I was a girl... all them years ago one of my favourite things to do was design dresses, I would spend hours and hours drawing figures and designing clothes, quite often I would make them for my Sindy's,  never had a Barbie,  only ever a Sindy and Pippa's but every spare moment found me drawing, cutting and sewing.

So coming across this site was such a delight. Looklet is a big girls paper doll where you can pick your doll (model)  background, outfits, accessories... give it a try you'll see. 

You can create your own lookbooks and share them with your friends.

Have a go yourself, check out Looklet
We popped along to Bunratty Castle in County Clare during our weeks holiday visit to my in-laws. The castle is inside a heritage site which includes a folk park of historial buildings like a fishermans cottage, a peat cutters cottage, an old school building, a recreation of a whole street of shops. 

Bunratty Castle itself is an amazing building,  there has been dwellings on the site since 970 but the first defensive building was built in 1270, since then there had always been a castle of some sort on the site.   The present castle was built in 1425 and was occupied  pretty consistently until 1804 when the building was left and fell into disrepair. 

In 1954 the Castle was bought and restored to its present condition by the 7th Viscount Gort and his wife.   Having walked around the place I doubt that they restored it to live in as it didn't seem particularly cmfortable a place to live. 

Plaque commemorating the restoration by Viscount Gort
The Castle itself was very very busy, it's obviously a very popular tourist destination as I was hearing lots of accents and languages from the people walking around. 

Highly recommended as a place to visit but be warned the whole park is quite big,  we didn't manage to see it all as with a 5 year old with us it got quite tiring and both he and I were pretty shattered by the time we had done the castle and the village. I think we will be going back again during another visit to see all the bits we missed out. 

There's plenty of information available about the castle, the folk park, opening times etc on the Shannon Heritage website 

Tapestry inside the main Hall of the Castle

Inside a cottage recreation
All of the buildings in the Folk park have been brought to Bunratty stone by stone and rebuilt from sites all over Ireland including one from Shannon Airport when a runway was being put in.  It's a fascinating look at how people lived.  I wouldn't have made a very good early Irishwoman that's for sure... the peat fire really irritated my eyes.

But I was really impressed by the level of detail put in to recreating the cottages, including photographs, chinaware and all the paraphanalia of family life.

This statue was hidden away in some trees and hedges mostly unnoticed but it caught my attention.

I'm really proud that in the upcoming issue of Discover Dolls Magazine my baby shoe pattern is being shared and showcased. 

This pattern is so easy to use and so simple but you can produce the cutest shoes, all you will need is a little bit of fabric, very simple sewing ability, you can even stitch these by hand if you don't have a sewing machine and your imagination.

The magazine will contain a full step by step tutorial on how to make the shoes. 

On my example pair I used 2 co-ordinating fabrics and embellished them with ribbon and seed beads to show off the fabric.  

But the sky is the limit with these cute little shoes. You can make them as simple or as decorative as you like.

The next issue of Discover Dolls will be out soon!
I hate having cold feet and yet I don't particularly like wearing slippers, I have the habit of curling up on the sofa of an evening doing some knitting or sewing or whatever, don't like the idea of sticking my crocs (bright pink that I wear slobbing around the house in lieu of slippers)  up on the sofa. 

So during one evening's wandering around the internet perusing crafty websites... I am on a mission this year I want to make all my christmas presents for the people I love. Could be a challenge but I am up for a challenge!  I came across a pattern for a pair of crocheted Mary Jane Slippers. Ohhhhhh how pretty thought I (visit Lisa at Goodknits) I could do with a pair of those for keeping my tootsies toasty.

I modified the pattern a bit,  I wasn't as keen on the whole low toe bit or the strap so I just did a couple of extra rounds before casting off the central stitches. That way I wouldn't have to do the the strap at all.   

The pattern was surprisingly easy to follow,  I'm pretty much a novice at crochet.  Definitely would recommend this pattern to someone new to crochet, it's actually very simple and really quick, in 3 evenings I had a pair of very cute, incredibly warm sofa slip ons and I am LOVING them... LOL  

So this is definitely going on the Christmas present list, I can think of a few people I want to make these for. 

I got the buttons for putting on baby booties but the colour was just so perfect I had to filch a couple for my slippers.  And the crocheted flowers were easy and quick,  I can see myself making lots of these for decorating baby booties and hats. 

See it's all a learning curve, everything thing one tries teaches something and leads on to other fabulous ideas.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE my slippers and I now have very toasty toes... I will be making more of these... hmmmmm I am thinking Black and Pink next!
BBC2's The Shadow Line has been  an incredible visual ride.   Written by Hugo Blick this is an incredibly dark journey into the shadowy underbelly of the drugs world and even darker world of corruption within the police force.  

Right from the start you are never quite sure who is on who's side. 

Chiwetel Ejiofor
Christopher Eccleston 
Richard Lintern 
Robert Pugh

There isn't a single "filler" episode or time wasting moment, it's a non stop rollercoaster of a series that shocks you at every single turn.  Just when you think you know who the baddies are and why they have done what they have done... someone who appeared to have been a thoroughly "good guy" turns out to to have been a "right wrong 'un". 

This series was a real jolt to the system, the acting was excellent, the story very hard hitting and deep and although the body count was quite high by the end of the series, none of the violence was there just to shock, even though it did shock.  

I got the sense of the shadow that the title of the series speaks of, the struggle that a good cop has to stay a good cop when all around him the people who are supposed to be colleagues and on his side are quietly working on their own agenda's.  

Watch it, Watch it!  Watch it!!!!
Every workman.... or workwoman needs the right tools to do their craft and for crochet the main tools are crochet needles. Different weights of wool and cotton thread need different crochet needles so it's always best to have a selection of sizes to work with.  This selection of 13 needles is excellent value for money made in lightweight aluminium and clearly marked with the needle size. 

This set are colourful, lightweight and inexpensive and come in a protective wallet which helps keep them together and clean.  I bought these mainly because I wasn't sure if I was going to take to crochet and they weren't expensive and it seemed a good way to dip my toe in the water.

Reilly Studios, Leicester
Being part of a couple it's always surprisingly difficult to get pictures of yourselves together. There is always one of you behind the camera, it's a bit like that advert about mums and how you're always the pair of feet or the hand in a photo, there but never really there and as I am a keen photographer myself I am rarely in the photos myself. The only photos we have of "us" were taken at our wedding and even those were just snaps taken by the guests.  

So when dear hubby suggested a couples photo session I was in two minds about the whole idea... a) I hate myself in photos,  I never feel particularly attractive and b) someone else being in command of the camera... oh I don't think so!
We went to Reilly Studios in Leicester,  a little bit of a trek from us but still... a day out does no harm does it? Quite an unimposing building I thought until I walked inside, it might look dull from the outside but inside it was all rather glamorous, which gave me a sense of confidence.  

The staff were lovely, friendly, chatty and they made it a fun experience.   We took along three changes of clothes so we got the chance to change so that the photos had a variety of poses and outfits.  Our photographer was very encouraging and funny, he made us laugh and put us at our ease. 

All in all I am incredibly pleased with the photographs we came away with,  they were flattering and if I ever get around to writing that book I promised myself at least I have a photo to put on the back cover. 

I highly recommend Reilly Studios as a photo studio, a great day out and good value for money.

Contact Details for Reilly Studios are

Reilly Studios
Wesley House
Stockwell Head
LE10 1RD

Telephone: 01455 610782

The Happy Hooker is one of the Stitch and Bitch Crochet collection of books.  I would highly recommend this book for even the newest person to the craft of crochet with 40 original crochet patterns, all very modern and exciting including something for everyone.  My personal favourites amongst the patterns being Sweetpea Shawl, Spring in Winter a two piece hat and scarf set that is just divine, Granny's No Square, a really funky bag and Yeehaw Lady, a crocheted cowboy hat which is just the cutest thing ever!  And if the Fluffy Bunny Slippers don't make you go "awwww I want those!"  Well then.... to be frank, you need help.
What I love about this book particularly is the excellent diagrams and clear instructions on stitches, how to hold the crochet needle, equipment to use, the library of stitches .... well just about everything really, the list goes on and on.   All I can say is if you want to learn to crochet and you want to learn by producing modern up to date funky things that fit into fashion today... get this book!

I've found the most beautiful wool, it's by King Cole and it's called Riot. It's so soft and fluffy and I love love love the varities of colour that it comes in.  The wool is variagated, posh word for meaning mixed colours in no particular pattern, I love using this wool for knitting baby booties because it means no two are ever the same, the variation in colours is always a surprise. 

The particular style I've used for these booties is a very simple design which just gives the Riot wool the chance to shine.

There's some amazing colour blends available in Riot. try Yarns 4 Less who have Riot in some wonderful colourways.

Time is a very funny thing, it's a difficult concept to actually wrap one's head around,  at some points it creeps and crawls like when your child is a baby and they are teething and won't sleep for nights on end and whinge and cry all the time, time seems to mooch along at a snail's pace dragging it's feet as you beg for it to hurry up and for that period of time to be over.... please please please when will this end arrrgh.

And then other times time rushes past with the speed of light, so fast you never feel like you are catching up and that it's all getting away from you. 

Motherhood seems to be based so much on time, the passage of it, the squandering of it, the need for more of it...

And then one day you're stunned to find it's all gone by too fast and standing in front of you is the young man that once upon a time was your little baby.

Yesterday I felt that moment upon me,  my son reached his 18th birthday.  All the drama and joys and the tears that were shed over the years reached up and tapped me on the shoulder and I felt that pang... it's all gone by too fast.  My baby is a young man, ready to start his own struggle with time.

From Blog That!
An excellent knitting book for the inexperienced knitter,  the book contains 20 handknit projects all very simple in design and using very basic techniques on the whole.

You will find some slightly more challenging patterning but mostly it is in the form of embellishments and patterns.  But there are enough very simple patterns to get a new knitter started.  by the time you've completed some of the really simple ones you will feel confident enough to tackle adding the embellishments.

All of these Erika Knight designs are knitted in natural fibres, cotton yarns, bamboo, baby cashmerino.  You can substitute these for ordinary acryllic 4ply and double knitting but you need to be aware of the changes that will make in tension. So make sure you do swatch tests first.
I can't tell you how much I loved this book.   As someone descended on my father's side from the African slave trade this book really spoke to me. 

One of the things I liked was that although Ms Gregory doesn't gloss over the brutality that the slaves endured nor does she belittle it or trivialise it a the same time she doesn't dwell on it, she doesn't leave you believing that the violence and cruelty are all that the slaves are about, yes they suffered, yes they were mistreated but the book doesn't leave you with the impression of broken destroyed people who had nothing at the end of it. As people they aren't defined by the ill treatment.

In fact the book leaves you with a sense of just how strong and determined the slaves were, determined to survive, to move on and to build a new life. And for me that was a positive thing. 

I also liked that Ms Gregory shines the light on the slave trade in England, that is very often totally ignored and the concentration is usually on America,  but England did have a slave trade and made a lot of money from it before Wilberforce campaigned against it.

The gentle love story between the frustrated Francis Scott and Mahuru was I imagine supposed to be the focus of the book but I suppose because of my own history and leanings I didn't find myself getting too absorbed in it.  In some ways it was refreshing as the love story is usually supposed to be between the man and the slave girl.
I did also like the fact that the book reveals a snippet of information that a lot of English people don't realise in that people of black African origin remained in the UK after slavery was abolished and built lives, married into the population and had children here long long before the emigrations from the West Indies of the 1950's and '60's

I struggled with this book right from the very start,  I think for starters that my view was coloured by my own historical knowledge of Mary Queen of Scots.   It could also be the whole rampant Catholic thing,  I'm not a believer and therefore struggle with the concept of religious fervour.

Philippa Gregory as a writer does her best and you can't fault her historical knowledge, it's all there from Mary's early days to her disastrous return to Scotland and her imprisonment by her cousin Elizabeth all the way to her final execution.

I can't say I would recommend this book as a "must read" more of an ok if you have a few spare days you want to fritter away then fine go for it.

So what's wrong with it?  Well mostly its a history problem if anything, Mary isn't the most likeable character in history and she wouldn't have actually made a good Queen, from historical references she was a weak, vain woman who made some rather large mistakes but Ms Gregory doesn't seem to be able to make up her mind in her writing if she likes Mary at all or not either.

I also found the Earl of Shrewsbury to be a bit of a wimpy character, he slopes about mooning after Mary which seeing as he was a married man and his wife was also Mary's Gaoler made me cringe a bit in embarassment for the poor woman married to him. 

Not the best Philippa Gregory Book I've read to be honest.

Stephen King is really the writer of my youth,  he is one of the authors that whet my appetite for the written word, I started reading King novels in my early teens and when I say early  I mean 11.  I was happily working my way through Jubilee Gardens Library and had long grown out of the children's section and the librarians seeing my love of the written word very kindly allowed me into the adult section and I read voraciously.  I took home my quota of 10 books every 3 or 4 days and I read them all.  No wonder my eyesight is shot!

I think "The Stand" was my first King novel and I just fell in love, I fell in love with his writing style, with the depth of his ideas and found through his writing a love of the science fiction and horror genre's.  When asked what it is about King's work that I love so much I have to say it's the fact that what he writes about in books like The Stand and in this one Cell is the possibility that it could happen... and that in itself is the most terrifying idea of all.

The Cell is based on the premise that a virus could be transmitted by cell phone... Think about it... just for a moment, how many people have a mobile phone?  Millions? Billions?  What if an event happened that every one of those phones rang at the same moment and transmitted a virus and within hours everyone who received those calls either becomes insane or just dies?

Can you imagine that?  Can you conceive of such a thing?  

Well Stephen King does and he does it so well, so believably that it scared the living daylights out of me.   I read this book cover to cover in a matter of about 3 days and at nigh on 400 pages that's no small feat. I mean one does have to eat and feed other people.

But to me the overriding element I took away from this story was "love", the love of a man for his child, what he would go through, how far he would travel how hard he would search to find and save his son. 

This book is a must read although having said that you may never feel as comfortable answering your mobile phone again if you do read it.

I love books, anyone that has been following my blogs will know that one of my main loves in life is books. I love the way they feel, I love to be able to run my fingers over the pages and the tactile sensation of the paper. I love the slight roughness of the pages of a novel and I glory in the sensual quality of the pages in craft books, all glossy and smooth, it's a delicious sensation. I love the way a new book smells and that crinkling sound of the paper when I  turn the pages in a novel or the slight cracking sound as the spine gives way when you first open it. I adore the shushing sound of glossy pages as they give way for the first time as they slightly stick together when you pull them apart. The weight of a book in my hands is a special thing, it has substance and solidity that's so real.

So for me deciding to go paperless is a big thing,  giving up those delights in favour of being more "eco-efficient" feels like a big sacrifice. So having bought an iPad and installed the kindle apps I thought ok this is the time to bite the bullet and "do the right thing".

So imagine my annoyance when surfing through Amazon and the Apple store I find that going eco friendly is actually more expensive than continuing to purchase books the traditional way!!!! 

I don't actually get it,  it does not compute in my head.  I will, by buying digitally, no longer have a beloved book in my hands,  I will not be using paper, not killing a tree, not contributing to the carbon footprint of the "book" so why then should I pay more for the privilege?

Perhaps I was foolish in thinking that it would be cheaper to buy digitally as it has been in the case of music but it's not. At least with a traditional book it is possible to share the book or sell it on or give it away... This isn't possible with digital versions.   

So for the time being I think as eco unfriendly as it may be I will stick to buying my books in paper format. I don't see why I should give up the pleasure I find in real books if there isn't even the incentive of saving money. 

Rant concluded :)

Barbara Erskine is another favourite author of mine, I have enjoyed all of her books that I've read to date,  I like the way she managed to meld the modern day in with her historical fiction, time slipping between the two time periods.

In Daughters of Fire, Ms Erskine tells the story of two women, Cartimandua the young woman destined to lead her tribe, the Brigantes in Britain at the time of the Roman invasion of the islands and Viv Lloyd Rees who in the modern day is studying the history of Cartimandua and the Brigantes.

I did like the twists the story took and also the almost magical element that Ms Erskine injects with Viv having more and more detailed visions of Cartimandua and her life.   The premises melds the two worlds almost into one and it does feel like Viv is taking part in Cartimandua's life and world.

I did find myself taking sides with both Viv and Cartimandua, they're characters are so strong and vivid I couldn't seem to help myself but it did leave me feeling a loathing with some of the people who were trying to cause problems for them.

All in all it was a great book, thoroughly enjoyable and well worth a read.  It's definitely not Tolstoi but if you're like me and find him quite hard work to read then it's a bonus!

What can I saw that Stargate Universe had been cancelled I have to admit to mixed emotions... on the one hand I didn't enjoy the franchise as much as I had hoped I would.   Whilst it had the Stargate branding and the premise of gate travel was there underpinning the stories, that was about it.   The series promised much with big headliners like Lou Diamond Phillips and Robert Carlisle heading the bill it was promising to be a fantastic series but it got off to a really slow start, the whole of the first season was just warming up and getting to the meat of the story when it came to an end. 

I've found myself waiting and waiting and waiting..... you get the picture for the series to kind of get off the ground and to be frank... it hasn't.  So I am not really surprised that it's been cancelled.  

So what was wrong with Stargate Universe?  Why didn't it work for me?  Well it's quite a few things actually,  the whole premise of these people being trapped on a ship travelling through space with the odd drop off to investigate a planet was fine, definitely down with that, sounded exciting but the reality was the writers missed a trick, the planets were dull, most of them deserted, very little in the way of sentient life and just the odd dodgy creature that was more insectlike than anything else. 

Now I recognise this is probably the reality of what space is like, there probably is very little out there that would be of interest but that kind of doesn't work on television and isn't going to keep viewers watching. Sometimes honesty is a little too dull in truth.
So what else bugged me?  Well actually it was the lack of progress of the actual story,  we never seemed to find out why this bunch of aliens were following the Destiny or why the drones were lying in wait to try and blow the ship out of the sky.  We also never found out where Destiny was actually going.   I think it was this lack of actual destiny that was part of the problem,  we weren't given enough breadcrumbs to keep the story interesting or in the end even to care where the Destiny was going.

The final episode has to be the most disappointing of all, now whether they knew that the franchise had been cancelled or not when they made it I don't know but the last programme was either made with the intentions of making another season or it was just a throw away, we don't really care about being fair to the viewers because it did nothing to either progress the story or answer any questions.  Ending as it does with Eli standing alone on the bridge of the Destiny as she flies off into the darkness of space.

Errrr.... What?  There's nothing, no answers to any of the questions that have been raised throughout the whole thing...  it just stops! That's it! Finis! End! Goodbye!

A thoroughly disappointing let down. 
Who knew that those sticky little squares that are stuck on the corners of all those letters and cards that come through your door every day could be so valuable. PreemiesUK take donations of stamps and sell them to make money to purchase wool and other materials to make tiny baby items which are then donated to Early Baby Units all over the country.

Tiny early babies need to be kept warm but their turnover of clothing is really high, all of the items have to be soft, warm but also have to be washed at very high temperatures for hygiene reasons so they don't last long in a hospital setting.

So take a pile of these.... 

and trade them in for some of this....

and then create lots and lots of these....

To keep delicate new lives warm and cosy when they are at their most vulnerable and need the most loving care. 

All this work is done by the lovely volunteer ladies at PreemiesUK just because they can! 

And you can help just by sending your donations of stamps or wool, buttons, ribbon and fabric to:
138 Farmers Green

If you want to offer help with knitting tiny items that is welcome as well, knitters, crocheters and sewers are all helpful and welcome,  more information about PreemiesUK can be found on their FB page just click on the link PreemiesUK Facebook Page
Technology is such a cool ting, every time i turn around there is something new out there! I love my iPad so much it is now the one thing i don't leave the house without... Ok that's a lie... I don't leave the houae without quite a few things if I am honest, keys, phone, purse etc are kind of essential, unless you want to be locked out of your home with no way of telling anyone whi could rescue you what a numbnut you have been for leaving without your keys and phone... But I do leave the house with a lot less "stuff". For instance, i don't need to carry a book anymore (that was an essential for me) Nor do i have to carry a calculator or a pen and paper. I have entertainment in the form of games at my fingertips and I can even sit and draw a picture if I want to or take a photograph and manipulate it on the go!

If we are out with the kids we can keep them entertained with stories and games and workwise... There are apps for every kind of function you can imagine so I can just pick up my IPad and work anywhere, be that in the car, waiting outside school on the school run or sitting under a tree on a nice day.

So whilst I did think the IPad was the ultimate geek toy when it first came out, I have been converted even down to having Facetime calls with the other half when he is away on work trips. It's official I am a geek!

- LisaP


I was really looking forward to reading this book,   I finished The White Queen, the previous book to this one and had enjoyed it, even if I did find some of the airy fairy witchcraftery a bit repetitive... but I am a Philippa Gregory fan on the whole, the relaxed historical fiction usually has enough historical fact and attention to detail as well as just enough fiction to make it enjoyable.

But I have to admit The Red Queen was a struggle for me,  it's not Ms Gregory's writing... or maybe it is but I found the main character Margaret Beaufort really hard work.  The story follows exactly the same events of history as The White Queen but from the other side of the battle and that part of the idea was really interesting, seeing just how "right" both sides think they were and how actually they both claimed to be fighting for exactly the same thing and both claiming that it was "gods will".  

For me the big question there is... who is to say what exactly God's will is and how do they know???    It must be a very comforting to be so convinced that you know what God wants.

The book follows Margaret Beauforts life from her earliest childhood where from the very earliest time in her life it is made clear to her that she is merely a pawn in the political games of others and that she in and of herself is of very little value apart from her station in life and her only task is to produce a male heir for the House of Lancaster. 

I don't suppose I should be surprised that this unwanted unloved child found her only comfort in her religious beliefs and being that pious should have made her likeable... but it doesn't. Throughout the book I found her bitter and jealous, vengeful and filled with venal pride, all of which she tries to say is God's will.  She spends most of her life on her knees praying and yet doesn't seem to recognise that the way she behaves and her vengence and jealousy are sinful! There were times that I found myself flinging the book down and muttering "what a hypocrite".

By the end of the book I actively disliked the woman, which is a shame as I didn't want to.  But in some ways that's not a bad thing, the whole point of a story is to get across the characters that are being written about and in this case Ms Gregory nailed it if what she intended was to make Margaret Beaufort out to be an angry, bitter, jealous, spite filled woman whose whole life was an endless stream of disappointments.

I am a massive fan of one pot dinners.  Having teenage boys means needing to provide hearty and when I say hearty I mean hearty meals, they eat like it is going out of fashion!  And teenage boy cannot live on cereal alone, although they would certainly like to try... and do seem to be trying to prove that they can.

One of my favourite one pot meals is what we call Army Rations,  it's not particularly glamorous to look at but it's very tasty and filling and you can make lots of it for quite a low price tag.... got to be a good thing in this economy.

You will need:

500g Minced Beef
1 Large Onion or 2 small ones
1 Beef Oxo Cube
1/2 pint of Beef gravy
1/2 bag of 1kg Mixed Frozen Veg
Use a deep frying pan or a large pot for this, it starts off looking small but volume will increase hugely so you need the extra cooking space. 

Chop your onion and fry it to soften it in a touch of olive or vegetable oil and once the onion is soft and golden add the minced beef to brown it.   Add your oxo cube and stir.  

Once the beef is browned, add your seasoning,  a little salt, lots of ground pepper and I like to chuck in a couple of slugs of Worcestershire Sauce. You could also pop in some ground chilli if you like a bit of heat in your food.   Now put in half a bag of mixed frozen veg,  brand is unimportant, pick what you personally like, my personal favourite is the farmhouse style with broccoli and cauliflower in it. 

Stir the veg in and add your 1/2 pint of gravy, turn the heat down low pop a lid on and let it simmer away for 20 minutes. if you find you want more gravy you can always add more just before serving.
You can have this on its own or with lots of crusty bread or you can serve it with rice and my boys particular favourite with pasta.

Sounds like the beginning of a really funny joke doesn't it?  Well it's not. It's not funny and it's certainly no joke. A few years back a talented young South African athlete by the name of Caster Semenya was dragged into fame in a really unpleasant way, instead of being praised and made famous around the world for her talent... running and my word can she run! She was dragged into the limelight because some saddo's at the IAAF decided that she possibly wasn't a female at all.

Now once upon a time knowing what sex you were was a very simple thing, if you had testicles and a penis ... simple, you're a man,  if you have ovaries, boobs and a vagina then you're a woman... it's a given!  Although granted there are some men who have the testicles, the penis and a set of impressive boobs as well  but they are still men. Yes?   Well apparently this is no longer the case.  Now it seems you can have the requisite bits and pieces that are indicative of your sex and yet still have some smart alec stand up and say "ooooh no you're not that because you have too many hormones."

What???? hormones?  When did hormones come into it?  When did all these other "tests" become essential to decide what sex we are?  I have polycystic ovaries and therefore I have too much testosterone in my blood and hair in places that men get hair... does that make me a man?  Well if it does I should be rich then cos I already am the first man to have a baby by about 18 years!

What has been even more irritating in this particular situation is not only did the IAAF keep Caster out of athletics for 8 months whilst they decided amongst them whether or not she was a woman but they only backed off when a court case loomed.  Good on you Caster for standing your ground say I.

The IAAF didn't in the end give in to common sense or science that Caster is a woman, no the real reason they found in her favour and finally let her compete again was because if they had been taken to court their testing policy would not only have been legally tested but it would also have opened the door to them being challenged by all the other athletes they still have hanging around in limbo.

Let's be clear here without science there would not even be a question of what makes a man a man and a woman a woman... if you have female sexual organs, you're a bird, enough said.

So I guess the punchline to the joke... When is a Woman not a Woman?   Has to be... When you're a woman good at something that men feel threatened by. 

Still not funny is it...