Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Hello - still here!

Sorry I've been off grid for a while. Seem to be in a bit of a 'fug'. Once I get myself out of it, I'll start posting regularly again :)

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas :)

Meanwhile, I wanted to post this picture of a gift I made for my daughter's American host family who have been very kind to her. Of course I couldn't post it earlier in case they saw it!

I got the idea from an item I had seen in a lovely little gift shop in Brixham. I'd love to say who the original artist was, but I didn't write the name down - I would be happy to credit the artist if anyone knows their name. It was such a lovely idea - simple yet very effective. 
The pebbles came from Cowes beach on our visit to the Isle of Wight. I bought the box frame online.

I was very pleased with the effect and the family seemed to like it too :) 

Back very soon and here's wishing you all a healthy, happy and simple 2016 x 

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Vegan truffles

I like to make my own truffles each year, often to give as gifts. I thought I'd try vegan ones this year so my eldest doesn't miss out.

400g vegan dark chocolate
1 400g can coconut milk (I used the reduced fat)
1 large tablespoon coconut oil
I tsp vanilla essence
Dried cranberries (optional)
Chopped pecans (optional)

Cocoa powder, chopped nuts and/or desiccated coconut to decorate

Sorry - terrible photo! 

Melt the chocolate with the coconut milk, coconut oil and vanilla essence in a pan over a gentle heat until everything is melted and fully combined.

Add in the cranberries and pecans if using.

Pour into a shallow container and pop in the fridge for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, to set.

Arrange your chosen coatings on plates. Using two teaspoons roll up small balls of the truffle mixture and roll in the coating. I found the mixture to be very soft so had to use utensils rather than rolling them by hand. Put on a tray lined with greaseproof. Once you have completed all the rolling and coating, pop the tray back in the fridge for a few hours. The above recipe makes approximately 30 sensible sized truffles.

As you can see they are mostly misshapen due to how soft they were. My youngest daughter informed me it really didn't matter :) I guess you could partially freeze them, then neaten up the shape before freezing them fully? 

These can be frozen at this stage (which is what I have done).  They make fantastic gifts whether you are vegan or not. They are also GF (making absolutely sure that the chocolate you use is GF - not all are!)

Friday, 18 December 2015


I know many of you will have watched it and many of you will no doubt mention it, but I was quite literally rendered speechless last night..... Yes, you've guessed it, the christmas food and drink spend on last nights's Eat Well for Less. I turned on the TV at exactly the point where they were told how much they spend. £1400!!!!!!! I know I said I was trying to cut down on exclamation marks, but it's a sign of how long it took me to shut my gaping mouth and find words to express how horrified I was. I mean, they saved them £860 for heaven's sake. I don't spend anywhere near £860 to begin with and I'm quite sure none of you do either. I do spend a little extra than my normal months shopping, but I would guess at a maximum of £50 over. I am still within my normal months budget at this point but still have the veg and Turkey to pay for, plus the odd extra thing we may need/run out of. Might I also add that my Christmas menu last the whole week because I always plan a week's food shop, so it's it just two days like theirs was! AND that includes my dinner party food from Wednesday.
I know they pick extremes for the show, but really?!

Mr D breaks up today so then we can really start our Christmas holidays. The youngest two broke up yesterday so I don't imagine I'll see them until lunchtime and my eldest arrives home for the fortnight this evening. Sadly my other daughter will be spending her Chrstmas in the States, but I'm sure she'll have a wonderful time experiencing a proper family american christmas and her little charges will be thrilled to have her there no doubt!

I'm starting to get excited .... :)

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Dinner party food

Thank you to everyone who liked my first pottery attempt. I'm hoping there may be more to come yet!

We had some old friends over for dinner last night whom we haven't seen in ages, so I wanted to push the boat out food wise.

This was the menu :-
Smoked salmon and prawns with horseradish cream and lime vinaigrette
Pan fried venison served with sloe gin and blackberry sauce with celeriac gratin dauphinois and roasted cherry tomatoes
Oreo lime cheesecake

I tried to make it so there was minimum fuss when they had arrived as the kitchen and dining room are open plan. Both the starter, which was more of an assembly job, and the pudding were made in advance and of course the gratin and tomatoes were sitting happily in the oven.

The starter is a small layer of smoked salmon topped with large prawns. You then have a little crème fraîche mixed with horseradish, followed by leaves dressed in a mixture of honey, lime juice and ginger. Very easy and light to eat.

The puddings I made with an Oreo biscuit base, the cream cheese, cream, lime zest, lime juice and a little sugar. The whole thing was topped off with a thin layer of lime jelly. Whilst it was of course sweet, the intenseness of the lime was quite refreshing.

Stupidly I forgot to photograph the main event!! Too busy serving it. I had made little individual gratin dauphinois, layering home grown celeriac with potato in a shallow dish, then pouring over thinned (with water) crème fraîche which had been flavoured with grainy mustard, a little garlic and lots of pepper. This was topped with a little grated cheese before going in the oven. The sauce for the venison was made by frying off a little bacon, then adding about 200ml of sloe gin (my own), crushed juniper berries and blackberries ( from the freezer). This was cooked, liquidised and then simmered until reduced by about half. It was intense and fruity and was a great partner for the venison, which I had rubbed in oil, salt and pepper and dried thyme before pan frying for about 3 minutes each side. 
I was very pleased with the overall balance of the meal and whilst it wasn't exactly frugal eating, it was certainly a lot cheaper than eating out at a restaurant! 

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

My first attempt at pottery

Those of you who read regularly (thank you :)) may remember me mentioning that a friend of mine had offered me the chance to try my hand at making a pottery poppy seed head. It took us a while to coordinate a suitable time, but I am finally able to show you my first ever attempt at making something from clay.

The initial shape. In retrospect, it probably should have been more bulbous, but .....

The top section

Assembled together and decorated

A close up before going off to be dried before glazing and firing 

I was surprised at the glazing paints as they don't look anything like the colours they end up as once fired. If I hadn't been able to refer to a paint chart on the laptop, I wouldn't have known at all! As blue is my favourite colour, that's what I went for of course. Multiple coats later, the pot was ready to be fired in my friend's  kiln in her garage. (I know, how lucky is she!) 

And here is the final result ready to be popped onto a metal pole and 'planted' in my garden. Ideally, I have another two as these things always look best in groups of three..... 

 I'm really pleased with the results and of  course I now want another go! 

Saturday, 12 December 2015

My answers to Mamma Pea's questions

Following on from Dawn's post on Doing it for Ourselves who is responding to Mamma Pea asking bloggers to join in with her questions.
These are my answers :) 
1)  Do you like blue cheese?
      Not much, but I would eat a little.

2)  Have you ever smoked?
      Yes when I was in my late teens and early twenties, but now I would hate it

3)  Do you own a gun?  
No, although we do have a BB gun confiscated off a kid in school! 
4)  What flavor of Kool Aid is your favorite?
     I never drink fizzy drinks unless it's champagne! Ooh, hark at me sounding all 'princess'! I'm just not a fan of fizzy drinks. 

5)  Do you get nervous before dental appointments?
     No fortunately

6)  What do you think of hot dogs?
     Disgusting - I loathe frankfurters - smell, colour, texture, taste :( 

7)  What's your favorite Christmas movie?
      The Holiday

8)  What do you prefer to drink in the morning?

9)  Can you do push-ups?
      No too much of a weakling :( 

10)  What's your favorite piece of jewelry?
        I very rarely wear it, but I do have a few pieces I like. I prefer silver to gold.

11)  What's your favorite hobby?
        I like creating whether that is craft projects or food

12)  Do you have A.D.D.?

13)  Do you wear glasses or contacts?

14)  What's your middle name?

15)  What are your thoughts at this moment?
        I probably have lots of jobs I should be doing.....

16)  Name 3 drinks you regularly consume.
        Tea, water and wine 

17)  What is a current worry of yours?
        That I will somehow miss out on my dream because I've left it too late 

18)  What do you currently hate?
        People who do not do what they have said they will or don't do their jobs properly.

19)  Where is your favorite place to be?
        Home is my favourite place to be 

20)  What do you plan on doing on New Year's Eve this year?
    Celebrating with my family and friends, having had a wonderful meal, played some silly games and laughed a lot

21)  To where would you like to travel?
        Italy and a remote Scottish island hideaway 

22)  Name three people you think will do this questionnaire on their
      Whoever does, I'll be interested to read it :) 

23)  Do you own slippers?
        Yes but I can't wear them due to the plantar fasciitis 

24)  What color shirt are you wearing?
        Navy T  shirt 

25)  Do you like sleeping on satin sheets?
        No cotton every time for me 

26)  Can you whistle?
       Not really 

27)  What is your favorite color?
        Blues And white 

28)  What songs do you sing in the shower?
        Thankfully no I don't sing. I like to use the time to reflect 

29)  Would you be a pirate?
        No I get sea sick 

30)  What's in your pocket right now?
        Mobile phone, tissue and a dog poo  bag 
31)  What's the last thing that made you laugh?
         Watching Michael McIntyre on Netflix last night whilst babysitting a friend's children 

32)  What vehicle do you drive?
         An aged Peugeot 806. The gearstick is stuck together with parcel tape, but I love that car and it drives well 

33)  What's the worst injury you've ever had?
        Dislocated neck meaning I had to wear a neck brace for months 

34)  Do you love where you live?
        My home, yes, my surroundings, sometimes, my view, not so much 

35)  Would you change your first name if you could?
        No, my birth mother gave me the name Juliette and my adoptive parents gave me my middle name.

Will you copy and paste and have a go too? 

Friday, 11 December 2015

Bucket list

I've never written a bucket list before, which is surprising for someone like me who is always looking to the future for new things to do and new ways to live! For some reason today, the thought popped into my head so I started jotting down a few ideas. I found it surprisingly tricky actually. I suspect I was holding myself back from writing some things, knowing that they would be difficult to achieve or unlikely to happen, but of course the whole point of a bucket list is that it is inspirational or indeed aspirational. I haven't set myself a time frame yet either.

1. Visit Italy
2. Go on a hot air balloon ride
3. Move house
4. Sell something I have made myself
5. Make a quilt
6. Knit/crotchet a blanket
7. Go back to the Maldives
8. Make my own cheese/butter
9. Walk the entire Thames Path
10. Holiday in a canal boat
11. Visit Harrogate
12. Visit Scotland
13. Visit Ireland including Dublin
14. Plant and orchard and fruit garden
15. Make a willow basket
16. Throw a pot (in a potters wheel way, rather than in a tantrum!)
17. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
18. Start up yoga again
19. Visit Boston in the Fall
20. Catch my own fish, cook it and eat it outdoors
21. Cuddle a monkey (orangutan ideally, but any monkey would do)
22. Milk a goat
23. Finish the family tree
24. Make my own fresh pasta
25. Bid for something at an auction
26. Eat lobster
27. Donate blood
28. Have a go at archery
29. Sleep in a tree house
30. Feed lambs
31. Learn ballroom dancing
32. Make a huge free form paint canvas
33. Learn to crotchet

Well that's it so far. It is far from exhaustive and I'm sure I'll add to it as I think of more places I'd like to visit, but it's a start. Now I need to work out how to make a separate page in the blog so I can store it for my reference!

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Celebrating diversity

No I haven't suddenly decided to follow recent government advice to promote diversity and tolerance!

However, it is something that is close to my heart. I have been blessed in my life to have been able to get to know people of many faiths and different backgrounds. For one who doesn't exactly lead a cosmopolitan lifestyle, I am still surrounded by an eclectic group of friends and family. We many of us share similar values, as you might expect from a group of loved ones, but we do not all share the same opinions or belief sets. My life is all the richer for this variety and it has helped shape the person I am today.

The blogs that I enjoy reading reflect this. I generally read blogs written by people who have a similar outlook on life, BUT they are written from different standpoints. Some are living the life, some still aspiring to it. Some live a simpler life in a rural setting, some in an urban one. Some live this way because they have to, some because it's a lifestyle choice. Some bloggers are younger, some have graced this earth a while longer. I am grateful for the fascinating insight into so many people's daily lives and relish my daily dose of blog reading. I don't always agree with what is written, but I am always interested to read it.

I, for one, am very pleased to be able to celebrate the diversity available to me through a few taps of the keys. It has supported me, nourished me, informed me and entertained me over the last 18 months. I feel as if I know some of you, though of course I don't - please keep blogging and I will keep reading and commenting where appropriate or relevant.

Thank heavens for diversity - life would be incredibly dull without it x

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Shiny kettle

Quite some time ago, my electric kettle started leaking, so I resorted to my stove top one. I love it! There's nothing cosier than popping the kettle on the stove and waiting for it to whistle. It takes quite a bit longer than an electric kettle, but I like the fact that I have to wait. In fact, in the mornings, Mr D can pop the kettle on, then take a quick shower and get dressed before it's boiled!
As you can imagine, it gets a lot of use and I was a little ashamed this week when I noticed just how filthy it was!


So out came the bicarbonate of soda, made into a thick paste with warm water and rubbed on to the kettle. A LOT of elbow grease later, I now have a shiny kettle again. I scrubbed out the inside too, so it's just like new again :)


I might just have to have a cuppa now to celebrate.

I've decided to give myself a mini makeover this morning, so I'm dying my hair - say a temporary goodbye to the badger stripe - and then a doing a pedicure and manicure. I very rarely pamper myself so it will be a nice treat. Especially seeing as my back feels trampled on - physio again yesterday. You'd think she may have spotted that my fists were clamped and I had stopped breathing and eased off a little?!

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Christmas is a time for memories

I went through Mum's Christmas decorations last time I was in Devon and quite frankly there wasn't much worth keeping. She had bought a few newer ones in the sale at Dartington Hall which matched the ones I had bought in the same sale, so they were brought back for the tree we have in the back room, but of the original decorations, they were all looking a bit tatty and you couldn't even redeem them by describing them as 'retro' or 'vintage'!

But this little fellow just had to come home with me. He was one of my dad's favourites, so he is now hanging happily on my tree (real) in the lounge. [We also have a tree (artificial) in the dining/living/kitchen room, which is themed blue and silver and a small tree (also artificial) upstairs.....]
He brings back lots of happy memories of hanging him on the tree at home, so I shall treasure him. I'm guessing he is well over 50 years old.
When my Dad passed away almost 11 years ago, I bought three little hedgehogs (his favourite animal) and every year I think of him as I hang one hedgehog from me, one from my brother and one from Mum. It's a sad moment, but also illicits wonderfully happy memories of dad too.

I've also decanted the slow gin and arancello. I've decorated the labels with little drawings of sloes or oranges, although the oranges look more like a cross between a strawberry and a tomato. 

I obviously had a little snifter of each one before decanting just to check of course. The sloe gin was very warming and the Arancello was yummy too, but really needs to be served from the deepfreeze to deliver its best flavour. They won't all be given as gifts, but it's good to have some labelled bottles around at this time of year as last minute presents for unexpected visitors if needed :) 

The warm feeling inside from drinking the sloe gin was soon accompanied by a warm feeling outside....I had made myself a hot water bottle for my back ache. Unfortunately it developed a significant hole, so all of a sudden I was aware of a rather warm and very wet bottom!! I'm so pleased it didn't happen in the bed.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Distinct lack of Zen

I'm not sure if it's the frequent, frustrating-in-the-extreme phone calls to insurance and various related imbeciles (sorry but so far, the service we have received has been pretty poor) or whether it's the lingering aches and pains from the accident added to the, as yet uncured, plantar fasciitis, OR whether it's the fact that this is the first Christmas without my mother and without all my 'chicks in the nest' .....but I cannot seem to grasp hold of my positive spirit.

I'm pretty much in control of the small stuff - the house is decorated and looking lovely; the presents are bought and mostly wrapped; the Christmas week menu is planned and I'm ready for guests and visiting family. The things that need to get done are getting done.

The area that I'm struggling with is me - I don't seem to be able to gain any meaningful control over my life and where it's going, or my general health. I'm supposed to be eating a diet to lower my cholesterol, I'm supposed to be losing weight, I'm supposed to be spending more time outside; I'm supposed to be meditating etc etc...

So why can I manage the small stuff, but am steadfastly ignoring the really important things?!!! Sometimes, I really frustrate myself!

Perhaps the New Year will spur me on? Something needs to come and kick me up the behind quite frankly.....

Friday, 4 December 2015

A new bed for Jet

I saw this on Facebook today and it made me smile :) 

I can only assume that Jet had been allowed to sleep on the settee in his previous home as, on arrival at ours, he immediately adopted the settee in the back room as his bed! It's an old settee, so I covered it with blankets and allowed him his comfort.

However, when he has his ops, he won't be alowed to jump up on to the settee, so he will need a suitable replacement place to lay his weary body. I was horrified at the price of dog beds - £40! - especially as he will no doubt go back to the settee as soon as he is able and I don't really have space for a large dog bed.

I had brought back a decent single duvet from Mum's house to replace my son's duvet which seemed to have lost its oomph. So I hatched a plan to turn the old duvet into a dog bed. I folded the long sides into the middle and sewed them together. I then folded the long rectangle in half again to make a smaller rectangle. I put it on the floor to fold and Jet immediately came and laid on it! Not helpful to me at all, but a good sign :)

This didn't make sewing the seems together any easier! 

Once I had sewn all the seems together, I set about making a cover for it out of an old single duvet cover which I had also brought back from Mum's. And there you have it, a brand new comfy dog bed for absolutely no cost and it's saved the duvet from being relegated to landfill.

Probably a bit more floral than Jet would have chosen .....

...... But it doesn't seem to have put him off! 

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Totally unnecessary spend

I had my physio yesterday morning. She was such a quietly spoken, lovely young lady, but once she had me face down and vulnerable, she was tough and fierce!! Today, I feel as if I've been kicked in the back, but I'm sure it will sort it out over time.....

After that, I decided to treat myself....

I've been wanting a tattoo like this one for a while. I have two other small ones, one on my ankle and another well hidden (!). I know it's a totally unnecessary expenditure and one which certainly won't appeal to everyone, but I don't buy clothes, makeup, toiletries other than the basics, jewellery, magazines or have any expensive hobbies, so I treated myself :) 
It also hurt A LOT less than the physio! 

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Vegetable chowder

I have a repertoire of soups that I make quite regularly, but the other day I fancied a change. Generally I liquidise the soups, but I do also like chunks of veg so this appealed.

3 medium potatoes cut into small dice (I don't bother peeling - just wash well)
2 carrots cut into similar sized dice (I don't peel these either)
2 sticks celery, finely sliced
1 onion, finely chopped (I do peel this one!)
A handful of frozen peas
1 small can of sweetcorn, or handful of frozen
Any combo of fresh or dried herbs
Vegetable stock
About 25g butter (or non dairy alternative)
2 tbsp flour (GF would work well here)
250ml milk (soy milk works fine here)
Grated cheddar (optional)

Cook the diced veg in a large pan, just covered in vegetable stock, until they are tender. Meanwhile, in a small pan, melt the butter, add the flour and stir. After about 1 min, slowly whisk in the milk until you have a thick 'sauce'. If you are using cheese, add to the pan and stir until melted. Mix this white sauce into the vegetables and stock and warm though. If it's too thick, just add a little extra water. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. I don't add salt because I used a stock cube. Obviously, you could add any vegetables you like or have to hand. I guess you could also stir in some chopped ham or chicken.
I did add cheese to mine but only a little extra strong cheddar - a little goes a long way when you get the punchy stuff!

On a completely separate note .... I was totally insensed yesterday. As you'll know, we had a small car accident a few weeks ago - completely not our fault and the other side has accepted liability. The car was written off. We have received money for the car, under the market value but marginally better than we had thought we'd get, but then they take off the excess - £210. I paid for the car insurance for the year back on 6 September and when I had called the insurance company last week, I had been told not to worry cancelling because it would be done automatically when the car was scrapped. I presumed therefore I would get around £400 refund on the insurance....no, not a bloody penny of my premium comes back to me because the car was written off. What the heck is that all about?!!!? I was so mad I had to hang up before I completely lost the plot. I haven't given up in arguing the point or finding some way to get all of the money back because I DO NOT see why I should be left out of pocket. I fail to see how they can argue why I shouldn't get a refund. What are they using my insurance money for? If anyone can enlighten me, I'd be very grateful.

Still, at least I'm getting long awaited physio on my neck and back this morning, so I should feel better about that at least :)