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 :)

Monday, 30 November 2015

Home made bath salts

I hadn't realised just how easy these are to make, but really I was pleasantly surprised and now I know, I will experiment with other 'flavours'. I have begun with lavender as I had dried lavender from the garden and lavender essential oil, so it seemed like a good starting point!

Mix 300g of citric acid (available online) with 150g of cornflour and 450g of bicarbonate of soda in a large plastic or glass bowl. Spritz this with water mixed with about 20 drops of the essential oil and stir together with a wooden spoon. When it becomes a dry, fine rubble, stir in the dried lavender. Decant into clean pretty jars and decorate with ribbon and add labels. They would look great with old fashioned teaspoons or little wooden scoops tied on, but I don't have any. This amount of ingredients filled these three jars, although as the ingredients interact with one another, the contents shrink down somewhat.

I have some bath bombe moulds from a previous kit, but I fancied the idea of the pots of bath salts (and it's a lot less faff!). You could also decant the salts into pretty muslin bags which can be tied under the tap to provide a soapy, sweet smelling addition as you run the bath.

Mr D and I have completed all the present shopping this weekend. We have Christmas and two children's Birthdays (in December and January) pretty much wrapped up (figuratively speaking at this stage). We were like a swat team descending on the shops armed with list, bags and a clear plan of action. Saturday morning saw us pretty much finished, but we had just a few items left, so they were dealt with on the Sunday along with the month's toiletry/cleaning shopping from Home Bargains (all bought for under £20); another upcoming Birthday present and the week's food shop. We were back home by 12.45 having left at 11. Neither of us like shopping at the best of times, but tackling it head on certainly made it more bearable! I also feel that not having any time to browse, helps keep the cost down too!

Of course many of my presents are home made, but I can't imagine ever being in a position to only give home made gifts at Christmas, so there will always be shopping to be done. I can now concentrate on the food element of Christmas - something which I find much more appealing!!

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Sausage plait

The cold weather makes me long for comfort food and anything with pastry counts as far as I'm concerned! I used to make sausage plait quite regularly and serve it with hot veg, peas and sweetcorn, baked beans or salad. Obviously it is neither GF or vegan!

Served here with a mixed green salad, new potato salad and homemade coleslaw.

I use ready made pastry, but feel free to make your own shortcrust. You could also use flaky pastry I guess. I roll it out to a wide rectangle.
The filling is made up of sausagemeat mixed with a combination of herbs and other flavours. I used small chunks of apple (from my stock in the deepfreeze), half a red onion finely chopped, fresh sage and thyme from the garden and approximately 2 tablespoons of my green tomato chutney from last year. Add salt and pepper if you choose. Mix well until thoroughly combined.
Spread the filling down the centre of the pastry, which I have laid on a lightly greased baking sheet. Make horizontal slices along each empty side piece of pastry and then lay each thin section, alternating sides, across the middle to encase the filling. Stick down with a finger dipped in water. For a nice finish glaze with a beaten egg (as you can see I forgot!)
Cook in a hot oven - about 190c for approximately 35 to 40 minutes.

Before cooking. Please don't judge me on the state of my baking sheet. I know I need to invest in some new ones!! 

Serve in slices with a mixture of salads as I did, or your favourite veg. It's tasty cold the following day too. It certainly worked to warm me up on a chilly Sunday :)

Monday, 23 November 2015

The battle of the comb

Every day, at least once a day and sometimes twice, I pick up Mr D's comb from the top of the bathroom cabinet and put it back IN the bathroom cabinet on the top shelf, where it lives. It's a silent, unspoken (until now) battle! A battle, I suspect Mr D is totally unaware of. You have to wonder when he gets the comb out of the cupboard every time he needs to use it, if he actually thinks to himself "Ha ha, I'm going to wind her up and leave it on top of the cupboard, a full two inches away from where it should live" ...... I'm guessing that's not the case and really it's a matter of absentmindedness or possibly laziness, or maybe he actually thinks the comb lives on top of the cabinet?
The battle will no doubt continue on ad infinitum - just one of those things you come across when you share your living space with others. Nothing big, nothing important, just a daily reminder that I am lucky enough to be sharing my home with the lovely Mr D - even if he can't remember where his comb should live!!......
It's a similar battle to the one with the kids who leave things for the dishwasher next to the dishwasher rather than in it .......
I expect there will be many of you out there with experience of those mini power battles around the home?

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Breakfast muffins

I saw this natty little recipe on Facebook the other day, so we thought we'd give it a go.

Cut a circle of bread from a slice with a pastry cutter. I found I could get two circles from each slice. (The leftovers can either be made into breadcrumbs or given to the chucks as a treat). Place the circle in the bottom of a non stick muffin pan. If you like, sprinkle a little grated cheese on the bread. Place a rasher of cooked streaky bacon around the edge of each muffin hole to form a collar. I used smoked, but it's up to you. It does have to be streaky though, not normal bacon. Then crack an egg into the hole. Grind some salt and pepper on top and cook in the oven at 180c until the egg is lightly set. Finally, top with some shipped chives and serve.

Yummy, a bit different and quite a nice treat for breakfast.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Pyrograph craft

Last Christmas, I was given a pyrograph pen from Mum. Last Easter, whilst on holiday on the Gower, we picked up a small log from the farm where they had been chopping down hedging. Eight slices have been cut from the log, a hole has been drilled in the top of each for ribbon. In keeping with the natural look of the log slices, I have chosen to do a fir/snowflake type of design, drawn freehand with the pen.
It's actually a really easy thing to do. The pen came with loads of different tips, which I will have to play around with.
I'm quite pleased with the results and of course (apart from the cost of the pen which was a gift) completely free! I'm now on the look out for another suitable log to make some more.

I have an ironing mat which is heatproof, so I laid that underneath as a precaution. The pen did get quite hot to hold after doing about 4 slices. 

I can't quite decide on which ribbon to use. The ideal ribbon would be those bits you get on clothes to help hang them with, but I must have used them up. 

On a completely different note, Mr D cooked a fantastic roast chicken dinner for our guests on Saturday night, so I boiled up the carcass to make stock and pick over the bones for dinners for jet.
Every morning I invite Jet out to help me with the chickens. He seems to really like sniffing their feathery bottoms ...... They don't seem to mind either. But I had to laugh yesterday when I asked him if he wanted his chicken dinner - he got sooooo excited - I could possibly be giving him mixed messages?!! 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015


This is my airing cupboard ceiling ......

Yesterday I was cleaning downstairs and heard a noise. Had no idea what it was, went upstairs to investigate, only to find that a large chunk of the airing cupboard ceiling had collapsed into the cupboard. Bum, bum, bum!
As you can see, it's lathe and plaster so will be a nightmare to deal with. They are so fragile and so filthy - 85 years of dust and filth up there just waiting to collapse further.

On the plus side, I had already put away all the clean washing from in there earlier that morning.

I can feel a trip through YouTube videos entitled "Repairing a lathe and plaster ceiling" coming on!

I'm beginning to think someone's got it in for me! 😁

Monday, 16 November 2015

Poor boy!

He could be one of the Bratpack? 

We had a meeting with the vet on Saturday to talk through the results. Jet has dysplasia in both of his elbows, but in the right on, part of the bone has broken off. He will have to have an operation on both elbows, six months apart, starting with the right one. In the right side, the orthopaedic surgeon will place metal plates to realign the joint so the stress is better distributed across the three bones in his elbow. It will be a six week recovery period where Jet will have to be in one room, only being allowed into the garden on a lead to do the necessary. The vet talked about a cage, but psychologically that wouldn't work do any of us and we don't have a cage or the room to put one.

Sporting the country gent look, complete with teddy...Brideshead Revisited?

The vet said he must be in constant pain, but not once does he ever complain or snap. He really is an absolute treasure :)
The financial aspect of this is a bit scary as we have already spent nearly £1000 on the scans and the operation on his right elbow alone is being quoted as £3000. The insurance covers £3000 per condition. We will try to persuade them to cover each elbow separately (my motto is "Don't ask, don't get") but I suspect we will have to pay the extra thousands. Still if it means he can walk comfortably and get back to enjoying his walks then it's worth every penny.
Mr D and I are still suffering with our necks. I have physio this week and him next week. We have emptied the car ready for them to take it away as we are very unlikely to see it again. Obviously all of this will leave us out of pocket because we will end up having to buy a new (to us) car which will cost more than the present value of the ruined car. How blinking irritating! We will definitely push for the most money we can get for the car from the insurers - we have paid in enough over the years!
I had the steroid injection in my foot last week, so I'm hoping that I will fall in the 70% for whom it brings complete relief from the plantar fasciitis. It's not as painful as it was, partly due to the silly priced shoes I bought.
We had some friends stay over at the weekend with three small children all under 4. I can honestly say that I have no idea how they cope. They're not even particularly difficult children, but it's constant and the lack of sleep would finish me off. These days I'd have to be going to bed at 7.30 when they did, just to survive! Fortunately I am hoping those days are long behind me and I have a way to go before grandchildren......

Even Jet was done in by the end of the visit :) 

I have to say, I'm feeling a little jaded around the edges just at the moment. I might need some music to get me going this morning.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Bunch of old crocks

I try very hard not to moan, but sometimes I can't help it!
I bloody ache :(  My heel is still suffering so I'm going to have to have an injection in it despite spending stupid money on supportive shoes, doing various exercises and taking strong anti-inflammatories - it all certainly helps, but doesn't totally alleviate - and my neck, shoulders and back all ache from the accident on Saturday. My elbow has tendonitis in it from a moment of stupidity many tears ago lifting an overly heavy object into the loft.  I feel OLD!
Mr D has had to have an injection in his shoulder as he tore the tendon in there and his neck and shoulders ache too from the accident. He is on the same anti-inflammatories. He also carries multiple other old sports injuries from years gone by and has arthritis in both ankle and shoulder joint.
Jet will have to have an operation on his elbow and is limping ......

We are officially a bunch of old crocks. Funny really, neither Mr D nor I have ever had a lot of time off work - Mr D in particular has probably had about 5 days in 25 years off sick, but our bodies are feeling our age at the moment. Perhaps it's the weather?

The doctor yesterday mentioned that my cholesterol was raised so I am quite determined to get myself right so I can do more exercise again. My diet is healthy already so I just need to tweak that here and there, but if I can sort my heel out, I'll be able to walk more regularly. As I am a lady about to hit that certain stage in life, I need to act now to help counteract the diminishing hormones which would otherwise help keep the cholesterol in check.

At least I have physio booked next week through the insurance which should help the neck.

All very tedious, but a timely reminder that we are not as young as we once were and that we can't take anything for granted!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Cousin Janet's squash

On our recent trip to the Isle of Wight, we popped over to visit my Uncle Donald, Auntie Joan and cousin Janet. We were chatting about the veg we had grown and Janet gave me two of her homegrown butternut squash - they are rather cute! Mine weren't successful at all. I'm not sure I've really got enough space.

The latest Waitrose magazine has some appealing recipes which I have been trying out this week. They are really good at having lots of really tasty vegetarian recipes in their seasonal magazines. Let's hope they improve their practice of dealing with excess produce!

The first recipe I tried was Mushroom and Butternut dhal with poached eggs. YUMMY! Very tasty indeed and one I would recommend. Not too spicy but bags of flavour.

It made nice leftovers the following day even though the eggs had all been eaten the night before.

The next one was the the Pumpkin, spinach and coconut biryani. I used one of Janet's butternut squash for this rather than the pumpkin in the recipe title. We served this with poppadums, yoghurt and mango chutney. This was even nicer and a great success with us all. It is of course GF and vegan too.

I'm also planning on trying out the Japanese-style shredded vegetable pancakes, omitting the pickled ginger as a side dish because I'm not keen on buying any extra specialist ingredients. I have a cupboard full of jars that I'm trying to use up with an eye to simplifying my store cupboard too. I have a lot of leftover ingredients from previous recipes.

We have had some delicious meals from these little magazines and the Waitrose website has some good ideas too.

I noticed this morning that the views counter has tipped over 100,000. How exciting! Thank you to everyone who pops by to have a read and to those who take the time to comment. I really appreciate it. :) x

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Oh bum!

On Saturday, Mr D and I were going about our business doing some errands. The weather was wet and windy but had calmed a little. We were chatting about this and that in the car and, having just pulled away from some temporary traffic lights, we were in a line of slow moving cars. All of a sudden, I heard the screech of breaks and tyres on wet road before an almighty crash as the car behind slammed into the back of us, shunting us into the car in front!

The rear bumper has been shoved so hard that these metal rods are now protruding through each side!

The boot doesn't shut very well

The side sections of the rear  bumper have been twisted

This is the rear of the car in front now! 

Our poor car looks very miserable indeed, both front and back are damaged and after describing the damage to our insurers, they feel the car may well be a right off. At least the chap behind is insured so it's all being processed now, but it wasn't a pleasant experience. Mr D had a very sore neck and my upper back was sore, but we took some ibuprofen and applied various heat pads and felt a bit better, if still stiff the following day. Mind you today I actually feel worse so I might get the doctor to check it over in my appointment tomorrow.  We will be offered massage or physio via the insurers if we need it. The poor chap in front had his elderly parents in the car with him and they looked rather shocked, but no one was seriously hurt. Mr D and I were relieved that we had just dropped our youngest back at home and that we didn't have Jet in the boot - he doesn't need any more psychological trauma!

It will be irritating if we have to find another car. We have three at the moment, having brought mum's car back and we had been planning on scrapping our big 7 seater as we don't really need it any more. We'd been keeping it to ferry stuff back from Mum's house as its like a van when you take the seats out. I love that car - very comfortable, great visibility and such a workhorse, BUT the gear stick is held together with parcel tape and the window trims are all falling off; it's covered in scratches and the glove compartment won't shut anymore, so hangs open like a permanently gaping mouth! I think we might have to keep the big car until it's MOT/insurance runs out and Mr D will have to use my Mum's car for getting to and fro from work. At least we have options, which many people might not.

Monday, 9 November 2015


Well, not quite. I'm not actually miserly and I dread the thought of being haunted by Christmasses past ( why is it that the Christmas 'holidays' often seem so fraught?!).

Mr D and I decided to take the various small change jars to Tesco to get them counted in their machine and exchanged for cash. HOWEVER, when I read the small print, it turns out they take 9.9p per £1 counted! What a rip off, so the jars were all brought home and we set about counting them out. It was quite fun actually and didn't take us quite as long as we had thought it would. We have separated it out into the correct coinage for the money bags and I now need to take it to the bank. It wasn't a bad stash, coming to over £60 across the various pots. It's an easy way to save really.

There are three piles for the three different people's change pots. Daughter number two who is now in America had over £40 in hers! 

Talking of saving, I have been inspired by Mrs Escape over at Our Escape (see side bar) to keep a more active record of our savings. At the end of every month, I transfer anything leftover into our savings account which is growing nicely, but I felt like I'd be inspired with a visual.
Presenting the savings thermometer :-

This is now stuck on the wall in the kitchen. 

I am able to start it off with a lump sum as the solicitor has released my expenditure from when Mum was ill. I had sent off the Power of Attorney to the Office of the Public Guardian to be able to use Mums money, but they sent the completed form back the day after she had died, some 9 weeks and multiple snotty phone calls after I had originally sent it to them!! They did at least have the grace to apologise and refund the £110. Still it now means a good starting point when I add that, a refund on her car tax and the money from the savings jar. We are also slowly working through selling some items on eBay and any monies from this will be added to the pot along with the usual 'endofthemonth' leftovers. I've planned a starting goal of £5,000 to see how we go.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Store cupboard soup

Tomato and lentil soup

This is a great little soup for when you don't have anything fresh in. As long as you can scrabble about and find an onion and hopefully a clove of garlic, the rest can be thrown together with goods from your store cupboard. It's based on another Cranks recipe.

1 large onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp mixed herbs (or fresh of course)
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 tsp marmite
2 cupfuls of red lentils
Approx 1 pint of stock or water
Salt and pepper

Soften the onion and garlic in a little oil in a large pan.. Add the other ingredients and simmer. If the lentils soak up too much liquid add water or stock if you prefer. When the lentils are soft, serve the soup with a generous helping of grated cheddar. Obviously the cheese isn't obligatory, but it makes it into a meal so I always add it. Serve with crusty bread, preferably home made :)
This recipe serves 4 to 6.

Jet came home yesterday from his scans. Bless him, he was really quite out of it. Mr D had to lift him on to his settee so he could have cuddles with mummy! We now just need to wait for the results of the scans to see where we go next.

He seems to suffer from separation anxiety so he's very clingy this morning and crying every time we leave the room! Might be an excellent excuse for cuddling up and reading a book :)