Monday, 25 May 2015

Yin and yang

Firstly thank you again for the wonderfully kind comments you are leaving. They feel like lots of hugs when I read them :) Just so you can picture me, I'm sitting in MY chair in my Mum's sunporch writing this :)
Mum has rallied a little and the cottage hospital are fantastic, so I've been able to pop in a couple of times a day for 20 mins to an hour. She's in her own room which is flooded with light and they are ensuring she is comfortable and settled. She saw Mr D and mumbled "He looks a lot like my son in law", which made me smile :) Each minute I've had where she's been awake is being treated as an added and unexpected bonus by me! It's tough, but I am fortunate to have time to work through the process so I too will be at peace when I leave Devon this time.

Mr D and I have balanced the Yin with plenty of Yang. On Saturday it was a glorious day. Mum's house and garden looked spectacular when we drove up - I would have bought it on that alone!! We went for a lovely walk along the coast from Sharpam Point to Mansands, where I paddled and Mr D skimmed stones (I know, some of us never grow up fully!) The photos aren't great quality. I didn't bring my camera, not imagining that we'd have many photo opportunities. Silly me!



Yesterday we walked through Galmpton, past my old school and down to the River Dart. It really is very beautiful here, IF you avoid the real touristy areas. As you can see, the sun was shy yesterday!

One thing I have noticed is the superb number of wild flowers. My Mum taught me all the names of the flowers when we went for walks. I had forgotten some and needed to look them up when I got back, but the woods and hedgerows are looking resplendent this May in Devon. I saw red campion, buttercups, daisies, margarites, herb Robert, speedwell, chickweed, cow parsley, old mans beard, gorse, ramsons, dandelions, bluebells and a whole host more. Is it just me, or are wild flowers making a resurgence?

On a separate note, isn't it odd that Chinese culture has the negative, dark force of Yin as feminine and the positive, bright force of Yang as masculine? In Western culture, I feel it would be reversed?

Friday, 22 May 2015

Keeping busy

Yesterday, I was about as much use as a chocolate teapot, but I have been a little bit more alert today, so have managed four loads of washing, a food shop and some general tidying and cleaning. It's good to keep busy at times like this.
There's no change with Mum so we are hoping that she will now be moved to a quiet place for the final days of her life. Mr D and I will go tomorrow and check where she is. Presently, she is still on a busy ward and I'm quite sure she will still be aware of the noise and general coming as and goings that are part of hospital life, but that's not what you'd want to be surrounded by in your last moments is it? I find it stressful and I'm fit and well! Hopefully they'll find her a quieter spot very soon.

On a more positive note, I had some great finds at Mums which I have brought back. They will definitely be used and I will think of her as I do:-

Mum's tin of seeds which I will sort through and use.

37 jam jars with lids! These will be extremely useful. I often give my jams, marmelades and chutneys away as gifts and then of course don't get the jars back. As I never buy jam, I don't then restock my supplies either. Thanks Mum x 

Good job I have the jars because,  as you could tell from the photo of the garden yesterday, Mum loved growing her own fruit, veg and flowers. Her chest freezer was chock full of tomatoes, gooseberries, damsons and raspberries. I filled two huge freezer bags with them and will bring the last lot back this weekend. I absolutely know that she would be VERY pleased to think of me preserving her own grown produce and each time we then eat some, I will have fond memories of her in the garden :)

Anyone who knows me, will know that my Mum has always been quite a challenging character and that it hasn't always been easy living with her, supporting her, caring for her and fulfilling her expectations and wishes especially in the last ten years since my father's death. HOWEVER, she's my Mum and she has also been loving, funny, generous and provided an endless supply of amusing stories for dinner parties!! I will miss her very much, but know also that part of her (hopefully the less challenging part!) lives on in me and the way I live my life.

I'd like to say a very big thank you to everyone who has taken the time to contact me with good wishes and kind words. I really appreciate all of your thoughts and sentiments xx

Thursday, 21 May 2015

It's my own fault!

There I was a few days ago, posting about my 'humdrum' life ..... I should have kept quiet!

We went to see Mum on Saturday in her new nursing home that I had fought so long to get her in to. Her room is nice with a light and airy feel and a view of the sky and trees with visiting birds from her window. Despite a fair chunk of the conversation being in 'her world' and frequent interuptions from fellow residents who wander without intention, it was a really good visit. She recognised Mr D and myself and was quite like her real self, without the agitation and aggression. We left after about 2 1/2 hours to go back to the house and carry on with decorating and gardening. I was feeling quite positive and relieved that she had settled so well in the new home......

My relief was short lived unfortunately, because at about half 10 that night, we received a phone call to say she had had a massive stroke. Sadly it seems after four days of no response and no sign of any recovery, that this will be the end. In some ways, I'm glad that she hasn't had to live with a continuing decline in her physical and mental capacities, but it was a terrible shock and totally unexpected. I think it won't be too long now until she can be at peace.

This is the view from my chair in the sunporch. It really is MY chair, despite me not living there for the last 30 years, neither Mum nor Dad ever sat in that chair! Even on a cloudy day, the view is lovely and the sun rises over the church tower. 

Back at her house, Mr D, my brother and I were immersing ourselves in DIY. I repainted a couple of rooms and did some more clearance, Mr D mowed lawns, weeded and swept paths. My brother then appeared with petrol driven hedge cutters and strimmer and his favourite spade and set about bringing the garden back from jungle to attractive plot with potential. Thanks to all of our work, the house and garden look lovely and will be put on the market very soon. I am a little sad at this because it was the childhood home that I remember the most and now we've decluttered and cleaned, it really does look rather nice! Still, it's not practical for us to keep it, so it has to go.

The back garden reclaimed from the wilderness. As you can tell, Mum was a keen gardener and grew lots of her own fruit and veg. 

The front garden, neatened up and that's the sun porch I love to sit in so much. I will miss that room the most by far!! 

I'm back in my own home now, but will probably go back at the weekend to say my final goodbyes. Very sad times.
I'll keep posting, but there may be the odd gap as events are likely to get complicated!

Friday, 15 May 2015

It's Friday!

Here's a link to the sweetcorn and chick pea burgers. Well worth the effort!

We had a dahl last night, but it didn't really thicken up enough, so it was more of a soup! I served it with Indian courgette and green pepper, because yesterday I decided that all of my food was orange, so I needed to introduce some green!!
Tonight I am tempted to try Jack Monroe's gram flour pizza bases from her blog on my side bar. I might then make a home made coleslaw to accompany the pizzas. As yet, I am still undecided, but it's a plan ........

I started up a bit of knitting again yesterday - the weather was foul! The poor chickens were drenched and so they are very happy to see the sun again this morning! I'm not a natural knitter, apart from a tiny bit a few months ago where I taught myself the basic stitch and how to cast on and off, I haven't knitted anything since I was about 11! I really liked this yarn, which was half price, so I'm going to knit as long a length as possible and then I can make a collar scarf out of it if it's long enough. When I see some of you knitting your own socks, I am totally in awe. I can't imagine me ever getting that far, although the thought of a knitted throw for my settee does appeal ..... Knitting for me is a bit like me on a bicycle - fine whilst going in a straight line, but as soon as I attempt to turn a corner, I am very likely to fall off. (Terrible balance!)

Off to see Mum early in the morning tomorrow and not back until Wednesday so may not have time to blog. Have a wonderful weekend everyone - let's hope the weather is kind :)

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Still trundling

Thank you to all those of you who commented on yesterday's post. I suffer from overthinking things sometimes, so I really appreciated your positive encouragement!
I did get some bits done yesterday - two loads of washing dried on the line, the roof of the coop painted with some bitumen paint I had in the shed, my book finished and a nice stroll along the canal with a friend and two of her boys. I also cooked a rather nice tea (if I say so myself!) - of course it was the recipe which was nice rather than my specific cooking of it!!

Potato, pea and parsnip curry from Waitrose recipes. It has a bit of a kick to it, but it's VERY tasty. I would certainly recommend it :)

The paint on the roof of the coop had begun to chip, so I sanded it down and repainted with some gloopy bitumen paint. It's like painting with treacle!

However, it gives a waterproof, glossy finish and looks much smarter.

This was the craft project I mentioned a few days ago. I made this for my sister's Birthday. 
 The next one I make will have to use coloured buttons as I'm running out of white ones now, unless I cut off all of Mr D's shirt buttons!! 

Curry night last Friday. I had been going to make pakoras, but decided to make onion bhajis instead. It's exactly the same really except there are no peas or sweetcorn in them!! The Aloo Gobi was good too. I use gram (chickpea) flour for the bhajis and they are very easy to make. 

Gosh there seem to be a lot of foods pictures today! These are Saturday night's sweetcorn and chick pea burgers, served with a smoky tomato relish and home made chips. The burgers and relish were a Tesco recipe. I think you can google it, but if not let me know and I'll post it. It made 10 burgers, so my eldest and I had the others for lunch on the Monday with some salad. They are such a doddle to make, especially if you use a food processor and they
freeze really well. I imagine they would cook well on the barbecue too, although I've not tried it. 

Today, I'm off to do the food shop,then out to visit a friend for a cuppa and our weekly catch up. I may do the ironing and I need to finish the album for my Mum as Mr D and I are going down there this weekend. I wrote to all my Mums friends having trawled through her address book (which was totally chaotic) to let them know what had happened to her in case they were worried at not hearing from her. At Christmas, I know she had got completely confused about who to write cards to and had sent several to people who had died! So I had typed up a letter and popped it in the post to about a dozen of her closest friends. I have been very moved by the fact that I have had two phone calls, an email and three letters back from them. People are lovely, aren't they? 

Have a lovely day everyone and thank you once again for your support and encouragement :) 

Wednesday, 13 May 2015


I know I haven't written a post for a few days, but I haven't actually had anything to say! Life is trundling along as usual. I've done some cleaning, several loads of washing, hung it on the line, brought it in, done some work in the garden, earthed up the potatoes, cooked multiple meals, read a little etc etc. So you see, there's not a lot of meatiness in any of that to write about.

But of course, that's my life now. Mostly peaceful, uneventful, repetitive and humdrum. Mr D, bless him, keeps asking me "What have you done today?" Well now, let me think ..... Same as usual?

I suspect I'm in a precarious state of mind. We'll see what, if anything it brings.

But for now, back to the humdrum because it's staring at me accusingly! :)

Friday, 8 May 2015

Food shopping again!

It only seems like yesterday that I did the last food shop but of course it isn't!

I spent £98.97 this week, a whole £1.03 under budget! As my daughter and I were unpacking the shopping, I noticed that the cupboards are very well stocked, so I'll need to make a concerted effort to eat up some of our stores next week to ensure there is no wastage.
I did buy enough toilet rolls for the street in this shop too!!

On the menu this week:

  • Indian night tonight, which is actually the pakoras and sides from last week's menu, boosted with aloo gobi because I have a cauliflower left over and because I absolutely LOVE it!! 
  • Chickpea and sweetcorn burgers with smoky tomato sauce and home made chips
  • Vegetarian cottage pies, peas and sweetcorn and Apple crumble with vegan ice cream
  • Mexican bean soup
  • Mushroom and lentil tagine with rice
  • Potato, parsnip and pea curry with rice
  • Spiced lentil and coconut Dahl with chapatis
  • Vegetable risotto 
We had sweet potato fritters and smoky beans last night from There were only four of us eating and they were voted a great success. 

As you can see I served it with a salad, using up all the remnants of fresh veg from the fridge. You might be forgiven for thinking that might not make the basis of a good salad, but it was actually exactly right. Just goes to show sometimes, thrown together recipes are the best! 

Thursday, 7 May 2015

A gentle kind of day

I'm feeling very anxious at the moment as I build up to going back to see my Mum. I know she has deteriorated again and it's not easy to cope with losing the essence of who Mum is. She should move to the Nursing Home I wanted her to go into originally today, so that's a good thing as it's been a long time coming. Getting all the various parties to communicate efficiently isn't easy and unfortunately I seem to have been lumbered with a social worker who a) barely speaks English and b) seems to need me to tell her what her job role is!! Hey ho! At least if Mum does move today, it will be her final move and we should be able to get her properly settled. Then we can move on to the business of clearing her house and selling it.

Anyway, after a restless night, I decided I needed a gentle day. This morning I went for a lovely long walk with a very good friend with a break in the middle for a cuppa at her dad's house. We had a great chat walking round and it's so lovely that there are such nice walks within a stone's throw of our houses despite us living in deepest suburbia! According to her Pedometer app, we covered 5.5km.

When I got back, I made a leisurely lunch, hoovered, popped a load of washing on and then set to making a craft project. Can't put on a photo yet in case the recipient is reading this!

I've also nearly finished the annotated photo album that I'm going to take down to Mum so her carers can get an idea of who Mum was before the dementia robbed us of her. They might be able to get her to talk about her family, friends and previous life with the help of the prompts. Worth a try at least.

I had two tiny eggs on toast for breakfast this morning. Tidlers, but tasty nevertheless! Another one arrived today. It's Ginger who is laying, but I have had to tell her off today because she escaped and dug up a butternut squash!! I've improved security now, so hopefully she'll be contained. I also managed to replant the squash.

Even Oscar the cat seems to feel the need for a quiet day. Surely that can't be comfortable!?

Yesterday I made ginger biscuits from the recipe on Summerdays blog (link on the side bar). I obviously substituted GF flour and vegan margarine, but they were very soft and tasty. They didn't last long, I can assure you. I thought I might try lemongrass flavour next time?

The tomato and butternut posole was very tasty and enjoyed by all. We served it on rice to make it go further, but it would be just as nice on its own with the avocado topping and tortilla crisps. The glass of wine is also not a necessity, but I did enjoy it very much! 

Off to vote later tonight when Mr D gets back. I'm voting alongside my daughters for the first time too. 
I hope you all had gentle kind of days too :) 

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Smoky Sweet potato and butter bean burgers

As promised here is the recipe for the burgers mentioned in yesterday's blog! As I said, I had been planning on making them with grated carrot, spiced with cumin and coriander, but I can only presume I didn't buy any carrots!!

Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of the finished meal, but this is the burgers before cooking! I was starving....

(Makes 10 burgers. Can be frozen individually wrapped)

2 medium sweet potato, peeled, diced, boiled, then mashed.
1 onion, red or white, finely chopped (I used red)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp chipotle paste (optional)
2 cans butter beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp flour (I obviously used GF)

Lightly fry the onion, garlic and flavourings until the onions are softened.
Lightly mash the butter beans.
Add the onion mixture and the sweet potato.
Mix thoroughly together - I used the masher.
Stir in the flour until well combined.
Form into 10 burgers on a plate and chill for at least an hour.
Fry in a little oil in a frying pan until brown and crisped on the outside and warmed through on the inside.

Serve in a bun, GF or otherwise, with lots of salad, home made salsa and chips

I guess you could also coat them in a breadcrumb mixture, panko, polenta or semolina and cook them on a hot baking tray in the oven........

We had an exciting discovery yesterday - the first egg from my new ladies. It's tiny as you can see by the comparison photo, but they do get bigger as they get used to what they're doing and get older. I'm not sure who laid it, but I doubt it was Ginger as she spent most of the day trying to escape and trot round the garden! She did make me laugh though because when I stomped up to her with my cross face on, she didn't run away, but just hunkered down looking contrite, so I was able to pick her up, give her a stern talking to and pop her back in the run. My previous escapee used to give me the right run around!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Blimey that was a busy one!!

I'm exhausted! I need another long weekend to recover from that one I think.

Friday night was a friend's 50th party, so Mr D and I pulled on some glad rags and off we went. We've know M since before we were married - in fact she played quite a big part in bringing us together in the first place, so it was good to share her special celebration.

Saturday morning was an early start as we were on the road by half six, off up to Derby to take our eldest up for her GEM (graduate entry medicine) Open day. We dropped her off, then drove across to Nottingham to meet up with my sister and her family for a chat, a walk along the River Trent and lunch out. Then it was back to Derby to pick up our eldest daughter before setting off back down the M1 to come home. On an aside, I took my eldest daughter to an Open day at Nottingham Uni, where she did her first degree, approximately five years ago - the road works on the M1 are STILL there!! 

Sunday involved a trip to town. It's been so long since I had to go shopping in town that I was on the verge of palpitations. I quite literally had to 'pull myself together' whilst getting some items in Boots! Seems ridiculous, but I was too hot, there were too many people and the whole thing was utterly overwhelming. Still, we got what we needed and I didn't have to pay a penny for my shopping in Boots because I had points on my card, which cheered me up a bit :) In the evening, we went off to Isleworth to see some friends who have three young children (a 3 yr old and 1 yr old twins!). Mr D and I are about ten years older than they are and we have no idea how they do it - it's absolutely non stop! By the time we arrived back home on Monday morning, all I really wanted to do was have a sit down in a darkened room with a cuppa.

However, we went to the garden centre to fetch the supplies I needed for the next batch of planting in my attempt to grow as much of our own fruit and veg as possible. Fortunately I had a good amount of garden vouchers I'd received as gifts, so I didn't spend any money there either.

The lawn was mowed; beetroot, celeriac and celery were planted; plants were transplanted to make way for vegetables; the trellis was set up for the cucumbers to be planted along the fence a little later in the month; aubergines were transplanted into the next size pot; chickens were cleaned out; paths were swept; two swathes of mallow flowers that I had grown from free seed were planted;  rocket, salad leaves and pea shoots were sown in long troughs and a bit of judicial pruning and weeding was carried out.
Not a bad days work.

We then made sweet potato and butter bean burgers with home made chips. They were meant to be carrot and butter bean, but bizarrely I couldn't find the bag of carrots I was sure I'd bought, so I substituted mashed sweet potato and added some smoked paprika flavouring. They were very tasty. 

By the time I went to bed last night, I felt like we'd done at least a week's worth of activity. No doubt many of you were also extremely busy. I have to say the productive busy in my garden makes me feel the most satisfied, even though it is lovely getting out and about catching up with friends and family. 

It's a grey and windy day today, so I'm going to do some house work accompanied by loud music on my iPod x 

Saturday, 2 May 2015


For some reason, the job of unblocking drains seems to fall to me! I think it started because the outside drain from the bathroom is designed in such a ridiculous way that you need a small hand to reach in and unblock it of the build up of hair and soap suds. I don't mind, except for the fact that I'm always left with a nasty bruise across my wrist which seems to hurt for weeks. I've tried thinking about some kind of tool and even tried fashioning one out of a wire coat hanger, but I'm afraid it needs a human hand and a small one at that!
We had issues with the kitchen drain too last year (for the first time in 20 years) and I had to borrow rods from a friend to clear it. I can still picture the fat from chorizo floating passed me on its way off to the main drain!!
A few years ago there was a flash flood which threatened to come into the house and unfortunately Mr D was away (on the golf course!!) so I had to don my wellies and deal with it. The problem was the main drain kept blocking with fallen leaves and wood chip being washed along with the flood water, so I had to don rubber gloves, grab a bucket and keep grabbing handfuls of detritus out of the drain to stop the water getting in under the house. I was successful and Mr D was very pleased with my efforts when he came home!! The same friend who lent me his rods, offered to lend me his waders, but I suspect his motifs were amusement at the sight of me in waders rather than helping!! 
Yesterday I decided to do a blitz on the inside drains as several of them were slow to drain. In the past, I would have poured some unspeakably hideous chemical down there and left it to do its nasty work. No longer! I now use borax - well actually borax substitute as you can no longer buy borax in this country. I sprinkled about half a cup down each drain and left for a couple of hours before washing it down with plenty of boiling hot water. One stubborn drain needed a little extra help with a plunger, but I now have free flowing drains again and I have avoided the truly nasty chemicals. 
I know borax isn't totally 'innocent' but it's certainly much better than something which has what looks like a skull and crossbones on the side of its packaging! Borax doesn't smell either which is another bonus. 

I even cleared the drains out at my Mum's house! Do not get the wrong idea though - I am not about to launch a new career path, but it's another job I have learnt to do for myself!! good job I'm not squeamish eh?! 

Well, never let it be said that my blog is anything other than eclectic! Have a wonderful long weekend everyone xx 

Friday, 1 May 2015

Who stole my mojo?

I think I've caught the doldrums from Dawn (doingitforourselfsinwales on my sidebar)!!
I have so many projects I want to get started on - sewing, knitting, crochet and other craft projects. Have I started any of them? NO!!! I haven't even had a go on my sewing machine. I taught myself the basic knitting stitch in the Autumn, but will have forgotten it again before I actually try to knit something! A friend bought me a starter crotchet set for Christmas - I had a brief (fairly unsuccessful) stab at it and haven't tried it again.
Some time ago I did a post with a list of jobs to do around the house. I made some headway early on, but haven't done a thing on it since. I keep justifying it with the thought that if it's going to be at least a year before I can move house, I might as well leave them until nearer the time or they'll no doubt need doing again.
Excuses excuses!

I can't quite fathom why I'm procrastinating, but I certainly am! I'm still doing all the jobs that need doing - cleaning, washing, ironing, gardening etc BUT I can't seem to muster the enthusiasm needed for my projects. They'll wait I guess, but it's not my normal modus operandi, so I am a little perplexed as to what has caused my mojo to desert me.
I do wonder if it's a natural reaction, and therefore a passing phase, to me having given up work to be at home. I worked in a busy office with nine people and hundreds of needy kids coming through - it was noisy, stressful and very demanding. Now I have only the chickens to talk to a lot of the time and my life is quiet, undemanding and a lot less stressful. Perhaps I'm going through an inevitable period of adjustment?

No doubt the missing mojo will return at some point and meanwhile I'll try not to berate myself for having 'lost' it in the first place!!

And just for Jan at The Great Escape, here is a photo of the spiralised courgettes. My eldest daughter made this meal with her spiraliser, but she and I had eaten all of ours before I saw Jan's comment, so I had to snap second eldest's plate as she is a slower eater!! Sorry! The sauce was tomato based with added onions, peppers and some of the courgette core (the rest went to the chucks to scratch over). A very healthy and lightweight alternative to pasta and of course naturally gluten free and vegan! The spiraliser came from Amazon at a cost of about £25/£30. Cornish Chickpea also has examples of spiralising on her blog, which she photographed before digging in!