Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Should have gone to Specsavers?

I took Jet for a walk along the canal today. All was going very well and we were both enjoying our stroll in the dappled sunshine despite a constant shower of acorns raining down on us. Jet had done his usual thing of dipping his toes in the water every now and again, annoying the ducks. We were on our way back when he decided to walk up to a low wall along the waters edge. The top of the wall is level with the water and there were lots of leaves floating on the surface of the water. Jet, being the super intelligent hound that he is, thought the leaves were dry land so carried on walking, straight over the edge of the wall into the full depth canal!! He panicked immediately, so I had to reach in and haul him out by his collar. I had one wet trainer, wet trousers and he was soaked from head to toe and covered in leaves! Of course once I'd got him out, I laughed myself silly, nearly causing myself to have a moment!!!
He is now in the garden drying off :)

I did however see a Great Spotted Woodpecker on my walk which was lovely :)

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Preparing for Winter

Gill, over in Frugal in Derbyshire mentioned that she had once done a post on what she does to prepare for Winter. With the weather having been as lovely as it has so far this week, I too have been thinking about getting everything ready for the colder months. Here's what I am doing in suburban Surrey ......

Cleaning all the rooms thoroughly. I know this is normally a spring job, but I also tend to do it with C$¥~%^|mas in mind.
Washing all the bedding and preparing to change over to winter bedding. I do like to be snugglily in bed :)
Washing the throws for the settee to make sure they are extra cosy.
Packing away all my summer clothes and airing my warmer ones (I don't have space for both!)
Taking any unwanted items (I often find clothes I haven't worn when I change over) to the charity shop
Tackling all those little DIY jobs that have been lurking undone for months
Trying out the heating BEFORE we need it, just in case!
Clearing the gutters
Cleaning the windows and surrounds
Cleaning off the conservatory roof

Harvesting the remaining veg and fruit from the garden and freezing it, making jam, chutneys or making alcohol.
Foraging for free food like sloes and elderberries to make interesting drinks and sauces.
Pruning and cutting back all of the bushes, climbers and trees.
Weeding and regular leave clearance of leaves in the beds.
Regularly mowing the lawn until about November.
Turning the compost heap and covering the empty veg beds with a good layer of home made compost
Checking the coop and run for weather tightness

Checking stocks of tinned/dried food, toiletries and medicines and restocking where necessary.
On the rare occasion I am in a supermarket, I may start to buy the odd special item towards the holiday season and hide it in a cupboard although you have to be careful doing that in case you end up with silly amounts of 'treat' food, which is ALWAYS regrettable!
Checking my stocks of C#%{^*mas cards, wrapping paper etc so I can start buying if I need more (I generally buy in the sales, but it doesn't always work!)
Starting to build up a good pile of home made gifts - jams, chutneys, alcohols already. Later truffles, nut brittle, cookies.
I also have lots of craft gift ideas, which I will start to make from October onwards.
I will ask Mr D to do a winter road check on all the cars to check tyre pressure, oil levels, windscreen wash and radiator fluid. Most modern cars probably have sealed units, but my dear old car is a T reg!!

No doubt you all have routines set up to prepare for winter. I imagine some of you are lucky enough to have wood burners so will be gathering wood. No such luck here, but in my next house .......:)

Monday, 28 September 2015

Sunshine makes such a difference!

Beautiful Autumn colours along our local canal

Sunshine just helps everything doesn't it? Life is so much easier when the sun is shining. I feel better mentally and emotionally and bright light always makes me feel more inclined to get stuff done. I love to throw open the windows and doors; Jet likes to be able to wander in and out at will and the chickens love scratching around in the warmth.

Today, has been a pleasure - I've got bedding washed, including Jet's. Yesterday, Mr D and I joined forces and cleaned the conservatory from roof and gutters through to all the windows and doors. It's quite a task, but it looks so much nicer when it's all gleaming. Today, I carried on and cleaned all the other windows to make the most of the September sunshine.

I have harvested almost all of the remaining apples today too and frozen them in chunks. I now have 7 bags of Apple chunks, weighing about 500g each - perfect for a pie, cake or crumble. I had got fed up with picking them off the floor every morning. The chucks enjoyed a big pile of Apple trimmings too. There's not much produce left in the garden now. One small pumpkin, some celeriac, celery, the last few runner beans, four cucumbers, quinces and a tree full of pears. It really has been a pleasure growing some of my own vegetables this year. I've always had the fruit although I've been much better at harvesting it and making the most of it this year, but vegetable growing has been hit and miss in the past, especially when I was working full time. I've learnt a few excellent lessons too for future years!

I've also completed some of those pesky little jobs that get put off, like fixing the door bell, glueing a piece of floor edging and getting a quote for a double glazed window which cracked on the hottest day of the year back in August - £200 mind, but it's one of those things that would need to be done at some point anyway.

I'm looking forward to a few more days of late summer sunshine to I might end the week and indeed the month, feeling as if I've achieved! I imagine many of you have made the most of this good weather too!

Saturday, 26 September 2015


Thank you for all the fantastic feedback yesterday. It's pleasing to think that my post evoked so many lovely memories for many of you and how great that so many of us have known wonderful people like my aunt in our lives. She really is an inspiration, but would be amazed that so many people would consider her to be! I enjoyed reading about your own inspirational people :)

About two and a half years ago, we spent a lovely week in Staithes, North Yorkshire. I have blogged about it before because I was very impressed with the little seaside town of Staithes. The rental cottage we stayed in was very pretty, small, but cosy and full of all sorts of quirky home made items. Outside the front door was a large pebble, painted and with the word 'Welcome' on it. I was rather taken with this idea, but it's taken me all this time to actually get round to completing it!

My 'pebble' has gone from this .....

To this .....

Fortunately, I have collected lots of blue paints - lots from friends and lots from various projects around the house, so I decided to go for a beach themed colour scheme. I painted it all over with a base coat, then added waves of tonal colours to the front. Once this was all dry, I added the welcome and some other minor decoration. Finally I gave the whole stone a good coating of clear spray lacquer to protect it from the elements. It's in my porch area, so won't get the worst of the weather, but with it being emulsion, it wouldn't last long without some added protection. I may give it another coat later. 

I've also made 8 jars of loganberry jam this morning. To help it set, I used a tip from Sue from Ournewlifeinthecountry, adding a few quartered apples to impart their natural pectin. I then scooped them out at the end with a slotted spoon and, once cooled, gave them to the chickens. They were beyond delighted! I guess it's almost like a raspberry tonic, which is often suggested to help give chickens a boost to their immune system. Either way, they loved their sticky treat!! 

Friday, 25 September 2015

The epitome of frugality

I thought I'd share with you a description of my aunt as an example of living frugally and simply. She hasn't actively chosen to live this way, more fallen into it as a natural and sensible way to live.
My aunt is 92 this January. She lives on her own in the same terraced prewar house that she has lived in since she was 9 years old. The house has no central heating, no double glazing, no fitted carpets and in fact none of the modern conveniences we have become used to. Her kitchen consists of a very old stove and 1940s free standing units. She does now have a kettle, but for many years, water was boiled in a pan on the stove. We bought her a fridge with a small deepfreeze, but she refuses a microwave.
She has a range of small (probably leathal) portable heaters which she moves around, heating only the room she is in. There is no heating in the bedrooms - she wears a bed jacket and snuggles up under eiderdown covers and throws with a hot water bottle if necessary.
The toilet is a high flush toilet, mostly likely original and the bath is a metal, claw footed tub. She washes her clothes by hand, drying them outside or over the bath on a wooden airer.
She makes the best tea in the world - proper tea leaves, warmed China pot and China cups and saucers. My children all love afternoon tea with their great aunt. She still bakes fairy cakes decorated with chocolate buttons, butterfly cakes and a fruit loaf or Madeira cake. All this is served on proper china with pretty napkins and cake forks. Needless to say, washing up is done by hand.

She keeps brown paper and setting to wrap things and always has recycled plastic tubs in the understairs cupboard so we can pack cakes to take home with us. Wrapping paper is carefully removed, smoothed out and reused. Nothing is thrown away as it might have a use, but her home doesn't become cluttered because not a lot comes in to her house either. She is very good at repairing things even though her eyesight isn't what it was.
In the garden, she still has apple and pear trees and grows her own tomatoes and runner beans. She used to grow a lot more. The apples are made into a lovely chutney. She eats very simply, walking to the local supermarket with her shopping trolley to buy supplies every now and again.
We have bought her a small flat screen TV and a DVD player because she likes to watch gardening programmes and nature documentaries, but she would have done without had we not bought them for her. I'm not actually sure she ever uses the DVD player actually, but I'm too polite to ask!
Over the years, she has embroidered, crotched and knitted her own clothes. I bought her a set of new teatowels one Christmas to match her newly painted kitchen - she made them into chair seat covers.
Despite such a simple existence and a life that hasn't afforded her many opportunities, my aunt is 'savvy' and keeps herself up to date and aware of  world affairs. She is wise and clever. She may have never travelled or married but has friends whom she sees regularly.
Her incoming budget is probably tiny, but her outgoings are very low too.
She lives a quiet and fairly solitary existence, but I never feel that she's unhappy. She is still generally in good health and is managing to do everything that is needed albeit at a much slower pace. I admire and look up to my aunt who has lived this way all her life, not doing anything that isn't necessary, having minimum negative impact on the world. She is the very epitome of simple and frugal living and she doesn't even know it!

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Apple Butter

To be fair, I had never heard of apple butter before, but when reading a vegan's blog (sorry can't remember which one, but it may have been 'oh she glows'?) , I came across this little wonder. Being that it combines two of my favourite things - stewed apples and cinnamon, I felt duty bound to give it a go.

Peel, core and chop about 3lb apples (I used eaters off the tree, but you could used cooking apples and add a touch more sugar)
Put these in a slow cooker set to high.
Combine 2 cups of sugar (or less if you prefer and depending on the natural sweetness of the apples) with 2 tsp ground cinnamon and 1 tsp mixed spice. Some recipes also add salt and ground cloves! But I chose to keep it simple. Stir into the apples in the slow cooker.
Cook on high for 1 hour, then reduce the heat to Low and cook for a further 9 to 11 hours. (I did mine overnight) It's ready when dark brown and if you pop a tsp of it on a plate in the fridge, it will hold its own shape once cooled.
Decant into sterilised jars and keep as for jam, storing in the fridge once opened.
As you can see, 3lb of apples reduces to a mere 2 and 3/4 jars of Apple butter.

I've just tried a spoonful - delicious and very autumnal. Would be lovely in porridge, rice pudding, stirred into yoghurt on pancakes, waffles or toasted tea cakes, plain toast....... It would probably be nice with a ploughmans too or perhaps with a curry?

Of course, it's naturally gluten free, vegan and the simplest, hands off recipe ever. I shall certainly be making more of this.

Yesterday, I made what I have, somewhat pompously called 'Hedgerow Jam'. It's basically blackberries with some other random mixed berries I had lurking in the deep freeze. I added liquid pectin, but it still took ages to set and has remained a soft set. However, it tastes great. For this, I used the last blackberries I picked which were softer so I had already stewed them with no sugar in readiness for jam making. All the other blackberries I froze on a tray before tipping into bags, so they can be dipped into for crumbles, cakes and cheesecakes.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Starting edible homemade Christmas gifts

The sloes have been picked. I then froze them and rather than prick each one with a pin, I followed the advice of a friendly walker by, who apparently makes sloe gin every year, to bash the heck out of the semi defrosted sloes whilst in their freezer bag, before adding to the gin and sugar mix.
The colour started out like this:

Within a week, it had developed into this:

Only two months to go and it will be decanted and labelled to be given as gifts (well some of it anyway!)

I also made orange and cognac marmelade today. I had been going to use Cointreau, but must have used it in a pudding or something, so cognac it was. 

I will keep the green lidded one and smaller jar behind it for us.

I now have orange and lemon marmelades, plum jam, strawberry jam, green tomato chutney and summer squash chutney and of course the developing sloe gin.  I'm still aiming to make loganberry jam and blackberry jam and a few bottles of Arancello. Closer to the time, I will make flavoured chocolate truffles and maybe some biscuits, peanut brittle or honeycomb to be bagged up in pretty clear plastic bags, tied with ribbon. I'm also going to try my hand at Apple butter and orange curd, but it will be a miracle if any of that makes it out of the door! Oh, I also have some ornamental quinces, so will make membrillo too.....oh so much to make and it all involves standing up which is playing havoc with the plantar fasciitis of course! Hey ho :( 

This is my little store cupboard on the shelf above the fridge. Only two jars of quince jam left over from last year! 

Does anyone have any other edible gift ideas? 

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Smokey potato crumble

Firstly, I'd like to say a heartfelt thank you to all of you who took the time to read yesterday's post and to leave such kind comments. It's a wonderful thing that you can reach out and receive such kindness. Reading all your comments was like getting lots of hugs, so thank you :) Perhaps it's moments like this that reassure us bloggers that there is more good than bad in blog land? 

..and now for something completely different. Well, why wouldn't I turn to comfort food in difficult times?!!! 

This is a simple, comforting recipe which I first made many years ago for my parents. My Dad in particular loved it as he always loved vegetarian food.We haven't had it for a while so I thought I'd give it an airing!

I made this to serve six.

About 5 medium potatoes washed and chopped into large cubes
About 5 carrots washed and sliced
3 sticks of celery washed and finely sliced
2 leeks, washed and sliced
1 green pepper chopped
40g butter
450ml milk
75g smoked cheddar, grated
50g fresh breadcrumbs

Cook the potatoes and carrots in a saucepan until tender. Cook the leek, celery and pepper in butter in a large frying pan. Once soft, add the flour to the pan, stir well. Gradually add the milk to make a sauce. Cook for about 2 minutes until thickened slightly. Stir in the cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Mix this with the drained potatoes and carrots and tip into a casserole dish. Top with the breadcrumbs. Cook in the oven at 180c for about 45 mins.
I served mine with a large green salad and some bean salad.

It could be made GF with the correct flour and breadcrumbs and if you wanted to make it vegan, use soy milk and nutritional yeast or vegan cheese in place of the smoked cheddar - obviously it would lose it's smokiness unless you use smoked vegan cheese if such a thing exists!

Monday, 21 September 2015

The heavy cloak of grief

Now there's a cheerful title for a blog Post!

It would seem I'm a high functioning griever. I don't think that anyone around me would be able to tell that I'm wearing my heavy cloak every day, but just because I'm not crying doesn't mean to say I am not desperately sad.

My relationship with my mother was a complicated one. She was a woman of wildly opposing sides - stingy and mean with pennies, overly generous with pounds; hugely complimentary in one sentence, then acid tongued and withering in the next, fiercely independent, yet desperately in need of  constant reassurance and support. I have many good memories of her, but also many deeply upsetting ones too.
At times, over the last ten years since my father's death, I had wished that I didn't have to be responsible for mum, to deal with her unrealistic expectations of me and of life in general. I realise that I didn't grieve for my father back then because I immediately had to take on the emotional and practical support for Mum.
After her stroke in August 2014, the burden of her needs weighed heavily on me. I struggled to find ways to help her, particularly from a distance.
Her death was premature and shouldn't have happened the way that it did (whole other story!) and yet, despite its shocking nature, it was a relief both for her and indeed for myself and for my brother.

So, as you can see my grief is a complex beast and even though my Mum is no longer suffering and I no longer have seven long phone calls a day or the insults and hurtful comments, I miss my Mum enormously. I feel rather bereft in fact.
Added to this, my eldest daughter has left home again to go off to Uni and my second eldest daughter is moving to America in two weeks, it's a time of loss and change.

So I will continue to wear my cloak of grief for some time to come I imagine. For the time being it is a very heavy cloak, perhaps made of thick pile velvet and brocade? Hopefully over time it will change to one of the lightest gossamer silk and I won't feel like everything I do is such an enormous effort.

Everything I do, even the small stuff like getting up in the morning, is truly hard work when you're weighed down, but I will keep doing it because inactivity is not an option. Keep taking little steps :)

Monday, 14 September 2015

Better than a takeaway

On Saturday nights, we like to have a nice easy meal, which we sometimes eat in the lounge watching rubbish TV or a film.
I had a hankering for Chinese as we haven't had any for ages. I made broccoli fried rice with sweet and sour vegetables. It was healthy, low fat and so much nicer than a takeaway. It also provided me with leftovers for a nice lunch the following day. What could be better?

For the broccoli fried rice, I simply cooked some rice as usual, then in a wok, I fried some small broccoli florets with three sliced spring onions. I removed the vegetables once they were tender, then added two beaten eggs and quickly flipped them to make an omelette before adding the cooked rice, vegetables, some salt and pepper and a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce.

For the sweet and sour vegetables, I chopped some potato, carrot, peppers, courgettes and a large dessert Apple. These were cooked in a little vegetable stock for about 10 minutes. Towards the end of the cooking time, I added a can of chopped pineapple and sliced water chestnuts. Meanwhile, in a frying pan, I softened one finely chopped onion and two crushed cloves of garlic. Once soft, I added 2 tbsp white wine vinegar, 2 tbsps White wine (I used chinese cooking wine because I have some), a can of chopped tomatoes, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp sugar (I used brown) 1 tbsp ground ginger (or you could use fresh of course) and 1 tbsp tomato purée. Stir to combine before adding to the cooked veg and stock. Cook for another 5/10 mins and at the last minute add 1 tsp arrowroot mixed to a paste with a little cold water.

If you omitted the egg in the rice, and to be fair I'm not sure you'd really notice, and used tamari sauce instead of soy it would make a great vegan and gluten free recipe.

All the family liked it and have made a request to have it again.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Another lovely day

Firstly, thank you so much for all your tips and sympathy after yesterday's post about my plantar fasciitis. I will study them and adopt as many as it needs. I stretched my foot loads before getting out of bed this morning and it was easier. Hopefully it will go away without me needing injections.

The weather is gorgeous again, so Jet and I went for another lovely walk along the Basigstoke canal. It was a very pleasant walk indeed - the stretch of canal near to us is very pretty. I saw a Kingfisher, a heron and a pair of yellow wagtails along with the more usual mallards and moorhens. Jet paddled again but manage the walk without a repeat of yesterday's 'funny half hour'!

I think I may have voyeuristic tendencies - not in an inappropriate way of course, but I absolutely LOVE gazing into people's back gardens (there are some lovely houses which back onto the canal) and imagining who lives there. It must be very nice to have such a tranquil backdrop to their gardens.

Not my photos I'm afraid. I didn't have my camera with me, but doubt if I could have achieved quite these shots!

I've managed some more in the garden this morning. It's getting there, but I'm hoping to persuade Mr D to assist me this weekend so we can finish off the main pruning. After that I should be able to maintain the rest of the garden work as the gardening  year drawers to a close.

I've dug up the squash plants as they  were all but spent, so I have a good view of my lovely ladies again! 

It's safe to walk down the garden path again. 

I made nine jars of plum jam yesterday and today I've made six jars of lemon marmalade. I have to confess to using a can of Pre prepared lemons. I've used both the lemon and orange ones before and they make very nice marmelades. I will add some Cointreau to the Orange one. Last year I added cognac and it was a great success :) 

My first ever cucumber! There are two that size on the plant. I had to replant them twice due to slug attacks. I finally put them in an old chicken pellet manure tub which seems to be the way to go next year. I've given them an old bit of trellis to grow up. 

Thursday, 10 September 2015


I have been very irritated over the last few weeks due to suffering from plantar fasciitis. This is an inflammation of the tendon that runs from the back of the heel across the arch of the foot. I have no idea what started it, but I can't seem to get shift it! I'm probably supposed to be resting it, but it actually seems to hurt more first thing in the morning and after I have sat down for any length of time, so I'm trying to carry on as normal. It blinking hurts though and it is seriously getting on my nerves.

Anyway, moan over.

It's a beautiful day here so I've popped a load of washing out. It never ceases to give me pleasure to hang washing on the line :)
I've managed a bit more in the garden this morning too, with some help from Jet who was shredding all the prunings for me on the lawn. Shame he couldn't then put them in the garden rubbish bags too. He and I went for an hours walk along the canal. He had a funny half hour part way through the walk, skitting all over the place in and out of the water - it was hysterical and I just stood there and laughed at him. Fortunately no one else was around or they would have been drenched!

Next on the list was plum jam. The plums were frozen, so I had to first defrost them, then painstakingly pick through them to (hopefully) de stone them all. My mum used to make the jam with the stones in, figuring you could pick your own out after you'd spread it on the toast!! It was like playing Russian roulette with your teeth every breakfast!

Only three of us for dinner tonight so I can feel baked potatoes with beans and cheese coming on! Simple things are sometimes the best aren't they?

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Taming the jungle

The recent weather has caused an explosion of growth in the garden and its really looking messy. It's not a big space, so can look really overgrown very quickly.

This is the quince along the fence which my neighbour was hoping I'd prune. I guess it's probably making her side of the garden look untidy which is fair enough. Her neighbours the other side do absolutely nothing in their garden and not much to their house either, which I think frustrates her! 

Jet pees like a girl - not sure why, but it means the lawn is suffering rather. Still at least he's not peeing up my vegetable plants! 

You can't actually get down the path at the moment.

I've spent about three hours out there this morning and it's starting to look better. I'll post some photos when I've made a bit more progress. Of course, I really wanted to just crack on, but Jet had other ideas! So I did about an hour to get me started, then down tooled and off we went for a nice walk. I tried a new route today. We saw other dogs, lots of pretty back gardens, canal boats, ducks, moorhens, a steam train and a chap paddling along the canal on what looked like a surf board! I'm so lucky to have nice walks on my doorstep.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015


I achieved more yesterday than I have in the last 8 weeks put together, except perhaps for when we cleared out Mums house. Its amazing just how far I can get when the aren't too many interruptions!

The house is all clean at the same time rather than me managing one drawer, one room or, on a good day, either upstairs or downstairs. It felt so nice yesterday afternoon to sit down knowing that everything felt as it should do. I managed to empty both washing baskets too and thanks to the lovely September weather, both loads were dried outside. Even Jet managed three walks yesterday - one with a neighbour and her three boys. She said that she was getting lots of looks thinking how crazy she must be to have three boys under 5 AND a young dog!! I think the boys enjoyed having Jet with them mind :)

Today started with a lovely surprise - the eldest of the three boys knocked on my door dressed in his school uniform for his first day at school. He looked adorable and very grown up. He seems very excited to be starting school. Mine were all like that too - more than ready by that point to take the next step, just as they are doing now.

Ironing basket now emptied, floors swept and off out to walk Jet despite him trying to pretend to be asleep. He isn't fooling anyone!

Hopefully by the end of the week, I should be moving on to the garden which seems to have turned into a jungle almost overnight!! I knew I needed to act when my lovely neighbour asked if I was planning on cutting back my quince as her gardener was coming and could cut back on her side. Oops, I think that was a subtle request to pull my finger out :)

Welcome to all my new followers. I'm really sorry, but I have no idea how to welcome you individually. I have tried to work it out, but failed miserably :( It's very nice to have you onboard though x

Monday, 7 September 2015

Home alone

For the first time in weeks, I have the house to myself today. The two youngest are off at school, daughter number two is working this week at my husbands school to earn some extra pennies before going off to America and of course Mr D is working. We dropped our eldest daughter off at Uni on Saturday. It feels very weird because she's already done a degree and then been at home, working all of last year, but she is getting the opportunity to do what she has always wanted to do, so it's also very exciting. She's house sharing with four others in a rather nice old Victorian end of terrace with original tile flooring in the hall, wall tiles and stained glass in the porch, high ceilings and wooden sash windows. It has the potential to be a lovely house, but has a slightly sad, unloved edge presently. I hope that once all the house mates are there and settled in, it will feel more homely for her.

So how did I start my day alone? With a yummy breakfast of eggs from my ladies and a small handful of cherry tomatoes from the rather dejected tomato plants. Not home made bread yet unfortunately. I realised after I took the photo that it looks as if I'm drinking a large whisky with my breakfast - it's apple juice! I don't tend to buy juice, but some has appeared (!!), so I had a small glass. Every time I drink juice I have all those health warnings blaring out in my head about sugar rush etc etc, but as it's probably only the second glass of juice I've had all year, I don't imagine it will have too much of an effect!!

My ladies are laying five eggs a day again. I think (fingers and toes crossed) that we are getting on top of the red mites now, so they are feeling better. Hopefully the colder weather will help us keep any infestation at bay for a while. I had another double yoker again yesterday - such a treat :)

The rest of my day will be spent cleaning and tidying the house. I will have MY choice of music on and I will hopefully be able to get on, unimpeded by questions, requests or simply bodies in the way!!
I love my own company actually. Funnily enough, I sometimes feel lonelier with people than when I'm on my own. Does that make sense?

Right, I had better get on. Yummy breakfast taken on board, classical music on (rather too loudly), pinny doned and off I go .......

Friday, 4 September 2015

Harvesting and preserving

My garlic turned out minuscule, but I harvested it anyway. I had some home grown basil which was going to seed too, so of course it made perfect sense to make vegan pesto.

I simply pulverised about half my garlic cloves, a large bunch of basil, salt and pepper, olive oil, lemon juice and pine nuts in my mini food processor. I have frozen most of it in ice cube trays, but my eldest daughter tried some yesterday and deemed it a success. I think bought versions contain tofu, but I didn't have any.

I also made six jars of strawberry jam from strawberry puree - not home grown unfortunately. Last year's attempt didn't set properly, but I gave this year's longer and it's looking good. I'm already thinking scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam ......

Only five jars in this photo as one is going to Uni with my eldest! 

Now I need to sort out my store cupboard to create space for the latest creations and all those to come. This I what I like to be doing as the Autumn months start :)

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Summer squash chutney

In a bid to avoid the mountain of housework, I decided to make a chutney this morning. I had harvested the remaining yellow pattypan squashes and felt that the best use for them would be a chutney. I have also used our own apples and green Romano peppers.

4 medium/large pattypan squash (I'd tell you the weight but I dropped my scales and they broke!)
3 apples (I used eating, but Bramley would be good)
4 green peppers
4 tomatoes
2 large onions, mfinely chopped
3 cloves garlic, grated
A 2" chunk of ginger, grated
2 tsp mixed spice
250g sultanas
200g brown sugar
750ml cider or white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Soften the onions in the oil, add the garlic and ginger. When softened, pile in the finely diced vegetables, seasoning, sultanas, vinegar and mixed spice. Leave to simmer for at least 2 hours. The liquid should have all but gone, leaving a more syrupy coating to the fruit and veg. It will thicken as it cools. 

Decant into sterilised jars, warmed in the oven. It should last for up to six months stored in a dark, cool place, without processing, so perfect for Christmas presents, correctly labelled.

I still need to make marmelades and jams. I also saw some sloes so might have a go at sloe gin and the Arancello I made last year was so delicious that I have to make some more! 

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

That September feeling

I LOVE Autumn! It's absolutely my favourite season. I love the colours, walking along streets catching a glimpse into people's houses because they have their lights on earlier, wrapping up warm, Autumn walks in the woods with wellies on, autumn food, roast dinners .... OK I think you can get the picture.

Because we have always worked on academic years in this house, I guess September is the beginning of the new year for me. I loathe January and February as months anyway so prefer to hibernate during that time of year until Spring arrives to save me.  It's this time of year when I think about everything I want to achieve in the coming twelve months.

My first ever aubergine crop

We have quite a busy time ahead in the next few weeks anyway. We are taking our eldest daughter up to Derby to start her graduate medical degree on Saturday. Our son and youngest daughter start back at school in Thursday and our second daughter is off to America on October 5th. All change! Mr D and I will be back to 'man to man marking' with the kids!

Poor old Mr D has had a miserable summer with the first two weeks being taken up with an MA assignment and the final three weeks back at work processing exam results and interviewing prospective staff and students. No break at all for him really :(

Yesterday, I was up in London most of the day with daughter number two at the American Embassy getting her visa - they will let her in :) I have to say, despite having quite a relaxing time sitting outside a nearby café reading my book with numerous refills of tea, going up to London always reminds me that I could never live in a city. My Mum loved London and found excitement in the hustle and bustle. I find my shoulders rise to meet my earlobes and I just feel slightly stressed and mildly grubby!

Very soon I will be left with an empty house and I can start to regain control over the mess again. To be fair, in many people's eyes my house is already fine, but to me it looks a mess. I guess it's all relative?! I have written a list and split it into monthly job lists with an aim to having everything completed before 2016. By that time, we should be better placed to know what our next steps will be in terms of moving house. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I may finally be able to achieve my dream. This will be the longest anticipated, most planned, longed for change in my whole life so far. Keep your fingers crossed for me?