Tuesday, 31 July 2012


A few years ago, around this time, this gorgeous baby girl was born. 

Yes folks, its me. I am not at all shy about telling anyone my age when I meet them. However, the reason for not doing so here, is as I have said before, to keep some things private. 

I have received some lovely presents and DB is taking me out for a meal, probably lunch time at a lovely pub/restaurant on the coast. Hope it won't be full being both wet and the holiday season. If not, we know of more we can visit from our walks.

Just been out into the rain to gather some hydrangeas for the table. Needed to give them a good shake as it was pouring with rain.

Thought I would finish with two lovely photographs. One of these little beauties will be the new best 'working' friend of DS. & FDiL. and companion to S.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Making and making!

Welcome to my two new followers Lindabwick22 and Connie.

Last evening we made bacon and 3 bean (broad, runner and french) risotto for tea, it was yummy. 

Just made two 1/2 batches of Frugal Laundry Liquid. One with borax (for what I class as a 'whites' wash), the other using washing soda crystals for my 'colours' wash.

Also made some more yoghurt which I added vanilla extract to. It set well but despite having 4 teaspoons of extract added, doesn't have much of a vanilla flavour. It also seems slightly more tart than normal.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Do you like broad beans?

If the answer to this is no, it may well be that it is the skin on each bean that you don't like. If removed, the bean becomes a whole different entity!

I picked a small amount of these this morning, de-podded and blanched them. Once cold I processed them as follows:

First, tear a small amount of the skin from the end opposite to the white/brown mark where it joined the pod.
Then squeeze the other end gently.

And outs pops the bean.

I then open freeze these and bag once frozen. They take just a few minutes to cook from frozen in lightly salted water or can be gentle sauteed in butter with a squeeze of lemon juice. 

This method works particularly well with large beans or those bought from the shop that have usually been picked ages ago. Yes, I know, life is too short for some of you but doing some each day builds up to a lot of nice beans for winter as well as using the smaller ones in summer.

I also had 1/2 a cereal bowl of mixed blueberries, raspberries and blackcurrants. Some were added to a basic sponge mix to make muffins - I only had 2 eggs so everything was weighed to match their weight:

The rest were made into small crumbles. 

We have just had our first light shower and everything in the garden looks refreshed and the air smells wonderful!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Enjoying things...

Well, we loved the opening ceremony of the Olympics – found it fascinating. However, both agreed that maybe Sir Paul needs to give it a rest!

Been busy baking this morning. First off was a loaf of Potato Bread, following the recipe to be found over at The Iowa Housewife blog.

Haven't tasted it yet but it looks fine. We did adjust down the amount of salt and sugar so will be interested to see how that makes it taste. Also I found more water was needed as I couldn't bring it together without a few extra tablespoons.

Anyway, it is the loaf on the right of the picture. The one on the left is our normal white bread with added golden linseed.

Also, whilst the oven was on, I made another impossible quiche which was left to go cold to be eaten over 3 meals. 


Although some breadcrumbs were added to the oven once it was switched off, they burnt to a crisp so had to be thrown away.

Hope to make some yoghurt tomorrow then that will do for now. The weather has been cooler today but still nice. Haven't actually done anything outdoors other than put out and bring in a load of washing.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Making Granola

Yesterday saw us making some granola using the recipe courtesy of The Quince Tree:http://thequincetree65.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=granola

Into a mixing bowl we added the jumbo oats, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

Next came the desiccated coconut, chopped mixed nuts, salt and cinnamon. Next time around we will try desiccated sliced coconut as we felt the original requirement made the end result a little 'bitty'.

These ingredients were given a good mix together before adding the sunflower oil and soft brown sugar - you could have used melted butter/honey/maple syrup here!

Then they were mixed together again.

The mix was then divided between two baking sheets and baked in the oven for a total of 1 hour, stirred every 20 minutes. I forgot to set the timer for the last bit but did take note of when it should have finished.
So it may be slightly more brown than it should have been but tastes very good before trying it with milk.

I then decanted it onto trays to cool off. The final amount of dried fruit was added and mixed in well ( in our case dried cranberries and sultanas).

It was then put into an airtight container.

This is not a cheap option but we were getting rather fed up with the sawdust dry stuff that we were buying from a reputable company. I think it could have less fruit and nuts in it to reduce the cost if needed. Anyway, we only eat cereal on a Saturday morning so this should last a month for us two.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

A chiropractic thump or two!

Taking things easy today after our hot walk yesterday - around 5 3/4 miles as it turned out! No wonder we felt worn out.

I forgot to mention that my chiropractor confirmed I do indeed have whiplash after walking into the patio door at DS & FDiL's house.

I felt I was not too bad until she pointed out the 2 areas she needed to manipulate back into place – one on the side of my neck the other between my shoulder blades. Took a few gentle thumps to do it followed by some deep soft tissue manipulation. She may have to do it again when I see her in another 2 months or this treatment might have fixed it. I can certainly turn my head more comfortably now but still have a slight ache at the base of my neck as well as in-between my shoulder blades.

DB had his neck sorted out again and was told in no uncertain terms to stop using the laptop on his lap. Did I tell you the optician found some changes in the back of one of his eyes and wrote to his doctor to get a hospital appointment. Well, paperwork came through yesterday and he will see the ophthalmologist early August - just 3 weeks after being referred. Not too bad really. 

For anyone out there who thinks having your eyes checked is too expensive think again. I have 2 eye conditions that have been picked up and are now being monitored. DB has had this current problem, plus his high blood pressure and high cholesterol noticed.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Blue sky and hot hot weather...

The sky is blue, not a cloud to be seen anywhere. The external temperature is currently 27C (11:21 BST). The internal temperature in the north facing lounge is 23C and will get a lot hotter once the sun gets around to the west side of the house. Once there our conservatory (even with all of its windows open) usually hits 40C!

I have done 2 huge loads of washing which is nearly dry. Also been hacking away at one of the trained apple trees (was totally infested with wooly aphid). It has had its lower branches and top removed. 2 new shoots near the top have been attached to horizontal canes to train them in. The same will be done with any new side shoots that emerge. Most of the bugs disappeared with the pruning, the rest were squashed – what a 'bloody' mess literally!!

The new Spartan apple tree and Greengage originally had their branches tied in at 45 degrees. These, now they are more springy with their sap, have been brought down to 90 degrees and tied in again.

The cooking apple tree had a serious haircut last year and is not only sulking but infested with bugs. It will just have to sort itself out. No fruit on most apples/plum trees this year. We do however (fingers crossed) have 7 red pears and 9 conference pears still attached. 
New photographs have been added to the table on the In my garden page.

Yesterday we 'invested' in a 1.6kg joint of ham. It should have been roasted but we didn't want anymore heat in the kitchen so boiled it. Once sliced, we got 4 bags for freezing plus enough for tea/sandwiches for a couple of days. 

Monday, 23 July 2012

Bills, gardening and food....

I've added another couple of recipes to the Pro Points page.

We have both been to the dentist this morning, me for a check up OH for the hygienist. More expense tomorrow as we both have the chiropractor. Hopefully, the old expenses will calm down a little after that.

Slowly getting to grips with weeding the garden. It looks quite sorry for itself in places. Will do some more today but think the heat will make us take our time and do it in short bursts.

Managed to obtain some calendula seedlings from my neighbour. Some had already drifted in but asked for a few more. This time of year, my flower garden in the front peters out for a few weeks so they will be a welcome burst of colour come August. The lavender bushes are attempting to stand up after being hammered in the storm last Wednesday evening.

Yesterday we washed and dried one double summer quilt on the line, another one is out today. That is the only size I can get in the washing machine but they smell so good afterwards. Might try pressure hosing the winter ones and summer king size – might work as long as I don't blast a hole in them:-).

We had a lovely bowl of home made yoghurt, plus the first home grown blueberries and raspberries yesterday.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

In the garden ...

Welcome to my new follower The Iowa Housewife. I can't remember how or whose blog I found you on but will soon be trying some of your lovely recipes. The potato bread and the buttermilk and chive bread both look lovely!

Well, 9pm last night saw us unwrap the yoghurt and it seems to have a better set than normal. Not quite as good as whole milk but definitely better than my usual way of making it. Also, this time around, I used some of the previously made yoghurt as the starter.

So it would seem that boiling the milk first (I did mine in the microwave) really seems to help. Apparently boiling it seems to release or break down something in the milk enabling the starter to work better. Time will tell if it continues to be so.

We have both been busy in the garden this morning. I am not sure if my tomatoes will make is as the flowers are rotten and falling off as are some of the green tomatoes. The tomatillo plants seem fine and are setting fruit. I have been busy pruning our trained quince tree as it is blocking out too much light. No quinces this year but that is not surprising. Haven't got any plums either and very few apples or pears. 

OH has been digging downwards in probably a futile effort to rid us of next door neighbours bamboo thing. Mind you, it was mind to begin with. I didn't like it and thought I had gotten all its roots out. Apparently not. They in turn do like it and a bamboo triffid is now at fence height and migrating back to us. Blasted thing.

Things in the garden in general are at the moment looking particularly yucky! Hopefully some sun will sort them out.

Mind you we are not alone. Monty Don on Gardener's World last night has not had a brilliant time in his vegetable patch nor have the gardeners at Beechwood Grove Gardens.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Operation Sweep...

We have decided to invest in our own chimney sweeping set for the wood-burner. A normal bamboo cane set won't be good as they don't normally have enough bend and are generally too beefed up for the job and you can risk tearing your stainless steel flexi-liner.

Investment is the right word as they were not cheap but they are very, very flexible and should pay for themselves in around 4-5 years. We thought we had chosen the correct size medium stiffness brush (5 inches) but think a 6 inch soft one would have been better.

When we informed people we would in future, be sweeping our own wood-burner chimney, they all assumed OH would be doing it. Not so. This year is the year I start to take action on some of his household tasks.

We forgot to take a photograph before starting. Couldn't take any during as OH was outside waiting for the brush to pop out the top of the chimney.

Anyway, it took less than 10 minutes to sweep plus another 15 or so wrapping and unwrapping the protective things so we didn't get soot everywhere. Not too much debris considering this was its first sweep in 3 years, probably around one pound in weight. Tut tut! Anyway, it will now have at least an annual sweep or a bi-annual one. 

Here goes:

Cue Mission Impossible Music!

Change clothes - check.

Protect area - check.

Remember to keep turning brushes anti-clockwise so they don't come undone up the chimney - check.

Pull out and undo - ah - call for help. Each rod is 1.5 metres long and we hadn't put enough protection down to enable me to lie them down whilst undoing them - check.

Remove rods - check.

Remove protective board to undo sweep head - check.

Hoover up and put away protective sheets etc. - check (OH did this for me).

Herewith a few photographs.

Sorry about the slightly blurred last done, obviously got too close in my excitement!

Also today, I have just finished baking two loaves of bread and made 900 ml of yoghurt using semi-skimmed milk. Last time using whole milk, it came out very thick after boiling the milk to begin with. Wonder what it will do this time?

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Massive storm

After our long walk yesterday and both aching like jiggery, we settled down to watch some TV. The skies outside darkened dramatically then blew over. Phew we thought. Then an eerie yellow sky arrived, fork and sheet lightening followed accompanied with a high wind. Cloud burst rain fell almost immediately quickly followed by small, then medium sized hail falling at quite an acute angle.

Plants in my tubs, window boxes and hanging baskets had their petals knocked off their stems. They are now in tatters but I'll leave them be in case they can recover in the predicted warm weather in a few days time!

Herewith some photographs – some of the best didn't turn out as they were through windows and you just couldn't see properly. The first photograph half way through the storm,shows the road in our cul-de-sac. You can't see the pavement as the water was already over it and running into people's gardens.

This one is just outside the back patio doors within 10 minutes of it starting. By the end my back garden was again under 2-3 inches of rain - must surely lose my strawberries now!

Here is to the left of the back door and to the right. By now it was just a few inches away from coming in the house.

You can see on the last one, just over the step at the end, the rain in the back garden itself. 

It has just started raining again so no doubt everywhere will struggle to cope again!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Just when are we using our broadband via the TV set?

As the Olympics are due shortly and the BBC are advertising 24 on demand channels, we thought we would take some time out to find out when we are/are not connected to the internet via our TV.

I know it sounds ridiculous, we really should know but it is one of those things in life that you think you know then realise you don't.

As mentioned previously, we have been adjusting our bills downwards, the telephone being the last one, particularly regarding broadband. We used to have it unlimited when DS. was at home but have saved ourselves quite a bit of money by reducing it to 40GB per month. So far (since 6th July) we have barely used 1/10th of our allocated amount.

We went online to find out the answers then confirmed them by unplugging and plugging in the broadband to the back of the TV.

We have an HD TV with built in FreeSat - here is what we discovered. If we want to access the BBC iPlayer we do so by choosing Channel 901, pressing the red button and navigating from there. THIS USES THE INTERNET.

If we are watching a BBC channel and press the red button to watch something else (like a different game at Wimbledon or one of the 24 Olympic channels) THIS DOES NOT USE THE INTERNET.

We double checked by disconnecting ourselves from the internet and trying both ways again. Choosing Channel 901 and trying to access the iPlayer did not work. However, navigating from a BBC channel and using the red button still worked.

I'm sure it is the same for Freeview TV's as well as those with set top boxes. We can't at the moment access the ITV player but one assumes that doing so would again use the internet.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Normal service resumed!

We have been away again for a few days helping DS. & FDiL. clean their rental house ready to hand back to the landlord. DS. had been busy after work every night for a fortnight making a start whilst FDiL. was on dog/house sitting duties for the 2 weeks so couldn't get across.

The bathroom and kitchen needed re-painting and a few bits of gloss touching up so DB. & FDiL. tackled that (DS. was at work). We weeded the garden, raked it over, swept it up, mowed the lawn and transplanted the raspberries to their new house.

I cleaned the oven and removed packing newspaper marks from the kitchen cupboards. DS. & FDiL. cleaned the carpets using a hired cleaner. We then left them to it as were aching too much to carry on. Went back to their new place to have a shower but decided to cut down yet another large shrub before showering.

Yesterday before leaving, we helped take the roof off the shed that was there when they moved in. Then we shoved and dragged and lifted the rest of it into its new place before replacing the roof and everything in it. Phew. 

Still more shrubs to move but we have left them our loppers and will tackle the garden if it stills needs it when we visit again in a few weeks.

We reckon we drove more than 140 miles just going backwards and forwards between houses and the dump!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Jam making in the microwave

Microwaved Jam – 16 minutes total cooking.


Place 1lb of sugar and your jam jars into a 100 Celsius oven.

Prepare 1lb of fruit (I was using whole gooseberries so topped and tailed them) and place in a 4 pint/2 litre glass/ceramic container. Put the lid on or cover with cling film leaving a small gap for some of the steam to escape.

Cook in the microwave for 4 minutes on high.

When done, remove lid/cling film and stir. Cook for another 2 minutes on high (keep an eye on it) with lid on. 

Then stir and cook for another 2 minutes without lid. AT NO POINT WALK AWAY AS IT MAY BOIL OVER!

Add sugar, stir well then cook for another 4 minutes on high without lid.

Stir well and finally cook for another 4 minutes on high without lid. Depending on what fruit you are using, a tablespoon of lemon juice added at this final stage will ensure a good set but I have never had an unset jam using this method.

Keep an eye on it as in the sloping side jug I was using, it was very close to the top. If you think it will boil over, stir occasionally and keep cooking.

When this time is over, give a final stir, leave to cool for 3/4 minutes then pour/ladle into the hot jam jars. These jars were around 12oz and 10oz in size. Unusually the jam (when a taste check was carried out) was still slightly tart so it has been labelled as sour gooseberry jam but will bring a lovely summer twang in the depths of winter!

This is the colour of the jam after it has cooled down. I love the first green colour you get but gooseberry jam seems to change to a darker colour on cooling.


Tuesday, 10 July 2012

It started with a gooseberry...

Well a few pounds to be precise. I had noticed my gooseberries were swelling in all this rain. They were also however, beginning to go rotten. Normally when they are this large they have sweetened, not so this year, large and just as sour!

Today was the day I decided to pick the whole lot, make some microwave jam and freeze the rest. 

M., have you any idea where my large casserole dish is that I use for microwaving jam?”

Attic I should think”

Can you just check in the corner cupboards before you go up there?”

A few searches later, in all cupboards and the attic, more than once, revealed nothing. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have got rid of it so maybe I gave it away. Unthinkable but there you go. No doubt when I no longer need to use it, it will materialise!

Anyhow... like you do, this search made us realise we haven't done an empty and get rid of unused kitchen items. We normally do this roughly every 2 years or so. What we don't think we use goes into the attic. If it is up there more than 2 years without us using it, it goes to the charity shops. The only item excluded from this is the pasta maker. Might not use it very often but would never get rid of it as it is too expensive to replace. This photograph doesn't show the chaos that was the kitchen floor and worktops!

One hour later and a few rejigs of shelves etc, saw the cupboards cleared and sorted out into proper compartmentalised areas. 

Baking (tins, bowls, mixer)

Toasting/Frying (George Forman, chip pan, toaster etc)

Utility (everything either required daily (one shelf) or occasionally (another shelf). The yucky looking microwavable bowl on the top shelf is clean folks, just stained by tinned beans and tomatoes.

These were the items we put up into the attic this time around. The dust on some of them shows how little they are used. 

As for the jam, I will have to use the dish part of the slow cooker (if it will fit). If not, will freeze them and use my jam pan another day.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Baking etc...

Welcome to my new follower Rae. Early this morning (after yet another sleepless night until 4am when I finally 'dropped off'), I decided to have a baking morning. First on the list was a hard core full fat gingerbread cake.

After that I made some pork and chicken pasties.

With the leftover pastry I made some wartime cookies. Check out my new Wartime Recipe page to see how I made them. Then a little crumble mix to sit on top of two individual gooseberry crumbles.

Yesterday, I tackled my yoghurt nemesis and decided to try making it slightly differently. This time I allowed the milk to boil, then left it to cool to the correct temperature before adding yoghurt and following the recipe as per usual. I also decided to trial this new way using whole milk and then semi skimmed.

9pm last night found me unravelling said jar from its towels and cool bag and hey, the whole fat milk version is solid. I could actually tip the jar on its side and it stayed put. We had some after lunch today with cinnamon and honey drizzled on top - lovely.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

And we think we are being frugal.....

In these times of being frugal, I thought I would let you see an extract from a Wartime Cookery Book collated by Ambrose Heath. The person sending in a handy hint, describes how she made her meat ration for one week, for 4 people, stretch over 3 days. This book was published in 1941 but it is not stated what week she was referring to but circumstances were quite obviously dire.

My entire family meat ration for the week was just 1lb of stewing steak (1s 4d in total – working out at 4d each for the week). I made this stretch to feed us all over 3 days.

Our first meal was a pasty each, using 1/3rd of the meat with turnip and potato added. This was served with sprouts and gravy. The second meal was a Beef Olive. The meat was hammered out to make a thin sheet before being stuffed with bread crumbs, parsley and herbs and rolled up. It was served with carrots, sprouts and suet dumplings. The final meat meal was Steak and Leek Pudding alternating the final 3rd of the meat in layers of leeks and sliced potatoes. Also served with sprouts”.

I presume for the other 4 days they had vegetarian based meals of which numerous ones were available to choose from.
Well done her is all I can say.
I was going to remove my war time diary and other information as I didn't think anyone was reading it. However, a few people have now started to comment so I shall carry on. Their comments have made me re-read my wartime cookery books (many original that took some hunting down!). I thought I might start to show you some when I make them in case any appeal to or are of use to you.

You will notice a new page at the top of my blog. I have linked to Bev at Happyowls to bring you some of her Pro Point Recipes.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Rain update...

Hooray, it finally stopped raining at 4.00pm and the sun is out. Wet weekend still in prospect though!

Rain update

It hasn't stopped raining at all. It seems to ease off (but never stop) for barely a few minutes before powering down again. Here are some more photographs, taken around midday. Although it is difficult to tell, the blueberries are under 2" of water.

It is slowly creeping up the patio.

These tomatoes have now been lifted onto an upturned long tray.

The strawberries are just about floating on their stems!

Just outside the bedroom door.

When the rain eases off though, the level tries to go down. Our road drains are still working which is good news.