Saturday 31 May 2014

Aspirin and Blight and planting out!

Rumours are rife about a 'possible tonic/cure" for blight on tomatoes and potato plants. Recommended to be sprayed on 2 -3 times a month, especially in this current batch of heavy rain and humid temperatures we are experiencing.

Have a read here and see what you think. I have just bought some and will give it a try, a 47% reduction is better than none! Mind you, I will have to write that amount on the box of aspirin otherwise I'll forget. My sprayer only takes 1 litre of water, my aspirin is 300mg so I'll try 1/4 to 1/2 a tablet in it.

On a slightly different note, I needed to plant out my few bean plants (Runner and French) and hadn't got any plastic bottles to protect them from the slugs. I 'invested' in 2 x 2l bottles of cheap, value lemonade (18p each), disposed of it (can't stand the stuff), and rinsed the bottles well.

The top was cut off, plus the bottom, then what was left, cut in half. That gave me 4 plant protectors so hopefully they will help keep the slugs and snails from nipping my plants at base stem level. I also used safe for organic use slug pellets just inside the bottles, that way, the birds shouldn't be able to get to them (just in case!).

If you need a mini greenhouse per plant, just cut the bottom off and that gives you a tall cloche (minus the cap) that you can remove if the plant gets too leggy or outgrows it.

In the back garden, we have been busy moving the door of the fruit cage, from left side to the middle. This gives us more growing space and at the end of the year, 2 area's of Autumn Raspberries will be moved from between the Blueberries to this new area (obviously by then, all the rubbish will have gone:

So much better, I don't know why we didn't do it in the first place.

Friday 30 May 2014

Cold Weather Warning

For those of us living in rural area's in the East of the country, and in particular Norfolk and Suffolk, a cold night is predicted, with some area's forecast as low as 7C.

My poor old tomatoes are now so leggy due to humidity, drowning etc that some of them are being put into pots and stored overnight in the garage for protection.

Those that need to go outside in the ground will just have to wait. The next few nights should see the temperature overnight getting to around 10C or 11C, which with fleece protection, is the bare minimum they can be outside in.

On the joys of growing outdoors and the mixture of weather, its grand gardening, isn't it!

Thursday 29 May 2014

In the kitchen

My kitchen smelled fantastic yesterday. I had been in there all morning, making and baking.

First off was some bread. Feeling a little lazy and needing to go out to the Open Studio's in West Norfolk, (where I met the lovely Lynne from Textile Treasury) I decided to let it rise only once:
Whilst that was rising, I cut up and roasted a grill-tray full of vegetables - crinkly and some past that stage! Some of the vegetables were kept to one side:
to make a variation on a roast vegetable pasta for tea, with a recipe courtesy of DS and FDiL:
We used just 6oz of pasta between us instead of 10oz, a sprinkling of cheese rather than the 3oz and half the Crème fraîche and mustard. It was yummy so thanks guys!

The rest of it was turned into vegetable and chickpea soup, some of which we had for lunch, with crumpets and a another small sprinkling of cheese (Red Leicester and Parmesan combined):

Wednesday 28 May 2014


At long last and after many a day of rain being forecast, it finally started at midnight, one day ago and went on and on yesterday, all day and night. The garden looks refreshed and there is a lovely smell of damp soil permeating the air.

I went to check on the water butts behind the garage and was pleased to see the final one (the black dustbin) was full. That means they are all full. The overflow from this one feeds into the pond which when full, overflows into its surrounding soil. All is well in that area as well.

It is forecast for us to have showers and sunshine, temperatures around 14C, what a difference from last week, when it was getting too hot for some of my seedlings and they have had to have fleece shading erected above them. Now my seedlings are inside one of the raised beds, protected by plastic troughs trying to stop them from drowning.

The tomatoes which were dark green and short, are now pale and lanky and desperately need planting out. I think I am going to have to plant them out tomorrow then protect them with fleece, as temperatures will be too low at night in a few days time. Where has the proper weather gone?  They too are under cover, which isn't helping their legginess.

The strawberries are all either in full flower or have fruits developing. I now need to get some protection put under them to try and keep the fruit from sitting directly on the soil. Today, even if I don't get around to doing that (due to the rain), DB is going to get my heavy duty plastic sheets on top of them to try and stop them drowning as well. They will be well ventilated, we just need to dry them off a little!

Mind you, not having Sky sports, it was great yesterday afternoon to sit and watch Andy Murray play in the French Open on ITV 4. When Indian Cricket is on, it moves sometime during the day onto ITV 3. We only get to watch him play when he is in the UK so this is an added bonus. Go Andy go!

Monday 26 May 2014

We're back!

Welcome to FeolanKvothe and Kate Greenhalgh via Bloglovin.

We have been away over the weekend, thank you to all your comments and especially to SallyC for noticing the omission of the butter on the recipe - oops!

Actually, in my defence, I was making, photographing and writing at the same time so something was bound to be missed off.

Had a lovely few days with DS and FDiL plus the Grand-dogs. Master L. has certainly sprung up and FDiL is working wonders with him. Seems to be fully trained, dry at night for a few weeks now (he is around 19 weeks old at present). Miss S. was her usual laid back self as was Miss M, but she barks when we first arrive, until she remembers us, then she is fine.

Went for a long walk, had a quick pub lunch half way round and got drenched as it rained the whole time. Also had a meal out with them to celebrate our 33rd Wedding Anniversary. Now we are pulling in the reins regarding eating out (which we were doing a little too often for comfort) and food in general, trying to trim up a little.

We also played two new games (to us anyway) Pandemic - which took an age to get to grips with but was good once we did so. Also Ticket to Ride which we picked up straight away and thoroughly enjoyed. We rounded off with Monopoly which I won around 11:15 last night, first time for many a year I've won.

Hope you all had or are having a lovely week-end even though for some, the weather is not great.

Friday 23 May 2014

Chocolate Refrigerator Cake - Butter Quantity added - sorry:(

My late Mother in Law used to make this when she knew we were coming up. I decided to make one as we are seeing DS and FDiL shortly and I know they like it as well.

As I was in Lidl, I purchased their butter (95p), 2 bars of Bellarom Chocolate (about £1) and cheap Rich Tea biscuits (29p).

Herewith the recipe and how to:

6oz Rich Tea Biscuits
2oz sultana's
4 oz butter (could use margarine)
1 dessert spoon of dark brown sugar
3 dessert spoons of drinking chocolate (I used 2 chocolate, 1 cocoa)
1 1/2 tablespoons golden syrup
6oz plain chocolate or milk and plain combined, chopped.

Break the biscuits into small pieces, (even smaller than mine otherwise the end result falls apart) and put into a bowl with the sultana's:
In a saucepan, melt the sugar, drinking chocolate and syrup:
Leave to cool for a short while if using a plastic bowl for the biscuits, don't want it to melt! Pour the melted syrup onto the biscuits and sultana's and stir well:
Put into a greased, round sandwich tin. I base line mine with silicon sheeting as I like to get it out to cut into chunks.

Press down well. I usually use another tin to given even pressure:
Remove top tin if using and place the biscuit base in the fridge to harden:
While it is hardening, gently melt the chocolate in a saucepan. I added the zest of an orange to give it a good flavour:
When melted and all lumps have disappeared, carefully pour onto the biscuit base and smooth all over, working quickly here, otherwise the chocolate starts to set on the cold base.

There you have it:
It needs to stay in the fridge for 24 hours and all the time whilst being eaten (but won't last all that long!). As I said before, I like to remove mine from the tin. Using a blunt knife, go around the edge of the tin to loosen it. Tip upside down onto a cooling tray or board, remove the silicon base and flip the cake the right side up.
Cut it into chunks, usually around the 1" size with a sharp knife. The chunks will not be neat and tend to fall apart a little. Put them into a storage container and leave in the fridge.
As I didn't take my own advice and leave it for 24 hours, they fell apart more than usual. Mind you, we had the scraps as a quick snack:) It filled 4 of these tubs.

We find we cannot eat more than one square at a time and usually with a hot drink. Hope you enjoy it if you make it.

Have a lovely Bank Holiday weekend!

Wednesday 21 May 2014

I've been trying...

To find a way to stop crushing my floppy flowers where they encroach on the paving.

These flowers are in the left hand bed, next to the pavement where we need to walk to visit area's of our back garden. We could of course cut across the gravel but for the second year running, a very nervous Gold Finch has chosen to nest in our back archway. Daring to walk through that sends her off the nest and last year, her eggs didn't hatch (not surprising really is it). Just checked and through the foliage, I can see a little head hair of a baby finch. Hooray!

We need to keep the path as clear as possible, look as nice as can be without the flowers looking as though they are in straight jackets! Oh yes, and as cheap as can be, nearly forgot that.

We had some chunks of wood, a little leftover black garden fence paint and some newly bought in 10' bamboo canes. As the base of these canes are quite wide, we realised the thinner ends could push into them, stabilizing the fence a little more. You can see what I mean in the picture below, to the right of the black wood:

DB duly sawed, trimmed, made holes in, then painted the wooden bits. Working together to hold various bits as stable as possible, we manhandled the joined canes through the holes then hammered the uprights into place:
There you have it, one rather inventive and useful fence for the price of 3 canes which came to £1.47.
Some lower leaves still spill out but the flower stems are held in place behind the fence.

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Thermal Cooker Hiccup!

Yesterday we went cloths/shoe shopping, did gardening etc and the last thing I wanted to do was cook. Realising it was getting a little late and having some pork fillet to use up, we decided to chop everything up small and make a 'quick' curry.

Everything was brought to the boil but in my hurry, I don't think I did the initial stage long enough.
Anyhow, 3 hours later we opened up the cooker, the pan was red hot. For the whole of the cooking period I had been smelling polystyrene but didn't think anything of it.

We lifted out the pan, then the silicon sheet and found that there was a saucer sized, melted disc of polystyrene sitting on top of the balls in the lower pad. To top that, the tea was only half cooked. My fault completely, but what could we do, the monthly shop is near, not a lot in, so we ate out at a nearby pub.

I read the Wonder-bag site (mine is home made and not a Wonder-bag) and they suggest that if you use a cast iron pan, that a folded tea towel, oven gloves or heat proof material is put on top of the bottom cushion (if you see what I mean).

The first two meals had been fine, and appeared to be at the same temperature so I don't know why it happened this time, but it did. Working on the proviso that there is no such thing as a mistake, only a lesson, we warmed the pan up again to boiling, sat it on a folded tea towel and silicon sheet and closed up the bag.

Another 3 hours went by in the bag but by then, it was 9pm and too late to eat. The pan was sat in a sink full of cold water to cool down enough to put in the fridge. This morning I put 3 long foil cartons of it into the freezer and we shall eat the remainder tonight.

You live and learn my friends. Anyhow, I do have a different saucepan but it has a glass lid (apparently not the best style to use) but luckily, the cast iron one fits on top of the pan. Next time, we shall try this combination.

Sunday 18 May 2014

Trial and error

Remember just a short while ago, showing you my nose as it was slowly transforming into something red and blotchy. Well, had to go back to the doctor's the other day as it was very red and angry looking, with raised thick skin (beginning to feel like a clown with my own belisha beacon!).
Despite being only halfway through treatment, I had to stop as it seems I had too big a response to the treatment! Instead I have been given a cream to put on for 2 weeks, antibiotic and cortisol to heal and calm. All being well, in the next 30 days or so, it should return to normal.

The bird box attached to our apple tree in the back garden didn't contain Coal Tits but Great Tits and over 2 days they fledged. Two came out but the other refused for a couple of days. Eventually they were all out, hopping on the ground.

I took this photograph of two of them at long distance, as didn't want to scare them. Not the best way to take a photograph with my little camera but at least you can see them. They were busy playing near our newly re-vamped water butts behind the garage:
Finally, I bought a tin of tomato puree the other day and having used some, wondered what to do with the rest. Well I decanted them into ice cube trays and froze them:
Hopefully, they will keep fine and as each one contains one tablespoon, should work well in most of my recipes.

Friday 16 May 2014


DS and FDiL sent us this recent photograph of our Grand-dogs:

These words popped into my head!

Eldest in the middle - Miss S: "I'm the eldest and look, I can sit up so.... straight!

Youngest to the left - Master L: "I'm the youngest and getting good at sitting up straight as well!

Middle in age on the right - Miss M: "Me, I just sit:)

Wednesday 14 May 2014

Cooking with my thermal bag

Welcome to Rae Lange via Bloglovin. Again, thank you to Elaine over at Mortgage Free in Three for the pattern.

Sorry for the delay in this post, I wanted to check it worked properly before posting. So then, what did I cook in it first time around, a large pot of beef, barley and vegetable stew. After its initial cooking period to get everything piping hot, it went into the bag at 10am and came out at 5pm. Despite losing heat due to not enough beads, it was all cooked through, except the swede which was al dente.

I still needed to use oven gloves to remove it from the cooker and although the food was still hot, it needed thickening slightly, so that was done, which also warmed it through for just a few minutes. Not bad at all considering, so next time, all should be well:

Will I continue to use it, yes I will and did. The following day, I made bacon, leek and pearl barley soup in 5 hours. I had run out of pearl barley and substituted half the amount needed with risotto rice, which was very well cooked, so reckon it would have been ready in 3-4 hours maximum:

If you are wondering why bother to make one, especially if you (and I) already have a slow cooker, the reason is this. Apart from the first 20 or so minutes of preparing your chosen meal and bringing it to the boil, that is all the cooking (and more importantly), gas or electric you will use.

Despite what everyone says about boiling the pan for 10 minutes, I don't. Once the pan has come to a boil, I simmer it for 10 minutes, stirring to get all parts of the meal hot.

If you don't fancy this version, a different style one (a wonder box) can be found here
This can be stuffed with polystyrene beads or packed with hay.  It makes quite a large box, which can have more than one sized pan put into it (obviously only one at a time).

However, if packed with hay, it might be difficult to wash and if you fill bags with bean bag beads, make sure they are not the new style that dissolve in water.

What about cooking times I hear you ask, well try this site here
There are others as well and I believe Elaine is in the throws of producing a recipe book. I am noting down how long things take, whether they need less or more and going from there (as well as the above site), for guidance.

If you decide to make one, bear with it, it can be frustrating at times but worth it in the end. 

Monday 12 May 2014

Ta dah!

Welcome to Marci Potter via Bloglovin.

I decided to test drive the thermal bag before doing the final sewing, just in case I hadn't filled each segment enough. You can see the temporary blue tacking and orange string used!

Sure enough, heat was escaping near the top of each segment, due to lack of beads. Each segment had its tacking unpicked in the middle, more beads were added and then tacked again. In the end, each segment needed 1.5 mugs of beads for this sized bag. I also decided to make a larger top padded mat.

The inner circle which holds the beads, was eventually permanently closed, with a nice decorative honeycomb stitch, to hide the rather crude internal zigzag:

Another problem I had, was that the material strap I made to go through the outer bit to close the bag, was just not slippery enough. So much tugging was required, it became dangerous. We went to buy some shiny curtain cord, testing it furtively in the shop to check its strength. Anyhow, here it is, finally finished - not too bad in the end:
And with two second-hand toggles to finish off the cord, once it had been oversewn and knotted:
Next time, I'll show you my trial cooking results!

Saturday 10 May 2014

Download and save all your post photographs!

Note: This tutorial shows you how to do this if you are NOT on Google +. If you are, then go to the written version on the Blog tutorial page and go from there. Have her version open whilst downloading.

If I ever change over to Google +, I'll put up a tutorial here only if it is significantly different:)

Sorry for the delay in this final part of safely downloading and storing all your blog. This is the final part!

First of all, log into your blog and if you don't open up in it, go to your dashboard. At the top right, you will see your user name and a little downward facing arrow, click the arrow and select account settings:
You will open up a page that looks like this (except it will hold your personal information:

Click on Data tools at the top and you will arrive here:

Now click select data to download:

Click on the blue box that says, Create an archive:
Now, when you arrive at this screen, all the boxes will be ticked. Under the read box that says Create Archive, is a small box. To the right of this it says Select All, just click it and all the ticks will disappear. Now scroll down and click on the box to the left of Picasa Web Albums. A tick will appear.

Once you have a tick, go back up to the red box that says Create Archive and click on it.

This top part of the screen that appears, looks like this. Within a few seconds, it will begin downloading your Picasa Web Albums.

It takes a while so go and have a nice cup of tea or coffee and keep checking back.

Once it has finished, it will put up this screen:
Click on the blue button that says download. It will probably ask you to sign in again, do so. This screen next appears. Mine looks like this but you may get something slightly different:
Make sure you click Save file before pressing OK.

By now you should be getting the hang of this. Go and find it. If you can't remember where your computer puts downloads, just search for .zip and it should show you where it is. Mine looks like this:
Yours will have your email in it. It can initially come in, in two bits. I just wait and usually, one of the files that has 0 bytes (or very few), disappears and you are left with the above. Rename it or add the date of download into it:
There you go, hope that makes some sort of sense to you. If for any reason, you only get one zip file that has 0 bytes in it and nothing else arrives, then push the blue button again and download again.

I hope I haven't missed out any important steps, if so, please let me know.

Thursday 8 May 2014

Thermal Cooking Bag

I have been making (and at times struggling to make) a thermal cooking bag (similar to an old fashioned hay box) as can be found over at Elaine Collier's blog here

Having found some nice but thin duvet material and cut out the first circle, I thought it might not be able to cope with the strain and instead, found an old but nice pair of curtains. The label had gone so I had no idea if they were 100% cotton or something else.

I chose the pan to be used in the bag and decided to test drive the hot base of it, on the bottom cushion pad, before proceeding to stuff it and finish sewing. It worked fine.

Herewith all my circles cut out:
The nearly finished article:
The main problem I found was that the material I chose, had a slight stretch to it down one side, something I omitted to find out before beginning - SO CHECK YOUR CHOSEN MATERIAL FIRST!

Also, both circles were not true circles (material again rather than Elaine's instructions), which caused me problems. Another area was that my inner circle for some strange reason, was a little too big, so had to be adapted, hence some zigzag over-sewing:
Just when I was getting going, I ran out of thread so had to wait until we next went to town:(
We did not have any polystyrene balls and as the point of this was to make it as cheap as possible (apart from paying for the pattern from Elaine), we opted to break up lots of packing polystyrene to fill it with, despite anticipating lots of mess and hair pulling moments. I wasn't wrong:(

Giving in, we ordered 2 cubic feet of flame retardant, mixed sized bean bag beads from here (had no idea how much we needed, half as it turned out!). If you order 1 cubic feet, that should be enough, depending on what size bag you make. More later!

Wednesday 7 May 2014

Finished and half way through!

DB has finally finished the water butt arrangement behind the garage. In total, all the butts (front and back), can catch and hold around 1100 litres. We are going to finish it off with a layer of gravel to make the floor area more level:
I went to the doctor's about 5 weeks ago with some small bumps on my nose. I thought I knew what they were as I had one about 7 years ago. It was frozen off (quite painful initially). I wasn't looking forward to him suggesting I have these burnt off as there are around 6 or 7 of them, which were becoming more visible over a couple of years. Thankfully, he said they were too far apart and to begin with, to try some special gel - Solaraze, see information here

I have to use it twice daily for 90 days! Here is my nose after 35 days, just beginning to go red. Heavens knows what it will look like after 90 days, plus the 30 days recovery time!
I am also applying the gel to one area on the side of my nose, just under the area where your glasses sit as well as a small area between my top lip and nose. I have to apply my face cream as per normal then remove it from these area's before applying the gel. I'm not allowed to use sun protection on these area's until treatment is finished, nor make-up (don't use any anyway) and to wear a hat at all times when out and about in the sun.

Other than when I was a child or teenager, I have always worn a hat so am not sure why I've got them. You are most prone to them in areas of the skin that are always exposed, the face, tops of ears, arms, neck etc.

Anyway, thought I'd let you know, just in case you have something similar or don't protect your skin when out and about.

Monday 5 May 2014


Saturday afternoon, bolstered by the oxtail soup, saw us both in the garden. DB took most of the afternoon working at the back of the garage. He emptied two water butts into spare containers, disconnected, sorted out and reconnected. 

I decided to take the strawberries out of their long troughs and move them into one of my vegetable beds. They looked like they were struggling in the troughs and although I didn't really want to lose one of the vegetable beds, had no choice. The troughs will be utilized for quick vegetables.

Each trough was carried by us both and tipped onto a spare bed. Using a sharp carving knife, I cut the soil into chunks so as not to disturb the plants too much as most are in flower. They vary in age so were put into lines to keep each age group together. They should be able to stay in this bed for 2 years before the older ones are discarded and the whole lot moved to a new bed as part of my crop rotation.

One trough done:
Three to go:
All moved, 16 in total:
Three watering cans of water were given to them and as a cool night ensued, they didn't seem to notice the difference. They all seemed fine the next morning.

On Sunday, I finally got around to sowing my French and Runner beans - a bit behind but they can't go out for another few weeks anyway as flowers are in their bed! Also did a few other odds and sods, put in a new rose near the front water butt and DB continued with the mammoth water butt job around the back of the garage.