Friday 28 November 2014

Just in case part 2

First of all, welcome to Rebecca Pickering via Bloglovin and secondly, we are not shopping today, I find the whole concept of Black Friday disgusting! It seems to bring out the worst in some people.

The wind howled all night and we listened to what sounded like snow hitting the bedroom window. We had a nursery electric heater on low in the bedroom where we all were, to keep an ambient temperature for DS and hoped we would not have a power cut.

The next morning we got up and could see a lot more snow had settled. The outside temperature was cold and the sky still grey. Luckily for us DB had filled as many things with fuel as he could and put them in our small porch to keep dry. Back then, we didn't have a wood burner but a Parkray, a solid fuel anthracite enclosed fire that also heated our hot water.

Everywhere around us was pristine, no-one seemed to be out and we found out over the radio that we were cut off in all directions. Luckily we still had our power. We remained cut off for a whole week. Our supplies lasted but the then two village shops were besieged and eventually ran out of most things.

The doorbell rang the next day and on our doorstep, trussed up in coats and boots was the district nurse who had come to see how we were getting on. She seemed most bemused when I asked her if she had been dropped in by helicopter (I know, the way your mind thinks after having a baby). Turns out she lived around the corner, less than 100 metres away!

Anyhow, she checked us both over, did a little discreet stitch cutting for me as I was very uncomfortable with 2 stitch tails that had somehow swivelled and were sticking into me. Ah, that's better said I and off she went. She managed to come every day until DS was 10 days old, letting us know what was happening regarding the village being cut off. Eventually she informed us that a snow plough had finally made it through and just one road was open.

That time had an impact on me and so every late autumn early winter I go into survival mode. Although the village is all electric and our central heating is oil, it would be useless in a power cut as you need electric to pump the water and fuel around the system. We now have a wood burner and everything needed to keep warm.We also have a one ring gas cooking stove and a camping kettle plus enough cartridges of gas to see us through for a few weeks of emergency soup etc. The wood burner could also be used to cook on.

Our store cupboards are kept stocked as much as possible to enable us to make that soup and we now have an emergency store cupboard. The freezers are kept stocked but would probably be no good in the event of a long power cut. However, if the power cut was the result of snow, we would build a snow fridge/freezer and transfer the goods into it. Same would go for lack of water due to snow, the snow could be melted to drink.

Due to that one time our village was cut off, despite being new to the village we slowly got to know our neighbours and in similar times, have warmed water and brewed tea, made soup and all sat around our fire to keep warm and have a chat.

We know we are lucky but if the very least you can keep for an emergency (or everyday for some folk nowadays), is enough basic items to make soup and a way of cooking it, then you should be okay.

This was us several weeks later once the thaw had started. Those icicles hanging near the then front window were more than 4 feet long originally and yes, we did break 2 off to have a game of swords!
On the whole, our temperatures have warmed since childhood, when we both remember almost every winter being very cold and having snow most of the time. I think soon, children will be born who grow up to never know what snow is unless they go abroad to see some!

Have a good weekend everyone.

Thursday 27 November 2014

Congratulations and just in case....

Congratulations to Andy and Kim on your engagement, you said you would keep it quiet and private and you did. Let us hope the media don't harass you both too much!

Every year, come late autumn early winter, I prepare for the worst weather possible just in case. DB smiles at me as every year he has been correct and nothing too untoward has happened. However, the year our son was born was a different matter.

In that January I went into labour 9 days earlier than expected, mind you I had been using a mini sledge hammer to put some posts into the garden the previous day:) We had only moved into our house 3 weeks previously so luckily, had just done a big shop to save going out for anything and to concentrate on the baby!

The day I went in the weather was beautiful, a cool but sunny day with blue skies and white clouds. When I awoke the next morning and went to look out of the hospital window, it had snowed overnight. Boy had it snowed. I know those of you living in cold climates get way more snow than us so you might smile at this bit. Sitting on the porch roof just below our ward window was deep snow, nearly 12" of it!

All of us listened to the weather forecast, each bursting into tears like you do, when we realised no-one would be able to get in to visit if they lived outside the town, like us:(

Come visiting time that evening (no-one had gotten in for the afternoon visit except a few very local people), DB strolled in carrying a huge bouquet of flowers and yes, I burst into tears at the shock and delight of seeing him.

In those days, you were expected to stay in hospital for a whole week after giving birth unless you had more children at home - experience I guess. Well we didn't, each day the sky went grey and each day it snowed, just a little more. However, 4 days later the weather forecast was awful and we were all told if we didn't go home that day we would have to stay.

I phoned up DB and he said the conditions were getting bad in our village but he would do his best. Ages later, he turned up and we proudly walked out of the hospital, carrying our slightly yellowing  baby (he had mild jaundice but was fine to go home).

The drive home was horrendous, he had thought to put a blanket and Thermos flask in the car just in case but in those days we had no mobile phones. Crossing our fingers we set off. All the roads had been cleared except the one to our village but they were very icy. When we got to where we needed to turn off there were just two rapidly disappearing tracks down the middle of the road. Saying a prayer we carried on (just in case you were wondering if we were being stupid at this point, there were several cars in the distance, both in front and behind and a tractor was at the back of the queue).

The noise of the snow and ice scraping the bottom of the car was very loud but eventually, travelling at about 15 - 20 miles per hour we arrived home safely. The snow was now coming down hard and we hurriedly got DS, me and everything else into the house and the car into the garage.

Here he is a few weeks later sitting in his car seat - yes, they really were that sparse all those years ago and with no neck support!

Part Two next time! Welcome to Katie Weston via here and Bethan Palmer via Bloglovin.

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Advertising rules for bloggers

It pays to know what the advertising code is when you advertise on your blog even if you don't think you are advertising. Here in the UK, you can check out this site

If you are a video blogger or Vblogger, what you can and cannot do can be found here

Forewarned is forearmed. Nuff said!

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Frugal Liquid Revisited...

You can find my link on how to make frugal laundry liquid here
I have brought it up to date regarding this extra step.

Always ready to sort out any tiny problems using home made laundry liquid, I decided yesterday to do something different towards the end in an effort to keep it as a liquid rather than a solid gel! Now you probably all do this but I have only just realised it is a step I really needed to do.

Why? Well, if you pour the liquid into your storage containers as soon as it is done (less than 5-10 minutes by the way from start to finish), it has a tendency to set in the bottle making it a little difficult to get out properly.

Here is the batch from yesterday, made and still in its finished liquid state:
After an hour or so it had set into a semi-firm gel:
So I got my electric hand blender, you could use an electric whisk or a decent sized hand whisk:
After a few minutes it had turned back into a liquid and it was decanted into my storage ex-milk cartons. I always leave a gap at the top for shaking to re-distribute the essential oils:
There was just a slight problem with this, the lavender was okay (20 drops of essential oil into each bottle as it was being poured in) but unfortunately, I picked up Tea Tree instead of Lemon-grass oil!

I have just checked it before posting this and it is now more of a liquid and easier to decant, glad I decided to do this.

Monday 24 November 2014

Just a small thing

Welcome to Di McDougall via Bloglovin and Twiggtpeasticks via here.

As we get older, other than having bad backs, it becomes more difficult to do simple tasks such as lifting, pulling and pushing. We both know how to lift heavy things but I had been finding it a little more difficult to push heavy kitchen equipment, such as the food processor, away to the back of cupboards.

DB sorted it out in a jiffy. He lifted it out, drew around its base onto a thickish piece of cardboard (adding extra all around), cut the shape out, cut out and strengthened a handle for ease of pulling and there you go, slides in and out lovely:

I have updated the menu tab with our meals from last week. The meat content was the closest to our maximum for a long while.

As I need to find some space for Christmas meals and baking, we have decided that the next 4 weeks of meals will be from the freezer and cupboard contents as much as possible. Usually we take quite a few meals and ideas from these but more of an effort is to be made, we need some space!

Friday 21 November 2014

Black Eyed Beans with Mushrooms - adapted recipe

The other day I made us this recipe from a book by Madhur Jaffrey. I had doubled the recipe in pencil for some reason so thinking the original doesn't make enough, went with the pencil ingredients. I always adapt this recipe otherwise we find it way to 'wet'! You can find the normal recipe here

Once I started cooking and had to change from my largest pan to the wok, I realised my error. The double up in pencil was from our previous go when I was cooking for our school chums!

Anyhow, from a taste point of view (and the fact I have been cooking this for us for 30 odd years), we have adapted it to our own taste. You might like to try it in its original form first!

Here it is just beginning to cook - such a lot but it is doubled up here:
And finished:
Then one portion each served with noodles - didn't have any rice!:
This is what we had leftover from doubling and adapting the recipe:
Yep, 4 oblong foil cartons enough for 4 meals each for us both! Anyway, we reckon that the meal for us, plus these 4 cartons made each meal just 50p, very nice:)

What do I adapt in the recipe then:

Water - we decrease it from 1.15 litres to 850 ml. We put the beans in the water, bring it up to the boil, simmer well for 10 minutes, cover and leave OVERNIGHT rather than the 1 hour. We find this cooks the beans almost.
Oil - we halve the amount down to 3 tablespoons
Cinnamon - usually never have a stick so use 1 tsp powder instead
Garlic - we halve it down to 2 cloves
Cayenne pepper - we quite often haven't got any in so put in 1/2 to 1 whole dried one
Salt - we miss it out altogether for the reason below
Coriander - we hate it fresh so substitute 2 cubes of frozen spinach at the end instead

What do we add:

2-3 tablespoons of tomato purée at the end to help thicken it.
1-2 stock cubes of your choice - that is why we leave out the salt!

We adjust the seasoning at the end by either adding in a little more stock cube or tomato purée. If it is still a little runny, then we will thicken it with a little cornflour and water, just enough to get rid of excess fluid.

You don't have to buy black eyed beans, dried haricot would work just the same but we like to see the little black fleck in the dish.

Thursday 20 November 2014

Damson Brandy Puddings

Firstly, welcome to Finola Smith and Sylvia den Hollander via Bloglovin.

Having used a few of the damsons rescued from the brandy we made, I decided to chop them up and make some more mini sponge puddings. These will be used over Christmas.

First they were chopped small by DB plus some dark glacé cherries were rinsed, chopped and also steeped in some of the Damson Brandy:
I made a basic Victoria sponge using the weight of 3 eggs. Once everything was weighed and mixed, I stirred in 2 tablespoons of Damson Brandy:
I had already greased, floured and base lined 8 mini pudding tins. I was just about to drop my first ice-cream scoopful of mixture into a tin when I realised I had forgotten to stir in the fruit!

Anyway, the tins were filled, covered and steamed for 1 hour:

We shall look forward to these on Christmas Day with custard for us three and home made ice cream for FDiL. If the uncooked taste was anything to go by, they should be nice!

Wednesday 19 November 2014

On my knitting needles...

Is the front part of a sleeveless jumper taken from an old WWII women's magazine. The pattern is only for a 32" chest which I am not and should be knitted in 3 ply wool which is very difficult to get hold of today.

Anyway, not to be outdone, I went on-line where it was explained to me that you can substitute 4 ply and if you also need to go up one or two sizes to use a thinnish double knit and drop down one or two needle sizes for each bit.

It is a lovely pattern but involves cable stitch all over the place which was too much for me to attempt. However, I changed wool and needle sizes and cast on! I originally decided to just use plain stocking stitch in an effort to get it finished before this winter is out as I am such a slow knitter.

As I was required to cast on 112 stitches, I though I would do the middle 12 in basket weave (double moss stitch I think) and either side of it in stocking stitch.

I'm using a trial wool from a shop which is £1.75 per 100g ball and think I shall need up to 200g but have bought 300g just to be safe. It is a nice shade of lavender

Want to see how it is progressing:
I think it will be a little tight on the rib side of things at the bottom but is filling out to a better size as the full 136 stitches get added on. I still have another 10 to add, then it has to be knitted up to 11" before starting to cast off for the arm holes. Obviously it won't be so bunched up once off the needles!

Hope I can interpret and allow for my changes to the pattern okay. I can only knit 4 rows at any one time before my fingers cramp so it is going slowly but this is the result of 2 - 3 weeks work at that pace so hopefully, I might get it completed by February:)

Talking of WWII patterns and also patterns from other era's, I came across this fantastic web site
where you can download and drool over old patterns. Enjoy!

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Sainsbury Basics versus Tesco Value Range ...

Where applicable!

Today we had to go to town to pick up some more cheap wool (new type on special offer until it goes, at least £2 a ball cheaper I reckon).

Then other little things got added to the list until finally, we were able to do a much needed spice/herb buy and a few other things. Not wanting to spend further money by driving to another supermarket, we used the one in town, a gentle stroll to get to it, amongst other shopping.

Here is what we needed:

Pasta, long grain rice, Sultanas, Instant Mash (for potato bread), butter, ground cumin, whole cumin, celery salt, onion salt, garam masala.

We also needed some streaky bacon but on this occasion, chose not to use basic/value brand.

Anyhow, the upshot was that Tesco was 51p cheaper simply because they didn't have any onion or celery salt in their value ranges. If they had, they would have been £2.71 cheaper. 

We were right on this occasion not to drive to the other supermarket as we felt sure this would have used more than the 51p to do so. Just goes to show, you pays your money and takes your choice.

Monday 17 November 2014


Welcome to Vanessa Charles via Bloglovin and Winters End Rambler via here.

Well done and thanks Andy for stepping in to give us some tennis to watch last night. I love seeing you play in exhibition matches where you are more relaxed and smiling and laughing.

I have just updated our menu page with our latest meals.

Back to preparations for Christmas! We like to give some home made marmalade as gifts to N. our chiropractor and C. my massage therapist. Plus some always goes to FDiL's parents amongst other things. In return, we get a few things that they have made:
The three at the back and the one on the left are Brandy and Ginger, the front right just plain. I also had enough left over to half fill our marmalade pot.

Earlier in the year, I trialled putting Damsons into Brandy see here. They were strained and the resulting (very powerful but lovely) red liquid put into whatever bottles/jars I could find (as we will keep it rather than it go as presents):
Most of the recipes I found had what appeared to us, to be far too much sugar. This tastes just about right, maybe another tablespoon or so would make it just right, I shall have to adapt the recipe. The skins of the damsons are quite firm but they were like little bullets when we prepared them from the wild. Maybe bought damsons would be better, especially the larger variety, but we never find them to buy.

We have had a few of the damsons with Parkin and custard, the last few I am going to chop up and put into a pudding.

Friday 14 November 2014

More preparations

This time a few sausage rolls. Loads of recipes for these but I now cheat and use bought puff pastry.
Sometimes I add things to the sausages (once released from their skins), such as extra herbs, other seasoning or even grated cheese.

This year they are just plain:
They were frozen then packed into 2 bags of 8. There were several scraps of pastry left so they were rolled out, had grated Parmesan put on, re-rolled and cut out into whatever I could do with their mad shape:
Just been out to have my sewing machine checked after it seemed to be more noisy than normal, all okay and no charge. He did break my needle but replaced it so it is good to go for projects.

Also just done a top up food in Aldi, got a few German Christmas treats that we like so another tick in the 'box'.

Have a lovely weekend folks, despite the dire weather forecast. Stay safe and hope none of you get flooded!

Thursday 13 November 2014

Poached Eggs

We rarely eat poached eggs as no matter how you do them, they can be just a tad fiddly. The floating silicon poachers were half price so we bought some to try.

You have to lightly oil them and crack an egg into each one:
They need to float in about 1 1/2" of simmering water so they do not touch the bottom of the pan and the lid needs to be on:
4 - 6 minutes (we needed 6), then they are carefully lifted out with a spoon. The top outside bit of the egg white is released all around with a spoon or non-sharp knife before popping them inside out, onto toast:
Two came out well the other two not so, it was only when DB was washing them up that we realised I had greased two of them inside out and the egg had stuck slightly to the lettering!

Ah well, you live and learn.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

End of an era or two....

I have had to give up donating blood due to my, as of yet, undiagnosed heart condition. I was called to donate but had to tell them about the results (or not) and they don't really like to take donations from anyone with any kind of heart condition.

They didn't like the idea of me being mostly tachycardic plus having arrhythmias (normal pattern though) or ectopic beats during high tachycardic episodes but mostly the fact that I have some sort of electrical problem that they can't fathom out!

Guess I can't blame them and to be honest, I have been feeling a little off after donating recently so perhaps it is for the best. Anyway, 43 donations when able to donate but it is a sad time as I have a blood group that only 7% of the country have and they are very short of it:)

If any of you are able to donate blood or other things, please, please do. I have said it before but just 4% of those who are able to donate do so!

I was cheered up though by watching Andy Murray play last night. Still not at his best but he came through. Federer next and another night time match. How disappointing is it to have your countryman playing and 2 out of his 3 matches are not available anywhere on national television (it is on the radio)!

We don't have paid tv but did pay to watch it via the internet on tennistv. Just for that match but it looks as though I might need to do so again on Thursday when he plays Roger. Good job it is not too expensive but I am using my small premium bond win towards it:)

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Underway at last!

Finally, "C" preparations are under way. DS and FDiL should be with us late Christmas Eve, barring any last minute changes. Every year we say we are not going to go mad and each year we are getting better. I am not doing a cake this year, might still do a few mini puddings for anyone who wants one. Trifle always, will never miss out on that!

Using as always Delia's mincemeat recipe, we took time to share the duties of preparation in the warm kitchen whilst tea was in the oven:
This gets more expensive to make each year but we all hate shop bought mincemeat, far too sweet and sickly.

It was 'cooked' in the slow cooker this year until the suet had melted. I didn't have enough jars so it has had to go into a large kilner type jar:
We now only make half the mixture as we just can't each the full amount before starting again the following year!

The menu tab for our last fortnight of meals has been updated for those of you who are interested.

Saturday 8 November 2014

Being cold in winter

Is not good for you, according to the tonight programme on British TV recently. You can read for yourselves about the experiment here

The experiment lasted for just 5 1/2 hours before the journalist's core temperature showed he was experiencing mild hypothermia. Mind you, sitting there at 12C in a shirt and trousers for most of it I'm not surprised he suffered! He did eventually put on a thin jumper but I bet he wasn't wearing a vest!

As a demonstration it was very interesting to see just how cold your house has to be before your body suffers so I'm playing devils advocate here by asking the question, was the experiment a viable experience on what most people in fuel poverty experience?

I have to say straight up, we are not in fuel poverty which is gauged on whether you spend more than 10% of your income on fuel to keep your house in a satisfactory condition, (and presumably you warm?) see here

That does not mean though that we can guarantee to stay out of fuel poverty. Despite changing electricity suppliers, we have gained very little from a monetary point of view as year on year, the costs go up and less heating has to be used to compensate!

If I remember correctly, last winter our thermostat was set to just 14C. Heating was on for around 45 minutes in the morning to take the chill off the whole house. A similar burst was usually needed mid afternoon. Late afternoon the wood burner was lit. Oil lasted twice as long, our annual electricity bill was around the £350 mark, our water savings also fell due to judicious use of all water in the house.

Despite cold mornings recently we still haven't set the heating to automatic. We get up, put on dressing gown or jumper (whatever is to hand), turn the heating on as we prepare hot porridge and tea. We let the thermostat turn itself off twice then switch the heating off.

We both wear as many clothes as needed to keep us warm. Our hands do get cold and so we don fingerless gloves. Having watched the programme though and realising that DB may now be subject to these changes in his body (although to be honest, his BP and pulse rarely vary and we take them often enough to know), we may up it to 16C or even 18C should we have a really cold winter. We have budgeted for this increase and realise we are lucky to be able to do so.

Read Frugal Queen's blog entry for today where she gives tips on how to keep you and your house warm. Begin your day right, dress well, have a hot breakfast, hot soup for lunch, hot drinks throughout the day, a hot meal (soup again if necessary - don't know how to make soup, loads of stuff on-line), get into a warm bed wearing whatever you need to keep warm and you will get through.

We don't have an electric blanket as I find them uncomfortable. DB warms a microwave bag for his feet, I give my bit a quick blast with the hair dryer for less than a minute and jump in!

Thursday 6 November 2014


Solid as a rock as the song goes!

Having made King's Soup the other day (recipe previously mentioned earlier on in the week), I then found a recipe for Parkin which uses oatmeal (rather than porridge oats).  There were two in particular that caught my attention, one by Nigella, the other by Delia. As the first one was half the amount and baked in a loaf tin rather than a big cake tin, I decided on Nigella's.

It made up fine, nice with a soft consistency, baked for just 10 minutes longer than she states (but she mentions it may need a little longer) it was ready. Once cool, it was wrapped up in foil where it has been for 3 days now, solid as a rock, hardly sticky and very heavy.

Think I will stick to making Gingerbread in future, ah well, guess that will be for a few puddings this weekend then:

Our temperature got down below freezing last night and although the sun was up when we got up, the temperature was still 0C and a slight frost was apparent on all the roof's surrounding us:
This weekend the forecast says it will be quite wet and windy so some washing has just gone outside to 'dry'.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Welcome and War Diary IV upload

First of all, welcome to Jackie via here and Karen Sussex via Bloglovin. Glad you could join the old Norfolk Express!

I've just uploaded the final instalment of our War Diary IV. Hope you enjoy reading, comments are always welcome.

Temperatures here last night got down to 2.2C, should be similar tonight but Wednesday night is forecast for even lower so guess that will be our first frost!

Monday 3 November 2014

Tired but happy...

First of all, welcome to Helen via Bloglovin.

We have had a tiring weekend. On Friday we travelled to spend the weekend with DS and FDiL, plus Grand-dogs. Saturday we went up north for DB, DS and his best man, to be measured for suits for DS and FDiL's wedding early next year. Although we were passengers, it was a 2 hour journey each way.

At least we got to see DS's daily commute as he has to do this drive every day for 4 days a week, no mean feat. Pleasant enough routes, 2 or 3 to choose from but still a long time each day and even more so, after a tiring day at work.

Anyway, we have to return for a first fitting mid December and possibly another in January but hopefully not. Apparently 1st fitting is usually not far off the mark. All 3 of them are going to look similar but DS should be different enough to stand out. Sunday we drove home.

Once retired, it is amazing how tiring travelling gets as it is not a daily occurrence for us any more.
I made soup for lunch today, courtesy of Elaine see here

I had some turkey stock in the freezer so it tasted like a turkey/chicken soup and was very creamy. I also cooked it my the thermal cook bag and it took 3 hours but needed a slight warm up once I had whizzed it.

Enough left over for tomorrow for lunch and we shall definitely make it again sometime soon. My pinhead oat meal is just out of date so I shall have to use it up in something. Maybe Parkin?

Saturday 1 November 2014

Adapting Recipes

For some, adapting any recipe, especially where baking is concerned, is one big no no! Not so in this house.  We have a few unwritten rules in this household, one of which is, if sweet baking doesn't work out how you plan, eat it with custard!

Today, I wanted to bake a gingerbread cake and my pantry just doesn't have in it what I need so the recipe has been adapted to a chocolate ginger cake muffins.

For example, 8oz Plain flour had one heaped tablespoon of flour removed whilst on the scales and cocoa powder put back into the mix to make it back up to the 8oz - hence chocolate ginger cake.

Next I needed 2 oz golden syrup and 6oz of black treacle. No black treacle, so I used 7oz of golden syrup and 1oz of ginger syrup from a jar of ginger in syrup.

The final substitution was margarine of which I needed 4oz. Nope, not enough of that either so I used 3oz margarine and 1oz of lard. Instead of some currant or sultana's, I finely grated 1 ball of ginger.

Lard works well in most cakes, except perhaps plain sponges, as witnessed by the impressive number of Wartime cakes that do so. I never substitute the whole amount unless I really have to, but quite honestly, you just cannot taste the difference.

The mixture should be put into a 7" square deep tin, which I normally do but this time, we fancied individual muffins.

The mixture was far more runny than the original but I waited a couple of minutes and it thickened up. Then I used my trusty ice cream scoop and put one scoop into each muffin case.

They were baked at 180C until risen and cooked, about 30 - 40 minutes:
Taste wise, they don't have that deep note of black treacle but otherwise, they are not too bad, but could do with more ginger! Two days later, and they now have that sticky gingerbread feel and the taste has improved even more.

Whilst the oven was on, I baked us a pork and apple pie for tea over two nights (see menu tab eventually) and our weekly two loaves of bread: