Thursday 31 March 2016

Crochet Brain and Beechgrove garden...

For those who are interested, Beechgrove Garden starts again tonight on BBC Two Scotland, or Freesat 970. Don't know what it is on Freeview or elsewhere. It repeats Sunday on BBC2 08:45.

Just when I think I have got to grips with crocheting my squares, something goes wrong. The worst part of doing something incorrectly (for me anyway), is that it happens in different places. Mainly right at the beginning but often on row 1, 2 or 3 and I never pick it up until I have nearly finished:(

Easter Sunday, quickly followed by theTuesday were two such days. Pull down, crochet, pull down, swear etc for a good part of each of those days. My temper eventually had a full outing and I was ready to give in. Poor DB didn't dare offer any advice as he had already been shouted at for no good reason whatsoever. Good job we love each other, and I do apologise when I calm down.

I don't know whether it is an age thing but my temper, which once upon a time, slowly worked its way through number 1 up to a maximum number 5 (rarely getting any higher), has recently gone straight from 1 to 10 with no numbers inbetween:(

I really must learn to stop doing what I am doing and walk away but there is an imp sitting on one shoulder saying "come on, you can do this, get on with it" then off I go because I keep trying instead of walking away. That is when the imp on the other shoulder says "see, I told you to walk away".

Luckily it is usually only inanimate objects that cause it and bear the brunt but occasionally DB is in the room. He gives me an amazed look, which if I catch it, make things worse.

It could I suppose be medication causing it, who knows. Ah well, another thing to work through. No one can say growing older isn't interesting. Bits of the body physically changing and heading towards breaking down, no reason why other things shouldn't follow suit.

Wednesday 30 March 2016

What's a girl got to do...

Welcome to Julie McDonald via Bloglovin.

On a miserable day with driving rain and winds, than to head to the kitchen to bake! I made hazlenut chocolate and oat biscuits, the recipe for which is on the gluten free tab above - they were as good as ever and will last us about a week:
and attempted a new recipe for cheesy crackers, the recipe for which came from here
They are slightly browner than the picture shows. They are tasty but a little 'tough' so I might try rolling thinner next time.

Tuesday 29 March 2016

Last week ...

Welcome to L. Efting via here. Congratulations to Jamie Murray on reaching number one next week, it might be for a brief time due to being only a few points ahead but you have earned it. Sad to see Andy and Heather exit at Miami but neither played particularly well - it happens. Johanna on the other hand played brilliantly- well done Jo!

Last week saw us at Papworth Hospital for my cardiac MRI appointment at 3.25pm. We arrived with 1/2 an hour to spare so just waited rather than risk going for a drink. It was 4pm before I was called through to undress and have a cannula put into my arm in case they wanted to use a contrast dye during the procedure. Although I have had an MRI done on my neck before this one, I wasn't sure what to expect.

1/2 an hour later, due to someone being ill before me,  I was brought through and got up onto the table. My legs were put onto a wedge at 90 degrees to take the strain off my back and a blanket put over the lower half of me. ECG leads were attached then a rather heavy cradle put onto my rib cage to hold the leads in place to get a good reading, similar to this picture:
(image courtesty of

That was the most uncomfortable bit as it tended to stick into either the ribs or sternum!
Head-phones were put on and a contact clicker given to me to press if I felt unwell.After that, I was fully inserted into the machine for nearly an hour.

This procedure requires you to hold your breath, anywhere from 6 seconds to around 15 seconds - rather more than I anticipated - probably 40 or so times!  Halfway through, a nurse came in to give me the contrast dye. By the end I was exhausted.

I can't praise enough, the chap who did the scan, he had such a lovely calm voice.

After the procedure was finished, I was helped to sit up, as some people feel dizzy. Once I was declared fine, I was walked back through to change and have the cannula removed. Did my usual extra bleed for a time. DB was the only one left in the waiting room.

We went off to the cafe to have something to eat before driving home. Despite it being the Thursday before Good Friday, the roads weren't too bad and it only took us 1/2 an hour longer to get back than to drive there.

Now I presumably have to wait for an appointment at my hospital to see what, if anything, they found. Onwards and upwards!

Monday 28 March 2016

Waste not want not...

Welcome to Faith A via Bloglovin.

Part of living the frugal life is to not waste anything if possible on the food line. We had a half leg of lamb the other day and used most of the meat to create 4 roast dinners for us over two days. The final chunk of meat was wrapped and frozen, as were the bone and bits of grissle etc. Once thawed, the bone bag contents, plus 2 bay leaves and 10 peppercorns, were simmered for 20 minutes to create some soup stock before being strained through a sieve.

The last few leeks from the garden, a couple of carrots and 2 medium potatoes were added to the stock. Once they were cooked, the bag of leftover meat (maybe 4oz or so), was whizzed up into meat breadcrumbs and added to the pot along with 2 lamb stock cubes and the bit of leftover lamb gravy. After heating through, I scrattered a good amount of oat bran in to thicken everything up before added peas to finish.

We had a bowl each over the next two days:
We made some ginger ice cream the other day - it is lovely, even if you can't see the chunks of stem ginger in the photograph below: 

However, we mis-remembered the quantity of cream required in the shop, so had a small pot leftover. Not wanting to waste it as it was close to its use by date, I thawed a bag of wild frozen plums. They were stewed with a little added sugar, drained, then the fruit pushed through a sieve. The puree was just under 1/4 pint so some of the strained juice was added to make it up to that amount. A heaped teaspoon of wild honey was added to the puree to get it to the right sweetness, with just a hint of tartness to it.

The ice cream was made and the wild plum puree added:

The juice left from straining the fruit was enough to heat and thicken with cornflour to create a small pudding each:
As the plum ice cream hadn't been made then, we had some ginger ice cream with it!

Friday 25 March 2016

Hot Cross Bun Loaf GF

I tried making hot cross buns with the kind of yeast that has to sit in liquid and swell - never really works for me. Not to be outwitted by such a small organism, I decided to adapt this recipe and see how it worked. Herewith the ingredients I used:

Dry Ingredients

100g white rice flour (not sticky rice flour)
40g white teff
40g ground almonds
120g oat flour (or finely processed rolled oats)
60g tapioca flour
50g potato starch
1 tablespoon xanthan gum
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tsp baking powder
3 level tablespoons milk powder
1 tsp powdered gelatin (or vegegel)
1 sachet instant yeast
3 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp mixed spice
6 dried apricots finely diced
30g dried cranberries or other dried fruit such as sultana or raisin
30g ready to eat prunes diced - (toss all these fruits in a little of the flour to coat)

Wet Ingredients 

3 medium eggs
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
300 mil warm water (might need a little more)
3 tablespoons oil or melted butter 

Line a 2lb loaf tin with silicon/baking paper.
Mix all the dry ingredients together.
In a seperate bowl, beat the wet ingredients together.
Add the dry to the wet and beat well.

My mixture was quite wet, (like a cake mixture) but not sloppy. Add a tablespoon warm water at a time to achieve this consistency. 

Sooon into the tin, it will be about 3/4 ful. Cover with a clean cloth and leave to rise until about 1/2" or so above the tin.

Bake for 34 minutes at 180C then carefully remove paper, put the loaf back into the tin and bake for a further 5 minutes. Remove carefully from the tin and leave to go completely cold before using.

You can of course give it an egg wash before baking if you wish.

When I made this first time around, it wasn't quite spicy or fruity enough so this recipe was adjusted.

If you make it, hope you enjoy it. We sliced it all and froze half.


Thursday 24 March 2016

What a stink...

I have lived in the countryside for most of my life so am well adapted to smells but boy, this current one is horrendous. The farmer has either ploughed in a field where pigs have been kept for years, or slung pig or cow slurry onto the fields. Sometimes when we are out for a walk, we come across high piles of cow manure on concrete standings and usually have to hold our breath as we walk by (or for longer if the wind is in the wrong direction). That though, is a different smell to this so it must be pig slurry.

This smell arrived early yesterday morning so we went further afield for the day - until we could stop smelling it:) Without thinking, even though the air still stank, I opened the two back bedroom windows when we got home and by night time, the back of the house also stank.

Both windows were shut and another door opened to let it into the rest of the house where it was less strong, enabling us to at least sleep without choking - it really is that bad(:

First thing this morning we went to go out shopping and it is still around. We are all hoping the coming rains will put it back into the land where it belongs.

Wednesday 23 March 2016

Cor blimey gov!

Welcome to my new follower via here, but I can't quite work out who you are, welcome anyway!

Gee, are we aching!

Each metre high fence panel takes 3 to 4 coats of paint, both sides, to complete. We need dry days to do so. Last week, we finished the new picket fence and gates. So far this weekend and until now, 2 panels are done, one is almost finished and another just started. That leaves one more to start then we have 3 x 2 metre high panels to do. For now though, they will only be done one side as the other side is under our lovely neighbours car port and reasonably protected.

As is normal here in the UK, we are due wind, rain as well as sun over the Easter break, so it might take longer than we hoped.

At the end of April, we are going halves with our other lovely neighbour, to put up more picket fence panels. We will paint both sides to get it better protected. They are not too worried about it being black and it probably won't get done if we leave it.

Here is a before and after - once the leaves come out on these cotoneasters, it will be lovely:

Monday 21 March 2016


Welcome to M Mccarthy via Bloglovin.

At last, after starting one trial square pattern and giving up, and very nearly giving up with this one, I finally got the hang of it. I'm sure DB was very pleased as he was beginning to choke on the blue air:(

Our curtains are these particular colours and I tried to get their colours in my brain before buying some wool. I think I have managed to get them pretty well matched. Even if the curtains change eventually, these are some of my favourite colours, so any resulting make, should still be of use. The first picture shows the 4 colours I have chosen:
 This one without the cream to show you the pink match:
Here is my first solid granny square:
The base of my thumbs were killing me halfway through so I shall definitely have to get me some special gloves to wear which should help. I have created myself a new blog header with my first four squares.

I think I might be able to do one every day, thumbs notwithstanding and also not flogging myself to death doing them, just when and as I feel like it. I'm thinking of a lap blanket for next winter so should have plenty of time hopefully, to complete one!

Herewith my first 4:
The purple one is slightly larger as I am beginning to relax (as much as I can) so my tension is slightly looser on that one. Overall though, I am pleased, even if I do still have to read up at the start of every one.

Friday 18 March 2016

Commiserations and safety first...

First of all, commiserations to Jamie Murray on not getting into the next round of Indian Wells which would have seen him become the world number one. Keep at it, you will get there.

I am a fan of both Murray brothers but as I rarely get to see Jamie play, tend to chat most about Andy, who is easier to see and therefore to follow. I think Jamie and Bruno teaming up will work very well.

Well, yesterday saw us buying a new tumble dryer. Nothing wrong with the old one other that it is one of those on the list of potential fire hazards, awaiting a very long appointment to be fixed.  I think once you start to worry about it catching fire, it is time to let it go. We have had it for quite a few years, and whilst it is still very much in fine fettle, is on that list so we are not prepared to take any chances.

Although ours is in the garage, it lives alongside the car, garden things, amongst other items, so a fire out there could be devastating to both the garage and possibly the back of the house, let alone our neighbours properties!

We are on Economy 7 so can dry cheaply at night, when we need to. Obviously, in the spirit of being frugal, we only use it for towels once a week or other odd times when the weather is bad for days and we haven't got the wood burner going to help dry things.

Talking of electricity, we have just changed tariff again as ours was due to finish next month. Hopefully, the new tariff, which takes us to March 2017, should save a bit more money. If a cheaper version comes available, we will change again. This time we are sticking with our current provider.

Personally, I think the daily charge is a rip off altogether and that alone adds just over £70 per annum to our bill.

We have given half the new fence another coat of black paint and it is looking very smart now. The gates should be done this weekend to finish it off despite us aching from head to toe.

Have a lovely weekend everyone.

Thursday 17 March 2016

Adapting our chosen loaf further

Welcome to Rebecca Pick via Bloglovin.

I do apologise if you are all finding my GF baking a little boring to read but I am having such fun!

We both love the current GF bread we make and it has gotten easier and easier to make. However, despite it being a brown loaf, we thought it could be adapted further by mixing the seed combination. In our current version, I add 2 small handfuls of mixed sunflower and pumpkin seeds and 1 tablespoon millet seeds. Having purchased some black sesame seeds the other day, these have now been added to the mix:

 And here is a close up of the slices:
It holds together well, none of this piff paff pooh business of tasting like sawdust and falling apart on the first bite. I can't thank The Glutenfree Alchemist enough, her recipes are truly amazing and delicious.

Tuesday 15 March 2016

Coffee and walnut cake

Well done to Johanna Konta for getting through her match, brilliant play. Commiserations to Andy, you were just not right from the beginning. Onwards and upwards!

Seeing this cake on my favourite GF site, I decided to give it ago albeit half the recipe. I carefully wrote down everything I needed and put it in the oven. I misread the method and did it 'all in one' and it was okay.

It seemed a little lumpy on the top as it started to bake but seemed to recover. Once cool, I made up 1/3rd of the coffee icing (although for us, 1/4 would have been better). We are not too keen on butter icing so next time, might add a coffee chocolate ganache!

Anyway, the recipe for it can be found here. Herewith the photographs:

Later in the day, I went to microwave something and guess what, I found the butter I had previously softened for the cake - oops! I have never, ever forgotten to put the fat into a cake so was worried how it would taste and stay fresh. Needn't have, we had some of the sponge by itself and it was great.

I shall make it again without the butter just to confirm it all and if it is still great, will put that down as the recipe. Certainly would save on the calories and cholesterol!

Monday 14 March 2016


Now that the new fence and gates, which close off the driveway have aired, we started painting it on Saturday. We were well wrapped up as although there was no wind, there was also no sun. We managed to get 1/3rd of the first coat on before stopping due to severe aches on both of us:

We are using the more expensive Cuprinol Shades in Black Ash for this new fence but all the older stuff down the drive, is receiving 3 coats of normal Cuprinal Black otherwise it would be far too expensive. Once things start sending out their new green shoots, it should look lovely.

We have agreed a price with our neighbour on a shared fence as we wanted one to match this so have gone in half and half. That bit of fence won't get done until the end of April so may be impossible to paint by then.

Overall, we are very pleased with it and went out Sunday to do some more. That was a sunny day but with a very cold wind:(

Friday 11 March 2016

Biscuits for our walking days

Dear E. has now become used to eating GF treats on our walking days as far as the before the walk snack goes. This week, I chose to make these biscuits but as I didn't have any hazelnuts, substituted toasted cashew nuts:
The top two rows were baked on a double lined baking sheet. Top row shows the top of the biscuits and the second row, the base, quite a difference isn't there?

The bottom two rows I used the grill pan with its rack and put a silicon baking mat on the rack. As you can see, a more even bake.

I get so annoyed with the baking sheets as they are new, quite expensive but seem to make everything catch, even with double layers of parchment/silicon paper or silicon liner.

Anyhow, this grumble aside, these are light and delicious. I bought some walnuts on our food shopping for this week and shall try them again with those.

You do need to leave a good gap between them as they do spread when baking. In one or two places I think I cut them a little thick so shall try to get them more even next time.

Thursday 10 March 2016

Blackeyed beans and mushrooms

Welcome to Nadine via Bloglovin.

I was busy the other day, cooking to stock up the freezer. I made this dish, the recipe for which can be found on my recipe page, plus any alterations I normally make.

I doubled the recipe and we managed to get enough for one meal each:
Plus enough for another 5 meals each:
Each container holds 3 ladles of the recipe but you will get less to freeze if you eat that much each!

My kind of cooking!

Wednesday 9 March 2016

Crocheting... UPDATED

At last, using both the book and on-line resources, I have managed to get started, using dishcloth cotton as it helps me see better. As you can see, the bottom is wider than further up and I didn't know why initially. As it will be a dishcloth thought I would carry on:
After the foundation chain of 25 stitches, I read that the first stitch on the next row begins on the second stitch in. Of course, without thinking, I carried on doing that for 4 rows, losing 4 stitches in the process, hence the wider beginning. I now only have 21 stitches left but have got to grips with the problem after looking on-line again.

So question 1: would you normally add an extra chain at the start of the work i.e. want to make something square with 25 stitches, do I chain 26?

The book, being American uses different names for the stitches so I have a decision to make. As I don't plan at the moment on making too many things with this craft, there are loads of American patterns on-line.

Question 2: do I just learn from the book and call the stitches what they do? Or, do I change the names of the stitches in the book to UK and go from there?

So many decisions at the moment, hence another reason for doing dishcloths until I can get to grips fully with beginning, working and ending!

My left hand, which holds the hook, is very relaxed. My right hand, which keeps the tension etc., isn't, so I can still only do about 4 rows before having to stop due to pain at the base of the thumb, blasted arthritis.

The difference though, is that each row of crochet is about 2-3 rows of knitting so it should grow faster methinks.

I have just finished my first practice 'square'. It is 14cm x 14cm, a bit small but just about decent enough a size for a dishcloth.
Onwards and upwards.

Tuesday 8 March 2016

Making GF crackers

Firstly, welcome to Theresa Griffiths via Bloglovin and Penny via here.

Recipes for gluten free crackers are as varied as those for gluten free bread, and believe me, there are some that look great and taste not good at all. The problem with most crackers you can buy is that they fall apart very easily and are usually very expensive for what you get!

Anyhow, a few trials in and the first successful recipe I have tried is this one but why you would want sweet crackers for a savoury topping I'm not sure. Anyhow, I made half of the recipe and dropped the sugar by half. We found them way too sweet so have decided to make them with none at all.

I also might try making them with olive oil rather than butter sometime. Once I can get the recipe to suit our tastes, I can then tinker with it more. I had to cook them for 12 rather than 9 minutes and the second try were slightly thicker but larger. Next time, I shall make them more cream cracker size but thinner like the first tray.

We didn't get many from the half batch (20), but they did not fall apart and other than their sweetness, they tasted nice. She recommends they are eaten within 2 days so I presume they will go soft. However, having a dehydrator I think next time, once cooled, I shall use that to see if they can stay crisp for longer, more like normal crackers.

Here are some before baking:
A tray fresh from the oven:
Stored in an airtight jar:
We had 5 each for lunch with some garlic cream cheese, pears and a banana!

Monday 7 March 2016

Mothering Sunday Gifts

The greatest gift given to me is that of a child. I have always wanted to be a mother and though we only succeeded the once, he has more than exceeded our hopes and expectations:) Now I also have a daughter (DDiL), which I always hoped for, but wasn't able to achieve:(

When they were last here I was talking to said daughter about learning to crochet again, even something basic as a square that could be sewn into a lap blanket would do. She, like me, is left handed but was quite happy learning from a right handed booklet and was getting on famously. I mentioned that my brain isn't wired the same and I would have to copy the pictures and flip them to make them left-handed. Also, with arthritis starting at the base of my thumbs, I would have to have fatter than usual crochet hooks.

You can imagine my surprise and happiness, when I opened my gifts for yesterday:
A learn to crochet book for left handed people!
And some soft fat handled crochet hooks - yeh!

Thankyou both of you, just what I needed. Now I just need to give myself a good kick up the backside and get going:)

Sunday 6 March 2016

Well done!

Congratulations to team GB for their Davis Cup win against Japan, but especially Andy Murray for an often brutally tiring session of games. At times he was dragging himself around the court with a body that was not wanting to play or else, a tired mind in a rested body. True grit!

Friday 4 March 2016

Dealing with a possible diagnosis of terminal illness

Death would appear to be silently walking the corridors of our family unit once again, barring a miracle, but miracles do happen! I don't wish to say who it is but the news is not good and has almost come out of the blue and obviously a great shock to the person involved and to us as a family.

They went to the doctor's quite ill with what they thought was one possible illness, had bloods taken, expecting them to be a week before being returned but they were back the next day! For the family of the person involved, they have been on a whirlwind tour of hospital appointments and nothing but praise can be heaped on the NHS for their speed.

More appointments to come, more scans, tests and either a treatment plan, or a possible time 'left' prognosis. I'm never sure about those as although they can be useful to allow someone to assimilate and possibly begin preparing, they are often not accurate. My friend B., was given a few months but died 3 weeks later.

Anyway, one thing is for sure, as hard as it is to accept, we are all born to die, there is no getting away from it. How we deal with these things is very much an individual experience, both for those actually affected, as well as their family and friends.

I ended a phone call the other day,  to another family member, with words something like: "we must continue to live our lives and not take on the life of the one dying". I am not sure where it came from but I think what I was trying to say was that we all process sad information differently, deal with it in different ways.

One way is not better or worse than another. What is right for one is not right for another. For those outside the immediate family involved, we have to try, where possible, to carry on living through the process and not give into it in such a way that we die as well, that we stop living.

Such an attitude might seem heartless to those who deal with things differently but that is their problem, not yours or ours if that is what you feel, it is what it is!

Do you visit or not? Sometimes, you can't especially if it happens in another country. That decision is yours and only yours!

Should you feel obliged to visit? I don't think you should feel forced into it if you feel you really can't.

Do you say your goodbyes in person or have no need to? Again, that is up to you. You may choose to remember them how they looked rather than how they look now, not everyone can cope with such a drastic change in appearance.

Should you do what you think is expected of you or what you actually want to do? Only you can decide but either way, don't be bullied into doing something you really, really, do not want to do. You and only you, are the one who has to live with your decision.

Are you crying non-stop or can't cry at all? Sometimes those who cry non-stop are told "to pull themselves together". Those who cannot or do not feel the need to cry are often accused of being heartless, putting their heads in the sand, ignoring the process, or not processing things "correctly". Gee, give us all a break, we are all different!

These and many more questions can buzz around heads making the process more difficult than perhaps it needs to be.

Each to their own self be true! 

I for one am going to indulge in a weekend of tennis, watching Great Britain start to defend their title in The Davis Cup.

If you are able, have a good weekend:)

Thursday 3 March 2016

Wander lust...

Welcome to Bailey Sophie O'Brien via Bloglovin.

We were driving yesterday and in the distance, could see, two animals on the road. For a moment we thought it was a sheep dog and a sheep. As we got closer, we saw it was a smaller dog, maybe a long haired jack russell or similar sized terrier and a sheep.

Slowing down and fearing for the dogs safety, we came up behind them and realised it was a small dog accompanied by a blond alsation. Both were running along, almost oblivious to us. The road we were on was a long stretch of country road, where most cars travel at the maximum speed limit of 60 mph.

As we drew right behind them, the small dog turned around, saw us and moved more into the road:( After a few minutes behind them, crawling along, we saw a left hand junction coming up and they both turned off onto it to go up a small hill into what we thought was probably fields or woodland.

Had they escaped from home and were returning there? Do they do this every day and this was the first time we had seen them?

Who knows but we hoped they made it safely home!

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Vegetarian chilli

Below is a picture of almost everything used to create a large saucepan of chilli. We only used half the butternut squash:
We added enough water to cover the top of the vegetables and simmered it for about an hour. After that the kidney beans and stock cubes were added. 15 minutes later, it was thickened with oat bran and tomato puree:
We had one plateful each plus another 3 containers went into the freezer, enough for 3 more platefuls each. Yum!