Tuesday 31 December 2019

Sunday 29 December 2019


We had our delayed Christmas dinner, nothing too grand. Gammon, roast potatoes and parsnips, carrots, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.

After washing up, we sat and played several levels of Overcooked 2, a lot easier but way more confusing with 4 of us. Note to self, keep out the way of DDiL’s on screen character, she whizzes around like crazy when cooking and DS just biffs you out the way, cos it’s fun - not!

We paused to have cheesecake then opened our Christmas Eve secret Santa presents. Some great things. Each has to be useful and cost £1 or less. I got bubble bath, some soft grip pegs, nail files, foil dishes for the freezer, a mini dehumidifier and some stuff to deep clean the washing machine.

Saturday 28 December 2019

Hazelnut Cheesecake

This is a special occasion cheesecake. I usually make it only once a year. It is rich but with a slight tart edge to it which helps cut through said richness. The first picture is obviously without the decoration. The little lumps in the cheesecake mixture come from hazelnut yoghurt. So far, I have only been able to buy that in Morrison's:
A small amount of chopped and roasted hazelnuts, plus half a chopped mini flake to decorate:
Herewith the recipe:

4oz digestive biscuits - crushed (I used chocolate digestives)
1oz ground or chopped hazelnuts
2 1/2 oz butter
4oz plain cream cheese/mascapone
1 small carton hazelnut yoghurt
1/4 pint double or whipping cream
2oz castor or icing sugar


2 tablespoons nuts and half a small flake


Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the crushed biscuits and hazelnuts. Press firmly into a 7" sandwich cake tin or dish. Put into the fridge for an hour to solidify. Despite lining the tin with cling film, I find it difficult to remove without the base cracking. You might want to use a tin with a removable bottom!  

Once the base is firm, mix together the cream cheese and sugar. In another bowl, whip the double cream until quite firm. Gradually stir the yoghurt into the whipped cream.

Add this mixture gradually to the cream cheese and sugar mixture and spread evenly on top of the biscuit base. Put back in the fridge overnight to firm.

The next day, decorate with some chopped dry roasted hazelnuts and the flake.


Friday 27 December 2019

A murmuration of starlings

In the years we have lived here, we have seen occasional little murmurations in the distance. Last night DB got back late walking Ruby and asked me to check out a huge one, over the house:
It lasted for quite a long time, didn't watch them settle into a huge conifer just yards away. They must have roosted shoulder to shoulder to fit into it. The chattering was very loud and the sound of their wings beating as they swooped overhead, was just magical.

They were still chattering away when we went to bed at 10:30, by which time, it was pitch black.

When we got up the next day, they were chattering away as loud as could be, but it was too cold to watch so we missed them taking off. I am sure they will return for a while.

Thursday 26 December 2019


After DB got back from walking Ruby, we opened our presents (from us and a few friends). We gave Ruby hers to keep her occupied, it was a knuckle bone shaped Nylabone:
 Herewith my presents from this our first round of gifts:
I received:

From Ruby a packet of butter toffees, my favourite.

From DB I received a nesting die set of circles, a rubber stamp of a postcard (thought it was postcard sized - doh), liquorice novelties, 4 pairs of ski socks for wearing around the house, and a lovely, lovely set of liquors.

From E., a mirrored photo frame and mint matchsticks, From T., 3 pairs of gardening gloves plus some hand cream, from R., a lovely mini pottery vase handmade by her daughter.

Some very nice gifts, some requested, some surprises. I think my best present was the liquors from DB:
The bottles from which can be resued - my kind of gift.

Wednesday 25 December 2019

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Poor Ruby! Yesterday afternoon she came back after a long walk and shortly after, threw up! Normally it doesn’t smell but this was awful. Goodness knows what she had eaten. Anyway, she seems fine this morning.

May you all have a wonderful day and find peace!

It will be just another day to us but we look forward to visitors in a few day. Stay safe everyone.

Tuesday 24 December 2019

Nearly vegetarian 'sausage' rolls

I decided to make up a recipe - it actually turned out right, first time. Herewith in case you fancy having a go:

100g stale breadcrumbs - stale as it will help soak up the cheese during cooking!
75g cooked smoked bacon - weight after cooking- chopped finely
75g grated mature Cheddar
2 tablespoons sage & onion stuffing mix, plus 3 tablespoons cold water and left to swell.

Mix all the above together in a bowl.

Add 1 medium well beaten egg.

This will still be a lightly loose mixture, you form it when putting the rolls together.

Lay out 1 sheet puff pastry and cut in half lengthways. Carefully squeeze mixture together to form sausages and use to line each half of the sheet. Brush down one edge of each sheet with milk or water and carefully roll the pastry to form rolls. Squeeze edges together to ensure a good seal.

Double line a baking pan. Use scissors to cut the rolls to your desired length, I tend to do about 1 1/2". Brush with a little milk or egg. Sprinkle with a little salt.

Bake at either 190C for 30 minutes or 200C for about 20 minutes or until done. Leave to go cold before storing in the fridge.

Use within 2 or 3 days and warm for best results:

Monday 23 December 2019

Putting away

The quilting project is about halfway through and the sewing machine is about to be put away! This will clear the dining room table not only for us but for when our guests turn up at the end of the week.

Handy not only for eating but doing our annual jigsaw puzzle. I am making two mini trifles for us, in a glass. Bread has been made and I need to let a few slices go stale for breadcrumbs.

DB has worked down the drive, removing my vegetable bed. It looks better for it. If I eventually decide to grow down there again, I shall do so in raised containers.

Saturday 21 December 2019

That was better

Up at 07:00, left at 08:00, home by 09:15. Hardly any traffic, Lidl relatively empty. We finished there, added a few things from another supermarket and left. Hooray!

DS and family got safely down south just before 23:00 hours. They are spending Christmas down there and will come to us for New year. That will be our Christmas.

After the dreadful rain yesterday, we have got blue sky and sunshine, only for a while but it cheers you up doesn’t it?

Friday 20 December 2019

Gave up, its mad out there

Whatever day we choose to do our food shopping, we get up at 07:00. Breakfast, dog walk and washing up done, we leave around 08:00.

Unfortunately we slept in and didn’t get up until 07:45. It will be okay we said and we left around 08:30.

Normally Lidl is first followed by whichever supermarket we need. Today we did it the other way around. It was busy to say the least.

By the time we got out traffic was almost at a standstill so we came home. We shall set the alarm another day and get everything finished. Bah humbug!

Thursday 19 December 2019

The other day - Updated

When my first batch of pastry went wrong, I did get around to making a second batch to turn into mince pies. I didn't have quite enough pastry for 12, so 5 had pastry tops, the rest bakewell tart tops:

We enjoy both versions. Herewith recipe for the alternative topping:

2oz white sugar
3oz of ground almonds or ground rice ( gives a crunchy topping)
1 large beaten egg
Few drops almond extract or 1/2 tsp maximum of almond essence

Mix together to a dropping consistency adding a little milk if necessary. Bake for same time as the pastry topped version.

Wednesday 18 December 2019

Even though...

I don't as yet feel at all in the Christmas mood, we have at least got our tree up. Here are day and night versions:

We have put just a few other things up and around the house but not as much as usual. I think I am catching DB's bah humbug mode!

Monday 16 December 2019


Ruby was laying at the dining room door watching things outside, just like her Auntie S:
Further progress on my craft room storage area:
I just need a few more of the little clip on containers. The area on the left is predominently sewing things, the other three are cardmaking items.

Sunday 15 December 2019

A pop of colour

We have been on the lookout for something to liven up the front room after it was decorated, it just needed a little something and a few days ago, we found what we were looking for.

We had previously bought a washable rug from a garden centre and went back to get this one in a slightly muted lime, for in front of the wood burner - as you can see, Ruby likes it although it 'walks' a huge amount every day!

On the way back home, we detoured into a nearby town and bought two of these cushions, both in the sale:
We think they have really helped jazz up the room.

Saturday 14 December 2019

Chimera baking

A posh word for "where was my brain when I started baking"?

I pulled out a bag of flour, rubbed in margarine and lard, to make pastry. I was just about to add water when I realised I had picked up self raising flour or instead of plain flour - doh!

Whilst I do like to add a smidge of self raising flour to my pastry, (it makes it more forgiving to work with), all self raising flour was completely wrong. I couldn't think what to do with it then I realised. It is almost the foundation for a sponge (except for the lard of course). War time bakers had to use lard for their sponges and they worked out fine.

Another lot of margarine was added to it, along with the zest of an orange, some sugar, some mixed spice and the remainder of a bakewell tart topping used elsewhere. Although the first lot of ingredients and the new margarine were rubbed in, once everything else and 4 eggs were added, it was beaten like an all in one cake:
I decided to bake it in two Victoria sandwich tins, herewith fresh from the oven and turned out:
Once cold, I used a 3" scone cutter to form little (if uneven) puddings:
They are now in the freezer ready for visitors, who won't mind them being wonky! There are enough scraps for us to have a pudding each this weekend, plus a few more for tea time treats.

All in all, a nice rescue.

Friday 13 December 2019

More wrapping paper - third time lucky!

Who thought such a simple idea would prove so difficult!

This next sheet was mistakenly done on the shiny side of the wrapping paper. As well as that little problem, the white pigment ink has gone very watery and sat in little blobs on top of the stamp. It has been used though:
I was happier with this next sheet of printing - pink and purple snowflakes:

Maybe one more sheet then all the wrapping will be done.

Thursday 12 December 2019

White glass crockery

A few years ago, we changed over to white glass crockery from Ikea. At the time we bought dinner and side plates and small/cereal/soup/dessert bowls.

When we went back the other weekend whilst away, we found some larger bowls in two sizes. One size was too big for our needs so we bought some of the smaller ones.

We wanted something to put our pasta in that would help contain any sauce from running off the edges of a plate.

Herewith a trial with Quorn madras curry and rice. The spoon underneath is a tablespoon to give you some idea of size:
There was plenty in it to fill us up.

Wednesday 11 December 2019

Rubbish and more rubbish

The applique item I was making has gone in the bin. I feel so much better for doing so and better still, it didn't involve a hissy fit!!!

It went wrong right from the start with too thin a background material. A very light stiffener was added to compensate, making it too stiff. Once the squares were joined, after making yet another mistake, they didn't align properly. The decorative top stitching I wanted to do just highlighted these problems even more.

So back to the beginning and I am leaving applique behind for now and doing a simple quilt which I know how to do reasonably well.

Watch this space!

Tuesday 10 December 2019

Wrapping paper

This year I decided I would make our own wrapping paper, then promptly forgot or couldn't be bothered at the time.

We needed some paper but the first few parcels I wrapped and stamped afterwards, didn't work properly on some of the less flat soft parcels - doh!

I unrolled my brown paper at the table and set to stamping it whilst flat. A quick rough and ready first time but I hope to improve:

Monday 9 December 2019

Biscuits for Ruby

Yesterday I made some biscuits for Ruby. At lunch she either has one of these and a very thin strand of dried tripe, or one fat piece of dried strip, or a vegetable based chew.

I adapt Rhonda Hetzel's recipe for these a lot of the time, see here. I have used others. If I use stock stead of water, I don’t add the cheese, sometimes as stock I use a teaspoon of peanut butter in hot water, left to go cold.

Herewith the 1/2 size recipe I used yesterday:

1 cup water.
1 cup oat flour made by whizzing up oats
1/2 cup wholemeal flour
1/2 cup rolled jumbo or normal oats
1/4 cup powdered milk
1 Tablespoon whole Linseeds
1 Tablespoon whole Chia seeds
1" piece of cheddar grated
1/2 clove finely chopped fresh garlic - optional depending on how you feel about it!

Don't add all the water to begin with as oat flour gets very sticky. Add more flour if needed.

Roll out to the thickness of a coin, stamp or cut out shapes and bake at 160 -170C for 1 hour.

Leave to dry in the cooling oven with the door slightly ajar or finish off in a dehydrator to thoroughly crisp up.

If I have used the leftover dough from the biscuits, to make small training treats, I break them up into individual ones (from the long strip seen below). This helps them thoroughly dry.

Saturday 7 December 2019

Non Christmas Baking

Yesterday evening I made some new to us granola. The link is here.

It does link to a site that has way too many adverts crop up. As I adapted the recipe slightly, I shall let you know what I did below and you can visit Natalies site for the original recipe.

In a bowl mix together:

3 cups of rolled oats (jumbo or otherwise)
1/2 cup pecan nuts or nuts of your choice
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon whole Chia seeds
1/4 cup dried dates or dried apricots
2 teaspoons normal ground cinnamon. (I have also used 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 of either ground ginger or mixed spice).
1/4 teaspoon salt
Fine zest of 1 orange

Melt 1/4 cup coconut oil and let cool. To this add 1/3 cup maple syrup or honey or slightly less date syrup. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract NOT essence.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until all the dry ingredients are coated.
Line a baking sheet and roughly flatten.

Bake at 170C for 20 minutes, gently shake the paper inwards to redistribute the granola without breaking any lumps up. Bake for another 10 minutes, remove from the oven and let it go cold on the baking sheet. Put into an airtight container and use within 2 weeks.

We found this recipe just right for us but you can of course, adapt it to your tastes. Herewith a picture:

Thursday 5 December 2019

Lagging behind...

Cards need to be posted, certain meals and snacks need to be cooked and frozen, some presents still have to be bought. I can’t seem to get going this year but have made a start.

Some presents have been ordered and will start arriving in the next few days.

Money that has matured in one account has been in our current account for a few days. Finally, we have found somewhere to put it to earn fixed interest for another year. Got to keep on top of it.

Onwards and upwards!

Tuesday 3 December 2019

The one thing we notice

About driving up north, is the vast difference in petrol prices. Here, it is currently around £1.20 in the supermarket and around £1.27 in other national ones.

We found supermarket petrol ranged between £1.26 and £1.29. The national ones as high as £1.39!
Disgusting really.

Even where we chose to eat never stays the same. Whenever we find a place that suits us, after a few visits it has disappeared. Yesterday was a case in point and we ended up have a hot pastrami and mozzarella bagel from a garage. It actually wasn’t too bad and filled us up but we had hoped for a breakfast of some kind.

Sunday 1 December 2019

Eh by gum!

It’s cold up North!

We are spending the weekend with DS and DDiL. Nights have been around -3C, very frosty for most of the mornings. DB in particular, along with a little help from me, has been helping DS lay a foundation for a shed which is is due to be erected in a few days. I think we are due, back home, for slightly milder nights before getting more cold ones. Time to get the wood burner on during the day by then.

Early January, their garage is due to be converted into a work room and mini storage area. 6 weeks of noise and mess.

I have loads to do when I return so shall make a list so as not to forget something. They should keep me busy for quite a while.