Thursday, 19 October 2017

Squirrel or Hedgehog

It is getting very chilly at night so much so I am having to pop the heating on for a little while each day.  When I get up and in the evening when I get in although I try not to put it on unless I have to.  Unfortunately if my hands get cold I have had it so the heating has to go on.  The animals do not mind and seem to relish the heat.

I think I must also be a bit of a hedgehog in that when the nights start to get darker I just want to hibernate and not do much but I know I have to keep whittling away at things to try and keep on top of things.  Its just good to get into the house and be comfy; with soft lighting so it is not harsh on my eyes although when I am typing on the keyboard I do need the full light these days.  However of an autumn or winter's evening I prefer softer lighting which is more atmospheric.   I quite frequently also have just candlelight as well. I cannot do close work like needlepoint or embroidery under such lighting but I can still crochet.  So at this time of year I very much turn into a hedgehog want to keep warm and snug in my own home.  We do not venture far.  The finishing touch would be a couple of log fires one in the dining room and one in the front room to curl up in front of and heat the house.  The heat from a proper fire is wonderful on a cold winters day.

Equally when it comes to the preserving I am very much a Squirrel.  I put everything down in the pantry (or should that be up) so that we have plenty of supplies to carry us through the winter months.  I enjoy doing it and I love having the option of different foods to cook with and I know there are no nasties in them.  I am the same with the freezers and the winemaking etc.  It gives me a great deal of satisfaction to look at a shelf of preserves I have made knowing that I have ingredients to use in meals for quite some time to come.

I invested in a new to me wine rack yesterday from the Charity shop (I will take a picture at a later date).  I am going to need the storage as this weekend I have a marathon wine making session ear-marked and so I will need the storage for those bottles.  I also have in mind that I want to get some Apple pop underway, some cider, and apple juice as well as ginger beer.  There are also a few more cordials I would like to get put up. I also have to sort the shed out and get my barbecue and pizza oven put away and all my bottles sorted and stored correctly so that I can find them.  I tend to use the shed as an overflow from the kitchen so all bulky items also get stored in there.  However it does need a good sort out especially with Christmas on its way.

Preserving is not the only thing I am a squirrel with though. I am the same when I see things that I like and I have a view to decorate a room I will collect things together until I am ready to use them so it does overspill in a big way to all areas of my life.  I think I am an inveterate squirrel in this respect.

So hedgehog or squirrel you decide or maybe I am just me a hybrid a little bit of both.  Whatever the term decided upon I get a great deal of pleasure in doing what I do.  I may not have the smallholding/land or the livestock, its something I aspire to, but at least I get to practice in other areas whilst in waiting for the dream home - I am convinced it will come when the time is right  - eventually.

Right I have to get ready for my last day at work this week tomorrow.  It has been a long week and a tiring one.

Catch you soon.



The Charity Shop calls...

every so often and I just have to go and have a nosey around.  I cannot help it.  Its like the call of the sea - you just cannot get away from it. However today I have found some rather nice finds.

A two tier cream cake stand a one off but hopefully I will be able to find another one to go with it.

A wine rack to go with one already in situ.

A large glass flower vase in a pretty shape

A large fruit dish/centre piece for the Christmas table

Four triple candle holders currently in silver but I may change the colour yet they are currently silver but I am thinking gold.

Four dessert dishes and a large fruit bowl (will go with one I inherited from my mum as it is the same design)

Two Bisque porcelain figurines.

I also managed to buy this brand new sizzling platter for a couple of pounds.

And last but not least a pretty cross stitched picture

So not a bad little haul this time round.

Catch you soon.



Cost a few pennies today but I still got a bargain

Only 11 Weeks to go (plus a few days)

To Christmas 2017. Don't panic Mr Mannering!

As you may be aware I have been plotting and planning Christmas this year  for more than a few weeks!  So I am a Christmas Nut that's me I will freely admit to it.  I have cousins who are as well - so I think its a family thing. Last year I did not have much of a Christmas although we got by.  Due to the date of the operation on my foot which was the 13 December 2016 it kind of got in the way of me being able to do anything like I normally do in the last few days running up to Christmas.  OH had to cook dinner and do a lot of other things which I think came as a bit of a shock. Practically I just could not do anything apart from rest with my foot up.  So because I did not get to do it last year I suppose I have gone into overdrive this!

As I explained in my post "Christmas to me as a Child" there are many things which I like to try and carry on by way of tradition,   It is important to me and gives me a sense of where I come from and who I am.

I am pleased to report that I have done an awful lot of the food shopping on the baking front and on some of the sweeties and alcohol side of things.  As well as having made a lot of stuff already.  I will update my list (probably at the weekend if I get some time),  But I intend from now on in to post up recipes of things I am considering cooking or possible things you might like to do yourselves or to make as presents. I am not sure whether to post them as stand alone items or a continuous post with all the recipes in one place.  What would you prefer?  I am also thinking that if you do not use the recipes this year it might be something that you will do next year.  I have over the years accumulated an awful lot of recipes.

Waitrose have nuts in already. For mixed nuts this year they are charging £8 per kg.  I shall go to my veg shop and see if I can get them any cheaper.  The veg shop already has monkey nuts (these and other nuts were also stuffed into our stockings with an orange and some sweeties.  They are always worth keeping in as they can be strung to make garlands and tree decorations.  The same as if you make home made popcorn and fresh cranberries can also be made into garlands.  

I love having nuts in the house at Christmas yet again something that we had when we were children.  Some of you will say - why get them we never eat them all.  It does not matter their life is not over just because you do not eat them by Christmas.  I always keep them and use them in craft work gluing them onto polystyrene baubles or making garlands with them utilising the inside of a kitchen roll; painting it gold and then gluing a mixture of nuts all over the holder and then stringing them to form one continuous garland.  There is never any need for waste.  You can also turn the nuts into praline or use them in dishes such as Waldorf salad for Walnuts or nougat for almonds.   There is always something you can do.

You can also do the same sort of things with larch cones or fir cones.  

The cheapest place for packaged nuts I have found has been Lidl.

I intend to get Chestnuts as well for roasting and using in other recipes of which there are quite a range and which I will be covering in a later post.

I have booked a week off in the middle of November and hope to get quite a lot done then as well as go and see my cousin in Lincoln for a day.  So there is still plenty to do but if I plan my time well enough hopefully I should be able to get everything done.  Fingers crossed and toes plaited.

Well sorry this is a quick post - needs must and all that.

Be back shortly.



Wednesday, 18 October 2017

A combination of things......

A combination of ingredients that I like anyway i.e. cinnamon, bread, home made mincemeat if possible (otherwise bought), butter, makes an everyday sharing bread known as Cinnamon buns but which can also be turned into a wreath for festive occasions.  I thought I might have a trial run with a new recipe today which I had not tried before and which comes from Landscape a Year full of recipes ISSN: 2059-32X.  I just fancied something comforting.  Today is the funeral of my sister in law, the weather is dank, wet and damp and above everything else I fancied something sweet. 

However I also thought it was an opportunity, for a recipe for Christmas (as well as everyday) and also to showcase home made mincemeat.  I still have some on the pantry shelf from last year that I made so I have an advantage there however I have a Rumptopf full of yummy fruits curing as we speak.  This might be one of those recipes that is simple enough for anyone to have a go at and use up that half jar of mincemeat that has been lurking in the pantry since last Christmas.  It should be okay to use - if it looks a little dry just add a little spirit like a splosh of rum or brandy and it will still be good to go.


400g of strong bread flour
7g sachet of easy blend yeast
3 tablespoons of golden caster sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons of salt
25g of butter
4 tablespoons of milk
175-250ml warm water
2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
250g home made mincemeat (or bought)
50g of icing sugar
Cold water


Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6/200 degrees C

Place the flour in the mixing bowl and stir in the yeast, sugar and salt.  Rub in the butter.  Add the milk and enough water to make a soft dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead well for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.  Place in a lightly oiled bowl turning to coat the dough in the oil.  Cover and leave in a warm place to rise for one hour or so until doubled in size.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, roll or press out to form a 40 x 20cm rectangle.  Place the rectangle so that the long edge is at the front.

Stir the cinnamon into the mincemeat and spread evenly over the dough leaving a 2 cm line of the dough at the far end clear of the filling.  Dampen the clean edges of the dough with a little water and starting with the long end nearest roll up the dough into a tight log.

Cut into 2cm thick slices and place in a circle overlapping on a lightly greased tray.  Cover loosely with oiled cling film and leave in a warm place for 30  minutes.

Uncover and bake in a preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes.  Allow to cool for five minutes then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Mix the icing sugar with enough cold water to form a smooth icing and drizzle back and forth over the ring to decorate.  Leave the icing to set before serving.


Catch you soon.



Shropshire Pea Soup

Its cold and damp and I fancied something quick to warm me up for my dinner so this is in the pot as we speak ready for me to munch on with some crusty bread and butter.  I know it sounds uncouth but I have to have butter on my bread with soup, it somehow makes it richer.


500g peas
1 onion finely chopped
25g of butter
Large sprig of mint plus mint leaves to garnish
900ml of vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
100ml of double cream plus extra to serve


Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the onion.  Cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally until the onion softens and begins to turn brown,

Remove the leaves from the mint and add to the pan with the peas and stock.  Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes until the peas are tender.  Blitz in a food processor (or with a hand thingy) until smooth.

Season to taste and then stir in the double cream reheating without boiling.  Serve garnished with the mint leaves and a swirl of extra cream and some chunky buttered bread.


Catch you soon.


Recipe taken from Landscape a Year full of recipes

Monday, 16 October 2017

I thought I was going mad earlier on this afternoon

Since about mid morning I have had one major headache a real splitter which I think was down to all the change in electrical energy because of this storm or remnants of it.  The light went yellowy and strange  and oppressive quite threatening and strange.  Everyone remarked on it.  I went to make a cup of afternoon tea and happened to look out of the window in the kitchen and could not believe that the sun was bright pinky red.  I had to look twice to make sure I was not dreaming and if I had been an ancient inhabitant of this country and saw that I would have been convinced that the end was nigh!  It was rather odd though.  I read later on that it was due to Ophelia picking up sand from the desert!

However we live to tell the tale.  Apart from that it has not been too bad a day.  Since being home however it has rained and the wind is blowing a right old hooley and the wind is certainly stronger and louder than it was earlier in the evening.  I am just pleased to be in the warm inside.  I have been a tad cold so the heating is on.  It will not be long before I go to bed.  Perhaps to read for a little while and try and rest and get some sleep although I doubt it will be a quiet night as there a right hurly burly going on outside an awful lot of huffing and puffing.

Just keep safe everyone hopefully it will be quieter tomorrow.



Some Crafty projects

On the walk out with Missy yesterday evening I noticed that some of the trees had had loose twigs blown off them.  Being as we did not go the long way round I ended up picking up one or two of them and came back with quite a little stash.  I intend to turn them into some Christmas decorations for the house.  Some of them have green moss on them.  I had thought to give a light dusting of white paint to some of these twigs and to some of the larch cones which I also gathered up.  I had also thought of bleaching some of the larch cones and dying them red.  I am going to mull that one over.

I have purchased quite a few long cinnamon sticks from Tiger which I also have stashed plus 1kg of cinnamon sticks I purchased last year which are also going to be turned into decorations of one sort or another.  I have star anise as well.  Some small oranges are going into the dehydrator this week split so that they can be used in garlands and I also intend to start the Pomanders off.  I think by the end of the week the house will smell quite Christmassy and spicy as I also have the Mincemeat on the go.

I need to get a big bag of cloves though - I did have one but have misplaced it so I think I will be having a recce round town this week to see if I can source some.

I have some polystyrene balls that I have had for a little while which I also intend to use.  I had thought to paint the balls in gold and then glue on the little larch cones all over the surface and then attach a ribbon and use them as hanging baubles off the wall garlands which I have for the house.  I thought that the star anise could be used in this way as well.  Using a glue gun and putting on a few at a time.  I had also thought to get some larger twigs about the size of a 5p piece and cut down into little slices and yet again decorate the baubles in the same way, giving them a varnish once they are finished.  there is so much you can do when you get going.

I use cloves a lot particularly at Christmas; in the bread sauce, studded in the ham - then glazed with brown sugar and honey it is lovely.  Mum first did this one Christmas when I was a teenager.  I had never had anything like it and I absolutely loved it but then I do go a bundle on pastrami anyway. 

I also want to get some mulling sachets made up and get some lemon and orange peel dried to go in with them.

So as usual quite a few projects in the planning and trying to do a couple of the smaller ones of an evening with the bigger projects being tackled at the weekends.  Trying to make the most of my time as usual.  There is about ten weeks left until it is Christmas so really need to get a wriggle on as much as I can.

I also need to get some croutons made and also bread dried for my own bread sauce mixture straight from the pantry.  I also want to fry some onions and then dehydrate them for some extra flavouring for gravies, breads etc.  its all in the experimentation and as usual I am up to my neck in it.  Told you before it is just the depth that varies.

Ta ta for now.

Catch you later.



The Embroidery Machine

I still have not used it not for not wanting to but I am still not clear in the craft room/computer room.  I just don't know where all the stuff comes from.  I have also been on You Tube watching some tutorials and eyeing up designs on different embroidery sites.  I have bought in some embroidery threads and also two different types of backing.  One sulky the other more Vilene based.  I have been eyeing up quite a lot of designs some of which are freebies on various websites and also creating Wish Lists; needless to say this is for about an hour before I go up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire but I am having a good look around and getting terribly inspired.  This does not bode well.

My cousin does not know that I have invested in a sewing machine yet. She already has one and has had one for quite some time. I am hopefully going to be able to visit and see her in Lincoln soon.  She also is very good at needlework and cooking.  My mum and her mum were sisters with about 10 months between them and so the two of us have been raised more like sisters than cousins.  Needless to say she is one of my closest cousins.  However what is extremely interesting is that for the best part the pair of us have gone shopping independently and bought things and when it turns out she has items I have bought and visa versa.  Not everything of course but it has caused quite a bit of amusement over the years.  So with the Embroidery machine I will get to play shortly and then there will be no stopping me.

There are four sites I have been looking at.  There are a lot more out there but the ones I have been concentrating on  are:

There are freebies on some of them as well (on the embroidery designs one you can have three freebies per week.

I think part of the trouble is that I need to be organised when I am working and I have not been able to find all my accoutrements for the ordinary sewing machine and I don't want to go and buy new if I can help it.  So I really do need a good clear out and I am hoping for some serious sorting out time soon.  When OH goes fishing again the computer/craft room is getting a major overhaul and then I will be able to get cracking.

There is so much I want to achieve and do.

Then of course there is the sewing machine.  

Once the house is sorted I am going to allow myself the luxury of playing to my heart's content with no housework to break it up.  That is a promise to myself.

Catch you soon.



Sunday, 15 October 2017

Sunday catch up

Its been a busy kind of day doing a bit of this and a bit of that; getting ironing sorted and dashing away with the smoothing iron in readiness for the week to come. 

I have also rubbed some of the dried herbs the sage has been "rubbed" and decanted into a glass storage jar and the other herbs have been split from their stems in the case of the Rosemary and the thyme with the Oregano, Marjoram flat leaved parsley and parsley also stored into jars.  I have a few more to dry for use in the winter months as well and also to bring some more bay leaves in to dry off of my little tree in the garden.   I am trying to hang off on the bay leaves a little as I intend to use quite a few of them for some dried orange and lemon garlands for the house this Christmas.

I have also finished off some fruit vinegars and my mixed herb vinegar as well as started my Mincemeat.  My friend Bovey Belle first introduced me to a traditional recipe for home made Mincemeat many moons ago and I can honestly say it is the best one I have ever made. (I don't use suet in it) and my main recipe for Mincemeat although I do make a couple of other variations one with Amaretto but by a slightly different method.

Here is a link to the recipe for those of you who want to make a traditional full flavoured mincemeat that is absolutely lush.  Its on my friend's blog Codlins and Ceam2 (oh and by the way she writes a jolly good blog too) - that will make her blush!

Here is the link:

I would say however if you make the mincemeat which is relatively simple to make keep in a relatively cool place as otherwise the apples will go into a full ferment and may develop a mould.  Subsequently because I live in a centrally heated home I tend to store it in the cupboard under the stairs or in  the shed. I also stir everyday.  

Into mine this year so far is brown sugar golden sultanas dark sultanas raisins apple carrot currants cherries dried apricots cinnamon  ground cloves mace orange zest lemon zest mixed peel.  So lots of goodies and the pot is only half full.  Even after two days it is very juicy.  I would mention that I use a Rumptopf jar to make the mincemeat in.  You could use a very large glass jar with a lid.  I also cover usually with muslin but as I did not have any this time round I used a small freezer bag underneath the main lid just to make sure nothing else gets in other than what you want in.  There is no spirit in yet this is just from the juice of the apples and the brown sugar it soaks into the dried fruit and plumps it all up.  I will add a little rum or brandy when I am happy it is ready.

Change of plan we are having the Venison and Steak pie for tea tonight. I had planned on having a bit of roast beef.  That will have to wait though as I have quite a bit of other stuff to do although I will still be serving with veggies.  There is also a blackberry and apple pie for afters if he feels like it.

Catch you later.



P.S.  We had the most fantastic tea.  The Steak and Venison pie was to die for.  We shall certainly be having that again it was serioiusly delicious.  One of the best pies we have ever had from Johnsons and the Cornish Pasties are seriously tasty too.

I served with mixed runner bean, pea and broccoli veg, carrot and swede crush, Colcannon (mashed potato), steamed spring cabbage and served with lots of gravy.  There is still half a pie left so we shall be finishing that off tomorrow evening for tea.

Right better get a wriggle on.

Catch you soon.



Sunday morning Pootling

After  my busy out and about day yesterday I really need to start to settle to household chores and getting stuff sorted for the week ahead.  You no sooner get into a weekend than its time to go back to work again.

To start with it would appear that I have some new followers who I would just like to make welcome.  I hope you enjoy my musings there are lots of posts going back forever on all sorts of bits and bobs. Anyway get that cup of tea or coffee and make yourself comfortable you are very welcome.

Its a grey dreary Sunday morning here in Peterborough and it has gone slightly chillier again.  We have already had bacon butties for breakfast.  I bought some green back bacon from the Butchers yesterday and it is very tasty.

I have added a few more bits and bobs to the Christmas putdown and will update the list later on.  However in the next few weeks or so I intend to make some sausage rolls and freeze them so that at Christmas instead of leaving the sausage rolls in a tin or in the fridge then I shall just get them out of the freezer and straight into the oven when we decide we would like a few.  There is nothing nicer than a hot sausage roll anyway.  I also intend to make mincepies, coconut cheesecakes all the basic stuff the same way so that for spending a little time now I can reap the rewards at Christmas and concentrate a little more on the fancier stuff. I have bottled cherries on the pantry shelf, bottled peaches in syrup, bottled pears and apricots and intend to do some fruit salad in the next few weeks or so and bottled strawberries so I can always make a home made "Black Forest" style gateau or a Pavlova or two, Trifle and other tasty treat and just add whatever fruit floats my boat at that time from the pantry shelf.  So there is a reason to me preserving so much for the pantry shelf.  There is of course also the option of keeping puff pastry in the fridge or freezer and then making up a variety of different fancies from a simple pack of puff pastry like, bacon, cheese and mustard parcels, mille feuilles, pinwheels, and there are always on Facebook posts on how to do something different to make the taste buds go into overdrive.  So I am also popping up puff pastry into the freezer so that I have enough availableover the Christmas period.  There is always something you can do in a little amount of time with a packet of puff pastry.  Its just getting yourself organised and as the saying says practice makes perfect.

Right am off to get a cup of tea and to get pootling away in the kitchen.  Hope you all have a lovely quiet Sunday wherever you may be.

Catch you later on.



Saturday, 14 October 2017

Slightly Pear Shaped

Well I went tootling into town - I walked in with the express intention of visiting the little market that I had seen yesterday excited at being able to obtain some goodies and when I got there it was not there!  Instead there was a full blown Indian Diwali celebration going on B.....mmer!  So no Charcuterie or luscious honey!  I must be losing my touch.  I should have got it yesterday.

However disappointed I stayed in town and had a look at a couple of shops.  More and more shops are starting to get their Christmas bits and bobs in so I had a good nosey round.  Its still early yet but there were an awful lot of people in town.  We have had a new shop open in the centre a Yankee Candle shop.  I had a browse round  - they had some lovely bits but the big candles are very expensive although they last for ages.  If I get any from here it will be a considered purchase so we shall have to wait and see.

I also nipped into the Queensgate Marks & Spencers as they still did not have their Christmas display up the other day when I went in. They had got a little bit further today but still nowhere near everything popped up.  The Queensgate store is mostly put over to clothing with a token household section.  However the M & S Store at the Brotherhood Retail Park has the top floor mostly to home items and really does a pretty good display.  If I am buying things for the home this is where I normally come to as they have the full range and full selection here.  However in the Queensgate store they did have a lovely candelabra display of two stag candelabras which I absolutely fell in love with.  They looked gorgeous but are £40 apiece.  Another considered purchase I think.  Will also have to contemplate that one but they did look stunning. They had a silvered/pewter effect. 

I also nipped into the food department and bought a couple of things there.

I also looked in John Lewis as last year I spotted some Christmas napkins and a table runner that I also quite fell in love with.  I have tried to find similar fabric to make my own but so far nothing has turned up.  However I was pleased to see that they are repeating the same design this year so I may well indulge.   The table linen was made to compliment a china service which I also quite liked but so far this year I have not seen it.  That was also in greens and cream.

I also found some centrepieces for the table one in red and the other in gold.  They were very different but are ideal for a Christmas table as you can use them as sweet dishes or as bases for storm lanterns there is quite a bit you can do with these. 

I had been looking for a round gold/brass coloured mirror tray which I had taken a fancy to but they did not have one in stock today.  That is something else to keep my eye open for.

I then went for a wander round Tiger I have seen some small candle lanterns in there that I quite like but I am waiting a little longer to see what else becomes available.

From here I  walked to Waitrose and did some food shopping.  Predominantly a lot of bits and bobs today.  The start of my chestnut puree (four bags) they used to do this in tins but it is not for some reason available.  There will be a post about what I do with this in due course.  Some more stock pots chicken and beef.  Some more fresh herbs, some Tribune Pale Ale for OH.  Some more puff pastry (predominantly for my sausage rolls), some cream and some custard.  We have the apple and blackberry pie for pudding tomorrow night to follow a nice piece of roast beef which I am very much looking forward to.  The only drawback to me going to Waitrose is that I usually come back with a lot of bits and bobs but I cannot carry it home so I have to either get a taxi or get OH if he is home to come and collect me as it is too far to walk laden with heavy shopping bags and I cannot manage the bags easily.   Needless to say after a phone call the cavalry arrived and took me home.  So today I have had a busy day shopping now to get everything put away and start the housework.  No playing tomorrow.

Catch you soon.



The Cat that licked the cream

This morning I was dragged up at what felt like "the crack of Dawn" but in reality was 7:30am - not really the time I want to get up on a Saturday but there was a specific reason for this.  I had planned on going into town today to have a look around as despite working in town in reality I don't get a chance to look around as I end up meeting friends or have events to go to.  OH had other ideas and decided that we would  this morning pay another visit to Johnsons.  I don't need much persuading in this respect as the food section is really top hat. My step son had been geared up  and brewing all week that he wanted breakfast there so OH decided that we would join them.  We therefore tootled off at about 8:10am to drive on the journey to Old Hurst which is past Ramsey.  We arrived there for about 8:45am having arranged to meet up with them at about 9:00am.

We have subsequently had a very nice breakfast and are now stuffed.  Whilst we were there we had to have a look around the shop. The food is such good quality it would be rude not to indulge, we have come away today with a large venison and beef pie, a large blackberry and apple fruit pie, 4 warm Cornish pasties, some Cornish Blue cheese which is absolutely fantastic and has such a lovely flavour.  They had samples on the counter and I have also come away with some ginger and whisky cheese.  I have also come away with 1kg of Green Back bacon which is absolutely gorgeous.  They had Marmite sausages today but because of what I already have to hand I did not indulge.  I also bought some sausage meat and am going to make some home made sausage rolls later on.  I will have to nip to Waitrose to get the pastry but that is not too far up the road for me to go and get.

In the difference of a fortnight the shop had changed yet again.  They are still not taking Orders for the Turkeys but that will happen.  However they do have a lot more Christmas stock in including different sized Christmas puddings in (the largest of which cost £20 so it very much put into perspective as to how much home made Christmas puddings could sell for.  They also had Christmas cakes and lots of different stuffings.  I am a big believer in trying new items and new things to establish what we do and do not like.  Today I have come across some different stuffings which I intend to test drive and then see if I can work out some recipes for myself rather than buying them in the future.  Especially with having the dehydrator as you can do all sorts of things for yourself like Croutons, bread stuffing mix, stuffing mixes, herb mixes and stock mixes.  So it is well worth trying things. I have a selection of dried herbs which I prepared myself in the pantry. The added advantage of doing this yourself means that you have control of the salt levels as well which is an important factor for my OH as he has high blood pressure.

Here are the mixes I purchased.  The company who sell them are the Shropshire Spice Co.  Thry conssist of

Cranberry Orange and Roast Chestnut

Englush Sage and Roast Onion

Roast Chestnut

And  bread sauce mix

The veggies are always fresh here as well. Today I have come away with a Romanesco, Teardrop cabbage (the sweetest of cabbages).  There was loads more there but I have quite a bit of stuff in stock in any event so did not need.

I have also come away with some milk bottle sweets and a bag of lemonade dipping sherbet which I have not seen for years. (the big kid escaping again). 

I also found and came away with a couple of bottles of plum porter to try.  Something a little different.  If we like it I shall get another couple of bottles to put in the Christmas stockpile (I tend to buy a few bottles here and a few bottles there of different stuff and then when we are at home during the Christmas period we can have a drink in the safety of our own home [not that we drink a lot anyway]).  Johnson's have quite a selection of different drinks however they are at special prices so I go and see what they have flavour wise and then come home and experiment myself.  Works out a lot cheaper.

So today as I have added some more lovely things to the pantry I feel very much like the cat that licked the cream.

The more I experiment the more I am starting to reduce what I actually buy pre-prepared.  I am buying base ingredients but starting to store my own home made dried mixes.  It makes life easier during the week especially as I am labelling the bags and indicating what extra needs to be added for different things.  As I keep saying I need more pantry storage!  I am now hoping to nip into town as they had a mini French market yesterday in town which had honey (a variety of different flavours), pates, soap, charcuterie (dried salami style sausages) so I am hoping it is still on today so that I can pop some stuff up yet again for Christmas.  The pates are bottled and with the charcuterie items being air-dried they should keep well in a nice cool place and will probably get popped into the wine chiller.  One of the other reasons I want to go to the Lincoln Christmas Market this year is that they do have (or in the past have had) lots of foodie stalls selling all sorts of treats and different bits and bobs - It all adds variety to my pantry and also gives me ideas for having a go at other bits and bobs.  Right had better get a wriggle on.

Catch you later on.



Friday, 13 October 2017

Christmas things

 I am slowly starting to locate the bits and bobs I need for Christmas.  During the week I managed to nip into the Works and managed to get two packs of three, three metre rolls of cellophane patterned for £2 for 3 rolls and 4 rolls of plain cellophane for £1 a roll.  It will all come in useful for the Christmas wrapping and hampers and if any left for birthday presents or wrapping flowers too.  I may get a few more rolls during the week as this sort of packaging can be used in all sorts of things.

I have also bought some more felt for home made Christmas decorations.  I have seen a rather nice stocking garland and also a robin one that I would quite like to have a go at all made out of felt and I have also seen a gingerbread one as well.  The felt I have bought is shades of different greens and reds.  All Christmas colours. I have several ideas on how to use these.

I also bought a couple of packs of cards.  I am going to try and make my own cards this year for family members at least.  However I do have quite a few friends and associates who I will need cards for and for this year at least I will still need some more.  Fortunately I have managed to find some particularly nice ones.  I already have some string and also little labels which I intend to decorate.

I have also found some of my Christmas tins.  I have some tartan ones in sets of three x 2 sets (i.e. 6 tins).  One of the larger ones has faded due to the sun (I have had these for quite a few years but it is still good for storage.)  So the Christmas cake and some of the Christmas baking will go into these in the pantry.

The big roll of brown wrapping paper has arrived and I shall predominantly use this for packaging with a bit of embellishment here and there.  There are also lots of things you can use to decorate them with quite simply and effectively.  It does not need much.

There are also mini wreaths, some Christmas stockings, an advent calendar, table mats and various other bits and bobs to deal with, plus a whole host of other things, including some tablecloths.  Whether they all get made or not is another thing but lets say I am going to be able to keep myself occupied for quite some time.

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of the things that my Nan always had on her Christmas tree was hollow chocolate or cream filled decorations that hung off the tree.  I have some of these but still intend to get a few more,  I also need to get some candy canes (If you have any left after Christmas they can always go to make Candy Cane Vodka). You can if you source them cheaply enough turn them into decorations in their own right.

This year I also intend to make some Christmas mice in pink and white.  This was something else we were also treated to by my Nan come Christmas.  I know I am very nostalgic but I am trying to maintain my family's Christmas traditions as best I can.  I am the last of my line - I have my step-children and they may carry on some of the traditions but I am really writing this down for my nephews who hopefully one day will read this and carry on some of the traditions in their own families.  I know my brother pops in here from time to time.  He remembers bits from our childhoods but not everything.

Slowly, slowly we are getting there.  I still have loads more to do though and the Christmas pressies have yet to be made/bought.

Right had better get a wriggle on, its the weekend and as usual have got lots to do.

Catch you soon.



Thursday, 12 October 2017

Christmas for me as a child

Please be warned this is a word heavy post.

In the early years when I was really small and my brother was a baby we went and spent Christmas with my grandparents at their home.  It was always Christmas Eve when we travelled. I remember the night, the cold the snow and being cold in the van and us singing songs like Jingle Bells and various carols on the journey and every so often being given a barley sugar or cough candy twist to suck on.  All the stars twinkling and being too nosey and wanting to see everything that was going on.  We were always well wrapped up and had blankets over us as well on the back seat of the car.

My Nan's house was always warm and welcoming the log fires throwing out some heat and the Rayburn in the kitchen.  We were always bundled out of the cold into the heat and then stripped down either in front of the Rayburn or the fire and put in our gym jams (thick winceyette or brushed cotton) given a nice hot drink and then bundled up in bed with thick quilts and lots of blankets.  Then waking up at my Nan's before my mum and dad and pottering down the corridor to find my Nan and Pop and cuddling up to them both in the big wooden bed and waiting for Mum and Dad to wake up and the gazunda under the bed!  Its funny what kids remember.

When Mum and Dad were up and we were washed and dressed (we were made to wait) then going into the best room with its thick green velvet curtains, the Joanna, and large sofa and chair where the Christmas tree was and to find our pressies under the tree in our "sacks" which were cotton pillowcases and the opening of the pressies and the excitement from the children and adults alike the thing that really used to fascinate me about the Christmas tree was that my Nan always put chocolate Christmas bells and fancies on the Christmas tree for us youngsters.  That was the first time I came across such favours.  They have been a feature of my Christmas tree ever since together with candy cane sticks; so really I am carrying on a long held tradition.  We were also given pink sugar mice.  I have some moulds so if I remember I might well make some this Christmas and revive another tradition.

In later years we spent one more Christmas with my grandparents when I was about seven years of age. It was the Christmas that I was bought my first pair of roller skates.  It was thick snow and ice outside of the house.  The pavements were uneven at my grandparent's home and Dad took me outside to try them out and tried to get me to use them on an ice ridden pavement.  I was not having any of that - he was of course jesting and it was totally tongue in cheek.  Its something I have never forgotten.  

The lovely thing about going to my grandparent's home was that Nan would do a big Goose for Christmas Dinner (It was only in later years that I found out that the Goose who used to run around the Orchard in the summer actually became Christmas Dinner).  The cooking of dinner was always started early and of course we had to go to Church as well.  Nan's cottage was brim to full because she would never let anyone be on their own on Christmas Day.  My Aunt and Uncle would come with their daughter, my Great Aunty Ivy, my Uncle and his two children my mum, dad, brother and myself, Uncle Pat, my Granddad the vicar, Grandma (an old lady who lived with my uncle and she was always included too. There were also a myriad of visitors throughout the day.  There would be a high tea for everyone as well and the ladies really did work in those days because the main Goose or whatever always took hours and hours to cook and then there was everything to go with it.  The cottage was always warm and snug with roaring fires especially if it was really cold.  It was traditional at Christmas to always listen to the Queen's Speech on the radio and we had to be all done and dusted and the washing up all done by the time of the Queen's speech  (at the time my grandparents did not have a TV) we did.  It was also very traditional  for the children later in the afternoon after High tea to perform a party piece a poem, a dance, a reading a little play to entertain the adults and sometimes games would be played too like Charades.  Which was then followed by my Dad playing the piano and the raucous singing of Christmas Carols.  It did not matter that we were out of tune as long as everyone enjoyed themselves.  I think we have lost something over the years people knew how to have fun and were not restricted by this or that.

As I have said in later years we stopped going as Mum and Dad ended up having so many presents from family, and friends for us that they had trouble getting the suitcases and all the presents in the car without us seeing them which is a shame really as we used to love and go and spend time with them.

Our Christmases for the best part were always full of magic, full of excitement the land of make believe.  That's what Christmas was for us growing up as children.  My Dad had a lot of fun with us as did my mum.  When there was a thunder storm in the summer it was always "Santa Claus" turning over his sacks of toys and that we must be really really good to get a present i.e naughty or nice. It was only as adults that we found out that mum was terrified of thunder and lightning and so as not to alarm us she used to keep us occupied with the story of Father Christmas turning his toys over.  Very creative and loving my parents.  We were bought up to believe in the land of make believe and to use our imaginations, also dressed liberally with real life practicality as well, but being taught the difference between escape to make believe and existing in reality.

For both my brother David and I, Christmas was very special.  In the days when we had a proper fire we used to write notes to Father Christmas and pop them into the fire and they would go up the chimney.  This was before the days of the gas fire.  Then the gas fire was fitted which caused great consternation from both my brother and I  and this also caused a problem for my brother.  He wanted to know how Father Christmas was going to get in when we were all fast asleep in bed.  Dad came up with a story that Father Christmas would park his sleigh on the roof with the reindeer (and if we listened carefully we might just be able to hear the jingle of the bells) and that instead of coming down the chimney he had a magic key that would give him access to the house.  My brother was not having any of that and it terrified him to think that Father Christmas could come into the house at will.  In the end I think Dad calmed him down by saying that if David was not a good boy and was not fast asleep in any event he would not come.  Needless to say that little boy slept soundly come Christmas Eve.

My father's main hobby was photography and in the attic of the Council house we lived in he built a large photography attic.  The first of many such rooms.  He showed mum it and because we pestered he took us up as well.  Whilst we were both up there and after mum had gone downstairs Dad threw his voice and became the voice of Father Christmas talking to us both about what we had been up to.  I suspected my Dad and turned round swiftly (and from all accounts in later years Dad said I nearly caught him) saying it was him, but he smoothed it off and my brother believed him.  We both came down from the attic full of it and highly chuffed and we were very special in that we had actually gotten to speak to Father Christmas.

Mum also included us in the Christmas pudding and cake making.  Mum had a big massive Pearsons baking bowl one of the beige ones and she always used to make the Christmas cake and Christmas pudding and each member of the family had to have a stir of both the pudding and the cake to put good luck in it for the year to come.  After the puddings were made and had matured and before serving mum always used to put a silver sixpence into the pudding; something that my Dad's mum always did.  They never cooked the puddings with the coins in them.  Yet again the silver sixpence represented good luck for the year to come.  Needless to say at a later date I ended up breaking the mixing bowl by accident.  I was not very popular.  Still remember that to this day.

I also remember mum buying in bits and bobs as she could afford them for Christmas starting with the baking ingredients and then buying bit by bit like I do when I can afford them.  What must be remembered is back then money was really tight.  Mum did not work as she stayed at home with us until she started home working making belts for a local factory which meant she would still be there at home for us.  Mum and Dad gave us what they could and we were always pleased.  We rarely asked for anything not like the kids do today.  We instinctively knew not to.  The catalogue companies were the only way people managed to get things then and the monies were collected every week to pay for them.

Items were recycled through families and if they were really in good condition were gifted on as sometimes it was the only way they could give something nice to one another.  If you could not afford it then you would have a go at making it and if you were not particularly gifted in that department another family member would make it. There was a whole different way of going on a lot more give and take and families being together and helping each other rather than being jealous and defensive.  Dad having spent time in the Middle East with the Air force had developed a liking for dried dates and figs so mum always allowed for the purchase of these and when I saw these being brought into the house I knew it would not be far off Christmas;

More intriguing for me was the first time Mum and Dad ordered a large hamper out of one of the Catalogue companies  -think it was Littlewoods cannot be sure and that arriving at the house and mum excited and unpacking lots of goodies.  I think it was the first time my mum had had such a thing and I think her excitement makes it stick out all the more for me.  Her family had it really rough when she was growing up and I mean really rough so to have new things and be able to afford things she had only dreamed of (which were probably more of the norm for other people) meant an awful lot to her.

In the few days running up to Christmas Eve mum would buy in the fruit, the little tangerines in little orange nets, the loose nuts Brazil Nuts, Almonds, Hazlenuts and Walnuts, the monkey nuts in their shells, salted peanuts, Turkish delight and a small tin of Quality Street (not the big tins they are today).  Apples, pears and Oranges and bananas were also bought.  Things that we all take for granted today but which were so hard won back then.

The tree would also go up a couple of days before Christmas Eve and would be taken down by 6 January (Twelth night).  Mum would arrange for Dad to get the tree and the big tea chest out of the attic in which all the Christmas decorations were stored.  She would call us into the front room; it was nearly always near dusk and in the half light where the fire was roaring and start to put the tree up.  It created its own magic being in the warmth of a cosy fire and the half light created its own ambience which I really remember.  The tree it was an artificial one and not much to it  green and silver but mum had that tree for many many years.  We were allowed to watch mum put the lights and the decorations on but at that time were not allowed to help but we could watch.  As we got older that changed.  Each ornament would be removed from the tea chest wrapped in tissue and then carefully unwrapped as it was memories of people gone by who had given or bought the decorations so really was a treasure chest of lovely baubles most of them glass, paper concertina chain garlands, paper bells and the crowning glory on the tree was the Ballerina Queen Fairy in her Tutu. It always fascinated me.  Then in later years mum also used to buy hollow chocolate fancies to hang off the tree.  Its the reverence and care that went into this saving the treasure for future years to come and cherishing them; a ritual a confirmation of special little treasures.

Christmas Eve was always a flurry of cleaning and baking.  It is a long family tradition from both sides of the family that the Christmas baking was always done on this day. I still carry this on. I still have memories of mum having a big blue and white meat platter that my grandmother (mum's mum) had bought for her being loaded to the gunnels with sausage rolls, coconut cheesecakes, schoolboys earholes (jam tarts) and mince pies that she had baked that day and being placed into the cool of the larder ready for the next day and the Christmas cake all iced and decorated being covered in tissue paper and also being placed back into the cool of the larder.

Christmas Eve, we would be got ready for bed with new gym jams in front of the fire and given a nice warm drink.  Then we would hang our socks up off the shelf of the fire hearth.  A glass of port would be popped on a little glass tray in the fire hearth each (a thank you and some sustenance to Santa Claus for bringing our presents) with a mince pie apiece.  We were then bundled off to bed.  With our pillowcases placed on the bottom of our single beds.  When we were asleep Dad would creep in and retrieve the pillowcases and fill them.  When we were very small some of the presents would be left under the tree and some in the pillowcase at the bottom of the bed together with our socks in which was placed some nuts, a brand new penny, a tangerine and some sweeties. This was always left on the bottom of our beds too.

Apparently Dad always had a late night on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day because the pair of us were so excitable and would wake really early.  I remember one year in particular where David woke up about 2:00pm and came into my bedroom to tell me that "Trish he's been he's been".  Unfortunately Dad had only been in bed about 3/4 of an hour and was not amused.  Needless to say I got into trouble for waking my brother up when it was the other way round.  We were told to go back to bed and get some sleep and then Dad would call us when he was ready.  Both of us settled back down, but Dad sure did have some close shaves.

We always used to get into bed with mum and dad when we were younger and open our Christmas presents all together (I think this was more so that they knew what we had had from who and so that we could write our thank you letters).  Then it would be tidy up time, dispose of the damaged wrapping paper and then on with the chores for the day and getting ready for lunch.  When we were a lot lot older my Dad used to disappear to the pub for a couple of hours whilst mum got on at home.  In later years I also used to go with him as did my brother.  One particular year my grandparents came and we took my Pop down to the pub.  He really liked it and made himself comfortable and really enjoyed himself.  My grandfather had a reputation for never being drunk until that particular Christmas he got tiddly and we had one heck of a job getting him out of the pub he had enjoyed himself so much.  My Dad was fretting over producing Pop tittled to my grandmother and her reaction well as long as he has had a good time that's all that matters.  And he did I had to get behind him to guide him out of the pub at which he was protesting quite prolifically.

We have had a lot of special times over the years with people who were our elders and who have now passed on and now we in turn are the elders.  However for me at the root of Christmas is the story of celebration of the birth of the Christ child and the love of family and of friends.  Spending quality time with people that you love and respect both family and friends and that are an essential part of your well being but most of all sharing what you have between each other.  That for me is the light of Christmas.

Sorry its been a long post (and I hope I have not bored the pants off of you)  but I certainly was very lucky and privileged to have parents who made so much of Christmas for the pair of us.  For that I am forever thankful.

Catch you soon.



Meet the Moggies

  • Merlin (approx 18 months)
  • Squeak (approx 2 years)
  • Poppy (approx 16 years)
  • Tyson (approx 17 years)
  • Tinky (official name Clover approx 18 years)