Monday, 30 November 2015

The Back Place

Can you remember the Back Place?  I remember the one we had  when we were in the Council House at  10 Johnsons Road, Uppingham.  It was a room on the end of the kitchen - inside the house and you came in the back door straight into it.  I suppose you could liken it to the utility room these days.  It was a cold room and right at the end was a segregated bit with boards up along the bottom and the coal was always stored there. In fact whilst we were there the skirting board in the front room started going manky and damp.  The Council came out and replaced the plaster and the skirting board.  It was only afterwards that she found out what was happening.  My brother was fond of squirty bottles and was apparently when mum was not about squirting the washing up liquid into the coal shed part of the back place where it was laying in the coal and making the coal shed damp.  He was soon stopped in his tracks and funnily enough there was no more problems with the damp.

In our Back Place were shelves up on the wall.  Mum had painted the walls with emulsion and it always looked clean - she had painted it in a pale yellow.  Mum used to work on a sewing machine there during the week she used to make fashion belts  for a local factory at home having a quota of belts to make during the week but still being there for us.  That was the lengths she went to.

The shelves were often used to store vegetable like marrows and some of mum's bottle store as the room was always cold but you need cold to store some things like that.  There was also a separate pantry but that was a big walk in cupboard off the kitchen.

Our bikes used to be stored in there as well.

I could really do with a Back Place here as I am fast running out of space for storing things.  Its a shame that a room like this went out of fashion.

Today's utility rooms tend to be heated.

Did you have  "Back Place" and what did your family use it for.

Catch you soon.



Getting Ready for Christmas Feta Cheese in Oil and Herbs

This is something I do every Christmas and through the year and it soon goes as part of the melee of antipasti or suppers during Christmas. or in salads or on baguettes or focaccia or as a side to a salad or cold meat platter. 

You see we have a rule in this household.  I cook the main event and do all the preparation and if we are having visitors on Boxing Day I also cook.  But after that the cook is on holiday so she can enjoy Christmas too.  This is one of the reasons that I do chutneys and pickles so that we can still eat with antipasti, cold cuts etc. Cheeses will keep in oil for about a month or so in the fridge and you can always replenish them once used up.  However do not waste the oil it can be used in cooking dribbled over salads used in salad dressings on focaccia wherever you use olive oil


Three to four blocks of Feta  or a couple of  large tubs of Feta cut into decent sized cubes
Virgin Olive Oil to cover

Flavourings you have a choice of combinations just to make things that little bit different
Dried chiili
Dried Oregano

But really you can add any flavourings, Olives, lemons, fennel seeds, basil  Different flavours tend to have a different impact.

Sterilise a Kilner preserving jar but make sure you can get it on your fridge shelf before filling. add the cubed cheese then your chosen flavourings and then top up with the oil making sure the jar is filled to the top.  Shake well and keep  in fridge.



Sunday, 29 November 2015

Sunday Round up

Its been a bitty busy day today and I have not got on as well as I hoped but there we are  that is how the cookie crumbles. I have had washing, drying and ironing to do in-between everything else.  I have also cooked dinner I have the pears in sugar ready for completion tomorrow evening into pear conserve.

I also have another five jars of  Apple chutney to add to the larder.  As I said earlier I used the Apple chutney recipe again. However this time I did not have cooking apples but I did have some eating apples that needed using up. No white onion only red and not brown soft sugar so I use what I had which is white.  Does not taste too bad probably a tad sweeter than the other one but should be okay with cheese and cold meats and my home made Christmas Festive Pie or Pork Pie

When we went to the Cash n Carry earlier we bought a tray of stewing steak and two of mince.   I have also split the mince trays in half so I have four bags of mince and I have kept all the stewing steak together as I tend to make one big stew which we have over a couple of days. They are now in the freezer ready to use. 

I have some more red cabbage to do this week and also some more piccalilli.  Someone has eaten the lot!  He who shall remain nameless.

Right have to get some things together for tomorrow.

Catch you soon.



Its a bit blustery

Its a wee bit blustery out there today. We have been out to the Cash N Carry to top up on things like washing powder, toilet rolls, dishwasher tablets, some of which lasts me three months or more others which need topping up every month. They also have some good bargains with the meat.  We have come back with two trays of mince and a tray of stewing steak for a nice hot stew to come home to one night in the week. Now whilst my house may not be what I call tidy everything is clean which is the main thing.  I buy OHs deodorant in bulk, today we bought some Dolmio 6 jars for £5.99 - I have been paying about £1.60 for a jar so I tend to stock up when they are on offer.  I also do some of my own and we end up combining them to make a really tasty sauce.  Things got interesting when I started to unload the car.  I nearly got blown down the street but managed to get in safely.  I have also part unloaded the car of the stuff I have bought back from mums.  OH is going to have to give me  hand with the knitting machines and accessories as they are a bit heavy for me to carry on my own and then there is just the knitting machine magazines to bring in.  I am looking forward to my dad's desk coming next week and then I will be able to get sorted out a little bit on the craft front.  I hope to be able to play on the days between the Christmas break and then going back

I have some more chutney on the go, using up some dried fruit and apples.  Its another batch of the apple chutney recipe I prepared the other day and it is simmering gently on the cooker, starting to scent the house.  I will be doing the plum bread later on but have a couple of other jobs to do before that.

We have had a nice smoky bacon bap for a midday snack and we have roast chicken and veggies for tea for a change.

So things are a usual busy here, right then I had better get a wriggle on I have some pears to conserve as well.  They have to soak in sugar overnight and will be concluded tomorrow evening. The recipe is an old one but it aims to provide pears which apparently go a pinky colour to serve with ice cream.  Sounds good to me.  And I also want to get some apple jelly started.  I make it plain and spiced preferably from crab apples but you have to use what are available.  I know there is a big Pantry waiting for me out there somewhere.  I have just got to find it.

Catch you later.



Getting Ready for Christmas Part 23 - Popcorn

Why are you buying Popcorn when it is the easiest thing to do at home.  You do not need special equipment you can pop it in the microwave or in a saucepan on top of the hob. I have a little machine that I have had quite a few years that I use which makes things easier for me, but that Is my choice.   

I do not buy the pre-prepared microwave bags of popcorn I buy my corn in big bags (usually from my Asian paper-shop round the corner and I pay no more than £3 a bag.  I told you I was a tightwad. Yes this gives you plain popcorn but then you can choose whether you have it sweet or savoury.  A lot of the time I like it as is but there are lots of lovely recipes out there.

This year I am looking to make some popcorn garlands for decorating the tree as well as some cranberry garlands (with dried fruit) and some cookies.  But you can also make "snowballs" for decorating the tree which are essentially popcorn glued together with  third ingredient (usually sugar based but could be chocolate) and then moulded into balls and covered with cellophane and then hung off the tree.  Whether I will get there depends on the time factor but that is what I am aiming for.

As I have said before I am a great window shopper I look for the ideas and presentation of things and then nine times out of ten I find a recipe or instructions and do it myself and then add my own twist on things. That is just how I am indeed how many of us are.

Here is a link on how to make basic popcorn in a pan on the stove which I think many of you will find useful.

Here are some links below for doing different things with Popcorn which I think you might like and some of which I certainly intend to have a go at.

In my family we have a tradition going back to when we were small of going to my grandmothers and she would always have a few chocolate Christmas tree decorations either moulded chocolate bells or other shapes or chocolate coins hung on the tree.   We had to wait until the middle of the afternoon after we had had lunch before we were given one and she knew exactly how many were on the tree and who had had what.

It is a tradition my mother carried on with us and then with both my nephews.  I also did this with my step-children - you see I am not only from a predominantly very large family on my mother's side I also have extended family too and you quite never know who is going to pop round. 

My father's side has shrunk considerably over the years and that makes me sad but they are still remembered for the right reasons as being kind open-hearted people who taught us so much and were each very special in their own way and who are still with us in our hearts and minds even though we cannot give that physical hug which gave so much reassurance. 

Christmas today is not just about the Christian tradition it is an amalgamation of at least three or four celebrations  and moreover a festival of light in the long and dark months of the winter.  I therefore feel we do not have the right to  judge or be judgmental or criticise how each of us spends or celebrates  or does not celebrate Christmas whether that be putting up the decorations early or spending too much and getting into debt. Not attending church, or choosing something different.  That is essentially a personal decision for the individual/individuals concerned. Its natural to make mistakes and people do learn, but often by their own experience is the best way. Anybody who is told repeatedly not to do this or that usually has a habit of rebelling and end up doing the things they are told not to do.   We do not all fit snugly into tight little boxes.  Such is life. 

For me  however Christmas is about family and extended friends and family and doing what we can whilst within this mortal coil to make our transition and our hurdles as comfortable as we can.  Its about loving each other and celebrating the differences.  Each of us has something special to bring to the table. Being judgmental is a very negative place to be.

Christmas though is for everybody it is about family and love and spending time with each other where we can and taking part and having a go at turning your hand to that new recipe or making that popcorn garland. You see I have bought it back to the popcorn.  When you make things yourself to some degree you take away the commercialism and leaving heirloom decorations and a legacy of having a go and taking part what richer legacy could you have as it sends out the right messages to the younger ones.

Catch you soon



Saturday, 28 November 2015

Saturday Roundup

Its been perishing today.  I have had a couple of bad attacks with the Raynauds today despite wearing thick gloves.  There is not a lot I can do about it apart from trying to keep warm.

I have been to mum's again today.  On the way there we dropped the dog off for a run and when she got back in the car she jumped all over me and muddied me up.  I was not impressed and when she had finished with me looked like I had been dragged through a field backwards!

We have done quite a lot more sorting we are nearly there for the house anyway.   The attic is now empty and I have bought the knitting machines home together with the various accessories now when I get some time I am going to have to find out how to use them.  I know how to use the first of her machines which is a Knitmaster as mum had me doing stuff when I was younger so I may start  to get me used to working with one again with that to begin with and then work my way up.  The charity shop have taken some stuff and are coming back for more which is good.

The house seemed even sadder today but life moves on whether we want it to or not.  Mums neighbours are missing her too.

I am having my father's desk to use as a computer desk and also for my sewing.  It will be ideal for me to be able to  go up into the craft/computer room to get on with things like the patchwork and other sewing bits and bobs and paper crafts and card making that I am interested in.  The hand knitting and crochet can be done downstairs as can the embroidery and needlepoint. I have different crafts for different time frames.  I just like to be busy and cannot just sit and watch TV I have usually some work going on in my hands as well.

Tonight though I have a lot to do in the kitchen so I had better get a wriggle on.

Catch you soon



Getting Ready for Christmas Part 22 - Hairy Bikers Christmas Pudding Vodka

I love messing around with alcohol and flavourings of different descriptions to put something that little bit different on the drinks/liqueur front.  In fact aside from preserving this is another one of my passions.  After all drink and food go hand in hand with each other and make very good stable mates.

I have been looking for dried fruit recipes apart from chutneys to use up some dried fruit I have to use up - I do not like wasting ingredients if I can help it and this one came along when I least expected it.

Friday evening I just sat and chilled.  Its been a long tiring week, and cold I have been very cold this week although I have had the heating on but sometimes the damp just seeps into your very core and that is how it has been for me this week.  Its just how the cookie crumbles but it was an evening not for doing much and I was subsequently watching the Good Food Channel and a repeat of the Hairy Bikers Christmas.  I had had my knitting needles clicking away not really watching the TV but listening when my ears pricked up at the mention of "Christmas Pudding Vodka".  I had not seen this particular programme before so after the programme had finished I went on to the Internet and found the link for making this which is here.

The only amendments I would make to this is that  I use a good all round vodka - does not have to be the most expensive but certainly not the cheapest and I macerate all my alcohols in very large sterilised Kilner jars rather than a bowl as you can pop the lid down and keep out any nasties whilst at the same time as coaxing out the flavour from the ingredients.  I from past experience shake the jars gently twice a day to get the fruit to give up its flavours.  When the maceration process is complete I then strain through coffee paper filters or very fine muslin.   You might have to do this a couple of times and I leave overnight to collect as much of the alcohol as I can. I then tend to keep the alcohol in a cool cupboard out of the way but you could keep in the freezer permanently and serve direct from the freezer.

So guess what I am going to be doing.

And the fruits left over  - It think they will go nicely into a Christmas pudding Ice cream.

Catch you soon.

Getting Ready for Christmas Part 21 Goats Cheeses in Herb and Saffron Oil

I love Goats Cheese especially melted on toast with fried onions or Onion Chutney and salad leaves. It makes a quick supper when you want something light and you can also drizzle it with homemade fresh herb oil now that really is scrummy.  The best part of making this Delicatessan style preserve is that the oil does not go to waste as it can be used for basting grilled meats and fish drizzling over bread and focaccia or salad leaves. So this really is a win win situation.

Before making this recipe though you will need to make a quantity of Herb & Saffron Oil

Please see Separate post.

I have also given a recipe for home made goats cheese on a previous post.  It is not difficult and you get a fair quantity of cheese. Little tiny rounds of goats cheese are known as "Crottins".


About 8 fresh goats cheeses such as Crottin about 2oz weight each.
1.1 litres (2 pints) Herb and Saffron Oil


Place the cheese in a large wide necked jar.  Gently pour over the Herb and Saffron Oil to cover completely.

Seal tightly and store in the refrigerator for at least one week before using then for up to one month.  Makes about 2 1/4 pints.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Another Recce

Yesterday I did another recce of a couple of shops in Peterborough.  A £ shop in the Rivergate Centre which had quite a lot of practical bits and bobs for next to nothing but I always check the £ shops out as quite often they have bits and bobs a lot cheaper than anywhere else so I go there first and if its cheaper I purchase otherwise I do not. 

The other shop I went into was Iceland.  I used to use them regularly because its the extra bits and bobs not in the freezers that are really usually good prices. However I have not been in for quite a little while.  I am glad I popped in.  I was quite impressed with the Christmas goodies so I shall be going and getting some bits and bobs from there.  Quite a nice range of things the dearest thing being about £12 and that was Sea Bass.  Will need to sort the big freezer out a bit before I go as I have quite a few things I want to get done in the run up to Christmas. Wherever you can save the pennies is a bonus as it means you can stretch what you have that bit more. 

I have also bought a few more bits from the Polish shop round the corner and the Asian paper shop.  Not specifically Christmas orientated but it will come in useful then.  I must say I am having fun trying to work out what is in the packaging of some of the bits and bobs.  So far not doing too badly.  A lot of the bits are going up towards the Christmas box.

I have also bought some more reduced veggies, some Chanteney carrots, some courgettes, and some bananas which I thought I might turn into banana cake and then freeze it.  Will come in handy Still plenty to do.

I am also trying to do a minimum of two pattern repeats on my scarf I am knitting (16 rows [8 rows per pattern] of an evening.  Last night I did 32 rows; it is growing steadily and I am quite chuffed with how I am getting on just pacing myself.  I am going to keep plugging away at it and hopefully learn how to use my mum's brother chunky and four ply/double knitting wool machines.  They will be coming home tomorrow.

Here is the link for the pattern which is a free one off of Ravelry.

I am also lining up a cowl and some fingerless mittens to do as well all in cream wool.  I think we are going to need scarves, gloves etc. to keep warm this coming January I think it is going to be a real cold one. 

Its wet horrible and freezing here in Peterborough and blowing  a bit of a hooley and I have the heating on as I have gone cold on the inside which is never a good sign.

Busy weekend again as usual.  No peace for the wicked.

Catch up with you shortly



Right must get a wriggle on.

Getting Ready for Christmas Part 20 - How to Make Goats Cheese

This is something I have always wanted to have a go at making myself and with the run up to Christmas it is something that would be useful in the fridge to go and make that quick snack when I have the munchies.  I adore Goats Cheese, but you can turn it into something pretty special with some oil and spices plus you can use the flavoured oil for frying potatoes and mushrooms so really you get to use everything with this home made deli item.  The recipe comes from Alison Walker's a Cooks Kitchen.

How to Make Goats Cheese

Makes approximately 1 kg (2lb)

2 litres (3 1/2 pints) whole goats milk
8 drops of rennet mixed with cooled boiled water
finely chopped herbs (optional)
Salt (optional)

Heat the goats milk to 80 degrees C/176 degrees F and then stir in the rennet.  Leave to cool for a few hours until the milk has set.

Line a colander with sterilised muslin.  Cut the curd into cubes and gently spoon into the muslin.  Gather the corners of the muslin up and tie with string hang over a bowl in a cool place for the whey to drain away.  Do not throw the whey away it can be used to replace water in bread making or frozen until you need it.  The longer you leave the curd to drain the firmer the cheese so if you want a soft cheese leave for about 3 hours and a firmer one up to 6 hours.

Shape the cheese as you wish i.e. into crottins or individual logs or a large log and then sliced evenly to form "crottins". You can roll in the fresh herbs but Salting the cheese means it will keep for up to one week or more.

You can use the same method to make a basic soft cheese using whole cows milk.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

With hands stretched out across the seas

To all my American Friends I hope you have a peaceful Thanksgiving with your loved ones.



Getting Ready for Christmas Part 19 Herb and Garlic Oil/Herb and Saffron Oil

Suitable for marinades, salad dressings, stir fry and for basting roasts.  However you will need a quantity of this oil for storing Goats Cheeses in Herb and Saffron Oil.


2 Sprigs of Fresh Rosemary or 2 tsp of dried (I prefer the fresh)
2 Sprigs fresh Tarragon or Mint
2 Bay Leaves
2 Cloves of Garlic Skinned
6 Black peppercorns
3 Juniper Berries
About 1 litre/ 1 3/4 pints of Olive Oil
150ml/ 1/4 pint of Walnut Oil

Place all of the ingredients into a sterilised glass jar or bottle with a tight fitting lid seal and then shake well to mix.

Store in a cool dry place for two weeks before using then for up to three months.

Makes about 1 litres/ 2 pints

Variation and the version I have used to store the Goats Cheese in Herb and Saffron Oil

Add 2.5ml / 1/2 teaspoon saffron strands ground to the herb and garlic oil.

Serve the oil with salads as well as preserving the cheese in.

Don't you just love good food.



Getting Ready for Christmas Part 18 Cinnamon Sugared Nuts

I love all things Nuts any  type of nut and I am particularly fond of Roasted Chestnuts.  I have a special pan which I bought from Lakeland about 20 years ago with holes in the bottom of the pan. Its more like a brazier pan but very effective and I buy in Chestnuts and roast them myself and eat them warm.  Scrummy.

My father got me addicted to them as a child.  I would be about 9 years of age and there used to be a stall in the run up to Christmas in the Market Square in Peterborough and that's where I had my first taste of Roasted Chestnuts.  It was a bitter day (very much like the past couple of days) and the nuts in their paper bag were hot but they warmed our hands and I liked.

However here is another way of enjoying nuts. I first came across them at Lincoln Christmas Market (another brilliant event to go to but please wrap up really well being on a hill it gets very cold there).

You can use a mixture of different nuts or just one particular variety but they are so Moorish. Yum.

You can use them as a nibble with coffee after the main event or in a nibble bowl on the treats table or just anytime and they are simple to make.


1 egg white
450g/1lb assorted shelled nuts, such as hazlenuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts, peanuts
75g/3oz caster sugar
Pincb of salt
2.5ml/1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of grated nutmeg


Whisk the egg white with 1 teaspoon of cold water until well frothy.  Add the nuts, sugar salt and spices and stir well.

Spoon the mixture  evenly onto a couple of well greased baking sheets and cook at 110 degrees C (220 degrees F) Gas mark 1/4 for an hour.  Stir to distribute the nuts every 15 minutes or so.  Cool and store in an airtight container for up to three weeks.

Makes about 1lb in weight.  Not suitable for freezing.

Also suitable to make as a pressie.  if you were thinking of selling them at a fair to raise funds for a local charity, serve them in paper cones.

You will not be able to stop nibbling.

Catch you soon



Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Getting Ready for Christmas Part 17 - The Start of A sort of Shopping List - Food

There are better things to do with one's lunch hour but then again at times needs must and  I  admit that I am very sad; I spent my lunch in Marks & Spencers writing a bit of a shopping list for some of the bits that I need for the cooking at Christmas and working out the prices.  They have quite a few nice bits . I like to do a recce - there will be some things I will buy but where I can make things myself I will do.  I am sorry for grumbling it just makes me so mad at the prices charged  but even they have little bags of honeycomb less than half a tray for £5 a bag! Aargh! The main ingredient in the Cinder Toffee is 1lb of granulated sugar.  I do not know about you but I am paying 79p for a 1kg (2.2lbs) bag at present.

I was looking mostly at dried exotic fruit but next year I will have my own once I have got to grips with the Dehydrator - not really had time to play so I am hoping to remedy that pretty promptly. However in the interim I will have to buy in.  I was looking for Cranberries today.  I always make fresh Cranberry sauce with Grand Marnier to go with the Turkey and any other cold cuts of meat.  But when Cranberries are in season I always make a scuttle full of Cranberry jelly I use it prolifically throughout the year so I like to have plenty in store.  This year though I want to dry a lot of fresh Cranberries for use during the year and also for next year's preparations. 

I have lots of plans for the Dehydrator and I am hoping to start with it this weekend with some more Orange slices, apple slices etc. for Christmas decorations.  I am also sending for cinnamon quills this weekend as I have a wreath project I would like to have a go at as well.  I just wish the house was bigger so I had room to move and breathe.  One day.  I never really have time to be bored just not enough hours in the day to achieve what I want to.  Life is for living and for learning and for giving and sharing. 

M & S seem to have quite a nice selection of alcohol, liqueurs etc. so I will have a look in the next week or so.  However I am not going to buy their mulled red wine,mulled rose wine or mulled white wine as I am going to prepare my own from scratch.  It is a bit expensive.  I am however rather partial to mulled wine.

I am also in due course hoping to get a proper canner.  Its on the list but I need to save up and put the pennies to one side.  Gives me something to aim for.

Loads of ideas buzzing round my head for now and next year. 

Catch  you soon



Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Getting Ready for Christmas Part 16 - Sweet Making - Honeycomb/Cinder Toffee

You probably know this better as the middle of a Crunchie. 

Cinder Toffee or Honeycomb as it is also known as Yellowman in Ireland is one of my favourites and one of the first sweet making recipes I ever tried when I was at home as a teenager. Its light and its Moorish and it does not cost much to make.  Why then when I was in John Lewis's yesterday did I find a small bag of Cinder Toffee/Honeycomb/Yellowman for the princely sum of £6.  There wasn't even half a tray in the bag.  Someone is making a killing at your expense somewhere.

This is the original recipe from my mum's Good Housekeeping cookery book and the one I use time and time again.  To make it extra luxurious you could always finish it by dipping it in melted chocolate..


1lb of granulated sugar
1/4 pint of water
a pinch of cream of tartar
2 rounded tablespoons of golden syrup
1 level teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons water to dissolve the bicarbonate of soda


Butter a tin 12 x 4 inches

Dissolve the sugar, water, cream of tartar and golden syrup over a low heat in a 4 pint heavy based saucepan stirring gently with a sugar thermometer.  Bring to the boil and boil gently to 310 degrees F  (154 degrees Celsius) (hard crack stage) remove from the heat. 

In a separate bowl blend the bicarbonate of soda with the two teaspoons of water and add to the toffee.  Stir gently and pour at once into the well greased buttered tin (it will froth up rapidly like molten lave so you do have to move a little quickly).  Leave to cool.  When half set  Mark into squares or fingers using a buttered knife.

Makes approximately 1lb in weight.

Eat, and enjoy and save those pennies by making it yourself rather than paying through the nose for it.

Enjoy the experimentation.

Make some for friends as a Christmas present, you can buy the gift bags from Lakeland or find some nice tins and make a selection of other sweets to give as a pressie.  I used to do this on a regular basis and the sweets used to go quick.  It really is worth the effort.

Catch you soon.



Monday, 23 November 2015


I have been up since 6:00am getting OH ready for work and it was bitter.  OH said it was minus one when he nipped out with Missy.  Needless to say the heating went on pretty sharpish. 

I tend to keep the heating at a low temperature so that the heating does not come on needlessly as we are on a pay as you go card for the gas and the electric. The house can be cold especially at the rear of the property and if I owned it I would have log burners in both the front room and the dining room.  I have sort of had a recce to see how much it would cost and have found the parts i.e. the flue linings and the log burners on ebay.   There is quite a selection at not too extortionate a price.  How easy would  it be to fit the same is another matter however and reading between the lines I think this may be part of why it can cost so much.  It might be worth another look in due course.  My partner is an engineer but he is afraid of heights,  Have any of you done this yourself and can it be done reasonably and by ourselves or are specialist skills required. 

I  like many others have to keep warm because of my medical conditions and I keep throws and hot water bottles to hand when am sitting down.  Because it is rented I do not think the loft has adequate insulation (OH will not go up as he is funny with heights and if I attempt to go up it makes him ten times worse.  The Landlord has hardly done anything in the 28 years we have been here and then the work he has had done has been cheap and nasty.  In fact I do not even think he would agree to having log burners put in even if I paid for the work so this is really a precursor exercise with an eye to the future.  The boiler Is only a couple of years old and works quite well - its gas so I try and be as practical as we can when it gets too warm I turn it down and equally if I go really cold it gets bunged on.  I do try and keep to a set amount each month for the gas and the electric though.

I don't want to be here forever and wherever I went if I was buying I would want log burners/multifuel stoves added and ideally I would love an Aga or Rayburn as well (that might have to be a new to me one rather than brand new, but they are a way of life).  To me being warm, toasty and cozy means everything as if I get cold and then go cold on the inside that is when I tend to be really poorly so I try and keep a moderate temperature at all times.  Also with having the animals I like to make sure they are warm too.

Its been perishing in the office today as well with the office being closed over the weekend we always wrap up well on a Monday.

We have had a very nice Pasta n sauce dish for tea tonight and the dishwasher and washing machine are on.  I bought a load of cleaning stuff back from mums and I have got that put away ready for use in due course.  Hopefully I will get a few more rows done to my knitting this evening.  There are 8 rows to the pattern and I have been aiming for two complete lots per evening. I have been quite enjoying it.  I have been pottering around getting some bits ready for work tomorrow as well.

Its now peeing down with rain here and if it gets any colder the roads will be nasty in the morning.  So if it does please take it steady in the morning.

Catch you soon



Getting Ready for Christmas - Part 15 - Felt Decorations

I like traditional ornaments ones that scream Christmas and ginger bread men; and felt ornaments play a part in that.

John Lewis's in Peterborough have some lovely decorations at the moment  - at a price.  I had particularly liked a felt garland that spoke to me but I was a bit flabbergasted or was that my gasted was flabbered at the price.

This little garland is made up of double sided felt hearts with a bit of embroidery on.  It looks super and Christmassy, but it needs to be gold plated for the price John Lewis want to charge £25.  This kind of prices it out of the pocket of a lot of people I know its ridiculous.

I think I am going to raid my felt box and see what I can come up with.  I will pop up a post with my creations a little later on.  I think £25 can be saved and common sense  will prevail on this occasion. 

I think the photo speaks for itself.

What do you think.

Catch you later



Getting Ready For Christmas Part 14 - A Recipe for Ricciarelli - the Almond Factor

Getting ready for Christmas is not just about preparing actual items for the Christmas Pantry but arming yourself with the recipes to make those unusual specialities which the shops charge an arm and a leg for.  Lets take Ricciarelli for example.  Made from Ground Almonds these little Sienese biscuits are light, very Moorish and delightful. Certainly a little tit bit to tempt you on the Christmas table. Marks and Spencers currently have these in the shop for £6 for a small tray of perhaps no more than 10 of these delightful little biscuits in. 

Almonds, Chestnuts, Walnuts, Hazlenuts , Pecans, all put in an appearance in one form or another on the Christmas table.  Take almonds for instance they make the marzipan (or marchpane)  it used to be known.

The first time I tried Ricciarelli was from Waitrose about four years ago.  And then they were on the reduced rack.  But £6 for one box with not many in.    I therefore determined to find a recipe and pronto.

I had scoured the Internet and come up with a specific recipe but I had it on my favourites reading list which unfortunately because of the upgrade to my computer I have ended up losing.  However all is not lost there are recipes out there and without realising it I had a recipe to hand in "Do Ahead Christmas" by James Ramsden.  ISBN 978-1-909815-42-1.  Its a nice little book with some very useful recipes in. They can be made up to two weeks ahead of the day which is useful if you have a lot of sweetmeats to prepare.

Makes 20


200g/7oz/2 cups ground almonds
200g/7oz/1  x 3/4 cups sifted icing sugar (confectioners sugar) plus
100g/3 1/2 oz/3/4 cup
1/2 tspoon baking powder
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C/350 degrees F/Gas mark 4.

Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.

In a bowl mix the almonds, 200g/7oz/1 x 3/4 cups sifted icing sugar and the baking powder.  In a separate grease free bowl (rub a lemon/lemon juice round the bowl to get rid of any grease whisk the egg whites until stiff.  Add the vanilla extract to the mixture then fold the egg whites through the mixture using a metal spoon until combined to form a stiff dough.

Tip the remaining  100g/ 3 1/2 oz/3/4 cup of icing sugar onto a baking tray or plate.  Taking a small walnut sized piece of the dough to form a ball and roll in the icing sugar then pat into a flat diamond shape.  Shake off any excess sugar and place on the lined baking sheet.  Repeat until you have used up the dough.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until light and golden.  Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.  Store in a cool dry place/airtight container.

They are freezable.

If making a double quantity or more only use 1/2 tsp extra of vanilla extract per quantity increased.

They are ideal for giving as a little gift to a friend but I guarantee you will want to eat more than one  - so make plenty/

Catch  you soon.



Sunday, 22 November 2015

Sunday Roundup

Its been a busy day here.  I have part unloaded the car  - I have to find room for what I have brought in first before I can bring what is left in mostly mums knitting machine patterns and associated equipment.  There is still more to come..  It has been bitter out there  most of the day- the sun has been shining and its been a bright day but there is no warmth.  I have had to come in as I have  had hotaches in my hands from being out there and bringing stuff in.  Its the kind of morning where my father used to walk us - always a Sunday morning and we would walk in all weathers be out in the fresh air and be talking ten to the dozen; and if it was snowy we would be wrapped up with thick scarves, hats and gloves that would always be drenched by the time we got in.  If there was snow dad used to teach us about tracking animal prints as often there were more than a few in the virgin snow.

I have brought a lot of bed linen and things like that back as we sorted the airing cupboard out between us.  There were towels that had not been used i.e. new still in their packing.  But I can smell mum on the linen and it is very comforting for now but I know in time it will go as it must do as is the natural order of things.

We had some of those crumpets for midday - neither of us fancied supper last night and they went down very well.

We have had roast beef and all the trimmings for tea tonight.  Now I have to find a home for some of that linen and get ready for work tomorrow.

Catch you soon.



Getting Ready for Christmas - 13 -Part - Mincemeat

I have various recipes for Mincemeat my most favourite recipe being that provided by my friend  Bovey Belle from one of the Farmers Weekly books which I shall make a scuttle full of after Christmas which uses a traditional method of preserving fermentation. Its also a recipe that uses up all sorts of bits and bobs i.e. dried fruit, spices, a little wine, apples, etc.  That needs time whereas I need something pretty quickly so I am trying this recipe.

I need some more to top up what I already have.  Yet again it is from the Farmers Weekly  but this time from "New Farmhouse Fare".

This Mincemeat is a cooked mincemeat

Mrs Lily Byfords Recipe for Mincemeat


1lb peeled and chopped apples.
1lb soft brown sugar.
1lb currants.
1lb sultanas.
8oz mixed peel.
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
grated rind and juice if 2 oranges
1 teaspoon of ground mixed spice.
8oz butter

Combine all of the ingredients into a pan and then bring to the boil.  Simmer for about 15 minutes then allow to go cold before potting.

Makes approximately 7lb

Mincemeat is not just for Christmas you can use it all year round so you can never make too much mincemeat in this household at least. 

Catch you later on.



P.S.  I keep Apples in. Not everyone does.  They always used to come from my Nan's and it was only when she passed that I had to buy apples. We missed terribly having access to lots of apples both my mother and I.  However I never pay full whack for them i.e. supermarket prices I go to my veggie shop where I live and I also go to the market.  All my basics come from these sources.  At my veg shop she reduces the apples eating and cookers when they are starting not to look their best and I can usually get 1kg at a time for 50p.  I take eaters as well as you can still do something with them.   However I have some that need using up and I do not like waste so I make use of them in something that I will use.  For the main part whatever I do on the kitchen front I always have an eye on the budget as something saved doing one thing helps me do something extra or a little bit special down the line. 


Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup

Now the colder weather is with us its time to get the stews and casseroles on the go as well as the soups. OH is particularly fond of Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup.  This is on the menu for him to take for pack up with him to work  - he has access to a microwave so it proves a healthier option for him to have midday.

This is a recipe from a cookery book called Today and Everyday cookbook by Jenny Bristow.

But you might want to make some chicken stock from a roast chicken dinner before making this tasty soup.  There is a link to quite an old post where I gave instructions for making the stock.;postID=5404728316669904650;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=202;src=link

Its tasty and makes the most of a few simple ingredients.

1 Pint of Chicken Stock either freshly made/bought or you can use a stock cube
2 large tins of sweetcorn or 14oz of frozen/fresh
8oz cooked chicken pieces
4oz lightly cooked mushrooms
2-3 finely chopped spring onions
pinch of salt
2 dessertspoons of chopped parsley

Make your chicken stock or buy it. Or you can use a stock cube and make this up.  I would rather make it myself and then freeze in the freezer so that you have this available to you for soup making.  The flavour tends to be far superior although a passable soup is made with boiling water and a stock cube.

Pop your stock into a saucepan and warm through until heated then add the sweetcorn to the stock and simmer for about 8 to 10 minutes.  Then liquidise.  Add the cooked chicken pieces, mushrooms, spring onions and seasoning and allow it to simmer for about 5 minutes then sprinkle with parsley and serve hot with crusty bread.  You can add more chicken and mushroom if you wish but it will give it a chunkier consistency.  Serves 4 to 6.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Saturday Round Up

Boy is it bitter out there.  We have just walked Missy in the dark.  Its a beautiful clear night and we wrapped up warmly I needed some fresh air although not the cold.  The moon is clear but there is a definite ring around the moon which is an indicator of frost.  Whilst walking Missy we came across a fox on the pavement sat down watching us but as he saw Missy near he moved off stopped a bit turned round sat down and looked at us continuing to do this whilst we advanced along the pavement.  Cheeky little so and so did not seem phased or worried by us at all.  We decided to err on the side of caution and then turned and came away as Missy still has her medical collar on.  She is more than likely to have a go if anything had happened (she is very feisty)  but that's not what we wanted.  We want her eye to heal properly without incident which thus far the Vets are very pleased with her progress.  There are a lot of rabbits down where we walk Missy she usually chases them so I assume the Fox was looking for his supper.

I must say it was lovely walking into a warm house especially after the bitter cold outside. And I had turned the heating down before we went out.  I think perhaps going out has warmed me up a bit.  When we went to mum in the village  this morning it was 3 degrees and it was blowing a hooley. An easterly hooley.   Very rough one of the fence panels came out but OH and my brother sorted it out between them re-positioning the fence panel back in its grooves.  Mum and Dad had concrete posts popped in to give strength to the fence.  It was false economy to do anything else.  It feels colder now but my phone is telling me that it is 9 degrees.

I have spent the bulk of the day with my brother on my own and we have worked well again together sorting things out and having  a pile for the charity items as well.  We have been chatting away and talking generally.  It has been lovely but it turns out that both of u love listening to the radio.  Our Mum and Dad used to regularly have the radio on and if I am in the house on my own I frequently have it on.  He does the same usually when he is working in his garage.  Apparently my sister in law is not as enthusiastic.  However for me Radio still plays a big part in my life as I love listening to it.

I have bought lots of bedding and towels back with me from mums.  My brother and I have split everything equally between us.  Its the fairest way and we have managed to agree everything between us.  That is a blessing as you hear so many horror stories.  He like me thinks its a waste of time to disagree over things because they are only things and life is so much more than that.  Both of us think it would be disrespectful to both mum and dad to do so.  Its not the way we have been raised.
We had a change of plan for tea as Mince did not seem to be defrosting properly so OH is in charge in the kitchen cooking tea and we are having a Saturday night fry up.  Once he has finished I can go in and do what I planned on doing i.e. start the Christmas Puddings, start the Mincemeat  I have apples to use up, I also have some sweet potato and swede to blanch and freeze down for use in stews, soups and with the carrot and swede crush which we are very fond of.  As I have said before I do not like waste and I like to make sure there is plenty to eat in the house.  I can make something out of nothing but OH not as skilled although he is not a bad cook.  Tea went down very well.

He has come back with three packs of 2 teaplate sized crumpets so we will have them for a little bit of supper later on.  They were reduced but we are both fond of crumpets so that will go down nicely.

So all in all not a bad day when although it does not look like it we have actually done quite a lot.

Right off to do some more.

Catch you soon.



Its been a busy day so far

Been back to mum's today sorting things yet again.  The bungalow is more or less now depersonalised of all her bits and bobs.  What's left will be going to charity as some of her things already have gone that way.  Its sad.   I still have all the knitting machines to  bring home but they will come soon enough.   I have every intention to get to grips with them as you get hardly anything for them second hand.  Mum's first knitting machine was a basic Knitmaster which I think is one of the machines in the house.  She taught me how to use that when I was little but the others are far more sophisticated and complicated.  I may have to have help with them.

We have a little more to do yet but we are getting there. I have the car to unload a little later but its absolutely bitter and I have to find room for it in the house as well.  Am going to enjoy a cup of tea and a biscuit then I shall get on again. There is no peace for the wicked and as usual I have plans for doing other stuff as well like the Christmas puddings to be started off and then finished tomorrow for both myself and my brother and his family.  Think we will be having Shepherds pie for it is tasty and warming and filling and cheap to make.OH is in charge of that whilst I get on.

Right must get on.  Catch you later.



Getting Ready for Christmas Part 12 - Stir Up Sunday Time for Christmas Pudding

Stir up Sunday this year is this Sunday 22 November 2015.  It is the time traditionally when you make your Christmas puddings and the family queue up to have  stir of the Christmas pudding and make a wish.  This happened in my family at my Nan's then my mum's and indeed my own household.  My puddings will be started tomorrow and then completed on Sunday.  I usually use the Delia recipe from her original Christmas book which uses stout in the mixture; The other year I had no stout and so I used cider and it was just as nice.

When I was a girl and we used to go to my Nan's when she made the puddings she used to hide a silver threppeny bit in the pudding.  You can hide these in the pudding or a sixpence but if you do make sure it is wrapped in foil to protect it and to protect the pudding.  A big thing was always made of giving the pudding a stir and making a wish - we knew Christmas was on the way when this took place.  Waiting for things to happen when you are a child seems to take an eternity.

Here are links to two previous posts I have posted on Christmas puddings including the recipe.


So today is the day you mix up your ingredients and leave to stand overnight and tomorrow you make your Christmas puddings.  I have my brother's to do tomorrow.  You can cook the puddings in  a steamer in a slow cooker, in a pressure cooker in a saucepan on top of the cooker. and the more cooking the puddings get the more flavour and the darker they go.  I have a batch I am making with cider and with Guinness.  The smell of the puddings once cooked is glorious.

However they will get put on at least a couple of times more to steam between being cooked and Christmas as we like our pudding nice and black.  On average I give mine about 8 hours cooking overall.

So next Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent and the time when you light the first Christmas Candle.

Christmas is on its way.

Catch you later.




You just have to be away from the Internet to get those jobs done.  With me losing time trying to sort mum's out my own household has got a little neglected to what I really like it to be. So last night I set too and did some much needed work in relation to the freezer.   I have taken of late with Blogger preparing posts in advance but for one reason or another the scheduler does not always play ball and that's when some of the posts end up playing piggy back.

Sometimes even now I just do not get the budgeting right for one reason or another (usually an unexpected bill) and one of the things I tend to run low on is veggies as predominantly I tend to have meat or fish in the freezer or base ingredients.  We have veggies with most meals, not all but the majority.  So what I try and do either during the month or on pay day is to stock up supplies on the veggies in the freezer.  I buy the veggies either reduced or cheaply off the market and then freeze it myself.  I get more for my money that way.   Its also a way of keeping things in for when you need them as I keep fresh veggies in for the best part usually as long as I can (root veggies mostly) but there comes a certain point where you cannot leave them any longer and rather than waste them I freeze em. 

Last night I managed to freeze 1kg of carrots that I had bought 500g bag for 39p, three swedes bought for 80p the three (reduced), two heads of broccoli 39p per floret (large one), 1 large leek cut into rings which can be served as a veggie in their own right, for slinging in with a stew or soup.  I cut the swedes into cubes and then blanch and freeze that way round I can mix with carrots to make carrot and swede crush, serve on their own which we like, sling in a stew or soup so that I can get the maximum use out of the veggies.  The carrots I have cut on the angle and the broccoli into medium sized florets.  The way you present things like carrots determines to some extent the use and these will be nice with a main meal as a side or in a stew or casserole but for a soup I would rather have them finely diced.  I will no doubt do some more as the month goes on but it is easier for me to deal with a meal in the week when I get the veggies prepped like this.  So for a lot of effort initially it saves me an inordinate amount of time in the long run especially on a weekday whilst still providing a good wholesome meal on  cold winters night.  I am also able to take advantage of reductions and make sure there is plenty to eat. 

That is prepared and in the freezer in 2 portion bags:

2 bags of leek slices
5 bags carrots
5 bags broccoli
5 bags of swede

So not bad going.  Its all in the freezer.

When things get tough I tend to live out of the freezer and the contents of the pantry and the fridges with just buying that odd ingredient to pad things out or to use with the veg like butter or a little bacon so that you can turn it into a quiche or with the addition of some milk or cream.  Cooking when things are tight makes you think more carefully about what to put on the plate and its the type of cooking I most enjoy because it is and can be  real challenge.  Gets the little grey cells going.

The Mincemeat is also soaking and the Christmas puddings are also mixed and have been left to stand soaking up all those spices and flavours.  I have done one batch with Guinness and the other batch with Cider. so I am getting things done but there is such a lot more to do.  The Christmas cakes are done but I need to do the Dundee cake which I had planned doing the other week but which got put back because of something else getting in the way.  Next Sunday is designated as Mum's Plum Bread day (Little brother [he pops in from time to time to see what his big sister is up to] if you are reading this you will be getting the plum bread fix).  I promised and I keep my word.

We have a small piece of beef that I bagged as a bargain for £3.50 the other week for dinner this evening together with some of the horseradish I prepared a while back and grated and then froze.

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)