Sunday, 31 December 2017

New Year's Eve

We are on the verge of another year - today has been another quiet day I am still not up to snuff.  No energy  and an awful lot of sleeping and as usual there are loads of things to do.  As I have not cooked properly for the past couple of days I decided to cook but it has taken it out of me.  We are waiting on a late simple supper of Lincolnshire chipolata sausages in an onion and thyme Yorkshire Pudding with mashed potato and lashings of onion gravy.  I must say I am looking forward to it.  I have always found that when I am below par that a good simple  meal often helps in the recovery process.

Update :  Tea was delicious and has gone down a treat; however I did not  manage to eat it all.

For me it is always bitter sweet saying goodbye to one year in which I have had my trials and tribulations certainly on the health front.  But wishing in turn to welcome the new opportunities that are coming in although apprehensive about some.  Perhaps because they are stretching us and taking us out of our comfort zone.  All of us at one time or another like to feel terra firma beneath our feet  So on one had I am grateful for the movement for the change I sometimes subscribe to the adage better the devil you know!  Or as one door closes another one always opens.

So as we say goodbye to one year and welcome to another I am grateful for the good periods during the last year.  As I have said not so happy about the health issues I have had but that is as long as it is tall.  It will resolve itself in due course - however fingers crossed all my hard work at trying to keep it in check will pay off it is just the reduced immunity issues I really have no control over and have to ride out like now.

So in case I don't get back later on here's wishing every single one of you, love, laughter, health, wealth and happiness in this coming year.

Take care catch you on the other side.



Getting the Knives out

Please note this is not an article promoting products for any kind of reward but my own humble opinion even though a company/companies are named. I have received no enticement or reward for these comments.

I have always had so far Sabatier blades for my cooks knives which OH res-sharpens every so often for me.  They have always been perfectly more than adequate and when sharp quite lethal.  I was always brought up with the motto that a blunt knife is more dangerous than a sharp one.  I tend to agree on this point.  I have been hurt more by blunt knives over the years than sharp ones and my personal preference has always been for very sharp knives.

OH and I watch Jamie Oliver a lot and watched his Italian Christmas special but we always watch repeats anyway as we find him to be an energetic, lively and sensible cook who really knows his ingredients.  OH realised that he had some pretty special knives but we had never seen them anywhere locally to buy.  We knew that they were expensive. I had been looking seriously for them for a while despite their price but had not found anything locally.

Whilst in town before Christmas Eve I nipped into Lakeland and happened to look in their knives cabinet and found the knives that I was looking for the Damascus blade knives.  I informed OH.  He asked if they had a carving knife with which to cut the Turkey with.  Although not specifically mentioned as a carving knife I did find what I wanted and I paid out a lot of money for it.  We used it to carve the Turkey it did it beautifully.

I also used it to cut my homemade plum bread and it did it the best a knife has ever done it.  I am very seriously impressed with these knives.  So much so I have been and ordered a few more to add to the collection.  I will add a few more in a little while.  I have used all sorts of knives over the years but these are the best I have ever had to date.  I am very seriously impressed with these and I think long term they are going to be worth their weight in gold.  The knife balances nicely in the palm of the hand as well and is not difficult to manoeuvre.  However OH has been permanently banned from putting any knives into the dishwasher.  He has wrecked some of my previous knives and I do not think that the dishwasher does the knives any good per se.  So these are definitely a no no - he will have to hand wash them.

Something extra for my kitchen arsenal and I must say that I am highly chuffed with the cutting blades.  Never known anything like them.

Catch you soon.



Saturday, 30 December 2017

Quiet day

It rained for most of the night; as a result I did not sleep too well - normally the rain soothes me and helps me get off to sleep but not last night. 

As a result I ended up sleeping a lot later than I had anticipated and not really done an awful lot as I don't feel too clever again with the cold.  Just do not seem able to shift it at all - all stuffed up again and can hardly breathe.

The only thing I have really done is sort the ham out So its been a lazy kind of day with me not doing much.  Trouble is days like this make me feel really guilty - don't know why but I do. So I am keeping warm hardly doing anything and it is driving me absolutely crazy.  All this inactivity when there is so much to do.  To make things worse all I want to do is sleep - I feel so drained.  I think my body is trying to tell me something.

Catch you soon.



Finishing off the Ham

I used a preserving pan to cook the gammon last night together with dried bay leaves, white pepper, some dried thyme, a sprinkling of clove, a red onion chopped in half, and some mixed herbs.  Once cooked I left the gammon in the pan overnight covered in foil so that it could cool down in the stock.  I have found in the past by doing this that it manages to keep the meat nice and moist. Sometimes I carry on with the glazing straight away but last night I did not.

OH was hungry when I got up so the ham was trimmed of all the fat and the top cut into diamonds.  I then sprinkled and pushed in dark brown sugar, dried ginger powder and a little apricot jam to form the glaze.  It was then put into the oven to cook on gas mark 5. Its bubbling away all sticky and unctuous but it will definitely be good eating.  You can use various sticky things including brown sugar to create your own toppings.  This time I have used Apricot jam as I had a part jar left from doing the Christmas cake but in the past I have also use marmalade, honey and golden syrup.   I just use whatever I have to hand or try and use something up that is already open.  You could use redcurrant or cranberry sauce as well.  It is ready when the glaze is all syrupy and the top starts to caramelise.  It will not be long before we will be eating some of this.  Yummy.

I have not thrown the stock out this is too valuable.  Some is going into the freezer and the rest towards home made French Onion soup.  You cannot waste good things that are full of flavour and that ultimately do you good.

When I cook generally I do tend to use an awful lot of white pepper and sometimes a mixture of black pepper.  I rarely cook with salt because of OHs high blood pressure but you should always take into account what you are cooking in any event.  When I do Roast Pork for the crackling I put the joint in the oven for the first hour or so on the highest heat my oven will do but I also make sure that the crackling has been wiped dry with kitchen towel as you do not want any moisture there.  I do not add salt  - you really do not need it and so far every piece of pork I have done this way has produced some very nice crackling without adding extra salt.  So there are ways around things.  By the way the flavour is not affected either and I still get a bit of nice pork dripping by adding a couple of packs of lard to the bottom of the roasting tray.

And here is a plateful of the ham that we had to eat.  It really was scrummy.

Catch you soon.



Upwards and Onwards

.........and once more into the breach dear friends......I have not sat idle despite not being up at the  moment to play with the new embroidery machine although hopefully will get to play prior going back to work next week (cold allowing).

In the coming year I intend to really get to grips with the following:


I have ordered wool to make myself a blanket throw for my bed worked piecemeal in squares. The wool has been ordered via the Patchwork Heart (Derramores) and there is what is called a Black Forest Collection which is   pinks, brown, heathers very pretty.  The colourway should blend very well with the hexie patchwork I have on the go.  I am a big sucker for comfort and so to have this blanket finished before winter next year will be very gratifying and something cosy to snuggle under.  It is for a Super King sized bed. 

I must get back into doing the hexie patchwork a little bit at a time also.  This is ideal for working during the week as well.  It is something I can pick up and put down and build up gradually especially when I do not have a lot of time to do something.   It is being hand-worked.


I have a big pile of unfinished items to clear up and also a whole stack of new stuff.  Will try and get the UFOS out the way first.

Embroidery machine

Now I really need to get to grips with this one.  Hopefully when I have my head sorted I will get to be able to play before I go back to work next week.  The idea behind this is to make as many Christmas presents and birthday presents etc. throughout the year as I can

Ordinary General Machine and Patchwork

This is also hopefully going to get sorted over this weekend.  It may come out before the embroidery machine merely so that I can feel as though I am accomplishing something.  I have jelly rolls to make up in Christmas fabrics and creams and the idea is to make two throws from these for Christmas next year .  I also have a whole stack of panels, advent calendars, table mats, tablecloths etc. also to make up including a heap of repairs. 


I have sent off for fresh yeast, and also a sourdough yeast.  I have tried with the sourdough before and managed to kill the mother off so I am hoping that I will get to grips with it now.  The fresh yeast is 1kg block which I am going to split down into useable amounts and then pop into the freezer.  My mum always used to make lovely bread from fresh yeast.  So I am waiting for these to come.  I may also start off another sourdough mother myself bearing in mind I have some grapes that need using up and this was the  method I used before but we will see how we will get on first.  There are several things that I want to get to grips with this year.  This is for the bread.


I also want to take this a step further than I have done to date and I am doing further research into this as we speak.  Being able to produce simple cheese at home would save a lot of money.  One of the things I am trying to do is to buy only what I have to i.e. the bare ingredients and to prepare the rest of this myself.

Home made Liqueurs and spirit based preserves

I shall continue to make these they have turned out well.  I shall continue buying in a bottle of Vodka, Brandy or gin during the beginning of the year to make further variations for this year to come.  Now I know where the sloes are I shall hopefully sloes providing make more sloe gin than I did this year as this could be a lovely one for a Christmas hamper.


I need to get back into the swing of things on the wine front.  I did for a little while last year but then it lapsed again.  I have a few kits to start with.  I also intend to make some house Orange, lemon, and grapefruit wines which I have been reasonably successful with in the past.  Home made country wines are the best.


This is where I really want to get to grips with things. My aim is to provide my own charcuterie for Christmas next year (whether it will be achieved or not is another thing but that is the direction I am going in). It is going to be a steep learning curve but we only grow if we learn. 


This is definitely going to be put into use but I think I need more space for storage than I actually have at the moment.  This will get brought into play early on in the year as I want to get a head start on this although I am still sourcing recipes and also instructions on doing various things.


I intend to use this a lot more than I did last year.  I have been pleased with the results so far.  I am going to strive at getting a lot of grapes and fruits dried  for use next Christmas.  Yet again I am aiming to do my own fruit for my Christmas cake.


I want to get back into a proper baking day as well - time when I just do not bake but make and prepare things for the freezer or the fridge for use further on or during the week.  I would hope to do this on a Saturday  - the day when I can get to the veg shop, but I want to make things like home made Cornish pasties and fruit pies etc. so that we can feed fairly well during the week with the minimum amount of effort.  Making the pastries and the cakes for ourselves and for my brother gave me an awful lot of pleasure and I was particularly pleased with how things turned out in the long run.  There is still a lot to do and still a long way to go though.

So there is a lot on the plate and plenty to get stuck into as usual.  I would not have it any other way.  I do not get a chance to get bored then.

Right upwards and onwards.

Catch you sometime tomorrow.



Friday, 29 December 2017

Coldest nght of the year and future plans

I am sat here drinking a glass of mulled wine - the first I have managed to have this Christmas also hoping that it will soothe this troublesome infection.  I am off the antibacs now.

Last night was supposed to have been the coldest night so far of the year.  I know it was very cold and I left the heating on overnight to keep the house warm as this house does get so cold.  Its not just me and OH it is the animals as well that need to be kept snug. Although they all have fluffy fleece lined beds they do not always manage to make use of them.  Depends what mood they are in.  The coldness and degree of coldness in the house also depends which way the wind is blowing and which direction the weather is coming from as to which part of the house is coldest! crazy but that is the reality. It was thick frost before 10:00pm last night.

Demetri decided to play silly devils and would not come in due to another cat in the vicinity.  I am not sure whether they are friends or foe as at sometimes they sit together and another time it is all huffy puffy spit and spat.  I managed to get him in around midnight with a bit of manhandling.  He does it on purpose he wants in but he plays hard to get.  Men! However there was no way I was leaving him out.

OH went off to work this morning and the dog got back in with me to snuggle.  Next thing I know OH is back.  I did receive a message from him to say that the roads were treacherous with black ice and he had nearly lost the car a couple of times.  He also mentioned that my step son had fallen outside of his home  on some black ice (OH goes and collects him of a morning as they work together at the same place).  It would appear he has broken his ankle!  Bless his heart.  Apparently he has not been plastered as they do not do that anymore but has a boot thingy on to keep it in place.  We will just have to see how he gets on.  However hopefully it will not keep him off work.

In these last few final days of the old year it is good to reflect on all the positive things in the year and perhaps some of the not so positive as these situations always make you grow as a person.  I do not think that this year has been the worst year in living memory as we have had my step-son getting married and a lovely weekend to boot, getting to know her family who are super.  It has been hard on several other fronts but such is life you have to deal with the hand of cards as it is spread before you.  I think perhaps I drive a lot of people up the wall because I believe in being positive even when on the surface nothing positive can be seen.  If you scrape the surface a little bit though there is always something good to be found it just depends upon your point of view.  Instead of your glass being half empty all the time I have changed this for myself to being half-full.  It is a different mindset but a much more positive one.  I have found that if you think on a negative basis then you invite negativity into your life and to some extent you create it yourself.  I believe in being more positive.  I hate negative people who only ever see things in black and white and nothing else exists for them.  For me life is about black, white and grey areas.  Negative people drain me.  I do not think they mean to be so but they become fixed when there are always alternative ways of doing things.  Its just sometimes they cannot see the wood for the trees and sea the wealth and breadth of the possibilities before them.  They can change though. Let a chink of light in that is all it takes.

I have not long put the gammon on. Its a big piece and I am cooking it in one of my smaller (standard sized) Maslin pans it is that big. I did not cook it the other day as there was so much other meat that still needed eating up and I did not want to overload everything or waste anything.  The Turkey and the pork pies have all now gone.  I am boiling it for a couple of hours and then will strip the skin and coat in brown sugar, ginger and then clementine slices and honey on top.  Should be lush.  There is a bonus there is lots of lovely stock for soup so home made onion soup could be very much on the cards for tomorrow (Saturday).  Might even make some home made buns for dunking.

I actually like the Elizabethan way of processing a ham or gammon and that is by using whole cloves studded into the fat with brown sugar.  My mum did it one year like this.  She liked it and I loved it but my Dad and brother were not so keen so she never did it again like that.  Every so often I still do a small piece for  myself. Funnily enough most people say that they do not like cloves and yet they are used in the background a lot for flavouring.  I always pop some into a bread sauce into an onion and then cook in milk with, pepper, ground clove, ground nutmeg, butter, bay leaf and thyme.  It really is a fabulous and different way of preparing a ham.  Highly scented - like Pastrami.

Talking of Pastrami I am going to have a go at making my own.  I have been talking about it for ages.  I have sent for some more skins for making salami and whilst at it I am going to have a go at biltong. I absolutely love Pastrami OH is not keen but I like to partner it with home made bagels rather than lox or salmon although we do have them this way as well.   I don't really go on a bundle on the supermarket version of bagels as they always seem so tough but they are a lot nicer made fresh.

We make fresh bagels every so often usually at a weekend when we have more time and as I have said I quite frequently partner pastrami with bagels.  I know it is usually lox of smoked salmon which is used.  However from time to time we make bagels utilising the Hairy Bikers Recipe for bagels  - they come up really well so it will be good to be able to put my own pastrami in:

That will hopefully be another item off the to do list dealt with and to incorporate into my household preparations on a month by month and yearly basis.

I had wanted to make my own Gravadlax again this year but events kind of overtook themselves with sickness etc.  so hopefully this is and will be on the list for Christmas 2018.  It really is lovely home made.  I shall start collecting the sea salt and rock salt for fish and meat curing through the year so that I have a go to supply when I am ready to do something.

So as per usual there are a lot of things to be done during the year.  Hence the need for me to timetable everything and plot the spending so that I have the funds when I need them for certain items i.e. strawberry season, raspberry season, cherry, plum, pear etc. as well as the experiments with meat and fish.  So I have a lot to sort out as I hope to come up with a complete list for me for use year in year out so that the basics are all organised.  I also intend to  make myself some recipe cards up.  Those items I make on a regular basis  I intend to type the recipes off then laminate them so that they do not get messy when I use them and they can just be wiped down and it will also save a bit of messing around with trying to locate the relevant cookery book which so often happens when I decide to do things on the spur of the moment and wastes far too much time.  So I am aiming to get a little more organised all round as well.

Catch you soon.



Spiced Apricot and Orange Chutney

For those of  you who want to get ahead here is the recipe for the Spiced Apricot and Orange Chutney from Delia's Christmas.


400g/14oz no soak apricots
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
225g/8oz soft light brown sugar
425,l/15 fl oz cider vinegar
1 medium onion chopped
50g/2 oz sultanas
2 tablespoons finely grated root ginger
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 level tablespoon of salt
grated zest and juice of 1 small orange

Fills 1 3/4 pint (1 litre) preserving jar


Begin by chopped the dried no soak apricots into smallish chunks.  Then place them in a sieve and wash under cold water shake off any excess water and then put them into a large saucepan.

Now in a separate small saucepan add the coriander seeds and heat the pan to roast the seeds as soon as the seeds begin to spit and splutter transfer them to a pestle and mortar and crush them lightly before sprinkling them over the dried chopped apricots.  Add all the remaining ingredients to the apricots then heat gently stirring all the time until the sugar crystals have dissolved.  Once the sugar is dissolved bring everything up to a simmering point and simmer the chutney (covered) for about 45 minutes to one hour.  The apricots and the onions need to be quite tender but its important not to overcook the chutney or it will go too thick.  The right consistency is chunky rather than liquid jam.  Do not forget the chutney will thicken as it cools down in any event.  When ready spoon into warm sterilised jar or jars.  Seal straightaway and then label up when cold.  

I always leave chutney for six weeks from the date of making to allow it to mature.  From my personal experience, Chutney keeps a lot longer than a year but as always when keeping preserves over suggested times please initiate common sense.  If the preserve is starting to fizz, there are mould specks, air bubbles, it does not look right but you cannot put your finger on it -  ditch it.  Especially with preserves kept in oil (oil preserves are kept in the fridge) but it can happen with other preserves as well.  So if your inner voice is saying don't touch it then don't.  Nine times out of ten though the preserve will be safe.

I am particularly fond of this chutney.  It goes well with ham and cold Turkey and has a lot of flavour.  In fact I always make at least a couple of batches at least of this chutney as we do on a regular basis have either cold meats, a ham hock, or small gammon joint throughout the year. I would suggest a couple of batches for Christmas for your own use and a couple of batches for use in the year.  If however making for Christmas hampers then you will need to make as many batches as required to fulfil the amount of hampers you have to fill.  Although the recipe says for one large jar I do tend to use smaller jars for this recipe so that if it is going for hampers more people get a chance of a taste.

Its nice to get ahead.

Catch you soon.



Thursday, 28 December 2017

Planning and Plotting for Christmas 2018

After a few days rest - Yes I know we have only just got this Christmas out of the way, but as things went a little awry this year for Christmas (having the flu/viral cold etc. certainly threw everything out of cinque and I had no energy to do some of the stuff I needed or planned to do). Not a happy bunny about this but there is nothing I could do but to let it go and just concentrate on the main bits. Still Christmas happened, not quite as I had planned but hey we had a Christmas and not a bad one at that.  We are truly blessed despite the blooming cold!

Whilst typing this I am actually getting to listen to my Christmas CDs so I am still very much in the festive mood.

Nevertheless it has made me even more determined to start Christmas 2018 from scratch.  I have much to do on the present front and I intend to be more organised on the preserving front as well.  I am intending to organise things to the nth degree and getting stuff out of the way with early and when I can.

In fact many of you will not be surprised that I have already started on the preserving front!  There is always something that can be done either for short term use or for long term keeping.

I managed to pick up some kumquats/cumquats whilst doing the Christmas shopping.  They are a rarity and something very different.  Prepared in syrup they are akin to stem ginger in syrup although tangy and orangey, (the skin is sweet and the flesh is sour) but still a nice accompaniment to the sweetmeats dish for the Christmas table. These Kumquats/cumquats will be gracing next year's Christmas table and hopefully I will be able to get fresh again just before Christmas for the year after and so on. In fact my darling Father was very fond of these.

If you would like the recipe it is here:

Glace Cumquats/Kumquats, in Syrup or just the bottled syrup

There is every chance that also, after Christmas you may have some citrus fruit hanging around in the fruit bowl.  Rather than waste it why not turn it into curd or if you have mixed citrus why not mixed fruit marmalade.  There is always something that can be done either as a long keeping preserve or short term.

You have to plan ahead in many respects on a lot of things and when you have ingredients to hand its good to make a batch or two of things up ready for storage. Its even handier if you find the items at a reduced price.  In particular it is good to make chutney.  Chutney will last for a long time and always over a year and the older it gets the better the flavour. It therefore makes sense to make some in the quieter months. Predominantly with dried fruit at this time of the year but there are always alternatives. Sometimes I end up making different sorts of things twice or more a year.  Like curds they are not long lasting and so I tend to make about every three months or so and sometimes I put fruit up in the freezer so that I can make out of season as well.  i.e. blackcurrants, strawberries, mixed fruit, blackberries.  I also do the same with Seville Oranges.  I will shortly be making my yearly batch of Seville Orange Marmalade and also the Vin D'Orange for next Christmas.  There are recipes for both on the blog.

If you want more ideas with what to do with Cumquats/Kumquats there are a few more on this link:

I also intend to candy fruit throughout the year.  It is a time consuming process but it pays dividends at the end of the day.  Especially when at Christmas you can have a platter of candied fruits for picking at in the form of sweetmeats from the Christmas table.  Candying fruit you can finish in syrup, candied and hard and crystallised on the outside but whichever way you decide to use they will be totally different to the bought product.

I also have more Mincemeat to make.  I make Mincemeat twice a year.  Usually September and also January.  I use mincemeat a lot and there is nothing better than home made mincemeat.  It is used through the year although predominantly at Christmas.  I have some more dried fruit that needs using up and I do not like to waste anything.  So further Mincemeat is to be made - I have a couple of large other crocks for making this and/or for soaking my dried fruit for the Christmas cake etc.  They are a couple of pot bread crocks which have been re-utilised.

There is also dried fruit chutney to make:  Here is a link for a Storecupboard dried fruit chutney:

There are many different recipes but all will be good for the Christmas 2018 stockpile.  I shall start with dried Apricots and make the Delia Smith Spiced Apricot and Orange Chutney from her original Delia Smith's Christmas.  One of the books I use year in year out.  We have found purely by chance that this particular recipe is best kept a year to let the flavours really mature.  Will pop up the recipe shortly for those of you who wish to have a go.  

However there are also a couple of other recipes for Apricots to start at this time of year also.  One a wine recipe and the other a chutney made from the pulp so you get double whammy out of one batch of apricots.  That to me is being frugal and getting the most out of things.

The link for this is here:

So even though it is not quite the New Year there is always something to be done and something to be squirrelled away into the pantry for either Christmas or future use.  It will be handy to get ahead and to make stuff for next Year's home made Christmas hampers.

Just before Christmas OH had managed to use up the last of the Piccalilli I had made despite my best attempts.  So i bought him an expensive bottle of it for him to use over Christmas.  He is not impressed and says that it does not taste right!  He much prefers my efforts  so it looks as though I am going to be have to be more devious when I do the piccalilli this year.  I may even have to make an extra batch and hide the lot.

The point of this post is that there is always something that can be done for the pantry shelf even in the colder months those months less associated with making things.

I also intend to start some Ginger wine off ready for next year as it needs time to mature.  Proper Ginger wine is a lovely winter warmer.  

Right I am off to potter.



Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Things are going to get better

.... they have to for all of us.  I am not the sort to give in at a mere hiccup.  Not in my nature and I don't take the word no sitting down.  I just go about things in a different way.  A battle may not be won but that doesn't mean I am not going to win the war.  This New Year is a new page in our own individual books and it is up to us to make it count to make it work for us individually by hook or by crook.  Trouble is when you do a detour you have to work things out a bit at a time. 

There are some things that I am after for my future life the main one of which is my own solid home, with a bit of land, a Rayburn and a couple of open fires or log burners as well as some form of alternative heating - my own base upon which I can build upon anything.  At this present time nothing is too clear on that front but something will turn up I feel it in my bones.  I know what I need but seeing the way there is not always open to us although I feel I am being guided towards something special and big.  I have started to dream again; its many months since I have but usually when the dreams come they are a precursor of what will happen in the future.  My birth family always referred to it as the family's early warning system.  We shall see what we shall see.  I know that I am being led and that spirit is trying to gain my attention at the moment.  For what purpose I am not sure but it is there.

I know I cannot settle to anything at the moment which is annoying me to high heaven.  I have some time and yet I don't seem to be able to use it wisely.  Just feelings, just indicators all of which are part and parcel of the bigger picture and an integral part of myself and an everyday reality.

I was late up today; it had been stormy last night, wind and rain; drip drip drip.  Annoying, soothing once the irritation at the drip drip drip had passed.  the rain then changing to snow so that we ended up with a bit of a wonderland first thing later exchanged with more rain.

I know I have been dreaming, part I remember the majority I do not but it will come.  As a result I slept late despite the fact that I needed to be up early.  In the end I gave in.  I watched a couple of war films one of which I had seen before Operation Crossbow and the other Operation Daybreak.  OH then came home from his first day back at work.  We have had cold cuts again the Turkey, some pie, some gherkins, some chutney, OH piccalilli, pickled shallots the remnants of some stuffing.  We have then had some pudding OH some cheesecake and me some Tiramisu. That all went down very nicely.

I then decided to watch a DVD "Their Finest".  I have had it for some time but had not had the opportunity to sit and watch it.  A very charming simple film which was delightful  Probably not to everyone's taste but I enjoy watching films - its a form of escapism and I am all about that - you need to do that to recharge every so often.  However it is something I get a lot of pleasure from.  I have always read, always imagined however I prefer where possible to read a book before I see a film. It is not always possible.  The film version is always someone else's interpretation and I get so much from books.  I am a very tactile person and so therefore prefer the feel of the pages on my fingers rather than a kindle which is impersonal.  In a book the words jump to life and hold you spell bound.

OH has been crashed out for a while with his partner in crime.  I have left him be as he is still full of the cold as am I. He is also  at work tomorrow which I am not.  Tomorrow I hope to play with the embroidery machine but it depends very much on what time I manage to get out of bed.  The cold has left me with very little energy and I have found that its best to listen to my body when I am like that and rest.  However it is so frustrating.

Today the words are tripping across the page - another day they will not be as fluent or come so clear so I am trying to take advantage of the muse as they say.  This is not the only post prepared - there are others in abeyance ready to hit as I finalise each one by one.  Some are Works in Progress; i.e. something is being made that has to be finished before finalising the post.  Other posts are still in the planning stage and information being sourced.

I still have a stack of DVDs to watch and also a couple of Christmas CDs to play.  I am hoping to pop them on whilst I start playing with the Embroidery machine.  Music always soothes the soul and I do not always get the freedom to play as much as I would like.

Fortunately the house is nice and warm although it is freezing outside.  I just have to sort the cats out tonight make sure that they are fed and watered - they are dining on the Turkey trimmings at the moment and they think they are in seventh heaven.  

Catch you soon.

Sweet dreams.



Sweet Clementines

At Christmas these are a must have in our home.  I first came across them as a little one when they used to be popped into our Christmas stockings; but one memory I do have relates to me having my tonsils and adenoids out in hospital.  The shop where my mum used to do the bulk of her shopping found out and sent a little present home for me to help in my recovery.  It was a little tiny wooden chest packed with Clementines wrapped in blue tissue.  They were full of vitamin c and they helped in my recovery.

Every Christmas since then they have made a big appearance.  This particular box as it is cheaper to buy them in a box was bought from Johnsons the Butchers last Saturday.  They have been stored in our shed since then where it is nice and cold.  It has been very cold here today and OH fancied some so I trekked out and got a few.  We came in, the Clementines scented the air and smelt divine.  They were also nice and cold to eat the only way to eat them.  They slipped down very nicely.  There are still loads more left and I have another box also in the shed.  If we do not get round to eating all of them they will be used in a preserve or two.  I like preparing them whole in syrup.  They make a talking point at the table when served simply with some of the syrup and some cream.

We have also had some of my Mum's recipe for Plum Bread.  Think it is the best it has ever come up, although could do with a little more storage than I gave it.  It has sliced well and tasted good too.  Hope my brother's was just as nice as ours was.

It has been a lazy day today but that's part of our usual Christmas celebrations when we are on our own.

Since then we have been watching Jurassic World and the Sherlock Holmes films. 

OH is back to work tomorrow.  I am not back until next week and I have lots I can do in the meanwhile.   

Hope you are all enjoying your Christmas too.

Catch you soon.



Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Despite being later than usual

Christmas Dinner and all the components of therein went remarkably to plan and pretty smoothly.  Somewhere along the line there is usually an accident or something that happens but yesterday in the greater scheme of things it was a smooth run.  The bird came out succulent and moist, stuffing was tasty as were the accompaniments.  OH said it more than made up for me not being able to cook last year.  I am not sure whether that is flattery or relief a not having to cook it!  I enjoyed as well.  We are having cold meats and pie with stuffing and pigs in blankets with pickles and chutneys later.  There is plenty of meat which is not going to go to waste.  I am going to package some up in the freezer with some gravy so that we have a Turkey meal now and then and some for eating over the next couple of days as part of the pick n mix.  There is of course the gammon as well.  When most of the Turkey is eaten I will then probably cook a very small joint of beef to use as cold cuts as well.  Waste not want not but you still need to be able to eat and being as this is now my time this will do very nicely.  I can always cook up some veggies and make bubble n squeak or baked potatoes with coleslaw to accompany.  There is always something that can be had.

In the greater scheme of things we do not do too badly but I do not like wasting stuff.  What is left of the Cranberry and Grand Marnier sauce has also found its way into the freezer.  There is already Bread sauce in there.

I am sat here typing this whilst enjoying a saucer (not sure if that is the correct term one of those very large cups) of Mazawatti-coffee  - coffee with a tot of rum in it and that is gradually oiling the wheels.

I sent the usual Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and plum bread to my brother and his family.  We did not stay long  -  we normally nip in and have a good chat but because of the colds we both have I did not want them being ill as this really has been a stinker. OH is still not quite out of the woods - I am getting there but I think that is down to the fact that I went to see the Doctor as soon as my chest started to tighten which is a signature with me that something needs sorting.  If I ignore that tightness that is when the problems occur and I am glad they decided to prescribe me with antibiotics.

Apparently, my brother says that the Christmas pudding was lovely  - we have not had ours yet.  Maybe later or tomorrow.  It is not spoiling.

The Christmas cake is on the agenda for today. I used the moulded icing again, which I am not used to working with - I think it is going to be Royal Icing next year - it is what we are used to and I find it easier to handle in the greater scheme of things, this being the medium I most used to. So little bruv you will get lots of sticky icing next year.  Although I do have designs on the moulded icing which will come to fruition during next year's Christmas preparations.

The plum bread came up well in that it rose a fair bit during cooking I am just hoping that it is more than okay on the taste.  The dough mixture does have a tendency to split - used to for my mum as well and I am wondering if it is because the mixture is a little too wet.  Will have to work on this as it is bugging me and this is something that we all love (well my birth family i.e. my brother, his wife, and my two wonderful nephews).  We usually serve this spread with butter a good chunk of cheddar and a Cox's apple.  It goes down really well with a nice large cup or mug of tea.  My brother was quite happy when he realised that I had done the Plum bread as well. Just hope it lives up to expectations.  It is always the better for keeping long term as it is like a fruit cake it matures with time.  The plum bread is pretty much a custom of our roots and our forebears before us and it is not quite Christmas unless this is on the plate.

I love all of my family very much and my greatest grief at the moment is that this house is not really big enough for entertaining and I just love entertaining and looking after everybody.  The dining room table will seat 8 but it is more than a little tight where it is at the moment so at best it would probably on seat 8.  The front room will only seat about 5.  But you have to make the best of what you have.  Ideally as one of the Christmas adverts said this year what did you wish for, for Christmas and one lady asked for everyone to be around the same table.  That is my long term wish as well in the dream house with enough space to fit everyone one and everything in.   It will happen - one day!  Its just finding the way to achieve it that evades me at present.  I do have a great faith though in that everything happens in its own time and for the right reasons.

We have just had round two of the cold cuts and they have gone down very nicely.  OH received a raft of different chilli based bits and bobs, some different chutneys so that has set him up nicely.  He likes chilli based things which I am not so keen on but he has been told that if there is anything that specifically ticks all the boxes for him to let me know and I will see if I can come up with a recipe.

We are very lucky in the greater scheme of things, but I do still have compassion for those who are less well off than us.   That could be me out there.  I have been there before and I know how lucky we are and that it is down to so many other factors as to your standard of living these days.  It could all change on the turn of a coin.  I personally have given to the local food bank scheme on a regular basis via my local Co-Op, an animal charity and the Salvation Army this year as there is more poverty in this country than there should be and it is not down to age but circumstance. I have donated because we have been in a similar position and I do not think that this should be happening in this country at all and if I can help a little then I will.  I think in many respects we all have a responsibility for helping others by and making sure they learn and are better able to provide for themselves in the long   Generally speaking most people who need the help just need a bit of help to turn things around a bit of support when they need it the most and are pulling their hair out not knowing where to turn. I know that feeling well.

It bothers me because there are three basics in life that we need to survive and some people are better equipped than others at coping and dealing with the same.  A roof over our heads, heat and warmth and food in our bellies.  Why not send the overdues at the stores to the families and people that need it most.  Not being able to have electric or gas to cook a meal and yet have the food to cook kind of hamstrings a situation.  Surely these power companies could actually help out here.  I think they have as much of a social responsibility as others in the greater scheme of things. I think a lot of big business does as it milks us all terribly of our hard earned pennies when it wants to.  If people do not know how to cook and make the most of simple ingredients rather than sending for a takeaway or looking at items that will not provide long term benefits then provide the classes, teach people what they need to know so that they can make the best of their situations and feed their families.  The only hope I have is that if I indirectly help someone that they in turn will help someone in a similar situation and pay it forward to someone else.

For me I think being well off is having the skills and/or the inclination to achieve something no matter what rather than physical material things.  That to me is the important thing as if you can create you can come up with something that will provide a need or something to get by with.  That is how I started off my journey being brought up in a family that was wealthy in many other respects but cash poor (or at least our side) so we made our own solutions. It is the way that we were raised to make the best of the good and the bad times as in each situation there is a lesson even if it is showing that there is a way through and a way to get by. Something always turned up or things would drop into place.  We had no option stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea.  British ingenuity at its best and at a fraction of the cost.

On the creativity front I am hell bent on having a go at doing stuff up - but I have no room for some of the pieces so I am having to hold that in abeyance for the time being.  I am veering more and more to older pieces of furniture as they have a uniqueness and integrity all of their own.  It has been particularly difficult as the local charity shop has had some lovely antique pieces in at silly prices; a little pine drop leaf bureau for £35 but it had already been sold by the time that I saw it.  A small card table for £60 which was lovely and in immaculate condition.  Even though the original green baize had been replaced it was still a lovely piece and very much a bargain.  Everything comes to those that wait!

Right now I need to get to grips with  my embroidery machine and my general machine for the patchwork.  These two disciplines have been on my card for a long time.  OH is back to work tomorrow so I am hoping to set to tomorrow.  the patchwork pre-dates the embroidery and I have two jelly rolls of Christmas prints and also some cream fabrics to turn them into a couple of Christmas throws to also go with my Christmas blankets that I bought up in the run up to Christmas.  I want everything warm and cosy and snuggly.  I also intend to use recycled materials where I can as well as some new fabrics and sale fabrics.  It is very much going to be a learning curve.  I also want to get stuck in again on my my hand hexie patchwork which has been left for a while and needs reviving amongst other things.

Right I am off to potter.  Catch you soon and enjoy the rest of the Christmas celebrations.

Catch you soon.



Monday, 25 December 2017

Happy Christmas Everyone

We overslept this morning (naughty but nice) and as a result the dinner is going to be far later than usual.  Never mind it is as broad as it is long and dinner is happily cooking away in the ovens at the moment.  Thus far we have had a very pleasant time of it.  Neither of us has eaten a thing as we want to savour the Turkey and the accompaniments as it is only once a year we have the opportunity of this and I doubt we will want much by the time we have finished but simplest at its best. I grew up in a home where one was respectful of the cook's efforts.  Mum used to do all the hard work and when I was able to I helped.  We were never allowed to eat anything  no nibbles, no this and that before eating Christmas dinner.  Afterwards the nibbles used to be put out for later on if we wanted them and then we had tea to get through as well.  I remember how big those meals were when I was a youngster and how the heck we got through the amount of food that we did I will never know but these days my appetite and that of OH is significantly reduced to what it was.   After dinner the ladies were always allowed to put their feet up for a cuppa and a natter whilst the men of the family and some of us older children set too with the washing up and drying by tea towel.  Once done the men would go back to sitting down and would often nod off to sleep. Whilst the ladies would be back in the kitchen sorting a bit of tea and getting it so that all needed to be done was brought into the tea table and a bit of a sit down.

As I am typing this up in the computer room the smell of food is wafting upwards (the kitchen is underneath the computer room) and it is making me hungry.  However I am going to be a good girl and wait.  We have planned, Turkey with streaky bacon, pigs in blankets, home made cranberry and Grand Marnier sauce, bread sauce, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, brussels, peas, and carrots with lashings of home made gravy. then home made Christmas pud if we have room.

Today of all the days for me is the main family day of the year when you are either with your nearest or dearest or thinking of them.  A day of celebration.

Second to that is the legend of St Nicholas (Santa Claus) and the gift giving all of which is delightful and full of imagination which is the icing on the cake but not the real reason for Christmas.  Like so many things in this country the different celebrations whether folk, pagan, Spiritual, Christian, Catholic are all intertwined and one and the same in this country in particular but at the end of the day it is a celebration of the light coming into the world.

I hope all of you were good and received some nice pressies.  I certainly have two very practical gifts from my OH another pair of Uggs and another Marmot jacket.  Both keep me toasty and warm which is a main consideration in the things I do these days.  OH bought me the same last year bless him;  a complete surprise but he has rather spoiled me as the coat is the warmest I have ever had and the boots on my tender feet are magic and oh so comfortable and they have given me so much relief.  The comfiest I have ever had. Its surprising how things change as when I was younger I had different priorities; but as you get older you get more practical or should I say the body dictates that you are more practical; but everything in its turn and I am very grateful.

My surprise present to the OH was an antique silver pocket watch with a silver fob chain; a full Hunter with a second hand on it.  When my stepson married at the beginning of September his now wife bought him a modern pocket watch to wear with his three piece suit as a surprise gift with a personal engraving on the case.  OH was quite taken with this and bearing in mind there is not often something that he would like I took note of this and started to source one for him and had one heck of a job.  In the end I sourced the watch and the chain separately and both are simply, classy have been well loved.  He is over the moon with it which I am pleased about on two counts.  He had not said what he would like for Christmas (very difficult he is here) and I was not sure that I was actually doing the right thing. 

As I have said before Christmas is the main time of the year when we "roll the boat out".  We are lucky to be able to do this but one year is always very different to another.  Next year things will be a bit tougher but you have to take the rough with the smooth and make the most of what you have and who you have.  So therefore gather your family in, whether they be birth family, relatives or extended family.  Treasure the time together and the little differences as when they are not there it leaves a big space in your life.

So here's to all my family and friends I raise a toast to you and say thank you for putting up with me for yet another year.



Saturday, 23 December 2017

From my House to your House - Happy Christmas

Well its that time of year again - loads of people out and buying - I only stayed a little while in town today as I was in there for two cat beds - no pressies and some salad leaves and to start with I was with OH to choose my Christmas pressie. I already know obviously what it is and am well chuffed with but will tell you all later on.  I also bought a couple of DVDs and a couple of Christmas CDs as well.  As I mentioned the other day after hearing the impromptu choir singing carols really sort of bought out the Christmas spirit a little for me so that really did help.  I love listening to music of any genre apart from the fact that I am not highly chuffed with Jazz.  I like Classical to really relax to but OH is not into it..Classical music was a passion I shared with my Dad and the pair of us could listen to a piece and be totally blown with it and enjoy every nuance - possibly because we had the same appreciation for the piece.  Geoff though spoils it for me as he has no patience or interest in listening to the classics.  So these days I quite frequently listen on my own  that way the piece is not spoilt for me.

The Turkey was picked up today together with some other extras i.e. bacon and Lincolnshire chipolatas.  I have some puff pastry savouries to make so need the bacon to go with some of the cheese I already have in to make the same.  I have a busy day tomorrow evening as according to family tradition it is not only the Night before Christmas but it is baking day in our family.  All the girls follow the same routine passed on by those who came before us.  Of the ten children there are only five of the lads with us, my aunties and one uncle having already passed.

The cold is still sticking with me.  I have been grateful for the antibiotics as they have helped me a lot.  I take the last doses of the antibiotics tomorrow.

I am looking forward to having some real down time over the holiday and hopefully get to grips with my embroidery machine.

Well as I am going to be busy in the kitchen tomorrow I have a gammon to cook, all the preparations for the Turkey, mince pies, shortbread, school boys earholes, chocolate crunchie, and various other bits and bobs to make .  So I thought I would wish each and everyone of you well over Christmas and would just like to thank you all for supporting my little blog from the last year.

So from my home to your home.  MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Will be back t play in a few days.

Have a good one.

Catch you soon.



Thursday, 21 December 2017

Little bit of a catch up

This blinking cold is a bad one. It is really getting me down.  I am so glad went to the Doctors.   Despite the antibiotics I have been a bit rough; but have still been trying to do a bit here and there despite not having much energy. 

It did not help this morning that when I went out to add more seed to the bird feeders I ended up slipping and fell flat on my back in the mud landing on a blackberry.  So my nice clean jeans ended up being covered in mud and kind of bruised the rest of me.  At the time I did not appreciate that I had a thorn in my hand but I found it later.I have the wreath for my mum and dad's grave all sorted as despite not having them with us physically they are still in the centre of our hearts.  A tradition in our family (and perhaps for so many others) is to raise a toast to the absent loved ones just for a few minutes as they always were and always will be at the centre of family celebrations.

I also have some mistletoe (three bunches) for decorating the lamp pendant in the dining room which is on a long chain.  I intend to wrap an ivy garland over the chain part (artificial) and then hang some of the mistletoe from the base of the pendant (a wrought iron effect one with candle bulbs).  Depending on how the ivy looks on the chain I  may leave it up or take it down.  However if it comes down I will make a fabric cover for the chain to tidy it up a little bit.  To be told it is a bit of a dust trap so I want to get that sorted as best as a I can.  At least with a fabric cover it can be easily washed.

I went to the veg shop for the Mistletoe and the wreath and have also ordered eggs and another sack of potatoes for Saturday.  I will get all my basic veg from there plus any extras that take my fancy.  I got dried dates today from there which are a tradition in my family.  I love dried dates and figs and nuts a sweetmeats plate if you like.  I also bought earlier on a tray of crystallised fruit, apricots, pineapple, kiwi fruit etc.  Next year I am going to make my own again.  I have a heavy Victorian pressed glass dish which looks like crystal (but is not) and it looks lovely presented in that.  That dish is in the store this year and I am not quite sure where it is but hope to find it in readiness for next Christmas as it really does look lovely against a pure white tablecloth and silver plated cutlery that I have together with all the white serving dishes etc I have acquired over the years.

This year despite lots of plans I have had to let an awful lot of stuff go - mostly because of the cold and lack of energy that OH kindly gave to me.  This week was meant to be my week for making stuff but with his highness in residence that just has not happened. He is worse than a child at times and needless to say I have been a little short once or twice with him as I have been trying to sort other stuff out and he keeps interrupting. I am not best chuffed but in reality there is not much I can do about it.  So have to make the best of the kilt  and time you have.  However I will be starting to do stuff for Christmas 2018 from January on all fronts.  My itinerary has been tweaked as well from which to work.  I will probably put that up for any of you interested in doing something similar.  I will probably not post about what I am making to start with but may do later on.

I needed to nip into town as I needed to get some presents.  I still have not finished but will have to go into tomorrow and Saturday and maybe early Sunday to get finished which is not something I normally do. but needs must.  I ended up in HMV for a little while and got collared three times by the alarms on the door.  It turned out not to be something from there store but a video I had bought elsewhere which still had its security tag on.  HMV very kindly sorted it out for me.  I think I was up town for about three hours all told which was more than enough.  I got some of the presents I was after but am still not done yet.  OH does not know what he is getting for Christmas - I just hope he likes it.  He said it was something he quite liked earlier on in the year.  Will just have to wait and see.  All I will say is it is not new.

To tell you the truth I have not been very impressed with the pressies available in town or the Christmas decorations this year.  Not quite up to standards of other years.  M & S usually have lovely stuff but I just was not impressed this year. The Stag candleholders and some of their household stuff absolutely superb.   Odd things okay but generally not.  I think they have gone for glitz this year rather than character.  The lack of different and unusual Christmas decorations is one of the reasons I am so looking forward to getting into creating stuff with my embroidery machine.  My USB flash sticks arrived today so hopefully it will be all systems go over Christmas.  I am so excited.

I got a little light headed whilst out so I went and treated myself to a hot chocolate and a brownie and sat for about 20 minutes which helped and then set too again.  

This time on the food shopping.  

I already have a beautiful piece of Gammon which we bought the other day from the Butchers.  That is going to be boiled and then cooked in a brown sugar and ginger crust.  Yum and then served with a variety of pickles and chutneys and picallilli.  The pigs in blankets  are prepared, have sausagemeat for stuffing which is yet to be made and for sausage rolls. Turkey is to be collected on Saturday morning together with any additional bits and bobs.  The Stilton is bought and a variety of different cheeses ready in the Cheesebox.  There is a pork pie (sadly not home made one of the casualties), Christmas cake, fruit bread.  I also have a small gammon piece which I have studded with cloves (that's for me OH does not like cloves) but this is really delicious.  Well I think so anyway.

So I nipped into M & S.  I chose carefully what I wanted some of it based on price, but I have treated us to a pudding - expensive but different -chocolate fir cones which look quite splendid I hope they live up to their promise.  I weighed up prices and use by dates and if I did not think would get to use it in time have left it on the shelf.  I was quite disappointed with M & S as they had taken all the offers off the sweets and other various bits and bobs so you were in effect paying full price.  There is normally an offer on buy three pots of veggies and only pay for two.  Today the swede and potato crush was £2.50 a tub which for three tubs would have been £7.50.  I don't think so. That decided me I will make  my own I am not going to pay through the nose. Swede from the veg shop and a bag of carrots and just a little time and effort should not cost any more than £1.50. I did however get a very nice Porchetta joint a large one for a very reasonable price.  I like this hot and cold.  Some sage in pots, and mixed herbs, some more garlic bulbs (they are really flavoursome from M & S - the individual ones).  I also got my fresh cranberries for my home made cranberry sauce and some Cornish Cruncher Cheddar and some Blacksticks Blue.  So things are coming along very nicely.  The gravy for the Turkey has also been started; not bought but home made.

Once I had finished I telephoned OH to come and collect me.  Whilst I was waiting for him outside, there were a group of people who gathered together to sing carols and raise some money for a local charity.  From all accounts they had never done this before.  However in the dark of the night outside St John's Church their voices rang out clear and pure.  It caused me to have a tear in my eye as for me Carols are a big part of Christmas and it is the first time I have heard Carollers this year.  It was lovely sat there listening to them whilst I waited for OH and for me it made me feel like "Christmas" if that makes sense.  A cold night with clear voices ringing out (although they could have done with a microphone because of the acoustics of the square they were signing in.  Carol singing has covered many generations and was always something for everyone to join in with whether rich or poor and it transcends time and centuries.  With the Cathedral behind the Guildhall and Peterborough Market Square it is quite atmospheric and good on the Carollers for giving so freely of their time.

OH then picked me up and took me to the Post Office to collect a couple of parcels.  I had been a little anxious as I had ordered a Stinking Bishop cheese and it had not turned up.  So I was glad to find it at the Post Office.  The Post Office had enclosed it in a bag as it was a little pungent!  It is now in its own little box so it does not stink the fridge out.  It is however a superb cheese, expensive but if you get a chance to try it do.

I have also had to bath the dog - she was not best pleased but it needed to be done.  I think buying her new pyjamas is pushing it a bit far for Christmas Eve, however we have bought her a new duck squeaky toy which is a tug of war version this time.  Well she is one of our fur babies.

I have also received some more gold coloured glasses for my collection.  Six little star and gold band glasses in between a large tumbler and a small tumbler.

Right I still have things to do and accomplish before flopping in bed.  Tomorrow is time to make the Trifle.

Hope all your preparations are well in hand.

Right must get a wriggle on.

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)