Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Plants for Presents and Fruit Baskets

i am getting fidgety - I want to get growing things, my hands have a life of their own and yet still I have not been able to indulge them.  This weekend I intend to get some violas from Waitrose I anticipate getting a couple of trays as I have some small black cauldron planters to sort out to give a bit of colour to the herb section of the garden and also to fill some small hanging baskets.  It is probably because the evenings are getting lighter I want to get on with stuff.  In the lighter months we tend to get stuck in and work until it gets dark.  In the winter months we yearn for the lighter nights so that we can get more done rather than vegetate in front of the TV (not that there has been much of that taking place here).

If you have green fingers and know what you are doing in a garden you can take your own cuttings of plants and bits and bobs and throughout the year in effect provide presents for friends and relatives for next to nothing.  If times are hard this can make a lovely present for the recipient at reasonable if any cost to yourself.  Swap cuttings with your friends and seeds that way you both get the benefit.

You can source cheap baskets from the Charity shop, often they will want 50p a basket and you can tart it up with some fabric, ribbon and lace.  The baskets can also be used as a base for a fruit basket and with cellophane and ribbon also made to look nice.  If you have grown some of the fruit yourself like apples, pears and plums or soft fruit or even if you haven't or even to house a plant.  If I had the room I would have my own cutting garden that way round you would be able to give a bunch of flowers to family or friends on special occasions or just for the giving of.

I intend to buy some new herb plants and take cuttings from them as well as grow them from seed.  You always need the plants to get a march on so that you have herbs early on to pick whilst your seedlings play catch up. Herbs are always a welcome addition to anyone's garden and I intend to build on the success I had with them last year.

I am after a couple of Aloe Vera plants for their healing properties more than anything else for the house.  I am forever catching myself on the oven doors and have found that the Aloe Vera is very soothing and helps the burn heal so they are definitely on the list.  I also intend to have a look around for bulbs and reduced plants.  If you have a plant you can always take cuttings and get further plants on the go so in effect plants for free.  Plants that set themselves are obviously happy with their surroundings so take advantage of those too.

My blackcurrant bushes that I brought on last year from just twigs I intend to take some cuttings of those to increase my stock.  I aim to have a proper fruit garden in what is the jungle at the present.  Just need a day of warmer weather and preferably some sun so I can make a start in tidying the garden and getting it ready for sorting out.  I need to do this before OH starts his fishing again.

I am also choosing my gardening magazines.  I particularly like the Kitchen Garden and Grow your Own magazines but I have been buying for the past couple of weeks Garden News and I have Foxglove, (which I know are poisonous i.e. digitalis but they are very elegant plants, Canterbury Bells, Nicotiana, Petunia, Sweet pea and Snapdragon.  I have also found some very useful information in the magazines as well. I am starting a scrap book on how to grow things. Although not a novice at gardening I am a bit rusty!  When we first moved here for many years we used to grow a lot of our own vegetables just the basics but the taste was marvellous.  That is why I want to do it again but this time in the style of a potager so I get the prettiness of flowers with food to eat. The flowers I am thinking of planting like the violas, Nasturtiums, pansies can all be eaten in any event.  There is nearly always a culinary bent to whatever I do.  I would like to crystallise some pansies and violas for birthday cakes during the year.  The Nasturtiums can be used in salads and stuffed and dipped in tempura batter and eaten and I intend to do some tubs of carrots and spinach as well as setting dried peas to sprout and then eating the shoots fresh.

Just need a day to get the herb garden sorted, and the polyanthus in the tubs and the violas in the cauldrons. I still have some potting compost left over from last year.  I also need to get some stain on the fence between the nosy neighbour and ourselves.  This is just the top part of the garden and as long as that is tidy and the shed is tidy the rest can be sorted out a bit at a time.  Once the lighter nights kick in I can get more done.  Here's fingers crossed it will happen soon.

Upwards and onwards.

Catch you soon.



A visit to a Charity Shop always dangerous for me.

Today (Tuesday) I have come back with a very large baby steriliser unit that has a nice deep lid for £3.  That means that potentially I can process 8 bottles of home made cordial in this new one and six in the old unit.  I have spent £5 on the two units in total and it makes the unit easy and clean to use when processing lots of bottles of cordial.  You can leave it on a work top and get on with something else.  Much better than slaving over a hot stove with steam and water bubbling everywhere.

One of the problems using larger bottles for storing cordial in is that once the bottle of cordial is opened you have to store it in the fridge; but prior to that you have trouble finding a pan to hold the deep bottles in.  I have that sort of equipment but have found that for the two of us and for general long term use, using the hex bottles are simpler to process in smaller amounts and if you want larger quantities then you use a couple of bottles.

Remember that the home made cordials are akin to flavoured syrups so you don't just to have to use them for making a drink but you can use them on ice cream, cakes and other puddings like rice pudding and semolina.  There is always plenty of options its just a matter of trying things and keeping those ways of using as long as it works for you and your family.

As you can tell I am starting to get geared up for a very long preserving season amongst everything else on the to do list.

I have also come away with a brand new Per Una wool Fair Isle style jumper that has not been worn - £2.50.  Thank you very much pinks and purple colours on a cream background. Not everyone's choice but I like it. I love a warm jumper.

Two very large pine picture frames for £4.50 apiece.  The frames are in very good condition and I have primarily bought the frames to re-use them with in displaying some of my previous work.  What with the cost of framing these days it works out a lot cheaper in the long run to do it this way.  However the frames do have some prints in them but they seem to be rather good quality ones of The Trevi Fountain and somewhere else in Rome, Italy so I am going to check these out.  I think they are probably prints that have been bought without frames as they certainly do not have any mounts in them.  The frames are a lot bigger than the prints but I will check them out in any event.

So not many finds but some nice finds which I am happily chuffed with.  They will all come in extremely useful.

Catch you later on.



Tuesday, 30 January 2018

A change of plan

In the menu for the week that is.  Today I have managed to liberate some quite large steaks of sirloin from the Co-Op and I have saved about £6 in  all.   I also managed to liberate some sausage, and another tray of lamb cutlets.  I bought mushrooms fresh from the Veg shop.  I have bacon and eggs in and I therefore rather fancied doing a mixed grill for tea which is what I did in the end as this quite took OH's fancy.  It was not the planned meal but hey so what it will get used up during the week. 

Very tasty it was too - I cooked it on the griddle after having used butter to give a surface to the pan but cooking it very gently.  I like using a griddle I always seem to get good results from it.  OH enjoyed it which was the main thing.  I think his appetite might be coming back.

As a result of opening a package of sausages I need to use them up so tomorrow night's tea is toad in the hole.  That way I am using up bits and bobs as we go along.

I also bought some fruit from the veg shop, a couple of mangos, bananas, peaches, apricots, melon, grapes, in an effort to give OH some much needed fruit and also myself.  Since the flu at Christmas I have not had much energy and I have decided to try and perk myself up a bit.  OH had a Banana Smoothie and I had Strawberry.  We had the mixed fruit sorbet/ice cream yesterday and I might have a grapefruit in the morning as part of breakfast and may well do a fresh fruit salad for pudding tomorrow night. If there is any left I can have it for breakfast the following morning.


Tea was delicious and went down very nicely.

Now its time to bath the dog and then I have a pile of hand-washing to do.  New woollen jumpers that need careful handling which were not cheap so I do not want them not to last.  

Oh by the way whenever I wear wool jumpers they tend to pill or bobble up on the sides where my arms go - I assume its because I move my arms around a fair bit but do any of you have any ideas as to how to stop or limit or put this right.  Look forward to hearing from you.

Catch you soon.




Good news for the time being.  I have been to see my Consultant Mr Kamarth today.  Last time I went he was worried that the plate was not behaving itself and there was talk about having it removed.  Also the healing process was not as advanced as it should have been.

After x-rays first thing he is now pretty happy with my foot.  The big toe is not as straight as it could have been (that is how it goes)but it is far straighter than it was and I do not have the discomfort that I did have.  However bearing in mind all my medical conditions which have had an impact I do not think he has done a bad job at all.  In fact I am extremely grateful.  I can walk around again pretty normally.  He said that he thought that give my foot another year and it will have healed permanently.  Once it settled the swelling on the joint should go down significantly which I was pleased to hear.  He said that the x-rays from today have shown significant healing and that he was now happy to discharge me.

I did ask about my other foot as primarily that was the one I had gone with and they ended up doing surgery on the other one as they said it was in a worse state.  I have to see how things go and if it starts kicking off like the other one did then I am to go back via the GP and get re-referred to him.  I also needed to check for work purposes as being part of a small knit team things have to be planned to some extent in advance and 12 weeks is a long time in the greater scheme of things.

So one very happy bunny here.  Another problem sorted so the check list can be marked as completed for this particular issue. Phew.

Catch you soon.



Ice Cream from Frozen Fruits

This is not an advert for Dunhelm just more own personal view.  No gifts in kind or coercements have been used this is just my subjective view.  It is also not my photo.

As I said yesterday I paid a trip to Dunhelm and I spotted something that might be useful in my kitchen and maybe give OH a sugar free pudding in the process and myself of course.  This little machine uses fresh fruit that has been frozen and then using the frozen fruit to go through like an extruding machine.It cost me £18 as it is on offer at the moment at Dunhelm.

For my first try I used a punnet of frozen mixed fruit - it turned out to be a little too tart but only ever such a fraction and so I will probably put a banana in next time or a little artificial sweetener just to take the tartness off.  The one punnet cost me £2 from the Co-Op and made enough sorbet for the two of us.  There are the occasional seeds but not as bad as when you eat the fruit fresh. However it is lovely and fresh tasting and you get the full blast of flavour and the colour is magnificent.  However I am pleased with it.  I think I might be more successful with banana with other half. In fact quite a few of the recipes in the little booklet with it mention banana.  I also thought that if I was freezing the fruit to use myself from scratch then I could add a little sweetener then so it is all frozen in the mix as they say and might even use yogurt and cream in the mix as well.  It is the frozen product that is used to produce the sorbet.  It has given me food for thought for playing with it in any event.  I also thought it might be a good way of getting  more fruit into our diet.  We eat a lot of veggies but not as much fruit - in summer different but not as much in the winter months.  So I am looking forward to playing with this little gadget over the next few weeks.  The sorbet produced is very different to a traditional sorbet but it is substantial and still makes a nice change

Catch you soon.



Polyanthus and Viola

I am an old fashioned girl when it comes to flowers.  I like all the English Country Garden favourites like, sweet scented violets, wood primroses, forget me nots, Roses preferably scented, honeysuckle, wild roses.  I also like Polyanthus.  They always look cheerful and colourful especially after the grey days of the winter months.  I do not know whether I am too early or not but the Co-Op had trays of four in-store for £2.50 so I have bought some to put into some long window box containers I have to try and bring a little colour and prettiness to the sheltered herb garden area outside the back door.  I also noticed that Waitrose have trays of violas in different colours for about 20 (I think) to a tray for £5.  I might get some of those as well as they also give a very cheerful burst of colour. I think Polyanthus and violas are very cheerful plants. 

I also need to get some paint for the mini greenhouses to give them a tidy up and then once they are sorted I can get their covers on although it is probably a tad too early for the seeds as yet.

I hope tomorrow is fair.  I have the Hospital tomorrow (I have booked the day off) and I hope that when I get home I will be able to spend a little time tidying the border and getting it nice and tidy again.  I need to start doing a little bit in the garden as I have quite a few things I would like to achieve this year.

Last year was the first year that I really went to town on the planters and I want to get the most out of them this year.  As I have mentioned before I would like a Potager style garden where flowers grow with veggies and complement each other.  I actually like gardening but the heavy work sometimes defeats me although I am not against having a go.  I find after being in an office all day long its brilliant to be out in the fresh air, pottering around, thinking my own thoughts and relaxing. Gardening does that for me.

As I have stated before I also need to get in the shed and start sorting that out also. However I am determined to get as much as I can done.  Even if I have to take several hefty bites at one thing in the meanwhile just to get things done it will be worth it to get things off the list.

Have you noticed that each night is getting that little bit lighter.  I am pleased as in the winter I do not seem to get as much done as I do in the summer months or perhaps I should say I tend to hibernate more and my energy levels always seem below par.

Hopefully bit by bit things will start coming together and I will get everything as I would like it.  It is not for the lack of trying.

Catch you soon.



Monday, 29 January 2018

Recycling, Two Empty Jars and sourcing bottles for Christmas Hampers (already)


OH was bought as part of the Christmas food bits and bobs two large jars of 
Gherkins.  It is something he can have within reason to eat and nibble at (instead of something sweet).  I get these from Lidl.  I have in the past made them but at the price I can get them for at Lidl this is one thing I have dropped off the Preserve list as it is just false economy for me to make them. Unless of course I manage to find a glut of gherkins for next to nothing which in this country is perhaps not as common as it is in the States.

In any event I thought the two large jars might keep him going until the end of the month but it appears I have underestimated him.  Both jars are now empty as I have said but they are not about to be thrown.  They are ideal for keeping my pickled onions and shallots in later in the year.  I have been adding a few jars every so often; I will just have to source new lids for the coming season. 

Bottles for Liqueurs

As many of you are aware, last year I made quite a few different flavoured vodkas and other liqueur type drinks initially for the pantry but then a lot of them being put into the drinks cupboard (sounds posher than it is).  Although many moons ago I did have a drinks cabinet in a unit I had.  However when I think of a drinks cabinet I think of Pa Larkin in the Darling Buds of May and his drinks cabinet.   in the shape of a ship - now that was a drinks cabinet.

This coming year I have plans to make some more home made liqueurs and like last year I intend to start buying bottles of vodka and gin for use later on in the year.  This year in particular I want to make some hampers up for friends and family with some of the said home made liqueurs as well as other home made goodies. 

Ifyou are giving someone a pressie you always want it to look nice and really nice bottles cost and arm and a leg.  However in the run up to Christmas last year, and totally by chance I managed to find some small miniature bottles of wine (a couple of different types) , that I could buy for under £2 a bottle, drink the contents and then re-use the bottles in my Christmas hampers with some of the home made liqueur in.  Sounds like a plan and not too expensive either.  

Corks, Lids for Jars and making the closure tidy on bottles

You can in some places also buy corks with plastic tops these are ideal for recycling the bottles and you can also use the wine covers with the use of a hairdryer to make the tops look good or you can dip them in molten wax - different coloured ones like reds, greens and maybe blue are good.  (Wilkinsons sell the cork covers in packs of 10 or 20).  With the aid of a hairdryer they are very easy to put on.

I do tend to recycle nice jars anyway as long as I can get replacement lids.  There are various sources for these.  It all falls into my waste not want not ethic.  Recycling also saves a lot of money in the long run.

I also make little fabric covers for jam jars and also for the wine bottles.  I use my Accuquilt cutter with a round cutter (there are a couple of different sizes) to make the bonnets for the jars.  You can also make your own labels with the aid of a computer different fonts and also different images.  There is so much you can do when you start looking at things.

Cheap packing paper and Wrapping paper

With me doing all the preserving I do, I do what I can to make the stuff as nice as I can without going OTT.  This includes making packing for little boxes or baskets with tissue paper shredded through my paper shredder and then decorated with cellophane and ribbon.  You can even do plants like this.  Brown paper for birthday and Christmas presents wrapped in pretty ribbon and stamped with suitable prints in ink even potato prints.  Making pretty recycled paper to be used for labels and cards.  Recycling ribbon and using on cards and on the packaging.

Baskets for food/Plants and Drink

Liberate baskets of any size from a Charity shop.  You can paint them, make fabric liners, make fabric straps, decorate with ribbon, leave them plain and use hessian and natural lace to dress them up use florist ribbons to make lovely decorative bows  -  I have a bow making machine both a wooden one and more advanced one.

I also because I am a tight so and so and I liberate wine bottles and recycle them for my home made wines. If I don't have enough bottles I occasionally buy them from Wilkinsons.  I also recycle beer bottles for stout, bitter and lager that have been bought.  Yet again you can get the crown caps (the metal lids with the crinkly surrounds) from Wilkinsons and online.

I have found that jam jars that hold Pataks sauces in and also Dolmio jars can be recycled with the Lakeland jam jar lids if that helps anyone out there.

If I can recycle something I will.  This tends to be an ongoing process in my household all the time.

I am also tight when it comes to using Kilner jars or Mason jars.  I use these only for bottled/canned goods. The jars are expensive and you have to source new seals each time you use them. Jams, marmalades,conserves and curds I use ordinary jam jars.  They more than adequately keep the jam and if you water bath the bottles it will keep them even longer.  For Pickles I use Sarson vinegar jars, or Le Parfait or Kilner jars with the rubber seals or recycled large jars that have had pickles in previously from the likes of Lidl or Aldi.

So ladies if you plan on giving your nearest and dearest home made hampers this year start looking for your hampers/containers and packing materials now as you nearly always find the packaging you want when you are not looking for it.

Have any of you ladies started yet on next year's hampers?  Would love to hear from you.

Catch you soon.



Sunday, 28 January 2018


....11 degrees and the sun is out the sky is blue and not grey  - what a difference a day makes and it has been like it for most of the day however the wind has been very rough so I have not been able to get into the garden.  So still on house duties.

Well that is how today started off.

I had a little trip out to Dunhelm.  I needed a couple of new throws for the front room as the ones there have gone a little thin and I like snuggly and I have managed to find two that will do nicely snuggle wise which are a coffee colour which is not really the colour I would have gone for but these were on offer and I did not really fancy mustard yellow which was the other option.  I like yellow but not scream in your face mustard yellow  Eoogh!  I also came away with some more plastic storage boxes predominantly for me to sort my crafting stuff into so that I can find it when I need it and then ultimately get it sorted to where I need it. I have recently acquired some more patchwork fabric and I need somewhere safe for it to be kept.  Plus I have wool, threads, tapisserie wool, all sorts of goodies, no end of beads for my beadwork, (I am no expert but I dabble) - I really do need to concentrate when I am doing that and OH is best out of the way.  Its a have the radio on in the background job and me being able to concentrate.

I have seen some very nice ideas for recycling an old wardrobe into a crafting centre - OH has said to go for it but I need to do some more tidying yet to get a piece of furniture where I want it and also to locate a suitable piece that can be adapted to what I would like.  It would be nice to have somewhere where it was all organised and easily located.  I spend too much time looking for stuff or if I find what I am after I cannot find one component that I need to do it.  Hence the plastic tubs in the first instance to sort everything into once done they can be recycled and used elsewhere.

One or two other things also found themselves into the basket including another seagrass basket to go with the other ones I have and some more mugs  - I managed to break a few this week which I was not harry chuffed with but that is how things tend to go.  The ones I have gone for today are coffee coloured with hares on the front.

Since being back I have had two demijohns in the oven after being washed out in steriliser and then being shoved in to kill off any nasties.  Then when they are cold it will be straight into the steriliser again and then I should be able to start a couple of demijohns of orange wine off  - did not get to last week things went slightly pique tongue!  But hey we are off at the starting line with the wine. The ginger was done the other week but this is the house wine the Orange the old faithful the one we rely on most of all. I also have all new bungs and air locks.  I "bung" them out every so often and (excuse the pun) in the interests of hygiene and safety.  Wilkinsons does a double pack of the airlocks for a couple of pounds and I buy the bungs separately as well.  

We have a bit of roast beef destined for tonight's Sunday dinner (well its not midday so its not lunch). Am very much looking forward to that and the bread and butter pudding. (we have since had and it was scrummy).

Monday night we are having the haddock perhaps with a poached egg each  - well for me in any event with my smoked haddock.  Its the only way to eat it with some nice bread and butter.  Egg goes particularly well with this even though it might not sound appetising it really is.  I have a raspberry and apple tart for pudding with some custard.

Tuesday night  - lamb cutlets with veggies and maybe some colcannon with Grapefruit shell meringue for pudding - something nice and light. 

Basically you cut the grapefruit in half, squeeze out the juice from each half and put into a separate jug then cut out all the membrane out of the grapefruit halves and discard.  Put on a plate and pop in the fridge whilst you prepare the rest of the pudding.  In a separate saucepan add the juice and a little water and a couple of sugar or sweetner to taste - so not very much but it depends very much on your own palate and make sure it is dissolved.  Some people prefer sweet others prefer tart. Withdraw from the heat and then add in a couple of teaspoons of arrowroot or cornflour which has been slaked (blended together with a little water until no lumps) put back on a gentle heat  until the juice mixture thickens.  Take off the heat and pour into the grapefruit shells.  Pop back in the fridge to cool down.

Take the whites of three eggs and whip them up with a handmixer until nice and stiff and then add a tablespoon of sugar to meringue and then whisk up again.  Bring the grapefruit shells with sauce out of the fridge and start to pile on the top of the meringue or if you want to be posh pipe it on.  Finish off by popping under the grill until the meringue starts to go a light brown.  Take out and pop back into the fridge.  Bring out of the fridge for pudding after a larger meal this is a nice and light pudding which is very easily made.

Wednesday night - cottage pie on its own.  Some more of the raspberry tart for afters with some cream.

Thursday night - Home made chicken stir fry.  Bit of fruit or yogurt for afters.

Friday night - bits and bobs night - whatever is going.

The stewing beef and some of the veggies have been put into the freezer.

I have a Hospital appointment on Tuesday with the foot Surgeon (do not know whether he will discharge me this time or not) - he has left it six months since the last appointment as he was not happy with the way the plate was behaving and wanted to see if it would settle down.  I have been able to weight bear better with it and its the best it has ever been.  I am still getting pain if I over do it but not as much as I was so we will just have to see how it goes.  I have to go in for x-rays prior to the appointment and indeed he does not see you until he has the up to date results on his desk which is no bad thing so he is dealing with things as is.

Now must get a wriggle on have to get ready for tomorrow.

Catch you soon.



Saturday, 27 January 2018


Cold day.  It was not too bad earlier on in the day - not good enough for gardening but passable all the same.  Now we have ice cold rain and it trickles down the bits you don't want it to.  I have been to the veggie shop - I ventured out and did several jobs before going in there.  Got the rest of my Sevilles hopefully that should do me but I may be able to get some more if I need to.  Also got some reduced peaches £1 a bowl and some reduced Raspberries £1 a punnet so we are going to have a peach and Raspberry jam for the pantry shelf as well.  Leeks, courgettes, Tomatoes, apples, cabbage, cauliflower, swede were also purchased to bulk up veggies I already have to hand.

For tea this evening we had fresh mussels done with garlic and butter.  Yum they sure did go down very well.  Also had some bread to go with.  I had tried to get some baguettes earlier on but by the time I got there they were all gone; so it was just ordinary sliced bread for OH and I had a seeded bread.  Mussels are a big favourite in this house and they are ever so simple to cook.  Just a little water in the bottom of a big pan.  I cooked two nets this evening and I either put four or five garlic cloves in with the mussels  or I crush about three in a garlic crusher and add to the pot together with  some butter and put the lid on and let them cook for about 10 minutes.  Only eat the ones that have fully opened.  Makes a lovely fresh treat.  I must say that I do like seafood.  We had crab earlier in the week and we are going to have the haddock on Monday night.

I also got some bargains at the shop; two trays of lamb chop cutlets with about 6 in each pack for £1 a pack.  They will either make a meal for tomorrow or one night during the week.  We might have a roast tomorrow I have a joint of beef only a small one but enough for us two and hopefully there will be some left for a couple of sarnies during the week.  I have also found two packs of the fillet chicken breasts reduced as well.  so they will come in useful for pack up during the week.  I also bought stewing steak and mince.  They seem to be regulars on the menu at the moment but its all good eating which in this cold weather is seriously needed especially with some mashed potatoes and swede and carrot crush.

I might make a bread and butter pudding tomorrow with part of a jar of marmalade I have left and thought I might also serve with some tinned mandarins and a touch of cream.  Will have to see what time I have but it could very well be on the cards as it has been a little while since we have had one.

Right things to do.

Catch you later.




I did not sleep well last night despite going to bed early it was rather fitful and i have started dreaming again.  It was all crazy and mixed up last night - predominantly about a van crash into a lake and not being able to get out easily!  These ones trouble me as they are so intense.  I am hoping that it is one of the dreams that surrounds a dream of more portent. Fingers crossed.

Its an indoor day today.  I was hoping desperately to get out and have some fresh air but it will not happen today so an indoor day it is apart from my regular jaunt to the veggie shop.  I have another 5kg of Seville Oranges to pick up today as well and if there are any other bargains I may well take advantage,  Never mind all is not lost I have a long list of things to do but I am itching to get going on the garden.

I have also ordered some more new books; some have already arrived but there are a few more yet to come and am waiting for them to arrive.  It is dreadful if I read a post on books from any of you fellow bloggers as if I see something I have not got that piques my interest off I go on the cheapie book sites to see if I can locate them.  I have been using Abebooks a lot of late.  However they are all as good as one another.  However, I do get cross as several books are re-done and put out under different titles but which are essentially as same as books that I already have  you cannot always determine the book by its cover.  However the second hand book sites are wonderful for tracking down old sometimes out of print preserving books which are still very useful and have their place in our everyday lives.  One book I initially wanted was £80.  No way Jose.  I kept doing my research and eventually I managed to get it for £5.  But it is on Abebooks now for about £3.  

Well I had better get a wriggle on.

Catch you later on.



Friday, 26 January 2018


What a busy week and I am shattered so I am very pleased it is Friday!

Meal plans were wrecked again as OH had had a big dinner at work.  Apparently he and work colleagues sent out for fish and chips so come this evening so he was not hungry.  In the meantime I had planned on having a nice simple tea.  I had been to Waitrose and bought some haddock for him and some smoked haddock for myself.  I had also bought a couple of nets of mussels. In fairness he did not know what I was up to but equally he normally leaves the food to me.  So tonight's planned meal has been postponed until tomorrow.

So being as he was stuffed and really did not want anything heavy we ended up having some fresh bread with pate on.  It went down very nicely.

I ended up going to Wilkinsons a lunch to get topped up with toiletries, some more magazine sleeves, some jam jars for making the curds and the marmalades, a new socket board for the kitchen for using with my appliances. 

I had a quick look at the gardening section they are slowly starting to get it stocked up but they do have the flowering bulb selection in.  I will have to keep an eye on what they have in the next few weeks or so.

I also nipped into the £shop to see if they had any more magazine files.  Unfortunately they did not but I shall keep looking there as well.

I just hope its a nice day tomorrow so that I can get out into the back garden and get it sorted a little bit.  It would be good to get ahead for a change especially in one area at least.

Catch you soon.



Thursday, 25 January 2018

The Weekend officially starts tomorrow night

and it will be thank God its Friday syndrome!  Have had an extremely busy week at work but an enjoyable one nonetheless.  I would rather be busy than bored.  I have been absolutely shattered when I got in from work this week and I have not read at all this week and there will be no reading over the weekend as I need to achieve some things  - need to stop prevaricating and get on with them.

As usual have a load of things to do.  Think it might be a later night tomorrow night as I really must get stuck in on some projects and then also a reasonably early start on Saturday morning.  If the weather is okay then I want to go into the shed and sort it out a little bit and also the tidier part of the back garden all nicely sorted.  I also want to do some path cleaning and also tidy the front garden out.  With all those winds the other day we ended up with everyone's rubbish in there as usual.  The rubbish has been put in the bin but for some unknown reason we have ended up with more in there. There will also be  trip to the tip in there somewhere. 

I thought that if I got up early on Saturday then I would be able to get on a bit and this week have a bit of a lie in on Sunday then do a bit of baking. (we will be having late Sunday dinner this Sunday maybe a small piece of beef). The kitchen is not quite as tidy as it should be and I want to cook so that means that it needs stripping out before I even start - over Christmas things got put out of place and I cannot find them so it really needs doing before I start.  There is nothing nicer than working in a clean kitchen.  No doubt the Supervisors all five of them will have to come and see what I am up to I may have to shut them out of the way as they just cannot resist helping mum and that's when the trouble starts and things start going bump! (little darlings).

Saturday night I intend to do a couple of gallons of wine. Might only be a couple of the kits will see how I get on.  I might also start the Seville Orange Marmalade off, well the first batch in any event and also make some of the curds up.  There is also the Vin D'Orange to make from Rose, White and Red wines for next Christmas. Yummy.

At some point I have a lot of bottling to do; more vinegars.  I have some lovely little bottles into which to decant them into. I also want to transfer what is left of the Rumptopf into jars so that it can be kept safely out of the way on the pantry shelf. I do not want any of that getting broken and making a heck of a  mess so it is better out of the way. The crocks can then be cleaned and made ready for this year's Rumptopf. The bottling technically can wait until I have more time as it is not spoiling I just want it all organised and sorted so that I can get on with some new bits and bobs.  I have mixed herb, thyme, more Raspberry and Blackberry vinegar to bottle up.

I also have a very large ironing pile to tackle but I may do that a bit at a time when I come home from work during the week.  If I set OH to do tea during the week I might stand a chance of getting it out of the way with.  Must also go Freezer Shopping on Saturday night. There are some goodies in there that need liberating.  The freezers need emptying to make room for new seasons goodies but it is going to take me a while to strip them down hence me starting now.  Will start with the newest freezer first as I can always keep it topped up with baking and pies, pasties etc.

So things to do over the weekend in no particular order:

  • Make first batch of Seville Marmalade
  • Lemon Curd
  • Grapefruit Curd
  • Orange Curd
  • Cumquat and Orange Marmalade
  • Vin D'Orange from White, Red and Rose wine
  • Clean the kitchen
  • Sort the shed
  • tidy the first part of the back garden
  • path cleaning with the pressure washer
  • tidy front garden deal with paths again
  • Greengrocers
  • trip to the tip
  • baking
  • winemaking
  • fill the bird feeders
  • washing
  • hand washing woollen jumpers (don't put em in the washer)
  • immediate ironing

I think that will be more than enough to do and in all honesty I am unlikely if the weather is bad in particular to achieve everything but as long as I get quite a bit of it done I will be satisfied. It's the big physical jobs that take the time like sorting the shed and the garden although saying that if the weather is okay and I get at least a couple of hours run then I should be able to achieve quite a bit. That side of things is dependent on the weather.  If it is not fine enough then I will just do something else in the house..

So in reality I have the bare bones of what I would like to achieve over the weekend.  Now to try and ensure that it happens!  Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye.

Catch you soon.



Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Tuesday night

Its always quite on the blogging front on a Tuesday night  - do not know why I have noticed this for a good couple of years or it may be down to the blogs that I follow.

Things have been very busy at work and I have been shattered when I have got in.  OH has been suffering a touch of the blues and nearly went to pieces when the car refused to work last night.  He was in the depths of depression and he was not very good when I got home tonight (I had to walk as the car is still      with the  garage). He was due to come and collect me from work  last night but he took Missy for a walk and the car refused to start.  (That was last night and I had to walk home last night and tonight).

We cannot afford to be without a car and yet cannot really afford another one either a bit of a catch 22 situation.  He got his garage to come and collect the car and it would appear that the car has a few issues £500 worth to be precise!  So a little bit of budgeting will have to go on for the next couple of months.  One of the first places to cut back is the food budget - as I said before Christmas I have most stuff in it will be a case of living off what we have apart from the fresh veggies and a little meat.  Fortunately the freezers are stocked, as is the Jam Pantry,  the Main Pantry which keeps all my dried goods and I have a sack of spuds and a net of onions so we are pretty well set up.  I will just need a tray of eggs once a fortnight.  The freezers need running down now anyway in readiness for the new seasons produce.  So really it is an opportune place to start and then during the Spring and Summer months I can stock up on the meat and fruit side again when there are bargains to be had.  I shall pay a visit to the Butchers though and get a little meat things like stewing steak, mince, sausage meat, beef skirt, and then when we get back I can set too and make a batch of Cornish pasties, sausage rolls, steak pies, some lasagnas and also cottage pie and minced meat and carrot pie.  I have chicken in the freezer so I shall be using that up as well. I also intend to get a gammon joint/ham hock and make some quiches and freeze them and some pies.

There are a couple of advantages to keeping the pantry the way I do.  First I only usually ever re-stock items when there is a good honest sale bargain on and then I stock up always looking for long sell by dates.  This helps save a lot of money but also makes sure that I have everything that we use readily to hand. In the past it has also kept us alive without having to spend very much.

I will get the Canner on the go soon for making soups etc.  This will be a good way of using up some of the veggies and paying it forward. I have just bought a book on canning meat as well so I shall do further research with that.  I also intend to shop around a bit for some cheap joints of meat to hopefully turn into my own Charcuterie.  The Salt Beef is coming first though.  I shall still have a budget but not as much as I would normally have.  I still need to be able to put some money up to put up for seasonal buying i.e. strawberries, plums, raspberries, cherries etc. so that I can bottle my fruit and make my jams and also freeze some of the produce.  I shall also do a little home cheese making and my yogurts etc. so that we can still have some treats. 

Fish is one of the things I will not compromise on.  Fresh fish is good for you and I may well pop into Waitrose on Friday evening to see what fish they have and maybe do home made fish and chips.  After all Friday night always used to be fish and chip night with my Nan.

We have had steak, (I bought it the other week reduced and froze it)sweet potato chips, peppercorn sauce and fried onions and fried oyster mushrooms.  The first pick off my Oyster mushroom plants.  They taste lovely.  Very pleased with them.  So we have eaten well this evening.  For tomorrow night's tea we have fresh Fettucini, meatballs and tomato sauce for tea.  Something simple and filling.

I think I am going to have to start the marmalade on Friday night I had hoped to do things before then but am a little too tired.  (the recipe I use I have to leave it overnight anyway) and Saturday is as good a day as any for getting stuck in.  I also have the curds to make and I got some more cumquats to make a cumquat marmalade.  I have also bought some passion fruit as I have a new recipe for passionfruit curd that I also want to try.  I also have a fancy to do some cumquat vodka.  With cumquats it is the flesh that is sour and the peel is sweeter.  So as usual a few things are starting to make their way into this year's pantry so hopefully lots of goodies will be in situ shortly. Even though it is a quieter time of the year (supposedly).  I still find loads of stuff to do. However I do need a head start on getting things done this year as I have a lot that I would like to do and potentially accomplish on the food front as well as on the crafting and sewing front.  I am also hoping to get into the garden a little at the weekend if the weather is reasonable as I need to do some tidying. 

I also need to get cracking with the dehydrator.  

So a lot to do as usual.  I think I am going to have to sort out the fireside cupboard and store some of my preserves in there out of the way. Right had better get a wriggle on. 

Time for bed said Zebedee!

Catch you soon.



Monday, 22 January 2018

Ginger Ale Syrup

On reading one of my new books i.e. the Fat Pig Farm book "Not Just Jam" by Matthew Evans he being one of the Gourmet Farmers and based in Tasmania.  He uses this cordial as a hot toddy during the winter months and as a refreshing cool drink in summer.  A Cordial that will be useful all year.  This one sounds as though it ticks all the boxes and being as I bought a lot of root ginger at the veggie shop on Saturday and I already have the  lemons and honey in the pantry I thought why not.   Apparently it makes about 400ml/14 fl oz of cordial.

  • 100g/ 3 1/2 oz fresh root ginger
  • 4 lemons scrubbed
  • 2-3 tablespoons of honey
  • 3-4 tablespoons of raw caster sugar


Wash and sterilize a 500ml/17 fl oz/2 cup bottle

Scrub the ginger well making sure that you get between any tight bits so that you can get rid of any dirt.  Snap it at the joins if need be.  Bruise the ginger with the back of a knife (which means squishing it) or cut it into slices.  Pop into a large saucepan with about 400ml/17 fl oz of water and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat and barely simmer for about 1 hour.

Juice the lemons reserving both the juice and the peel.  Add the peel to the pot topping up enough water to make sure it is covered and bring back to a simmer.  Cook like this ensuring that the water level stays above the lemons and weighing them down with a saucer or plate if need be for about 30 minutes.  It is possible you may need to top up with more hot water from the kettle.  Turn the heat off and let the ginger and lemon steep in the liquid - you can leave it for longer if time is short.  Strain the liquid into a clean saucepan.  Heat it slightly add the honey and the sugar and stir to dissolve.  Add the strained lemon juice and adjust the flavour with the sugar to taste.  (you may also need to add more honey).  It can depend on how floral your honey is.  When it tastes "gingery" and "lemony" and not over sweet then it is ready.

Transfer the syrup to the sterilised bottle and seal and keep in the fridge for up to one month.  I will hot water bathe the bottle(s) though in my baby steriliser using smaller bottles.

Apparently the syrup is a little concentrated and it  may need watering down  slightly to drink it.  In summer soda water or ordinary chilled water and in winter cold water added to the syrup and then heated up and you can add a tot of whisky to it to pep it up a bit.

This one is definitely on the cards here as well.

Cordials are not just for drinks you can use them on puddings and on ice cream as well.Might make this one night in the week.  Should not take too long especially if I use the baby steriliser for hot water bathing the cordial.  I prefer to do this as it makes the cordial last longer and means I do not have to keep it all in the fridge.  Only the bottle thst is opened.  One of the reasons I use smaller bottles I tend to use the hex sauce bottles as they are an ideal size for keeping cordials in without wasting any of the cordial.  This cordial would also nicely pep up a fresh fruit salad.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Lazy weekend

Well in all honesty I have not done very much this weekend apart from read.  I have eventually finished my book and I think OH has breathed a sigh of relief at me surfacing however it is not often I down tools and do nothing it is very much a rarity; In reality though I think it may have done me some good although its work again tomorrow.  Maybe I will be refreshed enough to tackle some long standing issues during the week.  Well I can but try.

I have finished the current story (Pillars of the Earth) and sam ad to say cheerio to the characters but a fantastic book and a very good plot.  I am looking forward to reading the second tome of the book shortly World Without End, although from what I understand this is not a continuation  but a sequel to the  Pillars of the Earth; set in the same town Kingsbridge but some 200 years later with some of these characters being descendants of those characters in the Pillars of the Earth but with plenty of new ones as well.  I would have loved if he had carried on from this one to fill the gap of the 200 years as his weaving of the characters has been extraordinary.

Reading was always my first love on the long list of hobbies that I do have but something I have got out of the habit of, of late.

Its been a horrible day here today wet and snow showers inbetween.  I think it is freezing out at the moment so I think it is likely to be a bit tricky on the roads in the morning.  I have not ventured out of the house all day but at least the house is warm which is the main thing.  Fortunately me putting up the bird feeders seems to be appreciated by the local wildlife, robins, sparrows, blackbirds have all been tucking in.

We have a piece of roast pork cooking and I am hoping we get some crackling so we shall be having some of that shortly.  Yum.  I have done all the usual veggies and there should be some left over for tomorrow nights tea which will save a little time when we get home which is always helpful.

In-between my reading and pottering about I have been noseying through my new preserving books and I think I will be making one or two of the recipes out of these two in due course.  Sometimes you look at a book and you think there is nothing in there for me but on closer inspection some of the recipes are fantastic and the more you read and look at them you start compiling a list of those things that you actually want to do in the coming weeks (well that's what I do anyway).  

These are the two new additions to my book shelves.

From what I have seen they are going to be very useful during the coming preserving seasons.  Both very different and the recipes are certainly NOT run of the mill.

Traditionally preserving took place when there were food gluts and it was a way of using up the glut and putting stuff up for the long lean winter months.  Seasonally and traditionally its best to do things this way but if you suddenly find yourself presented with stuff out of season and available quite cheaply then as far as I am concerned you do not look a gift horse in the mouth you take advantage of it. 

On the gardening front I am hoping to do a better job this year than I did last and unusually for me I have been looking at seeds, plants and what is available generally.  I already have some seeds safely stored in my folders and I'm the pro's of sorting out a planting scheme.  If I can get a clear day or two weatherwise I should be able to start with the garden and start to prepare it for the raised beds I intend to have in the style of a Potager.  I am now looking to source a decent propagator or a couple so that I can bring seeds on earlier.  I am also going to be lurking around the pound shops as well to see what if anything they have in that I can make use of.  If I can get enough fairer days I might get OH to sort the greenhouse out for me as well as in reality I am going to need this and it will mean a good few more trips to the tip but it will be worth it. A good few days in the garden with fair weather is just the start I need to get this sorted.  I want the garden to be as productive as I can.  But more on that later on.  I actually like being out in the fresh air when I can but if its too cold that's when the problems start.

Right better get ready for tomorrow.

Catch you soon.



A lazy day all round (Saturday)

Reaction to a very busy fortnight at work where I have been absolutely shattered and in bed for 9:00am a lot of the time. (hence the reason for me not popping up many posts this week).  I am not normally in bed before midnight so trying to slot everything in has been a bit of a nightmare to say the least.  This morning I just slept only to be woke up by the Postie hammering on the front door.

He had bought me two preserving books I had ordered.  Both I am pleased with.  Both are very different though and both have some lovely recipes - very different ones and ones I am going to have a go at.  Making preserves is a very individual thing each of us does things very differently.  That is not to say one method is better than another but rootling around the different books gives me a different perspective on things, different approaches and different methods.  I try and incorporate the ones that really work for me and that is what is about really finding your own way round trying to do things.

After I had had a good mosey round the newbies I then went back to reading my book and for the best time i have had my nose well and truly into that and I am really enjoying it.  Its not often that I down tools and do absolutely nothing although in all reality I should not have. 

I then decided that I better go to the veg shop as the were having the first delivery of the Seville Oranges today and I said that I would have them.  I have bought home 5kg and have another 5kg for next week.  Apparently the crop has not been good this year for the Sevilles and they are not sure whether they are going to be able to get much more after next week; but we shall see. In any event I might snaffle a couple of bags from Waitrose as well. I have also come back with pink grapefruit, another four bags of Clementines, root ginger, some lemons, Oranges (mostly citrus this week) - still plenty of veggies left from last week so there was no need to get any today which is no bad thing.

As well as home made marmalade I have plans to make Seville Orange Curd, Lemon Curd, Grapefruit Curd, Ginger Wine, Orange Wine and a couple of the wine kits.  The wine will probably get done next weekend but I am going to start with a batch of curd this evening.  Think it might be the pink grapefruit.

I now have two pieces of brisket to make the salt beef and so I anticipate making the brine for that  during the weekend and then we have to wait for a while for the meat to cure.  This type of preserving is all new territory for me and one which i intend to repeat with different recipes, different cuts things like Braesola, Italian Salami, pastrami etc.  Well that is the plan.

Right catch you later on.



Wednesday, 17 January 2018

More Magazine files

I went back to Poundland at dinner time to get some more of the magazine files.  I managed to find 3 more in the lime green colour but they had no more today.  They had orange and pink but I will check it out again in a few days.  The thing is I can always cover them in wadding and fabric if I cannot live with the colour or indeed a pretty wallpaper so my options are not limited but the price is so very right.  If I cannot get the lime green colour then I will get some of the orange and the pink and just cover them.  At the end of the day they are needed so that I can sort out my huge collection of craft, needlework, patchwork, crochet and cooking magazines oh and I nearly forgot the gardening magazines.

We have had some of the chicken that I cooked the other day.  I had left some in the fridge.  We had it simply with bread and butter.  OH has been seriously off his food the past couple of days and I was starting to get a little concerned.  However he has tucked into the chicken this evening.  I have had mine in a wrap with some salad and also a sprinkling of chilli sauce.  I may well have another in a moment or two.  I sometimes think we have too much choice on the food front compared to our forbears but I also think that you can only take so much fancy food.  I tend to go for simplicity to let the ingredients speak for themselves although we eat pretty well in the long run, but I think that is very much down to sensible choices and a little pre-planning.  I think we will be having some steak, salad and a potato dish like Rosti and maybe a few fried onions and mushrooms for tomorrow night's tea.  The mushrooms make a nice hot dressing when cooked in butter for the salad leaves and then the mushrooms and the butter (I always cook them in butter and a little olive oil so they do not burn) and then dribble it over the leaves.

I have been indulging in a little dreaming this evening.  I spotted some kitchen units - freestanding on Ebay - expensive when you don't have the pennies but something to bear in mind for the future - they sell the sort of solid  honest and traditional pine furniture that I like with options of painted finishes but with lovely wooden tops. Dreaming does not cost you anything, but it does give you ideas.  As I have said before I plan on doing a little cosmic ordering this year for the forever home and  now I have an idea of the type of freestanding kitchen or something similar is on the wish list as well as a big Belfast style sink.  You have to dream  - it does not cost you anything, your dreams are your dreams and it helps stretch you that little bit further and gives you something to aim for.  Keeps you going if you like during difficult times.

In the process  of mooching around on the Internet I have come across details of a place to visit - a Garden Centre near Boston.  Might be worth a trip out and it has a big food hall.  Something to do when we are at a bit of a loose end. 

I have also ordered some more fabric to make curtains for the kitchen.  I bought a load of fabric a little while ago but in the end did not have quite the quantity I needed.  I have ordered more than I needed from the place I have ordered it from and I think it will be a pretty good match for the fabric I already have and I am hoping to get quite a bit of stuff made i.e. equipment covers, etc. and sink curtain, microwave recess curtain and where the old fridge used to be under the unit I am considering asking OH to put a shelf in and then put in two wooden crates in which to store things and then putting up a curtain on the outside to hide it. I am going for a cottagey feel.

I still need to source some kitchen doors for the sink though and see if I can match them up with the kitchen unit doors I already have via Ebay or something similar.  Does not have to be brand new. In fact the units I bought are not available new anymore from the company I purchased them from.

Right I am off to do some more reading of my book; I really am enjoying it.   The DVD has also arrived so I will do a comparison however my feeling is so far that the dramatization very much followed the book.  We shall see though as I go on with it.

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)