Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Saturday, Sunday and Monday

Saturday - we did not get up too early especially after the white knuckle drive we had down.  I needed to do some shopping though and we also needed more petrol for the car.  With this in mind we headed to Dulverton.

There was apparently a Farmer's market that is held on the fourth Saturday of every month and keen to get food in for the next few days we headed there to see what we could find.  We came in at the tail end of the market and found a meat stall, where we ended up buying a half leg of Lamb, a Beef Roast, and some Mince,  We then headed to the Local Co-Op where I stocked up on veggies and various other bits and bobs.  Whenever we go away I do try and buy through local suppliers where I can.

We had assumed that we would be able to find a petrol station at Dulverton, unfortunately the one we did locate was closed and so we headed for Tiverton which was some 11 miles up the road.  We located the Morrison's garage with the Morrison's store over the road so may well go back there to do another stock up in a few days.  Needless to say a sigh of relief at locating the petrol station.

After getting back from our jaunt, we relaxed and just chilled out before cooking supper, which was steak and onion sarnies.  Something we both like and which was quick and simple.  We then went for a look around the site and took Missy for a lovely walk.  The weather on Saturday was fine, but a little chilly with the sun coming out in the afternoon which was lovely and warm.

We are staying at the  Exe Valley Caravan and Camping Site which is at Bridgend, Dulverton.  It is a pretty little site, with the river running along one side and then the mill stream running behind our caravan.  There is an old Mill on the site as well which is where the owners reside.  Apparently it is opened up on a Sunday morning for visitors to see the workings in action. 

The site is owned by some lovely people, very friendly and there is also a very well stocked shop on site as well. The only drawback is that the camp site is below the main road.  However, you do not hear noise all the time just at peak travelling times.

Saturday night turned chilly and we ended up having to put the heating on in the van which really helped.  I am glad that I came with a mixture of seasonal clothing including my jumpers. Cannot do without my jumpers.

One of the things I have noticed here is that you can see the stars ever so clearly here - no light pollution and indeed we have had some lovely views of the moon as well.


Sunday started off as a far colder day to start with, with a little rain before that cleared up.   We had not planned on doing anything in particular and ended up having another chilled out day.  We had a lay in and then the pair of us spent time listening to some music, reading and then watching the TV.  We believe that a holiday is as much about relaxing as well as going to see new places both have their place. I also did a little crafting; I found the canvas to go with the wool that I had bought on our first trip away and so I have started working that.  I need to do this in the daylight though as some of the wool colours are extremely similar, despite for the best part being sorted out.  It will work itself out as I go along.

In the early afternoon I started prepping our Sunday dinner.  We had decided to have the roast Lamb, and I prepared roast potatoes and roast parsnips, as well as cabbage, peas, broccoli and carrots with lots of gravy.  It went down a treat and was followed by fresh Strawberries and cream for pudding which was very refreshing.

It started getting really cold and we ended up putting on the heating a lot earlier than we had on the Saturday.  It is a good job we did as it turned out there was a sharp frost waiting for us on Monday morning 


As I have said started with a very sharp frost and with a thick mist in the valley where the camp site is located.  The mist cleared a little later on but it has been a very wet day on and off.  It has not been as cold as it was yesterday either.

Another chillax day with me concentrating on some projects that I have in hand on the computer some of which are Christmas orientated. I bought a stash of reading material with me as well as doing some research on the computer.

For our main meal today we used the last of the roast Lamb turning it into Posh Shepherd's pie with a deep cheese crust on the top. It went down very nicely and used leftovers from yesterday's meal so it did not cost us a penny.  Just a little time and effort which is the kind of meal I like best as it uses up everything and does not waste anything. We had the last of the Strawberries and cream again.

Tomorrow we are hoping to go on a jaunt to Clovelly.  It is a long time since we have been there and both of us fancied paying another trip so that is the plan for tomorrow.  Whether we call anywhere else along the way remains to be seen, but it will be good to get out and about just a little bit.

I will have to add in the photos I have taken when I get home as although they are on Google they are not showing as available to download via Google on Blogger.

Note - photos now added.

Catch you all soon.



Monday, 28 September 2020

Leaving for Holiday

 We left on Friday for the border of Somerset/Devon for our next holiday.  After depositing the cats at the Cattery we then went home and bought all the things we needed with us managing to leave out by 11am.  We were slightly worried as the weather was rough and extremely windy and this would only be our third trip out this one being the longest trip and also away for a longer period than we have been thus far. However, once we got going and we took our time the winds calmed down a lot.

OH had decided to use the Sat Nav which is installed in the car to arrive at our holiday destination.  I am not sure that was a wise idea.  When we have come down to the West Country in the past we have always gone via Northampton, Oxford, Birmingham, Swindon, Bristol, Taunton, Barnstaple and then travelled along the Atlantic Highway.  Admittedly this is when we go down to Cornwall and so I thought that we may well have ended up coming the same way.  How wrong could I be - completely wrong we were taken a completely different way.

Sat Nav took us via the backroads past Stamford, past Uppingham, down Wardley Hill.  Then on to Leicester on through to Warwick, past Stratford, Gloucestershire.  Then on through Avon to Bristol before hitting a familiar road at Thornbury Docks just outside of Bristol.  We were aware of this stretch of road, but even so things have changed so much in the last ten years since we came this way.  Especially in Somerset as we always used to pass the Reed Man on the side of the road in open fields.  Those open fields are now very much built on although the latest reincarnation of the Reed or Willow man is there.  It is one of those landmarks we always used to look for.  

Things went wrong just outside of Taunton.  This is where the Sat Nav decided to throw a very serious wobbly. From here on in we were not familiar with the area.  Sat Nav took us down a small road and then started taking us uphill and through the Quantock Hills.  Beautiful scenery but only pony and trap roads with very tight turns and certainly no room for manouvring.  Would be a lovely place to live peace and quiet but not conducive to a large double-axled caravan being towed behind an estate car.  This is when things then became something of a white knuckle ride with steep roads, not being able to see because corners were extremely tight and hardly any turning spots, not that we would be able to turn. There was traffic coming the other way as well and very fortunately for us they backed up and we were able to continue forward. With the assistance of a local lady we were able to get back onto a proper road but our faith in the Sat Nav had seriously diminished as even when we were back on a proper road she was still giving directions to go down little tiny cart tracks.  We then got more lost just outside of Watchet and had to contact our caravan site host to see if she could put us in the right direction.  Fortunately her father was able to give us the most direct route which involved us going through the Medieval Village of Dunster underneath Dunster Castle.  We were informed that things would be a bit tight but doable.  What a lovely place Dunster is - stunning.  Did not know that places like that existed in this country and I am very much looking forward to going back and having a good look around.  Indeed, I have never been to Exmoor before and had not realised just how beautiful the area is generally.

From then on things were more straightforward and we were able to locate our site and arrived just after 6pm.  OH was a little cream-crackered by then, but we got the caravan sorted then something to eat.  We had not stopped for drinks or something to eat although I had drinks and food in the car with us.

On inspection the car had sustained a little damage on the rear wheel and one of the rim panels has been damaged, we think as a result of the tight corners (fortunately the caravan has not been damaged at all).

After eating, and walking Missy, it was then very much a chill and relax time watching some TV and then not being long before we fell into bed as we were completely cream-crackered and tomorrow is another day as they say.

Catch you soon.



Friday, 25 September 2020

I bought Cooking Apples

 Newton Wonder if you please.  Lovely large cooking apples with a rosy hue and lovely flavour.  Never seen them before well here is a piccie

They are an alternative to good old reliable Bramley and I for one think that they give the good old Bramley a run for its money.  It is a tree I would plant if I had a bit of land to do so. I am lucky enough to be able to buy these from the veg shop who buy them direct from a local farmer.  I had plans to turn them into either bottled apple slices or apple sauce but I ran out of time before coming away on holiday.  So what does one do when faced with a possible waste scenario?  I know for a fact that when I go back after my break, the apples will have been done and dusted.  So I bought about 5kgs and I have bought them away on holiday with me, including the Kilner x 12 jars not sure if I have too many jars or too little.  I have my new Ninja foodie so I will be able to hot water bath them in that and then supplement my Pantry shelf when I get home.  If I find anything else local worth the time I might take advantage of that as well.  OH and I do tend to combine our hobbies with our holidays and as often he goes off fishing and leaves me to my own ends I thought that this might be a good time to get stuck in and "seize the moment" as it were.  I did get questioned though when he found the apples in the car boot!  Does not pay to tell them everything.

Right am absolutely shattered will play catch up proper tomorrow if |I can.

Catch you soon.



Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Cleaning my boots

Yesterday I set to and cleaned a couple of pair of ankle boots that I had.  They are both a suedette effect only cheap and cheerful boots but I like to get my money's worth out of whatever I buy and so if I can keep them going that bit longer I will do.  Besides I just get the boots worn in, comfortable to wear and then it is usually time to sling them. 

I had bought from the £ shop a few months a go a cheapie carpet foam for spot cleaning carpets.  I had cleaned these boots before with some Ariel liquid washing soap and they had come up not too bad, but the nap did not seem as plush as it used to by the time I had finished.  Under normal circumstances this is how I tend to clean grimed up boots or shoes (synthetics only of course) by rubbing the washing liquid into grimed up fabric.  If it is particularly dense then I use some washing up liquid (Fairy) on the stain particularly if I suspect it is oil or grease based and that usually shifts things.  However, I could not find the carpet foam and so ended up going to the shop and purchasing some more foam carpet cleaner.  It was a bit pricy, but it will prove useful in the caravan for spot cleaning as well so I will get a lot of use out of it.

When I got home, I brushed down my boots with a special little brush that I normally use for my Uggs which brings the nap up on the boot a little.  I then coated each boot with plenty of the foam and rubbed it in using a non abrasive pot scourer and left them to dry.  They seem to have come up well and all signs of dirt seem to have gone which I am pleased with.  Now just to do the brushing with the little brush to bring the nap up and that is boots all ready for being used again.  Must say that the scent of the foam is really nice.

However, I would not use this on any kind of proper suede or leather footwear.

In the past I have used the washing machine to wash trainers, but I think that this way is going to be as good as any from now on in.  I do not suppose for one moment that you are supposed to use it this way, but it seems to work.  However, just a word of warning, follow the instructions of the product you buy and if not test spot the product first.

Catch you soo0n.



Monday, 21 September 2020

Wonderful Afternoon Walk

 OH took me out for breakfast to our local Cafe where he had a full English and I had my usual sausage bun with copious amounts of tea.  It made a lovely change.

He then took me to Willowbrook Farm Butchery which is just up the road from where we live just outside of Helpston.  Missy was left in the car and she did not like it.  Would not stop barking so in the end OH came out of the Butchers and I went in and he babysat the dog

We had initially gone there for some Gammon steaks for tea to be served with pineapple. However I also came away with three Barnsley steaks, some pigs liver and a couple of jars of chutney.  One is a regular buy Onion Relish which I use in home made sausage rolls as well as with a cheese board.  The other is referred to as "cheeseboard chutney".  So will give it a whirl and if we like it I might look for a similar recipe.

From there it was walkies time for Missy.  We went down to Castor Backwater, but this time followed the river path.  We had not been down this walk before and it was a proper old fashioned hedgerow with lots to offer.  Might go back and avail myself of some of the offerings, but if not it will be a new foraging route to go to.  It has been a balmy hot and sunny afternoon.  We peered into the river on the way back and there are lots and lots of little fish there.  We took Missy to get a drink down by the side of the river and she ended up going in for a paddle.  

On the way back we saw some wildling trees heavilly laden with apples suh a glorious display.  I am hoping OH will take me back so that I can have a forage.

Today Missy has walked the furthest she has for ages.  I think maybe it was a little too much.  She has now collapsed  on thje bed, snug and warm fast asleep.  It was good to see her enjoying herself however I think the expectation was that we were supposed to go in the water with her! Honestlyshe is worse than a child at times.  Everyday we have play time with either a squeaky ball or bone.  OH is not the chosen playmate I am every time.  Possibly because I have a rough house with her, tease her and really play with her.  Sometimes I am not up to it though and she growls and moans at you and chucks her bone at you - she does not take no for an answer.  Wonderful little dog always makes you smile.

Well for the last day of Summer, it has been a wonderful day weatherwise and a lovely wander.  It is so peaceful down by the river. I did not really want to come back but needs must and all that.

We had the gammon and pineapple for tea and it was lovely.  Since then I have done a bit of cleaning and in particular two pairs of boots that were getting a bit grubby round the edges with carpet cleaner. Fingers crossed it will work as both pairs of ankle boots are needed for our holiday.  They are outside drying as even though it it dark it is still very mild here.

I still think we are in for a bit of a hard winter.  There are no end of berries in the bushes as well as being tons of berries on the holly tree in the front garden.  Only one set have turned red at the moment but the others are fast behind

I am turfing stuff out at home again and trying to find stuff.  Think it might be a late night.

Catch you soon.



Friday, 18 September 2020

Plans for today

OH is going fishing and I am going to do a little bit of playing.

I have some Victoria plums and I am going to make some plum vodka (I have a bottle of vodka on the shelf as you do) just waiting.  

I also need to check the Strawberry wine to see how that is doing and the plan is to start some Strawberry Champagne.

The vinegars also need checking, i.e. the Blackcurrant, Raspberry and Blackberry vinegars as well as the Tarragon vinegar.  Nearly at the point where they can be finished off and bottled and put up on the shelf.

I also have plans to get some beetroot to pickle as well as some more Blackberries as I have found a Blackberry Pickle recipe that sounds really good to serve with a home made Ploughman's salad or indeed a Goat's Cheese salad.

I want to see what apples they have at the veg shop as I would like to get some apple sauce bottled.  I will see what apples they have available. I usually use a mixture of a cooker and an eater as the cooking apple softens and the eating apple remains more solid so it gives a lovely texture to the preserve.  You can of course use in pastries, home made gateau, as a sauce, with Rice pudding and as a pudding in its own right  with the apple sauce being warmed through and then served with home made cinnamon or vanilla ice cream as well as apple pie and also as sauce with Roast Pork. They often have apples reduced at silly prices i.e. £1 a bowl with approximately 1kg of fruit or veg in each so well worth the buying. It is at this time of the year that I miss the apple picking at my Nan's and bringing the apples home and preserving them.  So going to the veg shop is at the moment my next best option.

I will have to see what they have before making a final decision about what I buy and what I actually make, as is so often the case with "the best laid plans of mice and men" things do tend to go awry!  However, I am also looking for some cucumbers for cucumber pickle.  It is too early yet for pickled cabbage.  I tend to do that in November so that the pickled cabbage remains nice and crisp for Christmas.  It really brightens a plate up if you sprinkle over the top of mixed lettuce leaves with the bright purple-red colour being very seasonal.  Alternatively, I buy when I can yellow Oyster mushrooms and then cook them in a little butter.  The mushrooms and the butter they are cooked in (until golden brown) are then used as a hot dressing over the top of lettuce.  That is an absolute favourite here.

I also have plans to go to B & M to see what they have for a further little top up on the tinned can front.  I need baked beans and tomatoes as I do not have any left of each.  The faithful trolley will be following me there as I can no longer comfortably carry any shopping and at least this way I get to do my shopping.

I shall also check out Waitrose as well to see if they have anything I can squirrel away as well.

Tonight I am doing some more work in the pantry and that will take me a little while to sort out.  I am having another attempt at it before I paint it out and finish it off with all the pretty bits.  I have been working away on it in the background.  Sometimes things take the time they take for a reason.  There will be more bits to go in yet.  I shall squeeze them in tight.

Hope you have a very good day wherever you may be and whatever you are up to.

Catch you soon.



Thursday, 17 September 2020

Today has been interesting

 and not at all planned.  For starters OH decided that we would go to see the Fish Man at Ramsey this morning (instead of Saturday morning).  He had planned to go fishing, but in the end the call of the warm bed won hands down.  We then went to the Fish man and ended up bringing home a selection of shell fish including crab.  No fillets of fish today.  We ended up with Crayfish, Crevettes, Cockles and Pink Shrimp.  It has gone down very nicely as well.

On the way back we walked Missy and gave her a run somewhere different for a change.  As it was mid-day  by the time we got home we then set to and had our crab.

I was then pottering in the kitchen for a little while before going off to the shop to get some bits and bobs that were needed for the pantry shelf.  I also nipped to the Charity Shop and ended coming home with another Rumtopf for £2.50 and a small flower jug for £4.00.  I am chuffed with them.  I had only nipped in on spec not expecting to find anything.  The Rumtopf will be a very useful preserving tool in its own right in storing Rumtopf (a mixture of seasonal fruits soaked in sugar and Rum) sometimes Brandy and then served at Christmas in little bowls with some of the liquor and then some home made Cinnamon or Vanilla ice cream. You do not need much this is lovely and for adults only.  You can also strain the liquid off and drink it as a liqueur.  I use an old recipe for making mincemeat which ferments the fresh and dried fruits and these Rumtopf jars are ideal for preserving this in.  I use muslin on the top of the crock with the lid placed on top.  I do not use cling film on it.  It does have a lid but the photo I took has not come out.

However I love the little jug.  It is not in perfect nick and is showing its age somewhat but I just love the colours.  Will look nice on the Dresser.

We then walked Missy down the river on her normal walk before returning home.

Tea has been the rest of the shellfish.

OH then decided that he is going to fish tomorrow so I had to nip to the shop for some bread and bits for him to take sarnies with him and also take something to drink. We were getting low on toilet rolls so I bought another packet of them home as well.

We are away again soon and I have therefore had to do repeat prescriptions for both of us as we will run out of meds whilst we are away.  So that is another thing off the check list early enough in case there are any issues to be resolved with the surgery.

I am also finding equipment I knew I had but could not place exactly where I had put them.  I have found my electric urn/water bath canner and steam juice extractor so that is definitely being put to good use.  This is not a pressure canner but any kind of water bathing/bottling can be completed in this.  I am after making some apple sauce for which I will need to pay a visit to the Veg shop.  You can also bulk hot water sterilise your jars in it as well.  It does have a timer and temperature control on it. It is commonly referred to as a Pasteuriser.  Mine came from Germany via Ebay and it is very effective.

It is very similar to this from Vigo Presses.  The Link is here:

Vigo Presses Pasteuriser

They also have an offer on at the moment for the above piece of equipment together with the steam juice extractor to fit this pasteuriser.

The details are here:

Vigo Presses Pasteuriser and Steam Juice Extractor

Alternatively, you can always check out Ebay as they normally have something like this available.  The only thing I would say is that if obtaining like me from Germany is that most of the instructions such as they are tend to be in German.  There is on the Vigo Presses site under the first link information as to how to use these machines.  The beauty for me is that i can prepare my food for processing, stack it, switch it on and leave it on the timer to process. It will switch itself off and I can if I choose leave things to cool down until all items are cool.  If I am batch processing though I will empty it and then start the machine off again with fresh water etc.  This piece of equipment certainly saves me time in water bath processing.

I also bought some reduced items six pots of double cream reduced from £1.40 a pot to £0.35 per pot and some shortcrust pastry at £0.50 per pack when I nipped to the shop.  Some home made herb butter is on the cards.  As I have the butter churner standing on the shelf looking pretty am setting it to do some work so it earns its living.  Mine is the Kilner Butter Churner.

Tomorrow is another busy day.

Catch you soon.



Wednesday, 16 September 2020

A very Small Harvest

 .... however a harvest none the less.

I tidied my grape vine up earlier this year (I should have done it earlier on) and have trained it into a better shape.  As I was late in achieving this I was not really expecting any grapes let alone I did no know the colour of them.  

I have been outside this evening tying a piece of the vine that has gone bonkers despite having its tendrils trained it has gone freelance and I have found hidden inbetween the leaves two tiny bunches of grapes.  What's more the grapes are a lovely purpley colour and the grapes although tiddly are extremely sweet.  I have no idea as to variety but the grapes are gorgeous, So homework is to find out now what to do with the vine so that I get grapes next year.

It would be nice to add a regular supply of grapes to the cheeseboard or even turn into preserves.  First things first homework is needed.

Catch you soon.



Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Christmas is it too Early for you

I am a Christmas Nut and I readily admit it, as are most the rest of my family.

However, I for one hate the over-commercialism of Christmas and as one reader put it to me when is it too soon for Christmas.  

Traditionally when we were growing up you started your Christmas shopping about six to eight weeks before Christmas (on the food front always earlier in our family).

I recently referred to buying the Christmas magazines for recipe ideas and craft ideas as well as Christmas decorating ideas. They are so different from one year to another. I keep the magazines and use them for different things each year and so that I can  mix things up a bit. One of the underlying reasons for this is that I am a lot slower than I used to be in doing things and like to give myself as much time as I can to get things made and done. 

If however these days we were to wait until November to do our shopping,  in our shops most of the nicer things have gone by then and you end up with a limited choice, especially if your financial resources are limited and you can only go shopping for one particular time.  For lots of people that is a couple of days before Christmas depending on how Christmas Day falls. 

I make a lot of things for Christmas if at all possible, I make things which seem to go down well with family and friends.  However, having been in a position where there is little money about and this was mostly when the children were at home we started panning things out over months rather than weeks and having to dip into and rely on credit.  We ditched the credit cards so that we did not end up paying through the nose and all year for Christmas. We don't do that now but we are aware that there are lots of families who rely on this to provide any sort of Christmas for their family and we are not knocking that.  We each have our choices to make in life.  Children's expectations of what they want for Christmas have also changed.  We were happy with whatever was provided and grateful for whatever we received. However, I do feel that expectations should be managed and that common sense should prevail.  If the money is not there, there is not much you can really do about it.  When we were younger, we were always asked what we would like for Christmas to get a general feel of what we were interested in. However if something was beyond my parents' purse Dad would just gently turn us around and say "one day".  It neither disappointed nor made us give  up hope that one day we might be able to have something. However neither were we disappinted with what we received.

I do not go for many massive shops on things either - there was a time that  I did but not anymore. Gone are the days when I used to hit Sainsburys and Tescos a couple of days before Christmas.  Now things are done gradually a little at a time. I cherry pick the items and ingredients that I would like and do not do a big shop in any one store. I do not rely on the supermarkets preferring where I can to use the smaller independent trader such as the Veg shop over the road and freezing fresh veg myself. 

I certainly do not subscribe to the premium you have to pay in the shops for items that you want just before Christmas as I have found that many of the shops up the prices especially in the last two week run up to Christmas.  I tend to buy things ahead of when I know I will need them as well usually ingredients or supplies to do something with.  This is my way round of dealing with over-commercialism at Christmas. Christmas for me is about the family and a lot of the joy is in the planning, plotting, making and doing (and celebrating and eating good food with them),  spending time with them and being interested in them which mean so much more to me at the end of the day. I make things or cook things as presents as it is giving a part of me with time and effort into the present. I am perhaps odd in that I enjoy doing this. We also like to create memories. Our family are pretty strong on memories. Having an extended family and four grandchildren makes life interesting in any event. 

I have always from the end of August beginning of September, on the food front at least started collecting a few items per week for the Christmas store, things with long stop dates on. I also make things like pastry cases, freeze fresh veggies already prepared for the Christmas dinner.  Half the preparation is then done and the Chef gets time to socialise as well.  Being organised and sorting out the majority of the food in the three month run up for Christmas also helps the family budget and means that not all the money is going out in one fair swoop and then shocks the bank account.  This is the way my family have dealt with things for many years, but each family does their own thing.  This is my choice; I appreciate it may not be to everyone's liking but dealing with things in this way means that if there are any unexpected events or illness within the family that even if the Chef is not there, the rest of the family are going to eat a decent meal.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed, and so I tend to do things when I have the energy and where-with-all to do so.  The Turkey is perhaps our biggest extravagance and that will be ordered from the Butcher at the end of October/Beginning of November.  The Turkey is our one picadillo.

I already have Strawberries, Peaches, Asparagus, Blackberries, Plums, eggs. herb butters, ice cubes, bread sauce etc. in the freezer as well and I prepare a lot of preserves and bottle fruit, and make curds, chutneys and pickles amongst other things. I try and give myself a wide choice of ingredients in which to choose from for Christmas and anything that is left over after Christmas cooking is used in the months following taking us through to Spring and the new harvests. So there is no waste, just lots of planning. In the run up to Christmas there is a lot to do on the cooking front, and if I have the majority of my ingredients in-house by the beginning of December, anything I run out of will just be able to go and get quickly without having to wait in horrendous queues.  It also allows me time to decorate the Christmas cakes and make a few last minute cooked goodies as well. Because of the choice of food I have to hand, after Christmas the only things we have to buy are usually fresh veggies, perhaps some cream and some cheese.  Otherwise we survive out of the Pantry, freezers and whatever is in the fridge.  I try not to waste anything.

Last year, despite many years of practice in the run up to Christmas I got things seriously wrong as I decided to empty out the freezers and the pantry at the same time and was not able to afford to fill it up, so things were a lot tighter than usual I was restricted with what I could and could not do. We still had a very good Christmas; the pair of us agreed not to buy each other a present and that our present to each other would be some nice food. Needless to say the lesson I learned was to make sure never to empty the pantry and the freezer at the same time and to do things as and when I could rather than waiting.  

A lot of food when buying in I check the long-stop dates on them.  Even now a lot of the tinned food and other items I have picked up are going through to September next year.  As long as you check the long-stop dates there should be no problem at all.

I do think the shops over egg the festival/celebrations especially when Easter eggs last year were on sale after Boxing Day.  However we have a choice whether we subscribe to that or not.  A lot of the time I tend to do my own thing and go "off piste"!  Doing things in my own inimitable way.  There are preserves and things to do in the colder months of January, February and March as well.

We are all different and I share what I do in the hope it will help others and give them an alternative way around things.  I am not perfect though and do get things wrong, but at the end of the day you make the best of what resources and funds you have and the things that go wrong rather than what you do not have. At the end of the day I consider that I am indeed blessed and very lucky. 

I wonder round the food stores before Christmas and see lots of lovely gateau, cakes, puddings etc. which are priced far too highly £12 to £16 was the going price last year for M & S. A lot of the time a "gateau" consists of a sponge base interleaved with fruit and cream and can be easily made at  home.  I would rather put my money into the fancy baking  moulds or cake tins and have a go myself.  At least then I can make  more than one and for a few years at that.  It is just the way I am built and the way I have been brought up. Looking at all the lovely decorated cakes and fancies also gives me ideas on how to decorate things.

Our family fell into the comfortable group but not comfortable enough to have brand new clothes (clothes were passed on between family relatives - the norm with a lot of families back then) and if we wanted something new it would either be knitted by my mum or Nan or they would sew clothes for us. My grandparents' had a large smallholding and grew most of the veggies and there were always plenty of apples, pears and plums and they kept pigs and chickens and they provided not only for themselves but the rest of the family as well.

I love Christmas as so many others of you do.  I also believe that making Christmas special and magical for children helps their imaginations and a little bit of fairy telling to a child often grabs their attention. My brother and I still remember the stories our Dad used to make up for us.

I do think that the shops over-exploit Christmas in many ways - well a lot of the larger ones. Remember where the shops are concerned there is no sentiment just finance - they are not interested that you have "mortgaged yourself to the hilt" so that little Johnny can have his new bike. They are just after the sale.  Saying that, not everything is black and white - there are grey areas too.  The shops do provide employment something that I believe will be badly affected with this Covid 19 Pandemic.  Even more reason to put away what you can a little and often whenever possible.  It can make all the difference.

I write about what I am doing, in case it interests you, or gives a spark of inspiration to try something a little different to actually have a go at something.  It will not be perfect the first time round, but the more you practice it the better you will get and hopefully you will enjoy the experience cooking and crafting is all about feeling your way.  I had some very bad experiences with a Needlework Teacher at school.  I was slow and did not keep up with the rest of the class, but my work was always neat and accurate.  Because I was not keeping up with the rest of the class, the Teacher often used to take my work home to catch me up; so there were bits I missed out on. She made me feel so inadequate that I gave up crafting, and it was only thanks to a friend that I actually started crafting again.  She always maintained that it was having a go that was important and that if I made a mistake then I had made a mistake.  The next time round though I would not make it.  I have found this piece of advice to be completely accurate. 

Remember your "normal" may well be someone else's Utopia or their dream.  Being prepared takes a little getting used to but in time becomes second nature, saves lots of pennies and provides lots of food - food that you cannot necessarily buy in the shops.

Do you feel like me that Christmas is over commercialised and if so, is there anything different that you do to make lives easier for yourself and your family.  Would love to hear from you and about the reasons why you do something the way you do and the ways that you do it.

Look forward to hearing from you all.

Catch you soon.



Friday, 11 September 2020

Stocking up the Food Store - Ever So Gradually

Slowly, very slowly I am starting to work on the Food Store taking advantage of seasonal goodies like Blackberries and Plums and trying to add slightly different things to expand my repertoire and good eating.

Earlier on, about a month after the pandemic  started we went to our favourite Butchers and ended up buying some choice bits and bobs.  There is still more buying to be done.  What I tend to do when stocking the freezer is buy a fair bit but we don't eat it all.  We do not eat meat everyday so I meter it out a bit at a time to get the maximum out of it we then shop again and do this several times until everything is well stocked.

I am doing the same with fish.  We have a couple of meals left a piece of smoked haddock for me, Turbot for OH, a couple of Lemon Sole and a couple of Dover Sole.  Need to top that up a little more yet. I do not like bought  already frozen fish. Perhaps the exceptions are Cod fish fingers, prawns and Scampi. The bought in stuff tends to dry out and can alter the taste.  I prefer to buy fresh and then freeze it myself where I can.

We love our vegetables here and always have a variety to choose from.  I normally buy them fresh, but equally if I am not going to get to them, I don't waste them and prepare them for the freezer.  It also helps when you are in a hurry to eat but do not want to spend time in preparation as you can just grab something out of the freezer, cook it and then do what you want to do.  It adds to your quality of life.  You have to expend a little time and effort in the bulk preparation, but it does pay dividends at the end of the day.  You only get something out of something if you have put the effort in. 

It is also good to take notice of reductions.  If you are in the right place at the right time you can make even more of a saving to your purse and turn Strawberries say into a useful resource for when you have a bit more time.  As they stand I can use them in milkshakes and turn them into ice cream or eat defrosted with meringue and cream even fruit fools.  They have lots of flavour too.

I have also been buying in dried ingredients.  One of the challenges at the moment is that many shops do not have their normal range of products, specifically with regard to tinned stuff, jams and marmalades, cereals etc.  There are also restrictions on tinned goods of two tins per item so that everyone gets a chance to put stuff up.  If I come across any item I have not been able to get hold of I have bought a couple popped them up on the shelf and then not used them, so that I am gradually building things up.  I am finding that each shop is very different as to what they have and do not have. The best choice and prices so far have been B & M.

I also take advantage where I can of reductions or offers on certain foods but I have to be convinced it is a genuine offer and that I am getting my money's worth.  For the past couple of weeks the local Co-Op to me has had an offer on with the cooking sauces of two jars for £2.50 instead of between £1.75 to £2.00 a jar.  They may not be the cheapest, but there is still a saving there and the bonus for me is that they are near my home which means I do not have to lug them far. There is quite a long long-stop date of September next year on a lot of the jars.  I then recycle the jars for jams, curds etc.  The replacement jam lids at Lakeland do fit the Sharman sauce jars, Dolmio, and standard bought jam jars.  Saves having to buy in jars that you already have at your disposal as it were.  Better to recycle where you can just with the addition of a new lid.  For jams, curds, pickles I will happily use jam jars but for bottling and canning you need the sturdier Kilner/Mason.Ball /Weck/Le Parfait type jars whether that be with a rubber seal or with a metal lid.

For the bought can store I tend to buy in those items that I like or the basis of sauces that I can make (especially if I have not managed to put a lot of canned items up.  So far have done very little tomatoes but I have put up quite a bit of fruit. I have done quite a bit of preserving and have quite a bit more planned but not as much as I had planned or hoped for.  Never mind, sometimes that's how the cookie crumbles!

OH is talking about fishing again one day next week. I may go on a forage for crafty bits like fir cones, larch cones and teasel heads when he goes to stock up my crafty bits, and to see what else I can locate.  I am also after some clay for moulding some Christmassy bits and bobs but I may well have to go into town sometime next week to see if I can locate that.

I am also still taking advantage of any reductions that I come across when I go shopping to pop them up for the cold winter months.  Generally speaking we eat a lot of soup, stews, casseroles. proper traditional English meals during the winter months.  However, we have one good cooked meal a day usually of an evening, (served with veggies) and then sometimes pudding.  Mid-day we tend to have soup either bought in or home made followed by some either hot or cold sandwiches.  Breakfast during the winter months is often porridge served with some  mixed fruit or Golden Syrup;  and often a pot of homemade yogurt for me however this does vary. I therefore try and balance the meals out a bit and there is nearly always some fresh fruit to eat inbetween meals if required (often the fruit is cooked up into puddings so as not to waste it if it is not eaten fresh).  We do not do too badly at the end of the day and I try and make the most of what does come our way.  That is all you can do at the end of the day and at least this way round I have the comfort of knowing I have some meals in hand (and for that I count myself very lucky).  There but for the grace of God go I! I also try and pop a few things into the charity basket where I can as well.

Things are going to be a little tougher I think for a while to come.

Catch you soon.



Another Christmas Magazine Number Two

I spotted another Christmas Magazine last evening entitled "Simply Christmas".  It is not an overly thick magazine but it does have a delightful miniature Gingerbread Cottage Cookie Cutter kit on the front of it.  Something to keep the children occupied or indeed to make an individual Gingerbread Cottage at Christmas for relatives or friends.  It is very low key in relation to what is going on at the moment and has nice touches in that it is suggesting we look for greenery to decorate our homes with wherever possible and use nature's natural elegance to complement those decorations that we do have.  There are also suggestions for having a "Crafternoon" for relatives and friends to help raise funds for Mind.  It is a good idea in principle.  However, in light of no more than six people being in a home at one time I am not sure how this is going to pan out.  

For those who wish to obtain more information about this fundraiser further information can be obtained from

There are of course the usual articles of suitable Christmas presents, and where to find them.  I do not know about you, but these articles only fuel me even more with ideas of what and when and who I am going to make things for.  Sometimes it is the things we possibly do not envisage ever buying which gives you inspiration for making something.

There are some good articles for Christmas food which in turn lead to new books which are to be published shortly.  Some of these are classics and some of these add a new twist to a well known recipe.  Take the "Stuffed Porchetta" recipe from James Martin in his new book Islands to Highlands. Published by Hardie Grant cost £20. His version incorporates Blue Vinney.  Looks and sounds a very interesting recipe.  

There is also then the Christmas cured fish using pine tree needles as part of the cure.  A recipe from Julia Georgallis from a soon to be published book called How to Eat your Christmas Tree.  Published from 29 October by Hardie Grant cost £12.  There are lots of other lovely recipes as well including a recipe for Rosemary Ice Cream.  Now that I might have to make.  I have just purchased a couple of more Rosemary Bushes for the Garden and might add a few more yet as I love fresh Rosemary and you can always use it to decorate the Christmas table with, i.e. little individual napkin rings or sprigs on small garlands, large garlands and wreaths as well as used for decorating food.

There are also a few Christmas Crafting projects including a felt wreath as an individual setting for the table.

We will celebrate Christmas here, we always do whether that be quietly within our own space or with family members. Everyone needs to have something to look forward to.  Christmas is that for me in many respects as it is about enjoying preparation of things you have made whether that be food, decorations or crafted items.  It is about the doing and keeping yourself occupied and distracted in times and spaces where there is conflict.  It is also about the sharing of yourself and your ideas where you can and it is about having faith that one day things are going to be better.  So we all need Christmas to look forward to - no matter how we celebrate.  

Catch you soon.



Thursday, 10 September 2020

A Hive of Industry

The kitchen was a hive of industry last evening in squirrelling away more goodies in the freezer and the pantry.

I was lucky enough to find some reduced eggs with a couple of days grace on them, so I have cracked them, decanted them into pots (six eggs at a time) and they are now esconced in the freezer ready for a baking day.  I am paying it forward a little but trying to be prepared to some degree as well.  Eggs are so useful for all sorts of cooking and due to the recent difficulties I thought perhaps it was safer to keep a supply in the freezer in any event

I have also bought some reduced double cream, two large pots and made some home-made butter in my Kilner Butter Churner, which I have turned into chive butter for the freezer. I have had a very good harvest of chives from the garden this year.  You make the chive butter the same way as you would mint butter.

In-between time, I fancied a big cup of coffee.  It gives me a little boost when I am running out of steam and also gives me a few moments to compose myself and an excuse for a sit down.  This time though is a little different as it is the first time that I have used my Kilner Coffee grinder.  I had bought the beans the other day. So grind them I did and then made a Cafietiere of coffee just for me and I really enjoyed this.

I have also topped up on some onions.  I go through a lot of these but thus far I have not been able to get a large net of onions for the pantry.  I have therefore bought some short nets with about three onions in them and I have knotted them into an old but clean pair of stockings to store them off one of the shelves in the pantry that is until I can get a good long-keeping net of onions.

I have also bought some more garlic as we also use a lot of this.

For tea last night we had simple spaghetti Bolognese.  This time round I cooked it as the last time round the pasta had not been cooked enough.  We all have our own styles of cooking and mine is completely different to OH.  He tries, but he does not always get the full flavour out of whatever is being cooked.  He has since polished the rest of it off.

Another jar of thyme honey for coating carrots and parsnips has also made its way onto the shelf.  I may do another jar or two yet.  Thyme is very much a highly effective natural expectorant and reduces phlegm production. Honey is also a natural expectorant so the two together can making a soothing tea especially if you have a sore throat or the flu.  So lots of uses for another different preserve for the pantry shelf. It will also be very useful drizzled over honey roast chicken all over my regular fix of Goat's cheese.  Hence me saying that the kitchen had been a hive of industry!

In any event, in the majority of cases there are socially correct ways of using up preserves and condiments but it is up to us to find out how to use them and where to use them ourselves.  This is where so much valuable information has been lost over the years.  My OH for example has mint sauce with everything (and particularly over steamed cabbage).  He is the same with ketchup.

Still more things to get to and get squirrelled up and out of the way.  How is everyone else getting on with getting goodies stored up for the winter months.

Catch you soon.



Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Pattypan's Pantry Projects - Long Keeping Mint Sauce, Mint Vinegar and Mint Butter

During the summer months I love to grow fresh herbs and then put them up in various formats.  One of the yearly makes for me is making the most of the mint harvest.  OH is mad about mint sauce and eats it with everything therefore I make as much as I can for the pantry shelf.  It is lovely to have something on the pantry shelf that you have grown and then turned into a shelf preserve.  It tastes good too.  If you grow your own mint and it takes over then the long keeping mint sauce, mint vinegar and mint butter are all good ways of using up this precious herb which can be a bit of a thug.

Long Keeping Mint Sauce

First of all you need to cut a good couple of bunches of your mint out of the garden.  Wash the mint and then dry with a tea towel.  Take the leaves off the stem until all the mint leaves have been removed.  You only need to use the mint leaves for these preserves but you can set aside the mint stalks and let them dry out and use them in kindling bundles for lighting a fire either in the house or a fire pit.  Anyway I digress. At this point you can either chop with a knife, a Mezzaluna, an electric herb chopper, your food processor so that all the mint is chopped up finely.  Have at least a couple of jars sterilized by normal preserving methods, i.e. baby sterilizing tablets and hot water, a hot oven, dishwasher, saucepan on the stove.  However you do this you need clean jars with vinegar proof lids..

Decant the chopped mint into the jar or jars three quarters full and then add previously boiled vinegar which has been cooled down.  Top up the jar to the top.  The mint needs covering with vinegar at all times.  I  boil the vinegar as it can form a mother in a jar (the scoby that produces the vinegar) and this just makes sure that you have the mint and the vinegar.  I normally start out with about a pint of vinegar.  Sometimes this is too much and another not enough so just have to prepare more if required.  Seal the jars with vinegar proof covers.  This will keep on a pantry shelf for at least a year.  You can use malt vinegar, but more often or not I use white wine vinegar.

Now that you have made the mint sauce you need to make some mint vinegar to thin out the preserved mint leaves. I make this as I find it a bit nicer than just malt vinegar - however malt vinegar, or white wine vinegar can be used.  I will tell you how to present the vinegar for use at the table at the end.

Mint Vinegar

Take a large glass jar with a vinegar proof lid.  Make sure it is sterilized.  Then take a bottle of your chosen vinegar I have used white wine vinegar.  You need to boil this then leave to cool.  Decant it into your sterilized jar and then add a small bunch of mint leaves.  Make sure that these are submerged in the vinegar and add extra vinegar should this be required.  Leave to steep for a couple of weeks.  Then take out the mint leaves and strain the vinegar through fine muslin.  Decant into suitable bottles with suitable vinegar proof closures. 

To use the Preserved Mint Sauce

Take a couple of teaspoons of the chopped mint and decant into a small container or an egg-cup is ideal.  Add half a teaspoon of sugar.  Now add a little vinegar filling the egg cup to about half way.   Stir and put to one side  (I usually do this about an hour before serving up).  Use to add piquancy to roast lamb.  You can also serve up like this using fresh mint if you have access to it.

Mint Butter

Take a block of butter and let it come to room temperature.  Whilst the butter is coming to temperature take some fresh mint (a small bunch) and wash it  Dry with a tea towel and then take the leaves off of the stem.  Chop the mint finely either with a knife on a board, in a herb chopper, with a Mezzaluna or a food processor until finely chopped. 

Take the butter once acclimatized and with a fork mash the butter up in a small bowl.  Add the mint and then disperse this equally through the butter.  Put in the fridge to harden. Once this is done, place the butter out of a bowl onto some baking parchment or greaseproof paper and form a rough oblong about 4 inch maximum long and about an inch and a half wide.  Keeping the butter in the greaseproof roll the butter until it forms a log.  You can keep the butter wrapped in greaseproof as a roll; however wrap in a bag and store in a freezer. Just chop off in slices when you need to use it.  Alternatively you can cut into slices or store in individual ice cube trays and just decant however many tubs you require for a serving.

Goes well with steak and with new potatoes and also with Asparagus and fish.

Catch you soon.



Sunday, 6 September 2020

Nan's Fish Batter

My Nan was a fantastic cook and housekeeper who worked hard all of her life.  Always in motion, and if you wanted to talk to her you had to follow her around as she never let up was always doing something.  Even when she was in the house there was always baking, sewing, knitting, making wine, making Christmas cakes, preserving food in bottles, jams, for the freezer.  Not only did she do all this she worked full time at the local Junior School until it moved full time as the School Cook as well as doing service at the local Church (St Clements)

Nevin the property that my grandad and her owned in Fiskerton just outside of Lincoln was mostly set to food of some kind or another. They lived in the village for over 60 years.  The garden (2 acres) was mostly set to Orchards but also livestock chickens and pigs and lots of vegetables, bees and soft fruit. She also made the most of the wild larder and during the war years my Dad used to go out catching Rabbits to fill the pot.  If they got more than they needed this was always left discretely at the door of someone who was struggling in the village wrapped in newspaper.   Apparently my Nan was also instrumental in introducing the WI to the village from what my Dad told me as well.

Nan grew up in a time of difficulties and she was from a larger family herself so she found all sorts of ways of doing things that were economic, filling and did not cost the earth.  My Nan was also a creature of routine and Monday was wash day with a scratch tea, Friday was always fish night with fish bought off the fish van that used to come to the village.  Which brings me to the subject of this post Nan's homemade fish batter.  This batter was light and tasty but had a couple of different ingredients in it for the time.

First of all you need to prepare your chosen fish.  Nan used to use Haddock or Cod.  Wash it and then dry it down on a clean tea towel (this was before the days of kitchen roll but if you are trying to be greener use a clean kitchen tea towel).  Onto a plate add some plain flour and season with salt and pepper and mix up the flour mixture.  Dip the fish in the flour so that it is totally coated.  There is a reason for this in that the flour helps keep the batter on the fish.

Into a bowl place about a tea cup of flour and half a tablespoon of custard powder (yes custard powder).  Add one to two eggs depending on size whip it up  with a little milk and water so that the consistency is like single cream (Nan used a wooden spoon I use a balloon whisk) I believe water is added to the milk as otherwise the batter will be a little heavier which is not the object of the exercise. In any event it is not much. Leave to stand for about 20 minutes and then go back to the batter if it has thickened up too much add a drop more water and give it a good whisk again.  At the last minute before you coat your fish in the batter add a good dash of malt vinegar or two mix it in quickly then coat the fish in the batter mixture.

Make sure that you have a pan with your cooking fat/oil so that it is bubbling and then dip your floured fish into the batter and then straight into the cooking fat/oil.  Cook until the fish turns golden brown but make sure that you turn over inbetween so that both sides get even colouring,  Once colouring to your liking take out and pop on a baking rack to drain (Make sure that there is something under this to catch the drips).

Serve with home made chips, and a side salad. salad cream or mayonnaise or Tartare sauce.  It is delicious.

It is one of those dishes that I really miss of hers and is one she used to serve to me as I used to go and stay with her regularly (after my granddad had passed).  I would either go on the coach to Lincoln and then catch a bus to the village arriving on a Friday night.  They then stopped the coach journeys so after that my Dad used to take me on the back of his Matchless Twin motorbike and it was always Fish and Chips for supper.  

Waking up at Nan's on a Saturday morning was always leisurely.  I would hear the Cockerel kicking up a stink and would then drift in and out of sleep until about 8 am.  Often the sun was shining in the bedroom where I used to sleep and the window had the old fashioned handles and hinges which were coiled.  The cottage used to be so peaceful and just birdsong.  It was so peaceful and lovely there I hope one day I am lucky enough to find such a place as my forever home. One day as my Dear Dad used to say, One day!

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)