Monday, 1 December 2008

Steady on

No, you're not seeing double, two posts in 24hours!! I probably should have posted this yesterday, it being the first day of advent, but anyway I was very excited to have finally MADE an advent calendar. I have wanted to make one for many many years and finally I have. A few weeks ago I asked my friends on the SC forum for inspiration as they are such a talented bunch and always willing to share their ideas. Inspire me they did with lots of lovely possibilities and having gone public with my long time intention I thought I'd better get on and actually DO IT!!

Technically it isn't really finished(ran out of time!! as I think it needs some more embellishing, but I'm thinking I can add to it a little bit each year. I sent it to my youngest daughter, who even at 23, still longs for a calendar every year. She received it yesterday in the post and was thrilled at my efforts. I have put a series of notes for her in the pockets and I guess there are lots of possibibilities for future years.
Thanks shabby chiccers for giving me the oomph to do it at last!!

Put me on the naughty step and a lovely surprise

Failure to post on a regular basis is clearly a misdemeanour that deserves at the very least a spell on the naughty step! Well I have been on the step but tried to make myself useful at the same time.I've been varnishing the stair edges ( I'm sure they have a technical name but no idea what it is)

There is unfortunately much painting still to be done in this household and it's not a job I relish as I'm sure no-one actually notices what door frames and skirting look like, and who on earth gets down on their hands and knees to examine the stair thingys?! Now a spell with my sewing machine or baking a few cakes and biscuits, that's more in my line. I know I have to do it though, so must try to stay focussed and plod on with the boring task. Today though I was stopped by the ringing doorbell.Happily abandoning my paintbrush, I rushed down the stairs to find that the postman had brought me a parcel! I love parcels as they always contain something nice. Letters, well, they are usually bills or forms that need filling in, but parcels, well that's an entirely different matter.
It was a very well wrapped parcel with an outer covering, then corrugated cardboard and then bubblewrap. Excitement caused me to dismantle these coverings with gay abandon whereupon these were revealed

How sweet are they! I love them and I can honestly say I've never had 'proper'cake tins ever before. Mine consists of a motley collection of plastic boxes,and recycled margarine containers, not something you'd ever want on display. I could almost feel my kitchen smile at the thought of these smart additions. They were a very generous give-away from Claire at and I was the lucky winner.

Inside one of the tins Claire had added a small gift beautifully wrapped in tissue and tied with a velvet ribbon. I unwrapped this with a little more decorum and found this

A beautiful hand made brooch which I am thrilled with. I had seen one she had made in a swap she recently did for the SC forum and commented on how lovely it was. Now I too have one and I am delighted. Mr Secondwind was most intrigued with it's construction and finally announced that it was indeed a creative piece. So thank you Claire so much for my lovely goodies.
Now I must decide which recipes will be the first to have a stay in Mr Large and Mrs Small dot tins....... gingerbread men perhaps, Claire? Any other suggestions most welcome and I'll let Mr Secondwind choose.......

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Progress on two fronts

Progress is slowly but surely being made. Not, I hasten to add the frequency of me posting, that's for sure, but just look at this......

Hooray at last the grass is in it's infancy.

It was sown just over two weeks ago. First we had to check the amount of seed leaving the spreader and for that the kitchen floor was the very place. Several attempts had to be made adjusting the little knobs, measuring the area covered, sweeping up the seed and then weighing it. If anyone had chosen to drop by at this point I suspect we would have been carted off immediately!
Then outside to the real thing and off went Mr Second Wind whilst I was ready to replenish the hopper at frequent intervals.

And then we waited, and waited and inspected and examined every day. Nothing seemed to be happening and we were beginning to wonder if we had got a duff lot of seed and might have to start all over again....... but on Sunday last there they were, tiny shafts of greenness, a haze over the soil. What a sight!Oh joy! The birds have had a bit, but we allowed for that though we hadn't foreseen the visitation by a rabbit who has decided to dig a few holes!

Whilst waiting nervously for the seed to germinate we got busy with something else that's been on the "To do" list for far too long

Under that cover is our woodburning stove which has sat patiently waiting for over two years
It turned out to be a trickier job than we had anticipated because the chimney pipe is a smaller diameter than the flue and using glass fibre rope to pack it out was never going to work as the gap was too big. So we acquired an adaptor piece which then had to be fitted about 50cm up the flue and sealed with mastic. This involved OH sitting astride the stove and attempting to get very sticky gooey mastic at the correct height up the flue and sufficient to seal the adaptor in place. It's so easy to laugh about such antics after the event but it was a tense time while this was done! When one's arm is up the fluepipe it is near impossible to then see what one is doing. Next the chimney end had to be covered in mastic and raised vertically up the flue without touching the sides till it met the aforementioned mastic. At the same time the stove pipe had to also be attached to the chimney pipe with fire cement and all before anything decided to set. Are you all following this still. Well I don't blame you.

View up the chimney!
After leaving it all to set and cure for a couple of days we tentatively had a little fire, only a little one mind as you have to sort of "run it in".

I'm so looking forward to a few cold evenings now, but of course the weather has been quite balmy for the last week. It makes a wonderful focal point in the room and the smell of applewood burning is just lovely.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

A little bit of frugality!

Well, it's the 30th September and the last day of the September grocery challenge that I've been doing. I set a somewhat hopeful target figure at the beginning of the month and am delighted to have come pretty close, only a couple of pounds over in fact. It's the first time I have taken part and found it such a useful exercise in both self-control at the supermarket and ingenuity with my larder contents.
I normally have a baking session most weeks to fill the cake tins with morsels of happy sustenance for DH when he takes a break from his labours with the spade, but since last week poor Mr Second Wind had tried the cake tin several times only to be sadly disappointed each time and me apologetically offering a digestive biscuit in recompense mumbling 'I just haven't had time what with the all-consuming garden project'.He deserves home-made cake, particularly since he has worked soooooo hard in the garden. So this afternoon I felt a great urge to bake, but what was left in the larder to bake with? Not a great deal it appeared, so I pulled out some very old recipe books that I used to use in my younger days when funds always seemed extremely limited.

I spent a long time just reacquainting myself with the cake -mix -splattered pages, odd scraps of hastily written recipes along with torn out pages from magazines like Family Circle and Woman's Weekly which I used to love and would never part with.
It was a challenge deciding what I could bake, but I started with two sorts of rock buns from this book.

It was written to accompany a TV series of the same name back in the early 70's presented by Dorothy Sleightholme. I remember watching it avidly then, as my cooking skills were in their infancy at that time. I would turn to it if MIL was due to visit!
Rock buns are one of hubby's favourites. She suggests making various additions which suited very well as I could scour the shelves and see what additions might be possible. The first batch had mixed fruit and mixed spice and for a second batch I used wholemeal flour, chopped up dried apricots, sultanas and cinnamon.

I then toyed with the idea of Vinegar Loaf which was, if my memory serves me well , a perfectly acceptable cake though I can hear you saying .......Eeeew. If anyone fancies making it I'll gladly give you the recipe. I'll revisit that one another day.Then a tiny scrap of yellow stained and faded paper fell out from the book entitled Cornish Heavy Cake. Oh , how often had I made this for the childrens' school lunch boxes. They loved it. It uses lard as the fat component and doesn't use eggs ( I only have one left!) and I have a packet of Trex in the fridge which needs using by November. So, ideal, decision made.
Then I spotted a half used pack of porridge oats lurking so my final choice was a tray of flapjack with a handful of sunflower seeds thrown in for good measure. I seem to have bought a bumper sized pack of these, no doubt a special offer at the time. I'm a sucker for a bargain! On with the cooking and fill the oven. In no time I had a selection of farmhouse cakes ready

As if by magic, as the kitchen filled with that wonderful aroma of baking cakes, Mr Second Wind appeared from the rainy garden expecting yet another digestive with his cup of tea..........Oh what a happy man was he!

Monday, 22 September 2008

It's all gone wrong!

Oh Dear, it's all gone wrong...... and so soon too! My first "proper" post appeared after fighting with the bloggy controls for some time to get pics on and everything only to discover that there is no comment box on it. Now, I realise that maybe no one would want to make a comment but I think it's that you CAN'T make a comment, so it's all quite disappointing. Will I ever get the hang of it I wonder? Let's see what happens this time as a trial. If the elusive comment box turns up at the bottom, please let me know by posting a comment, good or bad, I don't mind!!

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Mary Mary...... how does your garden grow?

As many of you know from the SC forum, we are struggling to 'make 'a garden from the building site that remains from building our house. It has become something of a battle as we have discovered that under the superficial building site surface lurked an old crewyard, complete with grain drier foundations, otherwise known as enormous chunks of concrete, and fastidiously made roads for the heavy vehicles to pass over. Now this was not obvious when we bought the plot, indeed it had an orchard of apple trees boasting the biggest apples I've ever come across and a pleasant stream along the bottom boundary. Idyllic. Even when the foundations for the house were dug it was not obvious 'what lies beneath'.

Well last Autumn, the time had arrived to tackle the job and we reluctantly decided that the orchard would have to go since it lay right at the front of the plot.Always thrifty, we set to, picking all the apples first and cooking/freezing/chutneying/giving away the harvest. Then Mr Second Wind got to play with his new toy, a chainsaw, while I reduced the branches to manageable size with loppers and secateurs before barrowing and stacking the smaller bits for a mammoth bonfire and storing the larger pieces to season ready for our yet-to-be-installed woodburning stove.

After that and a thorough weedkill, we got a jcb to clear the site, or so we thought.......

About 20 Lorry loads of rock were taken away, and similar lorryloads of topsoil brought in so that by the end of last year the area was looking so much better and we were hopeful that it could be seeded in the Spring.
The best laid plans though.... DH was ill for some months and we missed the spring deadline, though most people said "It's much better to wait till Autumn, grass will germinate better" So during this summer we have dug over the area only to find yet more rocks and stones which DH, quite rightly insisted on taking out...... then he discovered the lurking ROAD!!

This pile is about 5 feet high!

Meanwhile the weeds have taken on a life of their own and flourished like Topsy, so my job has been to clear them at frequent intervals. No sooner have I cleared one area the next goes rampant and so on like the Forth Bridge. We did use weedkiller but it's effect was short-lived and too expensive. My efforts were also short-lived but I come really cheap!!

The weather has conspired against us too this summer. No sooner did the sky spot us wielding our spades and forks than the heavens would open. All very depressing.However this weekend the sun has shone on us and we are at last getting there. We have a deadline to sow the grass seed(yes it's ready and raring to be scattered) by the first week in October, so let's hope that Indian summer will last a couple of weeks longer.Please!

DH very sensibly took time to plant the borders back in the Spring and the tiny shrubs are already repaying us with their efforts to grow and flower.

The butterflies are enjoying them too.
I long to have a garden where I can do normal gardening!!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Hello and welcome to all kind enough to visit

Thanks to the lovely Shabby Angel, I now have this blog. Well actually more a blog-in-waiting as I am unable to get it up and running yetawhile. In the meantime, it allows me to leave comments on your wonderful blogs which have been an absolute joy to read. I'm very much a blog virgin and need a bit of time to get the hang of it all. Angel knows what a numpty I am at techy pooter things but has been incredibly understanding and helpful.She has also made me laugh a lot!
I hope you will bear with me in my attempts to stumble into blogland. I shall need oodles of encouragment!