Monday 30 November 2015

It's wild old weather out there. . .

Yesterday was spent at a Militaria Fair across the Severn.  We had seen the forecast for the afternoon and NO WAY were we going to try and drive home over the bridge and via the M4, as the only times our car has let us down have been in torrential rain on the M4, after dark the first time too in very heavy traffic. Each time the wiper blades ceased working which is what you do NOT want to happen in such weather on a motorway.  We found out it was a common problem with Doblo's but weren't prepared to pay £100 to the main dealership for an entire new wiper unit when only a bush was needed (or was it a brush?) Anyway, we found a wotsit on Fleabay after the kind Green Flag chappy told us about it, having gotten us on our way that 2nd time.  The wotsit works, but we don't like to challenge it too far. Instead, we drove back via Gloucester, the Forest of Dean, Monmouth and the A40 through Abergavenny and Brecon (a route we know well).  Well, we know it when there isn't rain of such Biblical proportions you can't even see the road, and just past Huntley we had to pull off the road onto a garage forecourt and wait out the storm, which was on a par with a monsoon.  It seemed to take us forever to get home (2 1/4 hours to get there on motorway, 3 1/2 hours via the scenic route).  I have never been so glad to see our front gate.  No, tell a lie, I have been even more glad to see it - that was when I drove Eldest Daughter home from checking out Cambridge as she was offered a University place there.  We didn't get back to the car until 6.30 p.m. and started driving.  I think we finally got home well past midnight, and driving down  the everlasting Z-bends of that windy river valley between Sennybridge and Llandovery was absolute torture when you are as tired as it's possible to be.

Anyway, as I write this, I can hear the wind getting up outside, and I know it is raining, as it's been doing that all day.  Our river is on the rise now, needless to say.

Today we had to go into town to restock the Unit, go to the bank, get a couple of bits of Christmas shopping done, and try and get a replacement phone for our ageing one in the hall, which no longer holds its charge, so as you are wandering round talking and stirring things, it will go beep beep beep in warning and then go dead on you.

When I found out that I could get one which you could programme to stop unwanted cold calling (the bane of our lives), there was no stopping me.  We shopped around and found one still handsomely Black Fridayed in Tesco's, although now of course it is Monday, so they were a bit over-enthusiastic with stock levels.  Instead of paying £85 or so for a double one, we paid £47.  I think I could have got it in Curry's for £48, but at least we got Club Card points . . . It is now charging and we will have to get our geriatric brains around programming it tomorrow (not sure mine is up for the challenge alone as I know what I am like with New Electrical Things without one of the girls here to sort us out.)

Anyway, I finally got around to one of last week's jobs, which was making Persimmon Curd. Herewith recipes and finished project, and just DON'T ask  me about what happened when I put it on for an extra minute, forgetting to check the power level (it was full rather than 60% so you can imagine the blardy mess in the microwave after that little oversight when it boiled over mightily. . .)

The finished result had better set as I really DON'T want to mess around with the microwave version again.

Anyway, my Instant Pot electric pressure cooker/slower cooker/multi-talented beast arrived today.  I have unpacked it, that's all.  After a busy weekend, the drive home from Hell yesterday and not enough sleep, I know when my brain is beaten to a pulp so tomorrow is another day as far as the Instant Pot is concerned.

Saturday 28 November 2015

The kindness of friends

Look what arrived in my bread bin (aka mail box) on Friday (above and below).  These were magazines that my new blogging friend Maria (at Dotty's Daughter blogspot) had promised me, bless her.  Many many years ago, when my bigs were smalls, I asked for a year's subscription to the American magazine Just Cross Stitch as a Christmas present.  I still have all the magazines and especially loved the Christmas issue with all the beautiful tree hangings to make.  Well, that is what the magazine above is, and to keep it company Maria included the lovely Homespun Alphabets and Borders (just up my street) and a little Christmas Bear to stitch.  Thank you SO MUCH Maria, it was like Christmas arriving all over again and I was ridiculously excited!  I felt like I did in the quilt shop the other day when we walked in and got overwhelmed by all that was on offer!

I haven't done any x-stitch for over a year, but recently I have felt like sewing rather than crochet or knitting.  I narrowed the choice down and decided to make a start on this lovely little Mistletoe design.

Sorry, the close-up below is an odd colour because the flash doesn't work in close up, but you get the idea.

A better shot of that page and the designs on it, with the flash.  I am a very happy bunny : )

Friday was a very busy day and I seemed to spend most of it repainting and revamping a doll's house we have had a while but had to take out of the Unit because damp was lifting the wallpaper I had put on.  Then finally (we've had the leather for it since April!) we got around to refurbishing a beautiful Tonbridge ware writing slope we have had and enjoyed a while.  We got the skiver (leather) for it from Fleabay and on Friday we took the old velvet off, rubbed it down, and applied a new joining strip of fabric, before glueing on the new skiver.

There.  Smart as a carrot as my OH would say . . .  Let's hope it finds a new home soon.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Making Chutney for Christmas presents

First of all, my lovely sparkly lights bought with Christmas in mind.  I decided to have them on tonight (they run off batteries) to give a bit of atmosphere as I was making the first of the Christmas gift preserves, some River Cottage Hearty Ale Chutney  On the camera, before I downloaded this photo, it looked for all the world like I had captured a spooky ghost behind the lights, but of course it is just glare from them - although in a subsequent photo that didn't show at all . . .

This is the recipe from the River Cottage Preserves book (Pam Corbin's lovely recipes).  I hope you can read it clearly, if not shout out and I will type it up.  It was actually quite a clever recipe as it used 150g of tomato puree, which is of course a thickener and really helped to thicken this up whilst it was being cooked, besides adding flavour and colour to the mixture.  I used apples from the garden, my own home grown garlic, and the rest of the swede is now chopped, blanched and in the freezer for Christmas as G likes it - you know, the really fussy daughter . . . .

Basic ingredients all in there, chopped up and sprinkled.  Then came the vinegar.

Then a few good stirs to thoroughly combine the ingredients and a slow start so you can dissolve the sugar properly.

Simmering nicely,

Nearly finished - a little faster temperature at the end to evaporate the last of the beer (I used a bottle of Newcastle Brown which had come from my friend Annie's - she was teetotal).

Here's the end result.  A lovely reddy-brown colour from the tomato puree.  Where possible I always use new lids (got from Lakeland I think) but some jars are a non-standard size so just have to have their own lid - scalded and heated - back on.

Tomorrow it's jam making and some Persimmon Curd.  I'm looking forward to trying that.

A river walk again

The Lucozade-look has faded from the Larch trees across the valley now they have dropped many of their needles.

Above and below.  The river is running at speed again, but levels much lower than the recent spate.  I had a little walk along there on Sunday, camera in hand.  It was good to get out.

As it's winter, neighbour Gary has been enterprising and taken on some vanner mares to take the grass off Annie's overgrown fields.  I think they are some oblong to a local chap who has a lorry with "Bobby's Blagdons" on the side.  This cob has typical blagdon markings (white on legs and splashes on body) and there are some red blagdon mares here too.  These colourings are desirable in gypsy cobs.

These mares were hoping I was going to give them some treats!

This light-coloured colt-foal had a smudge of cream coat around his eyes so should end up that colour unless it was a trick of the light.  There are two white-grey mares in the field (one is mum) so perhaps he will just stay white-grey.

Above and below - it's amazing what a difference a bit of sunlight makes to the river valley.

Within living memory, this well outlet was the only source of water for a cottage above it.  It was derelict when we arrived in 1988, but I think was lived in until the 1970s.  It is hard to imagine no running water in a house.

Waiting for me when I got home was my Kitchen Robin,   His look told me he was hungry!

Monday 23 November 2015


Hay-on-Wye shop window.  More like MY sort of shopping!

After encountering gridlock when we ventured on into town on Saturday, having sorted some more stock out to put in the Unit, we vowed we would not be going back on a Saturday until the New Year. I needed to go to The Range, and knowing that the car park by Currys and The Range would be chock-a-block, I walked there from the fuel station behind it whilst my OH was putting in diesel, made my purchase and came out just as OH was driving down the approach, so he didn't even need to get snarled up in the traffic there.

Anyway, today I HAD to do some shopping for Christmas cards, presents, and birthday presents as we have two family birthdays between now and Christmas.  I got one unusual and gorgeous present in Dyfed Crafts in King Street.  I always buy birthday cards from there, as I like to support local artists.  Today I was looking for a necklace but came out with something totally different and beautiful which I hope our middle daughter will appreciate on the appropriate day.

I walked across the town, looking for appropriate presents in TK Maxx and Argos, and made a couple of purchases.  I made sure I had myself completely in check, so I didn't buy anything I didn't actually NEED.  So the Fruit book of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's was put back on the shelf (though it was discounted down to £7.99 from £25).  I shall hope to find it remaindered in The Works next year, or else turn it up at a car boot sale.  Likewise the prettiest mugs were sighed over and not even touched for fear they would end up in my shopping basket. I would like to upgrade my coffee mugs, but there is no need to do so.  A gorgeous glass dish in scarlet and gold (perfect for Christmas) was likewise not even touched.  In fact, I came out empty-handed as I couldn't find the items I had on my shopping list in there.  (If my daughters read this, I am not giving them a shopping list, just writing about temptation overcome!)  I even marched myself past the tree decorations and glitzy bits without LOOKING as I know I have a weakness there too!

My final port of call was Charlies.  I like Charlies (OH hates it nearly as much as he hates The Range, which he considers to be full of tat which just puts a pressure on natural resources when they are made and transported.  He has a point . . .  )  Anyway, Charlies DOES have a very good kitchen section and I love browsing in there.  I needed - and bought - a Silicon pastry brush to replace the new-but-moulting wooden handled ones I had (but no waste with those as OH will be using the wooden handles for something as they "looked useful" when I handed them to him, knowing he'd think that.)

I also bought a little ceramic soap dish as we are going back to using solid bars of soap because liquid soap is expensive and doesn't last long.    I found some beautiful RSPB Christmas cards which I bought, so I have supported a good charity with that purchase and they are LOVELY cards too.

Then I blew 99p on a new wire nut net.  I have several - with holes in - and the peanuts are being stolen whole at a great rate of knots, so as we are going through the sackful far faster than I want to, it seemed a wise move.  There was an alternative - at £9.99 (how can they justify that price hoik?) which was a taller wire nut net made of heavy-gauge wire.  Well, I was given one of those last year and yup, THAT has a big hole in it - Jackdaws I suspect, rather than Woody Woodpecker.  Meanwhile, I shall get my OH to effect a lasting mend on the damaged one.

The lady in front of me had spent £44.  I only saw the last of her purchases going in the bag, and they were preserves with alcohol in.  Lord knows what she had paid for those, but goodness they are SO simple to make!  I guess she has never been shown how.  I know that Charlies had 3 little jars of "special" jams and chutneys in a cardboard container and those were nearly £10.

Anyway, I have decided to do most of the rest of my Christmas shopping on-line as I have more choice there for the half a dozen items I need (plus some of them are only available on-line).

I wonder what you are all doing about Christmas shopping this year?

Recipe for Applesauce Brownies

WHY did I freeze these?  Oh, I could eat one right now!  Anyway, make and enjoy - they just take a cup of applesauce so just a couple of any damaged or withered apples will suffice.


2/3 cup (4 oz; 113 g) butter, melted  (or 150g if I translate it from an online site.  I used 4 oz anyway)
2 cups brown sugar (I halve this amount which would be about 4 oz/113g)
1 cup applesauce (drat, just use a tea mug!!!)
2 eggs
1 tblspn. grated orange peel
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose (plain) flour (11 oz/300 g)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup chopped pecans (I left these out as none in cupboard)
Confectioners' sugar (icing sugar, also omitted).

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.  Combine first two ingredients in a large bowl and blend well.  Beat in next 4 ingredients and reserve.  Sift together the flour, powder, salt, and soda and stir into applsauce mixture.  Stir in nuts if using.  Spread batter in a greased 10 x 15 inch pan (25 x 38cm) and bake for 40 mins.  Remove, cool and dust with confectioners' sugar if using.

Scrummy : )

I also ended up making breadcrumbs as I absent-mindedly shredded stale bread for the birds (it was going mouldy or I'd have toasted it obviously).  I was halfway through the 2nd heel of the loaf when I looked down and saw the loaf I was MEANT to be tearing up at my feed. Yup, you've guessed it, I was chucking out the current loaf.  Sigh.  So I left what was untorn to be eaten with cheese in chunks, and made breadcrumbs instead . . .  Some people freeze them undried, but I prefer to dry mine in a very slow oven and keep them in a jar to make stuffing with or coat fish or goujons.

Sunday 22 November 2015

Feeding the birds, and some folks' idea of "frugal"

My bird feeders give me a lot of pleasure.  I have two set up, each with  nut nets and seed feeders. They are ALWAYS busy.  Even before this colder weather (which still isn't that cold really) I had lots of visitors.  The House Sparrows tend to use the front feeders.  They are accompanied by Chaffinches, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Nuthatches (at least two coming and going) and Woody the Woodpecker (Greater Spotted variety). Robins will hoover up any fallen seed.  This morning I was delighted to see Goldfinches had joined them, but they haven't been back since I topped up the feeders.  On my birding friend Fiona's advice, I have stopped using the cheaper mixed feed and changed to sunflower hearts.  There is NO waste with the sunflower hearts, whereas with the mixed seed the Tits were very fussy and would chuck out the rounder seed to get at the Sunflower seeds.

These are all old photos of the front feeders in action.  As you can see from the photo above, there are LOTS of birds using it - I can count 11 in shot and there are normally swarms of others waiting in the wings, so to speak.

When the weather worsens (this is 2010 when we had significant snow), everybody wants to get in on the act.  As we live beside a farm, there are plenty of farm Jackdaws looking for food.  I know they have to eat, just as the smaller birds do, but they are bullies and ruffians, and not averse to hanging on the feeders, tipping them enough so that big amounts of seed falls to the ground for them.

2010 was a VERY cold winter.  Birds were soon desperate.  We had Visitor Blackbirds, Thrushes and the like "passing through" our valley, and they would be waiting in the bushes for first light and feed.  I regularly counted 26 Blackbirds waiting, along with Thrushes, visiting Fieldfares and Redstarts, and the occasional Starling (they tend to be town birds in these parts, and we don't have many visiting here.)

The other feeding station is in the Damson tree in front of my kitchen window, where I do the washing up.  The wee birds there have been doing themselves VERY well and look like they have been blown up with a bicycle pump, so fat are they!  Mum would have said they had a big "corporation" (e.g. girth).  I think they'll die of heart attacks at this rate.  They comprise the occasional Sparrow, a mob of Chaffinches, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal Tits, Nuthatches, Woody Woodpecker (or his friend) and this morning Goldfinches again.

As for the "frugal" part of my post.  Over on Facebook I have started following a Frugal chat thread and cannot believe that someone can claim to be even minutely frugal would own up to owning SIXTY TWO (yup, you did read that correctly, 62) pairs of jeans.  Some of the other threads have me sitting on my hands.  A photo of crisps and sugary cereal at bargain prices, and nothing nutritional in sight!  OK, I eat crisps, but daren't have a multipack even of 6 in the house, as temptation and a body's natural love of salt would be too tempting.  Funny old world isn't it?

Saturday 21 November 2015

Tomorrow is another day. . . .

. . . . as Scarlett O'Hara famously said.  Perhaps I should add her other famous expressions, "Great balls of fire!" and "Fiddle-de-dee" too.  Anyway, today IS another day.  I am feeling better than yesterday, following the removal of the offending "toof". It's finally stopped bleeding too.  The taste of blood has little to recommend it.

I've caught up on some recorded programmes on tv, watched self-reliant Alaskan Bush People (!) and come to the conclusion there must be a lot of such people in Alaska as they seem to do an awful lot of filming up there!  Cheap perhaps.

Some more stitching has been done on my hexi runner - though it was evening before I could face it - and I am now able to have hot drinks again - my cup of Earl Grey was very welcome this morning.

I managed to make a fresh loaf yesterday (a quick one in the breadmaker, finished off crisper in the oven) - half and half white and oat bran flours, which is our favourite.  I had to take my antibiotics with food, and this was soft enough to eat without a problem.

I'd defrosted some mince for tea, so OH had his with gravy, peas and mash, and mine went into a sort of mince risotto I am fond of - mince, onion, stock cube & water, dried vegetables, rice and a good squeeze of tomato puree.  You can add what you like to it, but it is quick to make and just what the invalid needed.

On the cards for today are some gentle housework, grocery shopping and trying to shoehorn some more stock into the Unit.  I need to take photos too, for its Facebook page.

At first light, when I pulled the curtains open, it was quite fierce out there - a wannabee baby gale blowing, and scudding grey clouds, but it has cleared to blue skies now.  A flock of ever-changing sparrows, blue tits, great tits, chaffinches, and the occasional Woody woodpecker and nuthatch are on the feeders and a jackdaw is finishing off well-pecked apples on the cooking apple tree.  It's much colder and my friends Dawn and Pam reported smatterings of snow last night (then it rained).  Winter has arrived it seems.

Friday 20 November 2015

Self reliance, sinks and sewing . . .

Here is a lovely new Belfast sink and taps, bought from Gumtree a couple of weeks ago.  It has been in the middle of my kitchen table ever since as it is so heavy my OH would have done himself a mischief if it were put on the ground.  We have been waiting to be here for a FULL day so that he could get the job started (always allowing for the fact that some bit or another might need replacing, which means a trip into town.)

Work in progress.  Old sink taken out (it had cracked - long story, but basically it should have had two washers but the "professional" plumber installing it had only used one and some tape . . .  OH tightened something underneath, and the sink cracked).  The taps leaked from needing new washers and also around the base so it was continuously needing mopping up around them.  I am not a nagger, but boy was I fed up with the situation . . .  We didn't have money to spare for a plumber, so OH set to work.

Installed, but just needs a length of wood pushed underneath the back of the sink to lift it.  That should happen today, but at least we had a working sink by close of play.

I have been nursing a VERY sore hip and back and - by default - knee.  I had to go to the Chiro in the end and he got me sorted out but the inflammation has taken a while to calm down and required Ibuprofen, which I don't normally take because I am asthmatic, but needs must.  I feel a lot more comfortable today.

Anyway, as a change from crochet projects, I blew the dust off this table runner which I started last autumn and it got put away.  I had to carry on with the rough basting of it and then the hand quilting, which, although far from perfect, I am happy enough with.

I am still backwards and forwards to the dentists' because my dental abscess is not responding to the anti-biotics.  Not too surprising, given that I was on them for so long so I am probably resistant to lower levels.

Hopefully I can get this resolved today.  Meanwhile, I have been carrying on with my stitching and thoroughly enjoying it, although looking at the stitches above, I can see some none-too-straight lines which I need to unpick and redo . . .

Have a good weekend everyone.

P.S.  Friday afternoon now and toof sorted - it is No More, as I went back this morning and we decided to remove it.  Came out with infection at roots, so it was the right one (could have been one of three in a row!!)  Onwards and upwards now, but I have to say it's a tad uncomfortable now the novocaine's worn off . . .

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Treatments and a Wet Wednesday

I have awarded myself the rest of the afternoon off.  I had an appointment with the Chiro first thing. It was the first time I've needed to go since 2009, so not bad going, but my hip has been getting more and more and more painful by the day and it had got well past the stage of being walked-off, which I managed to do last week.  Anyway, I've been sorted now I hope, but everything is still VERY sore. Still, the good news is my hips will see me out - they're good for another 40 years he reckons!  and I no longer have one leg slightly longer than the other . . .

Then it has just been a return trip to the Dentist for more/different antibiotics.  I've not had these before and am hoping I don't get any of the nastier side effects which can accompany them.  I also asked them to refer me to the Hospital for the operation to remove this little bit of broken tooth root from 30 or more years ago, which has been sat there quite happily up until this week.  He seemed nonplussed that I didn't immediately book myself in privately with him to remove it for . . . £500!  I said, if it all calms down completely again I can always cancel my appointment, since he told me I would be waiting 6 months.  That gives me plenty of time to find out if the a-b's have worked, right?

As the kitchen table still has a large Belfast sink plonked in the centre of it (waiting for my OH to have a full day at home to replace the old one with this new one), I can't do any machine sewing, so I will spend a little while with my crochet on the sofa, getting up to loosen my back every now and then.

Despite last night's terrific gales, my newly-tied-down polytunnel hasn't gone travelling.  The weather has died down now, still quite windy but nothing like last night, when gales of 79 mph were recorded down on the coast at Pembrey.  It has been raining quite hard on and off, but dry now as I look out of the window.

Keep safe everyone.

Monday 16 November 2015

The West Wales bloggers meet up - the full event and crafting chitchat

On the way to Newcastle Emlyn yesterday with Dawn, for a planned meet up of West Wales bloggers.

The bloggers of West Wales had a WONDERFUL meet up yesterday, and started off sat around the wood burner in No. 11 cafe, where beverages and toasted tea cakes were eaten, and the hind legs off several donkeys accounted for with all our chat.  We all craft, so you can imagine the main topic of conversation. Maria, Pam and Dawn all had gifts to hand out - shamefacedly, I didn't!  Next time I shall smuggle in Baked Goods . . .  So I am wonderfully spoilt with some perfume (Pam's friend was having a clear out), a basket making kit (yay!) and some delicious little cup cake pegs - I think card making will have to be tried now!  Thank you all so much.

Then we went to the patchwork shop, Cross Patch which had SO many tempting things.  I was quite overwhelmed with all the kits and loveliness on offer.  I was like a kid in a toyshop!

Isn't that just an absolutely DIVINE applique quilt?  I love the colourings, and would love to make something like this for our bed.  Dream on Jen, always full of big ideas, and never enough time for them!

There were wonderful displays everywhere.  When I got to the fat quarters, it was so hard to just buy a couple and then choose ones from a particular palette - photos of mine at the bottom of this post.

All sorts of wonderful patchwork items to tempt you to buy patterns and fabric.  I rather like this little cushion with the embroidered centre.  That looks so pretty.

Another pretty applique cushion over a doorway.

A sneaky photo of Dawn, Maria and Pam deciding what to buy next!!

I bought the charm pack to go with this lovely table runner/hanging.  There are little meeces on many of the prints and it is delightful.  I am having to sit on my hands to stop myself from getting stuck in straight away, as I need to finish works in progress first!

Another lovely big colourful quilt, away from the traditional designs.  Not one I would make as the cups and mugs didn't really appeal, although of course you could just put something else there.

 I am currently nursing a dental abscess and praying that the a-b's I've just been given by my dentist work and I don't need to go private to have a tiny bit of very ancient tooth root surgically removed - £500 worth of surgically removed as apparently this wouldn't get done inside of 6 mths on the NHS!!!

Meanwhile, my goodies from yesterday.

As this was wrapped, I could only guess that the rest of the contents were as pretty as the top.  Little meeces everywhere, so delightful.  My fingers are twitching over this pack . . .

A plan for the future, but I have several other quilts to finish/planned first.

I couldn't resist these two prints - such warm colours.

This little book was good value at £7.99 and lots of goodies in it.

I used to follow Pioneer Woman's blog years ago, and when Dawn showed me she had several books of hers, I had a little Amazon moment last week and bought this one.  Another title is on my Christmas list . . .

Lastly, whilst we're on the subject of crafts, a full set of crochet hooks which I bought recently from Ebay.  In a case, so I don't lose them too easily.  One is currently in use . . .

One last poto from the journey home.  A late foal (spotty one) up on Llanllwni Mountain.  I thought I'd got him sideways on, but he moved round.

If you want to see a photo of me, go to Dawn's or Pam's blogs (I've put links behind their names above).