Sunday 31 December 2017

Happy New Year

Let us hope that when 2018 dawns tomorrow, it will bring health and happiness with it.

HAPPY NEW YEAR to all my friends and family.

Photographed in Dinefwr Park today - the first lambs of the season, born this past week by the look of it - Christmas lambs.

Saturday 30 December 2017

Dryslwyn Castle part II

The view down the Towy Valley towards Carmarthen.  In a flood, just about everything green and flat goes underwater . . .

This is the view looking South across the valley.  It would have been quite some castle before it became ruinous. There is the remains of a Medieval village on the opposite side of this hill - just lumps and bumps beneath the grass to show where the cottages were now though.

This at least gives you a better idea of the layout of the original castle.

I  loved the way the contrail-like clouds look like a peacock's tail above this jutting piece of wall.

There was an enormous BANG just as it was getting dusk, and then a multitude of duck and geese voices raised in protest (they had obviously been grazing on some farmer's fields and he could see his grazing disappearing fast and got his shot-gun out).  Hundreds of what I think were probably Canada Geese flew into the sky and wheeled about over the valley.

We were lucky enough to manage a few photos.

Right, this won't do.  I have completely indulged myself on t'internet for the past couple of hours so time to go and make some soup now.  I have several bags of cheap veg still to use up.

Friday 29 December 2017

Dryslwyn Castle and views - Part 1

We finally got out for a walk yesterday.  We had been into town in the morning to have a wander round the much-depleted Fleamarket.  My gosh, it was cold in the agricultural building they use - it is like a gigantic freezer.  One of our friends told us it was minus 4 when they arrived outside the building - and a good bit colder INSIDE.  This was why I cancelled our booking to stand there - that and the fact that no-one was buying anything, the year had started badly and gotten worse.  Practically everyone inside had double stalls as so many people had cancelled or not bothered to book - and I was glad that I had taken the sensible option not to stand there.

Anyway, after a quick late lunch, Tam  and I headed up to Dryslywn Castle, which is in the centre of the Cothi Valley about 5 miles from here (less as the Crow Flies).  It stands guardian over the river crossing, and is part of a chain of command which stretches up the Towy Valley from Carmarthen in the west, through Dryslywn, Dinefwr (at Llandeilo) and majestic Carreg Cennen, high on its limestone crag at the start of the Brecon Beacons.

The view up the valley towards the Brecon Beacons, beyond "our" Black Mountain.  On the extreme top left, bscured by failing light, and a hillside of bare Ash trees, is Dinefwr Castle.

There is always a flock of sheep grazing the hillside here.  The brambles and scrubby hawthorn and blackthorn give good shelter (as do the ruined walls of the castle).

A magnificent Ash tree stands overlooking the valley, with the battered remains of a stairwell at its feet.

Our beautiful daughter Tamzin.

Looking across the valley to Paxton's Tower, the neo-Gothic folly built in honour of Lord Nelson.  Tamzin was quick to remind me of a spectacular muddy fall I once had there, sliding several yards on my b.t.m.  I was A Mess after that!!

More later - better go and do some Home Economy now as we have friends coming round for a bun fight later on (well, cheese and wine really . . .)

Thursday 28 December 2017

Time to hibernate

Above and below: we finally got around to making a pretty wreath yesterday.  I had cut some honeysuckle back at the front gate, and that made a lovely base for this wreath.  The ivy we cut on a walk along by the river just before Christmas, along with the dried Hogweed flowers and tree ferns.  I will save the base of this one and remake it up for each season.  I think it's one of the prettiest we ever made, all down to Tam's creative hands.

The weather has gone from being very mild to being darn chilly and our planned beach walk yet again got abandoned yesterday when it came on to snow as we were driving into town!  Time to hibernate, methinks, during January and catch up on all those jobs that need doing in the house.

Now is the time to use up the leftovers.  This is Tam's tasty Parsnip soup, which has grated fresh ginger in it.  We seem to have a vat full!  I have cooking bacon to use up and some left-over cooked veg so will make Minestrone soup and hope I can squish some into the freezer.  That is pretty full after we got some reduced meats at the supermarket yesterday.  We have plenty to take us a couple of weeks or more into the New Year now.

This was my Christmas present from all the family.  I got up early on Boxing Day morning to find out how to use it and have been working on the border for my Twister table topper, and am now doing the binding.  As you can see, the little squares cut out of the Twister pattern are then used to form the border with the cream sprig material.  It's a lovely machine to use.  I have given my old one to Tam, as she doesn't have a decent one but had been "making do". 

Today we have half-planned to go and have a walk around Carmarthen Fleamarket.  This is the one we normally sell at, but this particular venue has been going downhill for the past 18 mths.  Plenty of people through, but they keep their hands in their pockets, which pretty well defeats the object of us traders going and setting up.  It is a long day for us - up early to be in the queue to get in around 6.30 a.m. (gates open for us traders to set up an hour later), setting up - and at this time of year the big agricultural barn it is held in is like a freezer.  I cancelled on the grounds of the winter temperatures in there and no buyers.  It is better for us to be in heated indoor venues, and at Fairs where people actually come prepared to buy something . . .

Right, I have a loaf in the Panny so had better go and see if it is ready yet.

Thursday 21 December 2017

Winter Solstice

The shortest day.  Today the sun rises at 8.03 a.m. (and it really was pretty dark still at 8 a.m.) and sets at 3.53 p.m.  This photo, taken on the road home from Leominster last week, shows how gloomy it was at just gone 3 p.m.  Once today is over I can start counting the catkins as they appear and marking each 5 minute inclination towards the light. 

We had to journey to Leominster again this week, but didn't linger and we dropped back down to Hay-on-Wye for lunch and to wish various friends a merry Christmas.  It was good to chat with friends, and we enjoyed a little wander around the shops, going back to the car laden with cut-price remaindered cookery books and some little glass jars for Harissa-making.

Above and below: a couple of Hay shops in festive mood.  The greengrocers always stocks as much local produce as possible.  It's brilliant at apple harvest time, and I have tried all sorts of unusual apples.  Orange Pippins are great.

I have got the 70% Wholemeal dough for muffins rising in my breadmaker, so had best get down and get it knocked back and get busy cutting out muffin shapes with a mug so they can start to rise.  I haven't made muffins for ages, so must get back into the habit.  I have scarcely bought any bread since having the Panasonic and, like the slow cooker, is one gadget I couldn't be without nowadays.

Finally (below) a fuzzy picture of a big ball of Mistletoe.

Now for the enjoyable part of Christmas, making edible gifts and nice things for nibbles when all our family are here for Christmas.  We had to pop into Tescopolis yesterday and you would think the shops were going to be shut for a fortnight, rather than just one day!  Some folk near us were loading multiple (20 ish?!) bags into the back of their - SMALL - car and I couldn't help thinking, OMG, the front wheels will come off the ground in a minute!!!

Tam (eldest daughter) arrives home today, but I shall be on edge until she gets here.  The older I get, the worse my nerves are . . .

Anyway, enjoy the Winter Solstice - I should imagine the roads leading to Stonehenge are going to be a wee bit choc-a-bloc though! - and let us look forward to the slowly-lengthening days again.

Monday 18 December 2017

Christmas is approaching . . .

We are finally getting sorted for Christmas.  We bought this little Nordman fir last week (half price) and I dressed it up on Saturday.  We normally have a 6 ft tree (this is 5 ft) but Keith reckons it fits better in the bay window. 

Yesterday saw the last car boot sale of the year down on the showground, and I just happened upon this huge empty whiskey bottle.  I had been looking for something similar to fill with LED lights.  It's got coloured ones for Christmas, but in the Sales I hope to find some white ones I can use through the year as occasional lighting.

This a photo taken upstairs from the cafĂ© we had lunch in at Leominster last week.  A beautiful old Hall House with vaulted ceiling.

Another market stall, selling a nice selection of home-made wreathes.

This was the veggie side of the Market.  A good selection of stock. 

Above and below: scenes from two of the shops we had a wander round.

Scary-looking sky on the way back home.  It did rain a little, and indeed the light held out until we got in through the gate, when there was still a narrow pinky strip above the horizon.

Snowy hills in the distance.  I was trying to capture the look of the skies - there were layers looking so soft, and melting together like they had been painted into place.  You can see it better in the photo below.

Like mid-Wales, Herefordshire had a lot of snow, and it was still lingering on the verges and fields, as you can see from the photo.  The Black Mountains in the distance, still streaked with white.

We have to make a return visit this week, but I expect there will be very little snow left by now.

Right, another rounds of local cards and gifts to dispense . . .

Saturday 16 December 2017

A Jaunt up to Leominster

Yesterday, Keith and I decided to have a day out to shake off the winter blues, so we headed for Leominster, which is about 80 miles from here.  It takes a couple of hours as the road from Llandovery to Brecon is very bendy and sometimes you get stuck behind someone who is Slow (often an old farmer with a trailer full of sheep going to market).  Anyway, I thought you might like to see a few photos.  This window display was an excellent one (but they sold nothing we could afford to buy!).

From another shop, a few inside photos.  Repurposed Euphonium anyone?

Now, I have one of these slipware dishes, and my price is a lot less than £88!

A nice little primitive Irish child's chair.

Hmmm, despite the asking price we are inclined to think this is a marriage.  The seat doesn't have enough wear and the top comb rail looks a bit newish too. . . 

Now that's what you CALL a dresser!  A great display of things on it too (love the breadboards).

These playful foals are still there.  I loved them last year, and still love them, but at £425 they won't be coming home with me, however rare and desirable they are.

A corner of the market.

Finally for today, where we had lunch.  We both had cheese and ham toasties, and very tasty they were too.  We had a wander round the antiques side of things but not much to tempt us in there.

Friday 15 December 2017

Cookie & Biscuit recipes

(Bronllys Garden Centre today where I was Very Good and didn't buy a thing!)


2 cups sifted all-purpose (Plain) flour - that's 9 oz
1 tspn baking soda (Bicarbonate of soda)
1/2tspn salt
1 tspn cinnamon
1/2 tspn cloves
1/2 tspn allspice
1/2 tspn nutmeg
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup finely chopped unpared (but washed) red apple (1 small apple)
1 cup raisins, chopped
1/2 cup soft butter or margarine
1 1/3 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed (Demerara - I used a scant one cup)
1 egg, unbeaten
1/4 cup apple juice or cider

(I have proper cup measures, but if you don't just use a tea cup, same size for all cup measurements)

Preheat oven to 400 deg. F.  Lightly grease two cookie sheets.

Sift flour with baking soda, salt and spices into large bowl. 

Stir in walnuts, apple, and raisins and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, and then add egg and apple juice; beat until combined.

Stir in flour mixture and mix well.

Drop by tablespoonfuls, 2 inches apart, onto prepared cookie sheets.

Bake 8 minutes, or until golden-brown.  Makes about 4 dozen, but I made mine a bit larger and made less.

(N.B.  I chopped and cooked up some cooking apples, without sugar, and used a couple of tablespoons of this in the mixture, plus a tablespoonful of the cooked apple juice.) I have frozen the left-over ones of these as they are quite cakey.

Recipe taken from McCall's Cookie Collection booklet, found years ago at a car boot sale.  Judging by the illustrations this would have been published in the early 1980s.


6 whole preserved gingers (from jar of ginger in syrup)
150g/5 1/2 oz butter or margarine
100g/4 oz caster sugar
1/2 tspn ground ginger
300g/ 11 oz plain flour
1 egg yolk to glaze

Very finely chop 3 of the whole gingers and dice the remainder.  Cream the butter or margarine with the sugar, egg, salt, ground ginger and finely chopped ginger.  Sift in the flour and work quickly together to obtain a smooth dough.  Form into a ball, wrap in foil or cling film and leave for 2 hours in the fridge (I took mine out after an hour).

Preheat the oven to moderately hot (200 deg. C, 400 Deg. F, Gas mark 6).  Divide the dough into three and roll out one piece at a time on a floured board to about 5mm/ 1/4" thick.  Cut out oblongs about 6 x 3.5 cm (2 1/2" x 1 1/2"), and place on a baking tray.  Beat the egg yolk with a little water and brush the biscuits with this mix, sprinkle with the dicedginger and bake in the centre of the oven for 15 mins. Remove from the baking tray with a palette knife and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Taken from The Best of Baking, Publ. by Hamlyn in 1979.

Thursday 14 December 2017

Blue Tit Morse Code and Twister Table Topper

Above and below - in the last patchwork class for this year, I finally got my Twister table topper pieced.  I have to make the chequered border now, and the binding, before assembling it, and I would like to hand quilt.  This will be easy on the lap.  This turned out better than I expected as I didn't have a clue from using the set of instructions which came with it!  I don't think it will be finished until January now, but will make a nice summertime table topper for putting a cake on when we have friends round.

Apple Drop Cookies

American Ginger Slices

Recipes to follow.  I made these yesterday morning so I could take some along to my patchwork class, and also some to hand round when we go and say hello to our friends at Hay-on-Wye sometime in the next couple of days.

Oh, and the Blue Tit Morse Code?  When I was in the bathroom yesterday I could hear a tap-tap-tapping and was looking round for where it might be coming from and noticed a little Blue Tit, checking for insects around the edge of the window (outside of course).  He didn't seem at all bothered to see me on the other side of the glass.

The birds have been coming in ever-increasing numbers during this cold weather, and the Siskins have joined the party now.  On the fields hereabout are good numbers of Redwings, and I daresay Fieldfares too, although I haven't noticed them yet.

Keep warm.