Friday, 30 December 2011


DS2, his partner and their 2 lovely daughters came over this afternoon. Haven't seen them for absolutely aaaaaages, so it was great.   Girls were very happy and excited and, for the first time that I can remember, didn't "go shy" when they arrived.

Lunch, drawing and playing,  small presents,  more playing.   The Girls got us all playing their games.   Then I opened my new Abba Wii game.   Great fun.  The Girls and DDIL love Abba.  DS and DH can't stand them (and neither of them dance at all)  - but even they had a go.

Thoroughly recommend it.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

How green is your hessian shopping bag?

Listening to "In Our Time" today, about Macromolecules.

Towards the end of the programme the scientists explained that in order for a hessian (or was it jute?) bag to be truly better for the environment than a plastic carrier bag (taking the whole process into account from growing to decomposing), you have to use it 130 times for every one time you would use the carrier bag.

So if you use a carrier bag twice, you have to use your hessian bag 260 times.  If you use a carrier bag 3 times before discarding it, you have to use your hessian bag 390 times.

Life's never simple.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Treadmilling, revisited

On the plus side, I'm up to doing 6.8kph.

My sessions have been shorter though (only 3.5 minutes at a time), and I've been rubbish at doing them with any regularity.  I blame Christmas,  but that's really just an excuse.

I did try watching TV while I was walking, but the treadmill is so noisy that I can't hear the TV.  Yes, I could turn the volume up - but it's right at the other end of the double room,  and I don't think it would be fair on the neighbours.  So, I decided to get a pair of wireless RF headphones.

Found them in stock at Maplin in a nearby town,  and went out on Boxing Day to buy them.  They only plugged in to the headphone socket on the Amp,  and DH had an idea to make them less hassle... which required him to pop to Maplin yesterday to buy bits to make an appropriate lead.  Long story short, they are now plugged in to the back of the amp, and the amp thinks they are extra speakers. 

Today, I finally got round to using them.  I went for a 15 minute "walk" on my treadmill, slightly slower speed than normal and not at any gradient,  but I covered just over 1.5 km  (about a mile). They worked really well!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Christmas Eve, Good Afternoon

So, the potatoes are roasted in the goose fat and are sitting in the tray to cool down.  When cool, I'll strain off the goose fat and leave the potatoes in the tray until tomorrow; then  they'll be popped in the oven (with no additional fat)  for 20 mins to reheat while the goose is resting.     I did question how this really saved time - they only take 3omins to cook anyway - and we worked out that it means we don't have to peel potatoes and par boil, and then get the fat up to temperature etc, all while trying to do lots of other things.

The red cabbage smells delicious.  I made a huge quantity,  and when it's done and cold I'll be portioning it up and freezing it for use in the coming weeks.  I'll leave enough for tomorrow (which I'll reheat in a small saucepan) and to provide cold accompaniment to cold meats.

The goose stock/gravy is bubbling away.  DH is following Nigella's recipe for a "light" gravy, my choice of recipe so I hope it's OK.

The root veg are cut up and sitting in a bag in the fridge, marinading in oliveoil, garlic, salt and herbs. 

I've still got carrot and swede to do,   and the stuffing to make. 

The girls have been enjoying left over bits of red cabbage (so we'll have blue poo tomorrow),   the cores of the cooking apples,  the seedy bits of the  butternut squashes,  and some grapes.  I was making room in the fridge and decided to have some for me now and some for the girls now too.

Chrsitmas Eve, good morning


Had trouble getting up today, so I'm a bit behind.

I've sorted out my list of thngs that can be prepared today, and I'm going to get started shortly.

On my list for making today:
  • Make goose giblet stock
  • Braised red cabbage with apples
  • Swede and carrot mash
  • Roast Potatoes (Mary Berry gave instructions on Radio 4 for how to cook them the day before and reheat them on the day;  we tested this last week and it worked well)
  • Make stuffing for goose
  • Prep root veg for roasting, put in bag to "marinate" in olive oil and herbsI 
It makes tomorrow's cooking much easier.
I think I'll have a cup of coffee first.
Catch up later xx

Thursday, 22 December 2011


I seem to have gone a bit overboard with hanging things this Christmas.

During the year I picked up a couple of things which I wanted to add to the tree.  I seem to have a bit of a chickeny and cat theme going on.

Firstly some teeny tiny little bees. I think they are meant to be card embellishments, but a bit of black cotton and they in amonst the tree branches...

Next, at Easter I found some Gisela Graham chickens, one yellow, one green, one red.  Not very Christmassy, but I don't really care - the tree is decorated to make us smile. 
Last GD3 made us a special decoration as a Christmas Present,  so we've put it on the top of the tree this year

I seem to have developed a Gisela Graham habit, which I don't really understand as "Bunting Cupcake" style isn't really me. I bought two indoor chicken related hangers,  and then embellished them to make them more personal to us.

The front door wreath was larger than expected,  so it took a bit more decorating than previously.  However, the theme is much the same as last year. I thought I had taken a pic but I can't find it, so I'll take another one and post it later.

I've realised I have too many pics sitting on my camera, so I'm going to spend the next little while downloading and backing up.

Talk soon!

It's behind you!

Pantomime on Tuesday, excellent. I love Pantomimes.  We go every year and, in fact, for many years we went to two Pantos, one with our friends S&K and again with the kids.   S and I have been to the Panto together every year for the last 25 years.

Last year's pantomime was DIRE. We saw Cinderella last year, at Windsor. Charlie Dimmock was the Fairy Godmother, and she did well considering she wasn't a trained actor.  But the rest of the cast were singers,  and the whole show revolved around giving them opportunities to sing.  The lines were merely delivered,  with no feeling or gusto, as though they were going through the motions.  What a waste of money that was.

This year it was High Wycombe's turn.  It was Cinderella at High Wycombe, with Lesley Joseph, and it was fantastic.  She wasn't high on my list of must-see stars (usually we pick pantos by avoiding people we don't want to see)  but the Swan has put on some of the best pantomimes over the years and it's worth the trek.  

The story this year was very focussed around the Lesley Joseph role of Fairy Godmother.  Buttons was really well played by Matt Slack. Almost, but not quite, as good as Brian Conley that we saw there in 2007.  (Brian seems to play Buttons every year, and I'd definitely choose to go and see him againbut hasn't been in the area since then). All the cast really threw themselves into it and seemed to be having as good a time as the audience.  There was plenty of opportunities for booing and hissing and shouting and generally participating.

Christmas Cakes

Yesterday I finally got round to decorating the Christmas cakes I made for my friends.   

First up, Delia's Creole Cake with glazed nut topping.  Excuse the vile gold board,  the shop didn't have silver ones of the right size.


 Next, Delia's Traditional Christmas Cake. This one has a (bought) Father Christmas on the top, with various sugarpaste snowflakes and stars,  and some sugarpaste holly.  The top is possibly a bit over-busy I think. and I wish I'd used smaller holly leaves.  Too late now.

Finally, another Traditional Cake.

I've still got to decorate our own Creole cake.  I think I might try cutting it into 4x4 inch cakes and see what they look like when decorated.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Oh rats!

The council took it upon themselves to clear an area near the bottom of our garden which had been thick with brambles (a haven for blackberry hunters), ivy, and other overgrown greenery.  As a result, the now-homeless rats are looking for alternative accomodation and sources of food, and have decided to try their paws at our Girls' walk in run.

Fortunately, I spotted the first excavations immediately. We baited the tunnel and blocked it up.  We started brining in the food each evening, and each mrning we find evidence of a new excavation.  So, we're baiting (which is horrible, poor rats) and trapping (which is more humane, but not always possible) to try and discourage them, and blocking.  Each day we sweep away the debris of the diggings so that so that we can see evidence of new excavations.

In the current weather, we can only take immediate short term measures.  In the Spring, we'll have to concrete the whole area to provide permanent protection. Not great, but probably necessary.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Finally getting into the spirit

I marzipanned two christmas cakes this afternoon.

I'll aim to ice them on Tuesday or Wednesday next week. I've got two Creole cakes to top with nuts as well...I might try and get to Costco on Monday (or Tuesday)  to get the nuts and a few other bits, and then  can do all 4 cakes on the same day. 

Maybe. Costco. Christmas. Hmm.

DH knows his onions

DH's local has a home made pickled onion contest each year, judged by a local chef and one other.  The jars and the onions are provided. The onions are pickled over a particular week and then are stored at the pub. Judges don't know which entry is which.

DH has entered every year since inception in 2003, and has come second a number of times. 

DH won this year!

Friday, 16 December 2011

Early planning backfire

Last year the weather in the days before Christmas was dreadful, and we were very lucky (and grateful to) our beef supplier and Ocado for battling the weather to ensure everything got through.

This year I thought I'd be Be Prepared.  We're having goose,  and that arrived early in December and was put in the freezer.  So far so good.  I've also started stocking up on non-perishables plus  the long-shelf life products like chocolates, drinks an nibbles, especially those that are on offer. Usually we get everything in the last couple of days.

I've now discovered that DH has drunk most of the delicious Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic water.  I've drunk a bottle of Crabbies cloudy ginger beer.   And, most suprisingly of all,  we've eaten both bars of white chocolate and I've munched my way through 6 bags of crisps.  I think that's probaby happened because I rarely have chocolate and I never have crisps in the house, and the temptation was just too much.  And who can stop at one bag of crisps when you have an open six pack sitting there?

So, I've had to re-add those to my Christmas delivery next week.

I need to get back on that treadmill.

Thursday, 15 December 2011


We bought our tree yesterday (14th), which is very early for us.  I wanted a Fraser Fir - they are very compact trees, not wide like the more popular Nordmanns - and in previous years we have trouble finding one because we leave it so late.

Well, it's up, it's decorated.  I also decorated the wreath for the front door,  and  enhanced a pre-bought Gisela Graham chicken related wreath for one of the inside doors.  D used the spare foliage from the tree to make a plain wreath for the Girls.

Spurred on with the Christmas theme, I made mincemeat today - Cranberry (Nigella's recipe, instead of my usual Delia mincemeat). It looks very pretty, but there isn't a uhge amount of it.  

DH started a brie, hopefully it'll be edible by Christmas,  and then made ricotta with the whey.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Christmas Shopping

We don't exchange pressies at Christmas, haven't done for years, and it makes Christmas so much more pleasurable. We spend extra on birthday presents instead.  It started a long time ago when a friend of ours was economising and we areed not to buy for each other;  we spread this to agreeing the same with my family;  and then the (adult) children.    Everyone else continues with the mayhem of spending money on gifts they desperately hope the recipient will love - it's just us that have opted out completely (we don't even buy pressies for each other).

Every year for the past 25 years, my lovely friend S and I have taken a day to go Christmas shopping, getting it all done in one hit.   Even after I stopped buying pressies, we've continued with our day shopping. S still buys pressies, it's a pleasant day out together, and  I find it interesting watching people's behaviour without having the stress of trying to find gifts myself.

We have grandchildren that we see a lot, and some we don't see very often. Since we've had grandchildren of an age to know what Christmas is, I started to feel a bit mean not buying them something to unwrap (and - frankly -  I felt that other people felt I was mean), so a couple of years ago I tried to buy a small token pressie for each grandchild.   I find it quite difficult to find token inexpensive presents that don't seem mean they all have so much already). I also struggle to get a fair balance between all of them. 

I might get them some chocolate this year.  As if they need more chocolate?!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Cheeky boy

Our cats have a perfectly functional cat flap, with it's own porch,  to permit them free access to the outside world.    They also have a specially designed gap in the trellis by the gate which lets them pass from the front to the back gardens without having to jump or climb over anything.

Many months ago, our ginger ninja pawed at the french window in the kitchen indicating that he wanted to go out.   How could we resist such a cute thing?  We let him out.   Over the months, both cats got in the habit of  pawing at the french window when they want to go out. Or when they want to come in, for that matter.    And we got into the habit of opening the door for them. 

I can see their point.  Why should they go out the cat flap and walk round, when they can see where they want to be?   But I'm amazed at how easy we were to train.   Now, we automatically go and open the door - stopping whatever we happen to be doing at the time - to let the cat out. or in.  Or both in quick succession.    Often it involves us getting up and unlocking the french window, opening the door, letting the cat pass through, then shutting the door, relocking it, and putting the key away.

DH and I laugh at how silly this is. How ridiculous that we've allowed ourselves to be trained this way. But still we do it.  We've idly thought about installing a bell to see if we can get the cats to use it.

Today, Washburn took this to a new level of cheekiness.  He pawed at the door. I got up, got the key, unlocked the door, opened it for him... he sniffed the air... and walked away, back into the warmth of the kitchen.

Far too cold outside.

Saturday, 10 December 2011


Very cold this morning.

Poo trays full of ginger feathers: looks like Custard is starting to moult.

Roobarb now has some feathers, but not many.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Tradmilling, again

I've covered just over 4 miles since Sunday.

I'm now walking at 6.2kph (3.87mph) for just over 6.5 minutes at 3% gradient, with 2 x 100m runs at 9kph in there as well.  I'm covering 0.75km in each session now (0.47 miles). 

I do understand that these are pathetically short walks to those who love walking (or who do a job which involves walking miles a day, like waitressing),  but every minute on the treadmill is a minute's walk that I would not otherwise be doing.

Partially plucked chicken

Roobarb now has a few feathers on her side, and a small modesty panel on her back.

The rest of her is still oven ready.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Stolen Lurcher - THORNEY HILL AREA NEAR BURLEY BH25 postcode

Do you have any friends who live near the New Forest/in the South west?  If so, please ask them to keep an eye out for a stolen lurcher.

I've had this email from my friend Clare:

A friend who lives near the New Forest has had her lurcher stolen while walking there. It was seen being led off into a van by two men; as you can imagine, she is beside herself with worry.

Stolen from Burley, New Forest Hampshire. Near Burbush Car Park (Burley to Bransgore road) HE HAS BEEN STOLEN - WAS SEEN BEEN TAKEN BY TWO MEN IN A VAN HEADING TOWARDS THE THORNEY HILL AREA NEAR BURLEY

His name is Ozzie, he's tattooed and microchipped.

If you have any friends who live in the south west region, please pass this information on if you can.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Oven ready to Hedgehog

Roobarb now looks like a hedgehog, or spiny anteater, or somesuch.  

She has these plasticky quills sticking out all over, and they click together when she moves.  She's looking, understandably I think, very sorry for herself.  It can't be comfortable.

There are a few odd feathers appearing,  having burst out of a quill or two.

Hopefully it won't be long now before she's sporting her glorious new winter coat.

Grandparent Tea Party

DGS1 is in year 6 and, at his school, they have an entertainment-and-tea show at Christmas for the year 6 Grandparents.  Or, rather, for one grandparent per child.   I was really touched that DGS1 decided to invite us,  and then I was slightly panic-struck when I realised it was for me not DH.

DD lives a fair distance away, takes a good couple of hours to get there. DH came with me so that he could see DD and DGD while I was at the school.  DD walked me to the school and left me there.  I felt like a child dropped at the school playground for the first time (which is completely unfair exaggeration as I was actually in the school's reception,  but I did have to ask her to "come and collect me" at the closing time).

The 3 classes had held auditions for who was going to be in the show.  Not everyone had to audition, so there was no coersion.  Of the 90 children in that year, they had 12 acts interspersed with single/pair/or trio comperes (or "compares" as they put on the programme, tut tut) telling jokes.

It was really good.  We had sketches,  lots of singers,  a wide range of musical instrument playing (clarinet, guitars, trumpet, flute), and some gymnasts.  The quality was, of course, variable,  but each one was fantastic just for having a go.  There were 180 people in the audience, plus teachers,  so quite daunting.

And then we had tea.  Some nibbles, some cakes, some tea.  An individual cracker, made by grandchild,complete with gift.  There was a bit of a competition to see who had travelled the furthest.  I thought it would be me...but I was pipped at the post by a grandma from Portugal.  I take my hat off to her. 

Then the children were sent to run around in the playground and we were invited to go with.  So I did. DGS wanted to play "it" but, as I chased him, I tried (pantingly) to explain that it was inherently unfair because I was unlikely to catch hime and even if I did he'd catch me back within seconds.  So we  spent the next 15 minutes or so playing jumping games with my DGS.... they have squares with letters in, so we were jmping letters to make words,  and then we were doing the alphabet backwards.   They also had a grid with the numbers 1 -100, so we were playing "times table" jumping.  In the end DGS decided the Table, did the jumping, and I told him which numbers to jump to.  He was most impressed that I knew the 12 times table.    One of his friends wanted to join in (how bizarre is that?!), so for a few moments until the whistle blew we had a bit of a competition.

I was so pleased to hear the whistle.  I was shattered, I was cold.    DD, DH and DGD turned up to collect me, we went to the other part of the school to pick up DGS2,  and then back to collect DGS1.

On our walk back I walked on the otside, explaining that I needed to keep my sword arm free to protect them.    "What if you're left handed?" asked DGS after some thinking.   I explained that in the olden days, people weren't allowed to be left handed, that my Mother had been forced to learn to write with her right hand.   DH (or DGD in their case) was left handed;  DGS2 was left handed; DSiL was left handed.    

DGS then said that they didn't have roads in the old days.  I explained that they did have roads - how else did people get fromone place to another? - but of course they weren't tarmaced and pavemented roads.

"What about in the desert?"  was the next challenge.  I agreed that there probably weren't roads in the desert.


The Treadmill has been occupying a large part of the sitting room since Sunday.

I decided I'd start with 5 minute sessions only,  and work on building up gradient and speed.  This has worked really well.  I had 2 goes on Sunday, although the first one was at strolling pace and with no gradient, so I'm not sure it counts really.

On Monday morning, I got up first to make tea/hot lemon. While the tea was brewing, I did 5 minutes. I was on gradient 3 (out of 9, and I suspect that it is a "gentle incline"),  and I was up yo 5.8 KPH, which is about 3.6 miles an hour.   

We went out for the day (more later) and when we got back, I did another 5 minutes at 5.8KPH.

This morning, I moved up to 6KPH (3.75mph), still on gradient 3. I don't think I could sustain that, epecially when I've just got up and am still in my jimjams, for much longer.

So, .I'm going to carry on at 6kph for 5 minutes - which means I'm doing just under a 3rd of a mile eachtime - and then I might look at increasing the time slightly.

Not earth shattering, I know. But consistent.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Thanks Alexis

I was catching up with Alexis' blog a few days ago, and her post about issuing herself a challenge really chimed with me.  I've been thinking for ages that I should try and go for a walk everyday..but I don't particularly enjoy walking for the sake of walking,   and I know that I wouldn't keep it up in bad weather.

I thought about setting myself an achievable target. Maybe, walk everyday for a week (I appreciate this probably sounds pathetic to those of you who enjoy walking, or walk anyway).

Then as I read on, I saw the fateful words "on my treadmill".  Now, I've never seen the point of treadmills. Too big, too bulky, and likely to just be a dust catcher.  We don't have anywhere sensible to put a treadmill - at least, no where where it would also actually get used.  

But I kept thinking about it.   I looked on Ebay. Lots of treadmills there (mostly hardly used, I chuckled when I read that), and much less than buying one new.  I spotted one quite local to me.  I decided I'd bid on it. If I won it,  I'd put it in my living room for a couple of weeks and use it every day.  Then I'd move it into the spare bedroom, and see if I continued to use it.  I would set myself an easily achievable target. Maybe, x minutes walking each day, and see how much I covered, rather than aiming to do a specific distance.  

And if I failed, I could sell it on Ebay without losing much money.

I raided my Quidco pot,  and my birthday money pot, and made my bid.

And I won it.

I haven't told DH yet.  I'm going to have to tell him because I need to use his car to collect it. (And, of course, he might notice it in the living room anyway).