Friday, 29 November 2013

No, anything but a trip to Ikea

We were meant to get a new kitchen this year, but I couldn't find one that shouted me! me! at me.

In the meantime, we had been trying a couple of short term adjustments - in anticipation of them being replaced - such as trying out a new breakfast bar area with a bit of worktop we bought locally via Ebay.  We sold the table, as we didn't think we'd need it.  Then this temporary fold up table came along, with the plan of it living under the worktop (where we had temporarily  put a huge cupboard to store glass jars and butchery bits) when the kitchen was redone.

Fine when it was only going to be for a few weeks,  less fine when it's now been many months and will likely be many months more.

The kitchen worktop space is even more crowded than usual, as we have 3 x 25l fermentation things of cider on the go.

And then I bought DH a couple of new knives, and that brought our attention to the mess that is the working breakfast bar. This is our original breakfast bar, where we sit to eat breakfast and dinner,  where we prepare everything.

I came across an Ikea Hacker website, and saw something that looked like it could be a really neat solution, the lady called it her "Appliance Garage". We measured and decided it wasn't quite going to work, and we looked for alternatives.

The next chunk of this tale is a dull story of discussions, Internet searches,  and many many arguments as we tried to work out what to do.  I'll fast forward over that part of today.

>> >>

...eventually we were standing in the kitchen with the knives on one worktop, the magnetic knife block lying sadly on the worktop,  the utensils from the utensil rack strewn everywhere, and the utensil rack in pieces,  and the wall looking quite sorry for itself.

The glass shelf, which is extremely useful but so high up that it - and anything on it - gets covered in crud - remained in place.

We discussed the optimum height of the mangnetic knife rack. "I need to think about it",  I said.

And then I found a possible solution.  I thought about it for a while, I searched on Ebay, but the answer was the same.


No day is a good day for Ikea, they are just different shades of bad.  Saturday and Sunday are possibly the worst.   So, it would have to be today, or it would be early next week. 

The wreckage in the kitchen wouldn't wait until Monday.

No time of day is a good time of day for making that journey to  Ikea, they are just different shades of bad.  Having ruled out Saturday and Sunday, I decided that rush hour - any day - was a bad idea.

I looked at the clock. It was 1.30pm.     If I left now, I'd be there by 2.15.  If I ambled round the shop, I'd be leaving at 3.15, and home by 4.   I put my boots on.

"Where are you off to?", DH asked in surprise.
"Ikea." I said, in that flat voice that one uses when talking about going to Ikea.
"What?!?!" He exclaimed, in a tone of voice that expressed a combination of shock, horror, surprise, admiration, and any other emotion one can thnink of.    I think I would have got the same reaction if I'd say "I'm popping to my Mum's for a cup of tea". My mother lives 4 hours away.

I showed him what I was getting.  "I'm going to get two", I said,   "I'd rather buy two and have one too many, than buy one and have to go back for another."

"You can come if you like?", I asked, partially hoping he'd say yes, and partially hoping he'd say no. 


The run to Ikea was OK.  I parked easily,. The shop was relatively empty.    I toyed with the idea of going straight to the pickup area, as I knew what I wanted.  But I couldn't help myself.  I had to walk round the shop, just in case.

Of course the few people that were in there, were ambling around in groups across the whole of the walkway.  I zoomed around, cutting corners to get past them.  I stopped once when I saw that therewere some new doors for Billy; and again briefly at some new wardrobe doors. 

 I reached the kitchen area, slowed down a little to take in what they had to offer, and then stopped and spent a long time looking at one kitchen. This shocked me a bit as I did look in Ikea a year or so ago and didn't find a finish I liked. And  I hadn't liked this one, back then. I stared at it, trying to work out why I liked it.

I spent a few minutes in the kitchen bits section,  considering whether to buy some Grundtal things for the kitchen rail.  I couldn't make my mind up.  In the end, I picked them up anyway, as I didn't want to get home and kick myself for not getting them.

I reached the Marketplace and got a trolley to hold the items DH wanted.  I found a useful clip-on light, at a bargain price,  that would clip on to the music stand on Orla.   And a bit further on, I found it's non-clip on but very adjustable brother version.   I stood looking at the two packets, trying to work out which would offer the best solution.   My brain was befuddled. "Better get it than go home and regret it" I thought. 

Some square picture frames at a bargain price. Just what I wanted! Well, almost.  I really wanted them a bit smaller. And I really wanted them in a pale woor finish, not white.  But at that price -  "I can paint them to match the wall". 

I had to get help to find what I went in for, I hadn't seen them in the kitchen section. Turns out they and they were one of the things one has to order at a desk, pay for at the checkout, and then get from the collection point.  The man typed in "1".  "I need 2", I said.  Somehow, I bought 3.  I only needed one.  But if I had to take things back, I might as well make it worth my while. And, or so I reasoned with myself,  I have resisted buying new doors for a cabinet, and new doors for a wardrobe, and goodness knows what else.  Ha. at least I hadn't bought any of the Ikea tat!

The queues at the cashiers were reasonable, and the cashier was a jolly chap.   It did take a looooong time at the collection point. I had no idea what the time was.

I finally got outside and I was a little surprised that it was still light.

I had been in Ikea for nearly 2 hours.

Heaven knows how long I would have been in there if I had actually been looking at things.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Chickens don't forget

I've somehow managed to get into the daily habit of bringing Tilda into the kitchen for a little smackerel.  I didn't mean for this to become a habit but, in the chicken world, things they approve of become ingrained as habits after just one occurrence, whilst things they disapprove of never reach that status.

I remember that Tildy was looking a little glum.  At the time, I wasn't convinced she was using the feeders properly, and I'd been out every day putting her on the treadle so she could eat.   It was only much later that I caught her on camera using the treadle quite happily.

So, I had started bringing her into the kitchen for 5 mins to eat a handful of the Garvo that needed using up and would otherwise have been binned. Probably.

Before I knew what was happening, it was an every day occurence.  

In a vain attempt to break the habit, I tried varying the times.   It didn't work.  Tildy would wait patiently by the door of the run.

A few times I waited until afternoon, and then I'd find that Tildy would move out of the run, walk down the garden, and wait by the netting round the pampas grass.

We're getting to the end of the bag of Garvo now.  She doesn't eat the pellety bits anyway.   I don't want to be ordering another blooming bag of it. [I do realise the only way is to just stop it. I am not stupid, just soft]

She didn't get any the day we went to London. We left too early and came back too late.   Yesterday, one week after the London trip, we were going to visit DGS3. So, I didn't bring her in in the morning. I shut them away when we went out.  We got back at 3.30, and I made the cold-weather-porridge for them.

When I walked into the run with the bowls of hot porridge, Tilda hopped out and started walking down the garden path to the house.  I called her, but she ignored me.

I put the bowls of chicken porridge round the run for the others, and walked back to the house. When I got there, Tilda was inside, tucking in.

I was a bit surprised.  It was 3.30, porridge time... and she had decided that coming in to the kitchen to eat a few bits of Garvo was her preferred option.

It crossed my mind that she was considering moving back into the kitchen for the winter. It is almost a year since she collapsed in the garden and came to live inside. 3rd December, I believe, is the Henniversary.

Later - when she was safely returned to the run - I casually wondered out loud whether Tilda might want to move back for the winter.  DH said nothing.   

Saying nothing said everything.


Time to deal with the quinces.

First priority - Quince Vodka.  Second - Quince Jelly.

I weighed the quinces and set aside enough for the jelly, and then calculated how much vodka I needed to deal with the remaining quinces.

This year I thought I'd try Suzy Atkin's recipe. I've made a few things from her book How To Make Your Own Drinks, ad been happy wiith them.   It's a simpler recipe than I've used previously, so I hope it'll be OK.   

Wth two such great ingredients (quince, and vodka) I guess it's difficult for it not  to taste OK.

Of course I couldn't find a jar the right size. 

Anyway, I ended up using the most enormous (3 litre) jar,  a present from frieds S&K some time ago. With hindsight, I coulda/shoulda used several smaller jars, and then I wouldn't have had to mix the two brands of vodka.   Or I could have tried two recipes.

And with even more hindsight, I've just realised that I do have a jar  that would have been the correct size. It's  sitting in the fridge with dried fruit stewing in alcohol for an extra cake I'm making.I've only just remembered it (the jar, not the fact that I have fruit in the fridge). 

Oh well. It's sitting on the worktop, in a bit away from sunlight, so that I can agitate it daily for two weeks, then it'll go into the utility room for 4 weeks (or until I remember it again).

Next up will be quince jelly, but that might need to wait until tomorrow when my grocery delivery (containing lemons) arrives.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Another one

Izzy had another fit this morning This time it didn't involve falling downstairs.

Looking at the dates (of the fits we know about), they seem to come in clusters and then stop for a while.

I've looked at things like the dates they have their flea treatment, and there isn't any corresponding pattern.

I can see weare going to have to start noting down exactly what varieties of food she has, to see if we can rule that out.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Upstairs, downstairs

Izzy had another fit this morning.

I was already awake, the radio alarm went off at 7.  I heard the noise and realised what it was. I grabbed the videocamera on my way downstairs.

Izzy was fitting at the bottom of the stairs.  I talked to her and stroked her (whilst filming her), and waited until the fit stopped before turning off the camera.   It took her a minute or two to come back after the fit stopped, and I went to get some kiytchen towel to clean her up. 

When she was back with us, I gave her some cat food. As usual, she was ravenous. She ate two packets (fed half a packet at a time0, and would have eaten more if I'd given it to her.

While she ate, I cleaned up the hall floor. Thank goodness for solid flooring.

Later, I went back upstairs...and noticed some cat pee on the second step.   I realised that poor Izzy must have started her fit at the top of the stairs and then fallen down to the bottom whilst having her spasms.

I checked her over. She looks OK.  She's spent most of the day sleeping.

Poor little poppet.

The recording was rubbish - not enough light.  So I'll have to remember yo tuen the lights on next time.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Hadrons and Shard

Went to London yesterday as a treat for DH.

We had to get a rush-hour train, which I haven't done for a looooooong time.   We were lucky, the weather yesterday was Autumn at it's best.

We started at the Science Museum,  at the Hadron Collider exhibition.  We visited another exhibition while we were there, and then left. DH could have spent all day, but I had other things planned and booked.

We crossed London to have lunch near London Bridge.

After lunch, we visited the Shard.  It was fairly quiet, easy to get to the telescopes. The views were amazing!

And then home.

A good day.

Monday, 18 November 2013

This little piggy...

We are collecting a half pig at the beginning of December.  We haven't finished the last half pig yet, but it'll be a few more months before Shirley has another one ready.

We've still got a few pork joints in the freezer and, with it being winter and therefore cool/cold outside, we thought it was an ideal time to try a bit more curing.  As well as the usual bacon and lardons, we'll do some small hams - including (hopefully) a dry cured one -  and we're going to have another bash at salami.

We're pretty much out of everything - curing salts,  sausage skins, etc - and we've managed to get our order in with Weschenfelder in plenty of time, instead of at the last minute. In all the time we've been doing this (inlucding all the time we were making susages etc before we were getting the pork from Shirley), I think this is the first time we've managed to place an order in good time.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

No blood shed yet

It was a lovely day yesterday. Cold, sure, but sunny and bright.  DH phoned to say that he was going to take away the fence separating Henry & Harem, and the Old Girls. 

We still have to replace the Old Girls coop, and had been waiting until that was done before mingling the two flocks... but the weather is due to turn nasty, so DH was thinking he'd let them mingle anyway. 

Henry is a really lovely Boy, and he's very considerate with his ladies.  I wondered if the sudden addition of 6 old girls might be a bit much for him. I wasn't sure what they would think of having a young man suddenly in their midst.

They seemed to mingle OK. Fortunately the allotment is big enough that they can keep out of each others way if they want to. 

OC (Other Chap) reported that there was "no bloodshed" this morning, and Henry had been burbling away.

I imagine there will only be problems if one group decides to occupy the other group's housing, without permission.

We might try putting a camera up to record what happens at bedtime.

Friday, 15 November 2013


It's been a week of gorgeous weather.    Very cold, but very bright and sunny.

The low sun comes streaming in through our south facing windows, and shows up all the dust. And smears. And cobwebs.   I've been round and cleaned, but it's just impossible.

Still, I'd rather have that that have a north facing back garden, so I shall stop complaining.

Teh dry-ish weather gave DH an opportunity to put away the temporarily dry garden furniture.  The garden is looking very bare now,  and the terrace, which is only in full sun at the height of the summer, already has lots of green algae growing over it.  I expect it will spread completely over the coming months.

The Girls are going to bed earlier, and I'm having to make sure they get plenty of corn at about 3pm to keep them warm.  They are still moulting.    It'll be porridge time soon.

The chicken coop is still waiting to have the vents put in. We really must get on with it.

And I must get on and do something with the quinces.

The forecast for next week is rain, and that's not so much fun.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Fits and cobwebs

A helicopter flew over our house in the night, waking me up.
Isobel, our cat, had another fit last night. Actually, it was 6.30 this morning, which was better than the usual.   Unusually, DH heard it first, and it was DH getting out of bed that woke me up.

I got out of bed, grabbed my dressing gown, and grabbed the vide camera which we keep upstairs ready to capture a fit for the vet.  By the time I'd opened the flap and found the record button (which was surprisingly difficult when I wasn't really awake) the main fit was over and it wasn't worth recording the denoument.   Turns out the battery was dead as well, so I've put that on to recharge now.

It took her a while to come back to us and, as usual, when she did she was ravenous.  She had a whole packet of cat food in two goes. I fed her, while DH cleared up.  Then we all went back to bed.   It took ages for me to go back to any sort of sleep, and then I dozed until about 9.30am.   When I got up, my head felt full of cobwebs.

Outside, it was a gorgeous sunndy day.  I opened the french window in the kitchen and brought Tildy in for a snackerel, and  I left the door open to air the house.  (The cider from the most recent batch  has reached the smelly stage).   I also opened the french windows in the living room, and I'm tempted to open the front windows too, especially as I am in the living room.

There, I've just done it.

The change in air pressure was a bit startling, like when blocked ears suddenly clear.

Speaking of cobwebs, we've got quite a few rather dirty ones hanging around now.   I like to be a spider friendly house, and I don't really mind cobwebs as such... but these are looking a bit grim, so I thnk I'll have to go and clear them away.

I'll greab a few lungfuls of fresh air first, and then I'll be literally and metaphorically clearing the cobwebs.


Cakes and Puddings

Just before my work started, I prepared some dried fruit in alcolhol (lots of alcohol) and put it in the fridge to soak.   I was making two Creole Cakes (a la Delia), one for us and one for a friend.  Delia says to soak the fruit for a week, but I find three weeks with an extra dosing of alcohol at the end of the second week works well.

I managed to get the cakes made one day when I needed a break from work, and I was very pleased to be working to schedule.    I don't dress them until December and so they are stored, wrapped in greasproof and foil, in an airtight container in a cool dark place.

I also had three iced cakes to make and some puddings.  On Wednesday last week, I soaked fruit in brandy for the cakes,   and made up christmas puddings mixture.   I made the cakes on Thursday, they are wrapped and stored, and will be fed with brandy over the next 3 weeks. 
While the cakes were in the oven, I put the pudding mix into basins and covered and tied them all.  This was the first year where I had managed to get all the right sized basins beforehand.

Modern basins are slighly larger than 1pt/2pt. At least, they are if you fill them to the top and, as the puddings shrink anyway, it seems rude not to. I usually find I don't have quite enough mixture,  so I made a little extra this time.  I made a bit more "extr"a than I thought, so not only were all pudding basins filled, but I needed to go up from a 3/4 pint to a 1 pint basin for us. 

On Friday lunchtime, I set the puddings to steam for 8 hours.   It was relatively painless. When they were done, I set them on cooling racks overnight. First thing Saturday, I took the foil and papers off the now-cold basins,  cleaned them up, and re-dressed them.  I even wrapped them in cellophane, which I don't normally do until December.   Still on schedule.

As I was admiring my cellophaned handiwork,  I realised a friend had asked me to make an individual sized pudding, and I had forgotten.   I looked at our own pudding, which was probably an individual-sized pudding larger than it needed to be and rolled my eyes at myself.

I'll need to get some more ingredients, and I'll make the additional pud (or puds, I don't think I can sensibly reduce the recipe quite that far) next week.    

On a positive not, the tinies only take 3 or so hours to steam.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Orla, again

I loved Orla.

She was easy to play,  sounded fantastic,  had an incredible sound.... 

I wondered if I should have gone for another model.  At the time, I didn't really think I'd play her much, I just wanted something instead of my C55.   Orla was about as much as I could spend on something that was a bit of a whim and might not get used.

But Orla was getting used, played all the time.    I wondered if I should have spent more money and got something even better.   I looked around.   I found what the next few models up were called, and what they were like.

I emailed Orla Direct to find out more about the differences, and what I could expect to pay.    Turns out they had a DLX2 available, and would do a swap allowing me full part exchange on what I had paid for Orla originally.

I thought about it.  For quite a long time.

And then I decided to do it. 

And so the men came again, took Orla away and left me with another Orla.  Outwardly, she looks the same.  A few small differences.     A few more differences in the sounds available.

Work and family happened, and I hardly played Orla at all. 

She sat in the smallest bedroom, which we now - tongue in cheek - call "The Music Room".   She sat, barely played, for about a month.

Until yesterday, and again today.   I played her for hours!

DH was out, so didn't have to put up with it.

She's lovely.   
In fact, I'm going back to play her some more now.


I've gad a quick flick back through my posts, and I can see that I mentioned saying goodby to my Yamaha C55.

I'd bought an Orla GT 9000 LX.   

It scared me.

The chap who delivered gave me a very detailed introduction, and left me with a manual and a DVD.  My brother, who was there to help shuft the old organ,  and I sat and pressed keys for about two hours.  We couldn't stop figgling at how clever Orla was.

Over the next week, I played Orla every day.  I bought new music books, more suited to her.  I played, with relative ease, songs I had never played before.   I played for hours.

I loved Orla.
I started to watch the DVD.  I tried out new things on Orla.  I learned to understand her  little more.

And then I decided to send her back.


A month or so ago I had a fit of decluttering, and sold lots of back-of-the-cupboard items to help pay for my Orla (did I mention my Orla? I don't think I did, I'll post separately).

Then family and work happened, and I haven't done much.

Work is in hiatus, so I was trying to tidy up in the aftermath.  I spent a few hours yesterday accidentally clearing out my desk area.  It doesn't look any different outside, but it's much tidier and emptier inside.  ]

Today, in the search to find Magic Tape to help me wrap Christmas Puds,  I ended up clearing out the over-stairs cupboard in the smallest bedroom.  

It took a couple of hours.   A man on a galloping horse (or my DH) wouldn't notice anything different.  However, I have got a small pile of stuff to Ebay,  the paper-recycling bin is full,  and I have an enormous stack of old work papers that I'll burn on the stove.   

Looking at the stacks of stuff I've removed,  and looking back at the cupboard,  I can't quite see where it all came from. It certainly wouldn't fit in again.

I didn't find the spare magic tape.   

I think I might buy some more.  I've had enough decluttering for now, thank you.

Thursday, 7 November 2013


I went (with DH) to see the Allotment chooks yesterday. First time in a few weeks.

Henry and some of his harem are moulting.  The blue-ringed girl, who moulted early, now has a full set of feathers and seems to have stopped being a pest.

The Old Girls, who are cockerel-less, seem to be getting on well.  A few of them are moulting.  Mrs., is still waddling about.  She looks a bit stiff, but her comb is a vibrant red and her eyes are bright.

The Dinner Chooks are looking really well.  The one who started laying at a ridiculously early age is, we think, one of Spike's offspring.  She's black like the Wlesh Blacks, but she has a Leghorn comb and tail.   We think her mum is probably one of Henry's wives.  

Redhead, the cockerel, looks the spitting image of his grandfather, Roo.   We all loved Roo, and we have to remember that Redhead might look like Roo, but he isn't Roo and he doesn't have Roo's amazing temperament.   

We still haven't moved the new hen house down to the allotment.  It needs vents putting in, and a combination of work, family commitments, and bad weather have meant it's been sitting outside doing nothing for a couple of months now.  Any spare time has been taken up with doing the apples, or raking the garden, or other can't-wait activities.

We are probably going to try and combine Henry's flock and the Old Girls flocks for the winter.   We wanted to get the new hen house down there and the Old Girls using it before we did so, so we'll need to get on with it soon.    We can then separate Henry and a hand picked selection of hens in the spring to breed from, putting them all back together again once we've hatched.   At least that's the plan. The current plan. 

It would be good to have some baby Normans.    Norman (and sisters Siouxie and NotNorman) are getting on a bit now; same age as Mrs,  but bearing it much better than her breeding lets her do.   

 I'm not sure what Norman x Henry would be like. Better than having no Norman at all, I think.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

PMT in Garden Girls

It's been a busy and rather stress-filled few weeks.

Family stuff provided part of the busy and most of the stress.  Work provided the rest of the busy.  I would describe myself as a part time worker, but not in a conventional way.  I work non-stop (6 or 7 long days a week) for about 4 weeks at a time, and then I do nothing at all for a while.   I've just completed my busiest work period of the year.

The Garden Girls have been, mostly, quite well.   They've settled down together now that Milly (the most spiteful chicken ever) isn't there.     Recently, PMT (pre/pro/post moulting tension) has set in, and those affected have become even more loopy than usual.

Two (Custard and Florence) of the three old girls are moulting.  Roobarb, the other old girl, is already pristine in her new feather coat, her comb is red, and she looks rather smug.   Custard and Florence's slower moults mean that they have gone from looking a little worse-for-wear to downright down-and-out.

Moulting also seems to have affected their ability to find their way in to the run when I need to shut them in temporarily so I can go out.  

Lotti, my little exchequer leghorn, bottom of the pecking order,  no longer gets particularly bullied.  She is able to get into the coop at night, and isn't showing any outward signs of being pecked any more.   She is moulting and is very unhappy about it.  She can't bear to be picked up (which is understandable), and she has gone even more loopy than usual.   Her gorgeous floppy comb and wattles are very pale.  She won't come near me.   Hope it's just the moult.

Poppy, my not-so-little Welsh Black (Australorp x Indian Game), isn't moulting. She is, however, pretending that she doesn't know how to fly up on to my arm.

Tilda, our special needs Girl,  is still living out with the others.  She comes in for a snackerel every day, and I can't believe that it's almost a year since she collapsed and "died".  She's not getting overtly bullied by her sisters,  but she is low in the pecking order. 

Overall, aoart from the PMT induced spats, it's relatively calm.

No one is laying.  Or at least, if they are,  I'm not seeing any eggs.   The only two who could be laying are Poppy and Roobarb, and I am wondering if they are laying somewhere else (haven't found a nest), or whether their rare eggs are getting eaten?

I've had to resort to buying eggs.   We're fortunate to have a place with truly free range chickens fairly close by,  so I buy eggs from there when I need them.  

The flooring that DH laid in the run is standing up well.  I cleaned them out on Sunday, and it was very easy as there was very little Aubiose to remove. It took very little to provide a new topping too.