Wednesday, 31 December 2014


The frosts of the last few days have meant two trips a day to see the Allotment chooks.

We arranged bricks under two of the waterers (one in each pen) so that we can put an 8 hour night light under the metal waterer.  The bricks surround the nightlight completely.  The 8 hour nightlight is in a glass jar, inside a cut-off Illy coffee tin.

In the morning, the waterer is still frozen, but the ice is much thinner.  A quick blast on the camping stove and then the ice can be broken.

Top it up with water, and then put another nightlight ti try and keep it defrosted for much of the day.

Some days, it's not possible to get water.  The butts are frozen, sometimes it's only the tap bit, sometimes it's more frozen inside.  The allotment water pipes need priming, and for that I need water Even then, if there is water frozen in the pipes, it's impossible to draw water.  

I've taken to carrying a couple of bottles down with me.

The first night we went down, it was interesting to see how the hens were arranging themselves.  I imagined them snuggling up for warmth, but I know from mucking out that the main flock uses three coops.

In Mrs' rickety old coop we had 2 welsh blacks, one on each end of the roosting bars. In one of the nestboxes we had Siouxise or NotNorman,  I couldn't tell which,.

In the new coop we had Nora on theroosting bars,  Batty in one of the nestboxes on one side, Norman in the other side, and Siouxsie or NotNorman at the front.

Henry and his 4 other wives were spaced out on the roosting bars in the shed.

Not at all what I imagined.

Saturday, 27 December 2014


Leftovers were frozen where appiopriate, or fridged where we thought we might eat them soon.

The roasted vegetables are waiting to be turned into soup.

Yesterday was my turn to see to the Allotment chooks, and I took some of the unused vegetables to them (squash, cauliflower, cabbage, swede).

After discussion this morning, I think we're having Gooseherds spiced pie for dinner tonight, to use up the last of the goose.   It'll either be with a mashed potato topping (a la Shepherd's pie),   or it'll be in a hot water pastry pie ( a la pork pie).

We had a lie in today.  No visitors due, didn't need to get up to go and do the chooks,  didn'thave deliveries coming.....    DH still not sleeping through the night,  and so my sleep is disturbed.  Truth told, I could probably spend the whole day in bed dozing!

Tomorrow's visit to the chooks will be quite a long one as they need sorting out,  plus we need to prepare for cold weather freezing the water.  DH might try coming to help. It's been 3 weeks since he's seen the chooks and he's missing it.


The goose was lovely.  I worked from my timings last year.  However, there was one problem with this - nNormally when I write my timings, it helps set everything in my mind.   No matter howmany times I read through the detaied instructions, I just couldn't get it set in my head.    Thank goodness that the instructions were  detailed.

Next year, if we have goose, I'll use the same instructions but I will rewrite them in advance so I get myself sorted.

OB1 came for the day,  which was great as he always likes what I cook.  Sadly he didn't stay for Boxing Day, he decided to visit out parents instead.

We were all stuffed, but it's funny how the mention of cheeeeeese and nibbly bits clears tummy space at about teatime.


At short notice, my lovely brother, OB2,  drove me to Kent to collect the new worktop.  We stopped on the way back for something to eat.  We went to a McDonalds.   I haven't had a McDonalds for 20? years. Maybe longer.

It tasted much as I remembered.  I would have been happy without the burger, as the overriding taste I remember was the cheese and the gherkin.

Half an hour later, I started to have indigestion.  I mentioned it to OB2 who started to laugh as he admitted having trouble too.

I guess it'll be another 20 years before I try it again.

The worktop looked great, and was - as expected - a smidgeon too long really.  We decided to fit it the following day, and we'd deal with the extra length etc after Christmas.

OB2 arrived on Christmas Eve to help DH fit the worktop.  (DH has a broken rib and a fractured vertebra and is wearing a back brace, so has limited movement).  We measured for leg positioning.  We considered. We discussed whether to do the cutting now, or to wait. In the end,  we got the worktop outside so it could be cut to the better length AND have the corners rounded.  Poor OB2 was with us for several hours - but the result was fantastic.

Meanwhile,  I got on with makig mince pies and palmiers to eat; and then I made the light goose gravy, Red Cabbage, and the gingerbread stuffing ready for the next day.

We delivered some of our neighbours cards, but I didn't get as far as my friend's house. Bit of a shame as I'd actually embroidered a card for them.  Never mind!

Tuesday, 23 December 2014


Yesterday I made profiteroles for the first time!

I made the choux pastry in Thermy, and it was really really easy.

I was very slapdash with my spooning out, so the resulting profiteroles were mishapen lumps, but they tasted OK.   At the time of making the pastry, I hdn't decided wheter I was going to make savoury or sweet, so I omitted sugar.   Of course when it came to it, I made sweet, and they would have been upgraded from "OK" to "good" if I'd put sugar in.

I just whipped up double cream for the filling, and melted some chocolate for the top - very unoriginal. 

Yjese will definitely be on my "easy to whip up" list. In fact, I've bought extra cream cheese, just in case I get the need to make savoury ones over the next few days.

I also made marscapone for the first time since the cheese course.   Double cream, tartaric acid, a bain marie and some patience.   I now have that as an option for making savoury dips (or fillings).

And I went to Costco to buy some cider, chestnuts, mixed nuts and double cream.... and came out with a few extra bits.  It wasn't too bad in there. Busy, but manageable.  At least it was when I went in, but by the time I got to the tills it was getting less so.

Today has been erratic.  I cleaned the fridge, then took the goose and giblets out of the freezer and put them  in the fridge to defrost.  I packed stuff around them.

Tomorrow will be a busy day as that's when I'm going to be making the red cabbage and the stuffings for Christmas Day.   That and the fact that DH may be fitting a new worktop.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Getting in gear

I looked at the Ocado delivery.  The purpose of today's delivery was to get all the non perishable stuff.  Some of it was stuff that I had meant to add to next week's delivery, not today's. (2x600ml of double cream.  Pomegranate seeds. Cheese.)  And some was stuff that I'd obviously added to my trolley with the intention of  making a decision and removing later - who needs three types of blue cheese?  

I looked at my list and looked at the stuff that  had arrived. This time I worked out when was the earliest I could make things if I wasn't going to freeze them. I debated whether to make some stuff now and freeze it.

I considered a trip to Costco.

Instead, I cleared the worktop, cleaned it, and marzippaned a cake.

Then I decided that I really needed to clear up before I attempted the other christmassy chores on my list.  Instead I opened one of the bags of crisps and started to eat them.   I checked Facebook.  I bought some bits online. Things I'd meant to get for this year, had decided last year to wait for the sales, and then  had forgotten.

I put the steamer on to steam last year's Christmas pudding to make Christmas Puddini bonbons. The pudding didn't look great, so I threw it out.

I started to make cranberry mincemeat a la Nigella.  While it was cooling, I tried to make myself clear up.    I ignored myself.

Eventually I decided I'd have to use rewards.

I gave myself 1 point for everything properly put away. When I got to 100, I could make a cup of tea.   At 79, I stopped and embroidered a card for my next door neighbour.

I decided to unload the dishwasher, as that would put me at nearly 200 by theh time I'd unloaded and reloaded it.   When I opened it, it hadn't drained.  I shut the door and finished the crisps.

I opened the door again and unloaded the clean items.  I took the baskets out and partially loaded them with the dirty dishes, but left them on the draining board. 

Eventually the kitchen looked more respectable. 

I need to put the sewing machine away for Christmas. Maybe Monday. Maybe I'll get on and make the Christmas bunting.

Or maybe I'll try Nigella's (Lychee Martin)  Lychini instead
photo from

Going through the motions

I need a kick up the backside.

I'm sooo tired. I haven't had a full nights sleep since DH broke his rib and fractured his spine. Neither has he, of course.     I've been going through the Christmas motions, but I'm not really feeling the festive spirit.

The front door wreath has been made and is hanging on the front door. Did that on Wednesday. Tick

The tree arrived, and is a gorgeously compact Fraser fir.  It's about 6 foot high. DH put the lights on, and I decorated it yesterday. Tick.

The inside mantles/wreaths/what-have-yous are all hung - Wednesday. Tick.

I made all my Christmas cards yesterday. They were a bit slap dash... squares I cut last year, hastily machine sewed on to cards.  I printed paper insides and glued them on the opening flap to cover the reverse of the stitches. Not mybest work, but still all home made.   I also managed to get them in 2nd class post, just. Tick.

Ocado delivered today.  My "to do" list has lots of christmassy things on it, but I'm having a serious bout of CBA.   The kitchen is a mess.  I just cannot get myself in to gear.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Cheeky Chooks

The remaining 5 dinner chickens, all girls,  are getting very cheeky.   A couple of days ago Princess crouched for me, so I was anticipating that we might have eggs soon.

When the Big Girls get corn, the Littlees get very impatient and have been known to escape through the tiniest of gaps to try and get in on the treats.  They are rebuffed quickly by shapr pecks from the Big Girls, and end up running back to the sanctuary of their own paddock.

I've double fenced their area now to make accidental escape harder.

Today, I turned round and found that Princess had managed to fly up and over the netting and was perching on the rickety barrier that separates the two pens.

A few moments later, she was hjoined by one of her sisters.
  ignored them for a while, and carried on mucking out the other coops.  They sat on the fence for ages.  Princess is on the left. She's black with a gold neck, a bit like a Black Rock. (She doesn't have any Black Rock in her at all).
In the end, they returned to their own pen, without visiting the Big Girls first.

Fortunately there is plenty of shelter in the Big Girls area, so if they do fly in and are too daft to fly out again, they'll be able to keep out of the Big Girls way.


A bit behind

After last week's mini drama, I'm gradually catching myself up.   I haven't caught up on sleep - DH either sleeping on his back (so snoring) or waking up - but I am catching up on some other things. 

I managed to get some of DH's woodworking stuff photographed and up for sale.  I haven't posted it on Ebay yet,  I'll see if I get any interest elsewhere first.

The decorations are down from the loft , all I need now is the tree. Wednesday should see that happening.  That gives me time to try and make space for the tree. I know where it went last year, I just can't quite see how.

While I was in the loft retrieving the boxes of decorations, I managed to bring down a few other bits and pieces to dispose of.  A couple of things might sell, but others bits - like the VHS tapes - can't even be given away.  

This created a few tiny pockets of space, and  I moved stuff around a bit to create a single space big enough for the sewing machine's enormous box.

I've resorted to a "to-do" list.

I'm aiming to make mincemeat and puddini bonbons on Friday,   and I might make the Christmas red cabbage then too.  And possibly the gingerbread stuffing. Maybe.

I haven't done anything about cards yet.  I fear I may run out of time.  I don't really want to buy cards, but I've given up on the idea of making them with embroidery designs on this year.  I started to stitch out one of each of the designs I bought, all on one sheet of fabric.  The idea was I'd be able to see exactly what they come out like, and I could then choose the right ones for the right people.  I haven't even managed to stitch out one of each yet....I've spent ages doing them, they just take time.

I haven't even had time to try out the new magic stabiliser. Never mind,  maybe I'll just get ahead on next year's cards.

For the first time, I am regretting selling my lovely MC4900 sewing machine.  The new one is much MUCH more advanced,  but if I'd kept the 4900, I could have been sewing cards on that while the new one did the embroidery.  Mind you, if I'd kept it, I'd be tearing my hair out with the lack of space.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014


DH always carries a glass of water for each of us up to bed.

Last night he managed to miss his footing at the top step and he fell backwards, whump, landing on the log basket at the bottom of the stairs.

He was very badly winded and it took a long time before he could try and get up.  I checked that his toes wiggled and his fingers wiggled and that he still had feeling down his back and leg.

As soon as we were able, we drove to A&E, our local one being about 7 miles away. We got there at 1.30am.

It's changed a lot since I was last there. Now they have a vending machine,  a bottled drinks vending machine,  and a Costa Express machine.  It was also much brighter and cleaner than I remembered.

The wwaiting time was estimated at 3.5 hours.  We were triaged fairly quickly, with he triage nurse assessing that DH should be given the once over by a doctor, just in case there was internal damage.

3 and a quarter hours after arrivin, we were called. DH was assessed,  and we were sent  for many, many xrays.   This was an ideal time to visit the xray department,  DH was in the xray roon a couple of minutes after arriving.

Next, straight back to the A&E to find out what the Xrays said. Fractured rib, and possible damage to one vertebrae. 

This part of the process had been super-efficient, and 45 miutes after seeing the Doctor we were waiting to see one of the orthapaedic team to find out more about the vertebrae.

After another hour and a half one of the orthapaeds came and poked DH a lot, and then said he was going to look at the xrays and discuss with his colleagues.  Personally I would have preferred that he looked at the xrays then  poked and prodded.

A couple of hours later, one of the lovely A&E peopl echased up for us and spoke to another orthapaed. She appeared a little later and said it looked like DH needed a CT scan and possibly a stay in hospital.   Later still, we saw the orthapaeds again. This time the decision was a back brace, another xray (with back brace),  and a follow up appointment tomorrow.  Painkillers were prescribed.  

Much later, the porter arrived, and disappeared again when what we had been told didn't match what he had been told.   We waited for him to come back, but he didn't,  and in the end we decided to take ourselves off to the Plaster department.  The kind nurses in A&E found a wheelchair for me to use.

By now, the hospital was heaving.  The people who were fitting the brace were lovely and really helpful.

The Xray department was jam-packed, and the wait was showing as an hour and a half.    A&E referrals must have been in the fast lane, as DH was seen in about half an hour.

We stopped on the way out to sort out the next day's appointment,  and we left the hospital some 11 and a half hours after we had arrived. 

Lucky for us the parking charge is capped at £10 for 5 or more hours. 

Home, cup of tea, lots of biscuits.  We want to try and stay up, otherwise we won't sleep tonight. 

And we have to go back to the hospital tomorrow.

Monday, 8 December 2014

A load of old Codlo

After 18 months since pledging a Kickstarter investment, our Codlo finally arrived.
It was originally due to ship in March 2014 but, as is always the way with these brand new tech things, it took longer than the designer estimated to finally get everything working, then manufactured, boxed and shipped. 

Codlo is a way of cooking sous vide without a sous vide cooker.   you leave it plugged into a socket, and then put the probe into your existing rice or slow cooker - assuming you have one.   We didn't, so we also bought a Codlo rice cooker to go with it.
I've never had a problem cooking rice and so I've never understood the point of rice cookers.   I can see that if  one is cooking vast quantities of rice, perhaps it's easier in a rice cooker?  This one can cook up to 15 cups of uncooked rice.    There are only 2 of us, so that's not likely to be something we need to do.

I was going to write about how it works, but it's probably easier to just post thei Kickstarter video

We tried it with ribeye steak yesterday, and it was a great success.   The steak was evenly cooked  throughout, which was the main reason for using it. When I have really good beef, I like it medium rare (or rarer).  This ended up being medium, or  a bit over that,  but it didn't matter. The steak was cooked evenly and was very moist. 

We will definitely be cooking it this way in future, and I might even try a leaner cut of steak. Maybe.

Kickstarter has had many sous vide alternative devices, and I was envious that my online friend John received his sous-vide-alternative (not Codlo) back in March.   Thank you John for your post on steak, we used your learning when trying out Codlo yesterday! Here is John's entry for anyone interested


Lion tears

I was playing Orla this morning.  I haven't played for a few days,  and it's been a loooong time since I've played anything except the pieces I am trying to master.  On impulse, I pulled out one o fte song books and started playing.

I played a few songs, each one with errors... not a surprise really.

The final song I played was "Born Free".   Part way through playing, I suddenly had part of the film playing in my mind,  one of the bits with (the actress playing) Joy Adamson narrating about how the time had come...

..and I started to cry.

How bizarre.

I haven't seen Born Free for more years than I care to admit.

And I've often thought about the film while playing the tune.

No idea what provoked such an emotional response this morning.

Friday, 5 December 2014

It's a hard life for our cats

Wash, relaxing in front of the fire after a hard day's sleeping.