Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Frozen Fingers

I've just finished vacuum sealing the leftover vegetables. I freeze them in portion sizes then, once they are frozen, I decant them into vacuum bags and seal them.  I find this a little easier than trying to vaccum seal them unfrozen., because I can get them a uniform size and thickness this way (and they don't accidentally warp when in the freezer).   The down side is that I then have a mountain of tubs to wash, and very frozen fingers. 

DH is taking the last of the goose off the carcass today, and we'll be having Goose Rogan Josh for dinner.  I'm going to make some stock with the goose bones - although I'm not quite sure what I'll use it in.  Maybe I'll freeze a bit of leftover goose as well, and then I can use both for a Goose Risotto.   We'll see how much we have.

I made a very acceptable Disaronno Sour last night.  I'd bought some pasteurised egg whites (Two Chicks) specifically for making sours. We're buying eggs at the moment,  so I don't really want to use them for making cocktails.     The first Disaronno Sour I made, on Christmas Eve, was OK but not great.  Thinking it was quite a sweet alcohol, I missed out the sugar syrup - and that was a mistake.

Yesterday's was very acceptable.  I dipped the rim of the glass in almond syrup and then crushed almonds, and that worked well.  Not as well as the maraschino that I'd had when we had dinner out last month, but quite well.

I shall be making it again. Probably this evening.

Not sure it goes with curry, but I don't really care.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

The smell of Christmas

The house smells lovely.

I do a lot of the prep for Christmas Day's meal on Christmas Eve, and this year was no exception.

Swede and carrot - steamed and pureed.  Plenty for tomorrows dinner put into a tub, and the rest portioned out to freeze.   Prunes in armagnac braised and now in the fridge.  Light goose gravy made (using the neck, giblets and vegetables), and in the fridge.   Goose liver Pate for tonight's dinner made (by DH) and setting in the fridge.

Best of all - always best of all -  I've made tomorrow's red cabbage.  That really is a Christmassy smell. The apples, the cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg... mmmmmmmmmmmm

It's  cooling at the moment, then that too will have some put in a tub for the next few days worth of mealss, and the rest will be portioned and frozen.  I make a huge amount, so the "leftovers" (except it isn't really leftovers) will last me for months to come.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Eating rubbish

Up until about a month ago (maybe less), I hardly ever touched shop bought cakes and biscuits.  Even sweets and chocolates were a rarity (apart from Christmas).

For the last month I've been eating all sorts of bought sweets, cakes, biscuits, and Pringles.  It's ridiculous, and I'm cross with myself that I am doing it.

Today, my Christmas grocery order arrived.  I've got more biscuits (and little cakes) in this one order than I've consumed in probably 2 years. 

I don't know what I was thinking.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Little things

Not so very long ago, our cat Izzy had become very....unwell.  Something happened which meant that the body of our cat was still with us, but Izzy had vanished.    We weren't initially sure whether she'd hurt herself, or whether she was suffering from a kind of feline dementia, and we were back and forward to the Vet wuite a bit.

We came home from our last Vet appointment knowing the next time would, probably, be the time we took her to be put to sleep.

For the following week, things were very much taken on a day by day basis. We talked about how we would know when the time was right.    If she didn't eat;  if she lost weight;  if she looked in pain; if her fur started to look a it stark.   I was very aware of the "better a week too soon than a day too late" principle, and each evening I was sure it would be her last.

Each morning, she'd wobble downstairs to eat (having wobbled downstairs in the night to get to the litter tray - she won't use the one we set up in the upstairs bathroom for her).   Every couple of days when we weighed her, we were surprised (and relieved) to find she was maintaining her weight.

On the day of her last Vet appointment, we bought her a small heated pad to go under her bed upstairs.  She loved it!   A day later, I bought another one to put downstairs, so it didn't matter where she was, she'd have a warm bed to snuggle in to.

She was moulting like mad.  She's not really been able to groom herself, so the hair wasn't getting groomed out (and swallowed).   The tumbleweed hair balls were everywhere. It didn't matter how often I vacuumed, or how often we brushed her,  they just...bred!

Time marched on.

In the fine weather - when it was cold but sunny - DH carried her in to the garden and set her down on the grass, while he got on with something.  Sometimes she would sit where she'd been put,  sometimes she'd wobble round part of the garden,  sometimes she'd wobble to the door and then sit down in the sunshine.  These excursions really seemed to perk her up.

Sometimes, she'd get on the bed (with more success on some occasions than others) in the middle of the night,  staying between us for a couple of hours.

If DH was working in his study, she wobbles in to see him, and sits on his lap.  She's not been a lap cat before.

In the evening, DH would carry her downstairs and put her on her "downstairs blanky" between us.  Sometimes she'd stay, sometimes she didn't.    When the fire was lit ("orange TV" we call it, because the cats stare at it like kids watching tv), she'd move to sit in front of the fire.

I tried brushing her with dried catni on the brush hairs.   It did the trick, encouraged Wash to Wash her.  He was a bit to energetic though, so I've had to stop doing that,

Recently, she's come downstairs to eat several times during the day.  She's also tried to wash herself a few times.   For the last couple of nights she's gone to the catnip station to have a fix,  something she hasn't done in weeks.

We could see that Izzy was back in her body.  Her body was still frail, but she was in there.

I've realised that, for a week or so now, I haven't started each day wondering if Today will be The Day.

A few days ago I read that Tom Cox's gorgeous Cat, Bear, had finally died.  I cried. A lot. Bear, also known as My Sad Cat,  was 21 years old.  Tom's description of Bear's last few arthritic weeks really resonated with me,  we are going through the same sort of things with Izzy (although she's only 12!).

It  reconfiemd for me that Izzy isn't going to get properly better. 

And we're really lucky that we've got a bit more time with her.

Friday, 16 December 2016


It's been a Christmassy week.

We don't send many Christmas cards these days and, of course, the number we receive has gone down each year too.  Last year we delayed opening any cards until the Tree was up, which was really lovely. It meant we had a pile to open together, and we could look at each card and hang it up immediately.   We're doing that again this year. 

I started making Christmas cards earlier in the week.I made loads the first day.   The second day I made fewer, but these were more detailed.  I've still got 3 cards to make, and I've lost momentum.

Today was tree delivery day, so all the decorations were brought down from the loft.    The tree arrived safely. DH sawed the bottom off and we gave it a drink, then we stood it in place in the living room.  It's relaxing now before we decorate it  - probably tomorrow.  

We opened the cards this morning, appreciating each one.   I decorated the front door wreath. This year I tried to put a lot more bits in the back layers,  I'm not sure it really made much of a difference.   I've also put up most of the other decorations. I've stopped to look at the carnage and to have a breather before trying to tidy stuff away.

I was super organised last year. Not only did I write on the outside of the boxes what was in each box, I also added other helpful labels.  The swags and mantels had card attached marking the "middle" and "this goes on the left" bits.   I'd packed supplies of new batteries in the lights box.I'd labelled some ribbon to remind yself that "this goes across the RSJ in the kitchen, hang the cards from it". 

Very helpful of me.

I hope I have the patience to do the same this time!

Friday, 9 December 2016

Done. Nearly.

Yesterday DH and OC (Other Chap) refined the Allotmenteer arrangements, and covered the "roof" in tarpaulins.  The netting arrived yesterday afternoon, too late to do anything further.

Today, DH and I went and put the netting over everything, and made some final tweaks.  It took us nearly 3 hours.

It looks good, and the birds don't look too unhappy.  

We'll have to provide lots of fresh green vegetables, as they won't be getting any grass.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Chooks Away!

Garden Girls confined to their run. Luckily for them, their run is spacious, has lots of different levels, and is roofed.

The Allotmenteers presented a bit more of a challenge.  We don't have a 'shed' that they can be confined to, so we've spent the morning rearranging Heras fencing to create a confined space, away from trees.

Hopefully they'll settle down.  And we're fortunate that we'd started the integration of the 2 Littlees.  That seems to be going well,  and one of the Littlees has turned into the spitting image of Roobarb (one of my Garden Girls - hatched from an egg laid on the way  home many years ago - killed by Fox). She is a bit of a stunner, and I'd love to have her in my Garden flock.   Never mind, hopefully she'll provide us with stunning offspring in years to come.

But, I digress. Back to today's immediate problem.   We've ordered netting - hopefully it'll arrive tomorrow, I ordered it last night as soon as the DEFRA announcement hit my news feed and before it started to be generaly reported -  which we will use to put over the top and sides to prevent wild bird access.  

The initial Order is for 30 days. However, in parts of France, birds have been confined since 1st August, so we need to prepare now for a more severe announcement. 

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

No Mojo Blow

I've mislaid my Mojo.

It was here at the weekend. I rattled through lots of cleaning/decluttering/organising. 

Yesterday I was away for the day, we'd been invited to the "Grandparents Party" at the school of one of the DGC. A talent show put on by his year,  followed by some crisps and cake.  We were so pleased to have been invited.    Dinner afterwards with DD, and a lovely catch-up.

And then this morning - I could not find it.  I've tried, on and off, all day to locate it. Unsuccessfully.

I hope it turns up tomorrow.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

*Hangs Head*

In between

Apples juiced and juice pasteurised.

We were so very late picking the apples, the birds had got most of them.  We couldn't get the enthusiasm to make cider this year,   and we had so few apples left we couldn't face dragging the scratter and press out of the loft.

I drank a lot of the juice while I was juicing. So very easy to drink.

Next lot of beer on
DH ran out of beer!   He bought some upgrade to the Grainfather programming, which required him to do a lot of work with the individual recipes.   He made a batch of beer which is currently standing on the kitchen counter fermenting. Brewing. Whatever it is.  He's since bought a little jacket for the Grainfather, which should help it heat more quickly.  As soon as the current batch is done, he'll be making another.

Finger Rolls
Home made hot dogs with home made batch-baked bridge rolls.  Bridge rolls made with egg and milk.  Lovely!   We sliced the remaining batch of buns to make toast for breakfast, it toasts really well.

Mega Bol
I got some a huge quantity of mince out of the freezer on Tuesday to make a mega bolognese on Wednesday to eat on Thursday.     I finally made the bolognese this morning, its simmering in the slow cooker now.

Vet Trips
More trips to see Uncle Tim with Izzy.

Pre-Christmas Clean
Boring domestics.  The house looks like a tip, mostly down to me having iles of sewing related paraphernalia almost everywhere.    I've started in our bedroom, ironically one of the few rooms not to have sewing stuff in it.   It didn't take too long, actually.  It wasn't an "everything out of the cupboards" clean, but it did include taking everything off the top of the wardrobe, everything out from under the bed, everything off the windowsill and bedside cabinets,  and everything moveable out of the room so Ryamondo could vacuum properly.  

I have, finally ,emptied and removed the box of "stuff" that has been temporarily sitting on the floor on my side of the bed since........erm.... Spring I think.   It was mostly "stuff to sell".

There is a small box of "I have no idea what to do with this" stuff, currently sitting on the bed.  The contents will undoubtably increase as I go through more rooms, so  I've decided I'll wait until he end before revisiting it.

I've started on the smallest "bedroom". It's going to be my temporary dumping ground, so I thought I'd clean it first. That way, once I eventually remove the dumping from there, there won't be any unpleasant surprises.  At least, that's the plan.... I guess it depends on how long it takes me to re-empty it.

Strange flavours
I bought some stuff from Approved Food.  They had Raffaello on offer, and I love Raffaello. I love it too much.  I normally only letit in the house at Christmas.  Anyway,  while I was mooching around on the AF website, I popped a few other bits and pieces in my trolley.  A bottle of wine (which was rather pleasant);  some Twix and Maltesers (for Christmas); and some Cucumber and Salad Cream Sandwich crisps.    I couldn't help myself. They were 4 for £1, and I was really intrigued.  Usually, "new" crisp flavours are just rehashes of old ones.  

I ate a bag while I was unpacking the box.  They tasted just like salad cream.  I'd forgotten quite how much I disliked salad cream.   When I was a child, I loved it, I ate loads of it.  At some point in my young adult hood I went off it, probably when I started liking mayonnaise.    The crisps (to me, anyway) really tasted of salad cream (and possibly cucumber, but that might have been wishful thinking on my part)I kept the other three bags - my mum loves salad cream, so I thought she might like them.

The other day I ate another bag. My dislike of salad cream hadn't diminished,  I suspect it was a bit of the Twiglet effect.   That, and the fact that I was trying not to open a(nother) box of Raffaello. 

Bother. I wish I hadn't thought of either of those things.

I'm going to shut myself away until the calling passes. 

Success! (More or less)

I used the cheap fabric I bought in Ikea to make my next pair of test trousers. "Test trousers"?  Perhaps I should say "my next test pair of trousers"?? 

It all went smoothly.  I've ever worn white trousers in my life,  but over the next couple of days I grew to quite like them, and I was a bit sorry that they were only a test pair.  Because they were a test pair, and because I was in a hurry to get to my destination of having a finished pattern to use,  I didn't bother finishing the raw edges.  If I had done, the "test pair" might have surivived the mauling they got.

They went together well, I even got as far as putting the waistband on.  They looked.... quite good.  Although I couldn't quite work out where my waist was meant to be.  If I let the trousers settle, my waist was fairly low down, and the crotch was far to low.  If I hoiked the trousers up so that the crotch was OK then the waist was far too loose.   I looked at the pattern, saw that we'd marked my knee point (for Yoga Pants), so I measured myself.  The knee position was consistent with the crotch being in the correct place, so it meant that my trousers were a little high waisted. That was OK, let's get the fit right and then I can always lower the waistband - that's the easy bit.   To avoid any further confusion, I biroed a line on my side to show my where the trousers should sit.

I faffed and pinched, and decided I'd increase the width of the darts.  I pulled the waistband off,  did the darts, put the waistband back on,  and checked again.    Better, but still too loose.  I pinched at the back and then managed to  draw, in red pencil, at the back,  two vertical lines.    I slipped the trousers off, and looked - yep,  if I put the lines next to each other, that indicated how much I needed to bring the trousers in.  Tomorrow.

Tomorrow came and I had other things to do.   Thursday came.  I put the trousers back on, and looked at how far down I needed to go with the change, and then I went to my master pattern and marked the proposed change there.   I also adjusted the leg length, and compared the relevant sides of the front and back, making a slight adjustment there to.

At this point  realised that I couldn't really avoid the zip any longer.  I had been tempted to just put on a yoga wasitband or an elastic casing - but that wasn't really the right thing.   I really should do these test trousers properly, and I might as well get on with it.

I looked looked lessons on my Make it Sew sewing series.    I thought I'd have to do an invisible zip, but as I sat through 3 different zip lessons, I discovered that wasn't necessary.  I also watched the waistband lesson, to see how that works with a zip, and found I'd been doing it incorrectly. It didn't matter for the testing, but it did matter for the real thing.

Friday, I decided I'd start sewing straight away.   I ripped off the waistband,  I unpicked the seams, and I cut the fabric to the new pattern.   I also had a go with a zip.  I put it all back together, put the waistband on a bit more correctly.... and they looked really good.  Even the zip - which was a bit wonky and the stitching (which was black thread on white fabric) was all over the place - worked. 

I was so happy!

I cut our the fabric for a "proper" pair, and made them up - including a zip - before the day was out.  I'd pressed open all my seams,  I'd done the zip properly.  I didn't get the waistband done: they are still a little big round the waist - the fabric has a slight stretch - and I'm thinking about trying to use the waistband to deal with the extra (and I will make a pattern adjustment).   I also haven't hemmed them yet,  so that makes 3 items of clothing that I've almost finished but haven't hemmed.

The fabric is a bit of an odd choice - a bit floral.  I suspect that DH,  whose enthusiasn for my achievement was a little restrained, was thinking "Why on EARTH would you make TROUSERS out of  THAT".

 It's a black fine cordurouy with tiny flowers and stars on,  and I'd bought it to make a pretty winter maxi skirt.   I'm not quite sure why the fabric pattern would be fine for a skirt but a bit of an odd choce for trousers.   I do wonder if people will think I'm wearing PJ bottoms.

Ha! Just wait until I've been back to Ikea, THEN he'll  know what floral trousers look like.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Ha Ha Ha . Tuesday Part 2

So, buoyed by the joy of not needing to spend money on a screen repair, Ilspread out my trouser template,  turned my trousers inside out and attempted to compare them.  Becuae they were made up, it wasn't that easy, and I could see that I was going to have to unpick them to get the fabric flat again.  But if I unpicked them,  souldn't be able to put them back on to see what else was wrong.

I realised that I might be able to check some parts (like the side seams and the waist) without unpicking, so I decided to do that first.

When I laid the fabric on the pattern, it was miles out.  WTF?!?    Had I accidentally cut all fronts or something?  No, I hadn't. I was sure of it.  I was reasonably sure of it.

How on earth had I cut it so wrong. 

And then I saw what I had done.

What an unbelievably stupid mistake.

I hadn't put any seam allowance on my master pattern.

If you don't sew, then you probably don't really understand what sort of stupid this stupid is.

It's like....making a cheese sauce and forgetting the cheese.  It's like pouring a pint into a half pint glass.  It's like wondering why your DVD isn't playing, when it turns out you've been pressing the buttons on the wrong remote control.

What a dopey dopey dopey thing to do. 

What a waste of fabric.

But at least it explains it.

I'm going to add my seam allowances now, and then try again.

I bet you can't wait to see how this turns out!

Ha Ha ha. Tuesday P1.

I got up on Tuesday, and my knee looked better.  The ice packs had really helped.

Determined to make some progress, I cleared the table and got the pattern templates out.

I saw my tablet, and checked it.  The crack had spread. It had been a small crack last night. This moening  I googled to see if repairs were possible and was heartened to see that there were DIY kits.   I also messaged our local techy place who came back with some info and a price indication. 

I looked at the screen again and saw that I had obviously put on a tempered glass protector. Was that holding the screen together?

"I wonder...?"

I lifted the edge of the protector slighly, a teeny bit, just to see.  To my delight, it looked like the screen underneath the protector might, just might, be OK.   I carefully took the protector off a bit more, a bit more, a bit more.  Eventually it was off completely. The screen looked....OK!

How lucky was that!?!

I ordered a new one immediately.

And then I got back to my trousers.

Ha Ha Ha. Part 3.

Sensible side of brain "Go and Get it".  Other side of brain : "It's not raining. Leave it"

Sensible won.

I walked around DH's car in the dark. No parcel.    Had it been stolen?? 

An irritated short sigh escaped from my nose.  I limped in to the house and retrieved a torch.  I looked round the car again. No parcel.  "In front of Car".  I tried opening the car door. Locked.   Maybe it was under the car?  I couldn't see.  I looked at the ground.  My knee said "please don't".  I tried to get down on the other  knee, but that didn't work.  I held my breath and lowered myself on to my bashed knee.

No parcel.

I checked the card again. " "In front of Car".   I checked agains the fence and the gate in front of the car.  I olooked in the bushes in front of the car.

By now, I didn't care what the parcel was.  I'd sort it out tomorrow.

I looked around the rest of the garden.

And then I saw it.   It wasn't "in front of the car" at all.    Well, it was  in front of the car in the sense that it wasn't behind the car,  nor was it by the side of  the car.  Technically, I suppose, that meant it was  in front of the car.  Except it was no where near the car.  Or the front of the car.

"Next to the bin" would have been a slightly more accurate and helpful description.

Ha ha ha. Part 2

Monday continued being very Monday-ish, and I won't bore you with the minutaie of the rest of the day.

I checked my fabric stash for suitable test-pant fabric.  None.  I looked online to see the price of cotton drill and the best places to buy it.   I'd have to go out on Tuesday and get some, after I'd Cleared The Table.

Last night, DH was going out, and I was dropping him off. As I was out, I decided to go to Ikea.  I had some bits and pieces to get and if I went now it would save me psyching myself up for a trip later.  I got there at about 8pm.   I managed to park OK, so far so good.  I started to walk from the car park  to the store, and decided to check the locations of the items on my list on the Ikea Store app, to see if I needed to go round the store of whether I could just nip straight to the Market HallWarehousey bit.  Such a great App!


I was splayed on the floor and heard my tablet skittering over the roadway.

I'd not noticed the hunking great kerb around a parking bay.

Full of embarrassement, I jumped up, and retrieved the tablet, stuffing it into my handbag.

A man a few feet away shouted "Are you alright?"  I looked up and saw several groups of people had stopped their car stuffing to look.      "Yes, thanks", I said.  Then I added in a loud voice, aerticulating what I suspect they were thinking "It's my own stupid fault for looking at my tablet instead of  watching where I was going".I rolled my eyes and smiled.

 I turned round.  Ow, ow, ow, ow.  Effing OW!  My knee hurt. I paused. God, this was so embarrassing. Breathe. Walk, just walk away.     Someonw on the side I had turned round to said  "Are you OK?"  I smiled again, rolled my eyes at my stupidity. "Yes, I'm fine, thank you for asking. I should have watched where I was going".  (Ow, ow, ow, I think I'm going to cry.  How pathetic am I?)

An Ikea staff member came running up "Are you sure  you're OK?" he asked.  "Yes, I'm fine, thank you..  I'm just really embarrassed".  I walked purposely off, gritting my teeth and trying not to limp.

I was genuinely touched by everyone's concern,  but I was really embarrassed.  I wasn't embarrassed about tripping,  I was embarrassed that I had tripped because I was looking at my tablet instead of where I was going.    I was embarrassed because what I was really thinking to myself was "It serves you  right!"

I reached the sshop doorway, took a deep brath and walked through.  Up the escalator (OW, ow, ow, it hurts when I stand still, OW), I need to see what I've done.     At the top, I saw a store map, so I stopped by it and, while pretending to study it,  I stood and did some flexes to see what I'd done.   "Go to the toilet and take a proper look" said one side of my brain; "If you do that, you'll cry", said the other.    I stood there, bent diwn slowly to "pull my sock up" and looked at the blood on the knee of my jeans.  "Good job you were wearing jeans" I thought.

I decided I hadn't broken anything, I'd just whallopped and grazed my knee/  My My palm was slightly grazed, but the knee had taken almost all of the impact. I was very lucky really.  Good job I hadn't damaged the tablet!   Had I?

I got it out and tilted it in the light.  A telltale crack.   Fudge. Fudge. Fudge.  Nothing I could do about it now, I'd see what could be done when I got home.  I was here now, I might as well get on with what I came for.

I got round the ship as fast as my limp would let me.  The pain will go, I've only fallen over. Think about something else.

I didn't look at anything apart from the bits I had on my list.

Except when I got to the textiles.   I went in to buy a Vinter 14 panel. It's a fabric panel with a very realistic Christmas Tree on, that you can decorate.  It's really effective.   I bought 2.   When I was looking for it,  I saw that they had some thick fabric - possibly suitable for test trousers - at £4/metre.  It would save me a trip out tomorrow and I'd be able to get going on my test-trousers first thing.

There were lots of different options, some of them really colourful. I dithered.  I dithered. I dithered.  The sensible half of my brain was screaming "For f's sake!  Just pick any!!! You're not going to wear the damn things".       The other side said "Yes, you're right. Let's take this.......oooh, look at this one. Or that one.  No this one.  Oooh, look at this, it's so purdy (=pretty)"

The store announced that they were closing shortly.  I still had wardrobe lighting to get.   My sensible side shouted "just pick ANYTHING!!!!!!!!  We'll come back another time to get the pretty stuff!!!!!!!".  I grabbed a plain light coloured fabric,  measured out 5 metres (I'm expecting to have to make a couple more test pairs), got it bagged and weighed,  and I was done.on.

The rest of the store trip was uneventful.  I got home at about 9.30pm.  I was desperate for a drink of water and some painkillers. I wanted to get some ice packs in t the freezer so I could ice my knee.

I remembered to turn off the alarm.   I got inside the door and saw a "we tried to deliver" card.  It was too late to pop next door to collect it, but I checked which side they'd given it to.  They hadn't.  It said my parcel had been left "in front of car"......

Ha ha ha. Part 1.

I spent some time with the wonderful Judith from Surefit Designs UK adapting my trouser ("pants") master pattern. I promised that I would make a test pair ASAP to test the alterations we had made.

It's a good job Judith made me promise, as all my good intentions would (probably) have dissolved.   I decided that I'd cut the fabric out on Sunday and have a go at sewing on Monday.   I decided to take a bit of a short cut on Sunday and, instead of tracing off a copy of the master pattern, I simply used waxed carbon paper and traced directly on to the fabric. The were test trousers, not to be worn, so it didn't really matter.

It worked like a charm.  I also carefully wrote "WSB" and "WSF" ("wrong side back" and "wrong side front") on the pieces, in several places.  In addition - not one to do things by halves - I  chalked "F" and "B" in big letters on all sides.  In several places. It would be vsible everywhere, making it much easier for me to ensure I'd sewn up correctly.

So far, so very good.

On Monday,  I sewed them up. Great practice in remembering the order of construction for trousers, and they didn't seem so scary.   My seams were really good - I did the in a contrasting thread so I could see them easily, Because they were test trousers, I used a looong stitch so they were really quick.  I realised I had forgotten to do my darts,  so I pinned those.

It took hardly any gtime at all.  I couldn't wait to get them on.

I couldn't get them on. In my excitement, I'd sewn all the seams. Silly me.  I unpicked the back seam, and I trued again.

They didn't fit.

They were shaped OK,  They were a bit narrower than I expected, but of course they would be - 5/8th seams is quite a lot off - 1 and a quarter inches off each sode on each leg. .  But what I couldn't understand was that the fabric didn't meet at the top.

What on earth had happened?

Had I cut them incorrectly?  Had I sewn a front to a front instead of a front to a back?  Were the pattern adaptations correct?

I needed to check the trousers angainst my adapted template (to see if I'd cut them incorrectly),  and then the template against the original template  to see if the adaptations were correct.

In the time since I'd cut the fabric and sewn the pieces, the "cutting table" (aka the kitchen table)  had become piled high with stuff.  It wasn't going to be a quick clear, either (although I briefly imagined just sweeping everything on to the floor).

I decided I'd do it tomorrow (today).

I had other stuff to do in the meantime.

My day didn't get any better.

Sunday, 27 November 2016


I made a List this morning,  writing down a list of what I need to do.   I used to use lists all the time and had a rule that made me do things then and there if it was more time-effective than writing it down.  I used to get a humungous amount of thigns done, and I could carry my list in my head.

Not now.  I don't know if my memory really is getting as bad as I think, or whether I just CBA (can't be bothered) to do some things and conveniently forget them. 

Anyway, the written list helped.   I did find myself doing some things which weren't "on the List".  What made me laugh at myself is that I then added them to "the List", and then crossing them off.

I'm definitely procrastinating,  I'm doing it right now by writing this blog (which activity wasn't on The List) because I don't really want to do the next thing.

On the plus side, I've followed up with my Aunt about her energy tariff, and I've been in touch with another Uncle to see if he would like help reviewing his tariff.  He didn't, thank you for asking though. (A bit of a result really, from a List point of view),  AND I was able to help him with a cooking question.

I used to have a rule about procrastinating when it came to things I didn't really want to do.  The rule was that I considered whether the thing really  needed doing or not.  If it didn't, well, just don't do it and stop wasting effort avoiding it.  And if it did,  well, just get on with it. 

Doing something is a lot less hassle than avoiding doing it.

I know I'm right, so I'm going to go and do it.  Or at least make a start on it.  After I've taken the chickens some fresh water.  

No. Really. I AM going to do it.  I AM. 


I'm turning into a fuddy duddy.

I had a day out doing some sewing-related learning.  Yes, it was a slight drive (about an hour and a quarter each way),  and yes, I did have to concentrate, but even so...

I phoned DH just before I left to come home so he could order a takeaway (deliverto might be more of an accurate description) to coincide pretty much with my scheduled arrival.   Two delivertos in two weeks, not exactly somethign to be proud of.

Ate food, watched one thing on TV, dozed off.  Woke up an hour and a half later, got up and went to bed.  I was just dozing off when the raido came on, signalling it was 10pm.

What a racy life, eh?

Sunday, 20 November 2016


Bonzo Dog DooDah Band at the London Palladium yesterday.

We last saw them in 2006  at the Shepherd's Bush empire.    That night they had Phil Jupitus (and Ade Edmonson, I think) taking Viv Stanshall's role.   Because of the nature of the venue, we couldn't really see that much, but the sound was perfect/

We went to see "three Bonzos and a piano" at an arts venue in Windsor, Berkshire, 4? years ago, and that was great.

The show at the Palladium was fab.  Most (but not all) our favourites were played.   The audience was appreciative.  A little girl sitting in the row behind was bored bored bored, and kept kicking the back of the seat. It reverberated all down the row to our seats. In the interval, I asked her dad to stop her doing it. He said he hadn't realised.  She still did it in the second half.

The Viv role was taken by a chap I didn't know. I've just Googled, and his name is Michael Livesley - he did a fab job.     We spent a lot of the journey home trying to think of comedians who had a good enough voice to take the Viv role,  and struggled to think of any of the "current crop" (by which I mainly mean people we see on shows like  8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown or Taskmaster. ) who could pull it off.

Before the show we ate at Balls and Company in Greek Street.  They're a "gourmet meat ball" restaurant.  We rarely eat out as a couple these days, so we pushed the boat out a bit. Definitely a success - I didn't find myself thinking"I could have made a better x than that".    I loved their squash Arancini (I love Arancini anyway) so much, that I'm going to make squash risotto (followed by squash Arancini) at home.

Even my cocktail was lovely. I can make a very acceptable Sour myself and, as I drank theirs, I thought,"yep, this is better than mine".    I'm out of practice, and I think I'm going to have to get back in practice.

Everywhere was heaving last night. The trains were packed, the tubes were packed as though it was a weekday rush hour. There had been a problem at LIverpool Street, and I think that caused a bit of a backlog.    Even after the show, there were just so many people trying to get funnelled down into the tube.    We got to Paddington really quickly, and the mainline traine home was also packed, with many people having to stand.  I don't really understand why they didn't have a slightly longer train.

We got home soooooo late.  Or, from another perspective, so early.   We're old fogeys now, so anything after about 10.30 is "late".    Anything that means "in the early hours of the next day" usually only happens on 1st January!

We certainly know how to live!


Saturday, 19 November 2016


It's been a erratic few weeks.

I splashed out on a 3 day sewing retreat. To use a rather hackneyed phrase, it was "well outside my comfort zone", but I really wanted to learn. 

Day 1 was fine. Journey to the retreat was incident free and fast,  easy to understand what was going on, lots of progress.   Day 2 I woke up in my hotel room and I was really really unwell.  The lady running the retreat was really kind, but  DH had to come and collect me in the end.   Day 3, I was still too unwell.  Bit of a shame really.

The illness continued  well into the last week and, even now, I'm not quite  right.   I did have a massage treatment booked, and that really helped.

The lady who ran the Retreat has very kindly offered to spend half a day with me one-to-one so I can catch up on some of the key bits. 

I did a birthday card for our eldest grandson,  and one for DH.  EGS's card was a bit basic, so I haven't taken a picture.    DH's card was a great idea in theory,  didn't come out quite as well as I hoped.... but it made him chuckle. i'll try and take a pic later.

Before I went on the Retreat I did a card for my lovely MIL
I spoke to my lovely MIL on the phone today, twice.  The second time, she couldn't remember if she had hung up the first time or whether the phone had died; she enjoyed the conversation though, both times.   

This afternoon  I  did a card for youngest grandson. It's not his birthday until next week,  but I thought I'd get it done in case DS1 pops over to see his dad.   Unusually, I don't think we'll be able to  get over to them on DGS's actual birthday

Over at the allotment,  we've noticed that the flock is currently split in two coops.   There are quite a few moulting, and they are a bit snippety. 

For the last few days we've been letting the 2 young girls mix with the main flock for a short period of time. This also enables them to learn the layout of the main flock area and, more importantly, find their way "home".   

Ideally with just 2 of them, we'd like to wait until they were a bit more mature (they are 25 weeks) before trying to integrate them; s introducing 2 to a flock of 13 means they are likely to get a it bullied.    However, the cold weather (and the promised bitter winter)  means they could really do with being in the main flock.   Needs must: so, if the weather is dry on Monday, we'll be opening up their fence and leaving it open.  

As well as possible pecking and bullying issues, there is a  risk hat some of the other chooks may take a fancy to the Littlees'  coop and refuse them entry. .  So, of course, we'll go back and check that they are OK and that they manage to get to bed.

 At home the moulting continues,  although now we're on to the new feather shafts phase.   Sasha has finished her regeneration.   Fleur, the hen that was being bullied,  is ahead of the others, but is still being picked on by Sasha.  Even Fay has had the screaming abdabs at Fleur.  

Izzy's health has declined a little, so we're keeping a close eye on her.   We've bought two electric heat pads and have one under a bed upstairs and one under a bed downstairs.   It seemed like a bit of an indulgence, but they've been worth the money.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016


I'm a little worried about Fleur,  my cuckoo marans hen.

She is one of  3 hens hatched last year.   She and her 2 step sisters (Sasha the Appenzeller, and Fayoumi the Fayoumi) were a happy little flock of 3.  When they were ready to lay, we introdiced them to our 2 existing girls (Gloria and Poppy, both Australorp x Welsh Black). 

Poppy had lived under the reign of terror from a b*tch of a bird called  Millie.  Millie was a bully, a relentlessly horrible, horrible bully.  At first, we thought she was just dominant,  but eventually we realised that she was just plain nasty.   I've never known a chicken like her before, or since.   Anyway, in the end we had to cull her,  and I wish I'd bitten the bullet and culled her earlier.

This has had a profound effect on Poppy.  When we introduced the 3 youngsters last year, Poppy was keen to make sure she didn't lose her place as number 2.    She wasn't evil like Millie, but she was determined.   In the many months since,  she has not accepted the 3 youngsters.    Unlike Millie, she doesn't seek them out to bully them,  but she does gven them a sharper-than-necesary peck if they ever get in her path.

Until she started moulting,   Fleur was mostly oblivious to Poppy's attempts at domination.   She got pecked, she jumped, she then carried on as though nothing had happened.  It was almost as though she was oblivious to the hen pecking attempts.

She spent most of her time with the other 2 youngsters, going round in their mini flock.  She also spent time with the older girls,  it didn't seem to occur to her that she was perhaps not welcome.

If I was feeding corn from my hand, she and Gloria would eat, and Poppy would not.   Poppy  - mostly - stopped pecking Fleur, but carried on with the other two.  It seemed to me as though Fleur was number 2, and Poppy was number 3.

And then the moult started.   Fleur moulted most quickly and most dramatically.  I suspect that she was the subject of pecking because of that;  I suspect the feather lost meant that, for =the first time, she really felt the pecks.  Then everyone else was moulting too, and the hormones made everyone crabby.

I noticed that Fleur seemed to be on her own quite a bit.  I saw that she was being henpecked by Gloria and Poppy.    And then I saw her running away squealing from Sasha.     And then from Fay.

She waits until the others go to bed before she goes in at night. 

She gets in the coop woth the big girls, and sits as far away from them as possible.  In the morning,  she stays in the coop until the others have been let out.

If they are shut in the run together, she eats and drinks in snatches, and runs away as soon as Sasha or Fay look at her.    I did see her rootling round in the Run next to Poppy and Gloria today, and my heart lifted .   A little later, she ran away when Sasha looked at her.

She looks healthy.  She's eating and drinking.  She's just completely lost her confidence.

I'm hoping that her new feathers will be in place before everyone elses, and I'm hoping tht she feels better then.

And I'm hoping she re-asserts herself.

Thursday, 3 November 2016


The Garden Girls are squabbling more than ever. 

Poppy has never accepted the 3 youngsters.  Gloria is top chook and doesn't have to worry.

All 5 are moulting heavily, and I think this is making them hormonal, crabby and intolerant.  I suspsect it also means they are hypersensitive to any touch (I've not been picking them up at all, I know theu *hate* it when they are moulting) and this isn't helping.

They have two Cubes to choose from.  Poppy continues to be a bit of a bully.  Two of the younger ones, Fay (the Fayoumi) and Fleur (the Marans), continue to try and sleep in the CUbe with Poppy and Gloria.  Sasha, the little Appenzeller, sleeps in the other Cube on her own.

There's a lot of squawking from the four-hen Cube.  And there's a lot of screehing in the morning.   The other evening I went out and took Fay (who was screeching) and put her in with Sasha.  Fay screeches in anticipation of anything happening, and has a big voice for a tiny bird.

There was even more screeching in the morning.

Fleur, who has the most extreme moult of all of them,  doesn't like going back in the Run in the evening, In the mornings she stays up in the Cube for longer.  I think she's feeling particularly sensitive.

I'm giving them extra protein to help with the feather renewal.

I hope it calms down soon.

Just in time

i've been so busy with work, I've not had time to do anything else.
I sent my daughter-in-law a shop bought card, as I didn't have time to make anything.

My sister in law was 60 recently, so I stayed up late one night  to make her a card.  I used glitter felt, which was really effective, and made a balloon.  It's really sparkly, much more so than the picture suggests.  I kam snapped a ribbon loop on (although I doubt very much she hung it up!)

  I had a pic of an alsation on some fabric (she likes alsations), and I used that on the back. It's not really like her dogs though, so was probably not a great idea.

I had a migraine for a couple of days last week,  which played havoc with my work deadlines.  I had a chiro appointment, and my lovely Chiro spent some extra time with me trying to help.    I made her a thank you card to match her therapy room's decor. It was a bit basic, but I'm sure she will have appreciated the effort.
IAnd it's my darling step daughter's birthday tomorrow.  I made her a card
I also made a lavender and sheeps wool stuffed gingerbread cat for my daughter in law, but I didn't manage to take a picture. It snelled lovely. At least, I think it's lovely. But I'm getting old now.

Lots more November birthdays, it might be mainly shop cards this year.

Another goodbye

DH had to cull one of the Allotmenteers today.
But pleased he can do it, so there's no suffering for the girl while we work out what to do.

We've been relatively lucky. I anticpate we'll go through a stage where we have quite  a few go at around the same time, because we have quite a lot from one particular hatch.

But not today.

And it means there's space for the two babies, I guess.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Oven ready

The Girls are moulting.

Sasha, the Appenzeller, has been moulting a little bit at a time, for some weeks.
Fay, the Fayoumi, started dropping the odd feather yesterday.
Gloria has given up being broody, and left a pile of feathers in the nestbox.  Poppy has clumps of missing feathers.

Poor Fleur, the Marans, is in a terrible state.  She's lost lots of feathers at once, and is very uncomfortable.

Poor baby, she looks like an oven ready bird.

Monday, 17 October 2016


We have a Quince tree, which produces fruit from time to time.  Last year, I seem to remember, we didn't have any quinces.  This year I wasn't expecting any either. We had had good blossom, but I hadn't seen any quinces on the tree.

Yesterday I went out to pick a couple of cooking apples. There were only two apples left on the tree, the rest (apart from some I had used last week in the Christmas Puddings) were on the ground in various stages of being eaten.

I needed the steps to reach the apples. While I was up there, I spotted a quince on the quince tree.   DH came out to watch, and spotted another one.  Andthen a thrid. The thrid one wasn't ready to be picled.  When I folded the steps up, I saw another Quince on the ground.

Regrettably, the fourth quince is damaged, so it's no good.  The other 2 will be put somewhere cool for 6 weeks to ripen, and I'll pick the one that's on the tree as soon as it's ready.

They always smell lovely when they are ripening.

Piccadilly Circus

I'm working from home.

10 minutes ago, DH popped out to get his hair cut.

I've had to get up three time since he went (the first time a second after he pulled out of the drive) to answer the door.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

O! S. V F X

Fay, who is bottom chook, has been unable to lay in the normal nestbox, because of Gloria being broody. 
I've found 2 of her eggs elsewhere in the run - along with 2 from Fleur.

Eggs for breakfast tomorrow.


No eggs for breakfast today!
First time in...a long time.  This time last year, the babies were only just coming in to lay and laid all through the winter.

This year, all but one Girl seems to have stopped laying. Moulting has started.

And Gloria has decided that it's the ideal time to go broody. There are no eggs for her to sit on, but she can't help herself.

I forgot to say. The title is from a clever Two Ronnies sketch.  Swedish made simple.For example:
C  T = City
L O = 'Ello

(You have to say it out loud really)

"F U N E X?".
"S, V F X"
"F U N E M?"
"V F N T  N E M"
"S V F M!"
"M N X"


Monday, 10 October 2016


A little while ago I saw a Big Mouse in the chicken run.  

We investigated and found that they had a rat run under one of the Cubes, but weren't actually tunnelling into the run itself.  We moved the Cube, and DH embedded  honeycomb driveway stuff to make it impossible for the rats to tunnel into the run through the Cube.  It's been fantastic, and has had the added benefit that the Girls haven't been able to wear the flooring level down.

We also put down baited traps. Horrible, I know.

All was well for some time, and then suddenly there was earth at the edge of the walk in run.  We stopped using the euphemism of Big Mouse, and started calling them by their real name. The rats were tunnelling again, and had breached the edge of the walk in run.  There's a gap round the edge, and the rats were tunnelling.  More bait.  More earth. More bait.

It had been quiet for a few days, so we were hopeful that the bait had done its job.


On Saturday I was working in the kitchen.  Poppy, as usual, had escaped the confines of the netted area.  I could see that she had found something interesting to eat.She was picking it up and dropping it.  I looked at it and felt sorry for the poor mouse or frog, or whatever it was.

And then I realised that it was quite large for a mouse.  And then I realised.

I rushed out, grabbing hardening gloves from the side as I went out of the door.  It was indeed a rat.

I normally try not to get too squeamish about the hens' omnivorous diet, but I couldn't let her eat this. I didn't know how it had died, but I doubted very much that she'd caught it herself.  It was possible that Wash had been out hunting, but I couldn't take the risk.

Poor chook. Poor rat.

More memory fun

I know my memory is a little erratic, so I've learned to IGNORE the false voice that tells me "you'll remember that". Instead, I bookmark webpages (my bookmarks are very organised), I make notes of things, I mark things on my calendar.

(I've just scurried off to note on my calendar that I put the Creole Cake fruit in to soak on Saturday, and a reminder for 3 weeks time that it will be ready to use. I didn't think I'd forget that, butwriting the paragraph above made me do it  just in case... )

Tpday my Facebook feed showed me an interesting recipe for cheese crackers. It was remarkably simple, and I thought I'd definitely give it a go.   I know I wouldn't be able to find it easily again,  so I bookmarked it.

It was already there.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Middle Age memory lapses

It is getting chilly.  Yesterday I was a little cold.  It's too early in the year to have the heating on,  but it might, I reasoned, be time to consider lighting the fire some evenings.

I needed to get the log basket from the loft.   Eventually, in the afternoon, I finally got round to doing it.  I opened the loft up, and decided I'd put up some other stuff while I was at it. Stuff that's been sitting in a neat stack on the landing for some weeks now.

The items were shoved one by one, through the loft hatch, and then  I followed.

First item, a  travelling bag for Thermy, never used.  That can go down the end of the loft, where we keep all the appliance boxes.    A but of limboing (we have low beams), and it was neatly in place.  A box of lids for the ReallyUsefulBoxes.   Packed into a corner.  A crate of bottles and jars,  stacked with the others.   The runners for an Ikea drawer (which was put in the loft a while ago),  reunited.

Pleased with my efforts, I came down and packed the ladder away.

Later that evening, I felt chilly.  Maybe I'd light a fire?  I need the.......dammit.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016


I've been binge-watching season 4 of "Once Upon a Time" (OUAT).  I've had the DVDs for about a year, but haven't got round to watching them. Season 5 cane out (and was ordered and received) very recently, so I decided to really indulge.

The other evening  put some potatoes in to bake before going off to Air Rifles.  When I got back, the potatoes were not quite ready.  At this point, I put a bag of smaller potatoes in to bake, so the Allotmenteers could have some baked potato mixed with poultry spice as a bit of a treat.

When my potatoes were cooked, I got them out, filled them with grated cheese,  home made yoghurt, etc, and sat on the sofa to eat my dinner and to start that evening's sneaky OUAT viewing. 

At 11.30, I made the tough decision that I needed to go to bed.  I turned everything off, called the cats and gave them some late supper.  I turned off the lights.....

...and noticed a glow at one end of the kitchen.  The oven was still on.

The potatoes were still in there.

They were rock hard.  No potatoey goodness left.


Saturday, 1 October 2016

Gate expectations!

DH was away.

I had to go out and do the chooks early as I was working that morning and had a conference call.  I needed to get to the chooks and back, and do some preparation.

I carefully packed up some overripe tomatoes (from the greenhouse) for the Allotmenteers,  and left the house to go to the Allotment.   After shutting the front door - and pausing to to through my "Have I...?" checklist - I locked the front door. Except the key wouldn't turn.

I looked at it for a moment, wondering if I'd used the back door key instead.  No. It was definitely the front door key.  But it wouldn't turn.

And then I realised what had happened.

Our front door has one of those "features" where, if there is a key on the one, it's not possible to lock it from the other.  I'm not sure why this is a good design feature, it seems pretty stupid to me.  

Hmm. I didn't want to go out an dleave the house unlocked. Besides, I'd have to find a solution when I got back in.  Luckily, a neighbour has a spare set of keys, so I walked over to her house and borrowed them, and a set of small stes so I could unlatch the gate.

I got back to the gate, stood on the steps, leaned over to unlatch the gate...and then I saw the padlock.

Bother, bother, bother.

My neighbour appeared, wondering if I needed a bigger ladder.   I realised there was nothing for it, I was going to have to climb over.  She went to fetch her ladder,  and I closed my eyes and thought through the process.  I'm fat, inflexible, in my fifties,  so I like to think these things through before I start.

I pulled up the wheelie bin, and stood it next to the steps. The neighbour appeared with an old fashioned stepladder, which required opening and latching in to place.  This meant it had to be opened and latched BEFORE I put it over the fence.

I climbed onto the wheely bin from the small steps, and attempted to lug the step ladder over.  There was limited space, and I had to partially drop the ladder in to place.  It teetered. It tottered.  I cursed, as I watched it lurch over and fall against the side of the house.

From the wheely bin, I leant over the gate to try and reach it to right it.  My lovely neighbour held on to my legs while I did so.  Luckily for me, the steps had a grab rail. I grabbed them, righted them, and stood them up.

I swung one leg over the gate and put my foot on the step.  And paused.  I should have ut the steps sideways, to make it easier for me to put all my weight on the leading foot. Instead I was stranded across gate,  wishbone style, with one leg on the wheelie bin and one leg on the steps.

My neighbour asked what the problem was, and I explained.  She uggested I moved my step-leg back, and I explained that I didn't think that was going to be possible. .I tilted gently first one way, then the other, to see which way felt the least insecure. 

I realised that if I sprung back from the steps,  the force would probably push them over, this time away from the gate and out of reach. So, I took a deep breath, and pushed off from the bin.  The steps stood firm(ish). And I was over! Yay!

My stupidity didn't quite end there.

My neighbour, pleased that I'd got in.  Took the small steps away and went home.   I unlocked the back door, marched to the front foor, and removed the key. Back through the house, I picked up the house keys which had the padkock key on, and opened the gate.  I took the ladder out, put the bin away.
I put the house keys back in the house,  set the alarm, locked the door, and went to go out of the gate.

Then I realised I wouldn't be able to lock the gate behind me.  We always lock the gate because of the Girls.

So.  I opened the back door again,  picked up the house keys, locked the gate. Back in the house. Locked the back door. Unlocked the front door. Set the alarm. Went out. Locked the front door.   I picked up the ladder and returned it and the keys to my neighbour,

I went to see the chickens.

The next day, I got several padlock keys cut including one for my neighbour's set of keys.   I took the key round and asked her to add it to our keys.

A few minutes later, there was a knock at the door.  The neighbour held up the key.  I looked at her, wondering what was wrong.   "There's a key the same as this on the ring already" she explained.   I was really surprised at this.  "I was surprised too, after yesteray, so I went through my papers and dug out the emergency note you left me, and it says that the small key is for the padlock".

That really tickled me.  I am  one of life's Planners. I think thhrough possible outcomes, and plan for as many of them as I can accommodate.

I should have known that I would have planned for just such a situation.

Friday, 30 September 2016


The Girls love scrambled eggs.   They rarely get them. but at this time of year it can be a good idea to give them a bit of a protein boost.    

I don't give them raw egg. Anyone who has accidentally broken an egg in a chicken coop will know the frenzy this causes, as the chooks fight to gobble it up.   We don't want our Girls to ever associate the inside of the egg with a whole egg - egg eating ensues, and that's a nightmare to stop.

We had a few oldish eggs, and plenty of new ones so the old ones weren't going to get used up.  I made some scrambled eggs (nothing else added, nothing at all),  let it cool, and then gave it to the garden girls. They loved it, so I made a bit more and took it down to the allotmenteers as a treat for them. . 

 let Henry have first dibs. Normally he has a close look at any  offering, then calls his Ladies to come and eat.  He had a bit of egg himself today,  and then a bit more, and then a bit more.  Then he remembered his manners, and called the Ladies. They also got some overripe tomatoes from the greenhouse,  so they've had a good day.

The Dinner Chicks also had some scrambled egg, but weren't too sure about it.  They also ignored the lettuce I'd harvested specially for them.

They are approaching 18 weeks now, 18 weeks on Monday, in fact. The Boys are crowing properly now.  They aren't really at an ideal weight yet, but they are getting to an age when sex is likely to be a problem soon.   I spent some time considering options this morning. We have the room to divide their pen,  and we have an ancient rickety coop that the Boys could inhabit.   Problem is, the boys will most likely just keep pacing up and down (anxious to get to the Girls) and so won't really put on weight.

One of the two Girls is a mottled brown chook,  daughter of either Norah or Batty.  I'm getting a bit attached, which isn't good.  We've only got 4 Dinners in total this year, 2 for us and 2 for Other Chap, keeping 2 of them (you can't introduce a lone bird, it's very cruel as they will be picked on incessantly by everyone else) doesn't make much sense.

Thursday, 29 September 2016


How very British, a post that starts with the weather.

Today is a bit November.  It's grey and dull outside, and it's a grey and dull inside.  The heavens have opened, and November is pouring.  Cold, hard, relentless rain.  Not the sort that spoils summer, it's the sort that really means business.   Winter coat weather.  Hibernation weather.

I don't mind cold weather too much, I actually like bright cold days.  I don't mind wet summer weather. I don't mind being out in the rain on a summers day.

Not so keen on this wet and cold weather though. 

There's something about it. It gets right inside me.  It's too me.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Roccbox continued

So the next day, we fired it up on a low heat, to season it.

Later in the day I made pizza dough,  I used the recipe in the Roccbox user manual, which was going to produce far too much dough and was very wet.  Still, I believe in starting with the manufactures recommendations,  so if anything goes wrong I know it wasn't something I'd introduced.

I usually make enough dough for 4 pizzas. It has one rise, then is divided in to two and rises again. One piece goes in the freezer, and the other half makes one ENORMOUS rectangular pizza, and we teach take half and top it how we like.   The Roccbox oven bed is fairly small, so we were going to have to go for 2 individual pizzas.  It would still be quicker: our oven takes about 45 minutes to heat up and t thoroughly heat the pizza stone,  and then it takes 7 minutes to cook the pizza.   Roccbox should take 20 minutes to heat up, and then about 90 seconds each for 2 pizzas.

Having said that, I couldn't quite bring myself to follow their instructions.  They only allowed one rise, but had used dried active yeast (not fast yeast) so it really needed two.   I gave it two rises.

Roccbox was fired up, and got to temperature - 300 degrees - in about 20 minutes.  Big Tick.

There were no instructions on the technicalities of moving dough around.  I know from previous experience that sometimes the dough sticks, and we usually put the rolled out dough on to the paddle before topping it.
However, they didn't seem to do that in the pics, so we did the pizza toppings before attempting to move the dough.   I deliberately used only a small amount of passata and a little cheese, as I could see the superthin dough was going to be a challenge to move.

It didn't end well for the first one, despite flouring the worktop and putting cornmeal on the peel.

By now, it was dark outside.  Doesn't it get dark early and quickly now?.  Roccbox was on the table in front of the summerhouse, so we had all the lights on so we could see the oven.

For the second one, I went mad with the flour on the worktop, and we managed to get the whole thing on to the peel and then in to the oven.   It only takes 90 seconds to cook, and I completely forgot that I needed to turn it in that time.

It came out charred on one side, and not properly cooked on the other - but that was totally my fault.

It was, however,  rather tasty.   I wish I'd taken some pictures.

I've watched some (non Roccbox) videos on handling pizza dough, and I was pleased to see that I'd actually got it right - including where I was patching holes rather than trying to squeeze them together.
Next time I'll use a similar recipe to the Roccbox supplied one,  but (a) I'll halve the quantity,  and (b) I'll follow my normal method of proving - all the dough together for the first rise, then cut it into individual pizza sizes, and let the pieces rise again.  Any that I'm not using immediately can go in the freezer.

We had to wait for Roccbox to cool down a bit to put it away - it can't be left outside.   We're going to put it on a heavy duty trolley to enable us to move it in and out easily.  We'll need that because we have pizza at least once a week. We also use (or used to use) our oven and pizza stone to make naan bread, pita bread,  flat breads, and garlic breads... and I'm going to try using Roccbox for that.

At the moment we have to carry it outside to use it. It's doable, but I'll be really glad when the trolley arrives.

I was lucky that I saw it when an earlybird backer price was available, and this coincided with me having the funds to pay for it.  Now that I've used it, I have to say that I'd buy it at the full price (assuming I had the money available)

I'll try and take some pics next time.

Roccbox arrival

A long time ago now, I decided to back something called "Roccbox".  

At the time we were eating a lot of home made pizza. My attempts to make authentic pizza improved.  I made a proper dough (both with and wothout semolina flour); I used a large pizza stone in my domestic oven, with the oven turned up as high as it would go (about 250 degrees fan, for about 45 minutes to heat the stone thoroughly) to get as close as possible to creating a "wood fired" pizza taste and texture. We invested in pizza peels so we could get thepizza in and out of the raging hot oven.   It worked reasonably well, and was much better than pizza cooked on a baking tray.

I realised that the next step was to get a better pizza oven.  We toyed with the idea of building a pizza oven in our garden.   We just didn't really want to give over that much space to it (nd I wasn't sure that I'd really have the inclination to light it each time).     Then "portable" pizza ovens came on the market.  They were OK, but they were horrendously expensive (for what they were).

And then one day I found Roccbox, which was looking for backing.   I signed up for it,  and then I committed to buying one.   Early backers got a bargain price,  and it really did seem like a good idea.

It was a mini pizza oven that could run on wood firing or gas!  Was it going to be the bext of both wrolds, or the worst of both worlds? 

Time passed. As is often the case with these things, the delivery time slipped.  Fortunaely, we've backed a few things and are well used to the types of delays that occur.  We've learned to add 3, 6, 12 months on to the original ETA when looking at whether we want to back something.

Eventually, it was imminent.

Then the container landed.

Then it was despatched.

And then it was here!

Mine is lime green, this is a stock photo

The big box arrived, we unpacked it,  and sat and looked at it on our kitchen worktop.   SH went to get a bottle of gas for it (we decided we'd start with the gas and see how that went).   We had other commitments that evening, so couldn't do anything. 

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Sad week

It's been a sad week.

My friend's mum died, and one of my Uncles died.

I used one of Designs by Juju's  Mehndi Butterflies,  changed the colouring to black and silver (with a tiny splash of colour on the body), to make Sympathy cards.

3rd time lucky

I've not been in the mood for for making things at all for a while.

I eventually managed to get myself off my b*m, and made a bumbag  for one of my granddaughters.   I took care to read the instructions very carefully. I measured twice, cut once. Spent a lot of time (and not-cheap) fabrics,  only to find that the darned instructions were wrong. They had the height and width of the fabric pieces the wrong way round.

It wouldn't have mattered if I'd been using plain fabric, or random patterned fabric.  But I was using sheep, inside and outside.  My sheep ended up sideways.

It wasn't too bad on the outside, but the inside sheep just didn't look right.  DH said it didn't matter, and it didn't really.  But it bugged me.

So I made a second one.

It started well.  I cut the pieces correctly,  I starched the lining pieces.  And  I also embroidered her name on the inside!

I took care centreing up the front fabric.  The inside piece, with the name on, looked lovely.    All was going well, until  I made the mistake of leaving the machine unattended while it sewed the back pocket on.

Somehow the back pocket went squiffy, meaning not only did it go up at ana angle, but the bottom wasn't sewn on correctly.

So, I cut out the pieces for a 3rd one.  Once again, I pressed and starched.  I embroidered the name on.  This time I did not leave the machine.  Sadly I'd run out of shocking pink zips, so we had to go for a boring pink instead.

 The sheep on the inside were the correct way up
 And I'd even managed to find a sheep charm for the zip.

Hope she likes it.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

A sad Goodbye to NotNorman

NotNorman, one of our two remaining oldest hens, died.

She was one of 4 offspring from our vicious cockerel (Captain Flint) and his two wives (Willow and Buffy).

I went down to the allotment to see to them today.  I did a headcount as I let them out to graze, and I noticed immediately that Siouxsie was there but not her sister.

Siouxsie and NotNorman  are (were) 7 years old, so in some respects I wasn't surprised.  I looked in all the coops so I could say goodbye and take the body away.   She wasn't in any of the coops.

I then started looking round the allotment,  and then I looked around again more carefully. Under things, behind things.  I couldn't find her body anywhere.  I checked outside, where they graze.  Nothing.

I finished my tasks, locked up, and decided to walk round the edge of the allotment, along the electric fenceline, to see if I could find her, or signs od her   Eventually, I came upon a small, neat, pile of feathers.


A pile of feathers
A few steps on, another pile.

She must have escaped somehow - or a single-kill predator had got in somehow. It wasn't a fox, they'd all be dead if that had happened.   It could be an owl, or a hawk, or maybe even a mink.  I guess an owl or a hawk is more likely, as that would explain how they got over the electric fence.

I waslked along a different path, and then I found the remains of her carcass.

At least I know for certain that she'd dead.   And at least it wasn't an indiscriminate fox attack.

Poor girl, I hope she didn't suffer.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Proud grandma

My granddaughter completed the dress!

He rmum sent me a pic of G, working at their kitchen table doing the hem.   And later, a pic of G wearing the completed dress.

It's lovely.  I'm so happy that I was able to give her the help and guidance she needed,  and the tools,  to do it.  I hope she goes on to make her second dress (fabric already provided) so she can cement her knowledge.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Animal training

It never ceases to amaze me how well our animals train us.

The cats sit by the french window in the kitchen and, without thinking about it,  we get up to let them out.  They sit by the food bowls, and we stop what we are doing to feed them.   Izzy jumps on the bed in the middle of the night and meows for a stroke, she gets it.   Wash comes in to the living room and stands by my chair, I obediently put out my legs so he can jump up.

And so it goes on.

And then there is being not quite fully asleep, so that we are (usually) woken if Izzy is having a fit, or if Wash is involved in a fight, or if the chooks are disturbed.

Izzy  had one in the night. Unusually, it was upstairs.  Thank goodness we'd put down solid flooring recently.  The floor needed cleaning anyway, and cleaning it at stupid-o'clock during the night meant it didn't have to be done during the day.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Highs and Lows

Sometimes I have trouble remembering what I did yesterday,  and trying to look back over a week is often impossible. Let me see what I can remember....

I went on a 2 day Workshop to make a dress form of myself.   It was an interesting process, involving cling film, wettable brown tape, PVA glue, and lots of standing around.   Plenty of people would pay a lot of money for the experience without the end result, I'm sure.

The second day was learning a bit of draping skills and making a skin-tight cover for her.    

It was quite effective, and the end result was technically very good.   At the moment, she's in the bedroom with a dressing gown on.   I wish I'd done it in the winter, when I am less prone to water rentention.  Still, it's done now, and Nellie tje Elephant will be a real asset to my dress making, I'm sure.

I had a bit of a fright.  I walked in to the bedroom to see a person in a dressing gown, collapsed on the floor.  It took me a second to realise that Raymondo (the iRobot vaccuum cleaner) had knocked Nellie off her stand.


On Saturday, my granddaughter arrved for a day's sewing.  Her sister, Mum and Dad, went off to do something else for the afternoon, while we spent some time leaning about pattern envelopes and,  stretch v woven fabric. Then we tried the mountain of fabrics that I had bought, and got the list down to 6. 

At that point, we (well, she) tried on the pre-made toile, and we draped the 6 fabrics so she could choose the one she wanted.   I had to be strict, so we went from 6 down to 1 very quickly. As soon as a fabrci was not top choice, it was removed from the options.

Next was learning why we trace patterns rather than cut them,   doing the tracings,  and learning to use a rotary cutter,    Then on to laying out fabric, selvages,  pattern placement, cutting the fabric.   Then out came the sewing machine, the news that it was hers to take home,  some sewing practice,  and a spot of lunch.

After lunch,  we (she) started to make the dress.  She did everything herself, I just explained what she needed to do.    She managed to sew on the interfacing (had to unpick it and re-do it).

We didn't get it finished before dinner, so we left it until Sunday and then completed some more bits - the armholes,  deciding on the hem.  She's got a couple of bits to do at home to finish it,  but it looks really lovely.  She did a fab job.

Her sister, meanwhile,  got a very special set of treats on Saturday- she is big enough to have a go on Segway,   and then they did a Duck tour (plus had sushi for lunch). 
On Sunday, after they'd gone,  I did the allotment chickens, and spent the afternoon clearing up and lolling about.   I cut out the fabric for my next skirt. Sunday, frankly, is a bit of a blur.  DH popped home for the evening and night, which was lovely.
Monday was a whirl of making the skirt, clearing up, doing washing,  and battling with escapee chickens.  I've had to top up the fencing (2 girls are flying over, despite the fencing being extra tall and the girls having a wing each clipped).    Now it looks like Stalag 15, with random very tall bamboo poles stuck along the fenceline and bunting in X shapes in between.   OK, no Stalag had bamboo, much less bunting, but it is a bit of a mess.

The 3 youngsters, who are now well over a year old, have given up trying to sleep with Poppy and Gloria,  and have decamped as a mini-flock to the other Cube.

I also watched an old black and white film, Hell is Sold Out, starring Herbert Lom and Richard Attenborough.    They really don't make many films anymore where someone does the morally decent thing and doesn't end up with the girl.  A happy ending for 2 of the 3 leads.


Oh, and I've remembered why the rest of the time was a bit of a blur.  My lovely neighbours' equally lovely son  was involved in an accident on his bike on Friday.     He came out of hospital yesterday, and is incredbly lucky he wasn't even more badly hurt.  It's his birthday this week.


It's really hot again, so I need to check on the chooks.

Catch up soon.