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.