Monday 23 January 2017


Some time ago (September 2015) I bought an Instant Pot.  I was a member of a very active Thermomix group, which often started buying crazes.   One of those crazes was the Instant Pot, and the new DUO 7 in one had just come out.   I delayed a long time, mainly because I already had a good quality stovetop pressure cooker (which actually cost more than the Ipot) and I couldn't really justify the purchase to myself.

In the end, and in the face of an irresistable Costco offer,  I jumped in.  I felt really sheepish when I brought the box in from the car.

Luckily, Ivan was and is a success.    I sold my stovetop pressure cooker, which partially funded the purchase

Not only is he a fab pressure cooker,  but he is also a good slow cooker.  I had no previous experience of slow cookers, so I can't say he is better than any other slow cooker. Except that I can brown stuff in Ivan, which I don't think you can do in most slow cookers.

I also use him to make yoghurt, at least once a week.  I used to use a saucepan and a flask.  Ivan is a bit more convenient, and I don't tend to forget about a batch of yoghurt when he's sitting on my worktop with "Yogt" on his display. Not that I've ever left a flask of yoghurt in the airing cupboard (cough, cough).

I don't use all his functions: I don't use his rice cooker functionality - I have no problems cooking rice, and a saucepan is just as easy.  I don't tend to use him as a non-pressure steamer, as I find a saucepan and steamer just as easy and no more/less washing up.

I've tried lots of recipes that I probably wouldn't have tried in my stovetop. That's because I keep getting recipes in my news feeds.  Lots of delicious asian recipes with pork;   pressure cooker cheesecakes;   lots of slow cooker recipes for stews (where I previously would have used long slow cooking in the oven).  

I've also used him to make hard boiled eggs (or firmish boiled eggs for scotch eggs) and, genuinely, they are easier to peel when done that way.   I wouldn't use him to pressure cook boiled eggs for instant consumption - it seems a lot quicker (and less washing up) to just use a saucecepan.

He's in use many times a week,  and he's actually overtaken Thermy as my most-used item. I had to get a spare bowl for him, as I often use him for multiple things in a day.

I bought an Ivan for my mum. When I was a child, my mum was an early adopter of pressure cooking. She had one of those tall Prestige pressure cookers.  She physically wouldn't be able to use a stovetop pressure cooker now, but I thought she might find an Ivan helpful.   To my surprise,  she loves him and seems to use him a lot!

I see they've now bought out a bigger version.  I won't be upgrading,  the current size is fine for the two of us.  It'd be fine for four of us really.

I see also that they've rought out a SousVide option for him.  We already have a similar device, from something DH backed on Kickstarter a few years ago,  so I can't see us switching.  

Saturday 21 January 2017

A Gentle soul

Fleur, my Cuckoo Marans, is a very gentle soul.

She arrived a tthe age of about 6 weeks old, 18 months ago along with Fay the Fayoumi,  as replacements for a bird that turned out to be a boy.  She grew to be quite a large bird,  at least as large as Poppy and Gloria (my Welsh Blacks).

She didn't - and doesn't -  really understand the whole pecking order thing.  The three youngsters obviously had their order sorted out from a young age.  When we introduced them to the Big Girls, Poppy and Gloria were great advocates of the Pecking Order,  and would Peck at every opporunity.  The pecks seemed to bounce off Fleur, she almost didn't notice them.

Fleur mixed in both flocks.    Poppy and Gloria didn't want her in their flock,  but Fleur attempted to join them anyway, ignoring the hail of pecks.

Everything was fine, until they moulted last Autumn.  Suddenly I noticed that Fleur was frightened of Sasha (the tiny Appenzeller).   Even now, when they are all fullu feathered, I can see it. I Whenever Sasha comes anywhere near Fleur, Fleur runs (and Sasha chases).    I think Sasha must have had a bit of a go at Fleur when Fleur was in an oven ready state, and I susepct it was a bit of a shock.   Now I suspect their behaviour is habit.

With the Big Girls,  Fleur will stop whatever she is doing, and turn her head away.   For example,  Fleur can be happily attepting to eat fromt he swinging cauliflower.  If Poppy or Gloria turn up,  Fleur stops eating, and turns away.  She doesn't leave,  she just turns away, and stands still.  Poppy/Gloria then has their fill of the cauliflower and move off.  As soon as the coast is clear,  Fleur turns back and starts eating.

DH recently repaired the camera in the Run and today I watched them for a while.  Same behaviour.

Makes me a little sad. She's such a gentle soul.

I don't have any recent pics of her - here's one from when she was very very younf (no comb or wattles!)

Friday 20 January 2017

Winter sun

Another fabulous day.  Bitterly cold - I don't like being cold - but lots of sunshine.    The garden is covered in a thick frost, even now at 10am, and it's sparkling everywhere.

We have a concrete mixer in the garden (we really must move that, it's rusting away poor thing), and there is steam rising from it as the rost is melting and the water is evaporating.  The grass looks like it's covered in little diamonds, as the frost turns to droplets, and the droplets refract the sunlight.

The Girls aren't overly happy.  I made them some pellet porridge today, which they loved.   I spent some time in the Run with them yesterday. I took some raisins out with me (they haven't had raisins before) to reward them for letting me pick them up and stroke them.  I wanted to give each Girl a once over, to make sure everything is still OK.  It is.

Thursday 19 January 2017

Suck it up

It's been a week for things breaking or going wrong.

This monring I put Raymondo, our robot vacuum cleaner, to work in the bedroom.  He spun round a few times, and then gave out  his oh-oh sound and stopped.  Usually when he's in trouble, he speaks a helpful error message, for example "Please clean Roomba's brushes".

Today, there was  no message at all.

I cleaned all the brushes anyway, and took the front castor out to clean that too.  When I popped it back in, it wasn't rolling correctly, and it looks like the plastic holder has broken. I'm guessing that's the trouble.

At least it's easy enough to buy a replacement part. It hasn't always been the case.

He's 8 years old now, and very battle scarred.
When we first bought Raymondo, he was top of the range.  Accessories (like brushes and filters) were hard to get  and spares were impossible and had to be imported from the US.   Accessibility to these things improved as robot vacuums became more common.

He's had 2 replacememnt batteries (the newest one was a lot more efficient), and  we also replaced the brush head module which (apparently) effectively upgraded him. His ability to clean, already excellent, became outstanding. 

He used to be our main vacuum cleaner (up until I bought my first stick Dyson), and he was set on a timer to clean the downstairs while we were out.  I retired him for a while, the Dyson was so easy to use.  I found that Raymondo cleaned under the bed with less hassle than when I did it, so I brought him back into service, and he now lives upstairs. .  He does a fab job on both the solid floors and the carpet.    We no longer have him set on a timer - our ailing cat spends much time asleep on the landing, and she hates Raymondo.  We don't want to disturb her, so Raymond is set to work manually.  He's  also parked in a cubby hole, and he's not able to get himself in and out, so the auto thing isn't possible.

His main duty is our bedroom and the landing.  Izzy (the aforementioned ailing cat) is nto able to groom herself properly, and sheds an incredible amount of fur.   It gets everywhere, despite daily brushing by us. Raymondo does this beautifully.

Actually, I might move Raymondo and base plate into our bedroom.  I could then put him back on automatic daily duties.  Why didn't I think of that before?  That has the added bonus of freeing up the cubby hole/

Hopefully the new castor will arrive quickly.

And hopefully it'll solve the problem.

Wednesday 18 January 2017

Stocking up

I dropped my air rifle on to the hard floor atthe gun club, and I've broken the stock.   Not a little break.  A big break, the stock is in several pieces.

Unfixable. Silly, expensive, mistake.

Fortunately, it's possible to buy a replacement stock, and DH will be able to fit it.

And fortunately I have enough left in my "unexpected expenditure" pot to cover it.  (I hadn't really expected to use up the pot quite this early in the year, but I guess that's the nature of such things).  

Monday 16 January 2017


I've been having some problems with my embroidery machine.    A myriad of birthdays this month, and the machine has been playing up.  Since the beginning of the month I've been working through all the usual known causes and, in the end, I just couldn't fix it.

I contacted Janome to see about sending her off for a service.  No problem, except I have to organise and pay for the sending courier.  That came to a horrendous some of money - more than the cost of the service, in fact - so that was a no-no.  It would have been cheaper for me to drive to Stockport,  deliver the machine, stay overnight, and drive home again.

There is a Janome approved engineer relatively close to me, so I phoned them on Friday and took my machine in today.    She's going to be away for a while - ten days probably - which is something of a shame.  I Pollyanna'd myself by concentrating on the fact that I was glad I'd taken her in - , if I hadn't, she wouldn't be useable anyway.

Everyone this month is getting shop bought cards,  and it means I won't be able to make the little rabbit pouch for DGD4's present. (She got a Rabbit from her parents for Christmas. I've bought her a little necklace, and I was going to make a rabbit shaped pouch to wrap it in. Never mind). I'm glad because.... it's less work for me.

In the meantime, I might try and do some clothes sewing.  I'm not quite in the mood, but I'm getting there.
And maybe I'll be glad my embroidery machine went away, because it'll make me concentrate on clothes.  Maybe.

Monday 9 January 2017

Oh, Vienna

We were watching Rick Stein's series about weekends away.    The ones on Berlin and Vienna  were particularly interesting as - many years ago now - we holidayed a lot in Germany and Austria.  Rumpsteak mit Zwiebeln (steak with specially cooked onions) was a particular favourite of mine, although I had forgotten all about it until the programme.

When we saw the part about Gulasch and Spätzle,we decided we'd have to try making both.  The Gulasch was easy (although the method Rick used on the programme was different to the method given on the programme website).

Pic from DaringGourmet blog. Our spatzle were mych mor irregular
Google helped us with finding an authentic Spätzle recipe.    I liked this lady's recipe, mainly because of her writing style and her pics.  Just scroll past the info about her home town.

I meant to halve the quantities for the Spätzle.  This went well until I stopped concentrating, and ended up adding a full amount of milk.  I then had to go back and add in the dry ingredients again, and we could see that we were going to have a lot of noodles.

I watched a video of someone using a board and knife to make the Spätzle.  I also saw someone using something which looked suspiciously like a potato ricer.   We don't have one of those, we were planning to use the colander method, as Rick had done in the programme.  Then  I remembered we had a mouli in the cupboard, and that seemed to be ideal. We had the right sized holes, and the winder would be much easier than trying to scrape dough through the bottom of a colander.  Result!

Or not.  The mouli was a complete failure.

The colander method was painful, but it worked.  We boiled all the noodles,  using only about a third of them, heated in butter,  to serve with the Gulasch.  Both were lovely.

The remainder was divided into one portion for the fridge and one portion for the freezer.   

Pic from DaringGourmet's blog post for Kasespatzle
The next day, we had Käsespätzle which is spaztzle, caramelised onions and cheese, layered and baked in the oven.   Because we'd liked her Spatzle recipe, we followed the same lady's  recipe for Käsespätzle

Another winner!

The third lot, currently in the  freezer, we intend to cook until crispy.  No idea what we'll serve them with,

Definitely delicious, and we'll definitely make again.   I will probably buy a ricer to make them, but I'll wait until we're actually going to make them before I purchase.

I might see if I can find a recipe for the Steak mit Zwiebeln.  It must be 25 years since I've eaten it.


Complete loss of creative mojo, so no sewing or embroidery since before Christmas.   Many looming birthdays forced me to create some card designs,  which my machine refused to sew withour birdnesting. I am sick of rehooping and redoing as I work through all the possible causes and fixes.

Rethread machine.
Use different thread.
Rethread bobbin.
Clean the bobbin race
Clean under the bobbin race.
Change bobbin.
New needle.
Different design.
Change the bobbin race
Different stabilisers (tearaway, cutaway, vinyl, filmoplast)
Different hoops
Go in to the "here be dragons" part of the machine to get out any bits of thread
Clean the threading route with dental floss
Try adjusting the (automatic) tension
Threading according to the manual (with presser foot down)
Threading according to popular wisdom (presser foot  up)

It took me several days to get through it all - I got fed up quite easily, and suffered from CBA (can't be a**ed - ahem - bothered).     I think it's a tension problem, and I may have to just take it in to get it serviced.  I'm going to try using a different thread stand, but I've had enough of today.

I keep looking at the fabric I cut out to make a wrap top, but I'm just not in the mood.   I've got anearly-finished top on my dressform, waiting for me to finish the sleeves and hem,  I just have no enthusiasm for it (despite getting a feeling of pride when I walk past it).    I've got stacks of knit fabric to have a go at making some leggings,  and I've got a pile of funky fabrics to make some lovely skirts to wear over the leggings.   

I just can't get interested enough to even get started. Maybe it's the weather?

I'm going to have to go and buy some birthday cards, as I'm nearly out of time.