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Aaaah I love our life!

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Brian, Bring On Winter!


With Brian on the prowl we are not too bad here just now but weather warnings for Aber have been put out to encourage people not to be near the sea front at high tide, winds are forecast for later, Alfie's football was cancelled this morning, and......

we have lift off. The Rayburn is lit!

We were fully operational at breakfast and I love it!

I have also been getting used to baking in it and made, using up yet more apples, another Dorset Apple cake.The boys have their Thanksgiving Service, even though I'm not a church goer I would have preferred it to be called the harvest festival as that title is a bit US of A for my liking. Anyhow after the event we are having a Macmillan Coffee do so taking donations as requested.

Lunch consisted of chicken and fridge left overs soup. Mmmm.

So I am more than happy now and cannot wait until I see that energy bill go down shortly.

Right, I'm off to have my soup and look for a Columbo to watch this afternoon and prepare myself for Sequin Central! Go Strictly!

Oh, one last thing I thought of the other day. I don't think I have shared this with you but when I had my previous blog I was lucky enough to have Ruth Clemens, one of the first The Great British Bake Off series finalists, do a little interview for me - here it is.(Have to say still loving the show even with the changes - it's all about the baking!)

Bye for now.


Friday, 20 October 2017

Apples Coming Out Of My Ears!


I have been gifted yet more cooking apples since the ones I bottled! I was trying to think of different things to make from them; I already have some stewed, blanched and syrup all in the freezer and we have had crumbles and pies along with the ones I bottled.

I was reading one of BB's posts on Codlinsandcream2 and she had some great ideas for using up gluts of apples. I took some inspiration and made a Dorset Apple cake and this has gone in the freezer for another day. I then had a look online and there was a recipe for  apple turnovers. As luck would have it I had some puff pastry in the freezer, I normally do for quickness sometimes; I set about making these, first time for me and relatively easy.

You just chop or slice your apples, put a good amount of cinnamon over them and cook them in butter for a few minutes,

then add a slack handful of sugar, well anything from half a cup depending on how sweet your tooth is.

When the juice starts to form thicken it with a little cornflour and water

and mine are ready to go in the freezer as pie filling or other uses.

Here are the finished results of the cake and turnovers.

I have to say I was ridiculously pleased with how the turn overs turned "out"! -  Jon and the boys loved them, too, so that was an extra bonus.

I STILL have quite a big box of apples left but am getting apple phobia or something from cooking with them so might put a couple of bags out front with the eggs.

All from me; have a great weekend and I look forward, as usual, to seeing what everybody gets up to.

Bye for now.


Thursday, 19 October 2017

Not Quite Blown Away


After Ophelia the weather has calmed down a great deal and isn't even that cold just now. She did a bit more damage to the Poly House but we have had an idea to use the plastic roofing from the conservatory to recover it when it is refurbished some time after Christmas, probably. She also knocked down a big branch which, luckily, fell the opposite way to the pond area. Part of the fence came away but that's now been mended;I think we got off quite lightly as it really was blowing some. Hope everybody survived minus too much damage.

I've just had breakfast after cleaning out the chooks and collecting the eggs. I also turned over the tyres where my blight-affected spuds had been. I read about what to do with the soil so I've taken a good few inches off the top, dug it through and weeded then the next job is to add some new compost; I'm going to plant the onion sets there as I cannot use them for spuds for a couple of years at least; I think the onions will do ok there.

I still have the huge job of taking up the sweetcorn and clearing that patch; want to get it started at least by the end of the weekend. I am NOT looking forward to it but we may be going to the tip at the weekend so I can take all of that there as have nowhere to burn things just now. Jon is going to make me an incinerator from an oil drum he got from work, did I already tell you that?

I admit to having found it really hard to get outside to do any jobs recently; the damage to the Poly House seems to have hit me, too! Anyhow this week I emptied all the tomato containers and put the compost into the compost bin. I cleaned out the lettuce and spring onion sink and have put the strawberry plants in that, lifted off the base so they don't get waterlogged by any rain. The failed squash and climbing beans have been given to the chooks and that tyre still needs a bit of work before being treated to some new compost and covering until I decide what to use it for.

The pak choi are looking good in the, damaged, cold frame but have a way to go yet.

The turnips I planted a little while ago seem to be doing ok and haven't need to cloche them as yet... 

as with the courgettes which are still giving a few to us which I love at this time of the year. I so know that I can grow them well outside again next year.

I've ordered and received some Christmas stickers and embellishments for projects for the festive season. I don't plan on making many things but just to tart things up, too.

I bought the same stickers last year and thought the buttons etc were lovely too. I have a thing about a few US craft companies including Jelly Bean Soup, Echo Park, Cosmo Cricket and In My Minds Eye. My Christmas always consists of either red, white and green or some vintage touches. I also have my new calendar; last night, whilst putting next year's dentist appointments on it, it occurred to me I  hadn't applied for Harry's senior school place yet! A quick internet search let me know I have until December 22 to get the application in so that has now been done and I will call the school to arrange a visit after half-term. It is making it all the more real that my boy is really growing up.

Last week I had my first go at bottling some fruit; this is a method of preserving I had not tried and I had some cooking apples I was storing in the cellar; they were keeping very well however I have always wanted to have a go at this so away I went.

I used up about two a half kgs of apples...

made the syrup without too much trouble...

and ended up with 4 of these jars for the cellar and one to put in the fridge.

I also had some syrup left over and I've put this into an ice cube tray to use for whatever.

Little update on the second Airbnb room; plastering is all done and the floor is going down next.

Last week I also made use of my new meatball gadget again. We had a slab of minced beef which came in a pack of meat products. I made a dozen regular meatballs and then six filled with cheese as Alfie loves those and then popped them in the freezer for future use.

Right, I think I'm up to date.

Bye for now.


Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Pros and Cons and Keeping Rural Living Real.

This morning I had to go and pay the mechanic who did the MOT on my car yesterday. I needed to drive 2 miles to the post office as that is the nearest place to get cash, then I drove 2 miles home to the turning from where I drove 3 miles to and from the mechanic. Some people may think this is a bit of a jaunt but that is what it takes.

In order for our boys to take part in various activities after school we need to make a 26 mile round trip to Aber but they cannot miss out just because of where they live. Sometimes we are able to take turns with journeys by sharing with other parents but not always so sometimes we have to hang around until the boys have done their thing.

Growing your own fruit and veg when you live in places like we do is something lots of people do for lots of reasons. (I have always wanted to produce and raise as much of our food as we can.)The reasons can be that you just want to know where your food comes from, you see it as a challenge or it can save you money. Now regarding the latter I have not saved us a fortune this year because I am still learning so much about GYO. However, the things I have not had to buy along with the things I have acquired, been gifted, foraged etc. mean that the money we have spent has allowed us to spend money on other things.

Most people feel that wishing to maintain a self-sufficient lifestyle, or as I prefer to call it self-reliant, as well as a different pace of life agree you need some sort of income to run alongside the other parts of that life you are trying to build. We are fortunate to have out buildings which came with the house and with the skills Jon has we are on our way to building a business. The money we have made from the first room has not been a fortune but when Jon needs to spend £40 here and there on building materials or I need to buy extra shopping when guests come it has been a real bonus. Because our nearest, proper supermarket is also a 26 mile round trip you add the cost of fuel onto the food you buy which is another good reason to grow your own. Other people chose to make an income from raising and selling meat, eggs, fruit and veg, any number of things which they are able to produce on whatever land or layout they are working with and what suits their lifestyle. 

I guess I began thinking about all of this as I drove down the hill back to the house, as part of the 10 mile journey, looking at the wonderful landscape we are so lucky to live within. I hope this isn't too much of a ramble but I suppose I was trying to find a way of saying that you have to keep things real. 

When visitors say we have the perfect set up here and you really are living the dream I am always quick to say we do not live our life wearing rose tinted glasses. It IS the perfect place for us to live and we wouldn't change it for anything but it takes work. If you have a lot of money from whatever source then you are more easily able to set things up; if you don't then there is a degree of planning for the future needed and also a certain amount of patience until you are able to get to and....

That's all I think.

Bye for now.


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Autumn and Other Stuff.

Good evening.

Autumn has definitely arrived and if anybody is a regular reader of my blog you will know I DO like to decorate.

I spotted these fantastic gourds in Lidl and just had to have a couple for this display.

In the living room I have the books I usually put out along with a fabulous card with foxes on from when I took part in a stationery swap.

In the front kitchen window I have put together a basket of Autumnal goodies and I am particularly pleased with this one. (Another fox card.)

Outside the Autumnal weather is properly taking its toll - on the Poly House! There are too many rips and too much damage now to show but this scene greeted me the other morning. These will not be kept on the top shelves anymore but instead be stored in the planters and containers once they have all been brushed and washed out.

The bed inside the Poly House has been cleared of the gherkins and cucumbers...

so is now ready either for new sowings or to be covered. 

Considering the state of the Poly House I think I will be covering it over until Spring!

Outside I have come to the conclusion that the far corner of the veg area is NOT the right place for sweet corn. It has failed miserably; I had plenty of cobs develop but there was just not the sun for them to ripen.

However I did manage to harvest one cob, which out of approx. 19 plants is very sad. I won't be growing it again next year as this was the best spot for a good amount of plants.

A couple of other things that are still growing outside include the Pak Choi, all be it in the rather now shabby looking cold frame; it looks as though it's growing as it should.

My courgette plant seems to still be the gift that keeps on giving!

One thing that was not wind damaged or unripe was this tasty chocolate chip cake I made when baking yesterday. Went down a treat, especially with my friend after we came back from a lovely walk this morning. Have to say I am enjoying the Great British Bake Off more than I thought I would so will be tuning in to that a little later this evening.

Jon has reached plastering stage in the new Airbnb room.

Jon is a great plasterer and has already finished the bathroom ceiling this evening.

As you can see there is not a lot going on at our little homestead just now.

Bye for now.


Thursday, 5 October 2017

Quantity or Quality Time?

Yesterday, as fairly normal, I listened to Jeremy Vine on Radio 2.

The article I was most interested in was about parents who regret they did not spend more time with their children when they were young.

People made comments about there not being things like Skype back in the day so a parent was gone until they came back and that was it.

One father, and it seemed mostly to be father's with the regret, who in later life became a foster parent said he was closer to his foster children than his natural children because of working away when they were young.

Jon and I were very lucky that when I had Harry he took two weeks off work - we had our own business - and I hardly changed a nappy which meant he had some quality time. When both the boys were young we still lived close to our business and although I stopped working with Jon when Harry was born he was always there in the evenings.

One mum said to Jeremy that she has been on maternity leave for the last 51 years! I feel so very lucky that apart from a short time when we first came to Wales I have always been at home for them. I am also lucky that I have always, and continue, been so happy to be what the Americans call a stay at home mum/homemaker. I am never happier than baking, cooking, making comfy the house into a home and just being here for the boys and Jon. I have to say Jon rarely asks me what I've done during the day, I just get on with my thing as he does with his. He also loves working only 10 minutes from home and having the weekends free, although he doesn't have the luxury of a lot of holidays.

I understand that it is a very tricky thing for people to balance having to work to pay the bills and also finding that time to spend with family. I could say certain things here but I would never offend anybody regarding their choice of lifestyle, their aspirations etc. I do think we are quite simple when it comes down to the things we need or want and generally we get there in the end, though we may have to wait and little longer at times. 

If you have the time to use the BBC Iplayer and listen to the article you may find it interesting - just a mascara warning that they played Cat's In The Cradle by Harry Chapin and Slipping Through My Fingers by Abba during the article! Boo hoo!

Bye for now.


Friday, 29 September 2017

Preserving and Project Progress.


Airbnb phase two is coming along really well. Inside we have got the frame for the front of the chalet in place.

The window and door were put in along with membrane covering.

The doors were then taken off and they will be used on another project.

This door was originally the connecting door between Jon's tool shed and the main shed.

Alfie was a really good lad learning some new skills by helping Jon with the cladding and putting on the new windowsill. 

And here we are.

We are very pleased with how it looks on the outside - obviously it needs painting but when guests come it looks tidy from the front.

Jon will continue working on the inside at those times when we don't have any guests.

In other news my order of onions and garlic have come today.

It was my offer from GYO magazine.

And I am pleased to still be harvesting some things...

which include my only four chillis, one last Spring onion I think, lettuces (not Winter ones), the contents of the first growing bag of sweet potatoes, which I am so very pleased with, and still some tomatoes are coming.

Today I have made a jar of gherkin relish as they keep popping up, too. I'm really looking forward to my preserving this year. I look forward to us using it on burgers next summer and it looks JUST how I wanted it to!

Right, I have a cake in the oven just now for when we go visit my mum tomorrow. 

I look forward to seeing what everybody gets up to over the weekend.

Bye for now.



Sunday, 24 September 2017

Foody Photos Inside and Out.


I've tried a couple of new recipes recently as you really can get a bit bored with the same old same old sometimes.

I sat down and had a good root through my Save With Jamie book, which I love, and I've been a little inspired due to watching Celebrity Masterchef just now, too. 

I made Koftas but with turkey mince instead of lamb and also rustled up some flat breads to go with them. They went down a treat so will definitely be making them again. (Unfortunately no photo.)

I had some puff pastry in the freezer so made this with a filling of chicken, peas in my homemade mint sauce, tarragon and all put through a bechamel sauce. Mmmmm.

Then I decided on pork belly-filled ravioli which was ok in the end but I have misplaced the bracket that holds my pasta machine to the island! I had to roll by hand but it came out alright.

I've taken delivery of a kitchen gadget which I've used for tea last night - a meatball maker and I love it! Jon cooked the meatballs whilst I was watching Strictly and he said they cooked really well; the texture seemed to have been improved by the pressure of the gadget making the balls into a really good shape.

Now, I've finally got round to processing, almost, all of my garlic which I took up when we came back from our holidays. It has taken ages for it to dry out as the soil was so very wet but it looks great and I am so very pleased with it. I have it in the basket I bought in Menorca hanging in the kitchen as most things I read say it should not be kept in the dark incase it sprouts so that is why I didn't put it in the cellar store room.

I have on order a small amount of garlic but need to get some more.

Yesterday I had a bit of a tidy up in the Poly House. It looks a bit better...

but there are a few jobs to do yet.

I also need to clean out the planters etc before I store them away for the winter.

My next door neighbour works at our local plant nursery and he brought me these two thyme plants. They are now in the herb sink and I was very grateful for them as mine had not grown well this year.

In the Poly House these are the broccoli raab and Spring cabbage; I intend to get them outside quite soon before they get too leggy and spoil.

Also yesterday I took up the last of my Maris Piper spuds, as I was worried the blight may get to them, and left them to dry until today.

I brought them inside this afternoon along with something else!

I have some in the kitchen to eat at tea tonight and the rest I have stored in the cellar. Don't want the precious few to spoil. I am very pleased, though, that I have these, the Christmas spuds and also the sweet ones.

Oh this really is turning into a ramble, sorry. I just remembered the mum of a friend of Alfie's, who spent the day with us yesterday, gave me a huge courgette she grew on her allotment. I am chuffed to bits as I wanted to make some of the courgette and apple chutney as I did last year but only had the apples. I've put some of the many cooking apples I was given in the cellar, ones that are not bruised, on a flat box as most of them have been put to the compost heap or the chickens. That is a job for next week I'm looking really forward to.

Right I think I should stop now or there will be no end to this!

Bye for now.