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Aaaah, still loving our life!

Friday, 17 November 2017

Cellar Store Room - One Year On.


Just a super quick post showing how I'm using my Doomsday Prep cellar store room.

Just a year ago I was so excited that it was finished and couldn't wait to actually use it. Bovey Belle said that in a year I would be running out of space for things so that is why I decided to do a little before and after post.

Here is how the main part of the space looked on completion...

and here is how it looks now. Eeek!

I'm not exactly running out of space but it is definitely VERY useful. The shelves are now home to my spare preserving things along with the goodies I've managed to make this past year. Also I keep coffee/tea etc. supplies for the Airbnb room there as well as spare non-perishable items; I have a few things in stock for Christmas housed on the shelves and I still get a buzz out of going in there!

I've just sorted out a couple of cardboard boxes that were underneath the gingham curtains. They were a little damp, after all it is still a cellar, so as long as non-plastic things are kept off the floor then all is well. I'll soon be bringing up the Christmas decorations as they quite happily live down there now keeping dry in proper boxes.

Such a useful room as I also keep my recycling bags down there in between collections. After Christmas I will give it a good sweep and wash the curtains; I might even take them up a little as they drag on the floor a touch.

Ok, going on about this JUST a bit too much.

Bye for now.


Monday, 13 November 2017

Cake and Christmas. Eeek!

Good morning!

We awoke to a temperature of -4 - ooh nippy chippy as we say in our house. The boys went off to school after having warmed their gloves, hat and scarf on the top of the Rayburn. However I myself was kept warm by listening to the beginning of the BBC Radio 2 auctions with Chris Evans for Children In Need and the kindness of those giving money. There was a Christmas feel to the items being bid for along with some early festive music but I more than forgave them. This morning already £809K has been raised for Pudsey's piggy bank! Wow! Last year the total was £5.7 million

In other news I've been baking and creating. It was Jon's birthday at the weekend so I baked for him, and for the first time for me, a coffee and walnut cake.

I've been getting down to some crafting recently by making use of the fab value Christmas papers I bought recently. I love making tags which are big enough to give as a little gift or to use as a decorations around the house; the ones I currently have I think I made about five years ago so I now have a couple of those in stock and also started on a couple of cards. Jon and I don't send each other cards and I don't give them in general; I do like to give them to neighbours who have been helpful and kind over the year.

I also fed the Christmas cakes yesterday for the first time; here they were very well packed up after the mishap last year.

They are now packed away again until next week.

Right, I think that is it for me just now. Regular chores to do today but loving catching up with blogs to see how people are preparing for Christmas. Had a thought the other day to use the sugar syrup left over from preserving the apples to use for making apple vodka. Has anybody ever made apple vodka? I lots of people make flavoured drinks, especially 
Dawn and Tracey.

Bye for now.


Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Winding Down for Winter

I am definitely in wind down mode regarding the garden as it is very much going to sleep just now - oh you lucky people with poly tunnels or greenhouses that survived the recent spate of storms. I am fairly happily resigned to having completed any overwintering jobs, namely my ever present Pak Choi plus the garlic and onions, and that any other outside jobs will be completed soon with Jon's help.

So to the indoors. I absolutely love this time of the year; being cozy inside, only going outside when absolutely necessary and hunkering down with the curtains shut. I have my seasonal planner at the ready and am adding to it daily to ensure we simply have a wonderful Christmas time. 

There'll only be a few mentions of the C word just now but come December 1st I will, as usual, make no apologies for enthusiasm and festive frolics.🎄🎅

Some time ago Jon went to Bookers, the wholesalers, and on the same trip I asked him to bring me some Atora suet (not sure if other suet brands are available?!) He came home with a catering size box of the stuff! Well, this was last Christmas (oops) so some was used for mincemeat last year and dumplings plus more will be used at the end of the month but in the meantime I've made a batch of dumplings for the freezer ready for winter stews. For the size we like a 200g box of suet made 30 of the little delights so that is a good job done.

Love having things put by in the freezer.

I made my Christmas cakes at the beginning of the month but managed to stupidly delete my photos of them; I am due to start feeding them with a bit of alcofrol, hic, next week so will show and tell then. 

Whist ironing this morning I had the TV on in the bedroom just so I could hear something from where I was. I LOVE the Food Channel, especially at certain times of the year, and there were some Christmas,sorry!, adverts on so started thinking of a few ideas for foody delights; I plan on making a luxurious granola come muesli mix containing tasty nuts and fruit etc. I had listed some things I wanted to include and then I found this recipe - 

Christmas Spice Granola.

I have also been trying to use up the ends of bread loaves but wanted something different to savoury croutons. I decided on cinnamon and sugared ones to freeze for use on the top of puddings.

I cut the bread to the right size, melted some butter then sprinkled the bread with some cinnamon sugar I had made previously plus a little extra. I then popped them in the oven, keeping a close eye, until they were a lovely rich colour. 

Yum, and straight in the freezer before I ate the lot!

Talking of croutons I just remembered I made a lovely dish for the boys. I had some leftover chorizo, combined this with the croutons, some frozen peas then melted cheese on the top.

Ok, better crack on.

Bye for now.


Monday, 30 October 2017


Finally I dragged my bum outside and got some jobs done yesterday. I have to acknowledge the return of Tracey from Our Smallholding Adventure who shamed me into it after being so flippin' active on her return from hols! I admit to having found it hard to get outside recently and I also am not keen on the way the garden is looking at the moment but such is nature.

I dug over the area where the beetroot had been, gave the failed ones to the chickens then as I knew there was a good chance of frost my Spring cabbage is now out. Due to the state of the Poly House I think I can say they have been hardened off recently! I also covered them with a couple of cloches I had so was pleased to get them in the ground.

I also took up the courgette plant as it had come to the end of its natural, dug over the bed and covered it, using some of the polythene off the Poly House😊 I hope to grow cauliflower here next year. I had covered up the turnips here but took it off later for the cabbage as the turnips were well established; I just hope I get something out of them for a few stews. 

Oh, something I did when we lit the Rayburn; I moved the coffee and tea things from the top kitchen and I really quite like them here. I've swapped the microwave up to the top as I'm doing my best to use the Rayburn for little things like defrosting meat and warming beans for breakfast instead so I don't use the gas and this way the microwave is out of sight!

Now All Hallows is almost upon us we have a few decorations up. These tags come out every year; I made them in 2011 using on this one the orange foil wrapping from a Smarties sweet amongst other bits and pieces. 

This simple candle will dress these cones for a little while until it is turned into a decoration for December.

Here is Alfie carving these two pumpkins all by himself and was very chuffed with the results.

I took the boys to Aber to catch a coach for a trip to Swansea today with Urdd and they won't be back to Aber until 5.45pm; I'm making sausage casserole tonight slow in the Rayburn as I can do other stuff whilst it is doing its thing.

This is not a very interesting post, more of a bit of a record of the time of the year. Jon is doing amazingly well on the second room; bathroom is painted and we have a special backing for the sink which looks stunning so will share some photos when the floor goes down and a few other bits are finished.

I've done a lot this morning, upstairs and down - bread proving, bed changed, kitchen swept and mopped, washer on etc. so once I have the casserole in the oven after lunch I'm not sure how I will spend the rest of the day. Feel like playing hooky with the boys being out during half-term and me being on my own!!

That's it I think.

Bye for now.


Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Oh What A Beautiful Morning!

Oh my what a morning! 

Glorious compared to what we've had, and the day continues to be fab. I love it here!

The above photo is the field on the other side of the road which runs parallel to our back garden and below is the lovely view to the hills about our neighbours house. I went to ask him if he wanted some of my spare onion bulbs and stayed a while for a brew and to pet his sheep dog, Meg. Lovely, really lovely to be able to do that.

I have soooo struggled to get outside and do some necessary jobs due to the weather and procrastinating a bit to be honest. However today I have achieved some good things.
I planted my onions; I have two varieties which are:

red onion Electric - 
An overwintering variety producing shiny red skinned, semi globe shaped bulbs with crisp, pink-tinged flesh. Onion 'Electric' makes a lovely addition to salads and stir fries.

white onion Radar - 
Plant these top performing onion sets from September for harvesting in May next season. Onion Radar is a long standing favourite, chosen for its reliable cropping, bolt resistance and winter hardiness. The short, wide bulbs produce rich straw coloured skins with crisp white flesh. 

and garlic, too - Lautrec Wight.

this is a classic 'hardneck' variety named for its place of origin in South West France. Garlic 'Lautrec Wight' is widely regarded as France's finest garlic producing very pretty bulbs with white outer skins and deep pink cloves.

Really chuffed I've got this done. I have one tyre left to sort out and cover. No photos as I think you can picture these jobs!

I have, after the storms, finally got round to covering the main veg patch, properly!! The only area left open is where the beetroot is; that is going to the chooks as it has not grown well then I will dig that over and plant my Spring Cabbage - that should have gone in a bit ago but what with the weather....hope it isn't too late?

Just a little update.

Bye for now.


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.