Monday, 25 May 2015

Thanks!

Thank you all for your lovely comments regarding the chair and our upcoming holiday after the funeral.  It means such a lot that people I don't even know (plus of course some I do know!) are so kind, the blogging world is such a friendly one, so thank you all again.

I doubt I'll be blogging again this week, too much to do.  Will be taking laptop on hols, so will try to blog and post some pics next week (note to self, don't forget to pack phone charger, USB lead and laptop lead!).

3 days till the funeral, 5 till our holiday....

Hope everyone enjoys their Bank holiday and has a lovely week.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

....and counting

5 days to go till the funeral, 7 days till our holiday.

I'm in full holiday prep mode now, starting to sort out holiday clothes and lay them out on one of the spare beds.  OH is under orders not to wear for the next week anything he wants to wear on holiday....he has a nasty habit of throwing clothes he's worn back into the wardrobe, instead of the washing basket, leaving me to find them, needing washing, a day or two before we go away.  He claims that if he's worn something only once, it doesn't need washing....give over, darling, you're a dirt magnet!

We (or rather, I) start preparing for our precious holidays (we don't have one every year) weeks or months in advance....I put aside money for fuel and spending and each week when we go shopping I buy something for the holiday....like coffee, sun cream (we live in hope) or a bottle of wine.  We always go self catering but don't want to spend our saved cash on food and nor do I want to spend the holiday cooking, so I cook and freeze things in advance.....we have a big cool box we take with us.  So far I've made pasties, spag bol, a fish pie and a chicken pasta bake.  Today I made a quiche and a chocolate cake.  So that's 5 dinners sorted, I'll also take some chicken pieces to have with salad.  We plan on having fish and chips one day.  We prefer to use our spending money for treats - such as the fish and chips, and we'll go to a cafĂ© I've read good reviews about that does an excellent proper afternoon tea.


I've finished top coating the first dining chair, it looks lovely, I'm so pleased with it.....it was worth contorting myself to paint all the (very) fiddly bars and twists and getting splattered with splashes.....I'm a very messy painter!


As it was when we bought it, covered in old varnish and scuff marks


Stripped of varnish, sanded down, primed and top coated (apologies for the messy table!)

Now I just need to top coat the other three....oh, and look for some nice cushion pads.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Keeping busy

Have been throwing myself into keeping busy.....that way I don't have time to dwell on things that are beyond my control.  So today has been a mixture of food shopping, cooking and baking, painting and even a bit of crocheting in between.

I'd roasted a big tray of veggies (halved small new potatoes, butternut squash, courgettes and red onion) with some chicken thighs at the weekend, there was 1 thigh and quite a lot of veg left.  So I made up a pint of chicken stock in a pan, put the veg into it and simmered until it was very soft.  Went shopping.  After we'd got back and put the shopping away, I whizzed up the veg & stock with my stick blender, then added the diced chicken meat off the thigh.  That was lunch, with a crusty roll.

Put the 2nd (and final) coat of antique cream on the first of the dining chairs.  Turns out I hadn't stirred the paint thoroughly enough when I did the first coat, hence why it was so drippy.....OH put a lot more effort into it and mixed it really well, it's so much better now.  I really like the look of the painted chair, just got to touch up a couple of bits tomorrow and I'll take a photo of the finished chair.

Back was killing me after contorting myself to get into all the nooks and crannies of the chair, so sat down for 30 mins and did a few more rows of my chunky blanket....it's coming on so well, I love it.

Made a big panful of Bolognese and spaghetti for dinner, I've frozen half of it as a ready meal to take on holiday with us, to join the fish pie and bacon, cheese & potato pasties I've already made and frozen for the holiday.

Also made a dozen fruit scones, half of which are being frozen too.  Whilst the oven was on, I chopped up and baked a dishful of rhubarb - some to be kept in the fridge to have with Greek yogurt for breakfasts, the rest again frozen.  We have rhubarb coming out of our ears at the mo!

Thank you all for your kind comments, they are really appreciated.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Normal life is suspended

The reasons for writing this blog - baking, growing veg & fruit, crocheting, sourcing and renovating preloved furniture - have gone out of the window right now.  Our lives at the moment are completely dominated by matters to do with MiL's death, funeral and winding up her affairs.  Not going into details but it's all becoming more and more of a problem and is causing us a great deal of stress.

Hopefully, we'll get back to our normal peaceful uneventful life soon.  Our holiday can't come soon enough.

Until then, I probably won't be posting much, sorry about that.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

The view from our windows

Thank you all for your lovely comments yesterday, I do appreciate them.

As the forecast is for rain literally all day today, I thought I'd post a couple of pics I took yesterday when it was lovely and sunny.

The farmers, who work really hard and long hours and are very much governed by the weather, spent all afternoon yesterday gathering the long grass in the field behind us for silage.  For the past couple of years, maize had been grown there (used for animal feed, not human consumption), but they're growing a type of grass instead for the next couple....I guess it's crop rotation, similar to what we do in our veg plots, but on a much grander scale of course.


There are now loads of swallows and house martins zipping around feeding off the flies drawn to the cow pats in the front field.....we have lots of house martins every year, but this is the first year we've had so many swallows, previously it's just been a handful.  They sometimes stop for a rest and gather on the telephone wires over our front garden.....it's funny, it starts off with 3 or 4 settling on the wires, then over the next couple of minutes lots more arrive.  It's as if a bell has gone off signifying tea break!

The martins are starting to show an interest in nest building.....several of them have been investigating the remnants of the nests left under our eaves from last year.  I wonder if the same pairs use the same nest, or whether it's a case of 'first come, first served'?

This is the nest built beside our bedroom window last year, a pair of martins have begun renovating it.....knocking a few bits off and replacing with new mud and bits and pieces of grass, twig, etc.


They leave a hole just big enough for the adult bird to enter, then when the babies hatch they all start peeping out of the hole - so fascinating to watch, I hardly get anything done when that happens.

It's not all shiny happy loveliness though.....this is the countryside after all, and there are deaths as well as births.  About 2/3 of the cows in the front field have little calves, the rest are yet to give birth.  One of them gave birth early Monday morning, unfortunately the calf was stillborn.  It was sad to see the mother keep going up to it and nudging it with her nose, and then mooing loudly and walking away.  The farmer eventually came and took it away.....I don't know whether he took the mother too, or whether she's left in the field - all the cows look very similar, they're either black & white or brown & white!

These things happen, it's all part of nature, not all creatures can survive I suppose or it would upset the balance of things.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

.....and breathe!

Had to make an emergency dash up to Northampton yesterday, a 7-hour round trip, for OH to sign some important paperwork to do with the funeral arrangements....apparently he was the only one authorised to do so.  And, guess what, when we got there we were told it could have been done via email....sigh.  I'm just letting that go, no sense in dwelling on it.

At least now the funeral arrangements are made - 2 weeks' time though, I wish it could have been done before, but no matter, the end is in sight.

Both of us are shattered today, as well as the physical tiredness from yesterday, the strain of everything is taking its toll emotionally as well.  We are going on holiday a few days after the funeral.....obviously the holiday was planned months ago, but it couldn't have come at a better time, we will be so ready for it and so thankful that we can go away.  We've scrimped and saved for this holiday for weeks and weeks, the fuel money is all saved and we will be taking most of our food with us too.  I've been saving my Sainsbugs reward points for months, so we'll do a shop there just before we go.  I'll be cooking and freezing meals to take with us too from now on (well, from tomorrow when I've got some energy back!) - we've got a big cool box to pack everything in, the frozen meals and milk will help keep everything cool.

It's lovely and sunny and warm today, so will sit in the garden and read this afternoon.  Poor OH has to go to work.....he drives artics for a living so really could have done without 7 hours driving on his day off, bless him.  He's going to try and get an early finish, if he can.....sod's law will be that he's given a long run to do!

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Pie making

We've got rhubarb coming out of our ears at the moment......we've had it as crumbles, cake and simply stewed with Greek yogurt recently, but OH asked for a pie.  I also had 3 rashers of back bacon to use up and thought of stretching them out with other stuff in some individual pies.  When I make pastry, I make a huge batch at a time, portion it up and freeze it, so I took 2 lumps out of the freezer this morning.

For the savoury pies, I peeled and diced a couple of potatoes and parboiled them for a couple of minutes.  Sliced 2 small red onions (the last of our home grown ones from last year) and softened them in a little oil, along with the bacon chopped into small pieces.  I mixed the drained spuds, bacon and onions in a bowl and left it all to cool, then added a good couple of handfuls of grated mature Cheddar, some sage and plenty of black pepper.  Lined 4 individual enamel pie dishes with pastry, filling in, lids on, egg washed and some extra grated cheese sprinkled over. 

Chopped 3 long sticks of rhubarb (the sticks are REALLY long this year!) and piled them in a pastry lined glass pie dish.  Shook some ground ginger over, added a couple of tablespoons of Demerara sugar and lid on.

Baked both savoury and sweet pies for about 45 mins.  We'll have 2 of the individual bacon, cheese & potato pies for lunch tomorrow, the other 2 are being frozen.  The rhubarb pie will last us 3 days.

 
 

I seem to get my feet in most of the pics I take!  You can tell I'm not a photographer can't you?!

Saturday, 9 May 2015

In limbo

It's been (and continues to be) a very upsetting week, OH and I aren't sleeping at all well and we're both physically and mentally drained.  Not so bad for me as I'm home all day, but OH has to go to work and drive artics, which is a worry.  We don't even know yet when the funeral will be or what the actual cause of death was, MiL had to have a post mortem, which apparently didn't reveal anything conclusive, and so they're waiting on test results.  And of course the bank holiday delayed things.  So we're all in limbo really and don't feel as if we can carry on with normal life, as everything feels suspended in mid air.  I'm doing my best to support OH as much as possible, but just feel helpless.

I'm trying to keep busy, I've been doing a lot of cooking for the freezer, baking bread and cakes.  Been crocheting a lot too.  The blanket I've been doing for the single spare room has been put on hold temporarily....I'm running out of some of the colours, which is a nuisance as I thought I'd got enough.  After a quick calculation I think I'll need another 2, possibly 3 balls.  In the meantime, I've started another blanket, a double size one for our bed, as I fancied a change from the granny square one we have.  I'm doing it in V-stitch and using chunky wool, which I have quite a lot of, it's in 4 wide bands of royal blue, magenta, purple and pink, with a row of cream in between each one:-

 

Again, apologies for the poor quality of the photo - the magenta and pink look very similar in the photo but they're actually not.  I love how this is hooking up, I think it's my favourite so far of all the blankets and throws I've made.

I can't use my ordinary straight metal or plastic hooks anymore, I can't seem to hold them properly and get terrible cramp.  So some months ago I splashed out on a set of hooks with chunky rubber grips, in sizes 2 to 6.....got them at a reasonable price on ebay.  They are fabulous, really comfortable to hold and work with.  Last week I bought another set of 4 in large sizes.....they're a different make with slightly different grips, but just as comfortable:-



I'm using a size 7 for this chunky blanket, it's growing satisfyingly quickly.

Thank you everyone for your comments, when I started this blog I had no expectations at all of receiving comments (or even of anyone reading, for that matter).  It's lovely to receive them and I'm very grateful.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Swallows and.....Martins!

When I get up in the mornings, I go and have a look out of the front bedroom window (we sleep in the back bedroom).  The view is lovely, it's different every day depending on the weather, time of year, etc.  On sunny clear days the Quantock hills in the distance are bathed in sunshine....right now the fields of oil seed rape are in full flower and glow in the sun.  On misty days (we get a lot of that, the West Country being warm and wet) we can't see the hills at all.

This morning, the view was even better than usual:-



Apologies for the poor quality of the photo, and I know it's not terribly distinguishable.  However, there are about 35 or 40 swallows and house martins on the telephone wires which go over our front garden, it was so lovely to see them all so close up.  They are actually a lot closer than they appear in the photo.....I have no idea how to zoom or anything on my phone cam!  Also, the cows were put back in the field yesterday, some of them have very young calves, quite a few are still pregnant.  The swallows and martins have a ready supply of flies right there in the field, their own open air restaurant on the doorstep.  The martins nest under the eaves, some of the nests are still there from last year, others fall off the wall shortly after the babies have fledged (what good timing that is!).

I'll have to read the manual and have a play and see if I can work out how to zoom in (you can tell I'm not tech-minded can't you), then will take some pics of the nests.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

A busy day

Welcome to my new follower, Julia Douglas.  Thank you all for your kind words, and to Juhli for the advice on clearing a house after a loved one has died.

We are only just getting back to normal after the emotional and tiring weekend, it knocked both of us for six, we still haven't had a decent night's sleep.

I'm still in a decluttering frame of mind.  This afternoon we're taking a black bin bag full of clothes, large carrier bag of shoes, and 2 boxes of crockery to the CS.  Over the next few days I'm going to sort the kitchen cupboards, as I know there are pans and dishes I don't use.  Then there are books to be culled....I did get rid of a couple of carriers full a few months ago, but I know there are more that can go. 

And then there's the paperwork.....god how I hate dealing with paperwork!  It isn't scattered all over the house like MiL's was, it is all contained within the lounge in a filing cabinet, desk and sideboard (oops, there's a small pile on the windowsill as well, oh dear!).  Still, it will probably take me at least a day to sort through it all, but hopefully a lot of it can be shredded/burnt, and the remainder contained within the filing cabinet.

And then it's just a case of keeping it all in check and not accumulating more.....she says, with the little devil on her shoulder cackling like mad and croaking "not a chance!".

Did 2 loads of washing this morning....I've had to use the tumble dryer for some of it as it's heavy showers on and off all the time, and only have one clothes horse and a couple of rad airers.  I've been trying to avoid using the tumble dryer, but needs must.  Baked a wholemeal loaf and a banana cake.  Doing roasted butternut squash & tomato lasagne for dinner.....the roasted tomatoes I got out of the freezer are the last of our homegrown ones from last year.  We're not vegetarians, but we do have a couple of meat-free meals each week.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Decluttering

OH's mother died Friday night.....not entirely unexpected as she was 88 and had been unwell for some time.  We had been due to go visit her today (she lives about an hour away).  Anyway, we went down there yesterday to meet up with some of OH's family and begin the task of organising things and start sorting out her flat.  This is going to be a mammoth task, as she was a hoarder and I don't think she'd thrown anything away for years and years.  There were mountains and mountains of paperwork - covering most of the available surfaces, even on the floor and overflowing out of drawers.  Piles of clothes and shoes everywhere.  Umpteen ornaments, bits of jewellery, numerous watches and spectacles, loads and loads of pens.  Enough drugs and inhalers to supply a pharmacy, some empty, some not even opened, some several years old....we filled several carrier bags to take back to the pharmacy.  After a few hours of work, we'd barely even made a dent.  We are both drained, physically and emotionally, today.

This has made me resolve to declutter our home.....we are nowhere near as bad as MiL, but stuff does tend to accumulate, doesn't it?  Well, it does in our home anyway.  I'm beginning tomorrow by sorting out my clothes.....there's a pile of them on my bedroom chair, which don't fit in the wardrobe (we downsized last year from a huge 4-door wardrobe to a 2-door one, getting rid of a lot of clothes in the process.....somehow they've mounted up again!).  The wardrobe in the spare room has also been used over the past few months as a repository for clothes we don't wear often, meaning there's nowhere for guests to hang their clothes!  So I've given myself a kick up the backside and told myself to cull everything that doesn't fit/has got a huge tear in/big oil stain on the front/we just don't like.  It may take me a while.....

Thank you for all the comments on my previous post about crocheting for someone else for payment.....you've all confirmed what I felt, that it would take away my enjoyment, put me under pressure, and the cost involved is just too much.

Friday, 1 May 2015

More crochet and a dilemma

Welcome to my new follower TillyTrotter.

My current WIP is a single blanket for the small spare bedroom, which has sunshine yellow walls, aquamarine curtains, plain stone colour carpet, and cushions/pictures in splashes of yellow, aqua, green, blue and peach.  The bedding is plain cream.


The colours are a bit muted in the photo, sorry about that, they're actually quite a bit brighter.  I've chosen them to complement the existing colours of the cushions etc.

I've recently been asked if I would make a double bed size blanket for someone, for which they would pay me.  After giving it some thought, I've gracefully declined. 

I crochet because I like it and find it relaxing, however, even though I enjoy doing it, I can only crochet for about an hour at a time as I find nowadays it gives me an achey pain in my left shoulder and neck.  Something to do with posture I guess and to do with getting older(!!), as I didn't have this trouble when I was younger.  Consequently, a blanket, even a single size one, takes me several weeks to finish.  I don't crochet every day....there are times when I get a bit fed up with it and don't do any for 2 or 3 weeks.  If I was doing it for someone who was paying me, I'd feel obliged to get on with it and finish it much quicker....that would put me under pressure, I wouldn't enjoy it and thus it would take away my reason for crocheting in the first place.

And then there's the cost.  Those of you who crochet will know it's not particularly cost-effective to do it, yarn is expensive and crocheting something large or intricate takes a long time.  The pleasure is in finishing it, a beautiful thing that you've created yourself.  The yarn alone for a single size blanket would likely cost upwards of £30, depending on the yarn chosen.  And how do you put a price on the amount of work that goes into it, the sheer number of hours and weeks that it takes to do it?  I couldn't even begin to quantify that.

I am seeing more and more people at vintage fairs who are selling homemade crocheted blankets, though I can't imagine that they make a lot of money out of it....unless they crochet a lot faster than me.

I guess it must be the same with quilting....I'm sure that must take a long time too.  Do any of you sell your quilts or crocheted/knitted blankets?