Wednesday, 30 November 2011

I'm shattered!

First of all, congratulations to our DS. on his promotion, you deserve it darling as you have worked very hard.

Today was the 3rd day of basket making and if it comes to a choice between reed and willow, I'll take reed any day. I've come home with a very low down broken off nail, aches all over and a few sore fingers. By tomorrow, we are told, our hands will ache quite badly!

I was by myself as B. was ill with asthma. It was Gary's birthday and he bought us all some little pastries – went down a treat.
Here is my basket for today. Our tutor told us it would take the last 2 weeks of the course to do this, but we all managed to finish today.

It is about the size of a large dinner plate and roughly 4” high. I now have a heavy bucket plus some weights sitting inside it as the base is slightly uneven – hopefully should do the trick.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Baking & Making

The wind is howling outside and shouting down the wood-burner. The great thing about wood-burners being enclosed, no smoke comes into the room – you just have the lovely howling noise. Have managed to get some clothes on the line but will shortly have to bring them in as the sky is getting darker.

Made a new loaf of bread today substituting 2oz of white flour for 2oz of soya flour. Looks fine, will let you know how it tastes when we get around to eating it.

I have started a new page tab looking at what food is in season in the UK for each month – beginning with December. It comes from a great site that also covers Canada and the USA.

Had some leftover roasted vegetables so made some soup. To these vegetables, I added one litre of vegetable stock, one tin of value tomatoes, a tablespoon of tomato puree and a teaspoon of fresh, chopped rosemary. 

Tasted great and worked out at 55p per bowlful including the bread – one of my more expensive soups!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Liquid Laundry Detergent

As I have just run out of my hand-made laundry detergent, thought I would do a tutorial on how to make it. This time around, I used Palmolive rather than the very basic soap. I now use pure soap flakes from Wilkinson's (Wilko). I also add 15- 20 drops of lavender or other essential oil into each of my two storage vessels, (I now store it in 2 x 4 litre milk containers), as I fill it up. If you want to make one batch all the same, double up the oil. This recipe is for 1/2 a batch and works out at about 1 1/2 p all in per wash!

Step 1 – Prepare ingredients – 1/2 bar soap grated (or soap flakes), 1/2 cup (around 3oz) washing soda and 1 litre cold water - as you can see from the photograph below, I accidentally used only 1/2 litre water in this recipe, it still worked okay, I just added the extra 1/2 litre at the end!

Step 2 – In a large pan, melt the soap/soap flakes in the water. Ensure ALL of it is melted otherwise you will end up with blobs of soap on your clothes. DO NOT ALLOW IT TO BOIL.

Step 3 – Turn off the heat and remove pan. Stir then whisk in the soda. It will begin to thicken – keep whisking until all the soda is dissolved. Don't rush this stage, the soda must be dissolved.

You will only need to put it back on the residual heat if you feel the soda has not all gone. Again, DO NOT BOIL.

Step 4 – Gradually add 3 litres of cold water. Whisk well in-between each addition (this stage is like making a sauce).

Step 5 - Allow it to go cold. Remove any scum off the surface, then use an electric whisk to turn it back into a liquid form.

Step 6 – Always use a wide necked jar/bottles and a wide necked funnel (I now use 2 x 4 litre milk containers).

If using a milk container, pour in using a funnel until 3/4 the way filled so you can shake it when needed to help distribute the essential oil if you have used it. This half recipe makes 4 litres of liquid.
When washing, use 1 cup or about 200 ml in the soap dispenser of the machine. 

If it is still like a gel at this stage put 200 ml into a jug and whisk in a little water to loosen it before adding to the washing machine - ONCE THE WATER IS RUNNING INTO THE DISPENSER). I might of course be a little over cautious doing this but again, for me, it works.

I then add 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar in the conditioning dispenser. Some recipes call for 1 cup!! of vinegar in the machine but I find 2 tablespoons works well enough to leave your clothes smelling fresh. Also, if you tumble dry, it stops static building up and they still smell fresh - no sign of the vinegar smell at all.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

A relatively quiet day

Managed to get more sleep last night, only woken up a few times by my back and neck. I'm not the best of sleepers anyway, it seems to be getting worse as I get older.

According to The Food Hospital programme on Channel 4. though, if I am not adversely affected by not sleeping i.e. gritty eyes, tired out all day, irritable, I don't have insomnia! It's true, I don't seem to be too bad even after 2 or 3 days of lack of sleep. I am however, most of the above when I have a completely sleepless night – who can blame me.

I probably don't sleep more than 2-3 hours per night for a couple of nights, then I'll sleep for about 3 or 4, then back onto the 2-3 hours etc. Every now and then, maybe once a fortnight or so, I don't sleep at all. If things get really bad and I've had several nights of hardly any sleep, I'll take a 1/2 tablet of 2 a night Nytol (blue box not green).

If you can't sleep, this type of Nytol is very good but once I had built up to taking it every night (even at a 1/4 the recommended dose), thought I had better take a break from it. I can't take a full tablet even though I sleep very well with it – great – as I am very dozy the next day – not so great!

Anyway, sleep issues to one side I have today made my second batch of mincemeat and some new marmalade. 2 jars with Grand Marnier in them, 2 with ginger and 1 1/2 plain.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

A quiet day today

I'm having a quiet day, mainly due to lack of sleep due to bad pains in my neck and shoulder. It might be from basket making but I'm not sure. If it is, they will subside in a few days, if not I am due another massage in a couple of weeks so will wait until then. I have mild scoliosis of the back and we manage it by paying for a monthly deep medical massage and bi-monthly chiropractic treatment (any savings we make in the household budget caters for this expense).

My right hip is tilted forward and upwards by about 1 1/2”, my right shoulder is similarly tilted. This has the effect of making my neck strain at an angle to keep my head level and is further compounded by an inward rotation of my ankles – one by 11 degrees, the other 16 degrees. I'm supposed to wear some lifts inside my shoes but oddly enough, that makes my back even worse so I don't bother.

The above treatments keep it in check and although I start out reasonably level after treatment, after a few weeks, the rotation returns. Can't get this help on the NHS, all they say is “you'll just have to walk through the pain”. Before having this treatment, I couldn't actually walk for any longer than 10 minutes without having to stop. At least now, I can go out for long walks and be pain free most of the time. Hey ho, such is life!

Anyway, I managed to take the edge of it with a heat pad and deep heat but am still uncomfortable.

Went out first thing to a small farmers market but didn't find anything we wanted. Went to their local church where a Christmas craft fair was being held and bought a few little odds & sods for people for presents but also got ourselves this delightful little trug for just £2. (They were all the same price even though they varied in size).

It is 9 1/2" long x 5 1/2" wide and 2 1/2" deep. The handle is 12" tall.

Came home, had lunch then made another batch of mincemeat. It should be ready to use in about 4 weeks. I like to make my own as I find shop bought mincemeat is not only too sweet but doesn't have a depth to its flavour. I use Delia's recipe from her Christmas cookery book and adapt it to use up whatever I have available.

Friday, 25 November 2011


Although the temperature hovered around 9C all day, the sky was blue, the sun out and the wind blew well enough to hang out some clothes. All around us was a hive of activity. There were workmen and vans everywhere. They have been busy connecting the wires to the new lamp-posts, then someone else came behind them to dig yet more holes. Don't know whether this was to actually connect the electricity or to dig out the old lamp posts.

Herman II was 11 days old, and bubbling away quite frantically. He always had a good beating before going to bed, when he was about 1 1/2” high. When I got up in the morning, he was nearly 5” high so is quite active overnight. Today he was baked and I decided to make him into a carrot and coconut cake.

As previously mentioned, I've managed to find several recipes for finishing off and will post as and when I do them. Here is the recipe for the one above: 

To your divided portion add 150g S. R. Flour, 150g sugar, 100ml oil (sun, rape, veg), 3 beaten eggs, 2 large grated carrots, 100g dessicated coconut, 50g chopped walnuts (I had none so used sunflower seeds) and 1 tsp vanilla extract (which I forgot!). Put into a lined cake tin and bake for 1hr 15 minutes or until cooked, at 170C. This recipe came from the web site

I must make another batch of mincemeat as we've run out plus some marmalade. These will have to wait until tomorrow as it is already after lunch time and I have yet to start the bread.

The streets lights have come on and everywhere else has the normal orange glow but our 2 are now white and casting a bright light downwards onto the road – far better. Dashed outside to have a look inside the base of the old lamp post before it gets removed - always wanted to see what they looked like.

Wartime Diary Part 1 (WD1) Nov - Dec 1994

The November to December instalment of my Wartime diary (WD1) from 1994 has been posted onto the the appropriate page tab at the top. You will have to scroll down towards the end of the page to find it. 

November rather blurs into December I am afraid as being so new to this way of living at the time, I kept forgetting to write about it. Anyway, hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, 24 November 2011


Yesterday saw my friend B and I on our 2nd basket making course using rush. Last week we made a hot plate stand plus some hearts. This time we were shown how to weave a 3 dimensional object.

Using a 3” cube (taken from a fence post), we gradually wove around it to make this lovely little basket. B is going to use hers to stand a bottle of wine in. Mine has at the moment got the bottle in it to maintain its shape whilst it dries out. I then hope to line it and use it as a salt cellar (something I have always wanted).

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Memory rag rug and lamp posts

Today, I have finished making the rag rug for my friend B. It has been compiled from their tablecloths, sheets, duvet covers and his tee shirts and sweat shirts. B plans on decorating their bedroom in the New Year and wanted something new in it, to remember her husband by.

Apart from a slightly sore hand where the rug canvas rubs when working (I've learnt to wear a fingerless glove on that hand now), it hasn't taken long - roughly 8 weeks, working on it for around 1 hour a day.

Also, the mystery of the holes recently dug on the pavements where I live has been revealed, they are for new lamp-posts. Although we understood that the county council would be altering the timing on their lamps to be switched off overnight, we were told that the parish council – who owns ours – wouldn't be doing this. So, we are not sure who has put them up, who owns them and whether or not they will be switched off at night any time soon!

We also hope that the old posts will be taken down when the new ones are commissioned – 2 per slot is a bit ugly. Although I reported on a previous post on the 14th November, how long it took to dig these holes, the two chaps putting these in took no more than 10 minutes. They dropped the post in, filled the hole with a dry cement mix (using a spirit level as well – well done chaps), before moving onto the next one.

Just after posting this, a van arrived with another two men in it and guess what - yep - they put the top part of the light into place - just needs to be connected.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Say what! I feel a rant coming on

For those of us with an attention span of reasonable duration – we know who we are – we are perfectly capable of watching a whole programme without feeling bored.

I don't know about you, but I am frustrated by programmers and drama makers who believe we all only have the attention of a canary i.e. a bar of a song and we need a break. Now, let's face it, such a concept is insulting to a canary who can belt out quite a repertoire if it so chooses.

We are often surrounded in enclosed spaces with people who are permanently glued to their phones, ipods, mp3 players, computers and pads. We get rather fed up with all the tinny noises emanating from ear phones and electronic music advertising the numerous flow of idle chit chat in the form of texts – don't get me started on those who shout private and often intimate conversations down their phones.

Every second of every day, or so it seems to the rest of us, needs to be filled with a vast array of app choosing, music blasting, texting etc. TV seems to be heading the same way in that producers feel we all need to be told over and over again, as though we all have collective amnesia, what is going to happen, what has just happened and repeating it at least twice just in case we didn't take it in first time around. 30 minutes programmes, when you take out adverts and this constant re-telling, can actually be as short at 15 minutes.

However, what has prompted this rant is something we watched on Click yesterday - in short – the bizarre concept of 2 screen viewing.
Apparently, bored with not having enough seconds in the day to fill – nanoseconds now need to be taken care off.

2 screen viewing enables you to 'watch' your programme as well as text about it onto Facebook, Twitter etc. all at the same time. Or, you can watch your programme and simultaneously call up extra information. Well, I don't know about you, but why bother to watch something if you're not taking it in, enjoying it, disappearing into a make believe world.

Personally I think it is one step too far and I only hope it is a short lived craze. 

More importantly, I sincerely hope that programme makers don't think the rest of us have lost the plot and that 30 minute programmes will begin to have only 5 minutes of content.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Sloe berry chocolate vodka taste test!

As this newly made drink is sitting in the dark under my sink, I keep forgetting about it. Today, it was discovered and tested. Previously, it just tasted of chocolate with a powerful kick of vodka at the end – now however, you can definitely taste the sloes. It still has the kick of vodka as it slides down but is becoming more rounded in its flavour. We still have one more month to go before it will be ready to drink. 

I have already decided that when it is next made, to mix both milk and plain chocolates together as I find the dark on its own, a little bitter. I could have added more sugar but then it would be too sweet. All in all, I think it is going to be good. A few people have also tried it (1 teaspoon at a time!) and the decision is 50/50. Some love it whilst others are not too keen.

The sloe vodka on the right of the photo also tastes good and hopefully, will mature to a deeper colour and smoother taste - watch this space!

I have been looking at the traffic statistics for my blog. The UK is the highest but second is Easter Europe – hi folks and thanks for looking – closely followed by the US – thanks also, especially KMB!

I love reading all your comments so please feel free – it helps me realize that besides my family and friends, others also find my blog interesting.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Just how much jigging does it take?

Although we have seriously been trying to cut down our electricity consumption – and thought we were doing quite well – the bill arrived yesterday with the annual statement.

Yes, we have reduced our overall usage but unfortunately, we haven't managed to save much money due to the two price hikes this year totalling 6p per unit overall. Those hikes come on a 14p per litre oil rise and a £20 log price increase (mainly delivery).

We did quite well in the first half of the year and the 1p+ new price didn't do us much harm. However the 4p+ rise in September has stung us and lets face it, with the colder months coming up it's only going to get worse.

On the positive side, our winter fuel payment is due shortly. It won't cover us for the colder period of November – April for all these price increases but it will help. Being married to a pensioner has its rewards – said winter payment, a loving, encouraging and cheerful companion, a walking buddy, great DIY skills. Most importantly of all though is his willingness to encompass my mad ideas on saving and eating cheaply and well; without either a backward glance or a moan. He's just lovely!

We are still using the logs left from last year and managed to put some oil in our oil tank (at the princely price of 62p per litre). Then we had new logs to get in etc.

Thank goodness for the milder weather. This month so far we have had the central heating on maybe once or twice a week for about an hour at a time to stop a buildup of cold. The wood burner has been lit most evenings and has done a grand job. All lights are off except in the room we are in, we wander in the dark to get to another room. This can have its drawbacks like when someone leaves a chair in the middle of the room and someone else walks into it and stubs their toes – ouch! 

Doors are kept shut (except when the wood burner is lit else we fall asleep). A jumper and long socks keeps us cosy during the day and if it gets really cold, we start the fire earlier. This seems to be happening each day now around 3.30pm so it must slowly be getting colder as only a few nights ago, we had been able to get to 6pm before lighting it.

We had cut the immersion heater down to twice daily at 45 minutes each. That has now been switched off except when we want a bath (we haven't got a shower). We will invest in a tin bowl to warm washing up water in the oven if we've used it, otherwise we'll pinch some before a bath, or on odd occasions boil a small amount.

We like a challenge. We've done it before when on full wartime rationing (these books have fantastic ideas for saving money, time and energy). We can do it again.

Mind you, if all the utility companies continue to have such price rises - what happens when you can't cut down anymore?

Friday, 18 November 2011

Keeping Herman under control

A glorious day here in Norfolk. Bright blue skies, aircraft con trails high in the sky, sunshine and a grand temperature of 10 Celsius (view from lounge window - sorry about the lamp post). I actually might be able to get some more gardening done, maybe put another raised bed to sleep for winter.

Herman II is tootling along nicely. I do think though, that like the furry tribbles in Star Trek, he and his mates might turn into the friendly neighbourhood visits you get fed up with.

I will make another batch as per the original recipe then will adjust his feeding to keep him as a toddler rather than a boisterous teenager.

Having measured my last mix before giving some away, it weighed approximately 1500g. Once divided by 5, each portion was 300g. Looking back at his feeding regime on day 4 & 9, I realized by cutting down the quantities quite drastically, you would end up with only 2 portions, one to bake and the other to either give away (if you are fed up with him) or keep going to begin a fresh batch.

Either of these methods means you can keep his feeding to a minimum to not overwhelm your neighbours/friends OR you can give him big feeds again if somebody wants one again.

Anyway, if you look under my recipes label for the 7th November posting, you will find the original instructions. Here is what you need to do to make less of him:

On days 4 & 9, add only 50g S.R. Flour, 50g sugar and 50ml milk. After adding these ingredients he should weigh, by day 9, around 600g. You can now divide him into 2. Make up and bake one portion as per day 10 instructions and either keep the other one going or if fed up of him, give the other one away.

I quite like the idea of keeping one going, then you top him up to his full amount if someone wants one. I don't see why though, if you are a little fed up with his company, you can't just freeze him. He has no yeast (other than natural airborne spores) and you can freeze partially made bread with no ill effect.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Basket Making

Yesterday was the first of 4 one day courses (spread over 4 weeks) on basket making at our Arts Centre. There were 8 of us, 7 ladies and one gentleman and I went with my walking friend BP.

We spent most of the day making the rush mat (ideal for hot casseroles etc) and the last hour plaiting to make these 3 hearts for decorations. They are still drying out but I hope to decorate them a little for presents.

Next week we will attempt a small 3 dimensional container and the last 2 weeks will be working with willow (a lot harder on the hands apparently).

By the end of the day, everyone had finished their mat and most had done at least 1 heart – or else plaited their rush ready to make them. It was great fun, the teacher Nadine was brilliant. The only let down was the fact we were in the oldest part of the building with no windows. It has low beams, and if you are above 5' 7” have to mind your head.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Goodbye Herman

... and hello new Herman.

Herman has gone off to the great cake stall in the sky. Here are his last few moments – giving birth, always difficult for a male I think! 

Reminder – only put into foil dishes on the day you give the babies away as they are not too keen being around metal for a long time.

Fattened up before dispatch.

Fresh from the oven.

And cut ready to eat.
As I had previously said, this was cooked according to the original recipe. I have saved one portion to begin again and will try another recipe next time. It is lovely by the way, moist and with a lovely taste.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Eye Eye

Another lovely sunny day after the damp squib of yesterday where I'm convinced my washing came in damper than it went out! These clothes almost finished drying off overnight in the front room from the residual heat of the wood burner but one or two had to be hung in our south facing bedrooms to finish off today.

Had my annual check up at the optician's today – all okay even though a problem (detected last year) in the back of my left eye is still there, it has not increased in size or shape. Today, when asked what I have, he told me it could be Drusen, which is often present as we age and although normally associated with macular degeneration, my specks are not near there. They are being monitored by the optician and the hospital and both assure me that my optic nerve's and macula's are in tip top condition – so that's good. Next hospital test is March.

So, for those of you who don't have their eyes tested – get it done! Prevention is always better than cure.

Most of the day so far has been taken up with hanging around waiting to go into town and then food shopping but now I am back, it is time to divide Herman and send him on his final trip. Will show him off tomorrow if all goes well. Went into pound savers to buy 12 small foil takeaway dishes to put his offspring into – very good value for money.

Monday, 14 November 2011

How many men does it take to dig a hole?

The pavements where we live have had mysterious markings appear in the last few days. Spray chalk is normally used by the utility companies, different colour chalk for each, these were a colour we haven't seen before. They had a number, in our case 6 and either an arrow beside the number, or else the number was contained within a square. Anyway, I digress.

When we woke up yesterday morning, there was a lorry parked outside the house with 2 men having a cigarette break (8.50 am). Smack on 9 o'clock, one of them used a drill to puncture the pavement. Shortly afterwards, he began to dig whilst his mate watched. This went on for about 10 minutes. He then had another cigarette break whilst the other one finished digging. While they were doing this obviously very tiring job, another wagon turned up and 2 more men got out and proceeded to watch, and talk, and talk, and talk.

Now this hole, like all its mates, is approximately 9” square and about 3' deep and took about 25 minutes to dig. Did they move onto the next one – did they heck!

All 4 of them stood chatting and smoking until 10 am when the last 2 to arrive drove off. The original 2 carried on talking and slowly re-filling the hole with the soil they had just dug out, then they placed a bollard over it. At 10.20 am they finally moved onto the next hole which was all of 30' away.

So the answer to my question would be between 2 and 4 men, taking 1 hour and 20 minutes to dig one hole – and on a weekend pay scale as well. Come on County Council, take note!!

Someone somewhere is laughing all the way to the bank.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

A sunny Remembrance Sunday

At last, a sunny day – time for gardening!

We had previously dug over an old flower bed by the side of the garage and sieved all the excess to get out some pernicious roots and gravel. We then distributed the soil between three large raised beds and a smaller one. Just finished weeding and adding manure to two of them and covered with weed suppressant fabric for the winter. The larger ones are about 4' x 3' 10" x 2' 6" deep.


Had to harvest the remaining lettuce from this smaller one so we could empty it as it was far to heavy to lift. It is shallower but gave us a good harvest of tomatoes and lettuce. It measure 3' 8" x 2' 10" x 1' deep and was leftover from building three similar ones for J & S to use.

These four hand made beds cost us around £25 per bed to build, including delivery of the wood. We used new pressure treated wood (yeah, I know, not very frugal) but we wanted them to last a long time. Once built they had perforated plastic liner and fabric stapled into the whole interior, then were re-painted with some wood protection that reputedly lasts 5 years. Then our own bed took another £10 for the compost and manure - we also added worms and soil from our own garden.

Considering these type of beds retail between £75 and £120 just for the wood itself, we thought we did quite well.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

More baking

Sunday morning is the one day of the week when we have toast. I normally ensure I have made a loaf of bread in time for this treat – today I didn't feel up to it so looked through my recipes for quick and easy breads.

The soda bread I made yesterday has all gone so I decided on some cut rounds. They are similar to soda bread but slightly different and don't seem to dry out so much if stored well. This is a recipe I adapted from several online as no-one seemed to have the 'proper recipe'.

CUT ROUNDS (a cross between scones, soda bread and bread)

500 g Plain Flour (not bread flour)
2 heaped teaspoons Bi-carbonate of soda
2 heaped teaspoons Cream of Tartar
1 level teaspoon of Sugar
1 level teaspoon Salt
3 heaped tablespoons Milk Powder
1 tub 284 ml of Buttermilk (or 2 tablespoons of natural yoghurt, 1 tsp lemon juice & water to make it up to this amount.) Extra water may be required depending on your flour

Turn oven onto 200 C and line a tin with silicon paper/sheet.

Place a sieve over the mixing bowl.

Weigh flour and whilst it's still on the scales, remove 2 heaped tablespoons. Add the milk powder and top up if necessary back to 500g again with P. Flour. Add rest of dry ingredients then sieve them all into the mixing bowl – (you'll have to tip the milk powder in as I find it doesn't go through the sieve).

Stir in the buttermilk/yoghurt. If too dry add between 6 - 8 tablespoons of water (spoon by spoon) if needed, to bring it all together (it should come together without being too sticky)

Carefully roll or pat out to 1” depth.

Cut out using either a 4” or 3” cutter.

Put on the lined tray, glaze if required and bake for about 12 minutes (they are done when they sound hollow if you tap their bases).

Place onto a cooling rack. When cold they can be kept for several days in a polythene bag.

You will get about 6 from a 4” cutter and 9/10 from a 3” cutter.

Still trying to put the garden to bed

In these dull November days, here is a little ditty to cheer you up, author unknown:

I wish I was a glow worm
A glow worm's never glum
'Cos how can you be grumpy
When the sun shines out your bum!

We are still trying to finish sorting out our garden ready for winter. The nights may be drawing in and we occasionally have the heating on for the odd 1/2 hour just to take the chill off the rest of the house, but the temperature outside is still warm enough to be fooling summer plants into flowering.

I have given up for now, pruning my rose bushes in preparation against the winter wind and rain as they, along with campanula, chrysanthemums and autumn raspberries, just keep flowering.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Soda bread & Herman

Have been busy making soda bread to have with our leek and potato soup at lunch time. (I had to observe my 2 minutes of silence 1 minute late due to the timer pinging smack on 11am – what timing!)

This is the recipe I usually use and adapt at times, such as using different flours, adding seeds etc. It will make one bread (increase quantities for more or a larger loaf. Mine is about 9” diameter).

Mix together 12 oz of plain flour/flours (not bread flour), 1/2 tsp salt, 1 1/2 level tsps bicarbonate of soda, 3 level tsps cream of tartar. Rub in 1 oz lard, butter or margarine. Add 1 tsp sugar. Mix in 1/2 pint of butter milk or 2 tablespoons natural yoghurt, 1 teaspoon lemon juice and topped up with water to 1/2 pint liquid.

Handle gently to form into a ball then gently flatten down to a 1” disc and place on silicon/greaseproof paper sheet on a large baking sheet. Lightly score a cross (or more) into the surface to allow it to rise. Bake in a pre-heated oven set to 220C for 25 minutes. (The recipe calls for a 230C oven for 30 minutes but I find it burns using these instructions).

Herman is now on day 5 and bubbling well – although he seems to hold his breath when I try to take a picture of him actually bubbling. 

I have recently come across a recipe for a 30 day friendship cake – wonder if I am brave enough to make it. Apparently it takes 30 days to make the starter, then another 30 days of stirring and feeding etc. The pictures all look very nice though and I will publish some recipes I have found on the internet for variations of Herman. This time around though, I will bake him as per my given instructions.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Baking & colouring

This morning was grey and damp and had the potential to turn into one of those dull November days that can get you down, especially if they drag on day after day. Late morning saw the clouds break and we now have some blue sky and lovely sunshine. Should be out in the garden getting on with things but our brown garden waste bin is full so will have to wait until it is emptied tomorrow. I use this bin to get rid of large loads of waste that I can't put in my own compost heap as I know from experience, what composts well and what doesn't.

My husband has fancied having a go at making pastry for ages, today he got his chance. We don't eat huge amounts of it so I suggested he make a small batch of Choux pastry, in the form of profiteroles – here they are straight from the oven.

Considering it was the first time for both of us to make this type of pastry we learnt a few things:

Don't add all the egg as our mixture was a little too soft.
Make smaller mounds as these were too big when filled.
Cook a little longer as they collapsed shortly after this photograph was taken, before we could remove the steam.However, they did taste very nice and we will have another attempt next week. Practice makes perfect!

Had my hair coloured and restyled today (I have been predominantly grey since my early 30's – runs in the family). I have a mobile hairdresser who is very good and a lot cheaper than the shops. I had low-lights done (with a cap), a cut and blow-dry for just £30. My husband hasn't been to the hairdressers since we married – he has always been brave enough to let me cut it.

Over the years though, I have become reasonably good. I also cut my sons hair when he's home but as he usually has an electric clipper used all over, his is easier to do. He is always amazed how much a hair trim costs when he does venture out to a barber.

Herman is now on day 3 and continues to bubble. He'll get his first feed tomorrow so should buck up a little.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Autumn cleaning

We're pooped! Spent the morning autumn cleaning the conservatory. Nets down and washed. All the UPVC cleaned including the inside roof. All the windows cleaned. Hoovered and polished then nets back up. Looks a lot cleaner!

No more pictures of Herman for now. Have just given him a stir and he looks more or less the same as yesterday – a few more bubbles perhaps. As anyone knows who has received a friendship cake, these little entities are a law unto themselves. They usually work but how well is anyone's guess until their cooked. Have not had one before that requires grated apple – should be interesting.

Monday, 7 November 2011


Herman has entered our lives and will live with us for the next 10 days until we eat him!

Late in the evening whilst my OH was on the phone and I was running a bath, the doorbell rang. Two young neighbours were stood there, looking rather sheepish and just a little bit embarrassed.

This is from our dad, can you look after it?” They then handed me a little box and a brown envelope on which was typed 'Hello I'm Herman, please can you look after me? My instructions are inside".

I must admit curiosity got the better of me. The box didn't appear to have any noises coming from it and felt quite light – was it a hamster, mice, a budgie?

Herman was just sitting there looking rather pale with the occasional bubble rising from him. Is he a goldfish then, or a frog!

No - Herman is a friendship cake. I was quite happy as one of these little creatures hadn't entered our house for the last 20 years or so. I have no idea how to start one off so was quite glad to receive it.

For those of you not in the know a friendship cake is something you receive in the form of a yeast batter entity. You stir and feed it as and when instructed to do so. Before you kill it by cooking, your mixture is divided into 5. You keep one which has all manner of things added to it to bake (if you want to keep making one for yourself keep 2 portions and carry on feeding one via the instructions).

These are the instructions (and you can call it any name you want)

Day 1 – Welcome Herman into your home. Congratulations, you have a friend. Pour him into a large mixing bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave him at room temperature. Here he is on day 1.

Day 2 – Stir him 2-3 times today with a WOODEN spoon or spatula (not metal). You can leave the spoon in him, he won't mind.

Day 3 – Stir him the same as yesterday, talk to him, he gets lonely.

Day 4 – Herman needs feeding. Add 200ml milk, 200g S.R. Flour and 250 g sugar (he doesn't mind a little less sugar if you don't want your cake too sweet!)

Day 5 – Stir as per days 1 and 2.

Day 6 – Stir as per day 5 – he really loves your visits.

Day 7 – And stir again, are you still talking to him, he loves you.

Day 8 – And stir again, pay special attention to him as his visit is nearly over.

Day 9 – Herman is hungry again. Feed as per Day 4. Once fed, divide him into 5 equal portions. Give 4 away to friends with a copy of these instructions (or 3 if you want to start off another Herman).

Day 10 - Your Herman is absolutely starving after 10 days. This time, he needs a bigger feed. Give him 150g S.R. flour, 150g sugar, 3 eggs, 2 tsp ground cinnamon*, 1 tsp baking powder, 100g finely chopped fruit*, 2 grated eating apples, 100ml oil (vegetable). * means optional.

Herman would now like to go to a hot resort – the oven will do. Preheat to 170c/Gas5. Pour him into a greased and base lined 7” tin and bake for about 1 hour or until done.


Had a lovely lunch of fried roast potatoes and vegetables from yesterdays meal - sorry about the steam slightly blurring the photograph.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Washing and more washing

Even though there has not been enough blue sky to patch a dutchman's trousers, the wind was blowing well enough to do two washes – one for the line and towels etc for the dryer. Towels are the only thing we now tumble dry as we prefer the softness of them when dried like this. Cutting down on tumble drying means we have to wait for a dry or windy day to line dry - worth the effort.

Having just about finished the first of two jars of home-made laundry liquid, thought I'd give some feedback on it. I have used 200 ml per wash (whisked in a jug with a little extra water to thin it down as it was a solid gel) and it has performed well on both light and dark clothing. Using one tablespoon of distilled white vinegar as a conditioner has left the clothes static free (when tumble dried) and fresh smelling when line dried – both without the over-sweet floral smell usually present. The washing machine itself is scentless - no detergent or vinegar smell present.

I use flannels as dishcloths which are changed daily to prevent germ buildups. One in particular was very dirty having been used to wipe out the oven. I doubted this would come clean as it hasn't previously when using commercial liquid. I rubbed some of the neat gel on it and when washed, found most of the stains had gone – certainly to the level of cleanliness of my usual brand. Also, grease and curry stains when pre-treated with some of the gel also came out.

It would seem that heavily stained items may not come out as clean as when using a commercial liquid - unless they are pre-treated first. What you use to do this is up to you. We are pleased so far with not only the overall results but also the cost of 1 1/2p per wash for both laundry liquid and conditioner, and have decided to keep using it.

The cost will vary depending on the price of the bar of soap. Our current liquid used one bar at 25p. Even though the resulting 'liquid' was like a gel, it might be more effective if diluted with 5 litres rather than 7 litres of water when using the recipe. Or, maybe the answer is to keep the recipe as it is and use more, say 250 – 300 ml per wash. Either way the cost will rise a little – between 2p and 3p per wash but I'll keep experimenting and let you know.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Bird watching, DIY, Baking

Opened the curtains this morning to the sight and sound of Canada geese flying over. Not too large a flock - this is about the third flyby in 10 days - so more to come yet. They often land for a quick feed in some fields about a mile away before moving on. Whether they stop over winter at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve or move further on I don't know.

My home made laundry liquid has changed consistency. It may be to do with me having to pull it apart to use or maybe that is what it does. Anyway, it is now liquid enough to put into an old milk container and I have added a few drops of lavender aromatherapy oil – smells lovely.

No gardening done for the last two days due to rain and the next two don't look any better so we are still working indoors. My OH has dismantled an Ikea standard lamp that had a reading lamp attached (he knows what he's doing by the way). We now have two separate lights, the reading lamp sitting behind the settee to enable things to be done now the nights are drawing in. Very useful.

Finally made my Christmas cake yesterday. I use Delia's last minute cake recipe – very good. As she doesn't say though if it will last as long as a more conventional cake I tend to freeze it until mid December. Then I thaw, feed and decorate over the next week or so. Always works fine and it then lasts until well into the New Year.

Now is the time we do an autumn clean of the conservatory. The nets are a bit dull and the inside looking grubby. Our conservatory sits on the front/side of the house and it is where we enter (there was nowhere else to put it). It faces west so gets sun from mid afternoon onwards so is very good for tomatoes etc. It is also used as a boot/coat/work room. We used to worry about what people would think but now we don't care. When J & S come, this is where Sage their dog sleeps. In winter it doesn't usually get below 8-10c so she should be fine.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Baking & Making

Although the rain is intermittent and I could be getting on with some gardening, I have decided to have an indoor day today. So first thing, made some tea cakes. The last time I made them I divided the mixture into 10 as shown in the recipe but they were a bit small. This time, I only did 8 and they are a better size, each one about 4" wide.

Went to the butchers, had lunch then got on with some more of the memory rag rug for my friend - thought I would show you my progress so far. The coloured squares are from tee shirts belonging to her deceased husband, the rest from their duvet covers, curtain linings etc. She is going to be decorating their bedroom after Christmas and wants a new look. You can see the locker hook tool I use to make my rugs.

  It measures approximately 1.20m x .50m and she is planning to use it beside her bed. The bits sticking out are yet to be woven in. This can be quite time consuming so I have changed how I add new material and it is leaving only half the amount of ends.

Just tumble dried my weekly batch of towels, tea towels and flannels. I'm pleased to report that using just 1 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar as a conditioner, they are soft and static free with a lovely clean fresh smell as opposed to an overpowering chemical floral smell. The frugal laundry liquid continues to clean all our clothes surprisingly well so shall continue to use it.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

A day in the garden

Although today started off cloudy, the sun and blue skies arrived just after lunch. The washing line is full and the clothes almost dry. We've been busy in the garden tackling the area around our back pond (a black dustbin sunk into the ground with a few inches to spare to stop the hedgehogs falling in) as it had become infested with periwinkle. 

Looks a lot better now. One more side to do in the back garden plus the 3 raised vegetable beds. Once that is done, we will lay down some manure and cover with weed suppressant fabric. Then we can carry on in the front garden.

The oil is topped up (terrible price), the logs have been stacked and protected and we are as ready for winter on the warmth front as we can be. Still not using the heating yet – this unseasonably mild weather is good, lets hope it doesn't mean a cold winter like last year!

The rag rug for my friend is getting done slowly but surely – about 1/4 of the way through at the moment. Had some of our home-made chutney with our lunch today (Wild Plum & Date). It was lovely with a surprisingly smooth texture – will make some more again next year.

Having pork and tomatillo stew for tea – usually very spicy – that'll keep us warm.