Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Goodbye B.

My dear friend B. passed away this afternoon, with her family beside her. Barely 17 days from diagnosis to passing but really, the shortness was a blessing.

As time dims my memory and days get forgotten and muddled up, I shall always remember her onthis date for what has, in essence, become her spiritual birthday.

We shall all miss you B. but have many happy memories to run through, not least of all some of the fun walking days. Here she is on one of our walks from last summer, on the left. xxx

Monday, 29 July 2013

Cooking and Harvesting...

First of all, welcome to Catriona via Bloglovin, and Donna Ferretti. Glad to have you reading and following, hope you enjoy my witterings!

Yesterday, we went for a quick walk along the beach at Old Hunstanton, to air our minds and bodies. After a bacon buttie at The Beach Cafe, we were home and feeling better for it.

Having read the recipe from Frugal Queen (drop down to 2nd recipe) and the original via A Girl called Jack we decided to give the Kidney Bean, Carrot and Cumin burger recipe a go.

The only thing I wasn't sure about was 1 tsp of Cumin - is that whole or ground? Doesn't matter for the next batch as I have run out. Nor did we have any fresh coriander or parsley so used 1 tablespoon of dried basil and 1 tablespoon dried coriander leaf - we think fresh would be better but you could vaguely taste them.

Also, didn't cook the kidney beans for long enough. They had 10 minutes and we thought them fine, but they were difficult to mash. Left everything to go cold before adding the flour and egg otherwise we didn't think they would meld and be handled very well. Another time, yes there will be at least one more attempt as they are quite nice, we will cook the beans longer or else try them with tinned butter beans, try fresh herbs and experiment with curry paste/chilli sauce/mustard as the thing to mix them rather than an egg. Herewith the picture.
As you can see, we served them with salad and some home made wild plum and date chutney.

Despite it being humid outside, we have both endeavoured to get on with things that need doing here. I potted on some more strawberry babies - need 2 of 2 different varieties, then hopefully, they will all get through winter. If not, I hope to save at least one of each of the 6 different plants.

Some of the Blueberries have been harvested  - 6oz so far off one bush with maybe the same or double the amount yet to be harvested. The fruits on the other bush are still green and tend to fruit after the first one. There is definitely not as many as last year but I have just found out I pruned them incorrectly (to keep them as I want them not because they needed doing).
They are not quite as sweet as normal but are already falling when touched and as heavy rain was forecast overnight, (only got a light shower!) we hope the rest will stay put.

On to my 18 month old Blackcurrant bush. I picked 9oz of those with maybe the same amount or slightly more still to come.

If I get 1 lb, we shall make some jam as it is one of our favourites. If less, I like to top and tail them and stir them into muffins - with no extra sugar. Gives a lovely twang to the flavour!

Saturday, 27 July 2013

A heart felt thank you to you all...

It took a long while to decide whether to post about my friend but I am glad I did. Everyday sees another change, skin colour, whites of the eye no longer white, more breathlessness, general weakness.

As it is the weekend, we had no plans to visit and still won't as both children are now attending to their parent. Despite saying that, both the doctor and district nurse have just left and my friend is now immobile - unexpected at this stage by everyone.

What can you do other than phone up, let them know if they need help to call and tell them you are thinking of them all. Depending how things go this weekend, we will call on Monday. It is so hard isn't it, knowing if they were an animal they would be put to sleep, yet as 'dignified' humans, we don't legally allow such things.

As you can imagine, a black cloud has descended and seems intent on hovering, and I am not talking about the thunderstorms later in the day. That said, the weather may well turn out to match the mood, who said mother nature is immune to such things?

Friday, 26 July 2013

It's been a strange two weeks and each day gets stranger...

From a high to rock bottom...

My high has been the fantastic news of DS. and FDiL. getting engaged.

The rock bottom was and is this...

I was the 'nominated close friend' last week when a dear friend was informed they had cancer. They had thought surgical/chemical treatment would be offered and with luck, everything would be fine.

No such luck! The diagnosis, completely out of the blue and with very few symptoms, was end stage, terminal, metastatic cancer with possibly several months to live - although they say it could be more than that but looking at them, we and they think less but who knows! The team cannot accurately gauge the length of time left, due to the advanced state of the disease. Only palliative care can be offered.

There is nothing you can say in such circumstances other than "sometimes life is s--t and this is one of those times"

After the initial shock and then having to inform family, my friend has been remarkably stoic. Some would say they have given in but not so. Plans have been formulated, one of their children is moving in and the palliative care team have swung into action.

Things are changing rapidly - a brief hospital stay to receive blood, the beginning of low dose morphine - they are already at that stage rather than beginning with other pain alleviating drugs and progressing towards morphine.

We and a few other close friends, suddenly realised yesterday, that we have moved into a strange world of X time (not my friends real initial). Days are passing in a blur of either passive or active help. House cleaning, washing, ironing, gardening, mending, fixing, guiding through legal issues or simply sitting there, chatting (or not), quietly listening or answering questions as best we can. Help is required as the child who is staying with them, has their hands full taking care of their mother.

Changing patterns in breathing/eating/drinking are subtly observed, seeing and hearing that strange hiccup of emotion that flits across their face, then is hurriedly put to one side. Friends leaving the room when it gets too much and going outside to get on with something or the other, have a blow of their noses and then return, smiling once again. Don't get me wrong, we are all being upbeat and behaving as normally as possible, no point moping about, doesn't help anyone.

My friend is very well known locally and many are leaving messages, some are sending gifts but it is obvious, that visits need to be orchestrated as the effects of the morphine make them sleepy. Family must come first. They have at least, been granted time to assimilate the situation and say their goodbyes.

Friends also need to say their goodbyes and we, as close friends, also need to do so but in a supportive manner. We have come to terms with it. Our sole aim now, is to get our friend through it in whatever time is left. Be it weeks or months, our waking thoughts are always of them and this new time era we find ourselves living in - X time.

It is a necessary but temporary timespan and like them, we will get through it.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Fruit Cage

Herewith as promised, a glimpse inside our fruit cage. Some of the fruit bushes, now they are growing up, are a little too close together. We will sort that out in autumn when we can reach things to trim and tie in, without their leaves getting in the way.

Our cobbled together strawberry table worked really well. Although it only had 3 troughs on it this year, next year, it will have 4 and babies (hiding in the little red pots),are already being taken to fill it. I think we got about 4 cereal bowls of strawberries, so not too bad at all, especially as I am the one who likes them and DB can take or leave them!
The blackcurrant bush is growing really well and we may have to adapt the side of the cage, nearest to it, to prevent the leaves growing through. This is just one truss of a reasonable amount of fruit on it - it is only 18 months old.
Both blueberries survived the wet weather of last year and despite not having so much fruit (I pruned them in error last year), they are at last beginning to ripen - blueberries on our morning porridge - yum!
The 2 gooseberries drowned last year and we didn't think they would survive that plus the extra long, hard winter. They did, but got attacked quite early on with gooseberry sawfly. Followed by the hot dry spell, they didn't produce much fruit on each of their 4 trained stems (2 1/2lbs) but we have just picked them all to eat as they are small, soft, tasty and juicy!
Our new thorn-less bramble (a new one last year died almost immediately) is growing well (and needs tying in but will have to wait) has sent out some flowers and baby fruit are forming.
Although I haven't got a photograph yet to show you, the autumn flowering raspberries are up to their full height (rather than the 12 inches they were last year). They are still a little light in colour but far happier than last year. Hopefully they will produce some nice fruit later on.

This morning, whilst wandering around looking at everything, I noticed a new loganberry growing (outside the cage). When I dug it up last year to move it into the cage (where it promptly died!), some root must have been left behind.

Congratulations and Blimey o Riley!

First and foremost, and most exciting of all, is the news that DS. and FDiL. have got engaged. They were in Paris for the weekend, spending time with FDiL's pen pal when DS. popped the question. Exciting times ahead!!

Driving home yesterday, after a massage, the temperature on the car thermostat (after it had cooled down from 36C) finally registered 32C. That was far hotter than predicted. Mind you, as my massage lady had moved out of her working premises to a log cabin at her home, it was very hot in there as well. Made for an interesting massage cum sauna!

The predicted thunderstorms arrived here around 04:30 and the garden has been sucking it up ever since. Our water butts are currently half full again with more rain to come.

Outside our dining room window, is this beautiful hydrangea. It was wilting yesterday but looks lovely now.
Remember the milk cartons (I shall not be doing them again as they are difficult to keep moist). Well, this is the stage they are at now.
All in all, a lovely few days - if slightly on the too warm a side!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

More of the garden and greetings!

Before I begin, Frugal Freesia believes she has found Hardup Hester's New blog. It does look very different so I hope it is hers. Anyway, herewith the link to said blog Hester's Marvellous Makes

Also want to welcome L to my blog care of bloglovin.

Today is another coolish (22C), overcast day and it is a blessing to enjoy judging by the forecast for the next couple of days (29-30C! muggy and horrid). For a change, none of the plants are drooping and seem quite happy.

We emptied our bath again this morning and managed to water along the back fence, including the pond area. Certainly made the frogs jump back into the dustbin pond. Obviously, we were very careful not to get any into the pond itself!

Herewith a few more shots of some of my flowers, starting with the hangings baskets either side of the front room window. They contain Nemesia - I think - and lobelia:

This big lavender plant is one of several in the front gravel garden. They get clipped to within an inch of their lives after flowering, but are getting to the stage where something more drastic needs to be done as they are getting a little leggy.

Did you know, what you can do other than throwing leggy plants away and planting new ones? Cut them back, dig them out, make the hole larger and deeper, add food, then rebury them up to their necks, water and they will grow and flower contentedly for many more years. I have done this twice before they got really fed up and had to take cuttings or buy new plants!
One of several Soldiago:
The first flower on my red Hibiscus shrub:
The final picture for this post is of yet more lavender. These are growing along our conservatory out front and are in their 2nd flowering year. They were self sown seedlings I found whilst cutting back the year before last. One looks sad all the time as it has the unfortunate placing on top of our sewage cover so has nothing but gravel to grow in. It might not make it, but if not, something else will go in there.
The next post will cover my fruit cage. See you then.

Friday, 19 July 2013

More vegetables

First of all, welcome to Jill via Bloglovin!

Here are some of the views of my raised vegetable beds. Bed 1 contains leeks - tiny still but hopefully they will improve!
Bed 2 has beetroot and lettuce (including some of the little gem supplied by Compostwoman!)
Bed 3 seems a little sparse as some things have given up the ghost but it contains a few carrots, 2 tomatillo's have now gone in the space between the carrots and some more little gem
Finally, the free-standing bed has broad beans and mange tout peas which we have just started harvesting for salads and stir fries
These 4 beds, along with the vegetables shown yesterday (end of patio and down the drive) house most of the vegetables we are growing. We did have 3 tubs of new potatoes and so far, have eaten two of those. I re-vamped the soil in them and have sown beetroot in one and the rest of the peas, for shoots, in the other.

I'll show you the fruit cage another time. It will need some work done in autumn as in places, the plants are too close together now that they are growing so well. Just finished the strawberries, gooseberries are almost ready and I had the first blueberry the other day.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Vegetable Garden

Another hot day looming so whilst some of the garden is still in shade, we have both been out weeding. Some plants are now getting quite short of water so rather than use the hose indiscriminately, we plan eventually, if required, to fill up one butt and use water from there. It is too easy to stand for an age using the hose, using heaven knows how much water. Using a watering can, makes you realise!

Two weeks ago, I took 3 cuttings from each type of my tomato plants, from between a leaf and stem (inter-nodal cuttings?) - 6 in total. I usually only sow a few tomato seeds and create the rest using this technique. They root extremely quickly. Here they are about to be potted on.

Two of these, once established, will be put outside to join their siblings in this newly created space at the end of the patio - you can also just see the top of a climbing cucumber on the right! The flowers are only in that container for this year as it will be used to pot on my baby strawberry plants from this year.
The other new bit of garden, down the side of the house near the garage, is also growing well.
Here on the right hand side of the wall, two of the climbing beans have reached the top of their strings (around 8 feet high) and have been pinched out. The one far right is half way up as it had to be re-sown. Both tomatillo plants have flowers and fruit setting, although it will be many, many weeks before they can be harvested.

The tomatoes are growing well, have established some flowers and are beginning to set fruit. The flowers, French Marigold, Lobelia and Nicotiana are also blooming well and I am hoping that they will fill out more and help shade the soil.
More from the vegetable patch next time!

Monday, 15 July 2013

More Jam!

Our doorbell went late evening and DB answered to find our neighbour, R. standing there, with an ice cream tub full of gooseberries! They were put into the fridge overnight and tackled the next day. I washed, top and tailed them and their weight came to 3lb 2oz - very nice.

2lb was weighed out for jam, the rest were cooked in a little sugar and elderflower cordial to have over several nights, with some custard - yum yum!

Anyway, back to the jam. I managed to find around 8 small elderflower heads still viable - not yet changing into berries but it was a close run thing. These were shaken free of bugs and tied in a muslin bag then placed in the bottom of a large bowl. My recipe calls for 8-10 large heads but this was the best I could do.

The 2lb of gooseberries was placed on top, followed by 1 3/4 lb of sugar, 420 ml of cold water and 50ml of elderflower cordial to make up for the lack of flowers. I have reduced the sugar as this gives a slightly more tart jam which we both love.

Everything was then stirred well, covered and left all day (stirring occasionally). Once the sugar had dissolved, it was then left overnight as well. The next morning, the bag of Elderflower's was removed and squeezed into the bowl before everything was put into a preserving pan.

The pot was brought to the boil and cooked until it reached setting point. I use the cold saucer method and a teaspoonful of jam put onto the plate, back into the fridge for 5 minutes to test the set. I don't remove the jam pot from the boil for the first 2 tests. Once I get to testing it for the 3rd and sometimes 4th time, the pot is pulled to one side so it doesn't over boil.

Here it is cooking and going a fabulous pink.
Jars had previously been washed, dried and put cold into my oven, set at 100C to sterilize them. Their lids had also been washed and put into a bowl of boiled water then dried as needed.

Here is the end result, isn't the colour great? Obviously the small one on the top shows the true colour as it has more natural light shining through than the bottom four.
One jar will be given to R. to thank him for his gooseberries.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Lifegiving water!

Lost a follower, sorry to see you go!

Despite a wet spring and early summer, for the last couple of weeks, there has been no rain. Our water butts, which were full and holding somewhere around 2200 litres, are almost empty.

Before we went on a water meter, I would have just got the hose out (and may need to do so if things continue). We share our bathwater and bathe several times a week plus other sink washing as and when needed (don't have a shower!). The bath is only filled anywhere from 1/3rd to just under 1/2 full and has become a necessary top up to watering. After emptying it with buckets and getting wet in the process, we decided to buy and try a small pond pump.

As a temporary measure, until we find a spare bit of hose, the outside waste pipe is disconnected during bath emptying and a large red bucket placed underneath the outlet.
From this bucket we fill watering cans and or smaller buckets to water anything in the garden looking a little sorry for itself. Fruit and veg comes first but they always have rainwater when available. We get about 3-4 of these red buckets per bath so not a huge amount. Our water does have a small amount of bubble bath in it but I have read that plants aren't too fussed - fingers crossed!

Here is the pump in action in the bath
One of us stands outside to indicate (by tapping on the window) when the red bucket is nearly full, so the pump can be switched off. The plants are watered and red bucket emptied, then the window tapped again to indicate more water please!

All in all, with emptying and watering, it took about 30 minutes. The plants in the front garden certainly look a lot happier now.

Mind you, lesson 1, don't forget to put the outside pipe back on when finished otherwise your tooth cleaning water lands in it - again, the plants didn't complain.

Lesson 2 - investigate if the water seems to be taking a long while to drain. We have one of those fancy semi built in plugs on a lever system. Removed the plug to put the hose in, took an age to drain. DB investigated with his hook tools and pulled out this 'lovely' mess.
A mixture of hair, skin and soap gunk. Sink drains beautifully now!

Thursday, 11 July 2013


Firstly, welcome to my new followers Home and Garden, Shelly and Kim O'Sullivan.

Our iron has finally given up the ghost. Its thermometer has been messing about for ages, resulting in flooding over the clothes at no notice or else, it would just stop steaming. We have had it for many years. DB is capable of mending it but it would have cost more than buying a new one. Shocking really but as its ironing plate was also scratched, starting to stick and getting troublesome, it had to go.

Never to be outdone if at all possible, DB took it apart. Look what was inside, presumably it works its way in there whilst ironing!

We had our first home-grown new potatoes yesterday, a variety called Rocket. They tasted lovely but fell apart as I tossed them in seasoning - maybe slightly overdone. We don't have room to grow them freely in soil so we only planted 9 into 3 large containers.

Unfortunately, the compost was drying out too quickly and every time I watered, the water mostly ran away down the sides where it had shrunk away. I managed to keep them going for quite a while, but in the end, their tops died down prematurely.

Not expecting many, we checked the pot and got enough for 2 meals, cooked all at once.
If the other 2 containers are filled similarly, we shall get another 4 meals from them. Not many, but a treat all the same. We always like to have just a few, fresh from the garden, every year.

I sieved the old potato compost, added new to it and managed to 3/4 fill two other containers. In one I planted red beetroot, in the other, the rest of my mange-tout. Not to have peas but take cuttings of pea shoots for salad and stir fries. Hope they both produce!

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Remembering a summer dessert from school...

First of all, welcome to my new and re-newed followers via bloglovin, Lori, Regina and Ramona.

When I was at senior school, one of the puddings we got, just once a year, was a strawberry and custard tart. I couldn't remember whether it was filled with blancmange, tinned or fresh custard but it was lovely and we all waited eagerly for it to appear. Mind you, can't really think it would have been fresh custard, far too expensive to feed 800 or more pupils!

For 2 years, at least, I have been telling DB that one day, I would make it and now I have. First of all I made pastry and baked it blind (line with baking paper and beans or whatever you have). Remember to remove the pastry half way through to finish cooking the pastry. The case needs to be cooked through and cold.

Spread a thin layer of jam over the bottom (I only had a jar of crab apple at the time and it wouldn't spread so I tried melting it - hence the lumpy look). Place strawberries on top leaving a small gap between them - you can place them closer if you wish, I only had a few. Leave small strawberries whole and halve or quarter larger ones.
Whilst (or before) the pastry is baking, make up 1 pint of custard, slightly thicker than normal, the same way you would for trifle. I used custard powder with the inside of half a vanilla bean. Once cooked, transfer to a large bowl, cover the surface with cling film and leave to go cold or place in a bowl of cold water to help.

Once cold, give it a good stir and pour it over the strawberries. Leave to set in the fridge. Should look something like this,
We sliced this into six and ate one slice each over three days. Not quite the same as I remember so I think they must have made it with vanilla blancmange - ah well, there is always next time.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Wimbledon Champion!




RAF Waddington Air Show 2013

We left home yesterday to travel to Waddington arriving in the queue at 08:15. We finally parked around 10:05 - not too bad as it happens as we only queued for the last mile or so. The temperature was around 27C, the sky was relatively clear but bright so most of our photographs didn't come out very well.

My all time favourite aircraft is the Lancaster bomber. Again our photograph's didn't come out too well. It did its usually stately display, at times accompanied by the other fantastic planes, the Hurricane and Spitfire.The markings for this year were different to these but I had to go here
on Wikipedia, to find a decent picture
File:Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Waddington Airshow 2010.jpg

Our second favourite plane, which we support, was the Avro Vulcan. When it takes off, the noise it makes is truly awesome.
If you have never seen or heard this beautiful aircraft fly, you need to do so soon. Not only does it desperately need funds to fly for next year, it's engines are reaching their deadline and there was talk at the show yesterday, that it's final flight will be 2015. See it's web site here

Finally, the Red Arrows - did get some of our own pictures for these

Luckily, the Red Arrows and Vulcan display were around 14:00, and we left after that. We were glad to get home and have a cup of tea. We covered up and wore hats but it was just too hot with all the heat coming off the tarmac.

We probably shan't go again now for a few years. Off to do some early morning gardening before settling down to watch Andy this after.

Andy, I know you won't ever have seen my blog but I, for one, am very proud of you, regardless of whether you win this afternoon or not. I get so fed up of the media putting so much pressure on you. Today, one such headline read "Come on Andy, make us proud".

Such a comment insinuates that we will only be proud of you if you win. To that, I say 'tosh'!

Friday, 5 July 2013

More jam!

After throwing up yesterday morning and wrenching both my back and side, yesterday sort of passed in a bit of a haze of feeling uncomfortable. DB gave me a morning and evening rub with deep heat and although this morning my back is okay, my right side is still uncomfortable. Yesterday I managed to eat one banana, one teacake and a little rice and smidgen of curry. Ah well, these things are sent to try us.

Finally, after life things getting in the way, I managed to finish a batch of rhubarb and elderflower jam. It is one of those recipes where you start with fresh rhubarb (I only had frozen) and layer it with sugar to allow the juice to come out from the rhubarb. It should take a total of 3 days but mine took 4 1/2! The recipe can be found here  This site is truly wonderful for recipes!

Anyway, first of all I went to pick my elderflower heads and tied them into a fruit jelly straining bag and popped it at the bottom of a large bowl
Then layered the fruit and sugar over it
Then a small plate was placed on top to keep everything weighed down before cling film covered the bowl. I duly followed the recipe for the next stages.

After that, the rhubarb and sugary liquid was put into a saucepan and the elderflower bag squeezed well into it before being discarded.
The juice of the lemon was added and the whole she-bang boiled until setting point was reached. It was then potted into sterile jars. I managed to get this much from it

You can really taste the essence of the Elderflower's and the jam has a tart edge to it, lovely.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Carrying on... UPDATED

First of all, well done Andy Murray. It was hard work and you appeared to not be firing on all cylinders but got there in the end.

My day has started off weird. Had an itch in my throat that wouldn't go away, coughed, gargled then brought up all my breakfast! Not very pleasant that these things happen. Don't feel at all hungry at the moment so letting my stomach have a rest!

Onward and upwards!

As heavy rain was due the other day, we popped off down a lane to pick 10 heads of Elderflower's for cordial. They were given a good shake, had as much of the green stalks snipped off as possible and put into muslin ready to make into a bag.
The bag was placed into a baking bowl, had two large sliced lemons cut into it then 1 3/4lb white sugar and 1 3/4 pints of previously boiled and cooled water were added. A plate is place on top to keep everything under the liquid, covered with cling film and left to steep for 24 hours. You will need to stir it 3 or 4 times during this period to help the sugar dissolve.
After 24 hours is up, pour boiling water through a men's handkerchief, over a sieve on a bowl to sterilize it. Throw the water away and strain the cordial.
This is what was left.
I decant it into plastic milk containers so I can freeze it. Remember to leave a gap at the top for expansion and date the lids.
Amendment, I would normally use only 1 lemon and 1oz tartaric acid but didn't have any. It really does make a difference as this batch is nowhere near as lemony acidic but more sweet. I intend to thaw this batch and some from another year and mix them together before freezing again, what a pain.