Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December

I didn't do the autumn cutback in the end.  But I've done most of it now.  I can see what I'm doing again!  And what I need to be doing is weeding. There are buttercups and grass growing everywhere, not to mention tenacious little alpine strawberry plants.

We've had quite a lot of stormy weather lately - but yesterday was glorious.  So we went to the allotment and pottered about in the garden.  It's stormy again now though

Click on the allotment to reach the album

 Poor Gyoza woke up dead on Saturday morning.  She had become progressively less and less mobile and spent most of her time sitting in her run watching the world go by. But she hadn't shown any sign of dropping off her perch. She was eating happily and pottering about.  Still, that's chooks for you.  Mind you, we haven't had much luck with this year's load of chooks.  That's three of six gone now. One of each type.  Curry and Dimsim are laying beautifully.  Udon, though, has gone into moult and stopped laying.  An unusual time of year for moulting and she's unusually young.

We'll get some more chicks and ducklings in the spring.  Maybe this time our ducklings will be girls!!  (It's just as well that the boys are very cute - they're not much use apart from that)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas

So.  I finished work on Christmas Eve at just after 4. It took 15 minutes to get from the car park in town to Tabitha and Gareth's place (I wish it could be Christmas Eve … ). Marryk rocked in a bit later. We packed the car, all jumped in - and headed to Tupton where were waiting The Builder and Marlo, ready to start Christmas.

I had, the previous day, made a braised bean curd and vegetable shepherd's pie - which would have been suitable for any passing vegan.  Until I put butter and cheese in the mash :-D  It seemed sensible to  have loads and loads of veggies on Christmas Eve.  Christmas Day was bound to be a major meat feast!

Christmas Day dawned rather more abruptly than I had hoped.  I had forgotten to turn the alarms off so was jolted awake by the radio coming on at 5:30 :-S  The alarms are all turned off now :-)

It was a lovely day.  We had bacon rolls for breakfast. There was a smorgasbord for lunch, with party pies, sausage rolls, gyoza, prawn wontons, and various very yummy things from a Christmas hamper that Jeanette and Matthew had given us. Then for dinner we had roasted pork, crumbed chicken, katsu sauce and a huge mound of roast potatoes, mashed potatoes and vegetables.  Later for dessert we had a ski slope which was intended to be a skate park until I put a circle of meringue on my cake plate and created a hill rather than a skating rink



We had lots of presents.  Grandma Stella and Grandpa Tony gave Cally her very first train set.  I had suggested that she should open it quite early so she would have something to occupy herself while we were all doing Useful Things. It was such a successful present that it proved impossible to convince her to eat her bacon sandwich.  Or, indeed, to do anything else at all.



She quite liked the pirate tent The Builder and I had got for her. Except it is so huge that we had to put the train set away to make room for it in our lounge room.  I hadn't realised quite how big it was when i bought it!



We talked to Austin, Kaori, Tatsuki, Freyja, Lindsey, Stella, Tony and everyone else who was at Mount Helen for Christmas Evening. Skype is a wonderful thing!

The sun shone and the winds were gentle and the birds sang and it was all good.  Cally says it was the Best Christmas Ever.  But I don't suppose she really remembers any previous ones :-D

Click here to see the Christmas photo album



Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Welcome to Freddie ...

… and very many congratulations to Chloe (The Builder's granddaughter) on the birth of her first child, Freddie Lee (surname Stewart). Freddie was born on Christmas Eve at a little after 6 in the evening, thus making Chloe a mum, Ian (The Builder's son) a grandad and The Builder a great grandad.

They all seem to me to be much too young to have obtained these august titles :-D

Oh I wish it could be Christmas every da-a-a-yyyyyyy

I don't, of course.  Nobody who actually has to DO anything about Christmas wishes it would happen every day.  We would all be permanently bankrupt and absolutely exhausted.

For instance, from about 4:30 this morning I became aware that I had been lying in bed from around 3:00, three quarters asleep but thinking about making tiny, tiny meringues and meat pie filling and washing the kitchen floor and various other things. By 5:00 I had decided that rather than lying there thinking about doing it, I might just as well get up and *actually* do it!  So I did :-)

But you couldn't do that every day.  Exhausted, I tell you.  Not to mention fat.  And probably not very well and with no teeth left after eating all that sugar.

But I do very much wish that it could be Christmas Eve every day.  I came to work in the car today so I can take Tabitha, Gareth, Cally and Little Friend Marryk back to our place after we all finish work. Ordinarily, if I leave even a minute after 7:00 the traffic is fairly heavy on the main road, and very heavy when I get to Sheffield and it takes anything up to an hour and a half to get to the office. Usually I leave at about 5 to 7. This morning, though, I left at 7:28 precisely. And walked into the office at 8:05 :-)  And then those of us hardy souls who had come in to work today went to the student cafeteria for breakfast/brunch/morning tea at 10:00. I had already had breakfast but a cup of coffee went down quite well.  And a bottle of the two litres of milk that they were selling for 50p each also seemed worth turning out for. We don't actually need any milk at home, but it can always go in the freezer until such time that we do need milk. And it's very, very quiet here today. Not many staff and even fewer students.  Will be interesting to see how many come in tomorrow (it's the first year that we've been open on Christmas Day. There won't be any library staff in, just security. I wonder if there will be any students!!)

So Christmas Eve.  Peaceful, calm, an excellent good thing.  I wish we could have it every day.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Weather. And Biscuits

It was the weekend before Christmas and all through the house ...

Actually, there was quite a lot of stirring. Mostly in my various mixing bowls with my wooden spoon and my electric and hand whisks :-P

We did the (final, I hope) Christmas shop at the Marsh Green Farm Shop and in a strangely quiet Sainsbury's.  I say it was strangely quiet because the car park was absolutely packed. I don't know where all the drivers and passengers were though. They didn't appear to be impeding progress in the store!

Then we went home and I didn't leave the house and garden again until this morning.  The Builder did, but only to go as far as the dairy for some milk.

I spent most of the rest of the weekend cooking.  I made starry jammy dodgers and loads of tiny biscuits: ginger women, cocoa men, vanilla teddies and stars and Christmas trees for my snow park for Christmas Day. We had roast turkey with nearly all the trimmings for Sunday lunch - and in honour of the nearly Christmas nature of it, we ate at the dining table rather than from trays on our knees in front of the telly.  We had apple and blackberry pie for dessert and sampled the biscuits (well, someone has to taste test things - what if they had been horrible?)

We spoke to Stella and Tony on Sunday morning, and then to Lindsey, Freyja, Austin, Kaori and Tatsuki who are all at Mount Helen.  I don't think this is going to be a fun Christmas for poor Tatsuki. He's not a big fan of new people and there are going to be lots and lots and lots and LOTS of new people over the next few days!!  I'm told that when Ian and Ross turned up to collect Austin, Kaori and Tatsuki from the airport, Tatsuki took one look at them and burst into tears.  I think he's still crying :-S

Right.  Let's talk about the weather. We've been having some quite stormy weather lately. Not surprising, you might think, for England in December. But some of the storms have been unusually severe.  We in North East Derbyshire have missed the worst of it (although the Tupton village Christmas tree did get blown down in a storm a week or so ago. It's been put back up again now).  We have had strong winds and very heavy rain but nothing as exciting as has hit other bits of the UK. And the weather for today is likely to be Very Stormy Indeed. Torrential rain, hurricane-like gales, massive transport disruption, trains, ferries and flights cancelled.  Again, we are not expecting the worst of the weather in North East Derbyshire but I am definitely wondering what the state of the trains is going to be when it's time to go home.  And it's all very well suggesting that people might like to defer their Christmas Holiday travel until tomorrow - but I wasn't going on holiday.  I was coming to work.  You can't just not turn up to work because the weather might get a bit bad later in the day!!

Starry jammy dodgers for Christmas

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Very Quiet Weekend Indeed

Very, very, very quiet.

We were at Bishops' House on  Saturday morning, but for a shorter time than usual. Then house was closing at 12:30 for a wedding in the afternoon.  And it was Very Quiet Indeed.  We had one visitor pretty much as we opened - but she didn't get any further into the house than the shop. She had come to buy stocking fillers for Christmas. I counted her as a visitor.  Around that time the Treasurer turned up to make up price lists and to make sure the house was ready for the wedding.  Then some of the wedding people came and decorated the chairs and the room where the wedding was to take place. I didn't count them on our stats sheet. Then two people turned up to put radon detectors in various places.  I did count them because they then went for a proper look around the house.  I didn't count any of the people who stopped outside to read our early closure notice. I did talk to most of them though - many of them were wondering whether we were really licensed to have weddings in the house (yes) or whether we were just having receptions (no - not licensed for receptions, just weddings).

The morning passed surprisingly quickly to say that we had almost no traffic through the place.  And then we abandoned the house to its happy afternoon and took ourselves into Chesterfield for a bit of Christmas shopping and lunch in the Rutland.

And that was it, pretty much. I didn't leave the house from when we got back on Saturday afternoon until I left to come to work this morning.  The Builder did, but only to go as far as the dairy for milk and cream on Sunday morning. I passed Sunday morning making a steamed suet pudding and custard to go with it.  I also roasted some chicken and some potatoes and prepared some vegetables and made an apple cider gravy for Sunday lunch.  We had the roast chicken before we had the steamed pudding! I made some bread, intending it for today. Alas, it was extremely tasty and we ate it for supper instead! I had to make some soda bread rolls for lunch today :-D

The Builder let the ducks and chickens out of their run when he went down to feed them on Sunday morning.  I found Marlo sitting by the kitchen sink later in the morning, watching them through the kitchen window.  I went upstairs to make the bed and sort a few things out.  When I looked out of our bedroom window I could see Marlo merrily playing a happy game down the bottom of the garden. I could see he was happy.  His tail was up and he was positively bouncing.  I don't think the ducks enjoyed the game of chasey quite as much though. They seemed much happier when we had called Marlo off and brought him back inside!!! (I don't think he was actually trying to catch them; he wasn't stalking them or hunting them. Just chasing them :-D )

Despite the fact that we really didn't do anything very much, the weekend still vanished in a puff of smoke.  And now there's only just over a week until Christmas.  I have done the bulk of the shopping but there are one or two things still to get. And we can't really do the perishable food shopping quite yet.  Over next weekend, I think.

Sunday morning sunrise

Marlo - after we had stopped him chasing the ducks :-D


Friday, December 13, 2013

Birthday feast at The Nettle

I was going to put these on the birthday blog. But they were on my laptop and I didn't have it with me when I wrote the blog.

So here is what we ate:

The Builder's gammon and chips

And my delicious bacon and cheese burger and chips

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cally's first sleepover

Months and months and months and months ago, Tabitha asked if we could have Cally on the Sunday after my birthday so that she and Gareth could go to a late evening Gig and then perhaps go out clubbing afterwards.  I couldn't immediately think of a good reason not to, so said yes.  After all, it was months and months and months and months in the future.

And then, suddenly, it was NOW!

So we dug out the blow up child's bed with Dr Who sleeping bag attached.  We sorted out the spare room, where we were all going to sleep that night. And then we very, very bravely went to Sheffield, picked her up and transported her back to our place.

She seemed entirely happy about this.

So we watched the Children's channels on the BBC. And we made fish fingers and chips and peas and corn for tea (Cally loves fish fingers and chips and peas and corn, although I don't think she's ever had home made fish fingers before). And at about half past seven she announced that it was bed time, reminded me that she needed to brush her teeth, and off she toddled to bed.

A little while later, The Builder went up to the loo and came down to say that Cally was lying in her bed, quietly going: "Gamma. Gamma. Gamma. Gamma." But so quietly that he only just heard her and that I didn't have a hope of hearing her downstairs.  I went up to investigate.  Tabitha and Gareth had reported that when they had gone camping over the summer and had borrowed the blow up bed, she had managed to wriggle right down to the bottom and they were afraid she would suffocate.  So I had zipped her in nice and tightly so she couldn't wriggle down to the bottom.  Alas - she couldn't wriggle anywhere!!!! She was so tightly zipped in that she could barely move!!!!!!!  I unzipped the sleeping bag so it wouldn't matter if she did end up down at the bottom and went downstairs.  And that was the last we saw of Cally until after 7 the next morning.  Which was quite late by our standards. Which meant that we had to be quiet and still when we woke up the next morning lest we disturb her :-S

So we got up on Monday and watched more Children's BBC. And we had crumpets for breakfast. And we made cupcakes for a lunchtime dessert. Then Tabitha (but not Gareth who hadn't taken the day off work, although Tabitha and I had) came for lunch and we more or less did Sunday again.  Slow roasted shoulder of lamb, with roasties and veg and cupcakes for dessert. Then The Builder took Tabitha and Cally home again and I cleared up. He came back and we watched a bit more catch up TV and then retired to bed.

I think we can declare the first sleep over a success.

But now Taffa wants to do it all over again, on a Sunday sometime in April :-S

Monday, December 09, 2013

Birthday blog

A quietly, well celebrated birthday, if I may say so.

We started perhaps a little early with birthday eve food and wine after I got home from work on Friday.

I was awake nice and early on Saturday.  I spoke by Skype to Stella and Tony; Lindsey; Taffa, Gareth and Cally; Freyja from her airport hotel at Heathrow; Austin.  I had lots and lots of messages on Facebook.

Then Freyja and Simon went to Bali, and The Builder and I went out into the Peak District for some foodie fun. We went to Rowsley to visit the mill for lots of different flour (although it's a pity I didn't think to get bread flour - the bread flour bin is all but empty :-S)  We went to Chatsworth to the farm shop for a few supplies and for some of their rather nice soap. We went to Marsh Green for some more supplies, plus a few Christmas supplies (apart from perishable items I seem to have all but finished the Christmas food shop; this is something of a worry. I'm bound to have forgotten something essential!!!). Then we went to The Nettle, arriving more or less as they opened, ready for my birthday feast.  You will be surprised to hear that I had a burger with chips.  And white wine.  The plan for going alcohol free in Advent has been a spectacular and comprehensive failure :-S

And then we went home and passed a gentle and quiet afternoon watching catch-up telly and pootling about.

So not an exciting birthday. Not a huge amount of dashing about. No raucous celebrations.  But it was definitely my kind of birthday. Lots of nice foodie things and lots of nice wine.

Right.  Cally is coming for her first sleepover later this afternoon.  We had better get ourselves organised!


Friday, December 06, 2013

Bishops' House Advent/Christmas do

We were invited to a do last evening at Bishops' House for the Committee members and volunteers to get together and indulge in a little Adventy Christmas cheer.

The do started at 7:30, so The Builder came into town and met me at about 6 and we tootled to the (Sheffield) Rutland for a burger and a pint.  It's only a little pub and it was quite full when we got there, so The Builder had half a pint and I (not being a huge fan of beer) had a glass of wine, propped in a corner, waiting to see if a table would clear.  And lo - a table did clear.  So we had another drink each and had a burger with chips (home made, tasty burger, home made, tasty chips).

Then we went to Bishops' House.  It was good to see John, the chair of the committee, there.  He's been A Very Poorly Boy Indeed. Very, very poorly.  He seems to be quite a bit better now, but isn't quite as nimble as he was before he took poorly sick.  There weren't many people there (I think the storms which were blowing trees and buildings and vehicles about, put people off - although Sheffield and Chesterfield escaped the worst of the winds and certainly escaped the coastal storm surges). Taffa was there (she's both a volunteer *and* a member of the committee). A few people wafted in. There were candles along the window sills and festive music playing.  More people drifted in. There was mulled wine and mince pies. It was warm and cosy in the main hall (calling it the main hall sounds quite grand - it's only a small main hall!) It was all very pleasant.

We didn't stay long. I had an early start this morning and there were things to do.  I think we left after about an hour and went home via the supermarket for vital supplies such as wine, fizzy water and cat food.

We were still up, watching television, when the news broke of Nelson Mandela's death.  Sad as the news was, it can't have been unexpected - he was an elderly, frail, sickly poorly gentleman. And the obits were ready to run pretty much as soon as the death was announced. But it took over the whole of the late evening news (I would have liked at least a little bit on the storm surges, storm damage and other weather related news). They were still talking about it this morning when I woke up (a tiny bit about other things, but not much). I know he was an important 20th century figure. I know he was a great and good man. I fully expected when he died that there would be a (well-deserved) full on coverage. But there were (and are) other things happening that were (are) equally deserving of coverage.  Such as the Chancellor's autumn financial statement which seems to have vanished without trace and which will most certainly have had some contentious details in it.

Freyja has one sleep to go before her #roundtheworldin41days adventure.  Although she is not going round the world in 41 days. She gets abandoned in California for 5 or so months, while Simon goes round the world in 41 days

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Not Safe For Work

I borrowed from the library a copy of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's Fruit everyday a week or so ago.  Lots of lovely, fruity recipes, some savoury, some sweet.

When we went to London last weekend, I took it with me to browse in the car.  At the back there is a recipe for quite a luxury fruit mince.

I had very nearly all the ingredients sitting at home.  I didn't have any dried sour cherries, but I did have a big bag of morello cherries from our tree in the freezer.  I didn't have any lemons or oranges, but one of Freyja's local shops did. Everything else I had.  So when we got home I dug the cherries out of the freezer and began my preparations.

The fruits and spices and sugar macerated happily while I was at work on Monday.  On Monday evening, I baked the mix, gently, for a couple of hours.

When it was all nicely baked and cold, I mixed in the brandy.  Funny.  It's not mixing in very well.  Stir, stir, stir, stir.  No.  It's definitely not stirring in very well.  Double check the recipe.

Oops :-S  The recipe calls for 50 ml of brandy and I've put in 150 :-s  No wonder it's not mixing in very well!!

I put the whole lot in a box and put it in the fridge and pondered.

I decided to bulk up the fruit and juice.  So I took loads more cherries out of the freezer, macerated them in orange and lemon juice with some more spice and a bit more sugar and 12 hours later simmered it all for half an hour or so. Then I mixed in the brandied fruit mince and very gently simmered that for half an hour.  Then I made some small mince pies and a fruit mince roulade style pastry.

I have to say it was very, very tasty.  But it was also very, very heady.  We definitely couldn't count that as an alcohol free evening. And I absolutely can't bring them in to work. Wouldn't do at all to make my colleagues slightly tipsy before they go up on the desk or into a classroom!!!

I shall keep the mince pies and roulade for our delectation.  And I'll make some more fruit mince at the weekend.  Without the brandy!

And I can take the Fruit everyday book back to the library.  The Builder has bought me a copy as a non-birthday present

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Freyja

So.  Freyja's passport has come back from the American Embassy with a new decoration:

Photo pinched from Freyja's Facebook page
She's now ready to go off adventuring!

She and Simon leave on Saturday for a few days in Bali, a few days in Perth, a couple of weeks in Victoria, a few days in EnZed, a few days playing in America - and then Simon comes on home alone and Freyja is spending second semester at university in San Francisco.

First, though, there was the little matter of her moving out of the house she's been living in for the last year or so. At one time she had been intending to leave her stuff there with the vague possibility that she might move back in when she returns from America.  Her belongings could live in boxes in the garage.  But that option went out the window when the owner gave everyone notice to quit!  The next option was to sell or throw away absolutely everything and to reduce her worldly goods to a single suitcase.  The Builder and I thought this was a bit over-enthusiastic on the scaling down front and arranged to go down in the car and to bring up to Simon's place in Sheffield as much as we could fit in the car.

So we went down on Saturday morning. And were a bit non-plussed by the amount of stuff there was to squish into the car.  But based on our "never give up, never surrender" mindset, we squished and squashed and packed and shoved and squidgled as much as we possibly could into the car.  The rest (mostly food and kitchen stuff) went across the road to where two of Freyja's house mates had moved (when she said they had moved across the road I didn't think she meant it properly literally.  But she did!!).

A quick lunch in the local coffee shop and back to Sheffield we headed.  I had *this* much space for my feet.  Freyja had ***this*** much room for hers.  Fortunately, The Builder was driving or there would have been no room for him in either of the passenger spaces. And I don't think he would have been very happy if we had left him alone and palely loitering in East London!

All of Freyja's possessions are now lurking in Simon's cellar. And they have five sleeps before they head off on their adventures.

We had a very quiet Sunday by contrast.  I don't think we left the house and garden. Mostly we ate and drank and watched TV. We did move Gyoza and her run up to the lawn by the pond but I think that was the most activity that we managed.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Gyoza

You may remember that we took Gyoza to the vet a while back because she suddenly started limping very badly.  Nothing appeared to be wrong.

A little bit later we noticed that she was bleeding on the other leg.  We caught her and had a look. Nothing seemed to be wrong.  The other chickens also noticed that her leg was bleeding and started to peck at her.  This did not help matters. Gyoza started nestling down, out of the way, in amongst the brambles and nettles.

One day recently I went down to check the next boxes and found Gyoza in the chook house with blood running everywhere.  So we fetched the little hutch we bought when she and Dim Sim and the ducks were but chicklings. We moved the wire run which had been around the duck house and attached it to the little house and isolated Gyoza so her leg would have a chance to heal without being pecked by the other hens.

The ducks were a bit puzzled by this - but they never actually used the run and (as far as I am aware) are still sleeping in their house.

Gyoza's leg stopped bleeding.

We were just about to release her back into the micro-flock when her leg started bleeding again. We we had a proper investigation and found that there's some sort of growth on it.  I'm sorry, but I'm not taking her back to the vet. Apart from her leg she seems to be fit and well and happy, except that she doesn't want to live in a run any more.  And you can see her point. So we've decided to isolate her semi-permanently from the rest of the flock. We've going to bring her hutch and run up to the little lawn by the pond and put her up there. We'll keep her in the run for a few days until she learns where her new bed is and then we'll let her out during the day. This means that she will have the run of the whole flower and vegetable garden.  Queen of all she surveys!

In the meantime I have decided that I will do an autumn cut back of the flower garden.  The Under Gardener has reminded me that weeds that we don't want to put on the compost heap can mostly go in the orchard where the chooks and ducks will deal with them.  And I can still leave some of the plants which have seed heads on them unchopped for the garden birds. It also means that I can plant some spring bulbs in the places where the weeds have been dug out.  Gyoza can help with the process, once we let her out of the run into the garden!

We must remember, though, to make sure we shut her run with her inside it at night.  The orchard is as fox proof as it is possible for it to be (which is to say that a very, very determined fox could get in but probably wouldn't bother when there are other, easier targets close at hand). The garden isn't fox proof at all, but a closed up run will act as something of a deterrent

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Council garden waste collections

A year or two ago, the local council decided that, in order to save money, it would suspend the collection of the garden waste bins over the winter. So it ceases collection at the end of November and starts again sometime in March.

I'm sure this suits the people who only use their bins to put their grass cuttings in. We never put grass cuttings in ours - they go in the chook run or on the compost heaps. We do, however, put things like morning glory, mint, other pernicious weeds or tenacious plants in ours.  And about now is the time that I would be cutting things back for the winter. And the collections have now stopped.  So my options are that I can cut back the flower garden and pile the cuttings up somewhere and then put them in the green bin over the course of several weeks in the spring; I can cut the garden back and take the cuttings to the council tip; or I can not cut the garden back until the spring.

Which is what we did last winter - but that was because the weather was not conducive to putting the garden to bed for the winter in the late autumn, and then we went away for six weeks.  The weather is OK for gardening at the moment - a bit cold and damp, but certainly do-able. And we are not going away just yet.

I was all set to rush out and get at least one load of stuff in the bin prior to the last collection of the year - when I noticed a load of small birds messing about amongst the remaining mint flowers and in the seed heads of various flowers.

Do you know - I might leave the cutting back of some of it until late winter or early spring.  We're away for a few weeks over the winter and there's no point starting to feed the birds now, only to stop mid-January. The garden will provide sufficient food for the birds until we come back. That works pretty much on all levels. Well, apart from me wanting it to look tidier. But I don't suppose we'll have many visitors coming to inspect the garden between now and March. And I can always tidy the paths and plant my bulbs and work around the overgrown herbs and creepers and climbers.

Still irritates me that the council ceases a service just at the time that I really want to use it, though :-S

Monday, November 25, 2013

And another expensive weekend

although, in truth, nothing like as expensive as the previous one!

We wanted to go down and see The Builder's mother sometime around Christmas.  December wasn't looking like a good option - mostly because we seem to be quite busy. The Old Mill had a Dinner, Bed and Breakfast deal for Saturday night which was quite reasonable, so I booked it.

We trundled down to Salisbury on Saturday afternoon and booked in to the Old Mill. It was quite misty and atmospheric around the meadows by the river. You can see why Constable thought it was a good place to paint! And dinner was delightful. We thought that, given it was a deal, we might be restricted in our choices.  But no. We could make merry with the entire menu. So I had scallops poached on a stick of lemon grass, and a magnificent piece of steak and a truly lovely cappuccino crème brulee. But I really rather wished I had ordered the fish dish once our main course arrived.  The Builder did - and it came with a piece of hake and a load of scallops and mussels and prawns and garlic potatoes and veg.  It looked AMAZING! Next time.

We caught the second half of the Doctor Who fiftieth anniversary special when we got back to our room. Fortunately I had it set to record at home so we can watch the whole thing.  I have a suspicion that it might make a bit more sense if we see it from the beginning.  Not a lot more sense, of course - this is Doctor Who after all.  But a bit.

On Sunday we breakfasted at The Old Mill (and I had the foresight to have a light breakfast, unlike some of us who greedily chomped into a full Full English!) and then we gathered up Gwen and took ourselves off to see Jeanette, Matthew, Rebecca and Evie and (as a pleasant surprise) Ian. Gwen hadn't been to the new house before, and hasn't seen Ian for a long time, so she was very happy.  Evie (who is 6) and Matthew (who is not 6) had made us a chicken and ham pie, which they often have on Boxing Day.  I have to say that it was very delicious and I was very glad that I had had the foresight not to have a huge breakfast!. I shall remember that pie for a later occasion. I shall also remember the scallops skewered on lemon grass. lemon grass is one of my current favourite things.  I could replicate the scallops on lemon grass skewers.  And I think it would work quite well with chicken breast pieces as well.

We had a lovely afternoon. Then we took Gwen home and made our way back to Tupton. Marlo was quite pleased to see us.  I assume the ducks and chooks were OK. It was very definitely dark by the time we got home at 8:30. It was also cold and a touch windy. So we didn't arm ourselves with a torch and go down to inspect them.  But Steve had been in in the morning.  I'm sure he would have said something if there had been a problem.

Click on the Old Mill to get to the photo album



Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Goodness but that was an expensive weekend

We were in the office on Friday afternoon and my colleague Paul remarked in passing that he had had an email from a group called Rated People instructing him to declutter his house.  Decluttering is, of course, always a fine thing to do. But I had never heard of Rated People and wasn't sure why they were sending out instructions to Paul by email.

It turns out that Rated People is a website where you can put in details of household jobs that you want done and a small number of tradespeople will contact you and give you quotes for the work.  It looked a reasonable site, Paul has used it himself and the reviews I could find on the internet seemed ok. And we have a number of things that we want done and in some cases have absolutely no idea how much it would cost.

I decided to give it a go, starting with something quite small but which really did need doing before the winter sets in.  The guttering had come adrift from the fascia board and whenever it rained water would cascade down our beautifully re-painted front wall.  This was making the paint look quite dirty but it was also making the front wall quite damp.

So I put my job in, stressing that we were only at the planning and budgeting stage. About fifteen minutes later my phone rang and it was a cheery bloke saying that he could come around on Saturday morning and give us a quote.

Excellent.  I withdrew my job from Rated People. The tradespeople have to pay to see the full details of the job and I didn't want people paying unnecessarily, because if the quote was good and the people looked OK, we would give the work to them.  When we had saved up.

So at 8:45 on Saturday morning in lobbed two general tradespeople and an apprentice roofer.  They shimmied up and down their ladders.  About £250.  This didn't seem like a lot to us, so we told them to go ahead.

Alas. Once they had taken off the guttering and the perished fascia board it became clear that we were missing the drip trays that channel the water from the roof into the guttering. And they were very, very unhappy about the rendering on our chimney, which was pulling away.  We knew that the render was going to fall off one day, but it's been like that for a year or two so we weren't expecting it to drop on our heads immediately.  But the tradies were unhappy.

£530 and 3 hours later we had no render on the chimney, we did have drip trays in the roof, we had a lovely new plastic fascia board and we had guttering attached to it.

It rained yesterday - and no water cascaded down the front of the house! We might now be completely out of money but I do think it was money well spent.  And I suppose we didn't really want the render to fall off the chimney and take out the postman!

We went into Sheffield on Sunday to meet Taffa, Gaz, Cally and some of their friends for lunch in The Rutland. Very, very fortunately, it was Tabitha and Gareth's turn to pay.  If it had been our turn it would have been chip butties and tap water all round :D  As it was we all had roast beef and wine or beer, except for Cally who had a fish finger sandwich, chips and juice!!!

We've been pondering the de-rendered chimney and have decided to call the cheery tradies back in the spring. We thought we might have it opened up again (someone has capped it so it can't be used for anything at all) and re-rendered. Then we thought we might have the fireplace opened up again. We might even put a pretty faux-Victorian fire place in it.  And now that we have found Rated People we thought we might have the side of the house painted as well, so it looks as pretty as the front of the house.

After, of course, we have done some hard saving up.  Not something that we are especially good at :-D

 Click on Cally to get to the Sunday album

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Passports and Visas

A few weeks ago, The Builder and I were passing a lazy, early Saturday morning in bed, drinking tea, messing about on our iPads, listening to the radio. Out of the blue, The Builder pondered that he wasn't sure when his passport ran out.  Neither was I, but I thought it was sometime next year.  I got up to get the passports to investigate.

His is fine. Doesn't run out until some time in 2015.  What about mine then?

Oops.

It runs out on November 20th. This year :-S

I'm likely to want a valid passport in mid January!!! Otherwise I'll have trouble leaving the UK and getting in to any of the countries I want to visit during my Jumping Around in the Time Zones adventure. And I definitely won't get to the party ;-(

So I filled in a passport application form online.  A few days later it arrived at our place, waiting for me to sign it and return it, by one means or another.

Alas - I had just spent ALL of my available money resources on plane tickets.  I can't fly out on those tickets without an up-to-date passport, but equally I can't buy a new passport until I next get paid.  The application form sat about on the dresser and the dining room table - and acquired a few muddy cat paw prints as a decoration.  I hope the Passport Office is fond of cats!

A bit later The Builder ran across the passport application lying about and said he had the money for a passport.  I went and got some passport photos done.

If you had run up against the person in those photos in a dark alley on a winter's night you would have run away as quickly, screaming as loudly as you could.

A few days later I went and got some more taken. They might make me look as though I am about to cry but at least they don't make me look terrifying.

And then finally I got around to taking the form, the photos and The Builder's money to the Post Office where they ignored the paw prints, accepted the sad looking photos and The Builder's money and sent everything off to the Passport Office. That was on Thursday of last week.

On Monday I had a text message to say that my application had been received by the Passport Office.

Yesterday morning I happened to be at home in the morning when the doorbell rang.  It was a passport deliverer with my brand new, electronically chipped, very, very pretty passport in his hand.

I can go to the party!!

Freyja, in the meantime, has a perfectly valid passport but is waiting for the paperwork to arrive so she can apply for an American student visa. She leaves for Australia in 21 sleeps!!  There's an American consulate in Australia somewhere - there is bound to be. She can spend her Australia time camped out there badgering for a student visa.

(I've checked.  There's a consulate on St Kilda Road in Melbourne. She can camp there during the day and stay in Lindsey and Ian's flat in East Melbourne when the consulate is closed overnight.  Sorted :-P )

Monday, November 11, 2013

Up on the allotment

It was a gloriously beautiful day yesterday - which meant that there had been quite a hard frost overnight and although very sunny it was also quite cold. So we went to the allotment to have a look at what was going on. We decide to pull the tomato plants - they were still producing flowers and tiny fruit, but the tops had been caught by the frost and it's really a bit late now for tomatoes to ripen.  We took home the unripe fruit, which may ripen in the kitchen. Otherwise it's fried green tomatoes for breakfast (but not at the Whistlestop Cafe!). I also took some small side shoots from the plants. I thought I might see if they strike if I pop them in a pot and keep them somewhere warm.  I am not optimistic about this, but one of the garden blogs that I read says that its author does this nearly every year, usually successfully.  So there is now beetroot, leeks and brassicas on the allotment, although the brassicas a spring producing, rather than autumn producing so there won't be anything to eat from them for a while.

We let the ducks and chickens out of the orchard yesterday. The only thing that is now growing is the chard and they didn't show much interest in that. Wouldn't matter much if they did, the chard would almost certainly grow back. But as it happens they ignored the chard and pottered about for the afternoon seeking out slugs and snails and insects and other tasty morsels. We should do it more often. They're good little garden clearers :-)

It is now time to start clearing the flower garden for the winter. I want to dig up the seaside daisies that are in the beds and bring them inside. I am also intending to dig out the fern that is growing by the side of the pond. It's not coming inside though. It's going. It is a bit too big for where it is and it doesn't really fit with the rest of the garden. I was going to put it in our garden waste bin - but the under Gardener thought it might as well get chucked into the chook run.  They might enjoy destroying it and it doesn't really matter if they don't.  It can always be used to mulch the currant bushes in the spring.

Looking from our bedroom window

Puddling about in the vegetable beds

Out exploring

The ice in certain bits of the garden didn't melt at all

We didn't leave the house and garden, no not even once over the weekend

Well ... that was the plan, anyway.

In pursuance of that plan we went to the supermarket after I finished work on Friday. Because we had a load of money off vouchers, we went to Tesco. Only to find that they didn't have any wine.  Yes, OK - they did have wine, but not the wine that we prefer to drink. So we bought a little supply to see us through Friday evening.  I must say that I am getting more than a little irritated by Tesco. They always have irritated me a bit, but the irritations are getting worse.  We had to have each and every one of our money off vouchers approved, individually, when we went through the self service checkout machine. Two of our vouchers simply wouldn't work at all at the self service checkout machine (it was only later that I saw the tiny print that said you couldn't use them at the self service points). It was all quite a lot like hard work.  I am beginning to think that they may almost have irritated me to the point that we might not go there any more (once we have used up all the other vouchers we've got :-D ).

So that meant that we had to go out to Sainsbury's on Saturday to buy wine for the rest of the weekend. Fortunately, I had some wine vouchers! And fortunately, there was no real problem using my wine vouchers.  But this meant that we did have to leave the house and garden on Saturday.

On the way home we called into a recently opened "antiques" shop by the station.  We decided that we weren't much minded to spend £50 on a rusty tin bath for the ducks. If it had been £20 we would have been tempted, but not at that price!  It's a cute shop though. Like the Tardis, it is much, much bigger on the inside than it is on the outside and there are loads of rooms with loads of fun things in them.  There is also a little tea shop at the back.  Must try it out one day. But not today.  Now we are going home to pick up our plan of not leaving the house and garden for the whole of the weekend minus Saturday morning.

Then the doorbell rang.  It was Sarah, who moved in to #4 Queen Vic Road with her husband Phil three or four months ago.  They had been out and bought fireworks and wine and potatoes and meat and veg and were having a fireworks party that evening.  Would we like to go?  Debbie from next door was also going - but not Steve who had to go to work.

So we left the house and garden AGAIN at about 7:30 and wandered around to Sarah and Phil's place - to find not just Debbie there but also pretty much all of both Sarah's and Phil's families (apart from Sarah's dad who for reasons best known to himself lives in Mackay in Queensland).  So we drank wine and ate baked potatoes with meat and cheese and salad and went outside all wrapped up against the cool evening air (although mercifully it wasn't raining) and watched 15-20 minutes of fireworks and then everyone went back inside for cake and more wine but Debbie and The Builder and I went home.

It is probable that it might have been better if we hadn't decide to sit down in front of the telly with another glass of wine and for The Builder to watch the football show.  Largely because the next thing I knew was that something very odd but not football was on the telly, I hadn't drunk my wine - and it was 02:30!!! I shook The Builder awake and went belatedly to bed.

We didn't even manage not to leave the house and garden on Sunday! I spoke to Stella and Tony on Skype.  I spoke to Taffa and Cally on Skype. (I also later spoke to Freyja on Skype - but not to Austin). Then we got dressed and had breakfast and went out! But only as far as the allotment which *nearly* counts as part of the garden.  We did manage to stay at home for the rest of the day though. We had deconstructed chicken kievs for our Sunday lunch, with a three fruit crumble to follow (cherries, blackcurrants and apple). We watched telly and played with the ducks and chickens (who we had let out of their run for the afternoon) and generally mooched about.

So we didn't, at all, really, manage to fulfil the ambition of not leaving the house and garden, no not once over the weekend.  But it was a very pleasant weekend, filled with nice surprises, nice wine and a lot of rather nice food.  So not so bad, then.

Looking out of the bathroom window

Out exploring and munching on slugs and snails and tasty morsels

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

We were at Bishops' House on Saturday morning.  It's having something of a facelift. A lick of paint, a spot of wood repairing, a bit of a clean up:


To divert attention there are lots of musical instruments dotted about inside the house:





It was a fairly gloomy day so we were surprised by the number of visitors we had. Still, it passed the time and was nice to have lots of people to talk to

The Builder and I have some quite anachronistic toys to play with to keep us amused
We drove home through an absolutely torrential rainstorm.  We had to slow down to a crawl on the bypass. And then we settled in to a wet and windy autumn evening, but it was warm and toasty inside and we drank wine and ate food and watched telly and it was all good.

I was working another SHU Open Day on Sunday. It was drizzling when I got to work - it was properly raining by the time the Open Day formally started and most of our morning visitors were all soggy wet.  Fortunately, most of them remained good humoured! Then the afternoon brightened up and the sun came out and the visitors stopped being soggy wet. But I don't think we had quite as many as we were expecting.  But I'm not sure that I would have turned out on a wet, wet, wet and windy Sunday morning, had it not been for the fact that I was being paid for it.  I have Sunday's money ear marked for a visit to the Singapore zoo, and a visit to a theme park based on international rivers, also in Singapore.  That was an incentive both to go to work, and to stay :-)

Alas, the weather was so wet and windy on Saturday evening that many community bonfire parties had to be cancelled. Some were moved to Monday or Tuesday (Tuesday was actually bonfire night) but others were just cancelled.  Fortunately, the ones that were scheduled for Sunday night could go ahead. I don't think there was a bonfire or fireworks planned for Tupton - but Chesterfield had one.

We had our first proper frost of this season on Monday.  It was a glorious, glorious morning - but it took ten minutes or so to scrape the car clear. It's amazing how quickly you forget about frost scraping over the summer!  But mostly this week is expected to be wet and windy. I shall mostly stay inside!




Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Our first frost of the season

We woke on Monday to our first frost of the season. This is a bit of a pity, because the zucchini plants are still producing a zillion tiny zucchinis. They seem to have survived, just - but there won't be many more fruits.

We have picked (and eaten) all the pears.  We ended up with quite a big bowl full and they were extremely tasty. We also have loads and loads of grapes on the grapevine. They too are very tasty and much sweeter this year than last.  There is chard growing in the vegetable garden, but then that's pretty much all that's left. There are beetroots, leeks and some various brassicas growing on the allotment.  There are also tomato plants still doing their best in the greenhouse up there. They continue to flower and to produce tomatoes, despite the fact that we picked the main crop some weeks ago.  We'll leave them for the time being and see what they do.

So all in all, and despite all the signs back in the spring, we've done well for fruit and veg this year. The freezer is packed to the brim and all our produce was tasty and mostly disease free.  We shall start preparing and planning for next season shortly.

We are doing quite well for eggs at the moment.  Curry is laying absolutely every day, and Udon is laying three or four times a week.  We are a bit puzzled by Dimsim and Gyoza, though.  We would have expected them to have started laying by now and they haven't. They don't even really look ready to lay. Dimsim's comb is beginning to fill out, but Gyoza's is still quite small. I am beginning to think that they weren't the 11 or 12 weeks we were told they were when we bought them.  We are not expecting duck eggs, however.  Terriyaki  and Hoi Sin are both clearly males - so no eggs from them :-D  It is fortunate for them that they are very cute so we aren't minded to get rid of them.  In any case, Indian Runner Ducks have pretty much no meat on them, so we couldn't eat them even if we did despatch them.  Although I suppose I could make a duck broth with them!  We shall get some more ducks in the spring and see if we can get a couple of girls in with them.  We will also buy a duck bath or two.  We considered putting in a pond, but then discovered that you can buy duck baths.  Much cheaper to buy, and much easier to maintain!  The other alternative, of course, is to let them roam free in the garden during the days and they can swim in the pond that we already have, up by the house.

I wonder if it could be moved ...

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Well now - that was all a bit exciting

Getting to work, even for an evening shift, is usually fairly mundane.  Ordinarily, I hardly even notice it, apart from the fact that I tend to go in the car.

The morning itself was uneventful. I made some autumn vegetable tarts for our lunches.  I stewed some apples and made some chicken and split peas soup, I pottered about in the garden and talked to the chickens and ducks.  And then it was time to head to work.

I was peacefully waiting at a set of red traffic lights in Chesterfield when a sudden hammering on my side window definitely woke me up!  It was a bloke telling me that my left hand rear tyre looked a bit soft.  So I turned off the main road and checked.  It definitely looked a bit flat.  So I headed to Tesco's petrol station to put some air in.

You have to pay to use the air thing in Tesco (You don't have to pay in Sainsbury's!).  I didn't have any money.  So I called into the petrol shop. They didn't have a cash machine and wouldn't let me buy something with my card and give me change. So I drove to the actual supermarket and got some money and bought something so I had some change and went back.

I put my 20p into the machine and went to fill up the tyre.  Couldn't find the little valve thing. Hunted and hunted and hunted.  Eventually found it well and truly hidden inside the tyre trim.  Pulled it out, inserted the air tube.  Nothing happened - except that more air came out.  Not desirable! So I tried again.  Still no air went in, but more air came out :-S

At this point a very helpful gentleman appeared (also wanting to use the air machine). He tried. Nothing happened. He put another 20p in. Still nothing happened.  So he rummaged in his boot and pulled out a tyre pumping machine that works from your cigarette lighter and pumped my tyre up.  A very helpful gentleman indeed!

I went home, where The Builder was waiting for me.  We drove to the station and I took the train to work and The Builder took the car to the Lame Car doctor. It seems we had picked up a Stanley Knife blade somewhere and had a slow leak.  It's been fixed now!

Just as well those two gentlemen wanted to be helpful today, otherwise I might well have gone to the car park after I finish this evening at 21:00 and found the tyre completely flat. We do have breakdown cover which would turn out for a flat tyre - but I don't know if they can get into the car park I use.

You can buy those electric tyre pumping machines for around £20 on Amazon.  I think I might bung one on my Gadget Must buy list!

And I shall go home on the train tonight.  When we first moved to Tupton there were hardly any trains that left after I finish work if on a late shift, so I ore or less had to come in the car.  There are loads now.  I may come by train in the future (assuming my chauffeur doesn't mind turning out to get me from the station at quarter to ten or so).


Monday, October 28, 2013

Busy, busy, busy - and then nice and quiet

Last week was probably the busiest week of my year. Normally I can feel the Autumn Term Block Week from - oh November or so, hovering quietly on the horizon, waiting to pounce and chew me up. This year, however, it approached almost silently.  I wasn't even particularly dreading it the weekend before.  This might have something to do with the visits of both Christian and Simon. But even when the week arrived I wasn't particularly dismayed.  And truth be told, this year I really quite enjoyed it. Not sure what was different this year to other years, but it all went smoothly, the students were engaged and appeared to be interested. It was all good.

And the week went extremely quickly!

Suddenly it was the weekend again - and this time we had absolutely no plans at all.  We went out to Marsh Green to collect the chicken pieces we had ordered the week before. We went to the supermarket. We went to The Nettle for a spontaneous lunch (where I broke with tradition and had a pork steak - and chips! - rather than my more usual burger, fish or pie; and very delicious it was too). We pottered about at home on Sunday. The Builder watched the Grand Prix, we remembered to put the clocks back, we ate roast chicken and apple pies, we succeeded in not getting caught in any of the rain showers. It was just a very gentle, very pleasant weekend.

There are tremendous storms battering the south of England as we speak. There are no storms here.  No wind. Even the rain isn't particularly noteworthy. It's persistent and steady but not excessive. It seems to be much more exciting further down though. The photos on Twitter make me quite glad to be in Derbyshire and Yorkshire today (I live in Derbyshire and work in Yorkshire) rather than Dorset or Devon.

Oh - I've bought some of the tickets for the Jumping Around in the Time Zones adventure. We fly from Manchester to Singapore on January 18th, then Singapore to Melbourne on the 22nd.  We're due back into Manchester on February 18th.

I wonder how many sleeps that is.

Monday, October 21, 2013

It's very quiet at our place now!

So The Builder and Simon headed off to Liverpool in the car and I, somewhat ironically, caught the train to Liverpool.  Except that I got off at Sheffield instead of heading the whole way. In the interest of ever actually being able to buy tickets to Melbourne for Stella's 80th birthday, I had arranged to work another University Open Day.  I quite enjoy doing the Open Days.  The visitors who come tend to be happy and amiable.  It's rather nice being able to show off our completely renovated library. People who have previously been students here, or who have previously had sons or daughters here. are often speechless by the changes we've made.

I must say though that by the end of the day I was beginning to forget what I had said to each group of people and was either repeating myself or forgetting things!

No pub lunch or pub dinner on Saturday.

Nor on Sunday. Instead we went out to Marsh Green armed with another spend-more-than-£50-and-get-£10-off voucher and stocked up with meat for the freezer.  Slow roasted pork for us, instead of heading out for lunch. Although we nearly had to go out anyway - I managed to drop my plate of food all over the kitchen floor. Fortunately, I had done enough for Simon as well - but of course he wasn't there.

I had been woken up yesterday morning at 3:00 by wind and rain and tempest.  I had not gone back to sleep.  By 6:00 I was up, showered, dressed, had done the washing and the ironing, tidied the kitchen and made a start on the spare bed!! I tried to put the doona from the spare bed into the washing machine. It hasn't ever been washed, as far as I can remember. It wouldn't fit.  No matter what I did, I couldn't squish it in. So it's hanging outside on the washing line in the wind and rain and tempests in the hope that that will freshen it up a bit :-)  So if you're planning on coming to stay over the next week or two, I've got sheets and pillow cases (and pillows) and a small blanket on the bed, but you might need to bring a doona with you!

Busy week ahead this week. Lots of classes with the new Geography and Environment students and with the final year construction and surveying students.  I think I should probably start the week with a nice cup of energising coffee.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

And just like buses ...

... you have no Aussie visitors for months and then two turn up more or less together :-D

This time it was Simon, over for a conference in Liverpool.  We were expecting him at some time on Wednesday but he found himself alone and loitering in Manchester on Tuesday after Christian had gone home and decided to come to us a day early.  I was at work but he and The Builder met up at the Chesterfield station, had lunch in the Rutland and a potter about in Chesterfield and then headed home.

It was raining on Wednesday.  I was once again at work, so Simon and The Builder went out to the Chatsworth grounds and had lunch in the Devonshire in Pilsley. I don't think Simon got the full extent fo the view though. It was quite foggy as well as rainy.

On Thursday everybody took the day off work and we all went on the train to York. We met Taffa, Gaz and Cally at the station in Sheffield and trundled through the glorious sunshine northwards.  Our journey was somewhat enlivened by the realisation, as the train set off, that we had LOST Cally's much beloved Hello Kitty doll. Obviously nobody had seen her drop it or we would have picked it up. We searched the train and the bags.  The conductor rang Sheffield station but they didn't have it.  Hello Kitty was GONE :-S  And then suddenly and miraculously she turned up (phew). She had fallen down the side of the seat, out of view - until Cally put her hand down and found it.  Disaster averted!

We had a lovely time in York.  We had lunch in the old Starre Inn and went round the newly refurbished Jorvik exhibition.  We had afternoon tea in a coffee shop on the market square and a lovely wander around.  Then we all came home, Hello Kitty firmly in a back pack!

Yesterday was a gloomy day but not a wet day.  We went into Sheffield and collected Taffa and Cally (Gaz couldn't get the day off work) and went out to Bakewell.  Lunch in yet another pub (back to the Peacock) and then a potter around the shops, then up the hill to the church. At one point Cally said: "Where's Gamma's hat?"  I had left my absolutely brand new hat (which I had bought in York) in the pub!!!  I ran back to get it.  So many near misses with lost things!! We called into the Chatsworth Farm shop for emergency bacon supplies (we had run out at home and we've been having bacon sandwiches for breakfast while Simon has been with us), took Taffa and Cally home and then went out to The Nettle for a magnificent steak for Simon and me. But no chips ;-(  They gave us sauteed potatoes instead. Very nice sauteed potatoes - but not chips ;-(

Simon has headed off to his conference in Liverpool now.  And I think The Builder and I may have to give up on the pub lunches and dinners for a bit.  My trousers appear to be shrinking ever so slightly :-D

Click on Simon to reach the photo album

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Rain

It started raining pretty much as I got home on Friday afternoon. And it has more or less only just stopped!

It poured on Saturday and when it wasn't pouring it was grey and dismal and damp.  I didn't set one single foot outside the house on Saturday.  I sent The Builder to the dairy to get milk and bread and, since he was already wearing a coat and outdoor shoes, I sent him down the garden to feed the chickens and ducks.  We did not go to the library to return my very-nearly-due books.

We had to go out on Sunday. We needed some stuff from the supermarket. So we chose our moment carefully and went out when it was merely drizzling rather than pouring.

Most fortunately for them,. Christian and Simon were right on the other side of the Pennines in the Lake District intending to spend a couple of days walking. The weather over there wasn't anything like as wet and they did get some walking in. Quite a lot of walking.  I think on Sunday they managed 30 km in total.

Christian is on his way back to Melbourne now. And Simon, rather than loitering alone and friendless in Manchester, is coming to our place today rather than tomorrow.  I must go to my Japanese class tonight though. If I miss two in a row I'll never catch up!

Our lovely next door neighbours have put their house on the market.  An estate agent's board is outside, inviting strangers to come in and buy it ;(

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Christian

Christian has been to visit!

He landed in Manchester at about 3:30 on Tuesday afternoon and then somewhat foolhardily hired a car and drove from Manchester to our place.  I'm not sure I would want to navigate a car to an unfamiliar place after a long haul flight, but it all worked out well.  He arrived at our place around half six, in time for dinner, wine and a good catch up.

I had taken Wednesday off so I could go out to play.  So had Tabitha and Gareth. So after a pleasant stroll around the wetlands behind our house we bundled into our car and drove out to Bakewell through the Chatsworth Estate.  It is true that this is not the most direct way, but it did take us through some pretty villages and beautiful countryside and, of course, past Chatsworth House.

Tabitha, Gareth and Cally came from Sheffield on the bus and joined us in Bakewell.  I had been thinking that we could buy fish and chips and eat by the river, but Christian managed to bring some cold, showery weather with him so we abandoned that plan and went to one of the pubs for lunch.  The Builder and I stopped going to The Peacock some years ago when the quality of the food went so far downhill that I had failed to eat my lunch the last time we had gone it.  However, we noticed that there were new signs out the front and decided to give it a go.  I think we may have to put it back onto our list of places to eat. The food was beautifully presented and was more than a little tasty. The beer and wine were palatable. Plus they were very welcoming to Cally.

The weather forecast had been for a showery afternoon.  This probably wouldn't have stopped us going for a wander around the town, but there was a bus for Chesterfield due pretty much at that moment. Tabitha, Gareth and Cally hopped aboard and trundled off to our place. The Builder, Christian and I might still have had a bit of a potter but the shower that accompanied the bus was quite heavy. So we hopped in the car and headed back to our place, where there was more beer and more wine and much merriment.  Then Taffa, Gaz and Cally hopped on yet another bus and headed home.  Christian, The Builder and I went to The Nettle, where Christian had the obligatory burger and chips. And then we went home and fell into our respective beds.

It was a very early start this morning. Christian wanted to leave for Newcastle, where he has gone to a conference, at 5:30.  You can't let someone head to Newcastle at that time in the morning without first feeding them coffee and a bacon roll! Fortunately, I had acquired some rolls from a bakery in Bakewell and we usually have bacon in the freezer.  His departure was enlivened by his (and The Builder's) complete inability to find the switch for his hire car's headlights. And you absolutely can't drive to Newcastle at that time in the morning in October without your headlights on.  Eventually (more by good luck, I think, than good management) he did find the switch - and off he went.  A flying visit!

Simon's coming next week.  I really must clean, tidy, dust and polish the house!!

Christian at The Nettle.  Click on him to reach the photo album

Monday, October 07, 2013

CATTLEASTROPHE

Bigger than a catastrophe. Much, much bigger than a kittenastrophe.  A DISASTER!!

Our lovely, lovely neighbours are MOVING.  Leaving! Going ;-(

They're moving to a single level place down Ankerbold Road somewhere.

I must admit that my very first thought was: "But you can't. Who's going to look after Marlo?"  But Steve says that they're only going to be a mile or so away and he can still feed Marlo and the birds.

So that's a relief.

But it's still not good news. They are excellent neighbours.  We will just have to hope that the new ones are as good.

In other news, we were at Bishops' House on Saturday morning, where there was a small art exhibition. This meant that we had loads of visitors. And I was working at the SHU open day on Sunday (where we had loads and loads and loads of visitors).

I did not clean, tidy, dust and polish the house in readiness for Christian's arrival on Wednesday.

I did, though, make up the spare bed so at least he'll have somewhere to sleep :-P

Monday, September 30, 2013

Autumn's Bounty

We have nearly 30 kg of Bramley apples to deal with :-S



And the freezer is full :-S

We have given a few to our neighbours on both sides. I have managed to squeeze a few into the freezer.  I have put some in one of the potato drawers in the cellar (strictly speaking, they are apple drawers. The Under Gardener made them for me when I saw a chest of apple drawers in a catalogue - so this year they are filling their real purpose).

I am going to have a bash at preserving the rest as apple sauce. I am given to understand that if you put hot apple sauce into oven-hot glass jars and put the lids on immediately it produces a seal which preserves the apple sauce.  I'll give it a whirl and let you know how we get on.

We also, on Saturday, pruned the cherry trees, the plum tree and the peach tree. The ducks and chooks were a bit puzzled by this but enjoyed playing around the branches and twigs once we had stopped lopping.

We were a bit surprised when we went down into the garden on Sunday afternoon, to find Curry and Udon pottering about amongst the currant bushes.  It appears that the bottom gate into the orchard had blown open and they had taken the opportunity to come out for a bit of an explore.  We have secured the bottom gate but decided that we might as well let everyone out while we were there to supervise.  There isn't much left now for them to get in and destroy in the vegetable beds.  We had hoped to encourage the ducks to come up and discover the fish pond.  But no. They were more interested in ruining the afternoon for a quite surprising number of slugs and snails that they managed to find.  I think we might let them out again when there is someone around to watch them.

We have now emptied the greenhouse on the allotment that had the pumpkins and cucumbers in it. We brought home two 2kg butter pumpkins and a cucumber that was hiding at the bottom of the plant and which we didn't realise was there. There are two capsicum plants in there but they haven't fruited.  Oddly enough, the ones that we plonked outside in a garden bed on the allotment are absolutely covered in peppers. It's a bit strange. I would have expected it to be the other way around!

Food

There is a free little magazine that gets delivered to us about once a month or so and which is more or less a collection of adverts for local shops and small businesses.  I don't look at it all that closely, but both of us tend to flick through it to see if there's anything interesting happening.

Last month there was a voucher for the Marsh Green Farm Shop.  Spend over £50 at the meat counter in Marsh Green and get £10 off.  The voucher was valid in September so on Saturday morning we armed ourselves with it and headed off.  In order to get to Marsh Green we drive past the Nettle.  Alas, it was only 11:00 and much too early to call in for lunch.

We came back via the Nettle as well.  It was still too early to call in for lunch. But we waved at Sanford as we drove past.

We went home and The Builder collected nearly 30 kg of Bramley apples from the tree and I sorted out our haul of meat from the butcher's counter at Marsh Green.  Then we hopped back in the car.  The lure of the Nettle was too much for us.  Off we went for lunch :-)

Ordinarily, when we go to the Nettle for lunch I have a burger.  Occasionally I vary this and have their pie of the day.  On this occasion, however, I decide to throw caution to the wind and have their seafood assiette.  With chips.  And this is what I got:

Fish and chips, Nettle style

It was the nicest fish platter I've had in a very long while. I'm very glad that (i) we decided to head to the Nettle for lunch even if it did mean getting back in the car and (ii) I decided to be adventurous with my menu choice!

I have been catching up with the Great British Bake Off. In the most recent program they had the contestants making Paul Hollywood's fruit couronne.  I have seen Paul Hollywood demonstrating a savoury couronne at the BBC Good Food Show. I have even made the savoury couronne.  A couronne is usually made with a brioche style dough and I found it a bit too rich for a savoury dish. But I had some cheese that needed using up and some tomatoes that were beginning to look a bit tired.  I had bacon from Saturday's adventures in Marsh Green.  So I made this:


But with bread dough rather than brioche dough. And very nice it was too.  We had slow roasted pork for our Sunday roast with potatoes and pumpkin and carrots and sweet corn and zucchini all from the garden or allotment.  I had roasted some apples as well - but we didn't seem to have the room to eat them. Never mind.  They'll do nicely for today!

It was a very quiet weekend, really. We sat outside in the nice sunshine on the patio and watched the ducks and chickens ambling about. We sat inside and caught up on last week's televisual treats.  We pottered about.  I did not get the house ready for the overseas visitors we are expecting over the next little while. It was all good

Monday, September 23, 2013

Weekend Report

They were having trouble finding people to staff Bishops' House at the weekend so The Builder and I thought that we might go in on Saturday morning.  We were heading into Sheffield anyway and it was no great effort to go in a few hours earlier than planned.  And we were quite busy. Some of the local schools are doing projects on the Tudors so children came in with their parents to have a look at our Tudor building.

Then we went to Waitrose, where we ran across Tabitha. So we collected her up and went to her place, where we ran across Gareth and Cally. Then we all went out to Chatsworth to raid the Butchers' counter in the farm shop. Then we went back to our place and drank wine and ate tacos and generally pottered about.


Cally stood on the chook food bin so she can see over the fence and watch the trains

Taffa and The Builder deep in conversation

Gaz and Cally watching the trains

Cally running like the wind, and all a-blur

Sitting outside in the unexpected sunshine

Dinner waiting to be eaten
We all got up and nice early on Sunday morning and had bacon and eggs for breakfast.  We talked to Grandma Stella and Grandpa Tony on Skype.  We also talked to Lindsey and Ian and Lovely Lucy. And then we spoke to Austin and Kaori and Baby Tatsuki, and Cally showed how she can say hello and goodbye in Japanese, and how she can count to four (in Japanese - she can count all the way to twenty in English).

Then Cally rode her new bike into Clay Cross. And Gaz and Taffa and I walked into Clay Cross. And The Builder drove into Clay Cross and picked us all up.  I think that Taffa, Gaz and I could have easily managed to walk home again, but I don't think Cally would have managed to ride her bike back and certainly wouldn't have walked back.  And The Builder couldn't have walked at all - his foot is all bruised from when he fell over last weekend and it hurts when he walks. We sat outside in the sunshine and rank more wine and The Builder watched the Grand Prix (inside). Then we had slow roasted shoulder of lamb with roast potatoes and roast pumpkin and loadsa veg from the garden.  And Taffa, Gaz and Cally went home on the bus and the train and the bus. And The Builder and I stayed at our place.


Marlo enjoying the sunshine (and the lack of small children rushing around!!)

Look at the colour of that sky! (You may admire the grapes as well, if you like)

But this is what the sky looked like when I got up this morning

It's the start of the academic term today. Let the chaos that is First Term commence :-S



Monday, September 16, 2013

Emergency, Emergency ...

I was sat in the lounge room on Thursday evening, minding my own business, not doing anyone any harm - I was, in fact, watching a program about the 2013 UK fruit and veg harvests - when Twitter alerted me to the fact that Freyja was on a train, making an unexpected trip to Sheffield.

I must admit that my first thought was along the lines of: That's odd; Freyja didn't say she was coming to Sheffield this weekend.  This thought was swiftly followed by: But of course, it's an unexpected trip so she probably didn't know in advance.

But *why* was Freyja making an unexpected trip to Sheffield?

Freyja rang me.  But the phone line was crackly and kept dropping out. And all I could hear with any degree of confidence was "Simon"  and "hospital".

Simon's in hospital?  (This would be Freyja's Simon, not any passing brother that I might have with the same name!)

It turns out that he wasn't actually an in-patient. But he had been sent to the hospital as a medical emergency when he had turned up at his GP's surgery feeling not particularly well and the GP had done a blood test only to discover that Simon's blood sugar levels were astronomically, life-threateningly high :-S  He was, in fact, very close to being an ex-Simon. Which would have been a very unsatisfactory state of affairs.

Turns out he has type 1 diabetes. Which I suppose is also not an entirely satisfactory state of affairs but it is much less unsatisfactory than being dead. At least diabetes can be kept under some sort of control.  Well - it can once you know you've got it. So Freyja and Simon are learning about diabetes clinics, and counting calories and carbohydrates, and using insulin and stuff.

And I am quite well informed about the state of the 2013 UK fruit and veg harvest. Just in case you were wondering.

I was on my way up to bed on Saturday night when below me I heard quite a lot of swearing, very closely followed by a very loud thump, followed by lots more swearing.  I turned round and went back downstairs, to find The Builder lying flat out on the lounge room floor.  It seems he had stood up to turn off the telly and to go and lock the kitchen door, and his ankle had simply given out underneath him and toppled him like a mighty oak. He had, in fact, nearly taken out the telly!  I had to administer medicinal wine and everything, thus delaying the whole going to bed process! He could barely walk yesterday and had to have more medicinal wine with his lunch.  And with his supper.  Fortunately, I was not incommoded in any way and could drive to the dairy for milk, and could make our Sunday roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, and apple and blackberry crumble.  I could also top up the medicinal wine supplies. So all was good. Well, from my point of view it was.

But I think that might be enough excitement for now.  It's the week before Freshers' Week. Nice and calm and quiet is in order, before the chaos and bedlam of First Semester kicks off.