Monday, November 30, 2015

Wet and windy

The weather forecaster on the radio this morning said that the forecast was quite simple.  Cold in the north, mild in the south and wet in the middle. He did say that he would give more detail, but we didn't really need much more in the way of detail. It was windy pretty much all weekend and rainy for most of it. It's still wet and windy today.

We didn't do very much over the weekend.  The Builder has been decorating the pantry/cellar so I had a good sort out of the tins and jars and bottles that live down there. I didn't dust the lounge room. I did do most of the washing, but not very much of the ironing. I went and had my hair cut (the hairdresser was a tiny bit worried when I asked for a "summer cut, please"). I almost forgot to get dressed on Sunday morning and was still pottering around in my PJs and dressing gown mid-morning.  It was all nice and quiet and peaceful.

Mostly I spent the weekend practising making vegan friendly party food.  I am quite pleased with my custard tarts and fairly pleased with my apple tarts.  I'm not sure about the cake yet - I haven't tasted it yet but it looks a bit dry.  We'll find out later (I have a piece with me to have with my afternoon cup of tea).  I think I have a reasonable, vegan-friendly menu worked out for next Saturday's afternoon tea party.  I am also fairly confident that everyone who comes should be able to eat everything on offer. Provided, of course, that they have told me all of their allergies/intolerances/preferences. And I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to buy dairy-free oil spreads and nut- and dairy-free "milks" in our local supermarket.  I had been assuming that I would have to go hunting in the health food shops and vegan stores.

We have given up trying to feed Marlo his pain killer tablets.  Nothing that we were doing was working. He's just going to have to manage!

Freyja and Simon are off on a two day safari in the Sahara today.  There will be Bedouin tents and camels and everything (I'm not sure about food, but I expect there will be some).  Lindsey, Ian and Emily are en route to Johannesburg for a wedding next weekend.  And The Builder and I have a mere 12 sleeps to go before embarking on the World Birthday Tour. Hardly seems possible that it is so nearly time to fly.  It seemed such a long time in the future when I bought all the tickets in July!!

Friday, November 27, 2015

An expensive cat

Marlo, you may recall, was having trouble jumping and rushing around early this year. His back legs were no longer as powerful as they had been. He had lost his bounce.  So we took him to the vet, where he was diagnosed with arthritis and possible hip dysplasia and prescribed anti-inflammatories.

He is still on the anti-inflammatories and goes for a check up at the vet every now and then.  I decided that now would be a good time because we are going away for several weeks shortly and he will be going to stay with Freyja, Simon and Aidan while we are gone.  Better if he had a good supply of medication, and also that he was pronounced to be fairly healthy before we disappeared.

As it happened, he also had to have blood tests, because his bounce has deteriorated a bit, and he had a slight heart murmur and for various other reasons.  He has been put on pain killers in addition to the anti-inflammatories.  I had to get double lots of everything to tide him over while we are away cavorting.  It was a very expensive visit to the vet!!!

So we got home with his brand new pain killers.  Tiny, tiny things they are.  I hid one, crushed up, in his dinner.  He took one mouthful, backed away and looked at me with a very accusing glare.  What have you put in my food?  Why are you trying to poison me???  I hid one, crushed up, in his treat paste stuff that he absolutely loves.  He sniffed it and backed away, deeply offended.  I took the whole lot away and put a whole one in a new dish of food.  He ate most of the food - but not the bit that the tiny, tiny tablet was hiding in.  Sigh.

Somewhere, in the deep depths of the freezer I knew there were some turkey slices. Marlo's most favourite thing in the whole world is turkey. I found them and dug them out.  This morning I hid one of the tablets, uncrushed, pressed into a turkey slice.  He ate his contaminated turkey with no fuss at all.  All gobbled down, pain killer pill included.  So that's good then.  But he's supposed to have two a day for the foreseeable future.  That's an awful lot of turkey slices :-S  I'm going to have to see if there's another way to convince him to swallow them.

It's just as well that he is a friendly, affectionate and snuggly cat.  It would be very much cheaper and a whole lot easier to replace him with a new model that works :-D

PS Friday 27th November.  The turkey trick isn't working. It only worked the once.  Since then he has wised up, eats the turkey and spits the tiny, tiny tablet out.  I don't really know what to try next. The vet suggested crushing it up, putting it into some water and syringing it into his mouth.  I don't think so!!!

Monday, November 23, 2015

More windy weather

It really was quite spectacularly windy last week.  Positively gale-like. So much so that one of the concrete fence posts down the back (by the asparagus bed) cracked with the force of the wind and blew down, taking a couple of fence panels with it.

This was particularly a problem because that fence separates our "bottom" garden from the "bottom" garden that belongs to #10 Queen Vic Road. Their garden runs down along the back of several house but more worryingly isn't properly fenced where it backs onto the farm behind.

There are foxes on that farm.

There are chickens and ducks in our garden.  Our garden is properly fenced between us and the farm but if a fox got in through the big gap in the side fence, it wouldn't take much for them to get into the chicken and duck run!

So a man came later in the week and took away the broken post and the rather large amount of concrete that had been holding it in place.  He put a new post in its place.  But he couldn't replace the panels.  It was still too windy and the new post wasn't properly set in place.  We didn't want it to blow down before it had even started work as a fence post!

Fortunately, Tabitha, Gareth and Cally were coming over on Saturday afternoon. Equally fortunately, the wind had dropped by the time they arrived.  Gareth and The Builder put the panels in while I made pizzas for a late lunch.

Marlo had been sorely puzzled by the big gaps in the fence.  It wasn't right.  Not right at all! Much better now that it has all been put back together

While all this windy weather had been going on, Freyja had been cavorting in Copenhagen, where our friend Julia was visiting other friends.  She got back into Luton mid-afternoon on Saturday and made her way to our place.  Simon, in the meantime, had been doing useful things in Sheffield and got to our place at about 7pm. Once everyone was assembled we had a positive merry feast. We had hash browns and vegetable spring rolls and vegetable samosas.  Cally had baked beans and hash browns.  Then Cally went to bed and we all had chicken and leek (or quorn and leek for the veggies) pies with mash and veg.  Then it was bed time.

We did not have an entirely restful night.  The inflatable bed that Freyja and Simon were using gradually deflated and kept them awake. Simon somehow managed to find the sticky tape and made an attempt to stop the deflation, but it didn't work and the no-longer inflatable bed is now residing in our rubbish bin.  Marlo bounced from bed to bed and eventually ended up sleeping in the bath, where I found him at 3:30 when I went to the loo.  I took him into our room and shut the door. I had a coughing fit which woke the household.  Several people had snoring fits which woke the household.  Cally woke at just before five and felt very much that it should be time to start the day.  By the time it really was time to start the day, we were all in need of several cups of tea and/or coffee to get us all going! And breakfast.  But not too much breakfast for The Builder and me; we had lunch plans.

So after breakfast everyone relocated to Woodseats.  Tabitha, Gareth, Cally, Freyja and Simon all live in Woodseats and Bea and Steve (who we were visiting for lunch) also live in Woodseats.  The Builder and I are beginning to think that we should move there too!

We had a lovely lunch with Bea and Steve.  We feasted on home made ravioli, then chicken wrapped in ham with loads of veggies, then a nectarine crumble and a chocolate and cherry steamed pudding. Absolutely no need for anything else to eat when we got home!

I don't know about anyone else, but The Builder and I slept very well last night.  No alarms or excitements.  Nothing to disturb our slumbers at all.

The sky was a deep, dark, vivid orange as my bus trundled along the bypass this morning.  If I happened to be a shepherd, I would be Very Worried Indeed.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A weekend feasting

We left fairly early on Saturday morning and made our way down to Salisbury, where we picked up The Builder's mother, Gwen, and took her out for lunch. We haven't seen her for a little while, and won't have a chance to see her again before we head off on the World Birthday Tour in four weeks time.  The weather wasn't absolutely delightful so we took her to the Old Mill for fish and chips (burger and chips for me) and then out for a slightly soggy drive around in the countryside.

She was looking very well. Life in Bemerton Lodge clearly agrees with her. She has been positively thriving since she moved there.  The staff appear to be lovely and Gwen certainly seems to like them. And I was impressed, on Saturday, when we were there to collect her at lunchtime, to notice that the residents were being offered fruit juice, water or red or white wine with their lunches (as well as tea and coffee).  Gwen says the food is very good as well, though she is certainly not averse to being taken out to eat by way of a change.

Waiting for fish and chips in the Old Mill

We ran into The Builder's sister and nephew on our way out, after dropping Gwen back. The staff were a bit worried that they had come to visit Gwen, because "Some people came and took her out". Fortunately, Marie had known that we were coming to take her mother out. And had also figured out that we had probably brought her back, since we were there and it was unlikely that we would have left her in the pub!  We haven't seen Marie for ages either.  It was good to catch up with her as well.

Then we made our way to Waterlooville, where we were staying with Jeanette, Matthew, Rebecca and Evie for the night.  Ian, The Builder's son, came over for the evening and we had a merry time catching up with them all,  eating Chinese food and drinking an assortment of alcoholic beverages. Apart from Ian who was driving back home later and had to stick to the non-alcoholic beverages (and Evie who at only 8 is a bit young for carousing!).  We hadn't seem them for some time either.  We probably should Do Better all round when we come from from the World Birthday Tour!

We had a fairly leisurely start to Sunday morning. The Builder and I even managed to sleep in - well by our standards it was a sleep in!  I was up, ready to talk to Stella and Tony at our regular Sunday time.  But I wasn't dressed.  Or I was dressed, it being a bit rude to wander around stark naked in someone else's house, but in my pyjamas and dressing gown.

Evie and Bayleigh hard at work on Sunday morning!

Eventually pretty much everyone managed to get up and dressed for the day and Matthew proved us all with a magnificent Full English Brunch.  Then we left them to get on with things and took ourselves home, where we were greeted by outraged chickens and ducks, who had waited for a whole five hours for their breakfast (although there was still plenty of food in their hoppers so I don't know what all the outrage was about!) and a relatively relaxed Marlo who had eaten all of the extra food that we had left for him but who seemed to be assuming that we would eventually turn up again and give him some more!

And now here we stand on the brink of a new week.  I wonder what it has in store for us all.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


After the stormy weather yesterday morning, the day cleared into sunny but windy. Excellent, thought I. Very good drying weather.  And hung the washing out to flap around while we went to take some things to the charity shop.  Came back and engaged myself trying to make some "oat milk" (we have a vegan potentially coming to visit in a couple of weeks). I looked out the window. Something didn't seem quite right.  Where's the washing?  The line had snapped and the washing was disported all over the trees :-S  It was oh-so nearly dry so I hung it back on the other line and wrote "new washing line" on my shopping list.

Oat milk appear to be surpringly easy to make.  Now I need to see if it can be used to make tasty custard, using Mr Bird's egg-free custard powder.

The day went by and it was bedtime.  Up the stairs I went - and the handrail came away from the wall. Clearly I have a strength I was unaware of.  Help, I called.  HELP!  What, said The Builder, somewhat grumpily from his chair.  And eventually came to investigate, and found me stood there, holding onto the rail so it didn't pull completely away from the wall. He fixed it back, temporarily. And forgot all about it when he went  co come upstairs this morning carrying the cups of tea.  It's fixed back properly now.  I hope!

I did, however, with very considerable patience, manage to fix this to the wall

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


My goodness but it was windy yesterday evening and last night

As the X17 bus made its way along the Dronfield bypass towards Chesterfield yesterday evening, it was buffeted and blown about.  It was a bit like being on a small plane in a huge storm - a lot, in fact, like the time The Builder and I flew into Jersey in a gale and as we landed in St Helier the plane was caught by several gusts of wind and was blown about all over the place.  The pilot of that plane and the driver of the bus yesterday both did a sterling job of keeping everything upright and together.  But I bet the bus driver was delighted to get off the bypass - it is quite high in places and rather exposed!

Then I got home and went to light the fire.  As I was laying the kindling out, a huge gust of wind came blowing down the chimney and blew ash all over the carpet.  Then, after I had lit the fire, the wind blew back down the chimney and the wood burner filled with smoke - which began to seep out into the lounge room.  This was a bit worrying!  We closed all the air vents down on the fireplace and opened the window.  After the smoke had cleared from the wood burner, we tried again. This time the fire caught, but it wasn't terribly happy.  Took ages for it to look cheerful and chirpy.

Then it was bedtime.  I pottered upstairs with the cat.  Pulled the curtains across - and the wind gusted and tried to suck the (brand new!!) curtains out the slightly opened window.  I pulled the window shut (but didn't close the clasp). Throughout the night we were woken by the wind gusting and the window being sucked slightly open and the curtains being sucked out and blown around.  (I really should have closed the window properly in the first place!).

All in all, it was a very disturbed night.  And I had some very peculiar dreams to accompany the sound of the wind.   It came as something of a relief when it was finally time to get up.

It's a much calmer, nicer day in Sheffield today.  The sun is shining and it's fairly still.  But The Builder tells me that it is still very gusty in Tupton.  He nearly got blown over when he was feeding the chooks and ducks this morning.  Marlo, very sensible, is sleeping at the foot of our bed, out of the way of gusty wind - for we have now properly shut the front bedroom window!  (Our usual bedroom is still being decorated and is out of use for now)

Weekend report

So the weekend began extremely well with our dinner at Wagamama followed by my early birthday treat of an evening with the Hairy Bikers (and about 200 other people :-) )  Austin tells me that "wagamama" means selfish, self-indulgent or willful in Japanese, which seems an odd choice for a restaurant! I suppose I am self-indulgent when I go there - I always eat too much!!  But Kaori, my Japanese daughter-in-law, also said that it seemed a very strange name for a restaurant. I guess Wagamama isn't planning to expand into Japan!

Anyway, Friday was a very successful evening.

Then The Builder and I had our workout on Saturday morning, getting all that wood in from a huge heap in the drive to neatly stacked in the lounge room and in the porch.  We had to move fast because it was drizzling and we had paid for seasoned dried wood.  No point paying for dried wood that works well in our wood burner, only to leave it out in the rain getting all wet again!  About 30 minutes after we had finished getting it all in and stacked, the drizzle turned to an absolute downpour. We were hugely pleased that we were inside, sitting down with a celebratory cup of tea by that time! Marlo watched the wood moving enterprise with a definite expression of incredulity on his face.  You can very clearly hear him thinking "What on earth are you two up to now?" as he watches us engaging in what seems to him to be yet another madcap activity

We spent the afternoon at Bishops' House, where we had a good number of visitors. The rain had pretty much stopped by then - but it was very definitely on the windy side.

Then we went home, via the supermarket, and settled in for the rest of the weekend. We spent Sunday pottering about, sorting things out, doing useful things, eating and drinking, and reading and watching telly. It was very relaxing and restful.  Which goes nowhere to explaining why we both more or less slept in this morning and had to rush about to get the working week under way. Maybe we had got so much into Sunday Relaxed mode yesterday that it had carried over to Monday morning!

On Thursday evening I made a huge cauliflower and broccoli bake to use up a cauli that was beginning to look very sorry for itself.  Yesterday I made a pork and mushroom wellington.  There is lots left of both of these dishes.  I am currently reading Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's new book Love your leftovers.  I am very lucky.  I have lots and lots of leftovers to love :-) (I was simply going to freeze the leftover dishes to keep for later but have decided to be slightly more creative and combine them in one way or another - thus probably creating even more leftovers!!)

Hmmm. I'm not quite sure how I'm going to get down from here

I shall have a little snooze while I think about it

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Let the Birthday Celebrations Commence

… albeit a month early :-D

Freyja and Simon, mindful of the fact that we are vigorously decluttering our house and possibly therefore don't want additional Things to find homes for, bought tickets to an Off the Shelf event, featuring the Hairy Bikers for my birthday/Christmas present.

They gave us the tickets when we saw them last weekend - fortunately, we had no plans for yesterday evening an were free to go.  We don't often go out in the Sheffield city centre in the evening, and when we do it is usually planned well in advance.  All this spontaneity  was a bit disconcerting!

So The Builder came into town at about 5:30 and we went for an early dinner at Wagamama's.

Chicken katsu for me - it's becoming my regular choice.
Maybe I should be more adventurous next time!

Chicken with udon noodles and a chilli and ginger sauce for The Builde

And then we made our way up to the Octagon Centre at the University of Sheffield.  A drink in the bar, a bit of a wait in the auditorium while they ran sound checks in the theatre, and then in we went:

I had remembered to bring the tickets :-D

Waiting for them to arrive

And it was great.  The Hairy Bikers talked for about 30 minutes about their early lives and their Biker Travels and various other things. They were very funny, very entertaining and Quite Interesting.  Then they took questions from the audience for about 45 minutes. And then they went and signed books and things and we hopped on the tram and headed back to the car and thence home.

It was a great evening.  Thank you very much to Freyja and Simon for the tickets and the splendid launch to my birthday festivities.

This morning, quite early, a small truck pulled up outside our place and delivered this:

It took The Builder and me about an hour to get it all in from the driveway, out of the rain, and stacked up.  Tired now!  But wasn't it an inspired idea, all that time ago, to build what is effectively a huge wood store

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Front Bedroom

Some what to my surprise, I find that I have very few photos of our front bedroom. We have pictures galore of pretty much every other room in the house, but almost none of the front bedroom.  Had I realised, I would have taken some "before" snaps before The Builder took to decorating it.  But I didn't, so we will have to make do with the small number I took as we were moving in in 2006

A bit dark, sorry - but you get the idea

We still weren't properly sorted 
Still unpacking

I don't have any photos at all of the main wardrobe from before, but this is what it looks like now:

The gentle yellow and gold used to be white.  The jade panels used to be apricot. The tile stickers are new, as are the jade curtains

There used to be a "fitted" wardrobe where the bookcase is. It and its companion have moved to Heeley in Sheffield

We have temporarily moved in

because our room currently looks like this!

Monday, November 02, 2015

Tabitha tells me that Cally was a tad mystified to discover last Monday that her school had closed for a week.  After all, her nursery had never closed for a week. It was pretty much always open.

But I think she came round to the idea of a "school holiday" when she discovered that her mother had taken the week off work too and that there were many fun things planned to do.  Such as taking the bus into Chesterfield on Friday, where she and her mother met me and The Builder in the Chesterfield Museum, which is small but very cute.  And which was doing children's craft activities on Friday. Cally had a great time making and decorating a paper bat, and then looking around the museum with the rest of us.

The art gallery area has an exhibition about Time at the moment:

Then we went to the Rutland for lunch. It is possible that I really shouldn't have had the burger with additional chicken fillet and prawns, accompanied by chips and onion rings.  I was very full after all that!

It wasn't raining, so we all ambled off to Queens Park to play on the children's play equipment

And then it was time to go home. We headed back to Tupton on the 51 bus, while Cally and Tabitha went back on the train.  They did lots of interesting things during the schools' week off.  On Wednesday they went to the Butterfly House  where they discovered that the lemurs wander about at will.

Photo by Gareth
*I* Want to go and play with the lemurs!!!

Instead, we went, on Saturday, to Sheffield where we collected Freyja and Simon and headed out to Costco for a mammoth shopping session.  I had a list which had certainly been growing over the past few weeks, but I hadn't realised that it had grown to the extent that it pretty much emptied our bank accounts!  We are definitely going to have to be frugal over the coming few weeks - although at least we are unlikely to starve :-D

Freyja and Simon's attic bedroom has now been completed by the builders and is looking great

It is very definitely a Room with a View:

Sunday we spent sorting out and clearing up and making habitable the front bedroom.  We have moved into it temporarily while The Builder does our room.  Photos to come - but to my mind it is looking rather lovely now.  And definitely very spacious.  I'm hoping that our room will look just as lovely when it too is finished, though it won't ever be spacious - although it does have a view.