Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Joan's birthday lunch

We had been a bit worried that we might not make it to Joan's birthday lunch after the snow fell and the roads in Sheffield largely closed down.  Sheffield is built on quite steep hills which the gritters and snow ploughs struggle with and our route into Sheffield is up and down one of those steep hills.  Joan's home is up another. It was looking a bit problematic on Saturday.

Fortunately council grit and salt, the sun plus the efforts of various members of the public meant that we could get to Sheffield today, even if it took much longer than usual.  Everyone else who was expected had also managed to get there. And so we got to Joan's home to find her, three of her children, their partners and some of their children there with a mighty spread of finger food ready to celebrate Joan's birthday.

Penny tells me that the staff say Joan has had a good few days over Christmas but unfortunately today wasn't a good day for her. I think she might have been a bit overwhelmed by all the people around her. The rest of us had a nice time, though.  It was good to catch up.  We haven't seen Tim for ages - he wasn't available when we had the cousins' lunch when Matt, Belinda, Sage and William were here in the summer. It was good to catch up with everyone else too.

Click here for Joan's birthday album
I don't have a photo of Joseph on the album.  But he was definitely there. He helped Joan open her birthday presents!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

One of the downsides of having such an exciting time, what with trips to Salisbury, Christmas festivities and every thing else, is that all the usual routines get thrown out of kilter.  So this morning I went to do some of the usual Sunday things and found that I couldn't change the bed sheets as I usually do, because the one from last week hadn't been washed yet.  Likewise my pyjamas. The ironing hasn't been done.  So many things that have a regular pattern have been left undone.  I shall have to do better this coming week.  Although I am still on holiday from work so things may well continue to slide :-)

We made an attempt to go for a walk late this morning. It's a glorious morning and it seemed terribly wasteful to spend it sitting inside. However, the snow had slightly melted yesterday and then refrozen into icy sheets overnight so walking on it was not very easy and quite treacherous.  The Builder nearly went over twice. So we walked to the village shop and back - and the not quite 1 km took half an hour!!

Phil from next door but one went to Sheffield on Christmas Day, intending to return on Boxing Day evening.  He has only just got back now and is proving to be very useful - he had the good idea of ambling up the road to the council grit bin and is now scattering grit all over the road and shovelling the snow away.  Phil says that the main roads are quite clear - if you can get to them.  We are hopeful that our planned trip to Sheffield for Joan's birthday luncheon may still go ahead tomorrow.

Our garden at dawn this morning

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Boxing Day and beyond

Cally woke up on Christmas morning and was a tiny bit perplexed that it was Christmas but that there was no snow.  It was a day late!  There is now:

Our very own Narnia

There were many cars struggling to get up QVR on Boxing Day evening

Fennel and Celery are a bit puzzled by it all - early this morning

It's a beautiful morning

Out for a walk 

A burst of colour

Deep and crisp and even

Walking across the field

We have heating and hot water again.   A boiler man came and fixed it mid-afternoon yesterday

Just as well, given the snowiness  :-)

Friday, December 26, 2014


We had a lovely Christmas Day.  Tabitha, Gareth and Cally came to our place on Christmas Eve so were here when we woke up yesterday.  Father Christmas had been kept informed about Cally's whereabouts so knew to come to our place not hers.

We had Christmas tree shaped crumpets for breakfast

It was a beautiful, beautiful day with a bright blue sky. So we went for a late morning walk along the nature trail

We had snacky, nibble things for lunch, and lobster bisque mid afternoon.

Then we had our Christmas roast just before 6 in the evening. I had given some thought to buying a three bird roast, with a duck encasing a turkey breast enclosing some guinea fowl. It didn't seem worth spending £60 on this once I discovered that nobody actually likes roast duck all that much. And Tabitha isn't a big fan of turkey. So I abandoned that idea and decided to slow roast a shoulder of pork instead.  Then both Tabitha and Gareth said that, although roast pork would be lovely  they had been looking forward to trying the guinea fowl, because neither of them had ever had it before.  So I bought one to have with the roast pork.  It was a great success.  We might just have guinea fowl next year - although I would buy more than one!!

Cally had fish fingers for her Christmas meal.  She lervs fish fingers :-)  She saw me taking them out of the freezer and looked worried.  "Are they just normal fish fingers, gamma?  You didn't buy 'special' ones did you?"  She clearly remembers the fish cake fiasco from a couple of weeks ago.  But no worries.  I too remember and had bought ordinary every day fish fingers from the supermarket!!

We were all too full to eat the puddings I had made :-S

The only downside to the day was when we discovered that the boiler had run dry and was now no longer working.  We had to turn the central heating off and had no hot water, unless The Builder lay on his back and manually topped up the boiler so we could wash a few dishes.  It's not too bad in the house this morning, but the weather is forecast to get colder later today.  We are going to need the heating - and we can't expect The Builder to spend all of Boxing Day lying on his back in our bedroom topping up the boiler with water so we can wash all the dishes.  Thank goodness we have boiler insurance!  A boiler man is coming to have a look at it this afternoon

Click here for the Christmas photo album

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Santa run #3

It wasn't too bad in Waitrose.  It was very crowded, but not as crowded as I had feared.  We struggled to find some of the things we were looking for - they've recently completely refurbished the Salisbury store and they moved everything around.  We'll get used to it but of course we don't go in all that often. We found everything in the end, though.

It being quite a nice day - and remarkably mild for so close to Christmas - we went for a stroll in town.  The market was in full flow, with a farmers' market added to the side, so we went for a potter around there. And then we went back out to visit Gwen, who was feeling very much better, and looking a lot brighter.

So we kidnapped her :-P

We didn't really kidnap her.  We took her, by arrangement, out for a drive around the New Forest and then for lunch in The Bull in Downton. I was impressed with The Bull, because they had a specific menu for older people who might have smaller appetites. Gwen finished every mouthful of her chicken pieces, chips and peas!  And I think she enjoyed the trip out.

In The Bull
 When we went to visit Gwen in the hospital, I took with me my Farley dog. (Farley is  a character in a Canadian comic strip that I had been reading for years.) Gwen likes my Farley dog and was happy cuddling him while we were there.  When we left she suggested we might like to leave him with her.  We didn't.  But when we got home I looked to see how long it ought to take for a new one to come from Canada where they are made. Two to four weeks. That's enough time for us to get her one of her own for Christmas. We ordered one. And we waited for it to arrive.  And we waited.  And we waited.  Eventually, I contacted them to see if they could find out where he was.  I knew he had been posted. They emailed back, very apologetically. Although we had paid for him to be posted by air, someone had by mistake sent him surface mail.  No chance at all of him getting here for Christmas.

So we brushed up my Farley and made him look very beautiful and wrapped him in Christmas paper, and gave him to Gwen as we were leaving yesterday.  I think he will enjoy being a faithful companion to someone who is unable to get out and about much

(Although, I have to admit that as I was wrapping him, a little voice was saying: "But he's *my* Farley".  A sterner voice pointed out that I am nearly 60 and that it was a TOY that I was wrapping.  "Yes," said the little voice; "but it's *my* toy"  Tsk!!!)

Then we came home.  It wasn't a bad run, either, to say that we hit the Going Home time somewhere around Birmingham.  I think everyone must have been in the supermarkets!!

And now it is Christmas Eve.  I have ambitious cooking plans for today and tomorrow.  It will be a nice challenge for the new oven :-D

But perhaps I should consider the idea of getting up out of bed.

Oh - and the company that mistakenly shipped the new Farley by the wrong method has refunded all of the money we paid for him  by way of apology. I hope the new one doesn't decide to stop off en route and live a life of indolence on a tropical island somewhere!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Santa Run #2

The Old Mill is situated very conveniently for a pleasant stroll into the Salisbury City centre, across the meadows made famous by John Constable. So after a hearty breakfast yesterday, off we set.  I needed some bits and pieces before we headed off to Winchester. It was a lovely walk to start the day.

Then we hopped in the car and took ourselves off to Winchester, via the Salisbury Waitrose so I could post the last of the calendars.  The Waitrose car park was absolute bedlam!  I am hoping to go this morning to do the last of the Christmas food shopping.  We need to get there well before half past ten that we were there for yesterday morning!

And so to Winchester, where we met up with The Builder's other two granddaughters, their mother and her partner, and little Freddie who will be one on Christmas Eve.  We haven't met Freddie before (we don't get to Winchester very often) and he is a real cutie.  To say that he hadn't met either of us before, he was remarkably friendly and happy to play with us.  We had a nice cup of tea and exchanged presents.  Then we went for a wander around Winchester before hopping in the car and heading back to Salisbury for a spot of lunch.  Which we had in the Boathouse which sits beside the Avon, at the side of the super enormous central car park.  Neither of us has ever been in there before and it was more than acceptable.

We dropped by to visit Gwen, but she wasn't feeling at her brightest and best so we headed back to The Old Mill for a quiet end to a lovely day.  We had an entirely unnecessary dinner in the restaurant.  Not that food was unnecessary, but I think we could probably have done with a sandwich and soup rather than the scampi that The Builder had and the stuffed chicken breast that I had.  I few we are going to have to go on a starvation diet when I go back to work in January.  :-D

Freddie and his mum Chloe

There are new people at The Old Mill and they have opened up the water race in the ancient building that houses the restaurant and which it is thought was once a cloth mill and then was later a paper mill.  It's very beautiful

It's ok, you won't fall in. They've covered it with perspex

Breakfast Builder

And we collected a rather nice bridge while we were in Salisbury yesterday morning

Right.  Time to griddle our  lions and brave the frenzy that is likely to be Waitrose.  Wish us luck!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Getting ready for Christmas and a Santa run

I dashed about like something possessed on Saturday. So much to do, such a long list of Things That Must Be Achieved before we left yesterday at lunchtime.  It was never all going to happen :-S

Take a deep breath.  Calm down.  The only things that absolutely must happen are that I need to put everything back in the landing cupboard before bedtime on Wednesday and I need to sally forth and buy vegetables and a few bits and pieces for Thursday. It won't matter much if I don't get all the food shopping done - we have a freezer absolutely stuffed with food.  But it would be nice.

So I went for my hair cut. I didn't take the cat to the vet to have his back legs looked at.  I'll do that with a proper appointment after Christmas rather than taking my chances at a Saturday drop in surgery.  I put most of the stuff back into the landing cupboard and threw away some of the stuff that went in there when we moved in very nearly nine years ago and which has not come out since - until now!  We went to Marsh Green for most of the Christmas supplies.  I finished putting tiny red baubles on the tree on Sunday morning.

And then we waved goodbye to Marlo and trundled down to Salisbury for a couple of days.

We called in to see Gwen first of all.  She's escaped from hospital and is currently in a care home not all that far from when The Builder's sister lives.  It's easily in walking distance - much handier than Gwen's home in Nunton. The Builder's sister can't drive and it's not in the least convenient to get to Nunton by bus.  Gwen, of course, would prefer to go home - but she is much better looked after in the care home. And she can't possibly go home unless or until a care package is in place.  In the meantime, the care home is very nice and the staff appear to be lovely.  We are hoping that Gwen will settle in there and come to think of it as home.

We left Gwen in her room and headed to the Old Mill by the river Nadder, where we are staying for a couple of nights, and where Jeanette, Matt, Rebecca and Evie were meeting us for dinner.  It was a lovely evening.  We did the first of the present exchanges, ate some lovely food and had a merry and convivial evening.  Then they had to drive back to Waterlooville - and we rolled up the stairs to our room :-D

Another Santa run coming up today. We're shortly off to Winchester to see The Builder's other granddaughters, and his great grandson.

A Family Christmas Feast at The Old Mill:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Peddler Christmas Night Market

Here are the photos from Saturday evening

Pizza and spit roast outside 

Christmas stalls inside

Sharing a pizza with me

Outside stalls

More outside stalls

Monday, December 15, 2014


Friday was a day made up of very slight disappointments.  Nothing happened the way I was expecting it to at work.  Nothing went wrong as such, it was more that things didn't run particularly smoothly.  After work I walked to Waitrose, where I met The Builder and we made our way, slowly, slowly, slowly to the Heeley City Farm to pick up half a pig carcass that I had ordered some weeks ago. It took absolutely ages to get there, and it isn't all that far. Then we drove back into the city centre and went to the Peddler Christmas Night Market, which was due to start at 5:30 but which hadn't really got going when we got there.  We pondered the possibility of going for a mooch round town and coming back later. But then we thought that there was half a pig in the boot of the car.  We might just as well go home and eat some of that. So we did.

So we had pork chops for tea, and very nice they were too. But we have been very spoilt by the butcher at Marsh Green who, when we buy half a pig from him, butchers it ready for small families, makes mince with the offcuts, and gives it to us freezer-ready. The pig from the Heeley City Farm butcher came with chops, but all the joints were enormous, and needed making ready to put into the freezer. Plus it came with half a head, a tail, some feet, some odd bits that I didn't recognise and an ear. But no mince. Another slight disappointment to round off the day.

In the car on the way home, I said to The Builder that it wasn't going to work going to any further Peddler markets after work on a Friday.  They don't get going early enough for us to go to when I finish work. And it's not a big enough event to make it worth coming all the way into Sheffield just for that.  Maybe we should do an afternoon stint at Bishops' House and head on after that.  Good idea, said The Builder.  We can do it tomorrow!!

And indeed we could.  We do not usually do afternoon shifts at Bishops' House and we had been there the Saturday before.  But they are struggling for volunteers at the moment and keep having to close the house for lack of people to open it.  We had already said that we could do Saturday afternoon as an extra shift.

I was still a bit puzzled about what to do with all these odd bits of pig. So I bunged them all into my stock pot on Saturday morning and let the stove sort it all out. I only JUST remembered to turn it off again before we headed off to Bishops' House at lunchtime. We were there from 1-4 and had enough visitors to keep us amused - and quite enjoyed doing a shift that was at a different time from our usual one. Then we retraced our steps to the Peddler Market and found quite a few people there and lots of interesting stalls to look at and lots of food stalls to buy yummy things to eat.  We shared a pizza and then had a delicious pad tai. We had a glass of wine each. I didn't have an espresso martini - and I really wish that I had!! I'm not usually a big fan of cocktails, but lots of the stallholders were drinking them and they looked lovely! And then we went home again.  Friday might have been made up of very slight disappointments, but Saturday certainly wasn't.

I went to sort out the pig stock on Sunday morning, and found that the stock had turned to jelly and the jelly had set so well that I couldn't get the bones out!! I had to gently melt it all down again :)  I'm going to have to make some raised pork pies :-D  But no time for that on Sunday.  Paul and Carol were coming to lunch and I had to tidy the house so they had somewhere to sit and somewhere to eat.  Plus, of course, I had to produce lunch.  A lunch which was nut-free, strawberry-free, gluten-free and vegetarian friendly.  No difficulty at all.  We had miso soup with rice noodles and sliced spring onions.  Then we had a tofu sweet and sour with both firm tofu and fried tofu cubes with extra vegetables thrown in for good measure, with rice on the side.  And then we had stewed gooseberries and apple with custard.  It was all very delicious, if I do say so myself.  It is, however, possible that when Paul and Carol went home again, we should have tidied up the kitchen instead of repairing into the lounge room and opening another bottle of wine. It was not a pretty sight at 6:30 this morning!!

Last week at work before a fortnight's break and Christmas.  I'm looking forward to having a couple of weeks off. I'm getting a bit tired.

(I made the sweet and sour following this recipe.  I don't care much for pineapple, so replaced it with pink grapefruit juice.  I've used yellow grapefruit juice before as well.  I also used gluten free soya sauce. Most soya sauce is made with added wheat flour! And obviously I used tofu, not chicken)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Weather Dogs are in a playful mood

So far this morning we have had a tremendous Wind which blew up seemingly from nowhere. With that came Thunder and Lightning, apparently overhead. That was followed shortly after  by a large enough Hail storm to coat the pavements in white. That lasted for an exciting five or six minutes and then it all went away. Then we had Sleet, followed a little after by Snow. Then all that went away too and now we have a Blue Sky and the beginnings of sunshine.

It's only 8:30 in the morning!!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Birthday Festivities

We had quite a busy day on Saturday.  We went to Bishops' House for the morning, and were visited by the grand total of four people.  Unfortunately, we had to close at 1 because there were no volunteers for the afternoon.  The Builder and I might have been persuaded to stay on, but we had other plans that couldn't easily be changed at short notice.

After Bishops' House we went to Waitrose so I could use a £6 voucher that was about to expire. And then we went to visit Joan in her new care home, much more conveniently located in Walkley. We didn't ever get to visit her in the home she had moved into on the other side of Sheffield, partly because she wasn't there very long (it wasn't entirely suitable for her needs) and partly because there wasn't a convenient time to drive out there.  She didn't know who we were - we were two amiable visitors who arrived bearing festive chocolate cakes. But that was OK.  We knew who she was.  One of the lovely attendants made us a cup of tea each and brought a plate of biscuits so we had a lovely afternoon tea with her and then made our way home again.

Sunday was my birthday and we spent it fairly quietly.  I received lots of birthday cards, many, many Facebook messages, a teabag and a poem :-)  (The teabag came in a birthday card from Yorkshire Tea, the poem was written and framed by Freyja). I also received a book and some Amazon money, which I have spent on a terracotta pizza stone.  And The Builder and I went to The Nettle for a celebratory lunch.  I had a truly lovely starter of pheasant, bacon and pea puree, followed by turkey and beef and all the usual Sunday accompaniments, followed by ice cream.  The Builder managed a proper dessert but I think anything more weighty than ice cream would have defeated me!

I had Monday off work and we headed out to Chatsworth to the Farm Shop for a few bits and pieces. We had thought we might have lunch in the local pub, but we were there way too early for lunch.  So we ambled about for a bit, calling in to the Garden Centre on our way past, and then into the supermarket.  We were pondering whether to go to one of our local pubs for lunch, but then I thought that I had bought a nice piece of lamb shoulder in the Farm Shop and we might as well have that.  So we had a lovely Sunday-Lunch-on-a-Monday at home instead.

I didn't go to my Japanese class last evening.  Partly I  was a bit tired after all the birthday celebrating.  But mostly because the idea of spending an evening playing games, singing songs and watching anime in celebration of the last class before Christmas did not in anyway fill my heart with joy. I went home and roasted a chicken instead :-)

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Winter Sunset

Looking across to Queen Victoria Road

Can you see the bird?

Tolkien-esque tree
It was a beautifully sunny day yesterday.  Today has been foggy and gloomy and dank.  At this time yesterday it was still light and the sky was pink.  Today it is pretty nearly dark!

More Christmas Markets

For all the years that I have lived in or near Sheffield, there has been a Victorian Christmas Market at the Kelham Island Industrial Museum. Usually it is held on the first weekend in December, which is often my birthday weekend and so I am almost always busy, or away, or partying (or all of these things!) and somehow I have completely failed ever to go. 

Until this year.  This year it was held on the last weekend in November, which is not my birthday weekend.  Tabitha, Gareth and Cally were intending to go.  did we fancy joining them?  And we did.  So we took a bus, a train and a tram from our place to Kelham Island.  We met Tabitha, Gareth and Cally outside.  And in we went.  And it was lots and lots of fun.  

First lunch.  There were lots of food stalls in the central courtyard.  The Builder and I had hearty  braised brisket burritos, he had a pint of beer (because he was not driving home - the car was still in Tupton), I had a glass of wine.  Cally had an enormous banana and chocolate pancake.  It was really quite exceptionally sweet!!  Then we went off to explore the various market stalls, Christmas activities, industrial museum activities.  They even ran the big steam machine in celebration of the occasion

Tabitha and I took Cally on the Ferris Wheel before we left.  Tabitha is not a big fan of Ferris Wheels.  She doesn't like heights very much.  Cally has no fear of anything other than motorbikes and (for some odd reason) hand driers.  Ferris Wheels hold no anxiety for her!

Click on the Bessemer Converter to get to the Kelham Island photo album.  (No, I don't know what a Bessemer Converter does - look it up :-P )

A quick drink in a local pub, then Gareth drove everybody back to our place, where we had Aussie burgers for tea.

We all had pancakes for Sunday breakfast and readied ourselves for our second adventure of the weekend.  We were off to the Peak Edge Hotel and Red Lion Pub for their Christmas market. It was where we all went to the summer market back in June or so.  And it was every bit as good as it was in the summer. Some of the same traders were there, but there were different ones as well and mostly, of course, they were selling Christmassy stuff. I have made a significant dent in my Christmas shopping list!

On to Marsh Green for a spot of something for lunch, then back home to crank the new oven up. Not long after we had roast lamb, roast potatoes and veg to keep us going.  Cally is not a big meat eater.  She likes processed meat but finds chops and steaks and roasts a bit difficult to chew.  I had bought her a fish cake to replace the lamb on her plate.  She was hugely reluctant to eat it.  We thought this was a bit odd.  She likes fish cakes normally.  So I had a taste.  Tabitha had a taste.  It became very obvious why she wouldn't eat it.  It was really horrible and tasted a bit like dried fish food smells!  We took it all away and gave her another roast potato instead.  Next time, instead of spending a lot of money on "luxury" fish cakes, I shall make my own!

Friday, November 28, 2014

I got home from work yesterday evening and found this parked outside our house!

What?  No, no - it's not the Tardis.  It's a police car.  With many traffic cones, closing off Bridge Street and Hag Hill.

I knew the road was closed, for The Builder had rung me to say that he might be delayed picking me up from the station because the road was closed.  I hadn't realised that there was a police car with its blue lights on, parked pointing towards our driveway.  They are building a housing estate towards the top of Hag Hill and a truck had managed to spread clay and mud all over the hill and vehicles were struggling to stay on the road.  So the road had to be closed until it could all be cleaned up - which took a couple of hours and infuriated everyone who wanted to travel up or down the hill. It particularly infuriated people who live in houses up the hill who had no alternative route they could take. There aren't all that many houses up Hag Hill. It's mostly fields.  But there are enough.  I think some of them gave up in the end and parked around our place and walked the rest of the way.  There were unfamiliar cars parked around about when we came out this morning.

The road is beautifully shiny and clean now.  A great big road cleaning truck came and sorted it all out.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Markets and Merriment

We woke up this morning to persistent and determined rain.  This was a tiny bit of a worry.  We had plans for this afternoon which involve being outside.  Although, if it continued to rain like this, we might very well have amended those plans!  Some of them, though, didn't require dry weather.  So at 11:00 we hopped in the car and took ourselves into Sheffield.

They were holding a medieval fair at Bishops' House so we went there first for a bit of a potter around. By the time we got to Norton Lees, where Bishops' House is situated, the rain had dropped to a persistent drizzle.  There weren't crowds of people in the house (and I think not as many stalls as in previous years, but I'm not sure about that). But there were enough to give it a gentle buzz.  And by the time we came out, the drizzle had more or less stopped and it was just grey and damp.

We drove into the city centre - and found that the places where I had intended to park were all chock-a-block full.  So we parked in one of the multi-storey car parks and made our way to The Rutland (the Sheffield one; would have been silly to park in the Sheffield city centre if we were intending to go to the chesterfield Rutland :-D ).  There we were met by Tabitha, Gareth and Cally, and by Freyja and Simon.  I had thought that this was the first time that we had all been together in one place since Freyja got back at the end of August.  But I am reminded that we have, in fact, all met for lunch at Tabitha, Gareth and Cally's place.  However, Freyja and Simon are heading off to Darwin and Melbourne on Saturday, so it was nice to get together for lunch before then!  And a delightful lunch it was too.

When we came out, the grey clouds had gone away, the dampness had dried out, and the sun was shining in a blue, blue sky.  So we wandered down The Moor to look at the fair ground rides and the animals from the Heeley City Farm and the Christmassy things.  The Builder and I didn't plan to stay for the official turning on of the Christmas lights, but we were happy to  wander around and look at things in the sunshine.  And the Moor Market was open as well.  It's not usually open on Sundays but it is now up until Christmas.

Then the Builder and I pootled off home again, where he watched the final Grand Prix of the season, which we had recorded for him (it was actually on while we were in the pub).  And everyone else hung around to watch the lights turned on, and to inspect the Christmas market on Fargate.  I've already inspected it.  I have bought myself a new hat from it :-)

I enjoyed today a lot.  But I am very tired.  I haven't been sleeping well for some reason.  I think an early night might be called for!

Tabitha, Freyja and Cally on the Runaway Train this afternoon

Sunday, November 23, 2014


You may possibly remember (although you probably don't!) that our wall oven died on us last January, just before we were due to head to Singapore, thence Melbourne and Japan.  We decided that we wouldn't replace it at the time, given that we were about to disappear for a month, so bought a little bench-top oven and made do with that.

While we were away we decided that if we were going to buy a new oven, we would save up and buy a proper, nice double oven.  The Builder would make adjustments to the cupboard the oven sits in so it would fit.  And from time to time we would look at ovens in shops or online.  And we would ponder.

In the meantime, of course, we got used to living with a mini-oven, frustratingly slow though it could be at times.

Then we realised that Christmas was just around the corner.  The mini-oven almost certainly wouldn't do for showcase Christmas cooking.  So we griddled our lions, amassed what money we had in one place and went to Curry's this morning to sort out our oven.

We couldn't have our first choice.  Not only were there none in store for us to take home, but there were also none available for delivery in the foreseeable future :-S  So we decided to go for our second choice.  None available in store for that, either, but at least we could have one delivered in a week or two. That will do.

I was just about to pay for it when the lady said: "I assume you have an electrician on standby to fit your new oven?"  We assured her that no electrician would be needed.  The cabinet for the oven would need adjustment, but The Builder could do that, and we already had an electrical socket to plug it into, where the previous oven had been.

She looked at us.  "Oh no," she said.  "You can't plug in a double oven.  The voltage is too great.  You need to have it hard-wired in by an electrician."

That won't do.  In order to have it hard wired, we will need to have the whole of the downstairs rewired, in which case we might just as well have the whole place done properly.  And if we were going to do that, we would have had one or two of the overhead lights moved, and have sorted out the various odd socket locations and removed some switches that don't seem to have any particular purpose.  It would be a massive and very expensive undertaking.  Not one that we have budgeted for, not one that we have saved for - not even one that is high on our priority list of things to do. No double oven for us, then.

So we bought this instead

The Builder installed it with almost no fuss and it now has a piece of pork shoulder slow roasting in it.  I'm going to make some cupcakes as well - the little oven makes nice cakes but my 12 space cupcake tin won't fit in it. New ovens take a bit of getting used to so I need to practise and play with it.  So far it seems to be quite effective.  But really, there was no need for all this waiting, saving and making do.  If we had only known that double ovens couldn't be plugged in to a socket --- we could have bought this back in March!!

(But as several people have pointed out, we do now, effectively, have a double oven with this and the mini-oven combined.  And we have a bit of money sitting by to kick start our next project.  Shall we have the wood burner or the dropped kerb done next, do you reckon?)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


We made an unexpected trip to Salisbury this weekend.  The Builder's mother went into hospital on Friday for an operation on her hand and shoulder.  She had to have cancerous growths removed.  We knew she was going in.  We knew when the operation was.  But it was only after I had got home from work on Friday that I thought - you know, we really ought to go down and visit her in the hospital.

I had a look at my diary and discovered that I had no appointments on Monday, so I put in a leave request for Monday and booked us into The Swan in Stoford on Sunday evening.  Visiting hours at the hospital are from 2pm so we took ourselves off at about 11 and got down there in time to go and visit for an hour or so.  Gwen was looking quite cheerful but was a bit cold and a bit bored.  She's not used to spending all her time cooped up in bed but can't get out of bed because of the drainage tubes and so on.  Anyway, we warmed her up with some extra blankets and left when she was beginning to look a bit tired.

We used to stay at The Swan in Stoford very regularly but haven't been for quite a while.  It was rather nice to stop by again.  But we didn't stay long after we had checked in.  Jeanette and Matthew had invited us to go to their place near Portsmouth for a Sunday roast.  And very tasty it was too.  Bailey their puppy is now six months old and nothing like as scared of things as she was the first time we met her.  It was good to see Rebecca and Evie too (as well as Jeanette and Matthew, of course!).  Then back to Stoford, time for a glass of wine in our room there, and so to bed.

I slept very well.  It was quite a comfortable bed.  But not for The Builder.  The doona was too short for him and his feet well and truly poked out from underneath it.  He woke up several times with frozen feet!!!! He should have put his socks back on :-D

We had a plentiful breakfast, which really should have seen us through until we got home again.  And we pootled into Salisbury and went shopping and browsing in Waitrose (which has been refurbished and completely changed around since last we were there!!), and in Lakeland, and in Dingham's, a tardis like cookshop on the market square.  But what to do then?  It was much, much too early to go back to the hospital.  It was only 20 past 11.  So we got into the car, out of the rain and drove off pondering where to go.  Then I saw a sign to Stonehenge and remembered that there is a brand new visitor centre there which I quite fancied seeing.  So we went there.  And it's beautiful!  Fortunately, we could go just for a short time because we have National Trust membership cards.  You wouldn't want to spend £15 just to look at the visitor centre!!!  However, entry was free for us and we had a lovely time pottering around, even if we didn't really feel much like going to inspect the stones themselves in the rain!!

The new visitor centre in the rain
They've built huts like the ones the original builders of Stonehenge would have lived in

Inside a hut
It's quite a cosy little neolithic village

Right.  Hungry work, exploring visitor centres and the gift shops of ancient monuments. Breakfast had definitely worn off, so we headed back into Salisbury and had lunch at The Old Mill.  Simon and Steve have now decamped off to Monmouthshire and there are new owners.  But unusually for new owners, they have kept pretty much all of the old staff, who remembered us from our previous few visits.  The food is as good as it was before too. An excellent lunch.  Then we made a quick visit to the hospital to visit Gwen and then headed on home.

It took FOR EVER to get home ;-(  There were hold ups everywhere, caused by broken down trucks, minor bingles, big bingles, and (very excitingly for us, although not for the occupants of the car) a vehicle on the motorway absolutely and positively ablaze!!!!  I've never seen a car quite so comprehensively on fire!  But eventually we did make it home, where the cat was very pleased to see us.

Back to work today.  Can't say I feel like going.  I'd very much rather stay in our cosy bed, where the king sized doona is more than big enough to cover The Builder's feet!!

Sunday, November 16, 2014


I don't think the fog lifted at all yesterday. Not even when it rained.  And it definitely did rain - we were heading out (fortunately in the car) and the heavens absolutely opened!  Didn't daunt the fog, though.  And it didn't daunt us.  We went to the Post Office to send some stuff Japan-wards.  We went to Clay Cross and dumped some stuff in the clothes recycling bin and we finally made it to Marsh Green to visit the Farm Shop.  No Christmas market this week, so we could actually park the car and go in.

The Under Gardener has begun digging up around the pond.  But no digging today, in the fog and the rain

Grassmoor seems to have vanished

Dogwood bush 

Twisted Witch Hazel, just starting to turn colour

Looking up towards our house
The fog didn't daunt the chickens and the ducks either.  I let them out for a wander around, and the chooks made a hasty beeline for the greenhouse and amused themselves for ages and ages having a massive dust bath.  The duck and chook run is exceptionally muddy at the moment, so no dust bathing is available in there.  The ducks don't mind the mud and the rain so just pottered about outside, dabbling up many tasty morsels from under the leaves and grass and fallen over flower plants

Curry, coming to see if I have any tasty titbits (I didn't)

Dimsim is moulting.  Funny time of year to moult, in my view!

Fennel and Celery out enjoying the chance to explore
Right.  I'd better get on.  We're heading down to Salisbury shortly and I am not ready!