My Blog List

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Fresh Tarts

About 35 years ago there was a fuel crisis because the price of oil rocketed. This was caused by the OPEC countries limiting oil production and controlling world prices. England went into "home rule" and there was a standard 50mph limit so that we all drove at optimum fuel use. There were shortages and long queues at petrol stations and you were lucky to get served before it ran out.
During this time my sister owned a Triumph Herald and on a visit home from Australia we embarked in her trusty vehicle on a 50mph journey north to my Granny's in Durham. A journey of nearly 250 miles. We stopped overnight at "The Angel" in Hull and had a lovely B&B at the pub with a shower cubicle in the room and a dinner in the Snug. HALIBUT. Real halibut steaks with a fresh prawn sauce. I can still taste it. On arrival at Granny's we were welcomed by the roaring fire and a cuppa. Granny never had coffee and in her cupboard was the small jar you had left behind last time. It had usually congealed. So Trish and I arrived with eggs, milk, bread, bacon and stuff like that .
That particular visit, we went to Seaham Harbour. There was a second hand shop and I bought a fancy dinner plate. It was a pound. I have had it ever since. It has been to Oz and back and here it is showing off my mini mince pies.
Laura at Amongst the Oaks makes the most wonderful biscuits and I was so moved by her efforts that I have tried to improve my own. I made a batch of these the other day but they weren't worthy of posting. Today I made some more and am more pleased with them but they still rank as quite rustic. You may also notice that there are only eleven.
Yes, Dear Reader, one had to be dug out of the teflon tray and eaten by me with a teaspoon. It was yummy.
Cheers Gillian

Monday, 21 December 2009

Christmas Cooks

I've always been a "Delia" fan. I have a 1976 edition paperback of her "How to Cheat at Cooking" and treasure it more than any first edition 1971...(well not really). But I have used it for many decades. I should have "short cut" as my middle name.
I'm watching Nigella tonight. She is good but not my favourite. I adore Rick Stein, Nick Cairn and many other British cooks, but I miss Kylie Kwong, Stephanie Alexander and other Aussie Cooks.
I certainly feel that my foodie ability has been enhanced by my time in Oz. Let's face it, there aren't many countries which can offer foods from tropical to sub-arctic origins at a full range of time spans/seasons.
I miss the availability of produce and ingredients that was available in Australia all year round and not dragged in from Africa but I never cease to be amazed by the "Ready Meal" varieties available here in the UK. BUT I have discovered that you can keep the next spare milk on the doorstep because it will be fresh when you want it even though it doesn't fit in the fridge.
Thanks DJ
Cheers Gillian

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Snow Shenanigans

At last the bengal "Princess Meeka Silver Glitz" has put herself to bed. Oh how precious she is about the snow! Three solid hours of manic behaviour preceded these ablutions.
I must admit she has a right to be mistrustful of the catflap since it froze shut a couple of nights ago while she was out hunting for non-dormant rodents. When DJ got up to make an early cuppa she was outside, leaning on it with both front paws and wailing like a banshee at him.

We have now sprayed it with de-icer and it seems to be swinging freely. It is regularly checked by her humble servants. She gingerly accepted an exit through the front door instead, first thing this morning, into the virgin snow from last night and tip-toed around the garden a bit, but decided she didn't like it and beat a hasty retreat indoors to continue demolishing the windowsill decorations.

She usually sits on the windowsills to keep an eye on the jackdaws which tease her from the overhead wires. She decided the tinsel was in the way and selected the mini crackers as well worth destroying.Almost too fast for the camera, she systematically culled half a dozen from two windowsills and the bookcase the little tree is on, and then tossed them about the sitting room, doing death leaps onto them from behind various bits of furniture.

At last she decided to give the catflap a go. She went in and out a few times, probably to test it and ran towards the end shed where her litter tray is and then back again to make sure it STILL worked and then....
again and....
Until there was quite a worn path and then she ignored her litter tray and dug a little hole in the snow. Greatly relieved she eventually returned to catch up on her sleep.
Tigger's favourite method of drinking is to sit at the kitchen sink and catch the dribbles as they fall from the tap. In order to improve hygiene I bought her a pet-drinking-fountain for Christmas. It has been ignored. Okay, so maybe it resembles the toilet but she has been known to drink from that too. Maybe she'll get desperate enough to use it soon. It hums a bit but I'd happily put up with that if she adopted it. Otherwise it has been an expensive and ugly addition to her corner of the kitchen.

I made mince pies last night and was pleased with my pastry which I haven't made for years. I have got lazy and purchase the readymade stuff, but the homemade was lovely enough to make the effort. I shall make more for Christmas because I'll need to after scoffing last night's batch. I mixed some marmalade into the mince and am enjoying the flavour so much it shall become a regular thing. It seems to take the slightly metallic taste out of the readymade mincemeat. I have made my own mincemeat before but it is meant to mature for a few weeks so I resorted to Asda's luxury blend. Great all round. Pics next time when I take more care with the tops and dust them with newly bought icing sugar.

Cheers Gillian

Tuesday, 15 December 2009


If you want to embellish your handmade cards with bells, think again.
In the first place they are so "dead tasteful" that I should have thought better of it. But I had already started with stick-on rhinestones (actually, I like them and may use them again) which lift the paintings from poor attempts at art to true seasonal crafts.
But then, when you get to the post office, they try to slip them through the "letter gauge". Oops, they don't fit and you have to pay small packet rate for your shoddy homemade cards.
I'll be surprised if the bells stay on all the way to their destinations.
The very first christmas cake ever cooked by me, is in the oven. According to Delia, the Goddess of Cooking, I'm not allowed to open the oven door until 5pm....even for a teeny peep. It's like cooking a yorkshire but costs more.
The washing up was horrendous....three large bowls, two small ones, electric beaters, whisks, measuring spoons and more. All for a 6inch square cake.

A buzzer has it early? shall I peep?

Cheers Gillian

Sunday, 13 December 2009


I had christmas-baubles as a theme for this Christmas and so I post on that theme........
I bought some bits and pieces which "finished" the cards I was assembling. I painted some vignettes and then bought some card blanks, trimmings and glue and put it all together. I painted little pics and made them look like tree-baubles. I stuck on peel-off greetings
I added little bells and ribbons at the top and then I pressed on stick-on rhinestones

I painted some of them in my landscape "style" and others were not any notable style so they got stick-on diamonds and stars and other gold stuff.

IT worked. I'm thrilled with the results and will send them off soon . If I know your address you might get one.

Cheers Gillian

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Christmas Decorations

I know some people manage to keep their poinsettias going from one Christmas to the next but I don't have a great deal of success with indoor plants. Poinsettias show their disdain for their new home by fading and shedding their green and red leaves as soon as my back is turned. I water them and it happens. I don't water them and it happens. I realise it is something to do with the temperature of the house but I do like to be warm, so the poinsettias lose out. Anyway, at the moment there are more poinsettias at the supermarket than litres of milk and they cost the same so I bought a few more!!! They seem to like to be in huddles of hundreds but it was three for £5, so three more came home to replace the two, fast-fading ones. Unfortunately, they don't fit in the fridge like the milk does even though they would probably prefer that sort of environment.

This is one of the old survivors and oops! a leaf fell off as I wrote this!!! Perhaps they don't like exclamation marks!!!!!

It would be tragic to allow me to treat real Christmas trees to the same central heating temperature, so I invested in a tinsel tree. I'm fond of Wilkos at the moment. It seems to have replaced Woolworths for many items and is easy to use and the staff are really friendly. I came home from Wilkos with this little GOLD tinsel job (not much point having a faux GREEN one) which has LED fibre-optic ends to the branches and they change colours beautifully. I tried to take pics of the different colours but they blur, so the blue will have to do. It looks really lovely in the sitting room and has been much admired by DJ and me, in fact, nearly as much as the new telly.

At WI a few weeks ago we got to paint ceramic blanks, which the tutor took away to glaze and fire. This much improved the overall look of the item but my "snowman" xmas-tree bauble still has an alarmingly grizzly look about him. I've secreted him amongst the lower branches where he is dazzled by the fibre-optics. The other two..."xmas tree bauble" and "holly bauble" are buried more deeply into the tinsel "foliage" for good reasons. If I had a child who came home from kinder with them I would have been proud. Me...I'm 61 and should be able to do better!

Aaaargh!!!The front door has been a bit breezy lately and so a door-curtain has been hung to exclude the cold wafts of air. DJ did the pole and I did the sewing. It only took a couple of hours. It's great to have that teamwork. It is simply whisked across a pole as the evening draws in (or is it "on"). It is so successful that the doors to the kitchen and sitting room have now been removed by DJ and stored in the shed. The whole downstairs is now a lovely warm open space.

My foot is doing really own non-medical opinion...and the stitches will come out on Friday. I have been obliged to keep the same dressing on all that time. I bath with the left leg dangling over the side of the bath. Tis fine and well and easy to do. I can see the bruising changing colours as the other toes peep out, but the big toe is well wrapped and out of bounds. I can move it up and down without pain. So..., I want to be able to drive again... VERY SOON. Maybe Saturday 19th

Cheers Gillian

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Yard For Yard

There has been some work done on the garden since moving in. The overgrowth, which looked endearing at a distance, was in fact pulling the facade of the house and the gutters off. A couple of devil-may-care lads with long ladders took that away in a couple of days. Here it is in progress. One of the lads did dreadful damage to the fingers of his left hand the next week, being reckless with a chainsaw in someone else's garden.Many months and 65tons of excavation later; the correct garden levels were exposed along with two manhole covers, the underfloor ventilation, the damp course and the previously permanently blocked grey-water drain. The drain was so badly blocked, it could not be rodded like the rest of the drain system and so had to be replaced. Water now drains away before I go shopping rather than later ...much later...when I have returned.
The first part of the paving is shown above. It is decorative and should not be used to carry the weight of a car but...
this area will be covered with blocks in sand and cars will be able to be driven in and parked.

In fact here comes D to park his car even though there is still work to be done on the gates!

This is now the view from where the gates will be. It is a bit bare but will soon benefit from next year's spring growth and new planters. In fact , I'm already planning for more plants than I have space but we will see how it goes.
Cheers Gillian

Striding Off

I show off the new TV which I shall watch a lot in the next few weeks, while my toe rests. Striding about is off the agenda for a while. I had a bony accumulation on my left big toe and it hurt when I walk, strode the fells or used the clutch a lot. Sometimes it justs hurt. So, last month, I went to the doctor to get put on the waiting list for a new toe.
Yesterday, no less, I was admitted to Shotley Bridge Hospital for day surgery to re-condition what I have, because they haven't perfected replacement toe joints yet. It is called a Cheilectomy and you can google gory videos of the procedure. So I did, as you do. It told me a lot more than the doctor did.
It's all over now and I have a splendid new shoe for a few weeks so that no pressure is put on my toe while I walk around. WALK!!! its more of a limping hobble, what with the left shoe two inches higher than my normal right shoe, and having to walk with the foot pointed outwards. AND I can't drive till the stitches are out, dressing off and I can do an emergency stop.
I hope the lead up to xmas doesn't get too much. D is wonderful and took me to the Hospital and fetched me and I will go and stay with him for a while and watch telly, read and knit and cook!
The front yard is lovely but google wouldn't let me load more pics so I have to do two separate posts.
Cheers Gillian