Thursday, 30 January 2014


Bobbin sat on spinning wheel.
I have an old Ashford Traditional spinning wheel that doesn't come out nearly as often as I wish. Which is a pity as spinning is a really therapeutic activity. Some might say monotonous but personally I find it very peaceful and relaxing. Mahatma Gandhi encouraged everyone to spin a little everyday for spiritual as well as economic reasons. Sounds good to me.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Kitchen update

Last weekend found us removing yet more of our fitted kitchen. This is a photo of the end wall that used to have units all along with a narrow top unit sat directly on the bottom as there is so little headroom in this kitchen. It felt claustrophobic and dingy. But what I really hated was that it blocked my access to the window in the corner.

Monday, 27 January 2014

First seedlings of 2014!

Seeds in propogator
My first seedlings have come through! Two pots of lettuce, one cabbage, one basil and one rosemary. The herbs are going to stay in the window and I'm really hoping to get a few leaves from them. They will struggle as the house doesn't get much light but there is no way that they will grow in my soggy clay soil.

Friday, 24 January 2014

What to do with stale bread.

Bread and butter pudding
When visiting my mother earlier this week she sent us home with two loaves of bread. These have sat on the side for a couple of days going stale. I hate waste so put on my thinking cap as to how to use these. My first thought was bread and butter pudding. This is loved in this house providing I don't put any fruit in. You would have thought that my boys were in heaven they loved this so much. I forget sometimes how easy it can be to make them happy.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

A little bit of sewing

New purse and pouch
I am so happy that I managed to squeeze in a little sewing this week. For some reason I'm not finding the time to craft at the moment but the creativity that this offers is very important to me so I've really been missing it.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Growing up a little at a time.

Organised pastries
My youngest son seems to be growing up in leaps and bounds. But every now and then he does something to remind me that he's still my baby. Look at the image above, it makes me smile. He was asked by his grandmother to arrange the pastries on the plate. He looked at the plate and very quickly established that there simply was not enough room (he can be quite analytical). So he stacked them in a tower.

Still my little boy.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Plant markers

Slate markers seen at Stourhead Gardens
Earlier this year I noted the slate markers at Stourhead and thought that they were a great idea for community gardens.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Feeling frustrated

Muddy, claggy field
I'm doing okay with my 20 miles in January goal... but I wish that I was doing better. This is not down to me for a change but due to the saturated landscape. There is a limit as to where I can walk from the house, at the moment each route I take is pretty much identical and I'm beginning to get bored with looking at the river, wonderful though it is. But I'm not ready to give up, just wishing that the land would get a chance to dry for a week or two. Fingers are crossed.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Spring cleaning.

Garlic cloves in modules
Okay, it isn't yet spring but the sun shone for a bit. I had a busy day getting started on the garden. When I say getting started I mean doing what I could without having to step too often onto our still water saturated land. So the shed it was then.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

My 2013 Christmas decorations: stars

Each year I make a few new decorations for the tree. This year, inspired by some that I saw in a Haskins garden centre, I'm making stars. Very simply made, a pile of stars using a cream calico fabric. Lightly stuffed with the contents of an old, lumpy pillow and embroidered around the edge with blanket stitch in bright colours. They still looked a little plain so I added a dorset button to the middle of each. I like them.

If I were to be picky I wouldn't use the large buttons again, the smaller ones look best. But as these are for my tree I'm keeping them as they are.

Dorset buttons are a type of button that used to be produced within Dorset. Mine are based on the blandford cartwheel and made using whatever rings I had around (I think one was the plastic bit left around the top of drinks bottle, not ideal) and embroidery thread. Looking up a tutorial to share I saw noticed several names used to describe the cartwheel design, I have no idea which is correct. All I can say is that the old ladies who taught me when I was a girl called it the blandford cartwheel and that name has stuck with me. 

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Storing coriander

Coriander packs straight from the freezer
I love coriander, an indian meal is not complete without it in my book. I also love to use it fresh in salads but my boy complains loudly. Unfortunately, despite trying every year, I have not yet succeeded in growing this plant, it either runs to seed or just doesn't get going. Thankfully I can now buy large bunches from the supermarket but I still never seem to have any when I need it.

Dried coriander just seems tasteless to me. I have tried coriander paste in a jar before, it was a bit like mint sauce but without the vinegar and was handy to use but ultimately expensive and still lacked flavour. Thankfully I have, thanks to an accidental throw into the freezer, found a solution that works for me. 
Coriander is broken up whilst still in the bag
After a quick look to check that the leaves are healthy, they now go straight into the freezer. Once frozen within the bag it is easy to crumple the plant including the stems and tip into a storage box.
Frozen coriander ready to use. 
A big pile of coriander ready to flavour my curry! Though it doesn't look as good as fresh the flavour is retained and that's the important bit. Time to cook some dahl, I think.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

My 2013 Christmas decorations: baubles

Decorated baubles, drying
I believe that this is the only craft that my boys helped me with this past Christmas and even then it was hard going getting them interested initially. But once they realised that glitter would be involved as well as a drying line across the room for J to bash his head on they were all for it!

Monday, 13 January 2014

A Cheesy Chips day

Cheesy Chips
Some days I have lots of get up and go, other days I get by on determination. But occasionally the dark grey skies dampen my enthusiasm to such an extent that I just want to forget the chores and snuggle up with my boys and watch a film or play games.

Friday was just such a day.

It was far from the worst weather day we have had recently, it just happened to be the day when we all wanted to say, 'Stop!' So we did.

Almost. We were good in the morning and forced ourselves to do the essential tasks that keep our household ticking over. But lunchtime came... and we had cheesy chips. These are a treat in this house, a very rare event. And my boys were satisfyingly pleased to receive this unusual lunch. The afternoon rolled out in a snuggly, cuddly but most definitely lazy way. Lots of discussions and quite of few biscuits thanks to an unopened tin left over from Christmas.

It felt good to take a break.

Friday, 10 January 2014

My 2013 Christmas decorations: wreath

After putting up all of this years decorations I looked at what was left in the box, a handful of faux foliage based items that looked chic in our old house but I've never been able to make them work here. So I let them be. Then I watched a 'how to do Christmas' type programme where I saw them using cable ties for many, many uses and I was inspired me to sort out a wreath for the front door using the odds and ends left over.

The wreath base is from an orange leafed wreath that I had purchased many years ago. The orange fell out of favour but I've been reusing this base with fresh foliage for several years. But this year it just felt too wet to gather the greenery so I had been putting it off.

Cable ties are a fabulous way to put this together. Quick, secure, I am so impressed! And if I want to re-do it next year then I can simply cut them at the back and it will simply come apart. So much easier than winding wire or, more usually for me, string around again and again to hold it together. Just a quick wrap of ribbon and it was finished. 5 minutes tops.

I still prefer fresh foliage wreaths but it wasn't going to happen this year so this has been a great compromise and has coped well with the bad weather that has hit us over the Christmas season.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Health: Walk!

I've got to lose weight. And get fit again. The easiest way to do this is to set myself a goal but not of weight to lose but of something I can more easily control.

This January I am going to walk 20 miles. I know, this doesn't sound like much and in the past I would have easily completed this in one week. But the problem with January is that, thanks to meeting up with lots of different people over Christmas, colds and bugs are continually passed around. I want to make my goal achieveable and if I go over it I won't be upset!

This year I have the bonus that I can be more flexible with my own time. I don't need to be constantly supervising the boys though I dare not leave them alone for too long either!

I hope that I succeed.

It's interesting to read over old posts from this time last year. This one seems quite apt and reminds me of how far I have come: January mission

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

My 2013 Christmas Food: Chocolate Yule Log

Yule Log
I have just found lots of photos that I haven't yet shared so though my decorations may now be down and packed away Christmas is not yet over on this blog!

First to share is this Chocolate Log. It was so easy to make that I highly recommend that you give it a go. Don't worry about making a swiss roll, just bake a normal sponge cake and leave it to cool completely. Then you can attack it with your knife, shaping it as you wish. My Yule log was made in two loaf tins, one small and one large. Despite this good start they both had to be carved quite a bit to resemble the correct shape and fit on the plate. Then they were sliced horizontally to sandwich in a couple of layers of plum jam. Finally I let my youngest have at it with lots of cocoa butter icing. Yes, an eight year old iced this cake. If he can, you can. The icing on the ends was a little that I had saved prior to adding all of the cocoa to the icing mix and I carefully smoothed this onto the 'cut' ends.

Don't bother trying to make the icing smooth, the rougher the better. A final dusting of icing (I used a tea strainer) gives a good finish.

It only lasted one day.

It tasted that good.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Emergency kit

Local flooding
What do you need in an emergency kit? A quick bit of googling opens you up to a whole world of disaster planning for the apocalypse! I think that I might be too scared to leave the house for a while...

Monday, 6 January 2014

More flooding

River Stour
It is still raining and according to the forecast there is yet more to come. I am slightly concerned for J who will be returning to work this week. Fingers crossed that the floods don't get any higher.

I must confess to finding the floods fascinating. I realise that they have cause a lot of damage and some people are in a bad way thanks to the high water levels. My thoughts are with those who are having to deal with the double whammy of the tidal bore yesterday. But despite that there is still a bit of me that enjoys the sight of nature reminding us, yet again, that we cannot control her.

Each day I have walked to view our local river that has spilled out over the fields for the last few weeks. Despite the calm look of it all there is a strong current rapidly moving great volumes of water down stream. This is not a massive still puddle but a active, dangerous force.

Drying out wellies with newspaper

Friday, 3 January 2014

What to do with wood ash?

Having a wood burning boiler for our hot water and a wood burning stove in our living room does mean that we have a regular supply of wood ash to deal with. Thankfully both burners are highly efficient and leave significantly less waste than an open fire would. But waste there is and it has to go somewhere.

When we first moved in there was a large pyramid of 'stuff' by the patio at the back, we initially believed this to be a nest of some kind but thankfully it was just a huge pile of dumped ash. It was really not very nice! The positive side of having to deal with this mess was that it made me consider just what we should do with our own that we generate.

Looking at ash from a permaculture point of view, it is a resource not waste. The nutrients are useful for the soil. For the first year all of our ash went onto the compost heap but I learnt a lesson here too... ash needs to be mixed in but through out winter when we are generating most ash very little of anything else gets added to the compost heap. We could store the ash and mix it in throughout the season but this just brings to mind the ash pyramid once again.

My solution? We scatter it, lightly, across the garden. One of the benefits of such a large garden is that it will easily absorb all of the ash without any of it becoming more concentrated.

Another use for wood ash is to use it to make soap and I would love to try this one day. But lye is a pretty dangerous substance so I'm happy to put this idea on the back burner for now.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Christmas: what does it mean to me?

What does Christmas mean to me?

I don't celebrate it as a Christian festival. Christianity comes into some of our traditions but it is more of a background thing. When you look at the holiday celebrations most of the traditions are blatantly pagan anyway! But even though I don't see it as very Christian I also don't see it as a time for worshipping at the alter to the great god of commercialisation. It could be for some but not for me.

I see it as a festival for celebrating family. For spending time together playing games, singing, having fun. A time for visiting family and friends. Midwinter can be such a miserable time but planning for Christmas some how helps to alleviate this, by focusing on the good it helps drag me through those short days and long, dark nights.

I also enjoy the opportunity to craft, decorate and curl up in front of the fire with a good movie. Sometimes I'll panic before Christmas but when we're settled in on Christmas Eve I relax and just go with the flow. If I've forgotten something it's too late.

And following Christmas day is that short period before the first of January where, despite yourself, you start planning what you want to get on with, what you would like to start and what you would like to change in the coming year. It's a great time to reflect on where you have been and where you want to go forwards.

I do love Christmas.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Christmas: presents

Warning: this is a bit of a ranting, moaning post. Please do skip past it! But I think that it does us all good to have a moan to get things off of our chest sometimes.

December review, January planning

Last months plan:

Christmas, Christmas, Christmas!!!

Christmas definitely happened and there is little about it that I would bother changing. Well, maybe not add a second set of lights to the Christmas tree after it had been decorated! I do still have a couple of posts to share but I am now Christmassed out and ready to move on.