Tuesday 31 December 2019

The old year.

The old year is almost gone and I'm not sorry to say goodbye to 2019. It has been a disturbing year marred by divisive, dishonest politics in Britain. Friends have been diagnosed with serious illnesses, cancer, dementia and Parkinson's disease,  each coping impressively with their condition and with their treatment. I am hoping that 2020 will bring a kinder, healthier year for everyone to enjoy.
Yesterday the sun shone briefly and I went for a short walk. I felt as though I'd been confined to the house for too long, only two brief walks with each of my daughters over the whole Christmas period. Vitamin D pills out of a bottle are very much a second-best option! I left Himself up the ladder doing more apple pruning
and took myself around the lake.

It has been a cold, misty and rather melancholy day today, rather fitting for the last day of a troubled year. 

We shall not be out partying  and dancing tonight, although we might have a bop around the sitting room. We've got a few fireworks for midnight, but, for just about the first time ever, I think we shall be in bed before one!
Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2020.

Monday 30 December 2019


Our Christmas tree has now had about twenty years of being dragged in from the garden, decorated, and then put back outside to be pretty much ignored for another twelve months. It has less and less pine needles as each year passes. I used to think that it would eventually grow too tall for the room, but it seems to have given up any hopes of being tall and instead gains only in circumference - a bit of a problem in a cottage as small as ours! Himself suggested cutting it back but I explained that it would make the tree look even more bald than it already is, as only the tips of the branches are properly green.

We disguise the baldness by hanging the tree with all the usual suspects and hope it will look alright.
A newcomer sits at the top of the tree, the bear in a muffler replacing a very battered old white felt mouse that I'd made about forty-five years ago. "You haven't thrown it out?" my daughters asked accusingly. I wouldn't have dared. "it's in the box," I told them. But some time soon I really must learn to de-clutter!

At two and a half our grandson is just the right age to be interested in everything and just the right height to be able to see the small decorations arranged on the window ledges. 'Just look, be gentle' worked well this year, things were carefully examined and nothing came apart in his hands!

Oh, the magic of stacking dolls.

And did anyone hear bells?
There was a lot of action in the kitchen; limes being squeezed for cocktails and cutters chosen to decorate Wee-One's cake,
crushed ice going back into the freezer and icing to roll.
On Boxing day friends came to lunch. Their Irish terriers, Maeve and Murphy, bounced into the house looking very festive in collars of scarlet tinsel. What lovely dogs. Our grandson and Murphy sat down on the floor and formed a mutual admiration society, Maeve lay quietly under the table while the adults above enjoyed a noisy time and ate yet more tasty food.
The following day I got the vac out for a quick tidy round. (The following day, I hear you say - you slattern!) I found a shred of stocking. 'Bit of a pop sock?' suggested Wee-One. Yes, but whose? Beneath the table we found the answer, a completely deconstructed felt santa, filched from the tree. Oh, Maeve, you have not properly entered into the spirit of Christmas!
And did someone say that Nana had lost her marbles?
Well, they're not under the kitchen dresser.
But the cake was good!

Sunday 22 December 2019

Happy Christmas.

Dear Bloggers, 
I wish you all, wherever you may be, whatever weather you may be battling, be it fire or flood, a
  Very Happy Christmas. 
I hope that you will keep warm enough or cool enough throughout the holiday period 
and enjoy good company and good food.
Kindest regards,

Saturday 21 December 2019

And the winner is...

Our elder daughter made a passing reference to her father in the national press about his efforts to retrieve the bucket that he'd dropped down the well. She mentioned his various 'Heath Robinson' attempts at retrieval. (The man does have form!) He had exhausted the grappling hook and the large magnet loaned by our neighbours. (He had also exhausted the patience of his wife.) The letters editor of the paper was amused by the response that came from readers offering a variety of novel suggestions.

Himself set to work and taped one of our mole traps to a long pole.

Was he successful?

Sadly the answer was no.

I'd been seeing this headless body for weeks!
(What would Freud have to say?)

Back to the drawing board, or, more correctly, back o the garage to construct a 'well creeper'. He made it from a cast iron ring that is a spare part from the wood burning stove, an old meat hook, five more hooks made from an old coat hanger, all attached with various bits of string.
 And GUESS WHAT? It worked!

Thank you, Georgina Wragg!

Just look at that bucket. What a wreck! And it has a hole in it, but he was determined not to leave it down the well.
Just to round the year off well his letter of thanks was printed  in the Times.

Sunday 15 December 2019

Braised red cabbage

The windfalls don't keep for long, I've either got to cook and freeze them or put them in a recipe such as this one from Delia Smith's Christmas book. I made  a batch at the weekend, happy to be in the kitchen while outside the rain beat down and the wind howled.
The red cabbage looks so beautiful when it is sliced through. 
And it tastes good!

Wednesday 4 December 2019

Frost and sunshine

A cold but beautiful day today.
Frost in the far field rendered the sheep invisible.
We set to work to prune the fruit trees.
Moss and lichen on the tree trunks give a good indication of the sort of weather we get!
We have a big ball of mistletoe growing on the Bramley apple tree and there are plenty of berries on it this year - I hope the birds will leave enough for me to bring some into the house at Christmas.
Some of the prunings, but more to come.

Sunday 1 December 2019

Low- fat mincemeat

I'd intended to start pruning the apple trees today but it was bitterly cold out. Just harvesting some leeks and parsnips from the garden for Sunday lunch was quite enough of the outside for me, thank you very much. Instead I stayed in the warmth of the kitchen. Now that it's December it's time to start preparing for Christmas. I brought in a bucket of Bramley apple windfalls, just the thing for making mincemeat. I make a low-fat recipe every year, mindful of the fact that we shall be stuffing ourselves with chocolate, cream and other delights throughout the holiday season!

2lbs cooking apples peeled and finely chopped
1lb mixed fruit, currants, raisins, chopped apricot etc.
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
2oz slivered almonds
2 lemons rind and juice
6oz soft dark sugar
a slug of brandy or apple juice or whatever you fancy.

Melt the sugar in the liquid/juice and add the chopped apple. When the sugar has dissolved add all the other ingredients and bring to the boil. 
Simmer for half an hour until you have a soft mash. 
Bottle while hot. This quantity made the five jars of mincemeat pictured, but it is easy to double up on the recipe if you want to have more. It will keep for a couple of months in a cool place but doesn't have the long shelf life of a recipe that includes fat.