Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Kindness of friends and the dedication of strangers

It's my birthday!!! This time last year I was laid up in Coventry Hospital recuperating after radiotherapy and not knowing what was going to happen next. So today I've celebrated quietly but joyfully and very, very thankfully.

Fragrant flowers from a friend

Tasty treats and pretty bits from my sister
Stories to savour from my lovely J
New puzzle from my Mum
Happy person!

Monday, 14 January 2019

Making use of our dried apple - Apple Pudding

After dropping Mum off at the station on Thursday I had a bit of a play in the kitchen. I've been thinking of different ways to use up our stores of dried apple and the last of our 2018 hazelnuts. As well as being good for nibbling on. it can make tasty apple pies or crumbles and was a really good addition to our Christmas cake this year so I thought I'd re-hydrate some to have a go at a variation on a fruit tea bread. In the end this recipe produced a really tasty but quite doughy loaf which was great as a warm pudding with custard or cream for several meals with the last slice being eaten on Sunday.

Re-hydrated Apple Pudding
I put dried apple slices in a wide 1 litre pyrex jug up to approx 650ml line and covered in boiling water up to c. 1 litre line. Cover and leave for at least 1hour.
Scoop out apple slices into the bowl of a food processor and reserve liquid. Whiz apples into a rough purée.
Add 1.5 tsps of cinnamon and 1tsp nutmeg and approx 2tblsps of roasted hazlenuts. Whiz again. 
Add in 10oz Self-raising flour, 5 oz demerara sugar, 5 tblsps sunflower oil and 2 eggs. Whiz until mixed.
Add in sufficient of reserved apple liquid to make a fairly loose batter (I used approximately 250ml).
Once thoroughly mixed to a loose batter add in about 3oz sultanas. Whiz once or twice to combine then spoon into pre-lined loaf tin.
Bake Gas Mark 4 for approx 1 hr and 15 minutes until skewer comes out clean.

Despite looking the part here more work is needed if I want it as a loaf cake but it's definitely a keeper as a pudding.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Sorting and Saving continues

Old envelopes and used stamps were part of this week's sorting so I'll have a small package of stamps to send off to Macmillan Cancer Care for their fundraising efforts. One less thing for landfill and whilst I might not have many, if enough people save them and send them in then it will all add to their valuable work. For those of you interested stamps can be sent to:
Stamp Bureau in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support PO Box 469 
LS17 1HX
Save your stamps

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Surprise stashes!

Yesterday's sorting brought a very nice surprise. Seeds! Before I became very poorly last winter we had a trip to the Wyevale 50p seed sale but we both had forgotten about it and had obviously just scooped up the seeds with the card, paper and other odds and ends and dropped them in the living room corner when I came out of hospital in January 2018. So we now have lots of lovely sunflowers, sweet peas, scabious and other flowers for a real mixed cutting garden plus lentils, chickpeas, summer sprouting broccoli and large leafed basil to add to the stores. Such joy to be found at the bottom of a hidden box.

And one extra mystery packet too:

Cow-rose? Much scratching of head - a brief twitter exchange - and a light-bulb moment - a few Springs ago we spotted a really pretty cowslip sized plant on the edge of our little meadow area - the difference from all the other cowslips? Primrose sized flower heads. So we marked it with a stick and protected it from the mower and watched it bloom and joy-of-joys set seed and dry out. J collected the seed and carefully marked them but then obviously they too got caught up in the chaos and lost from sight. Now we have the fun of waiting to sow and if we are lucky watch them grow and if we are super lucky watch them flower and then we'll see whether it's mutation is stable, whether it comes true, whether we really have our very own "cow-rose".

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Sorting the clutter

The piles are diminishing at last! No I'm not de-cluttering in the traditional sense, my living room will still be full of books, pictures, music and films in various formats, plants, seeds, stationery, puzzles, games, jugs, vases, wooden boxes, candle holders and lots of other bits and bobs that are still useful, still give me pleasure or may indeed come in useful one day. What I am doing is getting rid of the other stuff: the catalogues, pamphlets and post that accumulates in corners and drawers, the magazines that I really am not going to use again no matter what I thought 5 years ago, the backs of envelopes that have been scribbled on but not discarded once their usefulness passed, the DVDs that I haven't watched and the CDs I haven't listened to in ermm about 5 years and the paperbacks that I've read, quite liked but haven't passed on since the last sort out ooh let me think... about 5 years ago! I'm making room for the person that lives here now, the person that could really do without tripping over piles of shoes in a corner, that wants to be able to get to her paints or puzzles without moving the three piles of books that are stacked in front of them, that finds it harder to reach the floor so why on earth is she keeping the stuff she needs on a day to day basis there instead of at waist height on the side-board...
So here I am recycling, re-purposing and setting aside for donating or shredding or composting and yes a few things will no doubt end up in the black bin too but we'll keep those to an absolute minimum.
I'm actually finding it quite satisfying. I'm remembering that I like being able to see the floor and to actually get to the window ledge to water the plants, to hold the jugs, vases, bowls of stones or conkers that I've collected, to actually see the things I like, the pictures of people, places and things that I love and the books I want to re-read or haven't got to yet. I'm even re-discovering a few things that I knew were in here somewhere but couldn't lay my hands on and there may even be a few pictures of those as the week wears on. (but please don't even begin to mention the landing, the bedrooms, the attic or the kitchen...)

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Stalking the garden birds

As it is turning chillier more birds are starting to make an appearance in the garden and brightening our days, eating the food and emptying the bird bath with increasing regularity. We seem to have a resident pair of blackbirds, a couple of super-sized pigeons plus the robin, blue tits and great tits. This week we've also seen a male black cap, a wren and a dunnock and today they were joined by some starlings. I like these much maligned noisy little birds - they may be greedy but look closely and they are oh so pretty with their iridescent feathers. Now here's the rub - you're going to have to take my word for all these sightings as despite spotting them regularly and knowing they are about they are all determinedly avoiding the wildlife cam whenever we set it up and also seem to disappear whenever I get my ordinary camera out. I did manage to get a snap of the dunnock today but it's taken through the kitchen door so isn't brilliant so don't be surprised if you struggle to spot it here (right of the chair and washing line post!).

He's in there somewhere!

Fuzzy dunnock in today's garden
Let's just hope that they overcome their shyness by the time the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch arrives in a few week's time or I'll be sending in a nil return again!

Monday, 7 January 2019

Accomplishing Admin.

Got the week off to a good start this morning as I worked my way through the "to do list"- I requested some repeat prescriptions, using my surgery's online system makes this so easy to do, and because it is always available it means that I can sort them out no matter what time of day I remember them. I've also opened a new savings account, made some medical appointments, shuffled through a couple of the clutter piles and written out some birthday cards for fellow January birthdayers so now I'm feeling quite pleased with myself!  I've got friends coming for lunch this weekend so have been pondering what to make whilst at the same time finishing off my store cupboard check ready for the "big shop". Not a "no spend January" for me this year as we've been carefully using stuff up over the last month or so and now I need to restock with things like bread flour, basic dried herbs, lentils and the like. I've also added some frozen berries and other fruit to the order so I can make smoothies when I feel like it and there's no chance of it going off if I don't fancy them for a few days.  We've used up all of last year's homegrown berries and whilst there's still a fair bit of preserved apple and some fruit leathers left I do want a bit of variety to our January puddings and breakfasts.
More on the lists for tomorrow but time for a rest now!
Hope your week has begun well too.