Category Archives: cooking

why, why Oh why …..

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…is Christmas so threatening. This year is the second since my beloved husband Colin died. He was never very keen on the whole circus but we always ate adventurously well and he bought me some quite wonderful presents over the years. It was always fun. So last year was tough. But this year its going to be OK.

And it was. Peaceful and quietly enjoyable. Ate too much, of course and gently tippled the day away. It was absolutely fine. But How Great that its now all over and we are in the second week of January 2014. Feels good to me. I realise I dislike being disrupted by outside forces. Slowly, slowly life is beginning to feel alright. I do not feel stifled by sorrow but am beginning to stretch out and experience new sensations. Its thrilling.

Now these thrills are nothing more than a basic starter module in Maths with the Open University and selling some of my knitting. Both experiences have opened up new horizons for me. The study is quite exhilarating. I love it. I can feel my brain creaking away like any underused muscle but its a pleasurable pain. No pain no gain!! My enthusiasm for is so great I want everybody to enjoy maths. What an extraordinary subject which actually touches and is very revealing about everyday life. Everyday I study I learn something which I can easily apply to my life giving me more confidence in my decisions and more confidence in my views on currant affairs.

As for my knitting,the new designs are rolling out as I type – rather nifty Valentine Day Gloves to Love which includes some felting in the process. My maths has given me a new confidence with designing so everything seems to be working together which is a big bonus.

I see hints of the new season to come on my daily walk and I must say this year I am really looking forward to the long days ahead. And then I turn on the news ………………………

Bankers Bonuses can someone tell me, explain to me why they receive them? I am in my early seventies and am ashamed of being part of the political structure that encouraged these indefensible and immoral earnings. Especially as the banking system is now a system more acquainted with a betting shop than a trusted, safe place to store hard earned cash. I have just spent hours trying to find out more about what is exactly going on in the ‘banking system’ and why the Retail Banks of the high street still seemed to be linked to the Investment Banks. Why do so called ‘code staff’ receive huge salaries and bonuses even when the bank is losing money? I understand the government doesn’t want to upset the ‘fat cats’ of The City of London but surely there must come a time when we stop being bullied by a system which has shown how vulnerable it is to failure on a huge scale. Isn’t it time to call a halt to this worship of money – isn’t it time to step back and really look at our struggling society – isn’t it time to really thank those who quietly toil away for a reasonable wage – isn’t it time to stop exploiting the weak, the sick in our society but give everyone a chance to shine in some way. We all have weaknesses and we all have strengths but nowadays it seems just a very few count for anything and the majority of us must make do (and be threatened if we don’t dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s). I feel so angry and frustrated at the way life is panning out for so many young people. Life is wonderful and does not rely on ‘loads o’ money’ but you do have to pay the bills. I no longer trust politicians they are ‘economical with the truth’ and are good at ‘creative accounting’. I no longer trust the media newspapers or the news on television or the radio – everything I hear I treat as having been manipulated in someway. That makes me sad (and cynical) but thank goodness for the blessings of good friends, family and a dog and cat. And when all else fails I can always go for a walk through the fields and woods surrounded by a backdrop of hills and it costs me nothing except a bit of energy – and I still have more of that than I do money. So I am rich. This blog is such a mess but that is just how it fell on the page.

Yep, lets just see what is going on down there….

Yep, lets just see what is going on down there….

I'm banking on my friend Knuckle

I’m banking on my friend Knuckle

‘….the times they are a changing’……

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I am sitting and writing this on my own MacBook Pro which (with birthday money from my brother) I bought on eBay.  So quick and easy to write but the actual doing was a trial of endurance, nervous tension and much research.  And it was also quite a buzz.  And had a Happy Ending.  Thank goodness.

And so this year is drawing to an end and I realise I have been blogging for approximately a year.  All started because on sad reflection and facing reality I realised I couldn’t afford to run a car.  Pretty scary actually after having borrowed or owned a car for the last 50 years.   (I keep writing and thinking in BIG numbers when thinking about memories etc.  – I mean 50 years sounds ancient!)  But anyway I have managed fine without a four wheeled friend – my little bus pass allows me the travel that I need or fancy and on the days when I vaguely think ‘now if I had a car……..’ I realise that I have slowly developed a different way of thinking.  What you can’t have you can’t have so get on with it!!! And I do.  But ….  how about a motorbike  …. anything is possible … maybe ….

It hasn’t been an easy year but like most people I just try to enjoy the good moments and scramble through those grey periods .  My wonderful Polytunnel is up and running – the garden is well, mine.  In other words I trim and dig, plant and weed, always enjoying myself and when I stop enjoying myself I stop and read a book,listen to music, cook, knit or blog or browse the extraordinary world wide web.  The weather this summer and autumn has been quite wonderful in fact to hot for me but as I am retired I can retire under my nice shady tree.  Suddenly hot days are no longer a trial.  Cold drink, good book, very nice, thank you.

I have been gently knitting away as the days shortened and have put together a little collection of fingerless gloves.  My wonderful niece Katie Lynn who has  created and developed her business Molten Wonky   (I am trying to add a link here  but ……she is on Facebook and has a website really lovely bright, original fused glass designs )  Anyway she is selling them for me (hopefully!).  And I am excited about it all.  I need this little buzz and so enjoy the designing and making.  So my workroom is feeling much more positive with some sort of structure developing.  Because not only am I knitting but I have started a module with the Open University in Maths.  And my course has started and I am a student!  Now where this journey will take me I have no idea but I know that two opportunities have opened for me to use as I will  and I am strangely nervous and thrilled at the same time………you really are never to old to learn about yourself and your capabilities.  And obviously the background  to all this is littered with tears and doubts, fears and confusion, disappointment and self-pity.  Thank goodness for the kindness of everyday folk and the loving toleration from the special people in our lives (and of course the dog, the cat and 3 chickens!).

This is the first post I’ve written on my wonderful MacBook Pro so I will now try to stick some photos on but time and my patience with my own ineptitude could run out before I manage.  Listen I don’t have time for too much ramblings I have THINGS to do!  Gloves don’t knit themselves and study needs strict attention and with both if you don’t get the details right you miss the ultimate satisfaction.

First snow - early morning - all gone by the evening.

First snow – early morning – all gone by the evening.

autumn leaves - inspiring

autumn leaves – inspiring

a gaggle of gloves

a gaggle of gloves

wonderful sunflower planted by the birds outside the front porch

wonderful sunflower planted by the birds outside the front porch

tunnel vision is up and running thanks to William

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the SWEAT

the SWEAT

had to cut the hedge right back to dig the trench - not in the original scenario!

had to cut the hedge right back to dig the trench – not in the original scenario!

 at last - covering the skeleton - after quite a bit  thought as we laid out the 11.2mx9.2m polythene to drape over the supports - very nerve wracking! All sweat, no blood, or tears ( or the dreaded actual tear as in rip)!

at last – covering the skeleton – after quite a bit thought as we laid out the 11.2mx9.2m polythene to drape over the supports – very nerve wracking!
All sweat, no blood, or tears ( or the dreaded actual tear as in rip)!

you take the soil etc out then guess what you put it all back - its called ballist (and b........y hard slog)!

you take the soil etc out then guess what you put it all back – its called ballist (and b……..y hard slog)!

tomato and peppers plants cheering when they see the polytunnel looking sleek and secure - at last a proper home!

tomato and peppers plants cheering when they see the polytunnel looking sleek and secure – at last a proper home!

and the workers celebrate with fresh baked chocolate brownies.

and the workers celebrate with fresh baked chocolate brownies.

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my potting shed is up and ready and I love it!

If you really enjoy doing something and its a feasible fantasy just go for it – you can make things happen with a bit of thought, help and courage. Sometimes dreams stay as dreams (I have plenty of them!) but if you set your sites within your own perimeter so much can be achieved and so much pleasure derived. By the way this was a time when I missed my car but guess what within 20 minutes I’m onto the bus with my shopper and collect the timber we needed – no problem. And enjoyed a little rest going in and out of town plus chatting to a neighbour! Guess what I bored him with!!!the wonders of polytunnels. Now I think about it there was a look of gratitude as the wee bus trundled into sight.

I am so often inspired by reading other blogs there is so much energy and love out there so thank you inspiring bloggers who live a life however seemingly small.  My world is tiny but it is mine and I love and try and cherish it.  Sometimes I’m in the zone and nothing can faze me but…….well there is always a butt so just kick it very hard and move on!

trying to find my spring….

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times are hard.  It seems the whole world is struggling and I’m in there thrashing about with the best of them.

But I get on my local bus and Alan the driver always greets me by name as he does most of his passengers.  And if Davy, who uses his bus pass to gently while away the day by just sitting and observing to and fro on the local journey up past the Beauly Firth, can help someone with a pram or a suitcase he does with pleasure and a shy smile.  People are basically kind and friendly – we all need a pat on the back occasionally and we all blossom when we are acknowledged for just being a person.  Because I am retired and my hobbies are quite isolating climbing onto ‘my’ transport taking me into the ‘world’ has become a simple pleasure.  Now and then I do miss not having a car but I only have to look at the debit and credit accounts on owning a car and I know for once I’m on the right side.

Not long ago I signed up for a course at the Highland Printmakers Studio ( should be able to link this but sorry I haven’t got there yet). A really great place full of creative energy and very helpful, friendly artists who are eager to share their enthusiasm.  As I have no knowledge, or experience of printmaking I just found a course that still had room which was Collagraph.  Never heard of it but thats what I wanted to go and tackle the unknown!  Next week is the last of a 6 week course and I have really enjoyed myself.  Back to childhood covered in glue and ink, thank goodness for aprons.   I have started drawing again I have been made more aware of shapes and textures and my first love colour was given free rein but in a new constrained way.  I loved the way you created a ‘block’ you printed from with paper, card, bits of fabric, cotton thread, string pretty much anything that would work all torn or cut into shapes and glued onto card – the net bag lemons and oranges often come in add brilliant texture.. Then you applied printing inks – hard work this as you had to rub into all the edges then remove some etc etc etc.  or you used a print roller for a different effect.  The inking is up very interesting  as there is always an unknown element after its been under the press.  So exciting as all the protective layers are stripped away and you gently peel the dampened paper of the block to either a shocked silence or a little yelp of pleasure.  I am now busy at home making a ‘block’ for the last session – its been a fun experience and pushed me gently along a path I know I want to explore and enjoy much more.

Just wish the weather would cheer up a bit.  But the potatoes are coming through and so are the cabbages and leeks must check on the broad beans.  Indoors my tomatoes seeds have germinated as have the cucumbers and peppers so now I have to nurture them onwards and upwards.  The polytunnel eventually gave up the ghost this winter but we can re-cover it so all will be ready (hopefully) by the time the tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers need to be in their warmer home to grow and produce some wonderful fruits.  I realise with gardening you either love it or tolerate it or hate it. Like  most things I need to get into the mood but once in I love to garden.  For me its a great big adventure playground and in fact this year I am going to put up our big green canvas tent to use as a summer house  plus the barbecue and a mattress and a sleeping  bag and my summer holidays are sorted.  The dog will be delighted! If you want to join me bring a tent  (and the sun) I’ve plenty of room and you’d be very welcome!

2013 or 0123 ….. and cake

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…. a real New Year that turns into numerical basic –  for what?  My maths is  pretty basic but serves my needs.  When I’m designing a new garment I am continually counting. adding, dividing, multiplying then subtracting the figure I first thought off etc. etc. No this little twist of numbers is saying to me don’t clutter your life, keep it simple, be honest with yourself, be kind, be  industrious (mentally and physically). Life really is what you make it – so make it heathy, happy and productive.  May your New Year be all you would like it to be.

On Saturday it was grey and grim, with a blustery cold wind delivering slanting rain. The dog refused a walk.  It was bad.  But perfect for turning up the music and making  Fondant Fancies.  I used to, in the past, buy them in a cardboard box made by a Mr Kipling but they always looked more yummy than they tasted.  So after seeing Mary Berry showing us all how to do IT I had to have a go. Under cooked the sponge. In a perfect world it needed another 4 minutes but I have a tendency to go and start doing something else and the perfect 4 minutes turns into a catastrophic 30 minutes or simply the smell of burning.  Also I dislike dry cakes so out came the sponge and although in the centre it wasn’t light and fluffy it was OK. Everything else went fine – except I should have remember when putting the butter icing round the edges of each little cake I made it as smooth as possible AND trimming the outside edges so they are straight is important so each cake stands up properly.  At this point I realised we would never eat 25 cakes so I froze 12.   Then came the tricky bit – the fondant icing.  I managed to get it a good consistency and coloured half  with raspberry juice.  The next bit is just plain messy.  I did the fork in the side bit and sort of held it above the bowl of icing and spooned the icing over the top and then round the sides.  I really believe its one of those jobs you find your own way of dealing with it.  Just accept it is messy (and it really puts you off icing!). Then I dribbled chocolate on the white ones and the white icing on the pink and ‘Voila’ some quite nauseous (by this time I’d had enough) looking little cakes.  I had to taste one and I thought it was quite nice.

But on Sunday I tidied them up round the base and put them on a plate and felt much prouder of them. I have to say they definitely improved with keeping – the icing firmed up and the cake inside stayed very moist and all the flavors blended.  And the Monday tasting was when I really thought they were delicious and worth the effort.  I could never make them perfectly and I don’t think Mary Berry would be too impressed but the flavours were excellent.

 fancy a fondant fancies?

fancy a fondant fancies?

testing ,testing, new skills (thanks guru)

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Right I am just going to post this before my head blows off – I really love adding visuals and I realise this is pretty pathetic but we all have to start somewhere!!!

my Christmas trousers

my Christmas knitted trousers

our edible Christmas tree

our edible Christmas tree

my lovely walking companion

my lovely walking companion

look what I found once I got going - a Boxing Day moon

look what I found once I got going – a Boxing Day moon

a frozen puddle -( wish I looked as good when I freeze up)

a frozen puddle -( wish I looked as good when I freeze up)

P.... off!  He always gets the last word.

P…. off! He always gets the last word.

a little nostalgia and sentimentality is OK but

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too much and you end up swamped in the past. But Christmas is about memories for me and I cherish them. I have two brothers and a sister and I was the one who could never understand why everyone wasn’t awake at 2.00am on Christmas morning. The stocking was stuffed because when I pushed with my toes I could hear the crackle of paper, and almost taste the tangerine and silver wrapped chocolate Father Christmas that would be stuffed in the toe. Come on everyone its Christmas! But eventually that wonderful day would roll on full of laughter, church, singing, turkey, and FUN. It was all so magical. From gazing out of the window before bed on Christmas Eve and being convinced I could see and hear Santa gliding through the night on his reindeer drawn sleigh to the clearing up piles of wrapping paper and laughing as my poor Mum tried to make notes of who sent what to whom. We crashed to earth when it was thankyou letter writing time. But I even remember that with pleasure – on reflection – all part of the ying and yang of Christmas.

I feel very lucky that I have such wonderful memories and in fact I realise that although my Christmases over the years as an adult have been sometimes very sad and rather confused I have never lost that wonder. Christmas Day for me is never an actual day, a Monday or a Friday etc. It stands on it own Christmas Day. I do not give it religious overtones but it is a special day. It is a day when I find as the years roll on I do reflect on my life and my loves. I reflect on my mistakes and my triumphs. On my sorrows and my joys. But I also look to the future to still try and improve in every way and accept my shortcomings but push forward with my strengths. Strangely this is harder as you get older as I have so many pre-conceived concepts about everything. So 2013 is the year for questioning everything because I’m running out of time to mess around waiting for something/someone – its up to me. The only thing I am prepared to wait for is the bus!

So this is my first Christmas without a car and so far so brilliant. My bank balance agrees with me. Luckily I have lovely friends with cars who I know will help if I need them. On Monday I hope to buy my Christmas decoration which will be various pot plants. I started this idea a few years ago as my husband and I decided we really didn’t want a tree but we knew we needed something. So we decided on flowers and pot plants. And thanks to my Angelfriend I shall have no trouble getting them home.

So I am now going to knit myself some fabulous trousers which will be striped and very floppy and a sweater to match. These are for Christmas Day. All done on my knitting machine. I have always loved knitting by hand and then I started to crochet. But when my beloved husband was diagnosed with cancer 6 years ago I decided, after months of thinking, to buy a second-hand knitting machine. Over the last 6 years as the cursed cancer cruelly stole my lovely loves life away – he died this year on February 23 2012 at home with my son and myself caring for him to the end – I have been learning how to use this machine. It has helped me during some very. very hard times and in fact just before and after Colin died I couldn’t use it

But I am back in the saddle and am finding it giving me new consolation (and ambition). A few years ago I decided I couldn’t wear anything I hadn’t knitted. That is why I had to design the trousers –
I love skirts but hate tights actually that is a combination I’m also working on. Now a friend said to me one day ‘Uumm you look very uumm knitted!’ an observation which still makes me laugh. Many a true word is spoken in jest – in other words I’m still working on my style!

So the parcels are sent – the cards are sent. Time to wallow in yarns and a bit of cooking – peppermint creams first I think. Delicious and very easy but they need time to dry out and this year I’m going to coat them in chocolate oooh and I must make some French Fancies as seen on The Great British Bake Off that should be festive better get the Carols on!