21 May 2014

A Walk Down The Lane

On Monday night we had a storm. It was a humdinger of a storm and lasted about half an hour and it freaked the dogs out no end. Well, two of them anyway. Levi was quite happily snoring away in his bed while the other two were quivering like jellies on the sofa. The following morning, everything looked greener somehow, as if everything had been put through the washing machine and had a good clean. The air was cooler and fresher so I decided that as I'm marooned down here in our valley, I thought I would go for a walk and take my new camera so I could snap away like a tourist. I forgot to mention that I'm marooned down here in the depths of Cornwall. I have been without a car for about 10 days now. The MOT ran out and they couldn't fit me in for a couple of days and then it failed it's MOT and they couldn't fit me in until the 28th May to have the work done and be re-tested. As I live in the middle of nowhere, it's almost impossible to survive without a car and it was just too long to be without transport so, I rang a friend of mine who owns a garage and asked her if she could sort it out which means that although I'm still marooned, it might only be for another couple of days instead a couple of weeks. 
Anyway, I snapped away as I was walking along taking loads of pictures and getting the hang of my new camera.

 Down the lane full of bluebells and wild garlic

 Wild garlic

 My river 
One of my llamas in the distance

And this is the makeshift greenhouse I made about 2 minutes before the storm hit on Monday evening to try and stop my plants getting battered by the torrential rain that I knew was coming. It actually worked quite well and my plants survived the storm in one piece. I've actually left the greenhouse in place because although the weather is improving it's still quite chilly at night and I don't want my tomato plants get cold :-)

19 May 2014

My New Picnic Bench

The weather over the last few days has been glorious here in Cornwall. Bright blue skies and non-stop sunshine for the last 4 days and I have been making the most of the lovely weather because, lets face it, in the UK you never know how long it's going to last! Now, last week, I managed to obliterate the tussocks and the cut grass, which was really, REALLY long has been left to dry so it will be easier to rake it up and get rid of it and I weeded my flower bed which, quite frankly was in the same overgrown state as the patio and was an absolute disgrace! I also bought some weed membrane to put over the freshly weeded area to try and stop it ever getting into that state again and it was while I was sitting on the doorstep having a much deserved glass of wine on Friday night, admiring my hard work, when I got to thinking how nice it would be if I had a place to sit outside and maybe have something to eat. Sooooooo I grabbed my trusty laptop and set about looking for a table and chairs to put on the patio. Now, as most of you know by now, money is always tight for me and I have to be careful with every penny so, as usual, I was looking for a bargain. And I found this. A picnic bench for the princely sum of £48.99. It's not brilliant quality, the wood is a soft wood, not a hard wood and if left untreated it wouldn't last five minutes outside in the British weather but, I could afford it and I actually had a tin of outdoor wood paint in my cupboard just waiting to be used up so on Saturday morning, off I went to buy my bench. 

I had assumed that it would come as a table top, sides and seats that just needed joining together but boy was I wrong! For £48.99 you get planks of wood and a bag of screws! Still, not one to be deterred by a bit of DIY I rounded up my tools and began to put it together. After a couple of false starts, when I managed to get one of the planks the wrong way up and had to take it apart again, the bench went from this ..... 

To this ..........

In about 4 hours. One of the planks for the table was a bit warped but by the time I realised, I had already screwed it onto place and I guess I could take it out and replace it with one that isn't but I'm not that precious about things so never mind. I was quite proud of myself. It's hard putting things like this together by yourself, you never seem to have enough hands to hold things in place and screw things together at the same time but I managed it and was quite pleased with the way it looked. I then went and fetched my parasol to fit into the hole in the bench only to find that some animal, a mouse I'm guessing, had decided that it needed some of this yummy green fabric to line it's nest with and had chewed holes in the canopy!! To be fair, it's really seen better days so it will do for now until I can make a new cover. I'm going to take the canopy apart and make a new one with some lovely floral cotton fabric.

Anyway, yesterday I unearthed the tin of "Natural Stone" outdoor wood paint that had been sitting the cupboard since I painted the gate last year and I slapped 3 coats of paint onto my new bench. Luckily the sun was hot and the paint dried very quickly so all in all it took about 3 ish hours to make it weatherproof. I'm very pleased with it.

And this morning I sat and gave it a test run and had my breakfast outside in the early morning sunshine reading one of my favourite books.

17 May 2014

Fish Pie and a New Gadget

Well it's 4.35am and I can't sleep. The dawn chorus started at about 4.32am so there wasn't much chance of getting back to sleep with all the twittering and tweeting and downright screeching going on outside my bedroom window so, I thought I might as well do something useful and write a blog post.  A couple of weeks ago, my youngest daughter bought me a new gadget. Awwww, how sweet, you might be thinking and you would be right ..... well, you would be half right because she actually had an ulterior motive for buying this particular gadget. She bought me a potato ricer. And the reason being ....... she says my mashed potatoes are always lumpy! Now I completely disagree but she insists it's true and when she comes to stay, she won't let me cook anything that has anything to do with mashed potato. Yesterday, I decided to give it a go and make a fish pie topped with mashed potato or in this case ..... riced potato :-)

When I make fish pie, I buy a fish pie mix from my local supermarket. This is 3 different types of uncooked fish. prepared and cut into chunks ready to just turn into a pie. It probably works out a bit more expensive to do it this way but I feel that when I'm only cooking for myself it's the most sensible way for me to buy the fish. I usually poach the fish in white wine, pepper, a knob of butter and half a chicken stock cube, for about 3 or 4 minutes-ish and then take the fish out of the pan with a spoon with holes in it so I can save the cooking liquid and I put the fish in the pie dish. I then turn up the heat and reduce the liquid down to about half and stir through a spoonful of half fat creme fraiche and then pour the sauce over the fish in the pie dish. I then top the fish with mashed potatoes or in this case, riced potatoes and I pop it in the oven for 10 mins or so until the top browns. Sometimes I sprinkle cheese on top too although I didn't yesterday because I didn't have any left. I have to say, the potato ricer is a wondrous gadget!! The potatoes were perfectly squished with not a lump in sight and it only took a couple of minutes to turn them from chunks of potato into fluffy mash. Once I had put them through the ricer, I added a knob of butter and a splash of milk and they were delicious. 

Oh and I forgot to mention, yesterday morning I had a delivery from the postie. A parcel. Not in the best condition ever, as you can see, and when I saw the state of the box I was worried that the contents would be damaged but, thankfully, everything was fine. 

My beautiful samphire plants arrived. 

Fabulous aren't they :-)

15 May 2014

The Tussocks Are No More

My new camera arrived yesterday and I'm thrilled. It's amazing and the zoom is just awesome so, I have been out and about snapping away in the lovely May sunshine. 

I also decided that it was time the tussocks were gone. I finally managed to get my petrol strimmer going which quite frankly, was nothing short of a miracle because it's very temperamental and it's been well over a year since I last used it due to the Nasty Neighbours. I tucked my trousers into my socks in case of creepy crawlies and I attacked the patio with the strimmer. Four hours later the patio was tussock free and looked like this ...

I'm taking a bit of a break now for a couple of hours because it's very hot down here and four hours of the vibrations of the massive strimmer have made my hands cramp so I have come inside until the sun has gone off the patio .... about 3.30pm ish and then I'm going to go out and have another go at some weeding. Once the cut grass has dried I will rake it up and dump it on the compost heap in the field and then start again.

I also rescued my plant rack from amongst the brambles and have started to stack the damp logs on it to dry out. I figure that a few days of nice sunny weather and they will be dry as a bone and ready to stack somewhere dry. All in all, quite a productive day so far. 

14 May 2014

New Camera and Gardening Weather

For the last few months I have been dithering with the idea of getting a new camera. The one I have at the moment is fine, it's a basic point and shoot Sony Cybershot camera and it's done sterling work over the last 10 years but lately, having been searching the internet for inspirational blogs and finding some really beautiful ones, I have come to the conclusion that it's time to upgrade. The trouble is, when money is tight and every penny is usually accounted for, it becomes difficult to spend money on something that might be deemed frivolous even if you actually have the money to spend. Therein lies my dilemma. I have a small amount of money to spend on a new camera, I know what I need from my new camera, in particular a much better zoom function, wifi upload capabilities, a decent macro setting and optional manual settings and there we go ...... we are talking hundreds of pounds. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I have narrowed it down to two cameras and I have tried every-which-way to decided between the two but it's proving almost impossible. One is cheaper by about £70 but the zoom isn't as good and it doesn't include a panorama function or wifi upload but as I said, it's cheaper and the other one, although £70 more expensive, usually sells for double the price but it's in the sale at the moment and that means that it brings the price within my budget. They both have a decent macro setting and when you put them into a camera comparison site they come out virtually even so all-in-all, not very helpful! Anyway, yesterday afternoon, after much deliberation, I finally decided on the one I want, (I won't mention the make or model because I don't want to be accused of blatant advertising) and it's arriving today :-) I can't wait. I will be out and about snapping away and zooming in on things to my hearts content and hopefully, I shall be posting some of the pictures in the next couple of days.

I shall also be in the garden as much as possible this week. The weather lately has been awful. In fact here in Cornwall it's been positively psychotic! One minute it's clear blue skies and a few fluffy white clouds and the next, torrential rain the like of which I have only ever seen in monsoon season in Singapore!! I have lost count of the number of times I have picked up my gardening gloves and put on my boots ready to go out and tackle the tussocks only to find that while my back was turned, the weather has reverted from the joys of spring to the depths of winter!  Every day, I checked the weather forecast and every day it forecast rain and after about 500 attempts to actually get outside and do something, I finally gave up and vowed not to venture near my gardening stuff again until the weather forecast improved. And today it did. Today, when I checked the Met Office weather report for my area it looked like this ......

Not perfect but definitely an improvement over the last few weeks so ..... I'm going to be off into the garden as soon as I have had another cup of tea. Well actually, I'm going to wait until about 9 ish because I am going to attack the tussocks with my petrol strimmer today and I don't want to annoy my neighbours by firing the beast up before they have had a chance to get out of bed . I finally give in! Nothing I have done so far has killed the little buggers. Not salt nor lemon juice nor vinegar so now, it's war and by 9.30am, hopefully, all the troublesome tussocks will be history!! 

12 May 2014

Samphire, Sunday Lunch and Spiders

I am so excited. I follow a few blogs, well a lot actually, and on one of the blogs I follow, the lovely blogger mentioned the fact that she had bought a samphire plant. I was amazed. I had no idea that you could grow samphire, I though you just had to pick it from the wild. I know that makes me sound a bit dumb but I guess I never even thought about it and, the very nice bloggy lady (link to her blog here) had actually included a link to the nursery that she had bought the samphire from. I was thrilled. I love samphire so, how could I resist the chance to have my very own samphire plant ....... so I ordered three :-) I can't wait til they arrive, I will be sure to post some pictures of the actual plants and here is a link to the nursery, just in case you're interested. 

Samphire in it's natural habitat ..... Source 

I absolutely love cooking and I really miss the days when my daughters all lived at home so I had lots of excuses to cook and bake or the times we had a houseful of people over for supper or lunch and even now, even though it's only me now, I still like to make a Sunday lunch for myself. I love pottering in the kitchen and I love trying new things and although sometimes it doesn't seem worthwhile to cook something from scratch for one person, I still make the effort to cook something nice almost every evening. This weekend, I found a bargain breast of lamb for £4.15. I love lamb but it's quite expensive, in fact, meat in general is getting more and more expensive and although I use everything I buy and very rarely throw anything away, I simply can't justify spending £9 or £10 on a joint of meat. I recently watched a cooking programme, I forget which one, but it showed how the cheaper cuts of meat can be just as good as the more expensive ones and it mentioned breast of lamb. So, I grabbed my bargain and set about deciding what to do with it. When I spotted the roll of butcher's twine in the drawer, I knew exactly what I was going to do with it. I was going to stuff it and roll it then tie it together and roast it. 

So ..... I made up a garlic and rosemary stuffing and turned it from a flat piece of meat into a lovely joint of stuffed lamb. I even remembered to take some pictures while I was making it although sadly, I did forget to take some of the finished roast, I was just too hungry and couldn't wait to have a taste. I was quite proud of myself I have to confess. 

Et voila, 

And now to the spiders! I hate them. I live in the countryside and the spiders we have here are BIG. I'm talking Godzilla-sized spiders and in the autumn and winter, they are all on a mission to get inside my house! Not cool! Now, don't get me wrong, although I really don't like spiders, I don't mind them too much in the rest of the house but I really can't cope with them being in my bedroom so, from about the end of September, I usually close my bedroom window to stop them taking up residence. It's now May and it's getting to the time of year where I need to open my bedroom window again to let the fresh air in at night and like every year, I am faced with the dilemma of "How do I open the window to let the fresh air in but the stop the spiders that are going to sneak in and try and eat me?!" One of my neighbours bought some spider repellent last year which she said actually worked but spraying chemicals around my bedroom was not something I really wanted to do so, I had a look online to see if I could find an alternative. And I did. Apparently spiders hate the smell of lavender. Well, lavender and lemons but I figured lavender would be a better choice for my bedroom and would have the added bonus of helping me sleep. Now, lets bypass the fact that I had no idea that spiders had a sense of smell, I was thrilled that I had found an alternative to the bug spray. I unearthed a small spray bottle, added some water, sploshed a generous amount of lavender essential oil into the bottle and sprayed it liberally around the open window of my bedroom. I awoke this morning, after a fabulous nights sleep, spider free and totally refreshed. I'd say that was a result!! :-)

10 May 2014

Growing Mushrooms and a Birthday

A Couple of weeks ago, it was my youngest daughter's 21st birthday ........ how old does that make me feel!! Ancient I can tell you. My daughter, being the efficient person that she is had sent me a recipe for a cake that she wanted me to make for her birthday, it was a three layer Victoria sponge with a strawberry butter cream icing. The icing was delicious and led to a massive sugar rush as I was icing the cake because I couldn't resist eating the leftover stuff that was in the bowl! The icing is made using strawberry milkshake powder mixed into the butter cream and is really lovely. Topped off with some home made cake bunting and some shimmery princess baubles and she was delighted with her birthday cake.

Sorry about the fuzzy picture, my camera battery was dead so I used my iPad and I think the lens was a bit grubby, despite me giving it a good wipe because, earlier that day, I was trying to get a picture of one of my dogs and every time I went near him with the iPad he licked it!  :-)

For Easter, along with some delicious choccie eggs I got a cute little mushroom growing kit and this week I finally got around to getting it started although, I couldn't resist showing you a picture of the Easter eggs, you see the feather and the straw ....... it's edible! It's made from rice paper and you can eat it, how cute is that :-)

Anyway, I got the mushroom kit planted and now I have a box of soil mixed with mushroom compost hidden in the airing cupboard and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for some lovely mushrooms. 

I also have some progress to report on my tomato plants. I have some teeny tiny tomatoes on them. I love watching things grow and produce food, it never fails to make me smile.

You can just about make out the tomatoes in the picture above. They are about the size of peas but they are growing really fast and it's now time to start feeding them. It's a pity it's not warm enough yet to put them outside but the weather has been awful. Wet and windy and not very warm at all so, for now, they are on my kitchen windowsill being cossetted and kept warm and yesterday, I bought one of those plastic mini greenhouse thingies from the supermarket, a bargain at £6. It's specifically for tomatoes, although, when I bought it I didn't realise how big it actually is. It's 1.5m tall which is almost as tall than I am!! A bit of a shock when I put it together this morning but, once it stops raining, I will take it outside and find somewhere sheltered to put it and then as soon as I have potted on the tomato plants into bigger pots, they can go and live outside in their own special greenhouse. Oh to have a proper greenhouse but, hopefully, not long now until I can afford one so, fingers crossed :-)