A tad cooler and stuff

Who am I to complain about the weather we have had lately? It is a slightly cooler day today than it was yesterday but still several degrees above the norm for February. It is Sunday and I wanted to sit out for a while on the patio. It had to be after lunch as that was supposed to be the best time of the day for the sunnier weather. True enough it was and I managed an hour or so sitting in the warm sunshine. However there was a cooling breeze to accompany it which meant I had to sit in the most sheltered spot to feel comfortable. It didn’t last because thin clouds eventually lessened the warm rays of the sun and I reluctantly returned indoors. I wasn’t going to be tempted to return outside because the sunshine grew stronger for I knew it would be futile, and it was! It soon went dull again. Well after all it is still February. By the time you are reading this it will be the last day of March and hopefully a lot warmer. While I was sitting on the patio several things were on my mind. One of those things concerned the state of the lawn which by then was ready for its first cut of the year. I had attempted to start the petrol mower the previous day but it wouldn’t start. I decided I would check it out during the week……

Lawn mower

The picture shows the model we have at home (not the actual machine we have). So I was thinking about that and came up with the idea of having it serviced professionally by people who deal in lawn mowers and service them too. What could be easier especially as we have such a business close to home? At the same time I can ask about ride on mowers which I am interested in purchasing. Having looked at their website however I noticed a lack of variety and their prices are far more than I wish to spend. I have looked elsewhere and know I can purchase a suitable machine within my budget and that’s probably what I will do. There is only one foreseeable problem I might encounter and that is whether the machine will pass through the rear door of the garage to enter the garden! It will be dealt with one way or another. Anyway in the interim I have just loaded the mower into the back of my van ready to transport it to the repair shop tomorrow morning. I should by then have received the information I had requested about the ride-on mower too.

Shirley Anne

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Two for the price of one

It may have passed your notice dear reader that today you got two for the price of one post! Three if you count this one. Why was that? Well the answer could be that I wanted to lessen the amount of posts in the queue which presently now stand at 36 or, I wanted to give you something extra but sadly it was just a simple error on my part. Having said that I may begin to post double on occasion……watch this space. Anyway I hope you find my meanderings nice coffee-break reading.

Shirley Anne

Busy again

With the mild weather we were having I was eager to finally get into the garden and do some work. There was much to do but I didn’t do everything just enough to fill three hours. I was up early on this the last Saturday in February and soon after breakfast I put on my overalls as I usually do if I am working in the garden and know I am likely to get dirty. I wore gloves too because I had to handle things that certainly would put dirt under my fingernails! My first job was to take the barrow, a hoe and a brush and shovel to the compost bin and dig some of the contents out onto the flagstones. This was what the hoe was for. It was the ideal implement for digging into the compacted compost. It was so compact that despite digging the bottom layer out the remainder stayed where it was, suspended with no support.

Here is the bin standing between the water butt on the left and the flowerbed on the right. Access to the composted material is done by removing the panel at the base. The lid comes off to fill it with new material to be composted but you already know this I’m sure. I used the hoe later to push down the remaining compost once the panel had been replaced. I wheeled the compost in the barrow the short distance to the patio and put it into the two small flowerbeds up there. E and I had removed the chrysanthemums that had been in them beneath the palms. Once that was done I returned to the garage with the barrow to fill it with some of the pebbles we had stored in there making two journeys before there was enough to fill both beds.

My next job was to clean the artificial grass on the patio floor which had accumulated a lot of debris over the winter and through our working there. I tried to use the leaf blower which can also be used as a vacuum but it was too large and cumbersome and wasn’t as suitable as I had thought it would be. I dug out the old ‘Aquavac’ vacuum cleaner from the garage and used that instead. It took a fair amount of time because I couldn’t locate the head to fit on the end of the tube or we don’t have one! It did the job though. After putting the equipment away and hosing down the beds I decided I would give the lawn a mow but I couldn’t get the mower started. I didn’t want to spend more time trying to get it going and would make the attempt during the week ahead. I fancy we need a new one anyway so I thought I would consider the possibility of purchasing a new one too. The final job i had set myself was to dis-assemble the wooden crate which had been used to deliver the cobbles last year. It had been designed not to fall apart so easily and it took me a long time to dismantle it.

You can see the mower next to the dismantled crate in the picture above. It was fast approaching lunch time when I finally returned indoors.

Shirley Anne

Just not worth it

It was Friday and a day to take an early morning walk. It wasn’t particularly warm at seven o’clock when I stepped out and throughout the walk there was a chilly wind from the south east. At first the sun was shining but soon it was covered with clouds and it felt cold. Although the walk itself was enjoyable the wind made it a little uncomfortable. Back home and it was time for breakfast. As the morning progressed it became sunnier by the hour and by lunch time it was quite a warm day. The wind persisted though not as strong and not as cool as it had been. I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I might do some work in the garden over the weekend and perhaps today too but I decided against it and sat on the patio after lunch sunbathing again! Sunbathing in the UK in February? Well it has been quite unusual weather for the month. One of the things I had intended to do in the garden was to remove more bluebells. Two years ago at this time I had been digging them out by the hundreds as well as montbretia plants too but the main reason for that was to enable me to repopulate the main once almost barren flowerbed that had begun to look untidy. There were some trees that needed to be removed and others requiring straightening and pruning but I wanted to organise the bed and put in more plants. All I saw before me was an overgrown flowerbed filled with bluebells, montbretia, weeds and grass. There had been a similar problem on The Mound though not as bad. I made it my business to clean it all up and remove the unwanted plants and weeds. Bluebells though are very difficult to eradicate for their minute seeds can lay dormant in the soil and pop up later. That has been the case for the past two years.

Bluebells

Now that the flowerbed has established plants and shrubs in it the bluebells are less of a problem and can be kept to a respectable minimum. So I have decided to stop trying to eradicate them but to allow them to grow and keep them under control. I do like bluebells despite all my past efforts to remove them but they do need controlling. However I will remove any montbretia that I find growing in the rear garden for they really do look untidy and especially after the growing season when all the leaves die and lay there still attached to the bulbs. We do have montbretia in the front garden but they are in places where they are not a problem.

As the picture shows the montbretia though looking very nice can and do take over any spare ground and grow quite tall. Unless other plants in the same bed are taller they will be hidden. Having made the decision not to be too enthusiastic in removing the bluebells but only the montbretia (which are far easier to remove) I can concentrate on other things.

Shirley Anne

Spring is here!

Okay it is still February 21 st as I write this just after lunch but today is definitely not a winter’s day. It is mostly bright sunshine and around 12 deg C, no rain and very little wind, perfect. I had been shopping early in the morning and even then I could tell we were in for some nice weather. Before lunch I spent time in the cellar using the gym equipment, something I hadn’t been doing much of lately. This afternoon I will spend some time relaxing on the patio whilst I can. Over the weekend and maybe tomorrow also I hope to do some more garden maintenance, especially digging out the few bluebells that have shown themselves. Tomorrow morning I will take my walk before breakfast so that I can have the rest of the day to do as I please.

The cherry blossom is not yet on the trees in the area but soon will be. Now that I have removed the damson /plum fruit trees from our garden we won’t have the blossoms in our garden though we do have apple trees. They will blossom later and we do still have a couple of cherry trees, one wild and one with edible fruit. Not that we get much chance to eat the cherries however before the birds get at them, unless we cover them in some way. It looks like the lawn will need cutting too so that may get done over the weekend. One thing you can guarantee for the next few months in the garden is there will be plenty of things to do! Today though I will resist doing anything but who knows? There are lots of things pending.

Shirley Anne

He calls your name

Did you know that God is waiting for you? He is waiting for you to respond to His call but you don’t listen, you don’t believe so you ignore. Maybe you are too proud to accept His offer or maybe you don’t know what that offer is. You don’t believe there is a God, it is a silly idea yet you don’t consider it might be true. I know someone who is so stubborn she avoids any possible conversation that might lead to the subject of God. She wouldn’t enter a church building to admire the architecture because of its connection to Christianity and religion. I wonder what she would do if she heard God calling her name. Maybe you are the same, perhaps you are frightened of the possibility too. What would you do if you heard God calling out your name? It could happen but God usually moves in other ways and by The Holy Spirit. He may ‘speak’ directly into your heart and suddenly you realise something you didn’t realise before……..He loves you, He always has loved you and will always love you……….and He waits for you to respond.

Jesus Comforting

You don’t even have to wait for His call, you can reach out to Him now!

Shirley Anne

Redemption (Isaiah 43:1)

To “redeem” means literally “to buy back.” Redemption is one of the key accomplishments of God’s Son, Jesus. As this passage states, God’s people were created and formed by God’s own divine activity, and God himself through Jesus’ sacrificial ministry would buy them back.

But the word “redeemed” itself begs the question: From what are God’s people being bought back? The answer is that we all have willingly sold ourselves in slavery to sin; death is the cost of our disobedience. We are, both by nature and by our consistently sinful choices, rebels against God’s kingdom. The consequence for that rebellion against the righteousness and holiness of God is death, and this price must be paid.

But God, in his mercy, has paid that price himself. He truly has redeemed those who trust in him, having paid the price for our sinful pride and rebellion. God has now the right not only as our Creator, but also as our Redeemer, to say that believers are his and to expect them to live lives that reflect gratitude for his gracious redemption.

Jesus, I know that my future contained nothing but death and darkness, until I heard you call my name and responded. Thank you for your mercy. Thank you for giving me another chance. Amen.

Shirley Anne

Nagging

Do you find that you sometimes feel something is nagging at you to the point where you have to act upon it? It might be a chore that needs doing, an errand to run, a promised job you said you would do or any other thing. The little voice in your head keeps reminding you but you resist and try to put it out of your thoughts. Unfortunately it pops up again the next day, week or even month if you resist too long. Maybe you were thinking it would go away and all would be forgotten yet it still pops into your thoughts now and then. I am lucky if I get past a week and very lucky if I make it to the month stage. I usually end up giving in and getting the task done. The little voice would nag me to death otherwise!

So a few weeks ago I chopped down several fruit trees in the garden and promised myself that I would cut the trunks into smaller sections some time later. I kept putting it off and even suggested I might just take them to the tip instead, anything but chop them up! There was a good reason for my thinking that way because at the time I was feeling exhausted. I had made the attempt at cutting one length of trunk and found I was too tired. It put me off the thought of cutting any more and I put it in the back of my mind. Then along came nagging thoughts which persisted until I finally had to give in but they didn’t have it all their own way. On Tuesday (18 th) I was at something of a loose end and thought about having another go at cutting the trunks. Although it was hard-going I managed to spend an hour at it. However I was only able to complete part of the task before I had to rest. It wasn’t as bad as I imagined it would be so I will have another go at it in the days ahead. It will take a few sessions but I am determined now that it will not defeat me.

Shirley Anne

Bit of a tussle

It is Monday 18 th Feb. The weather is in a bit of a tussle at the moment hovering between nice and warm and cold and windy. Despite that we are told to expect a warmer week. As far as I can make out the worst of the weather is behind us as we approach Spring. Well all I can say is wait and see. I am more concerned about any frost we may still get and by that I mean a hard frost lasting days. Why is that I hear you ask? Well after lunch today it became rather warm and sunny so I made the decision to remove the frost protection I had provided for the more susceptible plants we have in the garden namely the Phoenix Canariensis (palms). Last year they took a battering from the easterly winds which brought about a severe frost. We seem to have been fortunate this year and the weather has even been unduly warm. So off I went into the garden and guess what happened? The sun went in and the wind picked up and it became much cooler. No matter it was just cool and not freezing! After I had returned indoors say half an hour later the sun re-emerged the sky went blue and everywhere warmed up again. Just typical of my ‘good’ fortune. One of the bags in which the pebbles had been delivered came in very useful for storing the pieces of bubble-wrap I had used to protect the plants. They can be used again though I did purchase a large roll of bubble-wrap which would last for years.

Hopefully there will be no hard frost in the remaining weeks of Winter. This morning I had taken a longer walk than I had done for months and walked southward to Ainsdale taking the coastal road. I wasn’t that warm even though there was a south to south-westerly breeze. I walked down to the beach there, lovely at any time of year. The tide was just turning as I arrived and was beginning to recede but was still high upon the beach. I didn’t stop there too long because of the wind exposure and turned toward the dunes to make my way back home. It was the first time this year I had taken that route. There was far more shelter from the wind in the dunes though the line of trees and undergrowth on my left afforded the most protection. To my right were the main part of the dunes the other side of which lies the coastal road. By this time the sun had appeared and was warming by back from the right. I met a couple of people walking their dogs and one or two others out jogging. Finally I was back home and having an early lunch as I had skipped breakfast but feeling well and invigorated.

Shirley Anne

Now the right way up

The upside down cake I had baked yesterday tasted delicious with custard and today I had a little more. I don’t often bake and when I do it is only as a treat both for me and for E. Too much of a good thing ends up not being a good thing. With puddings such as these the weight can easily be put on, not to mention their high sugar content. I will admit to having a sweet tooth so I have to be careful I don’t overdo things. It is a relatively cooler day than it was yesterday so I have spent the day just relaxing. Except for spending a little time preparing a stew I have mainly watched television. I don’t like sitting down too long, it isn’t healthy and besides I am too active a person. However it makes a change to just sit and do nothing.

As for the stew, which will provide three meals, it was easy to make. It is the kind of dish that even the beginner in the kitchen can master first time. We had some frozen pork in the freezer which had to be used so after defrosting it I used it in the stew. Normally I would use stewing steak or lamb but we not keep those in stock as we seldom eat them. So I chopped the pork into sizeable pieces and lightly fried it in oil with a chopped onion then put it to one side whilst I prepared the vegetables. When doing the weekly shopping I purchased large fresh carrots, potatoes and a swede. These I also chopped into sizeable chunks and boiled them for ten minutes before adding the pork and onion. I added salt, black pepper, one beef stock cube and one vegetable stock cube. At this stage I added some frozen (pre-cooked) sprouts and then allowed it to simmer for a further fifteen minutes. Finally I added a small amount of (gravy) browning. That was it, finished, so simple and very tasty on the palette. Very healthy food too.

Shirley Anne

All upside down

In yesterdays’ post I mentioned that this time last year the weather had been very different. It had been snowing and it was cold. Now the weather is all upside down and we are enjoying warm and sunny times. People often forget things like this especially when times are good. We are technically speaking and as I write this on 16 th February still in Winter though by the time you are reading this it is already officially Spring having just passed the Spring Equinox on the 21 st. As it is still winter as I write we can enjoy the puddings of Winter, if there be any. I fancy some of those puddings throughout the year and not just in Winter. Today is a Saturday and E left the house a few moments ago to drive to her group’s meeting. She will be gone for nearly three hours and as sometimes is the case I do a little baking if I’ve nothing else to do, nothing important that is. Anyway, baking is important isn’t it? So I have decided to bake, yes, an upside down cake. Specifically a pineapple upside down cake and something I have never previously baked so I hope it works out. Now there will be an hour or two’s intermission before I continue with the post……………….

Now I am back and the deed is done as you can see in the picture, though at that point it had only just been removed from the oven. It needed to cool down before any attempt was made to turn it right-side-up and make it the upside down cake it is supposed to be! So in the next picture……….

….I turned it right-side-up to make it into an upside down cake. Confusing isn’t it? Now to serve it I will need either custard (preferred) or cream, even ice-cream which we have in the freezer.

Recipe: For the base which ends up on top…Melt 4 oz of butter and mix with 4 oz of soft brown sugar until a stiff paste results. Spread over the base of a suitable baking tin (I use the neoprene flexible baking containers – see top picture). Drain the contents of a large can of pineapple slices or chunks (I used chunks) and place on top of the mixture, pressing down lightly into it. Leave to one side and prepare the cake mix.

For the cake mix place 8 oz of self-raising flour and a pinch of salt into a mixing bowl. Rub 8 oz of butter into the flour to form a crumble. Add 4 oz of caster sugar and some grated lemon peel (optional) and toss together the mixture. Make a well in the mixture and put in three or four large eggs (I used three) and an oz or two of fresh milk. Thoroughly mix until a soft but stiff batter results. Scoop out the batter and spread over the pineapple in the base of the baking container. Bake in centre of the oven for thirty or so minutes at 375 F / 190 C by which time it should have risen. Lower the temperature to 300 F / 150 C and continue to bake for a further thirty to forty minutes or until a wooden stick pushed into the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven to cool down and when cool place a tray/plate on top of the cake and turn it over. Remove the baking container and hopefully the cake will look similar to the bottom picture above. Incidentally I have doubled the quoted recipe amounts to make a larger cake. Simply halve the amounts for a smaller cake. You may have to reduce the baking time if you use less ingredients. Have fun.

Shirley Anne