The things I do

For one reason or another I felt so tired I went to bed early, that is just after ten o’clock on Tuesday (3rd) evening. Perhaps it was the hassle we had in getting the mortgage paid off. Anyway it served to get me up much earlier on Wednesday and I was downstairs before seven-thirty eating breakfast. E wouldn’t appear until ten o’clock! I began thinking of things I could do but first I had to bring up from the cellar some items of food from the freezer and some canned food too. The upstairs freezer was short on stock but I needed the canned food because I had decided to prepare a Bolognese Sauce for later in the day. That required canned tomatoes and mushrooms. I should use fresh foods for that but as I often make things on the spur of the moment canned foods are easier. It wasn’t long before the sauce was done. Whilst I had been downstairs in the cellar I noticed some of the pipe insulation I had fitted a week or so earlier had shrunk a little in length in one or two places. This can happen with new insulation until it is settled. It was easy enough to cut some small sections of insulation and squeeze them into the spaces to seal the gaps. This I did next before returning upstairs again. E still hadn’t arrived downstairs so I decided I would bake a cake and set about preparing that. This time I was baking another Family Fruit Cake. Easy to prepare and bake:
Ingredients:
1 lb self-raising flour
1/2 lb unsalted butter
1/2 lb fruit (sultanas, currants and some chopped lemon peel (if desired)
1/2 lb caster sugar
Small quantity of milk
2 Standard eggs

Method:
Put flour and butter in mixing bowl and mix together by hand to form a crumble.
Add fruit and caster sugar to the mixture then the eggs with a few tablespoons of milk. Using a metal spoon mix thoroughly until a soft paste is formed but not too moist. Add a little extra milk as you mix. The mixture should be firm enough to handle and not be dry.
Prepare a small baking tin (say 8 inches) by lining it with parchment paper and covering it with butter using fingers. The paper should stand an inch or so above the edge of the tin to allow the cake to rise. Scoop mixture into tin and level out leaving a small dimple at the centre to discourage it rising there too quickly. Bake in the centre of a pre-heated oven at 350 F /180 C for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Using a wooden probe test to see if mixture has baked through to the centre near to the end of the baking period. Don’t open the oven door before then or the cake may not rise! If it hasn’t set in the centre then leave in the oven a little longer.

Just as I was about to place the cake in the oven E came into the room. We chatted and we discussed what we would like to do in the cellar regarding a storage room down there. She has been asking for quite some time that she would like to as she puts it ‘sort it out’. Well it does need sorting out…..

Don’t you agree? It is one of those rooms where everything gets dumped and is almost forgotten about though we are often in there looking for tools and materials for use on projects. Looks like we will be busy again soon ‘tidying it up’.

Shirley Anne

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Little done

I had no intentions of doing any work on Thursday (22) for I wanted to go for a walk first thing in the morning. Having not been out for a walk for a few days and for more than a week or so prior to that I kept the walk brief, that is I walked four miles only. I didn’t wish to push myself too much this time but even so I felt tired on my return home. It was one of those days, typical of early Spring when the sun was trying to warm things up but a biting wind was making it difficult. I was warm enough in my clothing but could still feel the coldness of the wind, especially down on the beach front. Having had no breakfast before I left the house I was feeling hungry and rustled up something to eat. E had recently eaten her breakfast and was preparing to dress so she could go and do the weekly shopping with her mom. All I wanted to do was sit on the sofa and watch tv. The nourishment finally took effect and I was feeling my old self again. It was too late to begin the work in the cellar room gym as E would be returning home with the groceries and it would soon be time for lunch anyway. The work I would be doing in the cellar was filling in gaps in the woodwork and walls and painting the inside of the cupboard I had prepared with a priming coat the day before. The floor inside the cupboard still looked a little damp in the corner though not as much as it did the day before. Perhaps it was drying out after all but only time will tell and I had doubts about it. That part of the cupboard would be left alone until I was sure there was no rising damp or ingress of moisture from outside. I any event I would be taking measures externally to ensure there would be no ingress of water at a later date. I didn’t sit watching tv all the time E was out, no, I did some house cleaning, mopping floors and such!

Shirley Anne

At last

Saturday (17 th) ended up being a busy day for me though it wasn’t all about the decorating down in the cellar. I wanted to complete the construction of the cupboard surround for the boiler but I didn’t get to work on that until after lunch. I surprised myself by getting up very early for after the previous day’s work I had been very tired going to bed and a sleep-in could have been a possibility. However, I didn’t rush into the work I promised I would do before continuing with the cellar job. For some time E had been hoping I would replace the fluorescent light in her workshop with a new LED unit and at the same time move it nearer to where she does most of her intricate work. I had purchased the new light a couple of days previously so I was obliged now to install it. That work took me less than an hour but most of that time was spent in preparation. Whilst I was doing that work I had put the robot floor cleaner to work in my bedroom. My next job was to vacuum the tops of the fitted furniture. I do this every few months for fluff and dust accumulates up there and if left can end up on the floor. It proves one thing, there must be a lot of dust floating about in the air. That work led to my cleaning the vacuum cleaner itself as I do that every few months too. I am not talking about just emptying the dirt but washing component parts and allowing them to dry before reinstalling them. I also replaced the 24 door and drawer knobs on my bedroom furniture.

After lunch I was finally able to continue with the work on the cellar. I completed the construction by cutting the plywood and fitting it to the sides of the boiler cupboard.……and then painting the whole unit with primer

I think I did enough for one day. It was five o’clock when I stopped work. After painting the unit with a couple of top coats it will be finished. I will then move on to the final construction work or rather I should say refurbishment of the room’s only storage cupboard. The only other task will be touching up on the paint work in various places and that will mark the end of the project unless we either seal the floor or paint it.

Shirley Anne

Liver and onions

Pan-fried lamb's liver with caramelised onions...
Pan-fried lamb’s liver with caramelised onions. (As served at the Tea Rooms of Yarck, Yarck, Victoria, Australia) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was rather tired on Tuesday evening. That was probably due to my mixing and laying concrete screed for a couple of hours earlier in the day and the various other smaller jobs I did too. It meant I retired to bed earlier than I might have done but it also meant I wouldn’t have trouble getting off to sleep. True to form though I awoke after four hours for a toilet visit and after an hour tossing and turning I went back to sleep for another four hours. I still managed to get up around eight o’clock to spend a little time on the treadmill and cross-trainer before breakfast. When I went into the cellar I saw that the screed I had laid had set hard and was already turning grey in colour. I had set my mind on doing nothing more on the project for a day just to give myself a break though in real terms there was very little more to do anyway. The rest of the work would be cosmetic and wouldn’t take long to do. After breakfast and a quick shower I went into the garden to tidy up the fallen leaves. It amazes me that there are still leaves falling this late in Winter but they are practically all ivy with a few holly leaves. I suppose this is the season for those to drop if indeed they are going to. I suspect though that the squirrels have been busy disturbing the foliage. The ivy grows up and around a tree in a neighbours garden. If it were in my garden it would have been dug up years ago! On my return indoors I decided to give the hand rail and post an undercoat of paint. I had asked E if she would like to take a trip out to the garden centre but she mumbled something about staying indoors for the post to arrive. It did arrive soon after but there was no inkling from her to come out with me so I drove off alone. However I didn’t visit the garden centre, instead I visited the pub and treated myself to a meal of liver and onions and a naughty but nice chocolate fudge cake for dessert. It is hard sometimes to get E motivated unless it is something she specifically wants to do. It made a change for me to dine out alone but just getting away from the house was a blessing. Too much work and no play had been my lot for the previous few weeks whilst I had been working at home. Sometimes I think E doesn’t realise that I need a break too.

Shirley Anne

Invention

The time spent on the pit project was limited to an hour and a half on Saturday morning as I had reached as far as I could go. The main task was to skim the internal end wall I had roughly worked on the day before and then put some spots of the same mixture on the floor of the pit. These spots of concrete were to be level with each other and would act as guides when I laid the screed concrete.It was time for lunch after which E went out to her monthly meeting and I thought I would sit a while out on the patio as by then it was warm and sunny. However I didn’t stay sitting long for I noticed a chrysanthemum which needed pruning of its old growth. I had missed it when I pruned the others a couple of weeks ago. I decided to prune it but on the way to collect the tools I noticed a couple more bluebells in the long bed which needed digging out. I ended up checking each of the flowerbeds and dug out around thirty or so. They just don’t give up do they? (See last years posts around this time). Finally I gave up on the idea of sitting outside and returned indoors and setting ‘Robbie’ to vacuum the hallway I went into the kitchen to do some baking. I wanted to bake two sponge cakes, one with some coconut in it and the other with coffee. I was following a recipe for a rich butter cake as opposed to a Victoria Sponge but along the way I made a little mistake and I ended up preparing a fusion mixture of the two! Talk about invention! Surprisingly though the cakes turned out very well and quite tasty. I guess many recipes started off this way.

Shirley Anne

Never stopped……

……during the morning that is. It was Thursday and this Thursday E had made arrangements to visit Manchester with a couple of the members from her hobbyist club. It meant she had to arise early but although she was eating breakfast after taking her shower she hadn’t dressed. I entered the room fully dressed as I normally do before eating and she was surprised to see me, thinking I was going to have a lie-in. Well I had thought about doing that but soon after waking I remembered I hadn’t put the wheelie bin out for collection so I had to arise early enough to do that before the they came to empty it. I was however intending to go for a walk too so it was just as well I arose earlier rather than later. I don’t eat breakfast when going for a walk but might have some honey before I go and also take a banana with me just in case I get hungry. I was out of the house long before E went out and in fact she passed me by as I was walking along the coastal road about a mile from home. I waived as she went by. She was off to Chorley on her way to meet with a friend there before they went on to Manchester. Had she been going directly to Manchester she wouldn’t have been on the coastal road going north. It was a very cold and a very windy morning and I struggled at times just to stand up! Not quite as bad as in the picture below as it was a dry day but it certainly was windy….I didn’t go far along the beach this time, it was too cold, so I turned away and made my way toward the lake behind the dunes where it was slightly better out of the wind. By the time I arrived back home I was feeling the effects of that cold wind. I had work to do, cleaning my bedroom being one, moving a couple of items of gym equipment around to make easier access for the washing lines which hang in the same room in the cellar and then apply a top coat of paint to the lengths of wood I shall be using to space out the safety edge strips on the garage door frame. Then a few other small things too. Ah but breakfast before all of that though it was only a small bowl of muesli with fruit. The afternoon? That’s another story.

Shirley Anne

Dragging heels

E has never been one to rush things, always taking a long time to get something done. That is just her way but sometimes it infuriates me whenever we have planned to go anywhere she takes an inordinately long time getting ready. By that I don’t mean getting dressed or applying make-up but rather she finds things to do that should have been done say the day before. She hardly ever wears make-up anyway and getting dressed doesn’t take much time either, she simply drags her heels and wastes time. I am the complete opposite, always dressed well in time and always ahead of time for any event we have planned. E had suggested we go out on Monday morning in order to purchase a few things and to perhaps visit the garden centre for a coffee too. We actually left the house at twelve forty-five! We could have been there and back long before noon. We drove off in the van and our first call was to the electrical supplier to purchase some cable, a LED floodlight and a battery. I was greeted with a ‘Hello, long time no see’ quip from the guy behind the counter who hadn’t realised I had retired. Our next port of call was supposed to be to the timber yard to purchase the timber I would need to pack-out the safety edge equipment on the garage door (see yesterday’s post). However just a short distance before reaching the yard we had to pass by the pub/restaurant we sometimes visit when dining out and I suggested we make the detour and dine there. http://www.thatchandthistle.co.uk  By now it was around one forty-five and lunch time anyway. I had a garlic mushroom starter and E had some garlic bread. I had a simple dish of plaice and E chose barbecued pork ribs for the main course. However the ribs she found rather tough and overdone to the point of being burnt. She complained to the waitress who promptly removed her plate and brought the replacement which according to E was perfect. Although it had only been the ribs at fault she was given a full plate of chips (fries) and a salad too even though she had told them not to. She had already eaten much of those on the first plate and didn’t want more. I thought what a waste serving up food that was not going to be eaten. Usually the fayre is spot-on and we have had no complaints in the past. After our meal we drove to the timber yard where I purchased the wood. The rear of the van had been filled with waste cardboard for several weeks because there was no point in making a special journey to dispose of it. The waste depot isn’t far away from the timber yard so we took the opportunity to dispose of the cardboard. It was time to make the return journey home and on the way call in to the garden centre for our free coffee. I can take advantage of the two free coffees offered once every month because I am a member. Sometimes we would have something to eat with the coffee but this time we had already eaten. Whilst there we bought some potatoes for planting as we wish to grow them in the raised bed between the two greenhouses. Finally we arrived back home around four-thirty and E pointed out that there were some bluebells growing in the two flowerbeds at the front of the house. I had spotted some of them already as I have been looking out for any that might still be there after digging most of them out last year just as I have been doing in the rear garden also. I wasted no time and dug them all out. I am not one for dragging my heels when something needs doing.

Shirley Anne

A quick look

I was up and about early on Friday morning, that would be the 19 th but I actually didn’t get downstairs until 9.30. E was only a few minutes ahead of me in reaching the kitchen for her breakfast. I however only wanted to fill my drinks flask with water as I was about to go into the cellar or basement if you prefer to do some exercising on the equipment. I spent a little time stretching my leg muscles before mounting the bicycle to do some gentle peddling for ten minutes. I could have spent hours doing that as it is so relaxing even though it was exercise, mild exercise admittedly but it served to warm me up for getting on the treadmill. Finally I am getting back to where I left-off  as far as my treadmill routine is concerned. I spent thirty minutes on it and found I had increased my overall distance covered in that time. It isn’t all running though, I walk between stints of running but my distance run is increasing and the time spent walking in between is lessening. My next exercise was spent on the elliptical trainer, the machine I found difficult to get used to. It appears my muscles are beginning to accept the different exercise regime at last and I was able to spend fifteen minutes on it without any problems. It will take some time before I can do more strenuous exercise on it of course but I am getting there. Time for a little breakfast before taking a shower. Later in the morning I decided to go to the greenhouse to water the bulbs which had sprouted in the large tubs. E has been growing flowers in the greenhouse over the past few years. It was left to me to do the watering however, she didn’t want to face the elements as it was a cold, windy and wet day. I have no problems with that. Whilst outside I noticed a few montbretia and bluebells beginning to grow in the border close to the greenhouse. I was expecting them to show up at some point. I got out the kneeling stool and hand fork and dug them out. If you remember I spent the first couple of months of last year removing the bulk of them from the garden. The picture above taken at the time shows one of the areas I worked in. No doubt there will be more to come yet. Just as I had dug them out it poured down with rain. Later we had more showers of both rain and hail. Well it is Winter after all.

Shirley Anne

Slowly getting there

Slowly but Surely
Slowly but Surely (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although I don’t mind it being Winter and the fact that it is cold far more than it gets warm there is a lethargic atmosphere deep in my brain telling me to refrain from attacking the jobs I want to do. This applies both to outdoor tasks and indoor tasks alike, I have to force myself to do some of them. It’s all about self-discipline of course for once I am engaged in a task nothing really matters, I just get on with it. I suppose if it were warmer and the sun was shining it would be a different story but no, perhaps it wouldn’t. You see if it is warm and sunny I like to relax in it! Again, it is about discipline and motivation. It is the middle of January as I write. The sun was out throughout the morning but decided to go hide for the rest of the day. The day suddenly feels the temperature it is and to add to that a slight breeze is blowing now. Suddenly I don’t wish to be outside in it but the waste doesn’t find its way to the bins all by itself and the leaves don’t get swept into the wheelie bin either. Neither of those tasks need to be done immediately but there is a nagging urgency for me to tackle at least one of them. I’ll let you guess which one. We love our creature comforts don’t we? The bedclothes are cozy, the heating is on, there is shelter from the elements and a nice warm cup of coffee invites us to remain indoors. Nothing will get done unless we decide not to be lazy and just get on with it. It’s battle fought by many a dedicated couch potato and won but I am not a couch potato so I’ve no defence. I put on my armour and throw myself at the enemy. I am beginning to once again set my mind on the things I want to get done and even those I don’t but have to else they will niggle at my grey matter. Who wants to be outside working in Winter? I have to confess I do for some of the time but sometimes it is nice to stay put on the sofa. I have been doing things of course I have and with each day passing I am slowly getting more of them done.

 

Shirley Anne

 

A fine end

Sunday, the last day of the year turned out to be bright and sunny, The temperature hovered around 9 deg C all day though a stiff breeze made it feel colder. Still, it was nice to be outdoors when sheltered from that wind. I had deliberately arisen early so that I could drive to the beach to collect some more stones. I left the house around seven-thirty and by the time I had parked the van in the car park near to the beach it was beginning to enter the twilight zone. Twilight for me is the best part of any day and I am glad I live in a place where we have a period of twilight twice a day. Anyway, the wind felt stronger down on the sand but I persevered and collected quite a few stones while it was still quite dark. I made three short trips to and from the van to collect the stones in a plastic bag to then place them in a large bucket I had stored in the van. I should have taken a couple of more trips at that time but I was beginning to feel tired and cold. I could always return later. Before returning indoors on my arrival back home at eight-thirty I decided to make an attempt at sliding the hard neoprene strip back into the guide on the garage door. If my readers will remember it had slid out a couple of weeks ago and I informed the installer to have it repaired. At the time of writing this on the last day of the year there has been no follow-up from them. I will have to inform them it has been repaired. After doing that small job I took a parcel we had received on behalf of our neighbour across the road to give it to her who at the time it arrived wasn’t at home, then I went indoors for my breakfast. E came into the kitchen just as I had finished eating. After breakfast I donned my overalls and went into the garden to empty out the stones and to dig out a couple of montbretia plants.

Still not enough stones to cover the soil so I would have to do some more collecting. With that in mind E and I drove down to the beach in the afternoon and whilst I went to collect more stones she sat inside the van admiring the sea view. From her vantage point however I was invisible because of the intervening sea wall. I collected a small bucket full of stones which I placed in the empty space when we returned home…..

It looks full now but in fact there is space for a few more. I plan to put some other plants in the area later so some of the stones will move to create a space for them. It should then look fuller. (Click on pics to magnify)

Shirley Anne