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:
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
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’.
Last week I wrote about baking ‘Sugar and Spice Rings’ on Sunday. This Sunday I did a little more baking but this time it was ‘Tea Scones’, a very basic recipe which I am sure most will know. I had taken an early morning walk before breakfast, just four miles as I hadn’t been out for a walk for about two weeks and didn’t want to overdo things. To be honest I was feeling quite tired by the time I had returned home. The day looked promising in the morning sunshine but it wasn’t that particularly warm because of the cold slight breeze. When I went into the kitchen for breakfast E was sitting there having just eaten hers. After eating mine I sat on the patio with a coffee then spent some time digging out a few bluebells. Returning indoors I decided to do a little baking whilst E went upstairs to change. By the time she had come downstairs again I had the scones baked.
1 lb self-raising flour
1/4 tsp baking powder (optional)
1/2 level tsp salt
4 oz butter or margarine
6 oz caster sugar
6 oz sultanas or currants (optional)
1/2 pint milk
Place flour with salt in bowl and rub in the butter or margarine until the mixture is crumbly. Add sugar and fruit if used and mix. Add the milk (advise half of it at first) and thoroughly mix with ingredients until it becomes a firm but not sticky dough. Spread some flour onto a board or flat surface and place dough on it and knead for a couple of minutes then using a rolling-pin spread the dough till it is about 1/2 inch thick. Using a small circular pastry cutter, cut the dough and place each piece on a buttered metal tray. Brush each with milk and place in a hot oven (215 deg C) for ten to fifteen minutes.
Easy and tasty. The mixture will make about sixteen scones.
I did very little else on Sunday as on Monday I would be busy working again.
It was Sunday at last and the change in the weather was very noticeable, it was much warmer. Though it was still in single figures the temperature was nevertheless pleasant at around six or seven degrees and probably around ten degrees higher than of late at times. Being as it was a Sunday I had nothing to look forward to other than rest and relaxation though I did do a little pottering about. I had been looking at the problem of fixing a door stop on the wall behind the door in the cellar room we are currently redecorating. The door can be seen in yesterday’s post below. When fully opened the door at present is prevented from touching the wall by the pipe insulation at high level which is unsatisfactory. I discovered a bracket formerly used to attach a floodlight lying about amongst the ‘junk’ we have. I cleaned it up a little but it will need doing properly before I can use it as a door stop. I had spent twenty minutes on the treadmill before breakfast but now, after lunch, I was feeling a little bored so I decided to bake something and here they are straight out of the oven.
They are called sugar and spice rings and I had never baked them before. They are simple enough to make. I followed this recipe from a cook book though I doubled the quantities to make it worthwhile. The ingredients shown are doubled up…
1 lb self-raising flour
1 level tsp salt
3 oz unsalted butter, softened
1/2 pint milk:
3 oz currants or sultanas/raisins
3 oz caster sugar
2 level tsp cinnamon powder
2 oz melted unsalted butter
Place (sifted) flour and salt into mixing bowl and rub in the softened butter until the mixture is crumbly. Add all of the milk at once and mix with a knife until a sticky dough is formed. Sprinkle flour on to a board and empty the dough onto it and knead until smooth and pliable. Using a rolling-pin roll out into a rectangular shape until fairly thin, not less than a quarter-inch. Mix the currants, caster sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Melt the 2 oz of butter and spread over the rolled-out dough to a half-inch from the edges using a pastry brush. Sprinkle the currant and sugar mix over the buttered dough. Moisten the remaining edges of the dough with water then roll like a Swiss Roll. Pinch the moistened dough at the ends. Cut into equal slices and place each with the cut surfaces downward into a buttered dish for baking. Place near the top of a hot oven (215 C) for fifteen to twenty minutes.
The ones shown in the picture were baked in the containers you see them in. The two with the sealed-up faces are the two ends of the roll.
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.
It was so nice to be lying there in bed on Sunday morning knowing there was absolutely no reason not to! Usually I am up and about not long after I awake and that is more often than not early. I had nothing planned for the day so I took the opportunity to stay put under the warm duvet for just that little while longer before getting up. As it was I didn’t get downstairs until after ten-thirty and skipped my usual breakfast of oats or muesli and fruit having a slice of toast and a coffee instead. I made up the shortfall at lunch instead! Anyway, what was I going to do until then? I decided I wanted to do some baking and cakes would be my preference. I have to say I have a weakness for cakes and like to treat myself to one occasionally. E is also fond of cakes but she has her own preferences in what she likes and they often conflict with mine, though I will eat almost any cake variety. This time it would be cup cakes (fairy cakes, butterfly cakes etc.). Essentially Victoria Sponge mix but baked in small paper or metal cups. As I usually do I prepared twice the quantity for they will keep for a few days when wrapped-up properly. Having prepared the mixture I divided it into two halves and mixed desiccated coconut into one of the portions. I like coconut whereas E hates it! She is like that with many foodstuffs. The cakes took a mere thirty minutes to bake in the oven and soon we were able to eat one. Delicious! Just like mother used to bake……ahem. Actually my mom was a really good cook and baker of cakes of all kinds. I suppose my passion for cakes and for baking them stem from those days. One particular type of cake she excelled at baking was a Christmas cake, a really rich fruit cake with molasses and brandy in it. She wouldn’t let us anywhere the kitchen whilst it was baking in the oven, and that could take hours! Even some of the fruit cakes I have baked can take between one and two hours. It was such a lovely day on Sunday (4th) and very much like a Spring day, warm in the sunshine with almost totally blue skies. Why did I need to do anything if I had no need to?
There are times when feeling at a loose end I turn to baking something. Usually the idea to bake something has been in my thoughts for days but I hesitate to do it for one or two reasons, I am too tired, I am involved doing something else or I haven’t the time. Over the last couple of years I have taken a greater interest in baking and have slowly improved doing it. Sometimes there have been mistakes of course but those who say they never make mistakes usually don’t make anything! Once in a while I will take on a new challenge, make something I haven’t attempted before. A year or more ago I found a recipe for making doughnuts and set about making some. Doughnuts though are not baked, they are fried in deep fat or oil. The results were fair, the doughnuts were edible but could have been much better. Since then I hadn’t bothered making any more until recently when I discovered another recipe using different ingredients. I decided to try it. It was Saturday and E had gone to her afternoon meeting and I had time on my hands. Whereas the previous recipe used bicarbonate of soda this one called for yeast to be used instead and the process took much longer. However I made the doughnuts but sadly they were somewhat of a failure having not risen enough they turned out far too heavy. E and I had a great laugh regarding the escapade, me suggesting they would fit in well in the garden rockery and she suggesting we give them to a neighbour to practice his golf with. Oh well, back to the drawing board I suppose. On reflection it was all about the yeast but I think the next attempt will be using the original recipe instead, at least they tasted and felt like doughnuts! It was now Monday and E again was out during the afternoon shopping with her mom. I had spent an hour exercising on the gym equipment in the morning but as it was such a fine day I decided to put on my overalls and get into the garden to do some work. The first thing I wanted to do was to spread some mulch onto the flowerbed by the greenhouses….
As you can see I got it done but there was no more mulch in the bin (below) suitable to spread anywhere else.
After that job I swept up the pathways and placed the leaves on top of what was left in the compost bin. It will be many months before there would be any usable mulch or compost to take from it. It will get filled once the grass starts growing and is cut. Things are beginning to grow again even though it is still only January and I have already dug out a few bluebells. As the weather improves (stops raining) I will be able to get more maintenance done in the garden and if it is raining too hard I can always make some doughnuts!
It is a great feeling to be at that stage in life whereby you can pretty much do as you please as far as what you do in a day. At weekends I don’t do any electrical work unless in an emergency so if I don’t wish to do anything at all over the weekend then I don’t. On Sunday I was in no hurry to get up but I arose as soon as I awoke. After a shower and getting dressed I sauntered downstairs just before ten o’clock and had a bowl of fruit with a little muesli and milk. I had been thinking about going for a walk or maybe dining out at the pub to wile away the afternoon but by two o’clock I wasn’t feeling particularly well kind of like the way you feel when you have a bad cold. I decided to remain at home and have a late lunch instead, after all I had made a vegetable and chicken stew the previous day so there was no need to do any cooking. To kill a bit of time before lunch I made another ‘slab’ of rock cake because the other had been so nice but had all been eaten. After lunch I was feeling much better. The day before I had experienced problems getting my mobile phone connection. No matter where I was in the house or the gardens the message read ‘No network available’. As I was home it didn’t bother me too much because callers could contact me over the house phone if it was urgent. I wanted to contact a new friend just to say hello and couldn’t reach her even by text. I tried again on Sunday afternoon and suddenly everything was back to normal but I had a lot of catching up to do answering messages that had been left, mostly from people wanting electrical work done. I was able to contact my friend too and learned she was in the south of the country tending to her mother. Anyway before my phone connection had been restored I had been out in the front garden checking for a signal and noticed more bluebells growing in the right-hand flowerbed again. I had to dig them out, I couldn’t leave them for another day, they had to go! It was only a few days earlier I had been digging out bluebells in the same bed. They are a pain in the proverbial to put it mildly. As I was fetching the kneeling stool which I had stored in the greenhouse I noticed another bluebell in the flowerbed by the greenhouses which I dug out once I had finished in the front garden. Thinking I had found them all I began to put the equipment away but lo and behold there were more, then more in the next bed. Finally I decided to dig out the couple I had seen in the flowerbed next to the patio whilst I was at it but didn’t get that far. On the way there I saw more in the ‘Mound’ which I started to remove. As I dug them out more appeared with each dig with the trowel or fork and before I knew it I had a bucket full of them! At last I got to the flowerbed next to the patio and dug out a couple there. I have never seen so many bluebell bulbs and plants in such relatively small areas, even rabbits don’t ‘breed’ so profusely! I did say there would be more and more and more and more………..yawn!
I had another restless night on Tuesday through to Wednesday broken into three sessions by visits to the little girl’s room as they say. My sleep was very shallow and as is often the case my thoughts were all over the place. I seem to be good at thinking things through when I ought to be sleeping instead. I hastily point out that for the majority of times I do sleep well. I was wondering therefore why it was that I’d had a restless night having worked hard during the day. Very odd but I guess I had more on my mind than I thought I had. There seemed no other reason for my experience. I went to bed in good health but found I had a bit of a sore throat in the morning. Could it be the onset of a cold or even worse, the ‘flu? Having said in a recent post that I generally enjoy good health it proves that these conditions can affect anyone at any time. The sore throat wasn’t severe and didn’t get any worse during the day. In any case I was taking honey to sooth it. I often use honey as a sweetener in coffee which I drink a lot of during the day so I suppose that extra honey helped. My only electrical work for the day was to replace a faulty room thermostat in a house across town so I was back at home around ten o’clock. I wanted to get into the garden though only to dig out the bluebells I had seen the day before, those which had revealed themselves in ground I had already worked weeks before and had obviously missed. There will be more. The morning was fairly damp so I put off doing that until the weather improved as I didn’t wish to aggravate my sore throat or encourage the onset of something worse. I decided to do a little baking so I made a rock cake. I use the singular because I baked the cake in slab form rather than individual cakes. It is an easier method and allows cutting a slice to suit your desire. The rock cake recipe is very similar to that of scones but I think they taste nicer than scones because they are cakes and sweeter. Neither scones nor cakes last long in our household as both E and I love them. She almost never bakes at home these days but she sure eats whatever I bake. Well I was just about to have lunch when I received a call to check a couple of suspected faulty lighting switches in a house two miles away. I put lunch on hold and went to do the work. I was back home a half-hour later. E was eating her lunch and I joined her. As I was parking the van in the garage I noticed there were another two bluebells in one of the front flowerbeds! I had removed quite a number of them only recently. After lunch I put on my gardening clothes and dug them out before returning to the rear garden and digging out more, the ones whose positions I had marked the day before. There were four positions with a number of bluebells in them but the fourth and last position had much more, around thirty of them. How I missed them first time around I cannot say. As I have said, it will be an ongoing task checking for bluebells for yet a while.
I actually woke up long before the alarm would ring as I normally do but had not done for the preceding few days. I was ready for work. I had but the one job a couple of miles away which turned out far easier than I thought it might. Nice to have easy jobs at any time but especially on Mondays! I was paid a little extra for the work which was also nice. I had to pay a visit to the electrical supplier in order to collect the LED light unit that hadn’t arrived on Friday as expected. I was hoping it would now be there for me to collect as it was only a little after ten o’clock. Deliveries usually arrive any time between nine-thirty and eleven-thirty but I needn’t have been concerned as it had arrived early. I made another purchase for my van stock whilst I was there. I would be installing the light unit on Tuesday morning as arranged and as I had no other work I returned home. I made E and myself a cup of coffee but had to take hers to the top of the house where she was working in her new workshop. I returned downstairs but chose to sit out on the patio to drink my coffee. When I had finished I walked around the garden for a while but stopped by the apple trees. There were a lot of apples on the two trees but many of them were too small to bother with. Even so I decided to pick some of the largest ones and put them in a basket. I didn’t count them but I estimated I had picked thirty to forty. A similar amount still hang on the branches but I doubt we’ll be picking them. They are eating apples, that is they are sweet enough to eat straight from the tree but we usually put them in pies.
Before lunch then I began peeling apples and cutting them, placing them into a pot filled with water until I was ready to use them. My next job was to make some short crust pastry which I then put into a plastic bag before putting it into the fridge until after lunch. After lunch I made a couple of pies and popped them in the oven. I hadn’t made enough pastry for use with all the apples as E had purchased some ready-made pastry many months ago and had stored it in the freezer. I wanted to use that pastry for the other pies I would be making but I wouldn’t be able to it until it had thawed, which would be the next day. The cooked pies can be frozen of course so that we do not have to eat apples pies every day!
I was going through one of my phases of not being bothered or interested in anything and it led me to lie in bed for hours on Saturday morning. I simply didn’t want to get out of bed. I wasn’t tired, I’d had a good night’s sleep and had actually woken by eight. It was almost twelve-thirty by the time I arrived downstairs. So that was breakfast missed. I didn’t much feel like eating anything but I had to eat something. I decided to prepare a chicken and vegetable stew, one of my favourite meals as it is very healthy and tasty too. When I make it I do it in quantity and can get three meals out of it, four if I have a smaller portion but it is the kind of meal I call ‘moreish’, a small portion just doesn’t cut it. As I was preparing the food I couldn’t help but notice the sound of hail on the windows and for a while everywhere began to turn white…It didn’t stay that way as the hail turned to rain after a short time. I wondered if this was the first sign of a colder winter ahead. I was thankful to be indoors in the warmth but I needed something to occupy myself. First of all I had some of the stew for my meal. It was by now two-thirty. E had gone to her monthly meeting and would be away for hours. I have been checking for any air in the radiators on a regular basis now that the heating is switched on. E’s workshop is at the top of the house so any air in the system naturally migrates up there which means the radiator in the room doesn’t get warm if I don’t bleed out the air. It needed bleeding which took minutes to do. The radiator in the bedroom we refurbished early in the year had been left valved-off as the room isn’t in use but I usually allow a little water to pass through just to keep the chill out of the room though it doesn’t get too cold because of its southerly aspect. I discovered it wasn’t warm in the least even after I had checked for trapped air. I opened the valves fully and still the radiator remained cold. I will need to address that problem when I get the opportunity though I think that may be next year if it is more than simply an air-lock in the pipes. I went downstairs and decided to do some baking, one of my other favourite ‘hobbies’. This time it was a fruit cake. Whilst it was baking I prepared a scone mix and baked the scones an hour later when the cake was done. E returned home after five o’clock and knew instantly that I had been baking. I love the smell of baking in a house, it makes it feel more homely. Just nice when it is cold and wintry outside.