Back in there

I had been preparing the walls and floor in the area of the utility room ready for the installation of the new sink and cabinet unit early on Monday morning (yesterday’s post). I had painted them and had to wait for the paint to dry. The wall paint was dry soon afterward but the floor paint took longer and because of the fumes it gives off I couldn’t start the work of building the cabinet immediately. After four hours the fumes had dissipated and I went back to the room and assembled the cabinet, a flat-pack affair. I don’t know about you but I think flat-pack furniture can be somewhat daunting at times, it all depends upon adequate and easy to understand instructions. Diagrams and different screw sizes, parts that seem to be able to fit anywhere or nowhere at all and confusing instructions written by a foreign hand with little understanding of the English language all add up to a frustrating experience if not approached logically. Even the experienced DIY enthusiasts might find instructions problematical on occasion. As it happened the cabinet wasn’t difficult to assemble on this occasion though and extra pair of hands would have sped up the process!   

I had to drill a hole with a hole cutter in order to slide it over the waste pipe protruding from the wall. It is fortunate I have plenty of hole cutters. Nothing as yet is permanently fixed in place of course but it gives me an idea on how to proceed with the next stages. The sink/drainer has to be fitted in the plywood top and the plumbing connected amongst other things. I stopped work around lunchtime and would continue with the work during the rest of the week. Whilst I was waiting for the paint to dry I made another apple pie, later putting it in the freezer with the other pies I had made for the previous day I had made an apple crumble which hadn’t yet been eaten.

Shirley Anne

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Moving along

No walk for me this morning as I went yesterday. It is the 25 th and the first thing I did when I arrived downstairs at three o’clock was to prepare and bake an apple pie using the left-over pastry to make a small blueberry- filled pasty. Who makes pastry and bakes pies at three in the morning? It is great being retired as I can please myself what to do and when to do it, a luxury I couldn’t enjoy when working. anyway the result was this..

I think they are an improvement on the first ones I made the other day and the apple pie is larger too. This time I rolled the pastry a little thinner and coated the top with milk before adding a sprinkling of sugar. If you remember I hadn’t baked a pie before, that is one covered in pastry. I tended to make crumble instead. After the baking I ate breakfast but I really wanted to get into the garden to do a little work. I had to wait a couple of hours before that could happen of course unless I was to work in the moonlight! When I did get out there all I did was to scrub the cobbles with a stiff brush and water. I wasn’t able to remove all of the cement from the tops of the cobbles but I would be tackling that job again later on. Rubbing a piece of stone or brick over them will clean off the cement but it will be a down on my hands and knees job. When E came down for breakfast I suggested we might go to the garden centre to purchase the plants we would be putting inside the new plot and whilst I was waiting for her to finish her breakfast and get ready I decided to mow the lawn then off we went to purchase the plants.

There are five of them and they are standing on the path immediately in front of the small greenhouse and behind the main flowerbed there. They would have to stay there until I was ready to plant them. After a little something for lunch I went out again into the garden for an hour or so and began digging out the grass inside the new plot..

It isn’t much to look at but the main work was in removing the soil from the sods and dumping it in the flowerbeds. We are not allowed to dump soil in the green waste wheelie bins so the soil must be removed beforehand. Even when the grass is fully removed the remaining soil level needs to be dropped a little too. At least the work is moving along in the right direction!

Shirley Anne

More time

Given a three-day break from my project because of foul weather I had more time for other things. Aside from working on some project at home being it large or very small I do little else apart from playing my guitar or exercising in some way. There are other things I like to do but it isn’t always possible to enjoy them. One thing I do like is cooking meals and baking cakes or other baked comestibles. We were truly having some bad weather during the last days of summer with high winds and plenty of rain. On days such as these it can be frustrating having to stay indoors for long periods without something to occupy. I prefer the outdoors but I cannot remain outside too long with nothing to do either. Walks are good but they don’t last all day and every day but I try to make them last as long as possible. It was Friday 21 st near the end of the season and Autumn was upon us. I like Autumn but not so much the foul weather that often accompanies it. I was up early as usual and wanted to do some baking. Our two fruit-producing apple trees have supplied us with lots of apples this year and of a decent size. Up until now the fruit has been on the small size but the trees have finally matured and the apples are larger. They are eating apples as opposed to baking apples though they are still a little on the acidic side. This means they can be baked without them falling apart. Eating apples are not suitable for baking as a rule so we are fortunate at least this year to be able to use them for baking. I baked a single apple pie and with the left-over pastry a small apple-filled pasty.

Before I could make the pie I had to make some short-crust pastry. Now it might seem strange but until that day I had never made short-crust pastry in my life. I have often made crumble but never took that extra step to convert it to pastry. All that is needed is some water sprinkled in slowly a little at a time whilst mixing followed by a little kneading and rolling out with a roller and the crumble is transformed into pastry! An hour or so later and the pie and pasty were done. Although they look a little pale in the picture due to the flash photography they were pale brown in colour. They did taste nice I have to say and made a change from rock cakes, sponges and scones!

Shirley Anne

Time of year

Do you find your interests and habits change from season to season? Wanting to remain outdoors in the Summer when it is warm and sunny might be an obvious desire as many would want to remain indoors sat beside a roaring fire in Winter when it is cold and windy. There must be smaller things we find ourselves doing more as each season arrives. Hot roasted dinners and cold salads at opposite ends of the dining spectrum will probably be our choices in cold and warm weather. We associate hot meals with cold weather and snacks and cold dishes when it is warm. Perhaps the thought of eating a roast dinner in the height of summer is off-putting because we probably feel we would be uncomfortably hot doing so. I notice I tend to bake more often when the weather is cool or cold. I tend to eat more salads in Summer and hot foods in Winter but in truth I don’t suppose it would make much difference if I reversed the habit. I suppose it is therefore more comforting to retain my existing eating habits so I continue with them. It is now the end of September and my thoughts are turning to baking the cakes and other things I stopped doing at the end of Spring. It was in Spring that I purchased some more desiccated coconut to use in a cake but I didn’t use it because I didn’t bake the cake. Now my thoughts have come full-circle and I want to bake it. I do eat cake during the summer though not often but if I do it is usually purchased in a café or restaurant. I enjoy baking, for me it isn’t a chore and I get to eat the results! What things do you find yourself doing each new season?

Shirley Anne

Feeling better

After feeling a little under the weather yesterday I awoke this morning feeling full of energy.

Happy Friday

No walks today though as I don’t take walks every day but perhaps three or four times a week. The weather hasn’t improved however, in fact if anything it is worse today than it was yesterday. It is much windier and it appears to have been raining more often through the night. Just letting us know that Autumn is near. This weekend in the UK is another Bank Holiday and many will say that is why the weather is so bad! It isn’t true that whenever there is a Bank Holiday the weather turns nasty but it does quite often. I’m not going anywhere, I am staying at home and keeping out of the weather at least for today. I am still awaiting delivery of one of the three items I ordered last week, one of the bundles of bamboo cane, the larger canes. The projected delivery dates were between the 20 th and 23 rd but today is the 24 th. Hopefully it will be delivered today but I have to remain at home to accept it. It is not yet six-thirty in the morning as I write this but I haven’t been idle. Today I decided to bake a fruit cake, something I haven’t done for quite a few months.

Maybe that is because home baking and the warmer months of the year don’t mix. I suppose we think more about baking and the comfort foods we tend to eat only in the cooler months of the year. That maybe true but I like cake any time of the year though I do confess I eat more of it during Winter. I love the smell of home cooking especially when cakes are being baked. Visiting someone’s house when they have been baking something makes their home more inviting. They say that prospective house buyers can be influenced by the smell of home baking as it reflects in their minds what the house would be like if they lived there, homely. Whether that is true or not is a matter of conjecture but it does encourage a feel good factor. I feel even better having baked my cake this morning anyway.

Shirley Anne

Sunday was

Sunday had been a totally different day and although the weather forecast promised rain it stayed dry during the day. It was much cooler too with an overcast sky. Not really a great day but I wasn’t going anywhere, I remained indoors throughout, didn’t even go into the garden. My day of rest meant just that but I wasn’t idle, I did some baking. I had gotten up around eight in order to get some exercise on the treadmill and cross-trainer before breakfast. I was just finishing breakfast when E appeared. It was approaching ten o’clock. I had to return upstairs to get out of my sportswear and get dressed for the day. After a spot of reading and checking emails I became bored so I decided to do a little baking, this time a very simple bake-rock cakes. They are so easy to make a child could do it…..Ingredients:
1/2 lb self-raising flour
1/4 lb butter
3 oz caster sugar
4 oz mixed dried fruit (I used sultanas and currants)
1 standard egg
1 or 2 tablespoons milk.
Method:
Rub butter into flour with fingers in a bowl until it forms a crumble
Add fruit and sugar and mix
Beat egg and milk then add to form a stiff mixture but not sticky.
Take portions of mixture and either roll into a ball or simply stack on a well buttered baking tray leaving plenty of space between each portion to allow for expansion.
Place in the centre of a pre-heated oven at 400 deg F (204 deg C) or slightly less if fan assisted for fifteen to twenty minutes. When done transfer to a cooling rack before storing unless they are to be eaten immediately.

I like them because they are so easy to make and very tasty.

It was almost time for lunch when I had finished but I didn’t eat until two o’clock. I had been browsing my personal writings which I keep in ring binders and books and one of them I post here….

O the glory of His presence
Fills me each and every day
And I get up every morning
With the urgent need to pray
For my Saviour has reminded me
That by my side He’ll stay
My Saviour rests with me.

As I go about my daily tasks
He whispers in my ears
And I often have to stop and think
For well I know He cares
He’ll be guiding me and moulding me
Throughout the coming years
So faithful is my Lord

O so often I do think on Him
For His sweet and saving grace
His persistence and undying love
The warmth of His embrace
So I’ll honour Him as best I can
‘Till we meet face to face
My great Redeemer King

Copyright Shirley Anne (1989-1998)

In those days I never recorded the date I wrote my songs and poems I only know which era. I wrote something each and every day so there are literally hundreds of them. Some are posted in my blog pages. So that pretty much summed-up my Sunday. Monday would again see me active on my project.

Shirley Anne

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

The Sunday Bake 2

Dough
Dough (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Recipe Ingredients

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

Method

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.

Shirley Anne

The Sunday bake

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…

Ingredients:

1 lb self-raising flour
1 level tsp salt
3 oz unsalted butter, softened
1/2 pint milk:

Filling:
3 oz currants or sultanas/raisins
3 oz caster sugar
2 level tsp cinnamon powder
2 oz melted unsalted butter

Method:
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.

They were exceedingly tasty!

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