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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Dough and grow

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!

Click on pictures to magnify.

Shirley Anne

Daft ‘apeth.

Daft Club
Daft Club (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For those not familiar with the saying (title above) the second word is an abbreviation of ‘half penny worth’ as far as I can gather. It was used for many a year in my circles as a child growing up in Liverpool and I suppose it was used in many other parts of the land too. I still use the phrase sometimes even now. It is used in jest in response to someone’s foolish act, usually someone known personally of course. ‘You daft ‘apeth’. Having checked to see the origin of the phrase I drew a blank but I’m sure it will be listed somewhere. E often calls me a daft ‘apeth whenever I do something silly and I often call myself the same after doing something silly too! With lots of time on my hands lately I am able to do things I haven’t done for a while, making cakes is one and I baked a lovely cake a few days ago. That has all been eaten of course, they don’t last long in our house! On Wednesday morning last week I had the idea of making a curry for a change. It had been many years since I last prepared a curry. I had to check to see if we had any ingredients, that is spices in store. E and I checked for any that might be stored in the cellar for we have a room there in which we store many foodstuffs as it is a cold and dry room. We found several containers with spice in them but not all could be used because of their age. However we did have some spices in the kitchen cupboard too, spices such as cumin, coriander, chilli powder, ginger and a few others and of course black pepper. We had enough of the correct spices with which to make a curry. Now as it happens E and I have a small collection of cookery books and one of them is dedicated to Asian recipes. She brought them into the kitchen thinking I was going to use one of the recipes. There are recipes from Japan, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar (listed as Burma), India and Sri Lanka in its pages. I was spoilt for choice though I didn’t wish to prepare anything special. Turning to an Indian recipe in order to jog my memory as to amounts of spices to use I was reminded how much and which spices to use. What I hadn’t realised was how hot the recipe would be. Daft ‘apeth! So I prepared the curry and yes, it was hot! Gosh it was hot and I don’t really like hot curries. Out came more cream to quench its potency but it wasn’t enough, I had to dispose of some of the liquid until finally I had it right. E also reminded me I was a daft ‘apeth too. I’ll know better next time. The (chicken) curry was delicious by the way.

Shirley Anne

All things new?

I woke up on Saturday morning fully refreshed after a good night’s sleep. I wanted to give the new pillar stand a coat of gloss paint but first I had to move it into the boiler room where it is always warm. The room it was in whilst under construction is a far cooler room and the paint had been taking a longer time than normal to dry. I am talking about the primer/undercoat which is supposed only to take thirty minutes to be touch dry under normal temperatures. The workshop along with the room beneath the small lounge are always cool because the ground outside at the front of the house is raised above ground level. See behind the flowerbed the raised portion. 

I moved my ‘workmate’ bench into the boiler room too so that I could place the stand on it whilst painting. It didn’t take long to paint it but it will need another coat later. That done I decided to clean up the cellar hallway carpet and the floor in the workshop where I had been working. It was covered in sawdust. That took some time but soon I was finished. I waited until E had gone out after her lunch to her monthly meeting and then I retrieved the tall ladder from the garage where I had put it after completing the lounge project and moved it into the rear lounge. I wanted to fit the curtain rail in there and hang the curtains which I had removed from the small lounge a few weeks ago. First though, I had to strengthen the centre support by placing a metal tube through the support for the poles to be inserted and skim the ends of the poles so they would fit. It didn’t me take long to complete the whole job, about an hour…

I had skipped lunch as I wasn’t hungry at the time but made a sandwich when I had finished working and whilst I was making a vegetable and chicken stew for my evening meal. It was so late when I ate the sandwich that I left the stew for the following day.

The pan is larger than it looks for there is enough stew in it for three meals and it is only half filled. Anyone for stew? That done I went into the rear garden to water some of the plants, those which are under a canopy of leaves in the warmer months. It had been raining earlier but there was little or no wind which would normally blow the rain beneath the trees so occasionally I have to water those plants myself.

The plants affected are all in the long flowerbed (shown above) though in this picture taken in late Winter there were no leaves to form a canopy. That was it, finished for the day and time to relax.

Shirley Anne

Poor electricians?

I am glad I entered into the electrical trade/business all those years ago. For someone who has an inquisitive mind it is the ideal occupation. People often ask why I took up electrical work and the answer I give is that I wanted to know how things work. It is still the reason even now and it doesn’t stop at electrical things, I am interested in many things and how they work, how they are made and the history behind them too. It is a passion I guess but it helped when I first embarked in my career that I enjoy working with my hands and to be truthful it was essential. There are no such things as poor electricians providing they are prepared to work.

Power to the people!
Power to the people!

I am not super rich and never could be unless I had a large business employing many people but that was never an option for me, I simply wasn’t that way inclined. Being self-employed is in itself a driving force though less so for myself these days because I am fortunate to have a two-pension income. My self employment allows me to enjoy that little bit extra without the worry that I would have to struggle on my pensions alone. I could manage on just my pensions and I could even still save something at the end of the month. It isn’t that extra cash that motivates me though, it is the fact that I am still capable of working and I enjoy the work and in meeting people. Of course I no longer work full-time, I have no wish to and probably couldn’t maintain full-time working for very long, even one day doing that is tiring at my age. On Monday morning I changed the bedclothes and washed the soiled sheets in the washing machine before breakfast then an hour later hung them in the boiler room to dry. It is such an advantage having cellars in a house. As I had nothing else planned I was wondering what I could do for the rest of the morning in the garden whilst the weather was dry. I didn’t wish to continue with digging out bluebells in the remaining section of flowerbed that as yet I haven’t touched. I thought there might be one or two popping up in places where I had been clearing them out so I went into the garden to check. I didn’t need to look far and soon found some beginning to show themselves in a couple of places. I spent an hour digging them out before returning indoors. It was now approaching lunchtime so I thought I would prepare a vegetable stew. Using onions, bell peppers, garlic cloves, carrots, sweetcorn, lentils, barley, green beans, pre-cooked diced chicken and seasoning I made enough for three meals.

Washing peppers
Washing peppers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By now it was 12.15 so I decided to have some for lunch but my phone rang and it was a job offer in the next town. I drove there and did the work which has now led to more work in the weeks ahead. It pays being an electrician if you are prepared to work………

Shirley Anne

Wintry weather

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…first-sign first-sign-2-jpgIt 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.Rich 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.

Shirley Anne

Somehow didn’t happen

Assorted bell pepper fruits from Mexico
Assorted bell pepper fruits from Mexico (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you ever wake up in the morning with the idea in your head that you’ll do something intended, a plan of some sort but as the morning and the day progresses it all goes awry. Nothing ventured nothing gained can apply to many things and I know this has been the theme in my life from time to time. I might have it in my head to do something completely different from my normal routine or carry on working on one of my projects or not but then things change and I do nothing. Later I might regret it. Well this was my lot on Saturday. On Friday as my readers will know from that day’s post, I worked on the heating system in our house. On refilling the system I found that one of the radiators I had been working on, the one in the top room, seemed not to be filling up with water and a couple more on the floor below were taking a lot of time to vent too. I decided to leave working on the system for another time. After working on it most of the day I was tired and had an early night. I slept soundly and didn’t wake until after eight. It was after ten before I got downstairs for a light breakfast. I resisted all ideas of continuing with working on the heating system. What did I want to do? Well that was the problem, I didn’t know, I couldn’t think of anything I might want to do. I let the morning drift on until lunch time when I decided to prepare a meal. I like making vegetable stew, making it up as I go along but after making so many of them I now have a standard version. Ingredients start with a large bell pepper, a large onion both chopped but not too small, in fact a little chunky, a few cloves of garlic freshly chopped too then all lightly fried in olive oil or similar. Pre-cooked diced chicken pieces are added and lightly fried. Once the frying session is finished I add a small can of carrots and the salted water they are in followed by frozen garden peas and sometimes sweetcorn too. Once they have heated through I add some hot water to the desired amount together with two chicken stock cubes, black pepper and salt to taste. I leave to simmer for fifteen to twenty minutes and it is ready for the table. Sometimes I make enough for a couple of meals as I did this time, leaving the excess in the covered pan it was cooked in to be reheated the next day. I never freeze this type of food as freezing causes an alteration in taste if frozen too long. It is always nicer cooked and eaten fresh. This type of meal gives me at least four of my ‘five a day‘ vegetables or fruit and is full of vitamins and minerals and hardly any fat. On any given day though I usually have ten to twelve of my ‘five a day’! I eat lots of fruit. This may be why I look far younger than I am or at least keeping that way for I don’t think I have ever looked my age. It is healthy eating whichever way you look at it. Frozen prepacked ready meals are not for me. Anyway that took some time out of my day as did peeling and cooking some fresh pears afterward. I planned to go for a short walk but then the heavens opened and we had some heavy rainfall. I gave up on the idea and that is the way the rest of the day turned out. There was always tomorrow.

PS…….The heating system settled down all by itself. When I vented the radiators again on Monday afternoon I found there was very little air in them! Phew!

Shirley Anne

A loose screw

Chopped 'n' Skrewed
Chopped ‘n’ Skrewed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am getting used to having a little extra lie in bed now and then when once I didn’t even get the opportunity but I suppose it is all due to the fact that I am not doing as much lately. I often just lie there letting thoughts drift through my head until I finally snap out of it and get up. So it was on Saturday morning. It is the routine of taking a shower,  getting dressed and brushing my teeth which I find a chore though strangely not applying my make-up. I wonder why that is. I didn’t arrive downstairs until after ten o’clock and kept my late breakfast to a minimum, just enough to satisfy and no more. As it was so late I decided I would prepare something for lunch and I wanted to make some sort of vegetable broth or soup. I chopped up a bell pepper and an onion and lightly fried them in a sauce pan whilst I had a kettle of water heating up. I poured in the hot water and added lentils, the kind that didn’t need an overnight soak in water, and a handful of barley. Once that was simmering I added vegetable stock, a dash of black pepper and some garlic salt.

Assorted bell pepper fruits from Mexico
Assorted bell pepper fruits from Mexico (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Later I added some pre-cooked carrots finely chopped and some frozen garden peas which too are already cooked before being frozen. Finally I added some mixed herbs. Once it had all cooked through I left it standing until I was ready to eat it later. I could only make things like this for myself because E doesn’t like most of the ingredients I put into it, onions, peppers, barley and lentils. Sometimes I will put in a little chopped bacon too but that wouldn’t persuade her to eat it even though she loves bacon. I think she is very fussy about her food but that is who she is. She was about to go off to her group’s monthly meeting when my youngest son surprised us with a visit. He and his girlfriend had split up last year and it was decided that she would move from their house. It appears that my son’s friend is in a position to cover her share of the mortgage payments by way of renting  as a tenant for he has landed a good job in the area and needs accommodation.  E went to her meeting and soon afterward he left to meet with friends. I had nothing to do that I could do so was at a bit of a loose end. I was upstairs and I went into the bedroom we are refurbishing and as I looked out of the window and the miserable wet weather we were having I noticed that the flag had come away from the pole at the bottom. Union FlagWe have had a little trouble with the flag in regard to the way it is attached to the pole and only a week or so back I thought I had finally cured the problem by using a nylon cable tie instead of relying on the rope eyelet provided which kept on wearing away. So I went outside to see what the problem was and on lowering the flag I saw that there wasn’t a thing wrong with the flag itself but the chain link it was fixed to. The flag uses a plastic-covered chain wrapped about the flag pole to act as a fixing and weight at the bottom of the flag. The top of the flag is of course attached to the rope which runs up inside of the hollow flag pole and which exits at the top of the pole. The chain has one link which is fitted with a ‘running screw’ nut. This means that as the nut is turned it exposes a gap in the link to allow a ring or hoop to attach and can then be screwed back to close the gap. All I had to do was re-attach the flag and close the screw. Why it had opened by itself I am not sure but obviously the screw had been loose.

Shirley Anne

The hats I wear

A fresh batch of homemade buttermilk scones.
A fresh batch of homemade buttermilk scones. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do I wear hats? Not really, it’s a metaphor. I stayed in bed a little longer than usual on Saturday morning and after my prayer time I took a shower and got dressed. It was to be ‘clean linen day’ so I changed the bed linen and took it downstairs into the cellar to be washed. Our washing machine is in the cellar. It was by now after eleven o’clock so obviously I wasn’t having breakfast. E had been up some time and had already eaten breakfast. I decided to prepare an early lunch, actually my main meal for the day and sat down at noon to eat it whilst watching the television. Saturday mornings on BBC are usually filled with cookery programs and I like to watch some of them. After lunch and with nothing special to do elsewhere in the house I started to bake some scones and when they were in the oven I made a Rich Fruit Cake mixture and baked the cake once the scones were done.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

By this time E had decided to have a light snack, mostly fruit as she normally does in the middle of the day so we sat together continuing to watch television over a coffee. We watched the first half of the rugby match between France and Ireland for we both take an interest in the game. Ireland were leading at the end of the period. France however came back in the second half to win by one point. I remained in the kitchen and peeled and cooked some pears, something I do every week. I like canned pears but those prepared at home even better. We keep plenty of canned fruit at home but mostly it is consumed when we run out of fresh produce, though I do like it mixed with fresh fruit too. I must have spent four hours in the kitchen all told. Our kitchen and the adjoining dining room isn’t exactly a neat and tidy area, it is what you might call ‘lived in’ and I like it that way. It is about the only place in the house other than the cellar rooms and those being used for storage at the moment that is left this way. We try to keep some semblance of order in the lounges and bedrooms. Well I do anyway! I’ll say no more. So this Saturday was spent mainly cooking and doing household things. It all makes a change from electrical work, plumbing, plastering, brick-laying, concrete laying, joinery, painting and decorating, gardening and a host of other things I find to do at home. Now I am going to play my guitar for a while!

Shirley Anne

Winter draws on

English: Braunton: Saunton Sands. A mist can b...
Braunton: Saunton Sands. A mist can be seen lifting off the surf as a winter day draws to its close (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, there is a joke there in the title but I don’t wish to talk about underwear. Up until Saturday last the weather has been quite mild for the most part and dry for much of the time too but I sense that will not last now we are nearing the second week of Winter. I speak about the calendar of course for the season doesn’t really show its bad side until January and February. However the country has had its first real taste of the season as it has been snowing in many places. Most of that snow though has fallen elsewhere to here where I live in Southport. A mere twenty miles or so south John Lennon airport had to close because of heavy snow fall. The airport is on the south side of Liverpool. Further northward toward north Lancashire and Cumbria they too had snow and a few miles inland from Southport also saw snow. At best we had a little sleet and I mean a little, it was mostly cold rain. Today, Sunday, as I write this the day has been gloriously sunny though cold. There was a ground frost everywhere when I arose but gradually all that had melted by noon. Well it is Winter after all. I could have gone for a walk but I decided to be lazy and stay indoors. I asked E if she would like a roast dinner, something we hadn’t enjoyed on a Sunday early afternoon for some time. I went downstairs to dig out a frozen chicken from the freezer and as it was late in the morning I had to defrost the bird in the microwave oven. Usually we let meat thaw naturally but we were dining around one o’clock. It took a mere twenty minutes or so and was ready for the oven immediately. I had preheated the oven so popped it in straight away. It was eleven fifty on the clock. Whilst it was cooking I prepared everything else. We sat down to eat around one-thirty. After dinner and after doing the washing-up I fancied baking another cake. Whilst E and I were out shopping before Christmas I bought a new round metal cake tin and was keen to use it for the first time rather than having to use the rectangular rubber/polyethylene one I had been using. So out came all the ingredients and soon the cake was in the already warm oven. It is a good idea to do as much baking as possible whilst the oven is hot for it saves on energy. I had wanted to make some coconut macaroons but didn’t have all the necessary ingredients for the recipe I was using. E said she would buy it in when next she went shopping. Winter is a good season to be baking at home I think and I am getting better at it all the time. I didn’t do much baking at home until recently. That was because I had too many other things to do, and still have I suppose but I am more relaxed about my other duties these days. Now I can take time out to bake whenever I feel like it. Mmmm….I haven’t baked any scones for a while…..and it’s warm indoors

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Shirley Anne