dear diary :: it’s been a while

Hello there….long time no see.  I thought I would be back sooner than this but recent events have kept me busy and I am not just referring to the dreaded virus.

Thank you for all your lovely comments and well wishes, advice and suggestions on my last post – they were much appreciated and I hope you don’t mind me not answering them individually, it was difficult to sit at the computer until my back recovered.

Although I was housebound for a few days with my bad back I am now fully recovered…..just in time to be housebound once again because of the virus!

I feel as if I am about to journey through a long dark tunnel, not really knowing where the end will be.  Plans we might have made for this year are now well and truly abandoned as are any visits to Scotland to our cottage and caravan.  The garden up there will no doubt become wild over time and all the hard work we have put in over the years will be quickly lost.  It feels like a repeat of what happened when the cottage flooded and 10 years of renovations were wiped out within hours.

We are managing to cope though – in fact we are in a very privileged positon both of us being at home and living on the state pension of DH and mine soon to come in May….we have few of the financial worries that others are facing, although this might come along after when we find many thousands wiped off the value of our private pension pot that we have not, as yet, had to draw on.

My main concern now is for my family and in particular for my dear mum – I am heartbroken for her as she faces weeks of isolation at a time when she cannot really look after herself.  For those readers who do not know my mum is 94 and struggling to walk now because of osteoarthritis in her right hip, added to which she recently caught a sickness bug which completely wiped her out and the main reason for my extended absence in blogland.  We managed to sort out some ‘aids’ for around the home and a walker so that she can get about her flat better and more safely. She is up and down each day, one day not even being able to get out of bed and the next feeling brighter and more able. Luckily a neighbour had been popping in to make her a cup of tea and my sister went every day but she had not fancied eating very much at all and had become quite weak.

I was unable to travel up to see her when she was first ill as I found it too painful to sit in the car because of my back. As soon as I could I was exercising my back each day, but it wasn’t until Mother’s Day that I was able to go up there, just before the travel clamp down came – we went knowing it would be my last chance to see her for the forseeable future. We took the little tin trough of pink carnations to cheer her up and a picnic which we ate indoors with her – she tucked into our home made leek and potato soup and a cheese and pickle sandwich – I expect she was quite ravenous not having eaten much for the past two weeks because of the sickness bug. I had also made her a fresh cream chocolate cake – her favourite – and left some in the fridge for later.

Because she hadn’t been out for a few weeks and hadn’t been able to watch the TV she had no idea how bad things have become in the world because of the coronavirus. We would have liked to take her for a short run in the car to the coast so she could see the outside world but she was not well enough and we would not have wanted to add to the madness that was out there that day.  Instead we watched an old black and white film on TV together and just having some company for the afternoon cheered her up no end.

With the new government rules of no unnecessary travel in place I will not see her again for a long while added to which it is uncertain whether my sister will be allowed into my mum’s apartment block to care for her ….the apartment manager told me that it might be that only official carers will be allowed in soon. The apartments are classed as Independent Living, so if you need carers the management company are saying that you should not be living there.  The only option for any residents that are not able to look after themselves may be to go into a care home but I can tell you these places are already booked up as the NHS are moving recovering patients into them to convalesce and free up hospital beds.

It has been such a worry for me but I have managed to set up one teatime slot for 3 days a week with a carer who will go in and help mum and provide some human contact and this should help if my sister is not allowed access.  All the residents have been told they must stay in their own apartments and not pop in and out to see their friends and must keep their distance from one another. There are no papers being delivered either and as very few have the internet they are becoming more and more isolated.

As you can imagine mum is not happy at having a stranger forced upon her but we will see how she adapts in the next few days and I hope she will accept their help and not send them away.   She also heard last week that her appointment to see the musculoskeletal clinic has now been cancelled – she was devastated – she was only a week away….it seems so cruel when she is in such pain.

In between all the phone calls and dramas I have been baking and trying hard not to waste any food.  I had left over cream to use up from mum’s chocolate cake so I baked a batch of fruit scones….a little indulgent, but quite delicious.

I am trying to visit the supermarket as little as possible – this requires a lot of forward planning with menus to make sure we eat the fruit and veggies that have a shorter life first. Any green stalks and leaves cut off the vegetables go into our green soup. We even sprinkled the left over cous cous over the last batch together with some parmesan cheese as a garnish – it was actually quite nice.

I have been cleaning too.  This virus makes me feel quite grubby every time we have been out for our essentials so I have been giving the bathroom and kitchen an extra dose of elbow grease and detox spray.

When the sun was out last week we had a lovely walk up towards the moors above where we live – there were people about but not too many and when we passed it was at a safe distance.  Looking across the valley everything seemed so deceivingly normal and like the cat and the sheep, basking in the warmth of the sunshine, we felt relieved that spring had finally made an appearance.

Of course it was short lived and this week we have been plunged back into a cold spell with hail falling occasionally and a bitterly cold wind. So what better way of keeping warm than doing a spot of cooking in the kitchen. I had eggs to use up and a few pieces of cauliflower so made these little cheesy savouries in a muffin tin to have with some fresh salad.

I then used up the last of the mushrooms and leeks by making these individual pies topped with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

We are managing to eek out all our groceries so that our visits to the supermarket are as few as possible. I have spent some time this week reorganising my recipe folders and searching out new recipes to try. I will spend the rest of the week with a long overdue task of reorganising a box full of photos. I will at the same time be looking for one or two of my elder daughter to make a photo book of her life so far for her 40th birthday which is coming up soon. There will be no big party or celebration for her – everything is cancelled – we will have to have a party by internet connection of some kind. I am not sure how you can play party games via Skype or Zoom but we will find a way!

I have a great deal of catch up to do in blogland so will be hopping over to my favourite places and hopefully will not leave it as long next time to write another post.

Hoping all is well with you too. Many safe distance hugs to everyone. x

dear diary :: oh my, oh my…

It has been a long time and a long time away from the old key board – not intentional I assure you and I hope that in the days that have passed you are all well and thoroughly enjoyed January.

Like my life, the changes in the weather have been so unsettling recently that no two days have hardly been the same. We have swung from bitterly cold to blustery winds with a lashing or two of rain in between….. and a day of snow.

So exactly what have I been doing, you might ask?

….and isn’t it hard to remember?

January is a busy month for us with birthdays and on top of that we have more than a few special remembrance days of my father-in-law, mother-in-law, a close uncle and yesterday for my dear old dad – who fell ill during January before he died. It would seem that my family like to fit in one good ‘last Christmas’ before departing from us. It is hard looking back and remembering all the good times we had with each of them, these memories are so precious to me and I like to have some quiet time alone, just me and the photo albums.

After writing my last post (on the 21st January) we managed to squeeze in an appointment with the kitchen planner in Sheffield to discuss the possibility of a new kitchen (yeah) and take up the discounted deal on offer. We arranged for the planner to come over on the following Tuesday to take measurements and look at our space and advise on what might fit in it, but unfortunately that was the day it snowed here so had to be cancelled and is now rearranged for later in February. In the meantime we are trudging endlessly around kitchen showrooms looking for ideas and at the appliances we will need to install. Already it feels like an expensive project.

On the Friday (24th) we had a lovely trip out to our local theatre to see Absurd Person Singular by Alan Ayckbourn – you either love him or you don’t – I like his humour and both the play and actors were brilliant. It is ages since we had an evening at the theatre; we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and agreed that we really do need to get out more.

Saturday was our Burns’ night supper that we host for some of our closest friends and in memory of my Scottish father-in-law who died on Burns’ night (after attending a Burns’ night supper himself at his local church, though I might add his death was not a consequence of the food!).

It has become a bit of a tradition now and each year we add in something new. This year we made Cock-a-Leekie soup as a starter but being vegetarian without the ‘cock’ – so just ‘Leekie’ soup – which was actually just our leek and potato soup recipe – it went down very well though and instead of rolls I made Parmesan crisps (not very Scottish I know but very nice all the same).

We did a special version of the kanban board to help us prepare for the evening and the glass in the patio doors proved to be an effective place to stick all the individual post it note tasks. I decorated a few places around the house with a touch of tartan and placed candlelit lanterns outside in the garden.

The evening was a success even though we were all crammed into our tiny dining area and one of the meat haggis exploded in the oven with quite a bang. The Cranachan recipe using porridge oats was certainly not as good as last year’s version using oatmeal, but enjoyable none the less and I have made a note of this for next year. We managed to polish off all the Tunnoch’s caramel wafers and chocolate teacakes and down a dram or two of whisky before everyone left for home and we climbed into bed at around 3am – so rather a late start to Sunday (….well what was left of it).

Sunday I cleaned the oven to remove the dreaded bits of haggis from every nook and cranny it had attached itself to.

The following Monday we had a trip over to the south of Manchester for the Citroen specialist to adjust the suspension on our car. It is much better now and actually glides over the bumps as it should and even better he only charged £40 which was good news for us after the hundreds we have given to the local Citroen garage in their attempts to get it sorted.

I had hair and physio appointments and was looking forward to a restful weekend but our plans had to change suddenly when both mum and our younger daughter in North Yorkshire required our services urgently. After the physio session on Thursday we hastily packed and shot off to stay with our daughter and the two grandchildren.

Our daughter only moved into her new house last November in a new area and Little L has started a new school…. just when we thought they were all settled – it appears that not all is well with her new landlady and the property she is renting she may not be able to stay in the house (obviously I cannot go into detail here but through no fault of her own may have to move again) – we are waiting for more news on this and as is the case these days no one can discuss the matter with her. What a good job we had not had the time to order the new wardrobes.

My mum had not been well all week and my sister had to go away for a long weekend so she needed our help. She is feeling very down at the moment because she cannot get out and about like she used to. She had an x-ray on her hip, knees and feet last week and my sister who accompanied her saw the x-rays and the radiologist explained what was what – apparently her right hip does not look good, there is no fluid surrounding it and the bones are wearing away. She now has to wait 3 months for an appointment at the clinic to discuss what can or cannot be done. I am amazed at how quickly she has gone downhill; when we went on Saturday to take her out for the day she could barely walk to the car.

As she didn’t need us to take her for any shopping we had a run out over to Saltburn for lunch at the deli cafe and then went down the coast to Sandsend. It is a lovely run and en route we ventured off the main coast road and went along the single track road to explore Goldsborough and Kettleness.

Goldsborough, which is tiny and off the beaten track, does still have a pub called The Fox and Hounds, whilst further on Kettleness village is just a cluster of tiny cottages on the headland since the rest of the village plunged into the sea one stormy night in 1829. The most notable feature is a little abandoned chapel on the way down to the village after this you can go no further and have to turn around and go back.

On Sunday we gave my daughter a break and took the girls, Little L and Sweetie, out for a few hours. It was damp and cold so going to the playground or park was out. Little L had a few pounds in her purse and a book token so we went into Thirsk so she could find a book. The White Rose Book Cafe is one of my favourite places and after a lengthy browse around we had lunch there and eventually Little L settled on a book about boats.

We are home again now but returned to find my elder daughter who lives locally to us had not been well all weekend with a sickness bug caught from her husband and so her return to work yesterday after a lengthy maternity leave has had to be postponed a day or two!!

I think that is all my main news to tell and so today I am catching up with myself. There is paper work to do, washing, ironing and a lot of endless ‘bitty’ bits and pieces.

Thank you for all the lovely comments on my previous posts, they are much appreciated. I will be trying to catch up with all you lovely bloggers out there but might be doing a little more reading than commenting until I am up to date.

And of course welcome to all my new followers. x

creating health and well being

Needless to say this part of my life has been a little neglected of late. I should be reporting that I am exercising everyday, eating very healthy meals and remebering to drink more water and take my supplements.

I am working on it!

Truth is I will have to start over – not completely as nothing in life is ever wasted – but just get back on track and it would be a good idea to find my exercise sheet that I had developed with my physiotherapist.

feasting :: from the apple tree

Before we left Scotland we gave the apple tree a good shake but still couldn’t dislodge the ones at the very top of the tree; so we had to make-do with all the windfalls we had collected.

This year wasn’t quite the bumper crop of last year (but then we had reduced the size of the tree during the previous winter) and I noticed a lot more blemishes and rotten bits to cut around where insects and the like had got there first.

Despite the blemishes and scars on the outside the flesh on the inside was still good; so we have been peeling and slicing, cooking and freezing apples all week and yesterday I used two of them to make one of my all time favourite recipes for this time of year – Apple and sultana cake. The original recipe from Good Housekeeping Basic Cookery uses raisins but I much prefer the juicier sultanas.

It is the perfect cake for early autumn – still quite a light texture, a hint of cinnamon and uses those just picked apples and windfalls straight from the tree. Try it sliced and buttered at teatime.

For anyone wanting to make this you will find the recipe in the drop down recipe section in the tabs above the header photo. Enjoy x

fEAsting ~ and the cupboard was bare

At first glance on Friday our cupboards and fridge seemed a bit bare…panic…

My menu planning had become a bit out of sync with having mum to stay recently and we only did a part shop last Monday in Sainsbury’s to cover a few days, expecting to have to go again at the end of the week to top up.   But I didn’t really want to go down to town to Sainsbury’s again just for the weekend and I am watching the pennies so I decided to make what we had stretch over to next Monday when I would usually shop.  We had run out of milk completely but we can get this from the local village Co-op and once I had assessed the meagre offerings laying in the fridge and devised a menu plan to get us through the weekend I asked DH to bring back a carrot too. The sum total of the veggies leftover from last Monday’s shopping trip were a few large old potatoes and a handful of small new potatoes, a number of tiny tomatoes, a little gem lettuce, 2 leeks, 2 onions, 2 courgettes, a few bits of celery, most of a swede and 3 pointed red peppers plus 2 very small avocados.

We also had a block of mild cheddar, a piece of Jarlsberg, 5 eggs;  and in the freezer I keep peas, broadbeans and nutloaf.  In the store cupboard I had a packet of chickpeas and plenty of brown rice.

So I worked out a menu plan to incorporate all these bits and bobs and tide us over

  • Friday evening meal – *chickpea and rice with 1 onion, 1 courgette, the leftover mushrooms (not at their best but salvageable), and the 2 small stalks of some celery,
  • Saturday lunch – a ploughman’s lunch of bread, cheese, tomatoes, pickle and the avocado
  • Saturday evening meal – omelette with tomato, red pepper, courgette and herbs, small roasted potatoes and peas.  Also a small cherry crumble each from the freezer.

Leek and Potato Soup

  • Sunday lunchtime – Leek and potato soup (I can add a carrot to this and the remaining lettuce), bread with avocado and cheese.
  • Sunday evening meal – Nutloaf, mashed potatoes with swede, carrot and broad beans and we have a pack of small Yorkshire puddings in the freezer if we want to turn it into more of a Sunday dinner.  I also serve the Nutloaf with apple sauce (also in the freezer).
  • Monday lunchtime – rest of the Leek and potato soup and bread

* The chickpea and rice concoction – I kind of invented it myself one day and it has been a winner here ever since.  Quick and easy and you can throw most things in it.

Cook a chopped onion and celery in a little oil to soften, then add chopped courgettes and finally add a packet of pre cooked Chickpeas and some chopped mushrooms.  It works with most vegetables so a good way to use up those little bits and pieces.  Once the mushrooms are softened I add some stock – about 200ml and leave to simmer so the flavours infuse.  I add some parsley at this point too.  Meanwhile cook some brown rice about 3-4oz (usually takes 30mins). Once cooked add to the chickpea mix and combine.  Cook for another 3-5 minutes and serve.

It is always amazing how far you can stretch the leftover veg when you need to and it is a good way of saving a few pounds.  We have a few standby things in the freezer like Nut cutlets, Pizza and some dried pasta in the cupboard but it was the veg I was interested to use up completely so there is no waste.  The frozen Pizza will save for another day or another emergency.

With the 2 remaining eggs I might just be able to make some chocolate buns or brownies.

A day of purposeful prudence and penny-pinching…with a positively perfect outcome for the cost of a carrot.

Spend £0.45p (DH actually bought a bag of carrots rather than just one…but hey you can’t win them all!)

fEAsting ~ easy meals

Apologies for the short interlude I have been unwell and the sight of food did not make me feel better!

I had prepared this post before my brief indisposition so it is a shame to waste the photos!

Above is my vegetarian sandwich using up the Halloumi cheese from the fridge.  Spread the panini with mashed avocado then add shredded little gem lettuce, cucumber and halved cherry tomatoes, top with grilled or griddled Halloumi. Delicious.

My courgettes have done remarkably well this year despite the neglect.

Courgette plant

Home grown courgettes

Fresh from the plant they make a wonderful Courgette Bake – cut the courgettes in half lengthways and place into a pan of  lightly salted boiling water for 2-3 minutes just to soften.  Lift out and drain then place in a baking dish to form a base with the centres facing upwards.

Mix together the following:- a few sautéed mushrooms and spring onion, halved cherry tomatoes or chopped large ones, grated cheese, wholemeal breadcrumbs and a sprinkling of chopped chives, salt and pepper.  Bind the mixture with a beaten egg.  Spoon on top of the courgettes and place foil over the dish for the first 15 minutes in the oven at 180C.  Remove the foil and further cook until golden brown reducing the temperature a little if necessary.

Serve immediatley with boiled new potatoes and a mixed salad.

Voila!

Enjoy x