It was a bit warmer today, there was some sun in the morning but by the time I returned home in the afternoon the sky was mostly grey and there were a few drops of rain. I had taken myself into town for a leisurely stroll around the sales. Not that I need anything but I like to know I've had a look. Actually I do need a dress or something for a wedding next summer so I had a good look at the dresses on sale in Monsoon. I found one dress I liked but it was a little tight. However I did buy this pretty top half price as I'd had my eye on it since the summer. That was it for my sales shopping apart from a new Sudoku book and some spare ornament hangers for the Christmas tree. I did take in several bags of stuff to give to one of the charity shops so that was another job done.
Welcome to family, friends and visitors. Here you will find interesting (hopefully) pictures of my part of the world, news of our household and probably, long ramblings about anything that catches my interest.
Tuesday, 30 December 2014
We woke to a bright and chilly day. All the parts of the garden that hadn't had the frost melted by the sun yesterday, ie most of it, were still frosty this morning but everywhere else was green. The postman warned us that there was black ice on the main road by Burridge but the rest of the roads are clear.
Sadly it was time to say goodbye to Vytas and Sally. It's been a lovely visit; 5 days of family time, delicious meals, warm evenings watching LOTR and the opportunity for Sally and Vytas to get out and about in our beautiful countryside.
After being so busy before Christmas the cupboards (so to speak) are filled with food so all I've had to do today was a little housework and to make a start on the washing and ironing.
Monday, 29 December 2014
We woke up this morning to the nearest we will get to a winter wonderland.
Only a heavy frost sparkling in the sun but with almost no sun reaching the garden it has stayed white all day long.
Out on the hillsides where the sun had reached the fields were back to their normal green colour.
Sally and Vytas had been thinking of a trip to the beach including a dip! but changed their plans to a walk in Braunton Burrows instead. Before going out Vytas prepared a chicken curry which has been simmering away in the slow cooker. Tonight we'll be watching the second disc of ROTK.
They've just returned home and Vytas is about to brave the cold and split another load of logs for his poor feeble parents.
Sunday, 28 December 2014
A lovely sunny day today but quite a chill wind. For the last 2 nights we've been watching the extended editions of the LOTR films so we had a late night and unsurprisingly woke up late too. But that's the joy of the holidays, not being tied to a rigid timetable. Peter and I did contemplate going out for a walk with Sally and Vytas but with our various aches and pains it didn't seem a good idea. I'm coughing a lot at the moment and just going out in the garden made my chest ache so I thought I had better be sensible and stay home. Sally and Vytas went off for a good hike over Trentishoe Common.
Looking out of our window first thing this morning I saw 3 deer in the woodland next door. They were grazing in a patch of sunlight near the fence but by the time I ran down to get the camera they had melted away into the trees. They were back a little later when I was able to take some photos.
After their walk Vytas helped by Sally split more logs and brought them in so we're looking forward to another roaring wood fire tonight as we watch The Return of the King.
I have to report that Butt 2 has met its demise. It kept fluttering onto the carpet and though we kept a watch for it I found it somewhat flattened in the next corridor around the corner. Butt 1 is still going strong.
Saturday, 27 December 2014
With 3 boys I never thought I'd get the chance to go wedding dress shopping but today that's just what I did. The local CLIC charity shop sells ex showroom and catwalk wedding dresses at affordable prices and Sally was happy to go and have a look.
They didn't want us to take photos of the dresses but as they didn't have a hand mirror I used my camera to give Sally a view of the backs of the dresses.
These were her 2 favourites and surprisingly were long enough as she is slim and very tall. If she decides on one of these 2 we could go back on Monday.
Coming back from town we were driving up the narrow lanes at the back of Pilton when I saw this cat walking in the road. I stopped, bipped the horn to get it to move but it just carried on walking very slowly. With no pavements on that bit of road the cat was sure to get run over if it was left so I picked it up and put it in the car. I parked in the next street and went knocking on house doors to see if anyone knew who it belonged to but no luck. I tried some other roads, found some very interesting houses but still nothing. Somebody suggested the cattery up by the hospital (where the ponies escaped from that time) so we drove there. It wasn't one of theirs and naturally they wouldn't take it in. I was reluctant to take it home because none of my cats are inoculated and this one was a little frail and rather smelly. We took it home but kept in the cat cage in the car where it ate some tinned food and drank some water. I then rang around the RSPCA, a lady who runs an animal ambulance and the Cat Protection Society. The first to call back was the Cat Protection person and they happened to have a foster person only a few miles away. I took the cat over to this lady who confirmed that it was a female, probably pedigree but wasn't micro-chipped. The smell could have been due to poor kidneys and it is possible that it was abandoned once it needed vetinary treatment. At least now it is in a good hands and will be looked after. I also put a picture up on Facebook so somebody might recognise it. I'm not keen on long haired cats because you get enough hairs with ordinary cats but if it had been a real Siamese I might have been tempted to offer it a home.
Friday, 26 December 2014
Wet, wild and windy today. Snow has been forecast for North Wales but not this far south yet. Vytas and Sally braved the elements today, clad in our Gortex coats, and went for a long walk around Watersmeet. Peter and I have been having a much needed rest. I did some housework in the morning before relaxing in front of the PC.
We have discovered the identity of our under shower nibbler, Vytas saw it in the spare room while he was wrapping presents and last night it was sitting there when I went in to get something from my sewing box. It sat there just looking at me until I tried to get closer. It's a Wood Mouse or possibly the larger Yellow Necked Mouse. Either way we are not too keen on it making a home in the house, who knows what it might decide to nibble? And I don't think Alex would enjoy sharing her room with a noisy rodent. I'll buy a humane mouse trap and release it far from home and the resident rat catchers.
The 2 butterflies are still hanging around on the window sill. I've decided to call them Butt 1 and Butt 2 (short for butterfly of course.)
Thursday, 25 December 2014
Merry Christmas everybody.
Shirwell Church for the Midnight Service. I felt a bit sad that I had such a croaky voice and couldn't sing too well but it was good to spend time thinking about the Christian meaning of the festivities. Then home to creep around filling Christmas stockings and finally to relax in bed. I stayed awake reading too long but I was enjoying the peace and quiet, apart from a certain person's snoring that is. After a relaxed morning we opened the presents many of which were of the consumable sort- mmm.
Our Christmas dinner of lamb shanks was a great hit and the cats got the bones as their treat. After that we have mainly lazed around in the warm sitting room. There's plenty of time to go a walk tomorrow.
Wednesday, 24 December 2014
Here we all are at the The Coffee Cabin last night (that's me at the end of the table) having enjoyed a really tasty meal of beef stew served with roast potatoes, beetroot and parsnips as well as peas and carrots. I've never has a roast beetroot before but it was very nice. The cafe is owned and run by Barb's brother and has already been mentioned in a national paper. I didn't take my camera which was a shame as there was some impressive art work on the walls and some amazing knitted items. Hanging in the widow behind me are knitted shrimps and above us were knitted crabs about 6" across, wearing red mittens and hats. One of the group is moving on to a new school and our old Headteacher had made her a photo album of school events and the children whom she had taught. That produced a lot of memories for all of us. All in all a great evening.
This morning, once I had made a potato salad and a bean & beetroot salad I headed back into town. The roads weren't too crowded at all and when I got to BJ's the trees had been reduced to £10. I decorated it this afternoon listening to the Festival of 9 Lessons.
Vytas and Sally have just arrived so bye for now.
Tuesday, 23 December 2014
Last night while in our bathroom I heard a tapping, scratching sound. Intrigued I first looked out of the window but there wasn't a little bird looking for insects or seeds on the wall. Could it be the rain dripping from the gutter? Not that either. Finally I honed in on the source of the noise, it was coming from under the shower tray. It was a sound familiar to me from our house in London when mice used to make noises behind the skirting boards. The noise stopped for a few seconds when I banged on the shower tray but then resumed. A very determined mouse of some sort. I only hope it wasn't trying to chew through the plastic drain pipe.
This morning I woke with a headache eurgh! I suffered from frequent headaches that would last for several weeks all through my adult years until about 5 or 6 years ago when the anti-inflammatory tablets I was given for my arthritis and back problems, cleared the headaches right up. Now I only get the occasional one when I have stuffy sinuses. At least this morning my attention was diverted, first by a couple of squirrels playing in the garden, then by a magnificent cock pheasant solemnly walking about and then by a fluffed up woodpecker preening itself in a tree.
I've been busy in the kitchen once more. The Christmas cake has been iced, I made a frosting this time instead of taking the easy option and buying some ready to roll icing. I also made 2 kinds of hummus and a last batch of biscuits. Sort of Christmassy ones this time with ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and honey.
I also got the second dinning table out, not strictly necessary with only 4 of us but most of our visitors tend to congregate in the kitchen with lap-tops etc and I do like a big table. The card above is a good illustration of my rural dreams when I was living in the city and I like to think that our country life has been a bit like that.
Must stop now as I'm off for a meal out with the girls.
Monday, 22 December 2014
Still very grey but mainly dry and not too cold. This morning I met up with my friends at the garden centre for coffee and a chat. Only 5 of us this time but Claire brought her twins who are now walking. We settled ourselves on sofas around a coffee table and popped the twins in high chairs so they could see what was going on without having to be held.
This year I had a go at using glass paints to decorate a couple of jars and gave these to some of my friends as token Christmas presents.
And here are this year's hand-made cards with stone sheep grazing under the Christmas Star. I always enjoy meeting up with my friends as even if I see them in school break times are limited and everyone is usually very busy. Afterwards I had a look around all the decorations and gifts in the garden centre some of which were half price. I couldn't resist buying some more decorations for my non-existent tree. That's right, there's no tree up yet. I like a real tree and always had one when the boys were home. This year I would like to have some sort of tree but I don't feel like paying too much for something that will be here for less than 2 weeks. I looked at the trees in the garden centre, they had plenty of the blue bushy type but the prices! £59 for a 5ft tree and £10 more for each extra foot. Do people really pay £90 for a tree? Later I dropped into BJ's which had the same trees all at £28. A better price but I don't want to pay that much either. I cheekily offered the chap £10 and he said come back on Christmas Eve. I might well do that. Otherwise I shall cut branches from the leylandii which are not only free but don't have needles to drop.
On my return home I took up the rubbish to the road and drove over to the stables with a card and a small present for Jack. I found Sarah in the big indoor stable where I relished the horsey smells while we had a bit of a chat. I finished off my working day by making another batch of biscuits, chocolate ones with white chocolate drizzled over them and made some more koldunai for the freezer.
Sunday, 21 December 2014
Another wild and stormy day but Hooray!! today is the shortest day and from now on the nights will shorten and the days lengthen.
I've spent the whole day cooking, not something I usually spend a lot of time on but I don't mind for special occasions. The swede and carrot mash for Christmas dinner is done and in the freezer, the Christmas cake has a layer of marzipan, another batch of biscuits - nut ones this time, has been baked and some koldunai prepared. These are little dumplings filled with onions, mushrooms and mince, a bit like large ravioli. I make them once in a while because Peter's mum used to make them. He is having some for his supper tonight and the rest are in the freezer so that we can introduce Sally to some traditional Lithuanian food. I've still got some filling left but ran out of plain flour. They are cooked in boiling salted water and traditionally served with melted butter. A good way of making a little meat go a long way. I won't be eating any supper tonight as I've been nibbling on my cooking all day long.
Saturday, 20 December 2014
It has been a grey day with drizzle at times. Peter is now home for the next 2 weeks so when he went off to the gym and to do some shopping I made some special Christmas flapjacks. This year I added cranberries and chopped dates to my basic mixture. I also made a batch of lemon biscuits. I iced some of them but a lack of an icing syringe or icing bags meant I had to spread it on with a knife. (I never did get the hang of making my own icing bags.) For the rest of the time from that I've just pottered around tidying up and wrapping presents. Peter brought home 3 bags of meat from a local butcher and as well as bagging up the sausages and chicken into portions I had to rearrange everything in the freezer to fit the meat in. There's just enough space for the swede and carrot mash which I shall make tomorrow.
Patch and Speedy are currently sporting a bulging look owing to their consumption of the whole of a hen pheasant apart from some feathers. Upstairs the 2 butterflies are quite entertaining. Yesterday morning one was standing on the other then by the evening one was down on the carpet. I used a cotton bud to move it back up onto the windowsill out of harm's way.
Friday, 19 December 2014
I had a very good time last night. For one reason and another there were only 9 of us so we only needed one table. This year we were lucky that our table was right next to the dance floor which made it a lot easier to get up and dance, in fact we spent most of the time dancing right up to midnight. I have been suffering a bit today, nothing at all to do with drink as I only had a diet coke, water and coffee, but mainly due to the fact that having spent a year in flat footwear I danced for 3 hours in 3.5" heels. I didn't get any blisters but it was so good to slip on my Ugg boots when I got into the car. I was home in bed by 1.00, read until 2.15 to give my tablets time to kick in and by 3.15 my knee and foot were still throbbing so I gave in and took a Tramadol. That got me off to sleep but then Peter offered me a cup of tea at 6.00 which I gratefully accepted before going back to sleep for an hour. Then it was time to get up as I was meeting a friend and planned a day in town. My throat is also a bit sore but that might have been due to singing along with any records I knew. The last sore throat cleared up in a day after the imbibing of a hot toddy so I may try that again.
After meeting my friend for a good catch up over coffee and cheesecake I spent the rest of the day shopping. After the torrential rain of the last 24 hours it was a relief to see blue skies though it was a bit disconcerting to get rained on by the occasional shower while the sun was still shining. I got to see a bit of a rainbow at one point. It's a lot colder today which is one of the reasons I rushed to get the wall done.
Coming home the sunset was quite subtle.
I think I shall be going to bed early tonight.
Thursday, 18 December 2014
With the end of my wall project in sight there was no way I was going to let a little thing like wild wet weather stop me. I togged up in waterproofs and used both of the bags of sand that I bought yesterday to complete the wall and a few other little jobs. The postman must have thought I was bonkers when he saw me in the yard. His first comment was to inquire if I was clearing drains because surely that would the only reason to be working outside. Actually apart from being rather muddy I was dry and warm and so excited to get the wall done and planted. The succulent I planted on top is hardy and does well but I'm not so sure about the grasses. They might well fail but I have more grown from the seedlings that pop up in the scree garden.
I came back inside at 4.00, baked a chocolate chunk cake for Peter to take to work tomorrow and then started getting ready for tonight. It's our staff Christmas dinner & dance at the Motel again. My back is beginning to seize up so I don't think I'll be doing much dancing.
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
It rained heavily all through the night and by the morning the stream was running quite high. It was very windy in the morning but the rain had eased off so I was back working on the wall. I used up the last of the sand to make a bucket of cement and got more stones put in place on the wall. By then the level of the stream had gone down and for the rest of the time I dug up gravel from the stream and used it to fill the wall. It has been a generally wet and windy day and surprisingly warm.
Today was my last afternoon at school for this term. I enjoy the build up to Christmas, cinema on Saturday, Nativity yesterday and today the children's Christmas dinner. This used to be a manic affair with all 180 excited children crammed into the hall but things were changed around this year and it all went smoothly. Since the beginning of term all of our children have been getting a free school dinner so they are used to eating in 2 sittings. They did the same today but instead of lining up at the serving hatch they sat at the tables (red tablecloths and crackers,) and we served them and cleared away. I don't know what made my back ache more, carrying buckets of gravel or bending over the low tables to cut up the children's roast potatoes. It was a proper Christmas dinner; turkey, gravy, sausage, roast potatoes, stuffing, Brussel sprouts, carrots and peas. Some ate it all up but there was an awful lot of food wasted. Once the children had finished the adults sat down for their dinners. I usually only eat a piece of fruit or some ryvita for lunch so I felt rather full after eating some roast potatoes, gravy, carrots and a little turkey (I'm not that keen on a traditional Christmas dinner). I found it easy to ignore the mince pie or dry cake as they are not my favourites either. After the children had gone home for the day we had our Secret Santa gathering in the staff room. There was wine and cheese but I was still full from lunch. One of our teachers is leaving and she had brought in a magnificent home-made sponge cake with raspberries and cream and I felt it would be rude not to eat a slice. Very nice it was too. This evening I'm sticking to some refreshing peppermint tea. Instead of each person opening their present watched by everybody else, which can be a little daunting and with nearly 30 of us would have taken ages, we opened all our presents at the same time. Mine was this lovely table centre piece. Just right for my farmhouse kitchen. (The orange streak is one of several dried orange slices.)
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
It was gloomy this morning but dry enough for me to get out and do some more work on the wall. No cementing today, instead I sorted through the stones and found enough to finish off the job. As I was washing my boots and kneeling mats in the stream the solution to the problem of finding enough weed free infill for the wall came to me. The stream bed is a never ending source of natural gravel which I can use to fill in the wall. Problem solved.
This afternoon I finally got to see the reception children's nativity. This year, instead of having older children being the narrators, 4 of the reception children had memorised all their rhyming couplets and 3 of them confidently (one got stage fright) spoke their lines into the microphones. The Year 2 children were still involved as they sat around the edge of the darkened hall holding Christingles which were lit as the children sang Silent Night. I was tasked with lighting some of the candles including one held by a boy who is allergic to oranges and was actually a small cabbage covered in orange tissue paper. The reception children did really well (most of them are still only 4 years old) though there was a bit of fidgeting from the shepherds sitting near me and one went on the stage minus his head covering.
Coming home in the drizzle there weren't any dramatic views only grey sky and a few low clouds.
I've exchanged a few emails with the cinema after I complained about the level of audience noise. My suggestion of giving people a paper cup to decant their sweets into was deemed to be environmentally unsound. My resply to that was if they had ethical concerns then they shouldn't be selling high fat or 100% sugar items which promote poor eating habits and contribute to the national obesity epidemic. And as for selling bags of crisps (potato chips) which are noisy from start to finish! Their final response was to say that they make no money from selling tickets (really?) and all their profits come from the kiosk sales so basically they are only interested in selling as many packets as they can. Oh well, at least I tried though I did hope they might send me some free tickets.
Monday, 15 December 2014
I made an attempt to do some outside work this morning but after only 10 mins the heavens opened and I had to beat a hasty retreat. So my morning was spent on housework, making flapjacks and wrapping presents.
The warmer day caused one of the butterflies to go for a little walk around the window sill. The other one was sitting inside the curtain.
Driving in to school at lunch time I had to smile at the small, perfectly formed, round cloud that was hanging in the entrance to the Muddiford valley. By the time I made the return journey the cloud had become more of a fog bank.
And as I drove further up into the hills I could see other fog banks lying in the steep valleys of the North Devon hills.
My poor Ugg boots ended up getting wet and muddy as I tried to find good vantage points to take photos. The fog banks above show the lie of the Muddiford Valley which runs from L to R across the photo.
Looking back down the Lewis' hill I could see the fog layer that I had driven under when I turned off from the main road.
On the final bit of my journey it looked as if our valley was also filled with fog ....
... but it was only a thin layer at the level of the low hill behind our house.
Sunday, 14 December 2014
I woke this morning to light drizzle but being so close to completing the wall I wasn't going to let a little rain defeat me. So I dug out some waterproof trousers, added my old gardening coat and went out anyway. The rain did die down later but the clay soil was horribly sticky. I've now started adding several layers of flat stones to complete the wall and the other side needs tidying up too.
The cats decided that the only place to be today was right beside the rayburn. Here Squeaky is doing her usual I'll sit on top of you manoeuvre.
Last night we went to the cinema to see The Battle of the 5 Armies. I thought it was better than the previous film but not in the same class as the LOTR films. Apart from the plot changes I thought the dwarves were rather Disney-ish even cartoon-like. One thing really did spoil our enjoyment and that was the sheer volume of crackling, rustling and scrunching noises as people opened their packets of sweets, popcorn and crisps. It was almost continuous for the first half of the film, as if someone was marching through dry leaves. Considering that all these packets had been bought in the cinema, (you are not allowed to bring your own refreshments) it was a real shame. This independent cinema has a lovely main screen with the best sound system ever but it does not make us keen to venture out to view other films. I am going to complain to the owners as surely if they have to sell stuff in noisy packets they could add on an extra few pence to the price and provide people with the paper cups they sell pop-corn in. Then people could decant their snacks before entering the auditorium and the noise would be reduced by about 90%. Incidentally the lady sitting next to Peter spent a lot of time on Facebook on her phone!
Yesterday, much to Peter's horror we dropped into Primark so I could buy this fluffy nightshirt that I had seen on sale. I had thought it would go well some fluffy pj trousers I have but it was a little over the top especially with a face on the top of the hood. So today I reduced the length, took off the muzzle, reshaped the hood and sewed the ears back on for fun and now I have a fluffy hooded pj top.
We turned on the central heating today. Not because it was so cold, indeed with the cloud cover it was a little warmer, but just to check it was working. We haven't used it since last January and it would not be nice to turn it on when our visitors come and find it doesn't work. It did warm the house up nicely and as oil prices are supposed to have almost halved it won't be so expensive if we do have really bad weather and need to turn it on. It's off now until Christmas but I have just been visited by a small tortoiseshell butterfly trying to singe its feet on my desk lamp. I took it back upstairs to its windowsill only to find my original butterfly is still there. I left the butterfly there and came downstairs turning off all the lights hoping that it will stay up there.
Saturday, 13 December 2014
The sun has been shining today though the garden has mainly been in the shade. Peter had to go off to work - again. I waited until the sun was above the hill before venturing out to do some more work on the wall. The papers are gloomily forecasting a month of bad weather, I don't know what would be worse, lots of rain or extreme cold. The oil tanker came yesterday so we won't run out of oil and there is all that wood in the shed too.
The wall is nearing completion, now there are fewer stones it is harder to find the right stones to fit securely. I knew it was time to stop when I spent 5 mins looking for a mud covered trowel amongst the stones and clay.
Before I started work Jack came round with a card and this lovely poinsettia. I haven't started putting up decorations yet but I couldn't resist getting out some tinsel.
Peter has just come home and soon we are off to see the last of The Hobbit films. What on earth will we do next year?