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 31 August 2010

Poor Postie.

The weather has been fantastic today and we finally found time to go out for a walk to Morte Point. The summer has been so hectic and the weather so rotten that this is the first time we've gone for a walk since returning from our holiday on Lundy 8 weeks ago! Yesterday we were watching 'Countryfile' on tv and they had an item about rambling on the North Devon coast which featured Morte Point. So often I've seen film of beautiful coastline and thought how wonderful it would be to visit those areas and here was our very own walking spot.
There were 5 seals down in the water at their usual place. (Zoom in to see one between the outermost 2 rock outcrops.) A little less exciting after my Lundy seal encounter.

There were a number of these large parasol mushrooms about. It wasn't until I checked them out in my wildlife book at home that I discovered they are 'edible and tasty'. If we don't wait another 8 weeks before going for another walk perhaps we can bring 1 or 2 home to add to our supper. We were both pleased to note that our fitness has improved and we were able to chat comfortably all the way up the big slopes that used to have us gently puffing as we neared the summits.

When we did get home we found our postman in our yard. Nothing unusual in that until we spotted the large puddle of oil. A rock had bounced up while he was driving along a farmers' track and when he got to our place he realised that it had smashed the oil sump. It was his further bad luck that there was nobody at our place and very unusually everybody was out at the stables next door. He was just about to start walking the 6 miles back to town when we turned up. After a cup of tea and a few phone calls (mobile phone coverage is not very good in our valley) he took a lift back into town with Peter and later a guy came with a flat bed lorry and took the van away.

Thank you for the kind comments about my struggle with the old diet this week. They have made me feel more positive. Romas took this photo of me last week which I think is a bit more flattering than last week's group shot. I am determined to lose those few pounds and stay near to my 'weight aged 16'.

Monday 30 August 2010

Duck? Jackdaw?

What a difference the sun makes! Today was cold but bright and sunny and my whole attitude changed. I was able to motivate myself, get things done and even stick to the diet. It was a good day for the car boot sale where I managed to buy one item that I had unsuccessfully looked for in the shops last year for a Christmas present for a member of the family. I also got a couple of Indian paintings on silk which I can use when we have our 'India' based arts weeks. Later I was out in the garden getting on with school planning when I heard a dreadful commotion coming from the trees nearby. It sounded like a cross between a duck and a jackdaw.
But it wasn't a bird at all, it was a very cross squirrel. Its tail was vibrating with every angry chatter. It may have been defending the crop of nuts in the hazel trees or simply attempting to scare away an intruder. I know there is a drey up in those trees as well.

And the possible cause of all that anger might have been Elwen who was walking about below the trees.

Oh dear, oh dear! I am so embarrassed by this. Another week where I have hardly managed to stick to my diet. And all because I wallowed in self pity over the lack of birthday celebrations and hit the chocolate stash. It is always the same and what an utterly trivial thing to be stressing about. But this is the purpose of my weekly 'weigh in', now I know I have to get to grip with my lack of self control and get back into my routine. Might even have to print off another page and carry on for a few more weeks.

Sunday 29 August 2010

Too Much Rain.

I had been hoping to go the car boot sale today but the constant showers put an end to that. The house is so quiet, even Peter has gone out for the day, off with the gun club to a range in Cornwall.
A wet view of the garden showing the half trimmed hedge.
I've pottered about. Done some tidying, thought about school work and almost went out for a walk until I looked out of the window and saw big black clouds looming. I did manage to get out and do some more hedge trimming. It's not very easy to cut a level hedge when you're lying across wobbly branches.

Saturday 28 August 2010

A Good Drying Day.

It has been cold today but sunny and windy enough to hang several machine loads of sheets out on the line. Vicky and Romas left after lunch so now it is just the two of us rattling around in this big farmhouse. It was nice having them here this week because then it was not such a major transition at the end of the grand visit. Going from 11 in the house to just 2 takes a bit of adjusting to. We had some enjoyable evenings playing board games and watching films together. Just heard that Avatar will be shown again on general release with some extra footage so we will definitely be heading off to the cinema when it comes to out town. Being an old converted cinema the screen 1 is the original auditorium and has the largest screen in the south-west. The seating is very comfortable especially if you pay a little extra for the Pullman seats and and the sound system is excellent with the base sound making the whole place rumble.
This afternoon I had another go at the land drain under the lawn. I've rodded it from both ends but I need to find the curly attachment to clear the clay that is still causing the water to stop flowing. I also carried on with trimming the big hedge. It's a really big job so I always do it in sections or I'll run out of steam after the first day. Nothing much else happening in this oh so quiet house.

Friday 27 August 2010

Local Connections.

And today was SUNNY !! We've been promised a good week-end which is good as this is a Bank Holiday weekend and Romas and Vicky will be meeting up with all the others for a major muster (SK). I spent the afternoon in town and had a very civilised cappuccino and cake with my friend. I did ask to take a photo of the yummy selection of cakes but the baker/owner said no. As there are more of us at home I was able to take advantage of the end of day reductions at the pasty shop and bought 4 traditional pasties and 2 Thai chicken pasties (unusual but tasty). We have finally taken possession of our 'new' car, a Toyota Rav4. This purchase was yet another example of the web of connections that exists in our lives here. Last year we were at a party next door when the girl who works at the stables mentioned that she was thinking about selling her Rav. (She just happens to be the grand-daughter of one of my WI friends and lives in a farm visible on the other side of the valley.) Peter told her that we would be interested if & when she decided to sell. This summer we needed another car so luckily the Rav was still available and we bought it. It is a good purchase because we know that it has been looked after and has done relatively low mileage. But this isn't the end of the connections. Some years ago during a brief snowy spell our Landrover went off the road when we were all headed for school. I left Peter and the boys to sort the Landrover and hitched a lift with my neighbours who happened to be passing. Unfortunately we also went off the road at a difficult corner but I was able to cadge a lift into town with a couple driving ... you've guessed it - the same Rav, and it turned out that the driver's sister is one of my fellow teachers at school. That's one web of connections.
I'm hoping that the weather will be as nice tomorrow so that I can have a relaxing day in the garden.

Thursday 26 August 2010

It's Thursday.

And surprise, surprise it's been raining for most of today. I've got procrastination down to a fine art but finally I've started looking at the planning for next term and doing some of the dreaded paperwork. Actually once I get started it's not too bad. The key to surviving this job is to be utterly organised. That way it's easy to take the inevitable last minute changes without going into a total flap. At least that's how it works for me.
In between getting on with my schoolwork I pottered about and did a bit of my jigsaw out in the conservatory. I work without reference to the picture and take a strange pleasure in matching all those seemingly random pieces together. Maybe I'll ask Peter to give me my Christmas puzzle in a bag so that I have no idea what the picture is. That might be fun.

It dried up briefly in the afternoon so I got the drain rods out and had a go at clearing the land drain that runs under the back lawn which is beginning to get very waterlogged. I was very glad it was only rain water as I had to delve into a deep puddle nearly up to my shoulder. Even so it was an early shower after that. I was going to finish with a bit of therapeutic sawing down of a branch that is growing too low over the stream but when I saw the nearly ripe cob nuts on it I decided it could wait until winter. No wonder the squirrel has been making forays into the garden.

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Back To School.

Guess what? It's raining again. I've started to think about work (that stuff I do that brings in money). Because the teacher I'm covering for had to change classrooms there's an awful lot of sorting out to do so I was relieved to be able to get into school today. I spent 4 hours getting to grips with the big walk-in cupboard and doing a basic shuffle round of the tables and cupboards so that the classroom is the way I like it. I've been teaching in that room once a week so I have been mentally planning how I would like things. Even though I was working full-time for a month before the end of term my contract doesn't start until next week. That way the school avoided having to pay me for the holidays and any extra, like today, is by my own choice and unpaid. We have got 2 (paid) non-pupil days next week which should give me enough time to put up displays and sort out the children's new work books. I know that once term starts I'll be busy every night with school work so I'm trying to get on with 'home' jobs and have some final relaxation time.
Vicky and Romas went into town today for an all-you-can-eat buffet at the Chinese restaurant before going to see Toy Story 3. They report that there are scenes at the end that are definitely not suitable for children and there were a number of very upset children in the cinema. I couldn't believe that Avatar, which I loved, was parental guidance only and a number of my 5 year old pupils went to see it. I thought it had far too much violence for young children.

Tuesday 24 August 2010

A Gathering Of Dragonflies.

I have been back in work mode and took advantage of the dry weather to make a start on cutting back the leylandii hedge and arch. I had hoped to persuade the boys to do that last week but the wet weather wasn't conducive to outdoor work. Peter did send Romas out to give me a hand which was helpful even if I did have to give a further trim to the section of the hedge he did. I also did most of the mowing as the forecast is for yet more heavy rain coming in from the Atlantic. I had to leave the bottom lawn as it was still very wet. Astilbes in the bog garden.
The strong autumnal winds will soon be blowing the apples off the trees before they get a chance to ripen. This is what usually happens but the apple trees are growing in the chickens' run so they get the windfalls.
As I walked through the garden I was surprised to see a group of dragon flies that had taken up station on a plank bridge over a rill. It is the first time I've seen a group together like that, they kept circling away and then landing back on the wood. Either it was a courtship group or the the warmth and dryness of the wood was attracting them.

Monday 23 August 2010

Another Year Older.

and unfortunately a couple of pounds heavier, from last week that is. Although I tried really hard to watch what I ate last week eating salads or small portions the daily cake baking and large quantities of food to hand led to a lack of self control. I've decided that expecting someone to diet while preparing family meals is the equivalent of saying to an alcoholic "Well done for wanting to stop drinking and going to AA meetings but you still have to work behind the bar. After all you can just have soft drinks." I have eaten quite a bit of chocolate today which wasn't the best thing to do but a birthday comes but once a year. In lieu of the (yet again) non-existent birthday cake (the clue is in the name!) I also tucked into some of the blackcurrant crumble I made the other day. However on a positive note, this was us last year,
and here we are a year later. Tomorrow I'll be back on the diet to lose those final few pounds.

The boys had clubbed together and bought me a lovely big bunch of flowers which are taking pride of place in the kitchen.
The heavy overnight rain eased off in the morning, I settled myself in the conservatory and had a quiet day working on a jigsaw puzzle. A mindless but relaxing activity before I start getting my mind spinning with school planning. The afternoon has been sunny but extremely windy. It would have been a good day for a walk down by the sea but we have been waiting all day in vain for a plumber who was supposed to be sorting out some of the radiators before we actually need to start using them.
Today has also been brightened by some good news. Linas was been told this morning that his internship is being extended for another 2 months. Great for his cv and his confidence and also good for his finances. One step closer towards a more permanent job.

Sunday 22 August 2010

A Quiet House.

Typically the sun shone for the last day of the family visit. However there is a weather warning out for severe rain and winds for the next few days.I always take a group picture of the youngsters at the end of each visit.
L to R. Vicky & Romas, Vytas & Kate B, Linas, Rachel & Alex.
There was much hilarity with a plastic spider at the lunch table. (Neither Rachel or Alex like spiders so I have to get rid of as many of the house spiders as possible before they visit.) Vytas & Kate and the Eedles left after lunch but everyone will be meeting up next week-end for a SK muster.
The family visits are a bittersweet time for me. I miss my family and look forward to their visits but when they do come ( we only saw Vytas 3 times last year) I feel I become an invisible person whose role is to live in the kitchen. This is especially disappointing because I thought I had brought up my boys to see everyone as equal but I suppose that they feel that this is their holiday. It makes me very sad to feel that they have so little consideration or respect for me as a person.
Now that Peter's arthritis stops him doing manual work about the place I always imagine that when the boys come down they will help out with some of the jobs that I find difficult but this doesn't happen and I don't like to ask too many times and end up being seen as a nag. They just go off and do their own thing. Once everyone left I spent a couple of strenuous hours raking and shovelling the drive repairing the damage done by the week's rain. Romas (having returned from a trip to town) did do a little work on the drive before leaving me to clear the whole of the central ditch. He has, after some insistence, put wood across the bottom of our neighbour's road to divert the water that pours down the hill in bad weather. All we need to do now is repair the sky tv cable that has been pulled out of the box and we're set for the bad weather.

Saturday 21 August 2010

A Beach Visit.

It's been a typical August day, in other words - raining heavily once more. Being almost the end of the Grand Visit we braved the elements for another trip to the beach. No sign of any sun as we headed off to Putsborough.
As I couldn't go in the water last summer due to my eye surgery I decided to join the lads in the water for some body boarding. It was SO good to be able to see clearly once I was in the sea and not have everything a total blur.
Not having a wetsuit I didn't stay in that long but the waves were good and I had lots of fun .

It started to rain heavily while we were in the water, poor Kate B and Rachel were walking Milo on the beach and got totally soaked. (Back home they had a big thunderstorm so the girls fortified themselves with peach schnapps.)

Despite the poor weather there were a lot of people taking advantage of the good waves. Something I hadn't seen before were people standing up on longboards and propelling themselves with a long paddle.
Linas is currently preparing a stir fry for supper so we've left the men debating life etc in the kitchen and we're all chilling out in the sitting room.

Friday 20 August 2010

tRAIN Spoils Play.

It has poured with rain ALL day. Most of the household went into Barnstaple this morning on various shopping trips while I stayed home. I washed dishes, baked a cake, washed dishes, made some fruit bread in the breadmaker, washed dishes, spent 1 1/2 hrs topping blackcurrants for a crumble and washed more dishes. Having only had just enough forks at the table last night I asked Vytas to buy some more when he was in town only to find the pot with all my extra cutlery in another cupboard (I thought I had given them to the charity shop).
There is currently much texting back and forth as the 2 last visitors attempt to get here by train. Linas and Rachel are starting from different parts of the country but the plan was to meet up when they change trains at Exeter and travel on the last Tarka Line train of the day to Barnstaple. Unfortunately Rachel's train is running late and the latest estimate is that she will arrive 4 minutes after the Barnstaple train is due to depart. Being 2 different train companies even when one train is delayed the Barnstaple train goes leaving you to wait another hour (or in this case overnight). Linas is already at Exeter and we are all relying on his powers of persuasion to hold the train for Rachel otherwise he'll wait for her and Kate E (Rachel's mum) will have to drive the 50 miles from here to collect them. Once they finally arrive it will be a full house with 11 of us here.
Latest update, the delay has now stretched to 10 mins, the train won't wait so Kate E and Alex are setting off now to pick them up. That's a bummer.

Thursday 19 August 2010

Town Visit.

I finally got to see the back specialist today at the hospital. He has down graded my spinal op to one (not both ) side only. I'm not too sure why except that he didn't seem to think it would cure the problem. If it does then I'll have to go through the whole thing again for the other side, ho hum. Following my visit to the hospital I went into town for a little therapeutic shopping and had a treat of some yoghurt covered apricots from the health food shop. In the Pannier Market there was a whole stall of these handmade flowers being sold by 2 Chinese? ladies. I didn't like the overall effect in those pots but the workmanship was impressive. I had a good look around the sales and somehow managed to buy one more top (tut tut) also some men's surf style beads which true to my desire to have things just the way I like them have already been shortened so that they fit snugly.
It's been raining all day, lightly in the morning and now more torrential. When I got home I was asked (that's a first) if I wanted to go down to the beach but with no wetsuit I would probably only want to be in the water for half an hour or so and would have to sit in the car for a couple of hours while Vytas and Sam stayed in the water so I've remained home with the girls who are all drawing or writing. Peter is back at the gym and we are expecting Romas & Vicky home after their party. Last night 3 of us played Scrabble again which was much better even though Peter and I do get rather competitive and use really obscure words that we've checked (looked up) in the dictionary. eg jo - a term of endearment, ur - a variant of er, yo - a greeting (historical not street slang). I may just get out my Scrabble dictionary and learn a few more useful 2 letter words though I think we're going to play Balderdash or Pictionary next.

It's so wet that I resorted to standing in the doorway to take pictures or even as above, through the windows.

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Sun And Rain.

The house is filling up. Vytas and Kate B arrived late last night, plus 2 guinea pigs.

It's been another mixed weather day, hot sun one moment,
and pouring rain the next. Everybody is out and about doing their own thing once more. Romas & Vicky have driven down to Seaton to their uni friend's home for a party and won't return until tomorrow, Peter has gone for a swim and gym session, Sam, Vytas & Kate B are down at the beach for more fun in the surf and Kate E & Alex are in the kitchen writing and drawing on their lap tops (& tablet).

I've been mainly ........ cooking and clearing up. The breadmaker is proving invaluable. Last night my hungry boys devoured all the bread I had thought would do for breakfast so I needed to make another loaf. I worried that if I left the fresh bread in the breadmaker overnight it would go all soggy so I took the breadmaker up to our bedroom so that I could leap out of bed at 2.00 and take out the fresh loaf of bread. I won't get caught out like that again.

Blogging interlude over, I'll now head back to the kitchen to make a ratatouille to go with tonight's supper. I'm not baking a second chocolate chunk cake today so it will have to be melon and an apple pie from the freezer for dessert.

Tuesday 17 August 2010

Hungry Surfers.

True to form it's been raining for most of the day. I got up early to get the breadmaker going (I don't have the manual so it will take a bit of experimenting to work out how to use the timer), and wash up the remnants of last night's cups & things before setting out the breakfast things. I did manage to get back to bed for an hour and still be downstairs before the household emerged but now I'm feeling a tad tired. Romas & Vicky are still out surfing with some uni friends who live the other side of Exeter. Rain is immaterial once you're in the water. We had a bit of a panic looking for their wetsuits as the last time I remembered seeing them was when we were on Lundy and for a while I was convinced that the wetsuits were still in the dive shed on the island. Luckily Peter located them in our back room (into which everything disappears). Alex and Kate headed into Barnstaple to do some shopping taking Peter along so he could collect a barrel of beer from our local micro-brewery and Sam took Milo (the dog) for a walk.
The rain cleared up for a while in the the afternoon so I had 5 minutes in the garden before returning to bake another double chocolate chunk cake, prepare potatoes for this evening's meal and do some cleaning.
The surfers have returned and happily demolished most of the chocolate cake and some fruit bread. My reputation has been made as an ace cook, good thing they don't know my repertoire is reasonably limited.

Monday 16 August 2010

A Last Sunny Day.

A lovely sunny day today. But the forecast for the rest of the week is dire, this usually happens when friends and family come to stay in the summer. We made the most of the good weather with a barbecue, Romas and Vicky who had been incommunicado since being at the Bloodstock music festival, arrived just as we were serving up.

Alex was most impressed with the numbers of butterflies and dragonflies in the garden. We ended the day with a 7 handed game of scrabble which was not the most lively event due to the length of time take by most of the players.
I'm not sure how the diet will go this week but I shall have to try my best. I'm especially pleased that my weight is now less than where I was when I was 16 and I certainly wasn't overweight then. It's just distributed slightly differently now.

Sunday 15 August 2010

Too Many Flies.

Very cold this morning but not a cloud in the sky. It got hazy later then cleared again with a strong breeze. I simply had to start the day with some garden work in the sun, there is always weeding to be done. Then it was back indoors for a final sort through of the conservatory. One of the disadvantages of getting rid of all those cobwebs is that there is no natural fly control. I left the outside door open for less than half an hour and then had to chase 30 assorted flies/bugs around the ceiling with the hoover nozzle. Then I got worried that all the flies would be buzzing around inside the hoover emerging when I wasn't looking so I emptied the hoover bag (it's a vax for which I have a cloth reusable bag.) Plenty of butterflies again, here a couple of small tortoiseshell butterflies are sharing some buddleia with a rather tatty peacock butterfly. While I was out in the garden early this morning I had a chat with my neighbours' boy. He has a new 'toy', a full sized old fashioned push mower. He had dragged it halfway up the hill to show me. One of his 6 new call ducks is floating dead in the middle of the lake. That's a bit of a mystery. I hope it wasn't disease.
Main group of guests are arriving tomorrow so I'll stop with the cleaning and get into cooking mode. Tonight I'm experimenting with the bread maker, I've added sugar, butter, sultanas and spices to hopefully make a fruit loaf.