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.

Monday 30 November 2015


A gale blew through the night and into the day. Rain didn't arrive until midday and conditions have continued to worsen. Right now I can hear the rain on the conservatory and the wind whistling around the house.  This morning I took up all the hall and stair carpets and drove them to the dump before school. At school Christmas has taken over and instead of RE my Year 1 class had to draw pictures for the class Advent calendar. The class teacher had gone through the story of the Nativity with them already so that was something towards RE. The children could draw anything related to Christmas and though I tried to steer them towards the Nativity story we had a lot of Father Christmas and elves. One child drew Mary giving birth to Jesus. Fortunately the emerging baby was quite small and hard to spot. I used the lesson as an opportunity to develop the children's art skills getting them to look at 'good' examples and trying to improve their own work. I put the finished pictures up on the flip chart and noticed several children taking their pictures back to do more work on them. 
I took some wedding pictures in to work to show my friends, not the full file with my 90+ photos and more that I have trawled from Facebook but an edited version with just 19 photos. I would have been happy to show lots more but I realise that other people haven't got quite the same interest.

However here are more photos from the wedding that are hopefully interesting. 
The quirky shabby chic decor. I'm standing in a hall doorway which had a couple of steps down to the little landing. Our room door was just to the left and there were 2 more steps from the hall up to our door.
 Our room.
 A small reception room that had the bar in.
The table seating plan. 
The tables were named after different parts of Middle Earth.
 The table decorations.
 Another photo of the first dance with the ceilidh band in the background.

Sunday 29 November 2015

The Wedding.

We're home after a truly wonderful wedding, so many memories to treasure. We drove up on Saturday morning, a journey of 4 and a half hours including a couple of breaks to stretch our legs. We still don't have a sat nav as we would only need to use one 1 or 2 times a year but the route instructions I printed off were perfectly adequate. We only went wrong once when as I was saying "Take the 2nd exit." Peter decided to take the 1st exit off a roundabout. That was easily sorted and we and most importantly the cake arrived safely at the 17thC hotel on the edge of a country park. We had only met Sally's parents before but her family made us feel very welcome. I set up the cake and we put the cupcakes in their fancy wrappers before joining the gathering throng. Then up to our characterful room to change into our wedding finery.
The wedding ceremony was held in this room. The overall style of the hotel was shabby chic and even this newer  annex was in the same style. Before the ceremony could start the bride and groom had to be interviewed separately by the registrar (presumably to make sure they know what they are doing but possibly also to rule out forced or fake marriages). We had to wait a while but eventually Sally arrived looking beautiful in an ivory coloured dress with a bouquet of red silk roses. 
The mirrors on the walls gave me the chance to take some photos during the ceremony though we weren't allowed to take photos during the signing bit. That's Sally's parents in shot and if you look closely I'm reflected in the left hand corner of the mirror. Vytas had written his own vows and very romantic they were. Sally's ring is a slim band of diamonds while Vytas' ring is black bog oak over antler ivory. They are both strong individualists with their own style.
 Romas (Best Man), Vytas, Sally, Tracy (Sally's sister/Bridesmaid) and Zac (Tracy's son).
Then it was time for the wedding meal. Sally had decorated the tables with red candles, red butterflies as place markers, red crackers, pine cones and holly. The food was absolutely delicious; tomato soup with a variety of breads to start followed by succulent beef on creamed potatoes with a selection of vegetables and cheese cake with raspberry coulis and honeycomb toffee. After Sally's dad made his speech it was Romas' turn to make the Best Man speech. We may be slightly biased it was a very good speech which had us all laughing without embarrassing his big brother.
After the formalities more photos were taken by the official photographer as well as everyone else. In the end I had decided not to wear the bright costume necklace but put flowers in my plait instead. Peter and all the men of the bridal party were given dark red ties, pocket handkerchiefs and matching cuff-links. A lovely touch. Sally and Vytas also gave us a silver photo frame engraved with their names and the date of the wedding as well as a wooden plaque with a Tolkien map burnt on it and a message from Vytas and Sally on the back.
I did get lots of lovely comments about the cakes and people seemed to enjoy them. It made all that baking worthwhile and made me feel that I had had a part in the wedding.
For the first dance Sally wore a dramatic red cloak. It was to Sleeping Sun by Nightwish. I hadn't heard it before but it is so romantic. Once everyone else got called to the dance floor I even had a dance with Peter in spite of his poor knees.

More photos and then the ceilidh. It wasn't a big room to dance in but it was a lot of fun. Peter couldn't join in but I put on my red trainers and had a couple of dances with Vytas and Romas. It was very energetic so a couple of dances was enough for me. It was a great way to warm the party up. By the time the ceilidh ended Peter and some of the others retired to bed but I stayed to watch the youngsters dance wildly to heavy metal music. I knew parts of some of the songs but the dancers knew all the words and sang along enthusiastically including to Tribute. Sally hitched up the train of her dress and gave a stunning performance just like somebody in a music video. Romas had provided the sound system and they had hired disco lights which sent multicoloured sparkly lights across the room. When Vytas danced in the path of the lights it looked as if his long hair was full of green and red sparkles. The music had to stop at midnight and the for the last song, Bohemian Rhapsody everybody including myself danced in a linked circle (for the slower bits) and we all sang along.
A wonderful, wonderful day that we will always remember.

Breakfast this morning was excellent and after many farewells we left at 11.00 arriving home at 3.00. It had been sunny as we set off but got greyer, wetter and wilder as we headed south-west. The wind was so strong that at times the car shook. Right now it is blowing a hooley but unlike Friday it is a mild wind and it isn't raining. 
More hotel photos tomorrow.

On Schedule. (Forgot to publish this!)

I woke up at 6.00 this morning probably because that's around the time Peter usually brings me some tea. But he's taken today off so I crept out of bed to finish decorating the cupcakes and left Peter to have a well deserved sleep. By 9.15 I had made ganache and decorated 4 dozen cupcakes, made some labels from the left over cake dowels and tidied everything up.
Later on a friend of Peter's who works for a window company, came round and together they repaired the window in a spare room. Something had gone wrong with the hinge mechanism and it couldn't be shut properly. Not a lot of fun for anyone sleeping in that room during the winter. While that was going on I made myself some hair decorations from red fabric roses the same colour as my bolero top. Last night I sat and watched a number of videos getting ideas on what to do with my hair. I decided on a loose fish-tail plait to the side so that I can wear a fascinator. I had my eye on one the other day and bought it when I went into town today.
With my preparations on schedule I took myself off to town for a pampering treat of a pedicure and nail polish. It's the first time I've had one and when I got there they asked if I had brought a pair of flip-flops as the polish would need an hour to dry. Luckily I'd bought an all-day parking ticket so time wasn't an issue. The pedicure lasted an hour and was very relaxing. Also I had an new listener for all my wedding talk (Peter tries not to glaze over when I go over every detail for the n'th time). The beautician was a pleasant young girl and I did enjoy the pampering. The chair was one of those that can give you a massage so while I waited for my nails to dry I had a lovely massage. I allowed myself this expensive treat as apart from the fascinator I haven't spent very much. My bolero and handbag were from charity shops and the red trainers were in sale. Even if I had buckets of money I wouldn't change anything. It's more fun customising things anyway.

Thursday 26 November 2015

Cake Decorating.

It's been very mild today with a little drizzle in the air. I don't think we've had more in the way of rain but I've spent the day in the kitchen with the door firmly bolted against those 2 thieves of mine. Squeaky has been content to stay inside on her own all day though yesterday evening she did voice her disapproval of the fact that I haven't been sitting at my pc or in other words providing her with a lap to sit on. Speedy spent most of the last 2 days sitting on the outside of the kitchen window trying to catch my attention so I would let him in. 
My morning was spent getting the fondant icing on the 2 big cakes and the Red Velvet cupcakes. There was one scary moment when I thought that the icing on the biggest cake was going to tear at the edge but I managed to squish it together before doing lots of smoothing with a small straight sided glass vase. At that point I decided to take a break as too much standing hurts my back and I needed my full concentration for the actual decoration of the cake. It's just a shame that I poked my finger with the point of a sharp knife while cutting some cheese for lunch. So I ended up with a plaster on that finger as well as one on the other hand where a finger had split by the nail.
Then it was time for decorating the big cake. It's not too bad and I'll be taking along leaves, roses, fondant and a tube of white icing for repairs when we get there. If nothing else I'll need to tidy up the join where the smaller cake sits on the big cake once I put the 2 together. I've already put cake dowels in to stop the top tier sinking down in to bottom tier. These cakes will be a testament to the fact that you can do most things if you have the time and YouTube videos to watch.
Peter has just returned home with 3 empty cake carriers and the message that his work mates are happy to eat my rejects any time.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Buttercream Day.

Today has been mild with heavy showers interspersed with a few bright spells. Driving to work I was almost blinded (even with my sunglasses on) when the sun suddenly appeared and shone down like a laser from an alien spacecraft.
Today it's been all about buttercream. In the morning I made 3 batches and used 2 and a half pounds of butter and the same of icing sugar. That was just enough for the 2 big cakes and I did try to keep it as thin as possible. After work I made yet more buttercream for the lemon cupcakes which have a filling of lemon curd and the Red Velvet cupcakes which have cherry jam on. I also put buttercream and decorations on 36 of my slightly reject cupcakes for Peter to take to work tomorrow.
At school I was expecting to be making more salt dough with the other half of the class but when I got there the remaining children had been given the salt dough left over from yesterday to make their decorations in the morning. That's a shame as half the fun (and learning) was in the making of the dough; taking turns to measure out the ingredients and stirring them all together. Instead I did handwriting with small groups of children. Maybe if there is some spare time later in the term I can make salt dough with the remaining children.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Double Baking Today.

The rainy weather has returned bringing warmer air and grey skies.
This morning I set to work making the chocolate cup cakes. Things did not go quite to plan. Mindful of my disaster with the overflowing Red Velvet cakes I put less mixture into each muffin case. Roughly the same amount as I used yesterday for the lemon cakes. I took the first batch out of the oven and they were too low in the cases. So I was more generous with the next batch. But they still were still too low down. I would have to try again once I got home from work as I was running out of time. I was also running out of the brown muffin cases which look better with the chocolate cup cakes. I had factored in a trip to the Co-Op either today or tomorrow to get the cream I need for the ganache so that didn't mess up my schedule. It was only as I began to make the new lot of chocolate cup cakes that I realised I had used double the amount of butter in the morning baking. I had doubled up all the amounts in my recipe but for some reason I imagined the butter was in 4 oz blocks instead of 8 oz blocks. They've only been like that for the whole of my life! No wonder they didn't rise properly. They still taste okay and with some decoration will be fine for Peter to take to work. One thing I was able to do was to paint the roses which had faded from yellow to white since I made them. That saves me from making up a new batch of yellow roses for the lemon cup cakes.
At school I had great fun making salt dough with the reception children so that they could make Christmas tree decorations. I worked with a group of children who sat around a table and took turns measuring out the flour and salt and then mixing in the water before rolling their own portion and cutting out shapes. While we were doing that we were visited by some prospective new parents who were being shown around the school. Usually that means 1 or 2 adults with their children but today there must have been 6 or 8 families which was a bit of a surprise. At least we were all busy. Next to me was another table of children who had decided that the red playdough should be stuck on their noses while they sang Rudolf the red nosed reindeer rather than on the laminated outlines of spaceships the class teacher had provided. I thought that was quite imaginative.

Monday 23 November 2015

Chilly Morning.

I woke to a frosty morning, pretty but cold. This morning I made 30 lemon cup cakes. No disasters this time though it was a bit tight time-wise as I needed to leave earlier than usual to return the cake tin. While I was in the middle of baking I had a phone call from school. Was there any chance I could come in asap as  one teacher couldn't come in? (His wife was ill and he had to look after their children) For once I had to say that I couldn't make it. 
At school I was asked to spend the afternoon teaching the children some of the songs from their Christmas play. Once again we ran into IT problems. The cable from the lap-top to the amp has a bad connection and today even with the aid of the scorpion in resin block I couldn't get rid of the loud buzz. Luckily there was a cd player in the cupboard. One of the tracks on the cd was too crackly and we couldn't follow the tune but the other song track we needed did work clearly so we stuck with that song. During the afternoon another teacher who was succumbing to the bug that is going round school asked if I could cover her class tomorrow morning  but again I declined as I'll be baking again. I felt bad at saying no but the wedding comes first.
On Friday at the hospital the lady who took out my stitches suggested that I check to see if I would be able to wear my denture for the wedding. Sure enough it was too painful so I rang my dentist this morning and got an appointment at 5.00 today to adjust the denture a little. My dentist didn't want to take off too much because then when the swelling goes down the denture wont fit properly but she said I can come back on Thursday if needed. However I did notice quite an improvement from when I tried on the denture on Saturday so hopefully it will be even better by the weekend.

Sunday 22 November 2015

Red Velvet Day.

Another cold day with plenty of sunshine in view if not actually in the garden. But apart from a quick wander around the garden my day has been spent in the kitchen baking Red Velvet cakes. It took me most of the day as my baking is not my specialty.  Not only had I scaled up my original Nigella recipe but I had to make 3 batches. Knowing my tendency to muddle things up I had everything written out and I tried my best to be methodical. The 2 thieving cats, Speedy and Patch were securely banished from the house though I left Squeaky as she rarely attempts to steal stuff.
All was going well to an accompaniment of wedding dress tv when I had a slight disaster! I had overfilled the first batch of cup cakes and they rose over and out of the cases. No good for the wedding as I need them below the top of the cases so I can add jam, buttercream and fondant icing. Never mind, I'll make up the numbers with the lemon and the chocolate cup-cakes. I baked each layer of the big cakes separately and the final cake is still cooling in the tin. It's a good thing I didn't go for a 14" cake as the tin wouldn't have fitted in the rayburn oven which is smaller than a standard oven. Getting the Red Velvet cakes done is a good chunk of the job and the messiest as the red cake mixture was pretty vivid.
I only heard a little bit of scampering around in the loft last night. I checked the trap but there was nothing in it yet. Judging by the number of droppings around in the loft there is a whole colony of mice up there. I still wonder how they get up there. The old part of the house has solid stone walls and the new part has cavity filling between the blocks which had a setting liquid pumped in to make it set into a solid mass.  

Saturday 21 November 2015

Winter Lodgers.

How is it that I can sleep through Peter snoring, the rain crashing down on the plastic conservatory roof, the windchimes clanging and the wind howling around the house yet one small mouse-thing can wake me up not once but twice in the night? The first time was at 2.00 am. Once I had realised what the scratching, scraping sound was I leapt out of bed at the same time as switching on the light. I had forgotten about my headphones so the radio crashed to the floor but the noise continued. Eventually I realised that the noise was coming from the loft above and not from somewhere in the room so I went back to sleep after thumping on the ceiling a few times to quieten the mouse down. I was woken once more at 5.00, this time the scrabbling nibbling noises in the loft were coming from the other side of the room just over my desk and very loud they were too. More thumping on the ceiling and back to sleep I went. I know the field mice come in during the winter but what on earth will they be eating? Have they been trailing up to the loft all summer hiding away supplies or are they just eating their way through the things I've got stored up there? At least that would solve the dilemma of what to do with all the stuff in the loft and I could throw it all out. Today I climbed up the ladder and put the big live-trap mouse box up in the loft. Hopefully I may be able to evict some of our winter visitors.
I'm not too surprised that the mice have decided to move in. Although it was lovely and sunny this morning it was bitterly cold. Friends around the country are reporting snow and Peter tells me there was a brief flurry of snow here. 
I spent my afternoon in town collecting the big cake tin I'm hiring from the cake shop and buying everything I need for my cake making week. I had foolishly not taken a coat and by the time I got to town it was windy and raining heavily. Luckily I keep an umbrella in the car though it was hard to handle a big golf umbrella in the wind and avoid other shoppers. Fortunately the rain stopped after a while. I was also looking for a cheap furry throw that I could cut up to make 2 cushion covers. The excellent quality but 30 year old covers on 2 feather cushions did not survive their last wash. It was hard to find a colour that would blend in the sitting room and in the end I compromised with a petrol blue throw from Primark. It was dark by the time I got home and I have to admit to feeling rather tired.

Friday 20 November 2015

Winter's here.

This morning I phoned the hospital to talk about my stitches which were driving me absolutely crazy. I had been so pleased when the nurse told me they were dissolving stitches which should fall out in 7-10 days. How innocent I was. 7 days on and they looked and felt as strong as ever. It was impossible not to poke at them with my tongue but that just made things sore while the stitch at the front of my gum was verging on the painful. Luckily when I spoke to the nurse in the maxilla-facial dept she said I could be seen in the morning clinic if I could get there in time. I put away my breakfast, got changed into proper (not working-around-the-house) clothes and whizzed down to the hospital. There a nice lady took out the stitches, said there were no signs of infection only some ulceration where one stitch had been and I was out again in 10 minutes. And my mouth felt so much better. At least I didn't have to use my fall-back plan of taking the stitches out myself.
I was driving home in a cheerful mood when I turned into the top of our road to find 4wd vehicles churning up the ground at the top of the hill where we park in icy conditions and a line of so-called sportsmen waiting to kill pheasants. As I went past I rolled down my window and said (too timid to shout) "sick bastards" because that's what I feel about them
Back home I heated up and ate my abandoned porridge before getting to work taking out the sitting room carpet. I cut it into 3ft -ish strips which I rolled up and tied. I kept going until my little car was filled up with carpet and underlay plus a couple of other items for the dump. I had some other things to do in town so today it was going to be the Barnstaple dump aka the recycling centre. Imagine my irritation when I found out that the carpet and underlay don't go in the same container. About half of my rolls had both rolled together so I had to separate them by the side of the car. I won't be making that mistake again. Eventually everything went in the proper container and I could get on with the rest of my list which included calling in at my dentists to buy another tube of tooth whitening gel. Then I was off to the doctors' surgery for a flu jab. I was called in, jabbed in the arm and given a plaster for a split in my finger which was dripping blood and out again in about 2 minutes. 
When I got home it was lovely to find Peter had got home before me and turned the heating on. The weather has changed with wintry showers and a temperature drop of about 10C (20F). 
The wedding card has made it to its destination so I can now reveal my artistic endeavors. 
I've hardly done any proper painting since I left school but I remembered that you have to start with the lightest colours first. The original photo was of a couple of cake toppers on sale on Etsy. (Sally has bought some smaller ones for their cake.) 

After lots of fiddling around I mounted the painting on dark red before sticking it on a big printed card with a hedgehog decorated message inside as Sally volunteers in a hedgehog hospital.
It may not be brilliant but it was done with love. 
Only 8 days to go !!!!!!!! 

Thursday 19 November 2015

Greedy Patch.

Its been a gloomy grey day with a lot of rain. As night turned into day the sky went from dark grey to light grey making my early morning drive to work quite boring. I had a nice day teaching in Year 1 working with a TA who was my TA when I taught Year 2 for a whole year. Having driven to work in the gloom it was almost dark again as I drove home.
Today I'm having cottage cheese with my salad. I try and get my supper ready early so that the kitchen is free for Peter to prepare his food for work as he likes to eat his main meal in the middle of the day. If I'm at work all day the most I have at lunchtime is a piece of fruit but usually it's just coffee. Patch is the boss cat so if there's only one cottage cheese tub to lick out then it's his. His fat face always gets stuck in the tub but he just carries on licking and then hopes the tub will fall off or I come to the rescue.

Wednesday 18 November 2015


The rain held off long enough for me to get out into the garden this morning. I quite enjoy being outside with the wind howling around the place especially if it isn't too cold. Today I cleared up all the leaves on the paving around the scree garden. They look very colourful with their orange hues but underneath they  trap water creating the perfect conditions for the black growth (an alga?) that makes the slabs look so grubby. I also pulled up lots of the weeds that were growing between the slabs. If I wanted I could grow a whole field of pampas grass there were so many seedlings. 
Nothing dramatic happened today on my travels to and from work. The temporary traffic lights and some cones were still there in Shirwell but no sign of any workers on my way in and they had gone by the time I returned home. There were some showers in the afternoon but thankfully the children spent their lunchtime outside. After work instead of our staff meeting we had to put up displays of the art work each class did during the RE/arts week in the main school corridor. The creation stories from different religions worked out quite well.
I took these photos at school before we started putting up the displays which was a good thing as by the time I left for home it was pitch dark and it was only 5.00. 

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Mild and Wild.

No sooner has one storm blown over than the next arrives. This morning I had hoped to brave the weather to do some gardening but by the time I had done my morning housework it was raining heavily. Instead I mounted my little painting on the front of a card (see teaser below). Originally I was going to hand make the whole thing but I wasn't sure how good it would look so opted for a hybrid version instead.
By the time I set off for school the rain was lashing down. As I drove through Shirwell I noticed water bubbling up from a road drain. Not good news for the houses alongside which are a little lower than the road. There was already one water company van there and by the time I drove past on my homeward journey there were 2 vans, temporary traffic lights and half the road coned off. 
But when I got to school the rain had stopped, I was pleased that the children would at least had some time to run around and burn off some energy. But no, the dinner ladies had sat them down in front of a DVD. So after an hour and a half of lunchtime spent mostly sitting down I would then be expecting them to sit down for phonics followed by music. Luckily the class teacher suggested I took them out for a run around before starting phonics and that is what I did.
After school I went over to the carpet place to make a payment on the carpet and then as it was next door I popped into the Co-Op. Not a lot of reductions but I got some half price sushi which I'm having having for my supper with a tomato and mushroom salad.
Driving home the wind had increased in force and was whistling over the roof of my car. As I drove through Burridge an oncoming car flashed me. I wondered if the driver was warning me about fallen or falling trees as there are some big trees there but no I couldn't see anything. I then decided it was a friend of mine who is teaching at Shirwell. Then as I came round the corner there was a car parked at the side of the road and I could see more parked cars further up. I drove cautiously up and saw some people herding a heifer (one of Mr Lewis') back into the field. Country life is so exciting. 
Right now the wind is whistling dramatically around the house and Peter has made it home safely.

Monday 16 November 2015


It was a fairly grey morning but dry so I was able to get outside for some gardening. First I finished off the weeding I had been doing last week when the phone man came. Then there was enough time to work my way down the whole of one side of the paving around the scree garden, pulling up the weeds that have been happily growing and even flowering in this warm weather. 
My journey to work was slowed down by Mr Lewis' cows walking along the road. Usually they just cross from the farmyard to the field opposite but today they were going a little further. Light rain set in during the afternoon but that didn't stop me from taking my class out to play. There's a handy awning to stand under if you don't want to get wet. (It's raining more heavily now.)
After work I went into town. I was nearly run into as I drove across the traffic lights. It's a t-junction and I turned right as my light was green. Unfortunately a driver on the other road failed to notice that although there was a green light for left turning there was still a red light for anyone wanting to go forward ie him. Luckily I was going slowly and had time to swing wide around the oncoming car. Naturally that car didn't stop and I carried on my journey thinking "Gosh that was a close call". 
At the library I scanned my books and then followed the instruction to put them in the reserved box rather than on the trolley. It was only as I tried to renew another book that an a librarian came up and explained that the machines weren't working and she had to renew my book and record the other books I was taking out by hand. It was a good thing they weren't busy today.
PS Yesterday's sea anemone wasn't a Dahlia anemone but a Gem anemone. So I was informed by a naturalist I had sent the photo to.