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.

Saturday 31 December 2016

Our Spa Evening.

Another grey day which stayed dry with the sun making a valiant effort to break through the cloud cover in the afternoon.
We started the day with some oat cakes, a Stoke speciality. They're a savoury type of pancake made with yeast that is rolled and filled with a savoury filling, traditionally breakfast items - sausage, bacon, eggs, cheese etc. Laura and Romas made a different filling each morning  for breakfast and they gave us some to take home. They also drove us around Stoke in a search to buy more (they freeze well) but the shops that make the proper ones were all closed for the holiday.
I've been working outside today digging up lots of grass roots and then I tackled a job that's been bugging me for a while - clearing the long grass that had grown under one of the bushy climbing roses and pulling up a rampant bramble that had taken hold in the wall behind the rose. This entailed crawling under the rose bush trying to avoid the thorns. But even wearing my thick old gardening coat and work gloves didn't prevent  a certain amount of damage.

Back to Stoke. On the Wednesday we were treated to a whole evening at Moddershall Oaks spa including massages. (Laura had originally booked me in for a facial but I thought a massage would help ease the gardening aches and pains.) We got there at 5.00 so it was dark and we weren't able to appreciate the beautiful surroundings but the place itself was very swish and we had a most relaxing time. I say relaxing but we started off in the gym where I cycled 9km and had fun trying to balance on the gym ball while Peter rowed and did sit ups with weights. Then it was time for our massages after which we swam in the warm indoor pool. We were the only people in the pool so although it wasn't big we were able to swim properly.
After our swim we relaxed in the hot Jacuzzi which had all sorts of water jets. I found one that gave my shoulders a really good pummelling so that's where I stayed. Eventually we dragged ourselves out of the Jacuzzi and sat in the steam room for a while.
After a shower with all their fancy products we went up for a Deli Board which was literally a board with ham, cheese, humus, salad and pitta bread, very tasty. By this time Peter had changed back into his clothes but I stayed in my swimming costume and robe so that I could spend some time in the outdoor pool. That was a great experience as the air was freezing and the water nice and hot. This was our first time in such a place, hence all the details but we definitely enjoyed the experience.

Friday 30 December 2016

A Rest Day.

It hasn't been too cold today but with the clouds down on the tree tops it has felt quite gloomy. After yesterday's travelling we decided to have a quiet day catching up on sleep and generally resting. I've just done my daily chores and put some washing in the machine. Yesterday as we left Tewkesbury we called in at Morrison's for petrol and naturally I checked out the store for some bargains. At first I didn't find much either in the post Christmas sale or the reduced section and then I came across some things that had been reduced by over 80% - bingo! So tonight we'll be having a smoked salmon fillet which I shall bake with mushrooms and onions and afterwards there's a box of posh macaroons to sample.
Now back to our visit to Romas and Laura in Stoke-on-Trent, a large city made up of 7 towns.

Laura's parents live in the house on the left and Romas and Laura are currently renting the house on the right. These houses were originally built for the coal miners in the days when mining was a viable industry. Although Stoke is a large city these houses are on the edge and you can see fields from the windows.

Only half an hour away is the wild and beautiful Peak District. On Tuesday we drove with Romas out to The Roaches, an impressive gritstone escarpment. It was wonderful to be out in the open countryside with views across miles of moor and farmland.
Parts of the path up to the top of the hill were paved with big slabs of stone but for the most part it was rocks and sandy mud.
We walked up to the highest point where we had a picnic looking out across the views. 

There were farms in the valleys far below. The remains of old stone walls showed how small the fields were in the olden days. I'm wondering if they grew more crops in those days because the fields look a bit small to be keeping stock in.

Thursday 29 December 2016

Home At Last.

While it was a pleasure to visit family and friends there's nothing like arriving back home especially after a long and stressful journey.
It was a frosty morning in Stoke-on-Trent requiring much de-icing of cars. As soon as we got onto the main road everything was clear and after a slight hiccup with the phone app satnav we made our way through Stoke and onto the motorway. The fog made the surrounding countryside look ethereal but despite numerous motorway signs warning drivers of fog patches the road stayed clear and we made it to Tewkesbury in good time.
There we met the latest addition to the Eedle household, Sid a very young and ultra cute Jack Russell puppy. Unfortunately Kate had been called into work but Sam and Alex were there and we had a pleasant lunch with them.
It was after we left Tewkesbury for what should have been a no more than 3 hour journey that we encountered numerous delays on the motorway. Over half an hour of being almost at a standstill (literally) just past Bristol due to an earlier accident and numerous sections where the speed limit was dropped to 50mph and the traffic bunched up bringing things nearly to a halt again dragged our journey to about 4 and a half hours. Driving in the dark added to the utterly dangerous driving of many people made that part of our journey very stressful. Luckily for me Peter prefers to do all the driving as I'm not so confident especially on busy motorways and in the dark. 
However nice your stay is, and we were treated royally by Romas and Laura, it is lovely to be back home.

Monday 26 December 2016

We're Off.

Off to spend a few days with Romas and Laure while Vytas and Sally look after the house.

Sunday 25 December 2016


Christmas greetings to you all.
I stayed up late last night watching the Midnight Mass on TV, a bit high church but Christmas is the celebration of Christ's birth. Also tied in with celebrating the turn of the year and nowadays a time for friends and family to get together. So hopefully it is a time of celebration for all.
Afterwards I filled the stockings which are part of our family traditions even if the youngsters are all grown up. I have to admit to feeling rather tired this morning but enjoyed fudge with my morning coffee and was fully awake for the present giving accompanied by croissants and Buck's fizz or orange juice..
I forgot to take a photo of the presents under the tree, a vast amount considering we were only 4 adults. Lots of nice things to eat and drink as well as carefully chosen smaller gifts. We plan to play the Game of Thrones Monopoly later this afternoon. We've had a quiet day indoors while outside it had rained on and off.
These are the crochet dragon slipper bootees I crocheted for Sally who is wearing them at the moment. Just for fun I made a matching neck warmer with the left over wool. Other home made gifts were jam from our blackcurrant bushes and a selection of biscuits.  

Saturday 24 December 2016

Blowing Away The Cobwebs.

I went to bed last night with what I call the 'mother hen feeling'. That's my way to describe the feeling of knowing that my brood, or at least some of them, are safely asleep under my roof. Also knowing that the house is tidy, what can be prepared is done and the next few days will be totally family time. Just a shame then that I didn't realise until 12.45 when I was nearly asleep that I had forgotten to hang the washing over the rayburn. Rather than leave it until today I crept downstairs, hung up the washing which dried nicely by the morning.
We had a leisurely start to the day and after breakfast I got all of my preparations for Kucios, the traditional Lithuanian Christmas Eve meal. While the tempura prawns, spring rolls and wontons are decidedly non traditional they do fit the no meat rule. I've made potato salad, beetroot and bean salad and bought smoked salmon and 5 different type of herrings to go with black bread so that's 12 dishes many plated up and waiting on trays in the spare room.
Once Vytas returned from his run we went down to Woolacombe to blow away the cobwebs along with all the other people exercising dogs and children. One group were playing a ball game dressed in Christmas onesies and Santa hats. 
After a bracing walk we retired to a bench on the top of the cliffs to enjoy coffee and home made biscuits while watching the wild waves. 
Then down to Barricane beach to skip stones. The tide was coming in and I got hit by the waves a few times and ended up with wet leggings despite my wellies. Great fun!
Now we're having a quiet time with everyone relaxing (some with closed eyes) before our Kucios.

Friday 23 December 2016

Getting Stormy.

A sturdy holly branch gave my 'tree' a bit of height and new places from which I could hang more decorations. I'm blogging early today as Vytas and Sally will be arriving some time this evening. All I had to do today was a bit of housework and I've also chopped up the boiled beetroot ready to put in a bean salad tomorrow and topped up the bottle of home made dressing.
It was still warm today, 11C/52F (figures from Metcheck), but I could see the tops of the trees moving and the wind was already roaring through the tall trees. It's now raining heavily (just got worse) and it seems that Storm Barbara is passing more to the north of the UK than originally predicted. Last night's shipping forecast did say winds up to force 9 round Lundy and the Bristol Channel and looking out of the window I can well believe it. Luckily I went up and checked the dams earlier so there is no need for an emergency check in the pouring rain.

Thursday 22 December 2016

Minimalist Decor.

There was no sign of the predicted storm today. Whether it's passed us by or just hasn't arrived yet I don't know but the morning was bright and sunny reverting back to grey with some rain in the afternoon. The dry morning gave me the chance to go and sort out an outside down pipe that  had got blocked with leaves and was full of stinky water. Once I'd cleared the leaves and made sure it was draining properly I put some wire netting into the top (which is open to the elements) to stop leaves from going down the pipe. I also tried to clear the fine gravel in the drain that takes surface water from the patio. That drain isn't blocked but I can see the water isn't draining right away. Even with one and a half sets of drain rods (the other half is permanently jammed together and lives in the land drain under the back lawn) I didn't manage to clear out the gravel and my attempts to work from the stream end were thwarted by a bend in the pipe.
With the outside jobs done and rain falling I spent the afternoon icing the Christmas cake, including marzipan, and finishing off the chocolate cake with some blue peppermint fondant balls.  Vytas likes Christmas cake so the bulk of it will go home with him and Sally.
Then it was time for some minimalist decorating around the house. It's amazing what a difference a bit of tinsel and some baubles make.
I cut a few bits of ivy and holly (I've just remembered the holly is still outside the back door) from the garden to decorate the sitting room.
I can't even pretend the leylandii branches look like a tree so here is my Christmas  bush adorned with lights, butterflies and a few glass baubles & drops.

Wednesday 21 December 2016

The Winter Solstice.

Today is the winter solstice, a day I am always grateful for because now the days will be getting longer. Although I woke very early (before 4.00) I didn't see the sunrise due to the dismal greyness of the sky. A measure of the day's warmth was the presence of clouds of midges in the garden this afternoon. We did have some heavy rain later in the afternoon and a storm is due tomorrow.
This morning I went to meet up with 2 friends for coffee at the garden centre. The place was a little busier than usual as there was some sort of small children's Christmas event going on with Santa making an appearance and a lot of Ho Ho Hoing. We were able to find a quiet table and catch up on each other's news before heading off on our various errands. I made my last trip into town to finish off shopping for the Christmas holiday. Everything is done now so we can hide away in our valley until after Christmas. At home I made some chocolate buttercream and covered the chocolate cake so that it now looks presentable but ran out of time and energy  to finish the Christmas cake.

Tuesday 20 December 2016

Biscuits Done.

The day started off grey again with a noticeable drop in temperature. I'm glad I hadn't planned to do any outdoor work because all morning the air was filled with the sound of people blasting away at the pheasants. It did get brighter in the afternoon but by that time I was in the swing of yet more baking. 
 Patch spent his morning watching for fish. 
The first bit of baking were these blue, minty cake balls. A while back I'd seen a picture of a chocolate cake with blue polka dots baked into it and I wanted to give it a try. I bought a little silicone mould to make the balls so they were easy to make. The next bit didn't go so well. I'd made a basic pound cake recipe and took out some to colour and flavour then added cocoa and chocolate to the rest. Maybe because I'd used butter but by the time I was ready to bake the cake the mixture was stiff. Thinking that the balls would sink to the bottom of the mixture once it warmed up in the oven I fist put a layer of chocolate mix in the tin then dotted in the balls and finally tried to spread the rest of the cake mixture on top. When I got the cake out of the oven the blue balls had been pushed up to the top of the cake making it look like some sort of alien planet. Nothing that the layer of chocolate buttercream I was planning to put on the cake won't fix.
I did follow the recipe for these lebukchen and wow they look like the picture in the book. The only thing I did change was to sprinkle them with some dusting cocoa instead of mixed spice. I think I've made enough biscuits for Christmas now. As I worked I had the TV on and appropriately Kirsties Handmade Christmas was on. Lots of lovely ideas in those programmes.

Monday 19 December 2016


It's been a mild , grey day today. Nothing else to say about the weather. I've spent most of the day in the kitchen, baking and cleaning. As it's nearly Christmas I'm going into overdrive on the biscuit front. The 2 flavour biscuits were made according to the recipe with the rabbits being made from the extra. The small ones with the scribble of icing were a bit of an adaption and are full of chopped nuts. While the biscuits were baking I did some extra cleaning in the kitchen, washing down shelves and tiling. I also boiled up another large saucepan of swedes and carrots to mash up and put in the freezer. I did try out a craft idea I'd come up with, making little hedgehogs from tiny pine cones and some Fymo. Unfortunately that idea didn't work out too well, they looked more like zombie hedgehogs but really not very much like hedgehogs so they went in the bin.
During the morning our neighbour's son came around on a quad bike to deliver a card and a bright poinsettia which now sits on the kitchen mantelpiece.

Sunday 18 December 2016

A Stroll by the Sea.

A burst of sunshine in the morning tempted us out for a walk on the beach. It was a good day for surfing so lots of people were out too and we were lucky to find a place to park. 
Even though we keep going to the same spot it is different each time. The weather varies, the tides goes up and down and after stormy weather the ground itself changes. Right now the soft sand has been washed away down to the sea while the gravelly sand has piled up at the top of the beach making it a lot steeper and exposing many of the rocks further down.

I could spend all day just watching the waves preferably with a flask of coffee and something to nibble but as ever there are things to be done at home.
When we did get home my intentions were to do a bit of weeding before retiring indoors to bake another batch of biscuits. However once I was up on the rocky bank digging out the last of the grass roots I kept seeing just one more section to do and by the time I had finished it was a little late to start baking.

Saturday 17 December 2016

Pond Day.

Peter was up and out before dawn this morning to go rowing. He returned home tired but happy though he says they seem to be working the 'social' row as hard as the race team rows. I got up a bit later and had a productive day.
I had intended simply to finish clearing the path around the small pond and to remove all the grass growing in the water but as ever the job expanded. The native flag iris had almost filled the pond so I waded into the pond and pulled out as much as I could. It's frustrating when you pull and pull and then the leaves give way but I got my hands (in rubber gloves) right down to the roots and kept on pulling. Some come out of the smelly mud easily while at other times I'm sure I'm going to end up falling backwards and sitting in the pond. That was a hard job but worthwhile as the pond looks much better now. That was enough outdoor work for one day. After a break to recover I chopped up 2 red cabbages to cook with bacon, apple and onion. There'll be enough for our Christmas dinner and plenty of meals afterwards. I finished my working day by ironing some bedding.
Last night's meal was nicer than I had anticipated though I shouldn't have eaten all my sweet potato chips and the chocolate brownie with ice cream was a bit of a sugar overload. Not everyone from work came to the meal but we all had a good time. I had never been in the Bull and Bear pub before and I was fascinated by the interior. (I regret not taking my camera). The pub is a 14thC building which retains many original features, lots of oak beams, wainscoting and panelled walls one of which is listed (under a preservation order). It is made up of a number of interlinked rooms with steps up and down. Unfortunately I couldn't find anything more about it's history.

Friday 16 December 2016

Gingernuts Baked.

It continues to be unseasonably warm. Yesterday Chivenor, only a few miles down the road, was the warmest place in the country reaching 13C/56F. My first outdoor job today was to put some extra gravel on the path around the small pond. Because my 'top-up' gravel is not the same as the original gravel (slightly bigger stones) I gave myself extra work by first digging out the original gravel, then putting in the new and finally tipping the original gravel back on top.
My main gardening job was to clamber up the rocky hillside and dig out the long grass roots growing through the soft soil. I also pulled out the brambles which seem to spring up the moment your back is turned and removed stalks of the bush at the top which was trying to creep down the hill. There is a bit left to do on the corner but I feel I've got most of it done.  
After a busy time outside I came in and made a start on baking biscuits for Christmas. Today I made gingernut biscuits for the first time and for once didn't have to make any substitutions to the recipe. The only change was that I had to leave the oven door slightly open as the temperature wasn't low enough. The biscuits look and taste fine and I ate the one that was a little singed around the edges.
This evening I'm off out for a meal with the rest of the staff from school. We're going to a pub restaurant instead of the dinner dance at the motel which makes a change. We had to pre-order so I'll be having salmon with sweet potato chips (fries). I can't say the menu was inspiring but it's mainly about spending the evening with friends from work.