After the storm

Judging by the number of poor people who are still without electricity after Monday morning’s storm, we were really quite lucky. I am surprised that we didn’t have a power cut as we normally have one hereabouts nearly every month!

We kept Max in his stable while the storm was at its height on Monday morning. Sadly for my neighbour’s (and maybe for my new fencing panels), a huge chunky branch off their willow tree crashed down on top of their swing (fortunately no child on it at the time!) and my fence. I have to say that the rest of the tree looks rather dangerous, and, if I was my other neighbour, I would be worried that it would come crashing down on my conservatory!

A casualty of the October storm!

A casualty of the October storm!

Will this herald the demise of this willow?

Will this herald the demise of this willow?

Oh dear, and my beans have come crashing to the ground!

Flattened!

Flattened!

Will have to be careful when Alfie and I go down to check the post box, as we do after lunch every day, that no branches drop on our heads – it all looks decidedly dodgey!

As the weather is getting colder, I thought that I had better hop out and start my car up and run it for ten minutes, as it’s about two weeks since Barry, the builder did it for me. Don’t want the battery to go flat on me… Whoops. It’s not just my bean support that’s flat, my car battery is too. Boo hoo. Now, what do I do? Do I ask somebody to put the battery on my charger, or do I wait before I can drive, then charge it up then? Probably the latter is the better idea, as I won’t need to keep turning the engine over regularly for the next few weeks, before I can drive. Wonder when that will be?

This time last week I made my first ever Sainsbury’s online order, tempted by the £15 discount for first orders. As the cost of delivery on Saturday evening is only £2.50 (because Strictly is on TV I wonder?), I went for that. Was most impressed that 24 hours before my delivery slot, they emailed me to say that I could amend my order up to and until 11 pm on Friday night. What a good idea, as ever, you always remember items you’ve forgotten to include in the order. Taking advantage of the chance to amend my order, I followed the instructions in the email, going into my account, where I could see my order, and clicked ‘amend’. Eeeeek the screen went blank, except for the headings. Heeelp! I  yelled when returning to my account only to find that the ordered had completely disappeared!

Not knowing my way around Sainsbury’s online (have done many Tesco online orders) it had taken me over an hour to input my order. All wasted! I was furious, to say the least and banged off three irate emails to their helpline, hoping that somebody could bale me out as the 11 pm deadline was fast approaching and I had nothing to look forward to but an empty fridge!

By 10.40 in desperation I phoned their helpline (don’t know why I hadn’t thought of that in the first place). The young lady was very helpful and talked me through what I had to do, as, indeed, my order hadn’t been lost! (Hurrah!!) After I had clicked on amend, as previously instructed, and the main screen went blank, she told be to click on basket. This took me back to my order where I could include those item I had forgotten, proceeding to check out as normal. Easy peasey…. when you know how!

After several emails from Sainsbury’s apologising for my experience which they thought was because of new programming functionality with their updated website, which was currently being integrated into their current site.

The next day I emailed the helpline again, suggesting that to stop this happening to other customers, all they needed to do was to include some more instructions vis: When you click on ‘amend’ your order will disappear from your account. By clicking on ‘basket’, you will return to your order where you will be able to add the extra items and continue as normal. Crazy that they only give you half of the instructions to get into your order. They said that they would take my suggestions on board, so that’s something I suppose! Oh yes, and they gave me a £10 voucher code to show their good will. Even better I say!

Apparently I should have disconnected my car battery, knowing I wouldn’t be using it for at least six weeks. Why didn’t anybody tell me? Will now have to ask somebody to remove it from the car for me and I’ll put it on charge, hoping that it will take it. If not it’s a new batttery. Not what I want to hear. Oh, I do so hate being reliant on other people to help me. Is this is what it’s going to be like when I’m old? God forbid.

Footnote: News report on TV re Suffolk villages still without power showing a young mother with her baby. She was dressed in a down jacket and long boots, saying she couldn’t keep the baby warm despite layers of clothes and a blanket, as they had no heating. I shouted at the TV “Then put a woolly hat on him you silly girl!!!” Don’t people realise that 30% of heat loss is through the head? Grrrrrr!!

 

 

Facing up to one’s limitations

Reading Slummy Single Mummy’s latest blog post: What do you do when you are just not very good at something? started me thinking about what I’m not very good at. Of course, there are lots of things. Usually I will work hard at practicing what I’m not good at, to try to improve, as anybody would, but practicing one particular thing, doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference.

Until little Alfie came into my life, I had forgotten all about it. Now, he loves nothing better than playing ball, though as I have said before, he doesn’t like giving it back to me ! However, when he does give it up, he looks expectantly at me to throw it again for him. This is where the problem arises. Sorry Alfie, I just can’t throw balls. Not into the far distance. Nor in the direction I choose. No wonder I was never in the rounders team at school!

Think I must have weak wrists or something, because the balls go a pathetically short distance, or up on the stable roof, or into the nettles. Not that it has worried me until now. Alfie looks oh, so disappointed that he doesn’t have to go far to retrieve it, or he can’t retrieve in because I have thrown it, strangely he thinks, into the beech hedge!

I’ll just have to accept it. I can’t throw balls. I can’t make stones skim across the top of water either (weak wrists again?), which is something I have always wanted to do! Ho hum.

Will just have to concentrate on the things I can do. Like making chutney, for example. Yes, you’ve guessed, I have made another batch! This time it’s spicey brown tomato chutney and although I say it myself, it’s very yummy. I just can’t let all those tomatoes I’ve grown this summer, go to waste, now can?

Spicey brown tomato chutney

1lb (450 g) chopped red tomatoes
1lb (425g) peeled, cored and chopped cooking apples
1lb (450g) peeled and chopped onions
8 oz (225g) brown sugar
8 oz (225g) chopped cooking dates
1 (560 ml) pint malt vinegar
Grated rind of two oranges
3 crushed garlic cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Easy peasey, chop it all up and mix it up in your pan, following the instructions in my Red tomato chutney post. Makes 4 good-sized jars.

More little gifts for kind people

More little gifts for kind people

 

More musings from an OAP on crutches

I awoke to the sound of the doorbell. Oh no, I groaned. I looked at the bedside clock. 9.30 a.m. I groaned again. I had overslept!

I am not surprised. My lovely nephew had taken me out to supper the previous night. On the recommendation of a friend, we had gone to a not too recently refurbished pub. I have to say that it was excellent! Brilliant service, friendly atmosphere, lovely tender, tasty steaks and a cheese cake to die for! What more could you want? Thanks Myf for the thumbs up.

We had a good ol’ chin wag, catching up with all the family news, with your’s truly knocking back two large glasses of house red!  All in all, it was a wonderful evening, not only because it was great to leave the cottage after three weeks of internment, but because my nephew is my only close relative (well, he does have a brother and sister whom I haven’t seen since their parents’ funerals) and he is such a lovely chap – so easy to talk to. As he said afterwards on FB, he was amazed at the subjects we covered!

Hence my lingering in the land of nod. I gathered up my thoughts and my crutches. Hobbling to the door in my skimpy night attire I thought I was either going to give Barry (my lovely neighbour Alfie-walker) a heart attack (he’s 72) or a big thrill! I needn’t have worried as, for a change, it was his wife who had come to collect Alfie. She’s lovely too, so bubbly and smiley and ready for a good laugh. They are a very kind, genuine couple and I am greatly indebted to them!

I was a bit reluctant to hoover, or go upstairs as I was awaiting the arrival of an Amazon order. As it takes me much longer to get to the door, I worry in case the courier gets fed up with waiting and sticks the proverbial card through the catflap. Especially as I can’t hop in the car, although I could hop outside it(!), and drive off to collect the package in some far-flung location!

I have to say that the couriers were extremely efficient, because later that day, when opening Outlook,  I saw an email giving me the time it was to be delivered! Marvellous, well done DPD – Predict, ten out of ten. Oh, I do wish that other couriers, and utility companies, could peg down the time of their visits so precisely. Would make life so much easier, especially when working full time.

Well what was the package, you may be wondering? It was a lovely, luxurious, soft cushion for Alfie’s plastic dog bed. When he came to live with me he was delivered with six weeks’ supply of dog food, his lead, feed bowls, bed and cushion. I haven’t told you the story of how we found each other, but I believe it was meant to be. Or fate, however you like to call it.

A couple of months ago when out for a ride on Max, I decided to pop by to see if a friend of mine was in. They both work full time, but also have a small holding with sheep, store cattle, etc. My luck was in and she was working from home that day. During our chat, she asked if I needed any hay as, because it had been such a good year for hay, they had a surplus. I jumped at the chance, because I knew it would be good quality, with no weeds.

So, later that day I went back, without Max, to have a look at said hay. As we were chatting a little dog came out of the house and came up to me putting his paws on my knees, lifted one which he waved at me tilting his head to one side and smiling!

My goodness, what a happy chappie, I thought. Gill, my friend, said that she had never seen him so enthusiastic with a stranger, nor had she seen him smile before! She then asked if I wanted him. You could have knocked me down with a feather. Why on earth would she want to give her dog away? “He’s obviously chosen you”, she said.

It transpired that he had been her mother’s and she had died in May of Alzeimer’s. Alfie had been lodging with them for 18 months or so. Gill’s a cat person who doesn’t really like little dogs and they had never really did get on. So I said yes, I would have him on three weeks’ trial. If he chased the cat he would come back.

The first few weeks I didn’t know whether I really wanted a dog, I still don’t.  I had told myself that if Max expired before me, then I would consider looking for a dog as I had always wanted one, but, working full time, was never in a position to have one. I would have liked a rough coated bitch. But then, things rarely work out according to plan, do they?

Alfie, is such a lovely, kind, little dog without an ounce of aggression in him. He is a bit of a Uriah Heap very ‘umble, very willing to please and, most of the time, very obedient. Which, for a Jack Russell, is more than unusual! He is a happy little fellow, who loves to chase a ball.

Alfie with his ball

Alfie with his ball

The only trouble is, he won’t let go of it! He’ll run off with it saying catch me if you can! He’ll then go beserk, roaring around the paddock like something besotted. He’s full of joie de vivre and does make me laugh!

In the short time he has been with me, he has been such a jolly little companion, especially since I have been cottage-bound. Everybody loves him, he loves everybody. He has been marvellous with my one remaining cat, the nervous little Minnie. Very, very wary of her (I think Gill’s old cat had bopped him on the nose more than once). Because of his timidity, she has gone to him and shows no fear in his company, it is wonderful, more than I could have hoped for. The only times she scoots off is when the doorbell rings and he rushes to the door barking madly. I consider myself very lucky, knowing what some dogs are like.

Because he is such a star, I felt that he deserved a new cushion as his other one is getting a little tatty, with its stuffing coming out. I had searched long and hard on Ebay and Amazon, but all the cheaper ones had negative reviews. I always check out the reviews when buying online. In the end, I decided on this one, which was ridiculously expensive, but I felt that for all the love and devotion he was giving me, he was worth it!

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz love this mum!

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz love this mum!

Positively hopping forward!

I really can’t believe that it’s been three weeks since I jumped off Max (my horse, er, in case you were wondering!) landing on his foot and breaking my right ankle!

Am finding out just how useful crutches are: for turning on light switches; dragging Alfie’s food bowl towards me; closing doors, etc., as well, of course, keeping me upright, well most of the time anyway!

A couple of days ago, Nicky, my horsey help, brought Max in early because she couldn’t hang around as her partner was coming over for dinner. That’s okay I said, if you could mix up his dinner (Max’s, not her partners, tee hee) and leave it with his hay in the stable next to his, I’ll cope! Instead of mixing his feed in his big plastic manger, I asked her to put it in a feed bucket with a handle as I would have needed to carry the manger with two hands, not leaving any for my crutches. I could hook the feed bucket over my left hand crutch handle, which would help when I needed a free hand to close the stable door behind me!

I have always insisted that Max stand back when I go in with his feed, making him wait until it was in his manger before he started to eat it. I just hate bargey horses! This training really paid off, because he waited for me to hop to his manger and empty his feed in, before he stuck his head in.

Thinking that slinging a haynet over my shoulder would undoubtedly unbalance my precarious hop to his stable, I had asked Nicky  to put his hay in a large, empty plastic feed sack. Then it was just a matter of dragging it into the stable and emptying it under his manger. Brilliant, all sorted! Oh, how lovely it was to stick my nose into his neck and smell his distinct odour, feeling his soft hair on my face! I hadn’t realised just how much I had missed the contact with him!

Clocks changing tomorrow… Spring forward…. Fall (Autumn) back… my way of remembering whether to go forwards or backwards. Simples. This will mean that Max is coming in earlier (because, of course, it’ll get darker earlier) , so I will take over giving him his feed and hay every night. Have got out of the habit, hope I don’t forget!

Just in case you think that I have become a couch potato, supping tea and watching daytime TV all day, yesterday I pushed the hoover around and made a batch of bread. I am afraid I cheat by using a breadmaker these days, having always made it by hand. Don’t know why, but the loaves weren’t as successful as they used to be. The flour I was using maybe.

Everybody on social media was extolling the virtues of Panasonic breadmakers, above all others. So 9 months ago, I decided to push the boat out (they’re not cheap) and buy one.

I adapt the wholemeal loaf recipe using approx 200 g of wholemeal flour, 125 g of malted flour and 75 g of white flour, for the medium size loaf. I add 40 g of chopped walnuts, 15 g each of pumpkin and sunflower seeds, 10 g each of poppy and sesame seeds to the seed compartment, and, 5 hours later I have a superb loaf. Easy peasy.

A wholesome Panasonic breadmaker loaf

A wholesome Panasonic breadmaker loaf

 

It’s all go in the kitchen!

Eager to use up some of my surfeit of tomatoes, I checked my cookery books for another chutney recipe and came up with one I hadn’t made before, but I needed some courgettes. This was my incentive to get out into the garden to check my veg plot.

Not wanting to have to clean out mud from the many grooves on the bottom of my boot, I came up with the idea of putting a shower cap over it. This worked admirably, so I set off down the garden with a spring in my step (tee hee ee). Luckily, I discovered some courgettes hiding under their leaves, so I had all the ingredients needed for this new recipe.

Tomato and courgette chutney
4lbs (1.75 kgs) of ripe, chopped, tomatoes
2 lbs (900g) courgettes, thinly peeled and roughly chopped
1lb (450g) chopped onions
8 oz (225g) no-need-to-soak, dried apricots, chopped
1 tsp (5ml) ground coriander
1 tsp (5ml) ground ginger
1/4 tsp (1.25ml) cayenne pepper
3/4 pt (420ml) vinegar (I used malt vinegar)
12 oz (350g) brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste (you’ll need more than you think)

Follow the instructions for my red tomato recipe which is, basically, chop everything and chuck it all in together, couldn’t be easier!  I found that after it had simmered, covered, for an hour I had to simmer it (uncovered) for a further 45 minutes to reduce the liquid. I couldn’t recommend this recipe more highly, it is scrumptious and it makes lots and lots!

Tomato and courgette chutney

Lots, and lots, that’s 8 and a half jars. As you can see, I’ve already started to gift them to my lovely helpers. In the background is a wonderful card of two frolicking Jack Russells sent to me by Liz. Thanks Liz what a joyous photo. Wish I’d taken it!

I am finding all these home preserves are great ‘thank you’ presents! Marion, my next door neighbour was the first to receive a jar in thanks for taking me to the post office and to my local horsefeed/tack shop yesterday. Was running low on one of Max’s foods (his coarse mix) and food for young Alfie. She does her ‘own mix’ dog food (two types) as well as hacking mix, which Max looks really well on. Both are much cheaper than proprietary brands, which is great for my pensioner’s pocket!

Hope the little fella enjoys his new biscuits more than his current ones. If he doesn’t, then Nicky has given me a great tip that has him wolfing them down, like he used to with the tinned food. I just take a scraping off the top of Minnie’s cat food tin; mix it with some warm water then mix in his biscuits. I don’t know whether it’s the smidgin of cat food, or the warm water, but he wolfs down his biscuits in one go. Marvellous!

I still have lots of green tomatoes, ripening slowly in a plastic bag, together with one ripe one. I have another excellent recipe, this time for green tomatoes, which I’ll use with the green tomatoes that don’t want to turn. More about that later.

Some time ago, before I broke my ankle, I made some blackberry surprise cupcakes to take to a MacMillan coffee morning at Orchard Toys where I used to work. When shopping for ingredients, I took advantage of a ‘buy one, get one free’ offer on butter. So, as I had a spare pat of butter in the fridge, I decided, against my better judgement, to bake a cake.

As it was getting late last night when I got started, I decided that a Victoria sponge would be the quickest. Abandoning my cookery books for once, I did an internet trawl. On reading Mary Berry’s recipe on the BBC website, I just had to go for it.

I can remember cooking a Victoria sandwich in my cookery class at school, 50 years ago. I can remember our domestic science teacher (whose name I can’t remember, but whose face I can see as if it was yesterday) telling us to change from a wooden spoon to a metal one when folding in the flour. Changing over spoons was to remind us that we weren’t beating any longer. We had to gently, very gently, mix in the flour.

What did I like about Mary Berry’s recipe? Well, strangely enough, you just dump all the ingredients in the bowl at the same time, and set to with your electric whisk! No need to gently fold the flour in ! Just whisk away! It was marvellous, so much quicker. Think of all those hours of my life I have lost, hand beating sugar and butter, then slowly adding the eggs, one at a time while continuing to beat. Phew, what a lot of labour!

I was intrigued to know how it would turn out. Needless to say, nom nom, that it’s brilliant. If you can make such a lovely, moist, cake that way, then why did they say, for all those years, that we had to fold in the flour. Wotta lotta tosh!

Mary Berry Victoria sponge

Am really happy that I can now offer my kind visitors coffee or tea and cake. That is if I don’t scoff it all first. No, Alfie you’re not going to get any!

Hoppity, hoppity hop!

After a day of inactivity yesterday, I decided that today I really should crack on and not just sit around with my feet up.

Well, I said inactivity, but I did a little more hopping around as I went outside three times. The last time was to welcome Max’s physio, Jo, who had come to give him the once-over! It was quite tiring as I spent 45 minutes on my crutches leaning against the stable door watching.

Kind Nicky had put the mounting block out for me to sit on, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask for it to be taken into the stable. I am fiercely independent and find it really difficult to ask for help, or take from other people. My mum taught me how to give, but not how to take. Well, I suppose she couldn’t really, because she wasn’t much good at it either!

After trotting him up I was told that he was a little sore on his near side, so he went through some strong massage and manipulation. I knew that he was feeling uncomfortable as he kept jumping forward. I was in a bit of an ‘iffy’ position leaning over the stable door, because if he came towards my head I wouldn’t be able to jump (well, er, hop) back quickly! But luckily, my friend Myf managed to keep him away from the door! Hopefully, he’s all sorted now and after his good long rest, until I am out of my boot, he’ll be as right as rain.

Feel quite chuffed today as I’ve done two lots of washing and dried it (albeit in the tumble drier) and put it away. Something as simple as that to an able bodied person is nothing, but when you’re on crutches it’s quite a challenge. Armsful of clothes are quite diffficult to carry when you’re arms are trying to keep you upright!

Have de-limescaled the sink, draining board and loo, cleaned the microwave and washed and dried my hair. Washing my hair over the edge of the bath with the hand shower isn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. You can take quite a lot of weight on your forearms on the side of the bath, and my loo is strategically placed next to the bath so if I’m getting a but wobbly I can just plonk myself down!

Coping with the stairs and the step on the landing is so much easier, now that I have the technique, that I’m tempted to move back upstairs. I am sleeping on my spare bedroom mattress (on a camp bed) at the moment, downstairs in the dining room. My goodness, it’s so lumpy. What uncomfortable nights my guests must have endured!  Have you ever slept in your spare bed? Might be an idea to give it a go one night, you might get a shock. Guests are far too polite to comment.

Am just going to pop outside to say hello to Max, who should be back from his field by now, and give him some carrots. I am sure little Alfie would like a breath of fresh air too.

Ahh, that was lovely, he’s such a sweet little horse, can’t wait to be mobile again so I can spend more time with him.

Well, that’s it, for today. Looking forward to tomorrow’s challenge… Hmm, think I’ll have a bash at some ironing. I have a huge stack of white pillowcases that hadn’t come out of the linen cupboard for years and years and they had all turned a nasty shade of yellow! Have boiled them up and they are now back to super white. Can’t think how I can carry the ironing board while on crutches,  so it’ll have to be in the kitchen where the ironing board is kept.

 

 

Two weeks with a broken ankle

Can’t believe that it’s already two weeks since I broke my ankle! My, doesn’t time fly when you’re enjoying yourself!

With my enforced leisure time stretching to six weeks, I was determined not to get caught up with daytime television, but, certainly in the mornings anyway, there are programmes with subjects close to my heart! That’s property development and antiques/bygones. Love seeing the restoration of old cottages, and would love to take on a project as there is really no longer any scope in my present cottage. But while Max is still around, because of the stables and the land, I need to stay here. Restoring a cottage, now that would be a mega-challenge!

My body is telling me (listen to your body, the fractures’ doctor said!) that I can venture outside now, so before Nicky (my wonderful horsey-helper) came to muck him out and let him out in his field, I wandered out (ha, ha, hopped more likely!) to give him a few carrots. I can’t tell you just how lovely it was to touch him again, and to hear him nickering softly to me, especially after he had snubbed me on Sunday evening!

In the above post, I had said that my next challenge was to change my bed. Well…. I’ve put that on the back burner and after coming in from seeing Max, I decided to cook some apples. I don’t eat so much fruit as I should as I hate getting sticky fingers (good job I never had children, eh?!). So below is my recipe for stewed apples.

Stewed apples

Take three or four good-sized cooking apples, peel, core and chop into bite-sized chunks;
Place in a saucepan with a couple of serving spoons of water;
Add two or three teaspoons of ground cinammon, three or four whole cloves, six or seven halved dates and half a teaspoon of nutmeg.

Stewed apples pic 1

Finish off with two or three dessertspoons of brown sugar, to taste.

P1010174

Cover and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes or so. I like all my apples mushed up, but you may prefer them with a bit of a ‘bite’ so cook for less time.

Mmm, nom, nom, looking forward to eating some at supper time, topped with some wonderful Woodland’s Dairy sheeps’ yoghurt (available at Waitrose). *slurps*

Oh dear, here comes the rain again. Glad I am happily ensconced in my armchair in the warm! Time for some lunch I think. Cheese on toast, with mayonnaise underneath? Sounds like a good idea and sounds awful, but I assure you it is absolutely delicious!

Did you say cheese on toast mum?

Did you say cheese on toast mum?

Poor little chap. He had the last of his tinned dog food this morning. Most of my doggie friends, and apparently the RNIB, say that a dry complete dog food is better than the tinned variety. It’s better for their teeth apparently. He wasn’t too happy with biscuits for breakfast… When I’m back on my feet, will try another brand of dried dog food. He doesn’t seem to like Wainright’s (think that’s Pets at Home own-brand) or Baker’s complete. Does anybody have any recommendations please?