Saturday, 22 November 2014

Christmas Decorations

Today Jean-Luc and I have been busy; very busy.
We are feeling virtuous and hard working.

Jean-Luc has been vacuuming spider webs from the ceiling and cornice and cuprinolling the boards which, one day, will form the sides of the much heralded; but as yet unbuilt, veggie beds.
I have been scrubbing.  All the doors, door frames, skirting boards, stair rails, banisters and other sundry woodwork have been scrubbed and washed from the attic all the way down to the hall.

There are no pictures of all this industry, it is not photogenic.  
Suffice to say Jean-Luc ended up dusty and dirty with a faint Cuprinol moustache; whilst I have the knees of a housemaid and the withered fingers of a scullery maid.
Why all this industry I hear you ask?
Well we have a decorator coming to paint diverse and various rooms.

We have spent weeks with paint charts scattered across the dining table and living room.
We've had samples wedged into picture frames and stared at them in sunlight and cloud, day and night, in daylight and lamplight.
And finally we have Decided.

So the highly recommended Dot is coming to paint our bedroom with its raw plaster walls; our hall, stairs and landing which Jean-Luc was thinking of painting and which I vetoed as being too dangerous without the aid of a net; and the living room which we thought could benefit from the tender auspices of a professional.

The living room will have a light sage ceiling, magnolia walls and a darker green sage on the alcoves above the bookshelves and on the wall opposite the window.  We're hoping it'll be warmer than the as yet identified cold greyish colour we have inherited.

The bedroom will also be magnolia with the wall opposite the window will be a lovely sunny warm yellow.
This will be in an attempt to make this north facing room warm and bright.
It's not the 'master bedroom' of the house.  That bedroom faces south but also overlooks the quite busy road that runs outside the front of the house.

The bedroom we sleep in is almost as large as the 'master bedroom';  it overlooks the fields at the back of the house, which means we can lie in bed on a Sunday and gaze at the view and admire the cows; we can listen to the sound of the braying donkey and the gentle clucking of the neighbours chickens and, when the wind is in the right direction, the sound of church bells; but most importantly we cannot hear the traffic.
This makes it worth it being a slightly chillier room in our estimation.

However, we are both sick and tired of raw plaster wall and eagerly await the rooms transformation into something cheery and bright.
It may be so cheery and bright that it will require new bedding to measure up. 
I have been perusing the John Lewis bedding just in case.  Jean-Luc doesn't know this yet.  I'll break it to him gently at a later date.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Idling Away

I'm afraid this is a very lazy post as I'm responding to questions from John's blog at Going Gently.
Please feel free to join in with your answers.

A) What does the last text you sent say? And to whom?
Mint aero! We’ve got fizzy @ home. Xxx.  To
my husband on his way back from the pub via the shop
B) What does the last text you received say? And from whom?
Love you xxx. From the above.

C) What time do you usually wake up?
.7.30 on a work day – later at the weekend

D) Are you afraid of walking alone at night?
No, bizarrely I’ve never been afraid, not even walking home from the pub across parks, commons, through alleys or shrubs or through city streets – apparently this is pretty unusual for a woman; perhaps growing up in the country and playing hide and seek in the woods as a child made me realise that if anyone does try to come at you from in the bushes you’ll probably hear them before they get to you.  It also taught me that what sounds like a small elephant in the undergrowth is usually a blackbird looking for food – boy are those birds noisy!

E) What do you do to relax at the end of a stressful day?
I should say I pedal away my stress on the exercise bike but sadly it’s as equal a choice with vegging out in front of Judge Judy – my secret shame.

F) Where did your last kiss take place and with whom?
Yesterday morning with aforesaid husband in the bedroom…nuff said.

G) Do/did you get into trouble a lot at school?
Not much but I did get hauled up in front of assembly at primary school with my sister and friend for climbing up onto the canteen porch.

H) Do you enjoy your job? If unemployed, are you content being so?
I’ve always enjoyed my job; once I realised how much time I would spend at work I promised myself I wouldn’t do a job I didn’t love – until this year that was so; now I don’t know – I think I’m having a midlife work crisis.

I) Do you often pick up on double entendres and innuendos?
Oh yes! I blame a childhood of watching ‘Carry On’ films.

J) Have you ever been offered drugs but declined?
Never been offered drugs so the opportunity to decline them has not arisen.

K) Have you ever met someone who has completely altered your way of thinking?
I think all the people that have influenced me I’ve met through books – Marion Zimmer Bradley’s writing was a huge influence on my later teenage years with her strong female protagonists.  More recently Rhonda Hetzel’s ‘Down to Earth’ blog has been hugely helpful in cementing some of my thinking on sustainable living.

L) Have you ever been offered drugs and accepted?

M) Tell us something weird that turns you on.
Well it doesn’t turn me on per se but I do like sniffing my cats paws.  I've been told that's weird.

N) When did someone last admit romantic or sexual feelings for you? Was the feeling mutual?
Err sometime this week and yes it was mutual – thankfully it’s always mutual with y husband.

O) What is something you have given a lot of thought to lately?
My career and what I want to do for the next 17 odd years that I have left to work.

P) When did you last swallow your beliefs to avoid an argument or confrontation?
Yesterday when aforesaid husband bought a whole host of modern chemical laden cleaning materials to do the windows with rather than using hot water and vinegar.  Deep breath – he’s cleaning the windows and that’s a good thing.

Q) Do you usually initiate hugs?
Depends on the person.

R) Are you a very affectionate person?
See above answer

S) Can you roll your own cigarettes?
Yes but so loosely that most of the tobacco has fallen out before it’s halfway through a smoke – I don’t smoke, I have a valet to do that for me – doesn’t every lady ;-)

T) What are you looking forward to?
The Future

U) Do you have any tattoos. Do you want any/more?
No. I have a slight hankering for a trail of cat paw prints up my spine but the cat walks all over me already so why encourage her.

V) Are you mentally strong?
I think it depends on the crisis – if I lost my husband or sister I think I would find it hard to be strong.

W) Are you physically strong?
I used to be when I worked outside 8 hours a day but now sadly arthritis and the aging process are taking their toll.

X) Do you think you’re a good person?
I’d like to say yes but I know I’m too prone to bad temper, impatience, forgetfulness and plain idleness to be truly good.

Y) Name one thing you wish you could change about your life right now.
I think I like my life so I’d be careful about wishing for anything to change – wishes can be far too mischievous in how they are granted for my liking – they need to be hedged around with so many limitations to make sure they don’t cause more damage than benefit.  On second thoughts maybe enough money to pay the mortgage off – not so much life changing as useful.

Z) What do you usually eat for breakfast
A muffin with coffee when I’m in the office; toast and honey with coffee when I’m working at home; sausage sandwich or poached egg on toast with coffee at the weekend – always coffee though – the nectar of the gods.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Of Books

A new book arrived in the post today.

It's one I've been waiting to arrive for a while.

It's a collection of writing; stories and poems of the Southwest of America by the women that know that land; edited by one of my favourite authors, Susan Wittig Albert.
 I read a lot of books and now I have my Kindle it's so easy to download them; but there is, to my mind, still nothing like a real life book.

The inviting cover calling to you, the creamy pages covered in crisp print, the warm scent of paper or old book bindings; and in this case the tactile seduction of rough cut pages.
All these things form a part of the poetry that is at the very heart of a book.
This book will be savoured along with several cups of coffee and cake and I can't wait to read it.

The most splendid firework of last night.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

This Weekend

This weekend we have been...

...eating and cooking...
chorizo and chick pea soup with herby croutons (made from stale bread)

 turkey meat balls

sausage sandwiches

...cuprinoling the veggie bed surrounds...

...checking on the greenhouse and harvesting the last of the chillies...

 delicious rainbow chard
jewel like Scotch Bonnet chillies

...admiring the Autumn colours...
 a sign that Christmas is on its way
cotoneaster berries - the birds love these

...hemming rags made from worn out sheets - we don't buy dusters anymore...
...and some of us have been catching up on beauty sleep...

I hope you had a great weekend - please leave a comment and tell me about yours.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

A Walk Around the Village

Would you like to come for a walk with me around the village.  It's a chilly autumn day but it's still a lovely village.

Ok I'm cheating a bit as these lovely plants were flowering about two months ago.  They were planted by a resident of the sheltered housing on our route.  Aren't they lovely?

Down the footpath and past this field of winter wheat; the copse has a small pond in it and a resident population of crows that add ambience to cold windy weather.....

 ...past a Victorian farm house with fading sunflowers in the garden....

...and on to the alpacas (don't they look like pushme pullyous in this photo)

...yes that's right alpacas.  These lovely creatures are opposite the local secondary school; in a series of roomy fields that they share with wild (but not cross) bunnies...

...we turn past the ruined gateway of a large old house, now used for residential care for elders...

...and down the most picturesque road in a very pretty village.
This road always screams Christmas to me from about October onwards....

...across the bridge over the river which winds through the village and a quick stop to admire the derelict building only now becoming visible again as its protective camouflage of foliage falls away...

...past the village cemetery...

 ...we wander down the road and past a few fields until we come to silage henge...

...because despite all the lovely houses and picturesque views, this is a working village...

...people still farm the land around...

...they grow veggies in their gardens - and compete fiercely in the local show...

...they keep chickens and sell eggs...

...they drink in the local pubs; all five of them - yes five!... in local businesses as well as commuting...

...and worry that the current governments drive to build houses will change their home beyond recognition....
...whilst at the same time wanting their children to be able to live in the village they grew up in, 'cos life isn't simple and it's often contradictory...

...but that's all part of living in a real village not just a pretty postcard place.
The main road through the village.  Village amenities = 2 convenience stores & post office, 5 pubs, 1 social club, 2 community halls, 2 doctors surgeries, 1 chemist, 2 hairdressers, 2 garages, 1 Indian restaurant, 1 Italian restaurant, 2 churches and 1 train station.

Well that's it for today time to go home and enjoy a hot cup of coffee and some cake.  I hope you enjoyed our walk.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Sturm und Drang

The weather is wild and windy, in full autumnal storm mode ably assisted by the tail end of Hurricane Gonzalo; we've had gale force winds and driving rain with a noticeable drop in temperature.   It doesn't compare to a true hurricane but the weather is noticeably wild and make a trip to the shops a bit of a battle.

The lawn is full of fallen leaves and the sky full of scattered crows battling their way across the landscape against a backdrop of grey clouds and torrential downpours.  The rain eases and stops every so often (enough so that you almost think about going out but by the time you finish what you're doing and have got your coat on it's pouring down again); but the wind is constant, howling down the chimney and finding it's way through all those small gaps in the doors.

Some of us resort to curling up with a blanky and sleeping the storm out.

Jean-Luc and I will be firing up the central heating this evening and snuggling up in the cosy warmth.
We'll be dining on the leftovers of this leg of lamb, which we roasted on Sunday. 

Jean-Luc has made up a mint and tomato sauce with horseradish and juniper berries to marinade the lamb in.  It'll be cut into slices and cooked up as Lamb Henry.  Yum.  Perfect comfort food for this weather.
Hope you're all keeping warm and safe in this dreadful weather.

On another track, while Jean-Luc was lifting grass on the veggie beds I was making another batch of calendula salve.

I love making this salve; it's a simple recipe and smells delicious.  We use this salve for scratches, bruises, burns, insect bites and for dry or chapped gardening hands.  It's lovely having something in the bathroom cabinet which we know the ingredients of and which works.  
The recipe is from the ever reliable Rhonda at Down to Earth .  

Calendula and tea tree salve

  •  1 cup of fresh or dried calendula petals that haven't been sprayed with anything and have been organically grown.
  •  1 cup olive oil
  •   ¼ cup melted beeswax
  •   5 drops of tea tree oil
 Pick petals when they're dry and add them to a white bowl - you can see any bugs better on a white background.  Strip the petals from the flower heads and when you have a cup full, dry them out for a day.  The next day add them to a jar that you can seal with a lid.
(You can use pre dried calendula petals but make sure they're not herbicide sprayed and from a reputable herbalist or health food shop.)

 Pour in a cup of olive oil.   Put the jar out in the sunshine for about two weeks. This solarises the mix and gently extracts healing properties from the calendula as the oil gently heats up every day.
 When the oil has been sitting in the sun for two weeks, take the jar inside and strain the oil, removing the petals. You can use either cheesecloth or a fine wire strainer.  Press the petals with the back of a spoon to release all the oil. Add the tea tree oil tand the jar in a container of hot water to heat the oil slightly so it will mix well with the hot wax.

In a double saucepan, melt the beeswax, allow it to cool down a little then add it to the oil. If you want to add vitamin E do it now. 
Stir the salve to emulsify it. It lightens the colour and completely mixes the oils with the wax. Pour into a sterilised jar and seal. Store this in the fridge. It will keep for at least a year.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Vegging Out

Once again Jean-Luc had been labouring mightily in the garden; it's been a lot of measuring so I was allowed to assist as well as providing tea.
And as usual he did a magnificent job.



Yes we've been laying out the veggie beds.  3 beds, 8 feet by 6 feet = 144 square feet of glorious cultivation space.  We could have fitted in four beds but that would mean cutting down the magnolia tree so No, it wasn't going to happen.
The next step is to put in the raised bed surrounds and fill them up with some grit and compost.
Then comes bark chip footpaths and a compost heap (under the magnolia tree).

Apparently to be self sufficient in veggie production the minimum amount of cultivation space we'd need would be over 630 square feet.  Obviously we won't be anywhere near self sufficient and that's not what we're aiming for.  What we want are tasty seasonal veg, more variety, a greater choice than the supermarkets offer - rainbow chard, Jerusalem artichokes etc.

The two beds on the left will be for veggies and the one on the right will be a fruit bush bed.  I'm aiming to grow rhubarb, gooseberries and currants there; and hopefully fit some raspberries in too.

I also want to grow some salad potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes in containers.  These crops take up a lot of room so I'm looking to grow them in my incinerators which I use at large pots.

There's also a gap between the greenhouse and fruit bed which I will probably fill with herbs - not mint and lavender, which need to be confined to large pots to stop them advancing on the rest of the garden from the opposite end from the lysimachia - a vegetative rock meeting a floral hard place.
These will be oregano, rosemary, sage, chives, dill, tarragon and hyssop to name but a few.
We already have fennel in the garden and lavender, lemon balm and mint in pots.

I can't wait to get growing next spring.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Perfect Poetry

I was cleaning out my files the other day and I came across this poem.

Jean-Luc sent it to me when he was courting me.

I know courting is a very old fashioned expression but it certainly applies to an exchange of poetry.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Give me the strongest cheese, the one that stinks best;
and I want the good wine, the swirl in crystal
surrendering the bruised scent of blackberries,
or cherries, the rich spurt in the back
of the throat, the holding it there before swallowing.
Give me the lover who yanks open the door
of his house and presses me to the wall
in the dim hallway, and keeps me there until I'm drenched
and shaking, whose kisses arrive by the boatload
and begin their delicious diaspora
through the cities and small towns of my body.
To hell with the saints, with martyrs
of my childhood meant to instruct me
in the power of endurance and faith,
to hell with the next world and its pallid angels
swooning and sighing like Victorian girls.
I want this world. I want to walk into
the ocean and feel it trying to drag me along
like I'm nothing but a broken bit of scratched glass,
and I want to resist it. I want to go
staggering and flailing my way
through the bars and back rooms,
through the gleaming hotels and weedy
lots of abandoned sunflowers and the parks
where dogs are let off their leashes
in spite of the signs, where they sniff each
other and roll together in the grass, I want to
lie down somewhere and suffer for love until
it nearly kills me, and then I want to get up again
and put on that little black dress and wait
for you, yes you, to come over here
and get down on your knees and tell me
just how fucking good I look.

- Kim Addonizio