Thursday, 18 November 2010

recessive genes?

We're in a recession apparently and the amount of people trying to save money, or talking about trying to save money, has exploded!

I love it personally as we've been trying to live cheaply for a few years now, since I had to give up work. Hence getting the chickens, growing fruit and veg, amongst other money making (or rather money saving) exercises.

This is the diary of a chicken keeping friend of mine and I love reading what she's been doing to save a penny or two!

Apart from perusing parsimonious personal postings, I signed up to the newsletter and have had really good tips from that. For example, I managed to print off 4 x £5 Debenhams vouchers on line recently and got 4 brand new 'lock & lock' tupperware boxes without having to spend a single penny! The vouchers had no minimum spend limit but it was one voucher per item so, I bought 4 items that were just under £5 each which meant they were all free! Of course, it was one voucher per person so I roped mum and Ian into coming with me and then just smiled sweetly at the cashier! ;0)

We even got free parking thanks to mum's disabled badge! That's another good money saving tip, take a registered disabled person with you when you go shopping ;0)

Mum even treated us to coffee and cake in the Debenhams cafe, so I didn't even have to spend a penny all day! Well, not til I got home but I blame the coffee for that!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Christmas is coming...

...and I haven't been blogging very much at all!

I've been spending most of my time on Facebook to be honest. It's more interactive and my blog doesn't seem to attract many comments, not that I do it for that reason but on FB you do get more of 2 way relationship with those with whom you share your life. However, you can't really vent memoir style on there so thought I'd pop back for a scribble on here.

I've been devoting quite a bit of time to my 'Poetry Found' project and another 2 issues have been collated, designed, printed and distributed to be scattered. Almost 400 copies were sent out to various scatterers in time for National Poetry Day. I adore making the little books and secreting them where I think they might be appreciated.

That's another reason I've been using FB a lot. It's so useful for, well, social networking! PF has its own FB site and it's invaluable for co-ordinating the poets and the scatterers but not only that, photos have been uploaded and experiences shared.

That's not my hand by the way, it belongs to NPD director, Jo Bell, who was also one of the happy band of scatterers.

Sometime in August, we went to Gawsworth Hall to see The Bad Shepherds. Ade Edmondson is a member and they are really rather good! The fantastic setting made for a magical evening.

I mentioned previously in my blog that we were intending to get some quail. We've had the housing for some time but not got round to getting any birds.

I saw a post on freecycle '5 quail to good home'. As we promised to give them a 'good home' we've decided not to eat them! We don't know if any of them are female but we've had them a few weeks now and not had any eggs so looks like we've inherited a bunch of freeloaders ;0)

And apart from some pleasant, miscellaneous days out here and there in between, that's about it for the last 3 months!

As for the future, I shall endeavour to tear myself away from FB from time to time to share the odd snippet, whether anyone is reading or not!

Monday, 9 August 2010

Carry on camping....

Went camping again, this time just for the weekend, to Bala, Wales.

Our camp site (Tyn Cornel) was immaculate and situated next door to the national White Water Centre. A lovely riverside stroll took us there and while the extreme sports lovers splashed past us, we did some extreme cake eating and coffee drinking!

We also went on the little steam train that runs alongside Bala Lake and on the way home, we found an organic farm shop and stocked up on really nice produce!

our tent

river next to our camp site

couple of videos; one from the cafe at the white water centre and one on the little steam train...

Thursday, 22 July 2010

In search of Cupcake....

I received a 2nd hand book today that I'd ordered on line from America and inside the cover I found a birthday card! I opened it and it read...

" cupcake
even if you called Mrs cleaver a notorious strumpet"

Now, having recently had a birthday myself, I thought it may have been a marketing ploy from the company I bought the book from but clearly not, unless this is some strange coded message!?

So, I thought it might be quite intriguing to send a message into the ether to see if I can track down naughty little Cupcake!

If you happen to be on facebook, or even if you're not, click on this link and pass the message along the virtual grapevine and lets see if it bears fruit! :0)

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

I started out with nothing and I've still got most of it left....

Since discovering 'Seasick Steve' I've developed a little penchant for blue grass type music. Actually, I like most music that isn't commercially produced pop rubbish!

I especially love a characterful pub, a good pint and a bit of live music!

We had a great night out last night at Peter Kavanagh's in Liverpool. PK's has been there since 1897 and is in quite a salubrious street lined with Georgian houses and lovely old lamp posts.

There were 2 bands on; 'Sidney Baileys No good Punchin Clowns' and 'The Flamin Mamies'.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Don't go to Wales if your name is Allan....

Just returned from a few days camping in Trearddur Bay, Anglesey. The land of pebble dash and dead sea birds.

Anglesey has some absolutely stunning scenery but bloody hell, do something about the pebble dash! Almost every house is covered in it; makes the place look like a giant community of sheltered housing!

The last person to criticise the pebble dashing was called Allan and consequently they have erected several of these signs all over the island...

On the bridge that links Holy Island to Anglesey there were several dead seagulls. We had a theory that there must be some sort of weird air current, maybe created by lorries crossing the bridge, that sucks the birds to their death? A rather grim sight to welcome the weary traveller!

We seemed to have left the sunshine on the mainland too, it was cold, wet and windy and despite having (mostly) a good time, after a few days, I was ready for home.

our tent

cosy! the bedrooms are on either side of the living area

sooooooooooooo cold!!!!!!!!!!

beautiful beach at Newborough

but ruddy windy!

views of The Menai Straits

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

A pale sun poked impudent marmalade fingers through the grizzled lattice glass, and sent the shadows scurrying, like convent girls menaced by a tramp.

Having penned a poem or several, I am fascinated by the English language and there was no better conjurer of conversation, genius of gibberish and out and out acrobat of articulation than Vivian Stanshall!

Ian has been a huge fan of his for many years and, by 'osmosis', so am I. He's been quoting bits of 'Sir henry at Rawlinson End' to me for many moons and it was with a strange stroke of luck that he stumbled across the first performance of it on stage since it was performed by Stanshall

It was at The Unity theatre in Liverpool and performed by Mike Livesley and tickety boo it was too!!!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Chickening out.....

We collected 4 new chickens today. Ex battery hens.
Ex battery hens have well and truly stolen my heart and they are so deserving of the life they should have had from the start.
It always warms my cockles to see them beginning to enjoy being alive, rather than fighting to exist.
Our new girls; Maggie, Penny, Sadie and Rita....

Saturday, 12 June 2010

I crave MY indulgence!

Amongst those that know me, it's no secret that I'm a bit of a 'foodie'. Since getting our chickens back in 2007, growing some of our own fruit and veg and my new found interest (dare I call it skill?) in being creative in the kitchen, I (we) really care about good food and how it is produced and of course, how it tastes!

One of my food heroes is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, he of River Cottage, and I've had a hankering to visit that part of the world and eat at the River Cottage Canteen for some time.

So, what better excuse than my 40th birthday! As I've told you in my little profile..."I avoid parties..." hate them in fact and so, as I'm well on the way to wearing purple, I decided that I will do exactly what I want to do for my 40th and that meant NO party!

So, our little party of 4; me, Ian, mum and Molly, set off... with visions of cream teas, cider and seafood dancing in my head!

We stayed in a little holiday cottage in Bridport owned by a lady who I bumped into on the internet. I'm a bit vague (it was a while ago) as to how exactly I found Jade, but I think I was looking for something to do with VW camper vans on 'facebook' (back when we still had our van) and I stumbled across her blog
We seemed to have so much in common that I added her to my list of facebook 'friends'.

Some time later she bought a cottage in Dorset, moved there, bought the cottage next door, turned that into a holiday cottage and well...that's where I decided to base our stay!

And so, more about my fortieth festive foodie foray...forthwith!

And so, about that!

Well, we visited Weymouth, scene of childhood caravanning holidays...somehow it looked different, smaller, but then so was I last time I was there.

So much nicer than seaside resorts in the North West, clean and not a single 'fun' pub in sight. We walked on the beach, had fish and chips on the sea front and ice cream on the prom.

The sea was so clean and clear and the Punch and Judy man and the sand sculpture man are still there, it was good to see some things hadn't changed.

Afterwards, we drove up to Portland Bill lighthouse and there were stunning views of Chesil beach up there. 'On Chesil Beach' is supposed to be a good read, must get hold of a copy.....

Lyme Regis was very sweet but very hilly so we stuck to walking along the sea front towards The Cobb, that was after a delicious crab baguette that is.

There are some sweet little pastel painted beach huts along the promenade and Lyme was just simply charming.

and of course, I had to stand on the famous Cobb!

On the way to Lyme we stopped off at The Lyme Bay Winery and sampled several of their wares and came away with a bottle of elderflower wine, a bottle of mead and 4 bottles of apricot wine.

The apricot wine is mine!!!!! It is lovely and sweet and most definitely delicious.

So much more to tell but it will have to wait for another day....I have to tell you all about River Cottage yet :0)

Thursday, 3 June 2010

All the best stories in the world are but one story in reality -- the story of escape.

All the best stories in the world are but one story in reality -- the story of escape. It is the only thing which interests us all and at all times, how to escape.
~ Arthur Christopher Benson ~

I couldn't agree more, the vicarious pleasures of a good story!

My favourite genre of book is either autobiography or travel memoir and I have just finished reading all of Annie Hawes books; 'Extra Virgin', 'Ripe For the Picking', 'Journey to the South' and 'A Handful of Honey' and adored and devoured every single page!

The first 2 titles are about her move to a small village in Northern Italy. Of buying a remote, delapidated house with its own olive grove and how she got to grips with renovating the property, local customs and living without many of the modern conveniences we take for granted.
The 3rd book is about a visit to Calabria in Southern Italy to meet the family of her boyfriend and attend a family funeral and the final book is about a journey across Northern Africa.

She paints such vivd pictures and brings these places and people to life with such witt and her tales are just utterly dripping with life and so absorbing!

I was so in love with Northern Africa, its sights, sounds, smells, people etc by the end of the last book that I turned to Amazon to find something similar and stumbled upon 'A House in Fez' by Suzanna Clarke, which has just arrived in the post.

And so, my escape begins anew...

Monday, 31 May 2010

roaring forties!

I'm sure all women approaching 40 (and men too probably, actually they're probably worse!) think "Oh my god, I still haven't climbed Everest, swum the channel, learned a foreign language or to play an instrument..." etc etc.

It's 'bucket list' time for most people I think and while there really aren't a great deal of things I wish I'd done, or done differently, I've always fancied having a scooter!

I saw an advert on TV recently of a girl zipping along on a pink retro style scooter, wearing a pink helmet and I thought, hmmmm!

However...seems, unlike other European countries, one must actually have something called 'compulsory basic training' before one is allowed out on 2 wheels on a public road in this country. So I signed us both up for the training, which cost over £100 each! The web site infers that you can take the course in a day but we had to go back 3 times. Ian passed on our 2nd visit but I had to go back for a 3rd time.

I found the damn thing very heavy and difficult to manoeuvre, they don't look heavy on TV!!!! I never really felt in control and on my 3rd attempt I fell off during a U turn, which I took more in the style of a V turn. I turned too tightly and me and the bike simultaneously fell over sideways, the full weight of the thing landing on my leg!

I am currently very sore, very bruised and very disappointed... but at least I gave it a shot!

Meanwhile, Ian is zipping around on 'our' brand new retro style scooter!

I've a good mind to make him wear a pink helmet!!!! Hurrumph! :0(

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Pilgrim's progress....

Just got back from a poetry performance night at the Pilgrim pub in Liverpool. I had intended to go just to watch but was persuaded to get up and do a few of mine!

Had to quickly grab pen and paper and try to remember some lines! Also had to quickly grab a double Jack and coke to settle my nerves!

I told the audience that I was very nervous so I was going to picture them all naked, which I said I hoped would make them more nervous than me!!!

It was pure poetry after that! ;0)

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Never mind the why and wherefore...

Went to see the Mid-Cheshire Amateur Operatic Society perform excerpts from 'Trial by Jury' and 'HMS Pinafore'.

My friend played the role of 'Little Buttercup' in HMS Pinafore and her husband was the usher in 'Trial by Jury'.

We saw them previously in October last year, when they performed 'Fiddler on the Roof'. The girl who played Hodel is now one of the remaining contestants on the TV prog 'Over the Rainbow' for the West End role of Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz, Danielle Hope. We knew at the time we saw her that she was destined for bigger things!

I think G&S is a bit like Marmite, you either love it or hate it and I've never been a big G&S fan to be honest, I don't find it as humerous as it is obviously intended to be and I don't particuarly find the songs, on the whole, to be that lyrical. However, I enjoyed the way it was performed and there was the odd phrase that had me chuckling. So maybe I can learn to appreciate it!

But...I'm glad their next performance is going to be 'Annie' ;0)

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Choc full Easter!

...and I don't mean the sort made from cocoa! We've had a mega busy Easter weekend. We bought a tent, made a lovely roast for Sunday lunch, went to 2 boot sales, finished painting the baker's rack, decanted loads of home made tipples and started some more off!

We've sold our camper van as it was an expensive luxury that we didn't get the opportuity to use as often as we would have liked. We sold it to a dealer for a very good price and decided we would get a tent. We figured it would be far easier to just up and go with a tent, plus there would actually be more room to move around inside a tent than the van.

We bought a 'Gelert Albury 8' which arrived on the Sunday. I only ordered it on the Friday and it was personally delivered 2 days later; the perks of buying from a small, friendly, local company. It was an excellent price too!

It has 2 sleeping areas, one at each end and a living area in the middle. We're going to give it a test drive very soon!

Mum came round for lunch on Sunday and I made roast lamb surprise! Ian got a joint out of the freezer thinking it was lamb but it turned out to be pork...

I finished painting my baker's rack which is now in situ in the conservatory. I also bought some bargain planters from a couple of boot sales we went to over Easter. I've planted a couple of them already with basil and coriander and ordered some more packets of herb seeds; parsley, mint, tarragon, oregano and thyme and also some Ramsons wild garlic seeds for the garden.

Ian decanted our orange wine (which needs to mature for about a year now), crabapple brandy and sloe gin and the sloe gin is absolutely delish! We've also started off a batch of damson liqueur...

and this is the damson brew well on its way to being a tasty tipple! :0)

Monday, 22 March 2010

Spring into ebay...

Now that Spring is here it feels like the time to begin new projects...

I bagged myself a bargain on ebay, a wrought iron baker's rack for 99p! I was the only bidder and I felt so guilty for paying so little that I took the seller some of our girls' eggs and a bottle of home-made plum schnapps!

The plan is to paint it with metal paint and put it in the garden with my herbs on. I've already given it one coat of 'Hammerite' and I will post photos when it's done and in situ :0)

This is the photo of it from ebay...

Our other little project, that's been in the pipeline for some time now, is our quail keeping plan. We bought ourselves an incubator and brooder for Christmas and the plan is to hatch our own chicks, bring them on then use them for eggs and meat.

Before you quail (*ahem*) at the thought of us eating our own birds, isn't it better to make sure that an animal you eat has had a good life, know what its been fed and make sure it has as stress free an end to its life as possible?

I've bought a 2nd hand hutch from ebay which we will make into a nice little cosy quail residence with branches, stones and little hidey places for them to, well, hide in!

Again, here are the photos from ebay and again, more photos will follow once its in situ. The run is 4ft x 4ft so nice and large... well, it is if you're quail sized!

Monday, 8 March 2010

we pasta the test!

I used 600g flour and 7 of our girls eggs. I blended the whole lot in the food processor until it resembled bread crumbs then worked it by hand into a dough. Blimey it was hard work! Still, we now have fresh pasta and used up some of our egg mountain so it's all good! :0) Half of it is in the freezer for future use and with hindsight, half those ingredients would have been plenty.

It was the inaugural outing for the pasta machine we bought *ahem* quite a while ago, when I convinced 2 sheds that I'd use it immediately! Still, we got there...eventually! :0)

For a first attempt I thought we'd just stick to flat lasagne style sheets, which I cut up and used to make little canelloni tubes. The bolognese sauce and the cheese sauce were both home-made so all in all, we're chuffed with our effort, very tasty it was too and no chickens were harmed in the making of this pasta! (not a battery egg in sight).

Salute! :0)

Saturday, 6 March 2010

relish it!

spicy sweetcorn relish

**I didn't have mustard seeds so just left those out. I used white wine vinegar and I now have a lovely bottle from that to use for home-made liqeuer :0)
I also didn't have enough sweetcorn so made up the volume with red peppers. I didn't have a green pepper so used a yellow one**

Makes about 3 -4 average jam jars

500g tinned sweetcorn
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper + 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 red or green chilli, finely sliced
500ml white vinegar
250g sugar
1 level tbsp of salt
1 level tbsp of mustard
3 tsps of yellow mustard seeds
1 level tsp of turmeric
1 level tsp of curry powder
A few grinds of black pepper
about 1 tbsp of cornflour mixed with a little water

Before you start, prepare the sterilized jars and lids.

1. Rinse the sweetcorn under running water and allow to drain.
2. Mix together the vinegar and sugar in a large saucepan and place over a low heat till the sugar begins to dissolve, then turn up the heat so it starts to boil.
3. Add the sweetcorn to the pan along with the rest of the ingredients ( except the cornflour, mustard and salt). Simmer the mixture for about 15 mins, stirring it regularly.
4. Add the cornflour mixture along with the mustard,salt and a few grinds of black pepper, stirring well.
5. Continue simmering the mixture till its nice and thick (should take no longer than 4-5 mins).
6. Pour the mixture into sterilized jars and seal tightly.
7. Place in a cool, dark place for 4 weeks. It will keep for at least 4 months (unopened).

Monday, 1 March 2010

hatching a plan...

We've got too many eggs! Or, have we got too many chickens? No, definitely not too many chickens, no such thing as too many chickens! ;0)

What to do with all these surplus eggs then, even with giving them away to family and friends I still can't use them up fast enough.

Sell them of course! :0)

So, I got some cards printed up from 'vista print' for free, I only had to pay a small amount for postage. I put the name of our road in front of the word 'eggs' to make it stand out and I popped them through all our neighbours' doors.



So far, I've got an order for a dozen eggs a week from one neighbour. I always fancied being a farmer! :0)

Saturday, 20 February 2010

have you seen the muffins? Man!

been busy making muffins after finding the best muffin recipe ever!

makes approx 12 muffins

Preheat oven to 180 celcius

250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
200g caster sugar
250g plain yoghurt
90ml vegetable oil
1 egg
150g chocolate chips (or whatever else you fancy adding)

Mix together all the dry ingredients
Mix together (separately) all the wet ingredients
Mix dry and wet together, give a quick stir to combine, but don't overbeat.

Spoon into muffin cases - Bake for 20-25 minutes ....

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Poetic Just is...

Well, I finally plucked up the courage to let my poetic juices flow in public! Nothing is ever as bad as you anticipate it to be I find and, despite being very nervous, I actually enjoyed it!

I asked if I could go on later so I could have a couple of glasses of Dutch Courage but the line up was decided by names out of a hat and guess what...fate decreed that I was to be first on!

Probably better that way, over and done with and then I could sit back and enjoy the other poets.

It was an open mic event run by 'The Dead Good Poets Society' of Liverpool and it was entitled 'liverpool's Most Romantic Poet'. The title didn't go to me but I had a great time and I was awarded a little fridge magnet of a pink chick with a heart which says 'You're so tweet' :0)

Think I might like to do it again!

A video capture from Ian's mobile, a photo and the transcript of the poem...

Hugh Fearlessly-Eatsitall!

I dug up the sprouts
Grown from seed that I took in
The River Cottage garden
When no-one was lookin'

Sold my spade and my fork
Disposed of the hoe
Paved over the raised Bed
So nothing can grow

My heart used to race
My pulse used to quicken
When I looked at that photo
Of you with your chicken

But I tore up your menus
Did my best to forget you
Got utterly legless
With the last of the home-brew

Never more will I see you
Thru rose tinted frames
Or picture us foraging
Down quiet country lanes

Gonna give up ‘The Good Life’
And hang up me wellies
I seem to have gone right off
Your jams, curds and jellies!

I used to have passion
For a life that was green
Then I saw you eat slugs
Now I’m not quite so keen

For anyone who doesn't know, the poem is about a TV chef/chicken hero from 'River Cottage' in the UK, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who is famous for cooking and eating unconventional things!