Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Boxing Day

After all the grey days and rainy weather it was a rare treat to wake up on Boxing Day with a cloudless sky. So after (a late) breakfast we pulled our wellies on and set off for a long walk through the orchards.  I know the Fens have not suffered as much as many areas of the U.K who are still really under pressure with the wet & wild weather, but for the driest part of England we've had a lot of rain.

It's like living back at the coast!

Canine apple bobbing

It was time Mortimer needed a bath

Harvest left overs


The large trees should be the farside of the dyke

Happy to be in the sun
Enjoy your Boxing Day!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Of freezing fog & mulled wine

On Tuesday afternoon a freezing fog rolled in across the Fens and on Wednesday morning the world looked like this:

Cold and grey

It didn't get higher than minus three all day and the frost stayed put.
Frosted forgotten apple

So naturally my mind turned to all things wintery & warm and my favourite mulled wine recipe was retrieved.

1 bottle red wine
300ml strained orange juic
100ml port or brandy
2 clementines studded with cloves
2 sliced apples
2 cinnamon sticks
3 bay leaves
25g muscovado sugar

Put everything in a large saucepan and heat gently.

In goes the wine

I'm feeling warmer already!

I think Mortimer was looking worried after we'd finished glass number two!

They will remember to feed me? 

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Do I have a problem?

As mentioned in a previous post I seem to have become a little obsessive over making jam, jellies & chutnies. I'd often make jam, who can't resist a hedgerow of blackberries or a bout of jam making after an over enthusiastic session at the 'pick your own'? But I seemed to have gone up a notch, or three. I've just had a count, and I didn't look to hard, but I've got 42 jars of jam, jelly and chutney in the cupboard.  I wouldn't mind but we don't eat much jam and unlike Kalba I don't have constant guests to consume it all. I do give some away but all that achieves is a reputation as a jam maker and I get given empty jars to fill. Or worse (better?) bags of fruit. I currently have a few kilos of pears waiting to be turned into chutney.

The jam cupboard

The list includes;

  • Strawberry
  • Plum
  • Rhubarb
  • Fig
  • Cambridge gage
  • Raspberry
  • Raspberry & tayberry
  • Sweet chilli
  • Red onion marmalade
  • Hedgerow
  • Green tomato chutney

and so it goes on. But why? Do I have a mean streak and can't abide waste? The orchard where we walk Mortimer has an abundance of elderberry trees. I kept eying up the berries - such a lovely colour. Surely I could make something.....

Next thing I know

Ripe pickings

They're in the preserving pan

Boiling away

Then strained overnight

Gently dripping
And boiled again

Thank heavens for extractor fans

Honestly officer, it's only elderberries!

Apparently elderberry jelly is really good with cold meats(so great for me -  the vegetarian).

So if anyone could shed light on this obsession I'd be grateful.

Until next time


P.S. I've got it! 42 jars in the cupboard, 43 is the meaning of life - where are those pears?!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Previously at Nelson House

Our morning bathing ritual was done in here

I never really knew what shade of yellow it was

and having a bath was not a relaxing experience

Dig that brown carpet!

But as of this morning I open the bathroom door to this

I can't help smiling

and on the other side

L-shaped shower bath

The shower has a huge rain head which is just gorgeous to stand under

A Caribbean style soak!

When I've finished I can grab a soft,warm towel

Heated towel rail & extra storage

The tap gushes into the basin (we're used to a slow dribble)

Waterfall tap

The mirror is a 'statement piece' which we both love. It was what I had in mind but wasn't sure of Andrew's reaction but when we went out mirror shopping he said "that's what I was thinking of " before I had even mentioned it. No compromises needed this time.

Statement mirror

The controls are easy enough for even me to understand (and easy to clean!)

Chunky controls

And a reminder of the sea

A calm corner

So the first room upstairs is finished (mainly due to Andrew's multiple skills and hard work).

Only five more and a hall to go!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Something in the air....

It must be the autumn weather but everyone seems to be heading to the kitchen for comfort cooking. Margaret's post on pumpkins lead to a flurry of suggestions & recipes.
Ken headed for the meaty option & for Phil it's soup. Which is the direction I took.

My funghi photographs last week put me in mind of one of my favourite mushroom recipes. I love making soup, it's my cold weather equivalent of salad. A lot of mushroom soups are creamy but this is a healthier option but still rich and satisfying.

Looks like I started the wine a bit early!

Mushroom,celery & garlic soup

350g chopped mushrooms - single variety or mixed it doesn't matter
4 chopped celery sticks - don't worry about using the leaves
3 chopped garlic cloves
3 tbsps. white wine
750ml stock - I use vegetable (I'm vegetarian) but I'm sure chicken would be fine
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Salt & pepper

Put the mushrooms,celery and garlic in a large saucepan with the wine. Cover and cook over a low heat until everything is tender, about 30-40 minutes.

Add half the stock and puree. Return to the pan with the remainder of the stock and the nutmeg. Bring to the boil and season to taste.

Serve with a nice,crusty bread (walnut is good) and a robust red wine (optional) ( ha! ha!).


Wednesday, 31 October 2012


The last few days have been very mild and damp, some days the fog hasn't lifted at all. Dusk has been eerily quiet with sounds muffled and visibility low.

Misty morning view

The mushrooms have flourished in this weather so I took the camera out to see what I could find. I just wish we had the French tradition of the pharmacies identifying them for you. I don't think my Observer Book of Funghi is up to the job.

Under the willow tree
High rise fungus
Marching mushrooms
These seem so fragile
Before Mortimer decimated them!
Surely these would be good with some garlic & butter?

The apple harvest started late this year and although most of the Bramleys have been picked there are still a lot of Howgate Wonders on the trees. Because it is that bit later the leaves have started to turn giving some gorgeous colours.

Mortimer loves this time of year, cooler weather and an abundance of food!

Of course I wasn't scrumping!

Until next time


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Tempus Fugit

I feel I should be starting this post  'it's been five weeks since my last post and I have....." but I really don't know where the last few weeks have gone. Each morning 'blog' appears on my to do list, and each evening it gets shifted on a day. I haven't even been catching up on my fellow bloggers (apologies to one & all). So what we been doing?

  • Work
  • Lots of guests (so nice)
  • Work
  • Another broken toe for me
  • Work
  • A growing obsession for jam making (more on that another time)
  • Work
  • Upholstery course starts again
And so it goes on. The problem is because I haven't been blogging I have a back-log - or is it a blog-log? - of things to write about which are all now a bit out of sync. Oh well! The benefit for you, dear reader, is that instead of a blow by blow account of bathroom progress you can have a whistle stop pictorial guide. Then I can write a couple more posts and have them up my sleeve for later. Cunning eh!

So, when I last posted on the bathroom we were in full plumbing mode and the walls were just studs. Plasterboard went up and Andrew plastered the ceiling (to cover the Artex) and then the walls.

Recipe for arm ache

 A frame was built for the concealed cistern and then it was the floor. We laid plywood down to give a more rigid surface than the floorboards and then started planning the floor.

Laying out the floor tiles
Andrew decided to use a flexible adhesive so there would be no chance of the tiles moving and possibly cracking, but it's horrible to work with and so much muttering went on!

Messy work
Getting there
Supervisor's inspection
Next stage was the grouting, the observant among you will notice that the cistern has now been boxed in and the bottom of the wall has been plastered.

It then got quite exciting as the suite went in so the wall tiling could be done. The plumbing was tested and all was dry. Andrew (notice how I don't feature much in this tale? I painted the walls & ceiling and then assumed a management role) then decided that a mere cupboard at the end of the bath was not good enough and constructed an oversized drawer. The dark grey on the wall is a rubbery waterproof coating mainly for the power shower.

Work in progress
We had chosen plain matt white tiles for the walls with  glass terrazzo inserts which we played about with until we were happy with the design.

Mocking up the design
Design approved

Next step was for Andrew to work out the datum line and put up a batten to support the first row of tiles.

Datum lines & battening
And finally yesterday tiling started.

First tiles up

As I write progress continues upstairs and we should have the tiling finished by the weekend. Frustratingly it will take two weeks for the grout to harden sufficiently for the power shower but at least it will give me time to get all the painting finished.

Until next time