Archive for category Life in General
Scraphappy Day is organised by Kate & Gun for anybody who wants to make new things from scraps of any kind – doesn’t have to be fabric or yarn. Here’s a list of participants – both regular and occasional – if you want to have a look at the sort of things you can do with scraps.
Contact Kate (first name on the list) if you want to join in.
Mr. Tialys likes making bread but he’s either busy working or sorting out the garden at the moment.
I like eating bread but I find making it a faff.
Mr. Tialys also likes beer and when I found out I could make bread with these three ingredients plus a bit of melted butter
and without having to do any of this
I was uncharacteristically spurred into domestic action – although not much action as all you do is mix the flour with a bit of sugar and the beer, pour it into a loaf tin and put it in the oven for 50 minutes.
I’m sure most of you are already on to this but it was a revelation to me and, although I will still welcome some well kneaded and twice proved bread – made by somebody else – this will definitely be my go to recipe for when I need some easy peasy bread to go with a stew or a bowl of soup.
Have you ever made beer bread and, if so, what did you think? If not, do you fancy giving it a try? Or are you of the ‘finding kneading dough therapeutic’ persuasion?
I hope you’re having a lazy Sunday too.
Recipe (courtesy of Jamie Oliver)
375g self raising flour
330g bottle of beer – we use English beer of course, the maltier the better (or a hoppy one if you prefer)
3 teaspoons of sugar
Mix all ingredients together with a spoon and pour the batter in a greased loaf tin
Pour a little melted butter over the top
Put in oven 180°C/360°F for 50 minutes until golden brown
Today it is sunny here in rural Dorset. I was beginning to think we’d moved to Ireland as the rain has been pretty relentless since we moved here. The villagers we meet on our dog walks keep telling us how glorious it is around here in the spring and summer but, until then, I am determined to appreciate our new surroundings, especially when the sun makes a rare appearance.
I took the opportunity to walk down the lane to the post box unencumbered by the dogs for a change as, when I’m with them, it’s an unequal struggle to keep hold of their leads let alone wield a camera.
We live in an area famous for its stables of racing horses. I know absolutely nothing about horses despite having quite a few ‘horsey’ friends. These three might be retired or just kept for riding as they always seem to be in this barn whenever we pass by and I usually give them a stroke, even though I’m a bit scared of their big teeth.
Just past the horses we have a traditional red telephone kiosk.
There’s no telephone in it anymore but it is lit up at night and is maintained by the local community as explained by this notice inside.
(BT = British Telecom)
After that you approach the church This parcel of land was donated for the building of a new church in the fifteenth century. A transept was added in the sixteenth century, but this was rebuilt in the early eighteenth century (1729), when the old one was considered too small for the congregation. The whole church was enlarged in 1882 and amongst other memorials, the church contains a thirteenth-century stone effigy of a crusader. I’ve yet to go inside but I will do one day.
Carrying on down the lane past this tree that I imagine has seen years of flailing to keep the bank and hedgerow encroaching on the road so that it appears in cross section.
Further along the bank the snowdrops are flourishing
and looking lovely in the dappled sunlight.
Letter posted and on the way back past the old rectory
and the church.
Then past the stile that leads up the hill and over the fields – a walk I’m leaving until the ground has dried out a little bit otherwise the dogs – and possibly me – will need a hose down.
then back home again
where, in case you think I’ve given up on doing anything creative, I have just downloaded a zero waste dressmaking pattern as a little (or maybe big) challenge to myself. More of which in a future post.
I hope the sun is shining where you are but, in the time it has taken me to write this post, the rain is back.
If any more proof were needed of my sudden interest in bird watching, I present these woefully bad (for the most part) photos taken from my kitchen windows of the garden birds we were counting as we joined in with the R.S.P.B.’s* annual Big Garden Birdwatch which took place this weekend. It’s the world’s largest bird survey and has been running every year since 1979.
I thought of using better photos (i.e. other people’s) but where’s the fun in that?
Watched over by one of the many rooks who roost in our oak tree and fill the fields beyond, we had to count the birds actually landing in our garden for one hour, logging the amount of each species seen at one time, rather than individuals, for more accuracy.
The wildlife charity encouraged people to take part to help “lift spirits” in the latest lockdown, after a survey conducted for the charity revealed that watching birds and listening to birdsong have helped people during the pandemic.
Great Spotted Woodpecker
My favourite – the blackbird – looking right back at you.
I treat my favourites to mealworms – this is the sort of woman I’ve become.
A pair of Collared (Lovey) Doveys
Robin – you knew that though didn’t you!
A Great Tit cracking open a sunflower seed
A Blue Tit feasting on the remains of the peanuts the previous occupant of our house left for the badgers.
A Dunnock who was a willing poser.
Make sure you get my best side.
Goldfinches – the biggest guzzlers of the sunflower hearts.
Long Tailed Tits who always seem to come mob handed.
So while I was inexpertly pointing my front heavy be-telescopiced lens camera out through slightly smeary windows and trying to capture the proof, Mr. Tialys and Miss Tialys the Younger, were noting down the figures. Sometimes it was frustrating because there are often wood pigeons in the garden as well as crows and starlings but none landed within our chosen hour of 10.15 – 11.15 so we couldn’t add them to the survey. Also, we often get loads of goldfinches together at one time, but again, we only saw two at the same time within the hour so that was all we could submit.
We had fun anyway – it was something to relieve the ‘every day’s the same’ feeling I’m thinking a lot of people are starting to experience lately.
So – what was the score for the *Royal Society for the Protection of Birds survey?
The largest amount of each species spotted together that landed in our garden between 10.15 and 11.15 a.m on Sunday, 31st January.
Long Tailed Tit – 8
Rooks – 8
Chaffinch – 4
Sparrow – 4
Blue Tit – 3
Great Tit – 2
Blackbird – 2
Collared Dove – 2
Jackdaw – 2
Robin, Coal Tit, Dunnock, Pied Wagtail, Treecreeper, Goldfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker – 1 of each
We kept the cats indoors!
Are you finding your usual pursuits just aren’t doing it for you at the moment and doing things you wouldn’t normally do to lift your spirits or are you relying on tried and trusted methods.
Pretentious? Moi? Get me with that title – can’t quite shake off the last 16 years of Frenchification. I still sometimes say ‘Bonjour’ or ‘Merci’ to people out of habit which comes over as a bit odd as not many people would mistake my accent for a real French person especially the real French person who lives just down the road I haven’t yet met and can’t quite believe exists considering we are in the middle of nowhere.
Anyway, I’ve recently written a couple of posts about our new garden and, as Mr. Tialys is starting to get into gear with it at weekends, thought I’d start taking a few before and after photos although the ‘after’ ones might be a long time coming as he’s working during the week.
You may remember that the previous occupant was a bit eccentric, shall we say, in her gardening methods and design and this birds’ eye view (or out of my sewing room window’s view) of the extreme right hand side of the front garden is a prime example.
In her defence, Mr. Tialys has spotted lots of evidence – backed up by neighbour testimony – of a ground elder invasion. However, he has decided to do away with a lot of the gravel, black plastic mulch and slate little by little and resort to a regular good digging over and perhaps some root barriers. This small section is where he’ll start and the straight box hedge with no apparent purpose apart from to make it look as if it marks the end of our garden – which it doesn’t – will be dug up and planted alongside the path that runs along the front of the house instead.
I took this view of our lovely old oak tree because on a sunny(ish) day it started to rain but, on closer inspection, it was only raining from the tree. It seems that any leftover frost from previous days had begun to melt in the admittedly weak heat from the sun and it rained down for a good twenty minutes or so. I took a photo from the front door porch but the raindrops haven’t shown up so you’ll just have to believe me.
It does, however, show the section on the other side of the little, irrelevant box hedge. At the moment it is also covered in gravel and will probably become incorporated with the first section I showed you once the hedge is put to better use.
My sewing room is still a mess. I’ve managed to get all the boxes unpacked – well, nearly – but now I can’t find anything. Mr. T. said to push a couple of projects through and I’d start to find stuff out of necessity . I’m not very motivated at the moment as, like most of us, I don’t go anywhere to wear anything other than jeans and comfy tops and I have enough quilts and crocheted blankets to fill a much bigger house than we now have.
However!! In the last minute madness that accompanied our packing when leaving France for England, I made some strange choices as to what to leave behind and what to bring over. As we haven’t sold the French house yet we were fortunate to be able to leave quite a bit of stuff there to either be retrieved at some time in the future, sell it, give it away or call in the house clearance company – it will probably be a combination of all those things.
Why did I pack a ‘posh’ dinner service we have had for 30 years and never use and eight – yes, eight – antique mannequins and then, on only the second day I could possibly have hung washing up to dry outside (well, it is winter and it is England) I realised I hadn’t packed the peg bag?
In a nod to the cows that were grazing in the field behind I found some fabric in deep stash (though what I’d originally intended it for I can’t imagine) and a pattern for a slightly different style than I’ve had before. This ‘wigwam’ style means I can use a trigger hook at the top to attach it to the washing line and it won’t blow off in the wind as the more common clothes hanger style tends to do and it was very slightly more challenging to make which forced me to employ some methods I haven’t used for too long now such as pattern cutting, making and attaching bias binding and some simple quilting.
In the process I finally set up both my sewing machine and overlocker, unearthed my rotary cutter and unpicker (hooray!) and used some fabric stash. Plus, I think these would make good rat/hamster/insert other small pet/ beds which might be a fun item to put in my Etsy shop should I ever get round to stocking it again.
Since learning to crochet I’ve severely neglected my knitting and some yarn that escaped my pre-move cull was eighteen 400g balls of aran (medium worsted) weight yarn. I had six balls of three different colours because I used to make big chunky blankets with this wool which were made knitting six strands at a time on huge circular needles. You might remember if you’re a long term follower.
Everyone I know and love – and even one or two that I don’t – now has one of these blankets so I searched for a pattern I could use to make a comfy jumper for my daughter’s birthday next month and found this one. Perfect lockdown wear.
I had some of the yarn in red fleck, black fleck and cream so chose the cream and this is as far as I’ve got.
I’d forgotten how long knitting takes compared to crochet.
A 400g ball of wool won’t fit in my usual yarn bowl so I put my huge Mason Cash mixing bowl into service – in case you were wondering.
Not to be outdone in the creative stakes Mr. Tialys made some rather nice shortbread which is one of the good things about having him working from home rather than in another country entirely and, although it’s taking some getting used to it definitely has more benefits than disadvantages.
After our move from France back to England, we are starting to settle in a bit in our new house and finding out new things.
Our big old oak tree is home to many different species of birds and has prompted Mr. Tialys to unearth his binoculars and run the risk of being marked down as a voyeur if anybody walking down the country lane behind spots him lurking behind the window. Looking even more suspicious, I broke out my telescopic lens in order to spy on the wildlife. No birds in the feeders in this photo but there are many, many rooks up in the high branches plus blue tits, long tailed tits, the occasional woodpecker, starlings, collared doves, wood pigeons, thrush, chaffinches, robins, etc. plus egrets and pheasants in the fields.
I worry about the effect our cats might have but I read that the more birds there are, the safer they are as they set up a clamour if they spot a cat and warn each other. Certainly, the rooks go berserk if they see anything untoward.
Our new neighbours seem really nice as far as I can tell with socially distanced chatting – which is a relief after our recent experiences with one of our French neighbours. One man in particular has endeared himself to me by telling us he has a routine before bed each night where his two Labradors lie on the floor for him to rub their tummies while he sings the song ‘yummy, yummy, yummy I’ve got love in my tummy’. I love him already.
He told us the other day that we should keep the cats in because the local hunt was coming through. The hunts now are not supposed to chase actual foxes but to follow a trail. This claim is often disputed by animal rights organisations. I have my own thoughts on the issue but it’s certainly not as crazy as the hunting with dogs they did in France every weekend throughout the hunting season using powerful rifles which, more often than desirable, wounded or killed other hunters or people hanging out their washing or chopping wood in their own gardens.
Still, out came the binoculars and camera when the horses and followers started to assembe on the distant hill.
The hunting dogs were released and once they appeared to pick up a scent the riders came down into the field.
The next thing was they were all trotting down the lane and disappeared out of sight so I’m not sure if anything came of it.
Meanwhile, the aforementioned cats had to stay inside for two weeks when we moved in so that they would become acclimatised to their new surroundings and not get lost when finally let out. Having been on an unscheduled tour of Europe with the animal transporters (a whole different post!) followed by a stay in a cattery for a week waiting for us to arrive, I think they were used to confinement but Leon at least looked very miffed that he couldn’t sample the new ‘outside’.
Yuki seemed less bothered……..
if at all.
Although, when the time came to let them out, she was the first one to brave her new territory.
She still spends time ‘helping’ us unpack though.
If only they could help me with the mess that is my sewing room – the result of trying to squeeze in most of the contents of a room three times the size of the one available to me now. Still, I’m grateful to have one at all in the new ‘dolls’ house’ so I don’t have to perch on a table in the dining room and pack everything away when finished for the day as I know is how some people have to manage.
It’ll be a while before anything new gets made in there though as the sewing machine isn’t set up yet and, anyway, we’ll have to keep the centre clear for the inflatable mattress Miss (not Mademoiselle any more) Tialys the Elder will sleep on when she comes for a couple of days at Christmas which is fair enough as this room is the biggest of the three bedrooms and I’ve nabbed it for my workroom. I have a very indulgent husband.
In case I don’t have time to write another post before Christmas – and I haven’t managed many at all lately so it’s a distinct possibility – I’d like to wish you all as jolly a festive season as you can manage in these strange times and a healthy, happy and peaceful 2021.
‘How many kinds of decor can go
In an English country garden
I’ll show you now of some that I know
and a few you might find hard to pardon’
(with apologies to the original 18th century folk song ‘In An English Country Garden)
In part one, I gave you a glimpse of some of the ideas put into play in the garden by the previous owner of our new house. Mr. Tialys is less than enamoured by the use of the black plastic mulch and gravel everywhere but he has since seen signs of the dreaded ground elder so at least he understands why she might have gone down that slightly ugly road.
She also had some weird and (sometimes) wonderful ideas about outdoor décor and I’ve been having fun seeking them out in nooks and crannies all over the garden.
I’ve always wanted a weather vane and this one on the garage roof is appropriate considering we are in an area with much horsey business going on as they stable and train racehorses in this area.
That one was easy to spot but the rest have been placed in semi-hidden places around the garden and I’ve been, by turns, delighted and astounded (!) by some of the choices.
I’ll leave you to decide which ones evoked which reaction,
Which one is your favourite? Would you give any of them
house garden room?
I’ll give you a heads up and tell you that the last one is my favourite but that’s because we brought him with us from our garden in France much to the annoyance of the removal men because it weighs a ton.
One thing that has taken me by surprise now I’m back in England is that the days are so short- like my memory apparently seeing as I lived here for most of my life before my French adventure. It’s not properly light until gone 8 in the morning an,d it’s almost dark by 4 in the afternoon, even on a fairly sunny day like today. The days in France are also shorter in the winter obviously but, maybe because the weather was generally much better where we lived, the daylight seemed to last longer.
So, even though it was a relatively bright day today my photos of the garden don’t really reflect that.
As Cathy (of nanacathy blogging fame) did when she moved house earlier this year, we are looking at the garden and wondering what the changing seasons will bring. Some things are obvious but I’m sure there’ll also be some surprises.
This massive old oak tree rules over part of the front garden and is often full of huge black crows but there are smaller birds in residence too, lots of blue tits, blackbirds, wrens and we’ve seen two types of woodpecker up there too. A pair of binoculars has suddenly appeared from who knows where. I’ve become a twitcher – who would have thunk it?
The former owner, perhaps in a moment of madness, had two ponds built.
This is the large one and is full of fish. Also, the pond plants look as if they will be glorious come Spring/Summer.
Spot the badger trail leading down to the pond from the field behind.
Apparently,the pond is so well balanced she never fed the fish nor needed to mess with the planting so, hopefully, it will be low maintenance.
This is the smaller pond which has no fish but apparently has frogs and newts at the appropriate time of year.
It’s tucked away in a corner of the garden – I’m imagining a bottle of wine and a couple of glasses completing this picture in the fullness of time.
Mind you, a bigger surprise than the short days – well, shock really – is the price of wine. Lordy! I’ll have to cut back my consumption of the fermented grape or do without food.
Some things in the garden seem a bit ‘niche’ – I’m being polite here. The little hedge planted for no apparent reason and the shale path that leads nowhere will have to go (says Mr. Tialys).
Something else that will have to go is most of this black plastic stuff – stop me if I’m being too technical – I know it keeps the weeds down but it also keeps other things down and it looks a bugger (says Mr. T.).
Indeed, he has already made a start and uncovered some rather nice looking soil – but then we are used to soil full of rocks having lived in the foothills of the Pyrénees.
The empty greenhouse awaits
as does this ex-chicken run which was more recently put to use for growing strawberries.
Anyway, anybody would think it was me going to work my fingers to the bone in this new garden, Not at all. I might pull the odd weed, prune a rose and dead head a daff from time to time but anything involving spade, fork or shovel is not my forte. I would say it’s because fault would be found with anything I did in the garden by the head gardener but, although that is true, it is also a very good excuse.
I’ll just go off down the lane with the dogs for my exercise instead, dodging the horse poo and general mud – how I’ve missed hosing the dogs down after walks and wearing wellies. I have some rather dapper shiny black ones although it’s actually hard to make the colour out after five minutes of ‘mud, glorious mud’.
More in Part 2.
Well, we’re here at last.
Physically moving from France to England during lockdowns in both countries was actually easier than I would have supposed although it wasn’t without its ups and downs in the preparation stages!!
So, instead of seeing this view in front of my house
I’m now seeing this one
Fair exchange is no robbery as they say.
We’ve still got a lot of settling in to do and our internet connection is not yet sorted so I won’t be as visible in blogland as I usually am for a while but I just wanted you to let you know that mission has been accomplished.
Thank you so much for all your good wishes in the comments on my last post – they were much appreciated.
Trying not to totally disappear from the blogging scene whilst trying to buy and sell houses in different countries during a global pandemic, I remembered my ‘Tight Lipped Tuesday’ series of sparsely worded (for me) posts and, as luck would have it, it is Tuesday today and, as more luck would have it, I made something.
Home made granola because the commercially made stuff gives me terrible gas.
I know you’d want me to share that with you.
And if that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, I made some oat milk to go with it.
Anything to get away from packing boxes for half an hour or so.