Tuesday, 23 February 2010

the flooring is going down in the loft!!

Finally, finally, finally, we have started to lay the flooring in the loft conversion.

You wouldn't believe how difficult it is to know the right way to go about things when you've never done it before!

We decided it was better to insulate the remainder of the loft, and board that out before we installed the floor.  Seems more sensible than laying and polishing the oak flooring then trailing all the rubbish etc through the room!

So, I bought zillions of rescued oak floor sections on eBay.  David has manfully cleared all the bitumen from the backs of them - there really are zillions!  He got very black and sticky at times, I'm so lucky to have him to help me:)

We ummed and ahhed, as you do, about the best underlay, and finally opted for 2mm thick cork, which I bought on two long rolls.

We smeared PVA glue on the chipboard base, and laid the cork at the weekend.  We used the oak blocks as weights to hold it down, as you can see.

Maybe next weekend we'll lay some oak.  Who knows?

Sunday, 14 February 2010

spare the time to look at this amazing clock!

Soneone sent me this link, so I clicked on it, like you do if you trust the person who sent it to you.

It really is an amazing time-piece.  It re-sets to your time zone, and you read it from the top in seconds, down through minutes, hours, etc.

Have a look.  Do you know how it works?  I don't, but it's fascinating: :-)


Valentine's Day look at the garden

Happy Valenitne's Day :-)

We tend to ignore the day itself, as it is over-commercialised to such an extent. Hence David is busy removing the manhole cover which broke my wrist a couple of weeks ago, to send it for re-training reduce its height so that when we lay the gravel on the patio it won't be jutting up too much.

He thoughtfully arranged with nature's gardener to have a couple of snowdrops show their shy heads for me, in lieu of a bunch of flowers.  So  much nicer!

The blossom will soon be out on the Skimmia, too.  Lovely white flowers, currently protected by reddish-pink sepals in sweet little bunches.

The forsythia won't be too far behind - the buds are swelling, and soon those brown twigs will be covered in glorious sunny blooms.  So pretty because the leaves follow the flowers, so don't obscure them.

Enjoy your Valetine's Day, whatever you do :-)

Friday, 12 February 2010

Avoid lily pollen stains

I love lilies.  I hate the way the pollen stains everything it touches!
I've worked out a way to avoid the pollen becoming a problem.  It's quick and very simple: here's what  you do ...

Keep a close eye on the flower buds.  As they are just starting to open you'll be able to see the stamens lurking within.

Sneak up to the bloom, moving as stealthily as you can.  (This doesn't affect the outcome at all, but will cause your neighbours to wonder what on earth you're up to!)

Gently open up the petals just a little, so that you can slip a couple of fingers in to grasp the long knobbly bits that hold the pollen - the anthers (no, not antlers, anthers, you see, this is why I called them knobbly bits, far less confusion that way).

You'll find that if you hold them firmly, without crushing them, that you'll be able to simply slip them away from their stalks, and dispose of them in your compost bin.  The pollen doesn't actually become "live", so to speak, until the flower actually opens, so you've pre-empted it.

No pollen, no staining.  Magic!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


Just a quickie!!

I made a sandwich with a left over burger from yesterday.  It was wonderful:-)  I ate it cold, so it was reminiscent of pate, really.  The kick of the chilli was more apparent today - a contrast to the cold temperature of the actual food.

This confirms that they would be great for luches.  I shall try the mixture made in a loaf tin, and perhaps small portions wrapped in some sort of pastry, like a "sausage" roll.  I suspect it will prove to be a versatile sort of mix:)  Let me know if you try them, and any variations you use!

Calling all plant experts!

I do like a mystery!  If any of you plant experts can help me with my little mystery, I'd be very grateful.

On Boxing Day I was in a well-known supermarket.  I'd paid for my shopping and was leaving the store, when I spotted an assistant standing by a trolley full of bouquets of flowers.

Always keen for a bargain, I asked her if she was about to reduce them - they were "Christmassy" bouquets.  She replied that she was about to throw them out, so if I wanted any, I was welcome to take some.

I picked myself up from the floor and selected a few bunches, including a couple for Rachel - isn't she lucky to have such a generous mother??

Anyway, the last of the flowers I composted this morning - they have lasted incredibly well - but some of the greenery is still  going strong.

Amongst the green stems is one that I haven't come across before.  I removed a few of its leaves early on, as they seemed to have a slight lump on them.  I assumed it was some sort of disease - but no!

Over the weeks these lumps developed and grew.  I wondered if it was  new method of propogations - you know, little plantlets developing ready to drop down into the compost.  Nothing in nature surprises me.  Or so I thought.

Just look at the photos.

I was wrong!!  These small lumps have become tiny flowers, yes, really -flowers.  Even more strange than that is the way in which they grow; on one row of leaves the flowers are on the top surface of the leaf, then on the next row of leaves they are underneath the leaf, then on top, then underneath.  Absolutely amazing!

If you have any idea what they are, please, please tell me!  I've had a quick "Google", as you do, but failed to find anything like them.

The photos aren't the best in the world, but you can see what I mean, can't you?  All ideas welcomed:)

Monday, 8 February 2010

do you ever get sidetracked?

Have you ever sat down with the intention of doing something, then been sidetracked?  I have.  Today I logged on to research some Victorian literature.

I thought I'd "just take a quick look" at my e-mails, then hopped across here, then to visit VeganDad, read some of his recipes, felt peckish, so decided to experiment with some burgers.

I looked through the cupboards, and assembled the following:

  • 1 cup firm silken tofu
  • 1 cup red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 small green chillies
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon harissa paprika
  •  1 teaspoon dried oregano
  •  black pepper

Blitz everything together. Splodge Spoon out into a hottish frying pan, with 2 inches of oil lightly oiled. The mixture is slack, so 4 is probably all you'll get in the pan.  Turn down heat to medium, cook til deep brown and the top is starting to look a little less soggy set. Turn over and cook on reverse until cooked through. They will still be squidgy delightfully soft in the middle.

They are a weird shade of pink, but that's the red kidney beans for you.  They turn a lovely golden brown as they cook, as you can see through the steam! 

The mixture that was left in the jug, I thickened with a tablespoon of coarse oatmeal to give a thicker mix.  This allowed for a deeper burger.

You could substitute any other tinned pulses of your choice, you might then want to swap your herbs around to find a blend that you enjoy.

Whilst the first batch was cooking, I quickly washed some lettuce and tomatoes, and grabbed some rye bread.

Although not exactly hungry, I gobbled down forced myself to assemble a mock BLT and eat it because I am a pig, purely in the interest of this blog.  It both looked and tasted very, very good - in my humble, totally unbiased opinion.
This last photo shows the first batch, above, and the second, thickened batch, below.  I've cut them so you can see the inner.

A couple of hours later, I had a cold one wrapped in a lettuce leaf.  Delicious, and considerably firmer, so would be good for packed lunches:)

Sunday, 7 February 2010

overnight frost, such beauty, vegetable garden

There was a hard, overnight frost a couple of days ago, so I took my little camera out into the back garden to investigate the beauty that ice brings.

As you can see, the sky was coolly attractive, with the sun disguised as the moon behind the banks of clouds.

My eye was taken with the stark beauty of the fennel seed heads, rimed with glittery frost.  Spiky yet rounded.  Dead, yet they had provided life for next season.  Please excuse my gloved digits at the left - it was tricky to isolate one head!

The glowing vibrancy of the rainbow chard was simply stunning.  Although leaves which are caught by the frost become inedible, it will send out fresh leaves for me to harvest on milder days throughout the winter.  I hope you didn't pull all yours up!

The tough leaves of the bay tree can withstand most things.  The arid days of summer, and the frosty times of winter leave it pretty much unharmed.

It's a slow-growing shrub, but well worth having in the garden to add a leaf or two to casseroles and curries.

The thyme looks so delicate and dainty with its white frosting.  Another herb which survives drought and frost in equal measure, and proves invaluable in everyday cooking.

The rosemary is the other herb which looks extra attractive when rimed with frost.  Each of those firm, narrow leaves sparkles individually in the early light.  Again, it withstands the dry summers and cold winters without complaining.

 The red onions I sowed last year are looking a little sorry for themselves, but I hope they will recover and continue to grow.  Time will tell, but my fingers are crossed.

It's good to get out in the garden to keep abreast of what's happening whilst I'm warm inside the house.

I hate to tempt fate, but I think I'm getting the hang of the new method of importing photos.  Who say's you can't teach an old dog new tricks????  Oh, I forgot, I taught myself!

Keep snug and away from bugs!

So there I was, just hanging around the changing rooms ...

Eavesdroppers hear the strangest things!  As a writer, I find it fascinating to listen, unobtrusively, to the conversations around me.  Yesterday, I broke my own rule, and joined in!

So, there I was, hanging around outside the changing rooms where David was trying on some jeans.  All three of the assistants in the store meandered down and made a cuppa in their tiny area next to the changing rooms - it was early on Saturday morning, and there was only one other customer in the shop, so they clearly felt it was ok to have a little break together.

'I've heard of all sorts of things, even vegetarian, but I'd never heard of fruitarian before.'

'No, what do they eat, I wonder?'

'Do they just eat fruit, then?'

'And I had to cook for her!'

At this point, I chipped in:

'Gosh, that's so restrictive.  I'm vegan, and that can be quite difficult, but fruitarians only eat something produced by a plant which is designed to be eaten, like fruits, seeds.'

'No, I didn't say "fruitarian", I said "cute-arian"!!'

'Cute-arian?' I queried, 'I've never even heard of one of those - what on earth does that mean?'

'She won't eat an animal she thinks looks cute.'

'Sorry?  What????'

'She eats meat, but not if it comes from an animal she thinks looks sweet!  I'd never heard of it either, and I had to cook for her!'

'So, if she thinks it's cute, she doesn't eat it, but she'll eat any animal that doesn't seem cute and cuddly to her?'

'Yep, that's it.  Weird, isn't it?'

We all agreed that it was very strange.  No ethical reason for avoiding meat, but if it's pretty, then don't put in on your plate.  Designed to cause attention, we decided, and to make a hostess very reluctant to issue an invite to dinner - how on earth is one supposed to know which animal she considers to be cute?

Would she eat a Bulldog, with its strong, rugged features, but not a Spaniel with its gorgeous, melting eyes?   Or would she eat any adult animal, but not a sweet baby?  Presumably no rabbits, but hares are more aggressive, so perhaps ...?  Rats aren't generally considered cute, not cockroaches, so maybe there's a thought for dinner?

I've just "googled" it, and this is what I discoverd:

1. cuteatarian
buy cuteatarian mugs, tshirts and magnets.  A person who eats only animals that they find unattractive.

Unlike my (vegetarian) friends, my cuteatarian friend only eats chicken and fish and avoids really cute and cuddly animals like cows, sheep, and piggies.

Presumbably she only cuddles small cows, and clean little pigs;  are adult sheep cute and cuddly?  Yes, frollicking fluffy lambs, but sheep?  Well, as the French say "vive la differance!"

I'm not sure I'll be incorporating cutetarians in my next story - goodness, I've only just learned how to spell it!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Bad things come in threes

I am not superstitious.  I walk under ladders, I consider 13 to be just an ordinary number, I don't panic if I smash a mirror.

My breakfast is usually a fresh fruit smoothie.  I invested in a Bamix blender, which cost £160, but it's got a ten year guarantee, and it's been brilliant at making my breakfasts, I'd recommend them to anyone who needs powerful blending, and wants to save washing up!

I'd washed my pear and apple, and peeled my kiwi fruit.  I chunked them and put them in my pint glass, along with a tablespoon of linseeds, 3 cubes of crystalised ginger, 2 brazil nuts and a splash of soya milk.

I put the Bamix into the glass, switched it on, and a milky mess sprayed the hand over the glass - I hadn't actually submerged the blender head.  How stupid of me.  Never mind, I licked my fingers (it's ok, they were clean), submerged the head and started again.

I heard the click of the kettle, so reached across to pour the water on to my coffee grounds.  Big mistake.  I knocked over the glass and spilled about half of my smoothie across the kitchen worktop.  Blast.

"I think I'm going back to bed.!" I said to my partner.
"Why's that?"
"They say things go in threes, I've had two mishaps already, the third might be worse."
"You don't believe that."
"True, but you never know."

Breakfast continued without a hitch.  I went to work on the pc, then noticed the sun was suddenly shining, so decided to put the washing machine on.

As I was pouring in the washing liquid (vegan, of course) my partner asked me to go upstairs and give him a hand with something in the loft conversion for half an hour.  I closed the machine door and left the kitchen.

About three quarters of an hour later, we'd finished upstairs and I went to make us a well deserved cuppa.  I hadn't planned on paddling that morning, but that's what I had to do - a lake flooded the kitchen floor!

I waded over to the washing machine to see water pouring out of it.  Somehow I hadn't used sufficient power to actually close the door, but there must be a fault in the machine and it had begun the wash cycle despite the door being ajar!!!

So there we are.  I'm not superstitious, things don't really happen in threes - or do they?  What do you think?

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Six Word Saturday, new short story for children

Second Short Story Published in Newspaper:)

The draft of this story, Box of Secrets, was published in an earlier blog in September.  Check it out!

The story as published, is below.  Enjoy:)

Box of Secrets

My box of secrets lies under my bed. It’s a brass-bound travelling trunk that belonged to my Grandfather in the 1920s. I’ve had it since I was two, and I can’t imagine ever not having it. The big, brass lock is engraved with his initials:- CAD, Charles Arthur Dobson. My name is Charlie Dobson, I was named after Granddad. The old key is heavy. I keep it hidden behind my Horrible History books on the top shelf of my bookcase.
The chest was given to me to keep my Lego in when I was small, to stop my bedroom floor being covered in tiny plastic pieces. I grew out of Lego long ago, but the chest remains. Now I keep my secrets in it.
We all have secrets, don’t we? Things we’d rather other people didn’t know. I’ll let you into a few of mine. I know you won’t tell them to anyone else - you’d better not.

# # #
When I was eight I was run over by a car. I was in hospital for six weeks with my leg pinned together. No football for me that summer. After I left hospital people noticed that I wasn’t acting the same as I had before I’d been knocked down. I was snappy, and would fly off at the slightest thing. I even hit my mum one day. She’d said ‘No.’ when I asked to watch a DVD.

‘But why, Mum? There’s nothing on TV.’

‘I think you should go in the garden for a while and get some fresh air, love. You might not be able to play football, but there are lots of other things to do.’
‘Like what?’

‘Well, there’s the boules set in the shed; your basket ball or darts board on the back of the garage door, you’ve always loved playing darts. You could try your bike. The doctor said you could do most things now, as long as you don’t overdo it at first.’

‘But I want to watch a DVD, Mum. I don’t want to go outside.’

‘I said “no”, Charlie. That’s the end of the matter. Please go outside and get some fresh air. If you don’t want to play, then take a book outside. I’m going to vacuum the house, and I don’t want to be vaccing around you. Off you go, please!’

Next thing I knew, Mum was on the floor; a red river running from her nose.

‘Mum, are you ok? I’m sorry, Mum, I’m sorry. Mum? MUM! Wake up, Mum!’ I grabbed the tea-towel and held it to her nose. I felt awful. I could see drops of water on her t-shirt; that’s when I realised I was crying.

I was so relieved when she started to move, and her eyes opened. ‘Oh, Mum, thank goodness you’re alright. I’m so sorry, Mum. I don’t know what happened. Your nose is bleeding. Are you ok? I’m sorry, Mum, I’m sorry.’

‘It’s ok, Charlie. Don’t worry. I’ll be fine.’ She said, but she didn’t look it.

Her face was so white you could see all the freckles that are normally hidden by her tan. And the blood! I felt sick; there was so much of it. I just stayed crouching there, until she started to move. Then I leapt up, and helped her. She was a bit unsteady, and I pulled one of the stools from under the breakfast bar for her to sit on.

‘What shall I do, Mum? Shall I make you a cup of tea?’

‘Yes, please, love. That would be nice.’ She said. ‘Come here, though, first.’

I turned back, and walked over. She pulled me to her and gave me a hug. ‘Don’t worry, son, I know you didn’t mean it. Make me a cuppa, and get yourself a glass of orange. I was planning to talk to you, so we’ll have a little chat and a drink. Okay?’

I nodded, and ran water until the red ball hovered over the half litre mark. I put a pyramid in a mug for Mum, then opened the fridge. By the time the switch clicked off I’d poured my juice. When it was just how she likes it, I carried the mug of tea into the lounge, where Mum was sitting. She’d changed her t-shirt, and washed her face, so she didn’t look as bad; but her nose was swollen and bruised. I sat down next to her, I felt like a little boy again.

‘Charlie, love, since you came out of hospital you’ve been finding it really difficult to control your temper, haven’t you?’

I nodded. I didn’t trust myself to speak, I felt like crying again, and boys don’t cry.

‘Well, remember last time we saw Dr. James, and he said he’d arrange for you to see someone who can explain how to manage better?’

I nodded again.

‘Right, well the clinic rang earlier. They’ve made an appointment for you to see a counsellor to help you; her name is Angela. I’m taking you to see her tomorrow morning. Okay, honey? She’ll help you to stop hitting out at people, or being so cross when little things go wrong.’ She smiled at me.
‘Yes, okay. I’m really sorry, Mum; I didn’t mean to hit you.’

‘I know, sweetie, I know. It’s okay. Dr. James says Angela knows all sort of tricks you’ll be able to use to help you get back to normal. Let’s enjoy our drinks, shall we? We’ll both sit and watch a film together. How’s that?’
‘Yes, great. Can I have a biscuit?’
Mum nodded, and I ran off to get the biscuit tin.
# # #

My counsellor, Angela, explained all about “traumatic shock”. She explained that some soldiers who come back from war zones suffer nightmares and personality changes. It’s called Post Traumatic Shock Syndrome.
Angela said that what I was going through was much the same thing, and was common after an accident that wasn’t your fault. It was more like an illness, not me being naughty. I think I remember seeing something on the news about soldiers coming back from Iraq and acting oddly, so I’m like a soldier – cool!
But, Angela was very clear that it was up to me to conquer my problem. Nobody else could do it; she could only help. Angela said we would work together, until we’d found the best way for me to control it. She called it ‘Anger Management’, and I saw her twice a week for the first month, then once a month for a while, then again after six months. When I was ten, she said I was handling things well, and I didn’t need her any more.
The best way we found for me to stop exploding when things went wrong, was to carry round a small notebook and a pen. I had to write down whatever it was that had annoyed me; fold the paper up into a tiny ball, then flush it down the toilet when I got home. Once it was gone, she said I must recognise that I had dealt with it, and it was over and done with. I had to forget it and move on.
So, that’s what I did. At first. After a while, I was just flushing pieces of blank paper. My real notes I locked away in my trunk, along with my log of the revenge I took against anyone who annoyed me.
Take Brian, for instance. He kicked a muddy football at me one rainy day in September. He kicked it at me, not to me, and my new coat was filthy. I asked to be excused during afternoon art, and took his new jacket and stuffed it into one of the cisterns in the boy’s toilets. It wasn’t discovered for ages, not until someone complained about the toilet not flushing very well.

Then there was Arshid. He knocked over my Coke©, then laughed. That really pissed me off. Later, when nobody was about, I peed into his glass of orange juice. I could hardly keep from laughing when he drank it later!
Keeping my “Retribution Record”, as I call it, has really helped. I never lash out at people now, no matter how mad I feel at the time. I heard somewhere that “revenge is a dish best eaten cold”. I know what it means now. Sometimes it takes weeks for me to find the perfect opportunity to get my own back, but that’s fine; it’s all the sweeter for the waiting.
If I can, I take something to remind me of my revenge; a bit like a souvenir you’d bring back from a holiday. It might be a button, like the one off Brian’s jacket, or the laces from a pair of football boots, taken so that James couldn’t play in the school final. He was well mad, but he shouldn’t have taken my football without asking me that playtime.
They’re all locked away with my log book. I got that idea from an episode of CSI, where Grissom discovers that the murderer kept souvenirs of all his victims. Sometimes there’s nothing I can take to remind me, so I make a more detailed entry in my Retribution Record; I can relive it better, then, when I want to sit and gloat.

So, now you know some of my little secrets, and where they’re hidden. You’d better remember my name; and if we meet, be careful not to bug me. I always get my own back. Be warned!