Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Booked At Last

We've left it quite late this year to book our holiday but it's been a bit of an ordeal working out which dates we're free. What with Eleanor's A levels, Daniel's graduation, Eleanor's 18th birthday, Daniel moving out of his student digs, Mick's 50th birthday and A level results day, we managed to find one fortnight in which we were free.

Constantine Bay
We always used to go abroad on holiday but we haven't ventured further than England now since 2009. Out of the last seven years, we've been to Cornwall five times. One of the years we didn't go was last year and though North Yorkshire and Northumberland were very nice, we did miss it.

'A' Frame Lodge
This will be the fifth year we've stayed at this particular place. There's only ten lodges and two cottages on the site, but lots of things to do - an indoor swimming pool, tennis court, games room, not to mention the four fishing lakes which Mick and Eleanor will make good use of. It's situated in a small village about five miles from Bude and is the perfect place for peace and relaxation, it's so quiet there. It's got a great reputation, many holidaymakers are like us and have visited many times before, so it means that you have to book early but we were in luck, there was just one lodge left for one of the weeks we wanted to stay so we snapped it up.

We love this area of Cornwall, we've got to know some places quite well now and still tend to head for them when we visit but there's always new places to explore too.

I'm really pleased that Eleanor still wants to come away with us again this year, I know lots of young people tend to head off with their friends when they're nearly eighteen but she's still happy to come away with us. She's such good company that I love having her around. Of course, Archie will be coming along too.

Hartland Quay
The one good thing about booking quite late is that we don't have too long to wait until we go, which is just as well because I'm excited already. Can you tell?

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Lotherton Hall Food & Drink Festival

I've done lots of posts in the past about our visits to Lotherton Hall, a nearby Edwardian house and country estate. We used to have annual membership, giving us unlimited entry to the whole estate including the bird garden, the house and the extensive grounds, but we let this lapse two years ago.

We've been considering taking out membership again just recently, mainly because it's a lovely place, not too far away, to take Archie for a good walk. Mick was supposed to be playing cricket yesterday but the match was called off due to a waterlogged pitch so we took the opportunity to head off and get it sorted out.

As it happens, the Lotherton Hall Food & Drink Festival is being held in the grounds this weekend so we decided to have a look around whilst we were there. The admission charge for this is included in the normal entry fee, so it was included in the price we paid for our annual membership.

There were local producer and craft stalls selling all manner of delicious goodies to take home and most of the stalls were offering tasters. I was very tempted by the cupcakes but I was good, I resisted, though I doubt I'd have managed it had Eleanor been with us.

The festival bar was serving locally brewed beers as well as Pimms, Prosecco and cocktails, and live music was being played on various stages around the site.

Coffee and other non alcoholic beverages were available for those not wishing to partake.

There were lots of activities for children including kids cookery classes as well as a marquee offering free craft sessions, and even a funfair for all to enjoy.

We headed over to the Hot Food Court where street food dishes from all around the world were on offer, however, just look at the sky as we approached. We had a quick look round taking in the wonderful aromas, but decided to head back to the car sooner rather than later and just as we got there, the heavens opened.

I feel so sorry that events such as these are often caught out by the weather. The festival continues today and tomorrow, it's been rather drizzly this morning but if it dries up, we may just head back to have another look and to give Archie a nice walk. Eleanor missed out yesterday as she was at her boyfriend's, but I'm sure she'd like to come with us too. I doubt I'll resist the cupcakes this time!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Reading - April 2016

Since I started reading regularly again, back in 2012, I've found that the speed at which I read books has increased year on year. I now seem to be able to get through about four books each month, and that's how many I've read again in April.

Three Act Tragedy was my Agatha Christie read this month. It took me a while to get in to this book as I found it a little difficult to keep track of who was who, but once I did, I enjoyed it. I did have an inkling of who the murderer was this time and I was right. I must be starting to get in the mindset of Agatha herself, or maybe not, I'm sure it was just a lucky guess.

Have you ever read a book that left you unsure of whether you enjoyed it or not? I feel like that about The Liar's Chair by Rebecca Whitney. The story certainly kept me interested and I really wanted to keep reading to find out what happened, so does this mean that I enjoyed it? Perhaps I've got this feeling because I just didn't like the characters, there wasn't one in the whole book that I warmed to. Or perhaps it's because it's not the type of book I'd ordinarily read, it's quite dark and a little unsettling. The jury's out, why not read it yourself and let me know what you think.

I've read very mixed reviews of The Ice Twins by S K Tremayne so I was interested to see what I thought of it myself. Well, to put it bluntly, I found it long and drawn out and I really wanted to give the mother a slap, she was just so slack. She had all these doubts in her mind about what really happened the day one of her twin daughters died, so why didn't she just ask the surviving twin? It could have all been over in a couple of chapters. And don't get me started on the father. I persevered with this book till the end but I really wished I'd been reading something better.

As I've said before, I find Amanda Prowse books a bit hit and miss, some I've really enjoyed and some just haven't done it for me. I'm afraid The Christmas Cafe is probably the Amanda Prowse book I've least enjoyed. I found the first three quarters of the book totally boring and then all of a sudden, it sprung to life and I enjoyed the last quarter. I just wish the first part had been as good as the last.

I think these reviews show that it's been a funny kind of month where my reading has been concerned, a bit hit and miss but that's the thing with books, you don't know whether you're going to enjoy them or not. I'm looking forward to seeing what May brings.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Yucky Ducky

I've been wanting to try duck for ages, I'm a big fan of Masterchef, we're half way through the new series, and it's a regular dish on many of the contestant's menus. I think it always looks very appetising. When Mick popped in to the supermarket on Wednesday to pick up a few bits, he saw this duck crown reduced to £3.50 and knowing that I wanted to give duck a go, brought it home with him.

I cooked it last night, it was very easy as you just pop it in the oven in the bag it comes in for an hour and a half and then leave to rest. After eating one slice, I couldn't manage another mouthful. I'm really not very fussy when it comes to meat, our whole family are big meat eaters and I enjoy things such as liver and kidneys which many people won't touch, but I just don't like the flavour of duck at all. It's very hard to describe other than saying it's very rich. Eleanor didn't like it either and left hers too. Mick did eat what was on his plate but wasn't keen. If we'd been eating beef he'd have polished off the leftovers from the other two plates but he didn't bother. Needless to say, Archie had a lovely meal last night.

I think I'm better off sticking with what I know, and how's this for a bargain? Four turkey breast steaks for the grand sum of 4p. Another bargain which Mick picked up a couple of weeks ago.

I've trained him well.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

I'm At It Again

I don't know how many times I say I've stopped buying magazines and then an offer comes along which tempts me. The latest one which came up is three issues of Let's Knit for £6. I couldn't resist.

Considering that one issue of this magazine is usually £5.99 I don't think £6 for three is bad at all, it's the equivalent of buy one get two free. Of course, I'll cancel the membership before they take any further payments.

I haven't read it yet but I've had a flick through and there's some good features including some sock patterns which I might have a go at.

There's usually a free gift included with these type of magazines. The one which was included this month is a pattern booklet and four balls of yarn which is enough to knit each of the five animals.

Paula Pig is cute so I might start with her.

How about you, do you subscribe to any magazines? Do you take up offers like I do? Can you resist popping magazines in your trolley when you go shopping? I'd love to know if you have any favourites.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Joyful World - April

I thought I was going to have January completed to show you this month but I've just realised that I've missed the white stitches which fill the boxes on the border. Never mind, I'll get that bit done and then it will be fully complete.

I can't say that I enjoyed doing the eyelet stitch underneath the fox, in fact, my stitches have pulled the fabric a little out of shape. I shall leave it be though, I doubt that I'd do any better even if I unpicked it and started again.

So, I'm just about ready to start February now and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I love how the picture builds up stitch by stitch. I had so much trouble working with such a large piece of fabric when I first started but I'm finding it much easier now, I suppose it was just a case of getting used to it.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Ribbit Ribbit

We got the first lot of potatoes in to buckets at the weekend, we're growing Arran Pilot and Anya again this year. Mick went off to fetch the watering can to give them a good water and this is what he found.

There was a bit of water in the bottom and a frog had jumped in. Not only did we find the frog but there was also some frogspawn.

We've got a teeny tiny pond in the garden and though there's often frogs in it, there's never been any frogspawn. They obviously prefer our watering cans because when Mick looked in the second one we've got there was a frog in there too.

We carefully tipped both frogs and the frogspawn in to the little pond, I'm sure they'll be much happier in there than in a watering can. When I looked yesterday, the frogs has been busy, not only was there the frogspawn we'd emptied in from the watering can, there were fresh clumps too. You can see some here right on the surface of the water and if you look closely, there's some submerged too right by the side of it.

I'm not sure that this clump on the side of the pond is going to make it though. I tried to slide it in to the water but it's well and truly stuck to the plastic lip of the pond.

Perhaps we'll get some tadpoles this year.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Chicken Caprese

I often see recipes in magazines, on television or on blogs which look really good and I think I'll give them a try myself but in reality, I'm not very adventurous in the kitchen so I end up sticking with things I know. One blog I read regularly which has some wonderful recipes is The Low Carb Diabetic. Now I'm not a diabetic and I don't follow a low carb diet but the recipes which Jan posts are always very tempting and look delicious, and of course, you can add carbs if you want to.

I remember Jan posting a Chicken Caprese recipe quite a while ago now. I popped the post into my favourites and as usual, there it languished, that was until she mentioned the recipe again last week which gave me a nudge. It's such an easy recipe so I don't know why I hadn't got round to trying it. Anyway, I thought it was about time I did so I gave it a go.

The recipe calls for boneless, skinless chicken thighs but I had some chicken breasts in the freezer so I thought I'd use those instead. I just adjusted the cooking time as the breasts were much bigger than thighs would have been. I started off by sprinkling the chicken with salt and pepper and then searing them in a frying pan in a little olive oil.

They were then arranged in a glass baking dish, covered in foil and baked in the oven for about twenty minutes. This stage isn't included in the recipe but as the breasts were quite large, it ensured that they were cooked through, I'd have missed out this stage had I been using thighs.

After twenty minutes, I removed the foil, topped each breast with mozzarella and slices of tomato and then returned to the oven uncovered. After a further thirty minutes I removed them from the oven. The cheese was melted and the chicken thoroughly cooked through.

I popped them under the grill for about three minutes to brown the top of the cheese then sprinkled them with fresh basil.

Here they are all plated up, served with new potatoes which have been drizzled with butter, and green beans.

It's such a simple recipe but tastes absolutely delicious and I can see it becoming a regular favourite. I don't often buy tomatoes from the supermarket, they just don't seem to have any taste eaten raw when you compare them to home grown tomatoes, but cooked is another matter, the tangy tomatoey taste mixed with the cheese and chicken is yummy and though Mick and Eleanor don't usually eat tomatoes at all, they actually cleared their plates. We all enjoyed it very much indeed. If you'd like to have a go yourself, and I can definitely recommend you do, you'll find the recipe on Jan's Chicken Caprese ... Mama Mia It Sure Tastes Great! post. Thank you, Jan, for the inspiration.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Red Lion

I've just realised that I haven't yet shown you my amaryllis bloom. This is the variety Red Lion, as you can see it has stunning bright red flowers.

It produced four flowers on the first stem but they're just starting to wither now. These photos were taken about ten days ago and since then, this second bud has grown some more and has now started to open.

They're stunning plants and definitely worth growing for their big impact blooms.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Packed Away

I had every intention of putting in lots of work on my Spice Of Life Crochet Along blanket this month but the cross stitch bug has taken a firm hold and crochet is playing second fiddle to it. I've decided to pack it away for a while until the mood takes me again.

Here you can see it in my work basket with my Granny Stripe blanket which I started in January 2015. I didn't get very far with that one before I started on other things so that's two blankets waiting to be completed. They'll get done eventually.

I'm joining in with Jennifer's Winter Project Link Party over on her Thistlebear blog. This is the last instalment of the link party, now that we've entered spring. Thank you for hosting it, Jennifer, I've enjoyed visiting the other participants over winter to see what they've been working on and I've made some new blogging buddies too.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Reading - March 2016

March has been another good month for reading, I've managed four books in total.

Why Didn't They Ask Evans? was the Agatha Christie book I read this month. It was a bit different in that it didn't have any people in it which we'd met before, no Poirot or Miss Marple, however, I enjoyed getting to know some new characters. I really enjoyed the story which had lots of twists and turns in it, and I was glad to eventually find out who Evans was as I'd been wondering right the way through the book.

I'm still working my way through Amanda Prowse's books and this month I read Perfect Daughter. I've mentioned before that I find her books quite hit and miss, some I really love and some, not so much, so I was pleased to find that this was one of her best, in my opinion. I think a lot of women will identify with Jacks, the main character, as she goes about her day to day life looking after her family and her mother who is suffering from dementia, trying to do her best by them all and wishing for a good future for her children.

One of the best books I've read for a long time is Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, I absolutely loved this book and it's one of those which stays with you after it's finished. I downloaded it to my Kindle after Jennifer from Thistlebear recommended it last September, had I known how much I'd love it, I would have read it long before now. A film which is based on the book is due out in June, do have a look at the Official Trailer for it. I rarely go to the cinema but I think I'll make an exception for this film, I'd better take plenty of tissues with me. If you haven't yet read the book, I'd definitely recommend doing so before seeing the film as I'm not sure it will do the book justice. The trailer looks like your run of the mill chick flick film but the book is so much more than that.

I'm quite particular when it comes to choosing books to read so I don't often come across books which I haven't enjoyed. I picked up Grey by E L James in a charity shop purely because I'd read the other three books in the Fifty Shades of Grey series, but I really wish I hadn't. I know the other three books got a real slating but I thought they were okay for what they were. Grey is the same story as the first book but told from Christian's perspective. Knowing the story already, I found this book really boring and I don't think it adds anything to the story which has been already told, I couldn't wait to get to the end.

I've had a problem with my Kindle, as you know I got it for Christmas 2014 so I've only had it for about fifteen months. The battery was draining within a matter of hours, even when not in use, but as the Kindle was out of it's twelve month warranty, the only thing which Amazon were prepared to do was offer me a discount on a new one. Hmmm, I don't think so, there's a little known EU law which allows faulty goods to be returned up to two years after purchase, though it is a little ambiguous. One mention of this though and Amazon decided that they would replace my Kindle, not only that but as the faulty one is no longer available, I've been given an upgrade. It was here with me the following day so I'm good to go with my reading again.

Monday, 28 March 2016

On The Menu

I hope everyone had a lovely Easter. Our Easter Sunday was filled with family, good food, chocolate and lots of laughter. What more can you ask for?

I cooked beef and turkey with all the trimmings for dinner and it looks like turkey is going to be on the menu for quite some time. I'd already bought what I needed for our Easter meal but when Mick popped in to Tesco on Saturday evening for something I'd forgotten, he came across these turkeys which had been reduced by just over a half. He rang me and asked if he should buy them. "Definitely", was my reply.

I decided that instead of cooking the turkey crown I'd already bought for dinner yesterday, I'd freeze that and cook the largest of these two turkeys instead, along with the joint of beef I'd bought. As you can imagine, there's lots of leftovers. It won't go to waste though, I usually buy more than we need for dinner so that there's plenty left to use in other meals.

Our family gathering is continuing today, Daniel and his girlfriend are still here and Eleanor's boyfriend is joining us this afternoon. At least they won't go hungry!

Saturday, 26 March 2016


What does 28p buy you nowadays? Not a lot, does it. That's why I was pleased to find lots of veg available for this price when I visited Morrisons today.

A bag of onions, a bag of carrots, a head of broccoli and a swede all at 28p each. There were bags of potatoes at this price too but I didn't bother with those as I always buy mine from my local greengrocer unless I'm harvesting my own.

Another few things to note from my shopping today, melon, Magnums and cavolo nero.

The melon had been reduced from £1.08 to 35p, worth having. The magnums are a box of eight which cost £3, a box of four usually costs this price. It's not something I eat myself but I know Eleanor's boyfriend is particularly fond of them so it's handy to have some in the freezer. Cavolo nero is one of our favourite veggies, I'm very keen on dark leafy vegetables. Not all supermarkets sell it but Morrisons do so I usually pick some up when I visit. It's very easy to grow too. I thought I'd mention this as Jan over at The Low Carb Diabetic blog wrote a post about it recently in which she asks Cavolo nero have you discovered it yet? It's worth reading if you haven't already, it tells you all about this delicious vegetable.

Daniel and his girlfriend arrived home from university yesterday to spend Easter here, they're staying until Tuesday. It's wonderful spending some treasured family time together. They've popped in to Leeds to do a bit of shopping this afternoon so I thought I'd grab the chance to write this post and also to wish everyone a very happy, peaceful and fun Easter weekend, I hope you're able to spend it with your loved ones.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Spring's Arrived

Yesterday was the Vernal Equinox which marks the first day of spring and I must say that it is very spring like at the moment. It's lovely to see some blue skies and sunshine, though we've been very lucky this year, it's been a mild winter.

The foliage I left on the sedum over winter has totally died off.

It's ready for pruning now as there's lots of new growth at the base of the old stems.

There was no trace of the tulips I planted in a container a couple of weeks ago, I thought they might have rotted but they've started to poke through the soil. These are Queen of the Night, a very deep purple tulip. I had every intention of buying some white tulips, or perhaps some orange ones, to grow with them, I think it would have made a lovely display but I never got round to it so I ended up planting the Queen of the Night on their own. They should still brighten the garden up.

I bought this little heather plant, Jack H Brummage, back in February last year. It didn't do much over summer but it's a lovely plant for the winter months and it's still going strong now. Can you see my little ladybird house next to it? I wonder if there's any hibernating bugs inside.

One of my favourite spring plants is the native primrose, it has such beautiful, pale yellow flowers and is very understated. I've got a few good clumps around the garden now. They will go on flowering for quite a while yet.

My patio plum tree, Czar, has lots of buds on it. I bought this tiny tree back in 2012 and I grew it in a container until I decided to plant it out in to the garden last Easter. I didn't get any fruit from it last year but I'm hoping it will reward me for allowing it to spread its roots this year. Time will tell.

There's lots of buds on my Stella cherry tree too. This tree is quite a bit bigger than the plum tree but it's still quite small in the grand scheme of things. I had this growing in a half barrel but as I've only had one decent harvest from it in the eight years I've had it, I thought I'd see if it does any better being planted in the garden. I hope it does as I love cherries.

One of the best things about spring though is that I can start drying washing on the line again. I hate having washing hung around the house to dry but apart from that, I just love the scent you get when it's been dried outdoors.

Blue skies with wispy clouds.

I hope they're here to stay.