Isle of Wight trip.


A trip to my sisters.

My sister lives on the Isle of Wight and last week I made a three day trip by train to visit her. I went from Bourne End station to Portsmouth and then over on the catamaran to the island. I must have picked the worse day weather wise of the whole of the winter as the winds were so strong that the hovercrafts were postponed but the catamaran was still running. It was my scariest journey ever holding on to the sides of my seat  all the way.It was like being on a rollercoaster with the sea underneath.

Wightlink Catamaran

Bed & breakfast.

I stayed in a bed and breakfast as my sister lives in a one bedroom flat and I like my own space.

Diana who runs the B & B called Sea view is just lovely and she is just around the corner from my sister. This is the view from the bedroom window so you can see how close it is.

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Views of the Island.

The weather was not perfect as the winds were so strong and of course it was still February. We mostly shopped which always seems a good idea.On Ryde esplanade is a shop that used to be owned in 1953 by Thomas Skinner. His shop was raided by the police for selling “Saucy ” postcards  by Donald Mc Gill. They seized 1,087 postcards.He protested strongly as there was a shop in Ventnor Isle of Wight still selling them. He closed his shop that day and never opened again . In the window is the same stock including silk stockings dust and all. It has never been touched since.

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Down the high street looking towards the sea.

There are some wonderful little shops still which many towns seem to have lost also a great number of independent places to eat and drink .

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Nature reserve.

Last time I was there we discovered a nature reserve which was stunning . Just down the road from Ryde taking a long walk to Seaview we came across it .How did my sister not know it was there?

  A walk along the beach.

Walking along the beach at Ryde is where we found the sanctuary on the way to Seaview.

Home again.

After three days it is time to go. I love the Island and a great place to visit still with that old world charm…But back to my life and my chickens who I hope will have missed me.

Looking towards Portsmouth on the catamaran…Going home.

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Waiting for Spring.


Walking by the allotments.

It is nearly the end of January and it seems to have been a long winter. Though not really cold as in previous years but very grey, dark and very ,very wet.

I long to get going up the allotments again as I have a lot to tackle but it is wet and boggy. Not being able to drive does not help as I have to rely on my trusty bike with no where to shelter if it is wet.

By the allotments is a public footpath which leads through fields across styles and  down to the Crooked Billet pub . Well known for it’s cider.

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Along the way we cross fields which house much wild life including red kite, deer , rabbits and hares not forgetting the birds.

A cross these fields while walking it’s a time to think and to get exercise. Meeting others walking usually with their dogs .

Preparing the allotment.

This time last year I started preparing the second week of February. This year I think it will be a lot later as the ground is so wet.  Never the less it is a good chance if I go there now I will see some old friends who love their allotments as much as I do. They are always there to help and chat but know when to stay away when you are deep in thought or digging away there. This year I

A new plan

This year is a new plan, I hope to divide the plot more into sections to make it easier to deal with now I’m tackling it on my own. I have the wood, I have the seeds all I need now is the weather and the get up and go.

Dieting ..Again.


Dieting again.

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It is nine years now since I decided to try and change my life style and lose weight as the heaviest I had ever been . After trying a club I decided it was not for me so came home and devised my own diet. With a lot of dedication and support I lost over 4 stone which was fantastic and a great achievement . I thought I was too thin so adjusted it slightly and stayed the same for 8 years… 9 years on..and my weight has  crept up again and I now weigh nearly same after a very bad year.

Another start.

We are now in year 2016 and I need to be positive and optimistic again . As it worked last time with a lot of discipline I am going to try the same method again .

This meant cutting out most fats and sugars. I don’t eat a lot of sweet things and don’t buy a lot of sugar so it must be the hidden sugars and fats. I eat very little meat and use mainly fish , salads and vegetables. I still grow most of my own vegetables at my allotment so that is a good start.

This time of year though not only am I not growing many vegetables but I am not getting the exercise I need. A few weeks from now in February it will hopefully all systems go.

Me nine years ago.

 

 

 

 

Upwards and Onward a year on.


Upwards and Onwards.

 

It is a  year now since my husband Ian died suddenly. I thought it was the beginning of the end for me after being married happily for 40 years.

Firstly it was family and friends who were my saving as I had not realised how important they were in my life. While married Ian and I did most things together ..Holidays , trips out , hobbies like our allotments. My friends and family had taken a backward step.

It was time for things to change .I know that sounds very cold but I needed to fill my life and try to enjoy it. It does not suit everyone to “Just get on with life ” but it was my way of dealing with what had happened…The longer you leave it the harder it becomes.

The allotments and long walks.

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I  started by going to the allotments . It was the end of January and still not easy to start anything but it was nice to meet the lovely people I knew and to gossip about what we were going to do in 2015. I started by  having a word with Linda who gladly offered to help me with half of one of my plots .This relieved the pressure of trying to do too much at once. It was not the best planting year for me but it helped me adjust and to make the most of the long walks through Flackwell Heath.

Chickens.

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We have had chickens for over five years and I never realised how important they were in my life. In January 2015 it was cold , wet and the last thing I wanted at first was to deal with them ..but they deserved to be fed , watered and be kept safe. I loved them and it gave me a reason for being .One year one they are well looked after and cared for .I talk to them all the time and tell them what my plans are and they always give me good advice!

Social life.

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One thing about suddenly being on your own after 40 years is that you don’t know where to start.Luckily I have a little part time job in the village so I know a lot of people by just chatting (gossiping?) This kept me in contact and renewed friendships. had never involved myself in clubs etc., in the village but I was amazed at how many there were.

I joined the Womens ‘ every other Thursday night persuaded by my friend Marilyn.

Oasis which is a bereavement group in the village for people like me that have found themselves alone..they have social evenings with food and drink ,river trips and BBQ’s and much more.

I am no expert but  I do think the more you feel sad and do nothing the worse it gets. Contact old friends and family, do things that you would never have dreamt of before ,join clubs they are there for you (especially in the winter.) walk and take in fresh air,It does not have to be a long walk around the block will do. It’s amazing how many people you see. As better than sitting indoors watching day time TV .The husband Ian I have lost would not have wanted that for me.

Get a pet it does not have to be chickens ..get a dog ,a cat even a goldfish.

Down the river from Runnymede.


Down the river from Runnymede.

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Sunday the 25th July turned out to be the perfect day for cruising down the river. Two coaches full of people belonging to Oasis went from Flackwell Heath to Runnymede to then board a boat for a few hours.

The day before had been a dismal day when the rain had just not stopped and yet on this Sunday morning the sun just shone all day. We were so lucky ! Arriving at the boat we sailed from Runnymede down the river going through three locks on the way.

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By the lock at Runnymede.

Runnymede is where the Magna Carta was signed on  the15th June 1215 by King John . Magna Carta is Latin for Great charter and is the basis of most of the laws we still abide by today in the 21st century.

http://magnacarta800th.com/history-of-the-magna-carta/

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The beautiful weeping willows all the way along.

It was so nice just to chat to people on the boat and listen to the lovely music mostly old classics by Frank Sinatra , Nat king Cole etc., sung by Adam in his own way.

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I think we all agreed that a lovely moment was when we saw a bride and groom walking along by the river. She looked so beautiful and we were all waving to the happy couple who waved back at us all.

Also seeing all the families out on this lovely sunny day basking in the sunshine ,walking their dogs, playing with  their children doing proper family things…It was a joy !

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A few of the people on the boat having a great time . Others were on the top deck watching the world go by.

We had been given a packed lunch to have on the boat which was more than enough for most but at about three pm tea was served.. Cream scones, sandwiches ,cakes ,fruit tarts. we were really spoilt.

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The cream tea and more. 

It was so nice to be made so welcome by many people who I had never met before and who hopefully will become friends. It  was only my second time of going with Oasis which is a bereavement group run by Richard Chalmers and his family in Flackwell Heath . A great time was had by all of us and I can’t thank them enough .

A few more pictures taken on the way .

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A New Start…Upwards and onwards.


A New  Start.

Due to the sudden death of my wonderful husband Ian in January I have not been on here for a while.Six months on and my life has totally changed .

I thought that after forty years of marriage it was the end but with the help of some wonderful family and friends I have pulled through and realised that at the age of sixty eight it is the beginning of a new chapter and that life is precious.

I did not know what to do about the two allotments that we shared as I considered at first that it was too much but with the allotmenteers rallying around and helping me I think I have done  great job  . Linda who has a plot offered to take on half of Ian’s plot which gave me breathing space to plan what to do.This has been so successful that six months on we are taking it on between us for another year.

 Allotments are more than growing vegetables they are about friendships and community and having some wonderful space and scenery to think and plan.

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My squash from last year.

I have six chickens in the back garden two of which Ian brought two days before his death .One we called Ruby as it was going to be our Ruby wedding shortly and the other I called Chelsea after his favourite football team. At first I panicked and wondered how on earth I was going to look after six and considered briefly to rehome the two new girls , but I soon realised that two more made very little difference and that their eggs could be an asset as my income was instantly reduced..I sell their eggs to pay for their food and swap some in exchange for plants for at the allotments and for good deeds done.

They are a joy and gave me a reason to get up and let them out of their coup every morning , feed them and listen to Chelsea telling me the gossip of the day.

I have a good friend Carol who is another chicken owner .We met through a forum not knowing that we lived two miles from each other. She has always been there for me and we often discuss the trials and tribulations of chickens among other things and she and her husband Richard have been there.

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I now have a totally different social life than before. Ian and I used to do everything together but now I have regained old friends and have joined several clubs that I would not have given a second thought before. Our village has several clubs which is of interest including “Oasis” which is a bereavement club.I thought it would be full of older people than me but my friend Marilyn persuaded me to go and it made me realise how many people in my village were widows or widowers. I have also started to learn bell ringing at one of our local churches , invited along by Chris who has been going for about years ..I have a lot to learn!

I know it has only been a few months but my  advice to anyone in the same position is to be brave and try something new. It is really scary at first  but with friends and families help you can take the first step. It does get easier one step at  time. my other piece of advice is not  to make any hasty decisions, I  nearly made a hasty one and put my house up for sale and when I thought about it I had everything around me that I needed without moving ..Family and friends, beautiful countryside at the bottom of my garden , my chickens and familiarity in a house where we had spent all our happy married life.

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Quick pasta dishes.


Pasta is the perfect foundation for a healthy, delicious and satisfying meal. As an ideal “delivery system” for other nutritious foods, pasta meals can easily become nutritional all-stars. (Be sure to keep an eye on portion sizes to keep calories at bay. A one-cup serving of cooked pasta is roughly the size of your fist).

Pasta is an ideal partner for other nutritious foods that are essential to a healthy diet. It’s great to pair with fibre -filled vegetables and beans, heart healthy fish and oils, rich tomato sauce and protein-packed, poultry and lean meats.

Tagliatelle with chicken and sage.

serves 4 .

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400g / 14oz Tagliatelle

2 shallots finely chopped.

knob of butter

325g/11oz chicken breast ,cut into strips

1 garlic clove (optional)

8 sage leaves shredded

4 tbsp. medium white wine

salt & pepper

freshly grated parmesan to serve.

Method

  • Cook and drain the pasta according to the packet instructions, reserving half cup of the cooking water.
  • meanwhile, fry the shallots in the butter until transparent ,add the chicken and fry until golden on the outside and just cooked through, but do not overcook. Add the garlic (if used) and sage for the final 2 minutes of cooking .Pour in the wine and bubble for a couple of minutes .Season.
  • Toss the chicken mixture with the pasta and enough of the reserved to moisten.
  • Serve with plenty of parmesan.

Pasta with melting onion sauce.

serves 4.

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150g / 5oz pasta.

675g / 1 and a half lb onions very thinly sliced.

3 garlic cloves finely sliced.

1 bay leaf and 1 small sprig rosemary.

3 tbsp olive oil.

115ml / 4fl oz white wine

2 – 3 tbsp chopped parsley

150g / 5 oz parmesan.

Method

  • Put the onions garlic , bay leaf and rosemary into a large heavy frying pan with the oil and sprinkle with salt. Cook gently for 10 minutes then cover the onions closely with a circle of greaseproof paper and cook over a low heat until the onions turn a rich golden brown.
  • Stir in the wine and cook briskly , stirring , until the wine has evaporated. Discard the bay leaf and rosemary .Add black pepper and the parsley.
  • Meanwhile , cook and drain the pasta . Toss with the onions and most of the parmesan . Serve with the remaining parmesan sprinkled over.

Pasta with roast aubergines , peppers & basil.

Serves 4.

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2 Aubergines weighing 500g/ 1lb

2 plump red peppers

5 garlic cloves in their skins

6 tbsp. virgin olive oil

20 pitted black olives chopped

400g pasta

balsamic vinegar to taste

small handful of basil leaves

grated parmesan to serve.

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 200c/400f / gas 6
  • Prick the aubergines in several places and cook in a preheated oven for 20 – 30 minutes, turning once , until softened , wrinkled and lightly charred. At the same time cook the peppers in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes until lightly charred and soft, and the garlic until softened.
  • Peel the peppers and cut into slices. Pop the garlic cloves from their skins into a bowl and mash with the oil. Transfer to a frying pan.
  • When the aubergines are cool enough to handle , peel off the skin and chop the flesh . Add to the frying pan  , with the red peppers and olives. Season with salt , pepper and balsamic vinegar , and warm gently.
  • Meanwhile , cook and drain the pasta according to packet instructions . Toss with the vegetables and basil . Serve with freshly grated parmesan.

 

Chickens and winter.


imagesZINS8AYYWe have now been over four years into keeping chickens in our back garden and the first winter I really was concerned that I would not be able to cope with the snow , ice  and cold but it all went quite well. We did not get the problems that might have occurred .The girls I soon realised were much more adaptable than I thought . In fact they dealt with the cold and snow easier than they did the heat.

Chickens of course lay less in the winter due to lack of sunlight and unless it is their first year could possibly like three of mine who are older lay none at all.

This is mainly due to age and having gone through their first full moult .Poor Clover our old girl had her first full moult after four years and looked oven ready .I could not believe how quickly she lost all her feathers . She really did feel sorry for herself but very quickly the feathers came back and she is looking beautiful.

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This year we have two chickens that were not with us last year Blossom and Bluebell and it will be interesting to see if they cope as well as our others.

There are a few common sense jobs to do to make our  winter and theirs a lot easier.

  • Extra protein .You can add fish like tuna to any treats , cod liver oil and our chickens like pellets mixed with warm water .
  • Keep plenty of water bowls around  filled daily and making sure there is no ice on the water bowls .
  • Extra wood shavings in the coup never goes amiss.
  • ventilation in the coup but not too many drafts.
  • a covered roof to their run is essential ,  plastic tarpaulin works great and is easy to tie down . If it is clear so much the better. Ours is covered by plastic corrugated sheeting which is easy to bend and screw down.

Most importantly predators will be looking for food as the weather gets colder so make sure that your chickens are as secure as you can make them.

Rats are around looking for food and making nests so make sure any food is brought in at night . if you do get rats don’t hesitate to either try and deal with it quickly or contact your local council who will send up “The rat man”.

Autumn warmers.


 It is that time of year again when we start to think of the lovely warming soups and meals that make us feel comforted. The allotments treasures are being dug up and picked and there is too much of one vegetable and sometimes not enough of another, but it is the time when you think of making soups with your produce you realise how worth it is and how after growing those lovely vegetables you can’t waste a bit .

Leek onion and potato soup.

4 large leeks

2 medium potatoes peeled & diced

1 medium onion chopped small

1 tbsp oil

1 & half pints /850 mls light chicken stock or water

10 fl oz /275 ml milk

salt & pepper

METHOD

  • Trim tops & roots of leeks , split them in half lengthwise & slice them finely , wash thoroughly in a couple of changes of water.

  • In a large saucepan gently fry leeks , potato & onion , stirring all round with a wooden spoon so they are nicely coated in the oil.

  • Season with salt & pepper

  • Cover & let the vegetables sweat over a very low heat for about 15 minutes.

  • Add the stock & the milk , bringing to simmering point put the lid back and let the soup simmer very gently for a further 20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.(if you have the heat to high the milk in it it might make it boil over)

  • Put the whole lot into a liquidiser & blend to a puree or press it all through a sieve.

  • Return the soup to the saucepan & reheat gently tasting to check the seasoning .

  • An option is to add a swirl of cream on the top & some chopped chives.

    Ninas soup

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    This is one of my very favourite recipes given to me by a friend of mine .. You can really add anything you like to this & it is a recipe that is different every time you make it . It is also a good recipe if you are watching your calories as it is a good filling soup .You can omit the oil & simmer vegetables in a small amount of water.

    8oz potato

    8oz carrot

    1 large onion

    3 sticks of celery

    8 oz any other root veg

    40z pearl barley or soaked lentils

    1 and half pints of chicken stock

    1 tin of tomatoes

    tomato puree

    oil

    salt & pepper

    teaspoon Cayenne pepper or paprika

    You can also add nearer the end of cooking sliced courgettes,green beans or peas.

    METHOD

    • Fry gently the chopped vegetables in the oil for a couple of minutes

    • Add tinned tomatoes,tomato puree and chicken stock.

    • Add lentils and / or pearl barley

    • cook gently till all vegetables are cooked.

    • Add seasonings

    • Cook for 2 more minutes.

    • Put all into a food processor till everything is finely chopped.

    • You can then return to pan and add small pasta pieces and tinned beans i.e. pinto,black eyed or cannelloni also worcestershire sauce if liked.

    • Butternut squash & chilli soup

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      (you can use pumpkin)

      This soup is just lovely & a great colour.Of course nothing is wasted & if using pumpkin the shell can be used for halloween!!

      2tbs olive oil

      1 onion finely chopped

      1lb10ozs/750g squash or pumpkin chopped

      1 carrot chopped

      4cm/1 & half inch piece fresh ginger

      1/2 tsp cinnamon

      1tbs ground corriander

      1 chilli chopped finely

      700ml/1 1/4 pints vegetable stock

      300ml/1/2 pint milk

      salt & pepper

      METHOD

      • In a heavy bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil & fry the onion over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until golden.

      • Add the squash,carrot,ginger,cinnamon & corriander.

      • Saute over a medium heat stirring for about 5 – 8 minutes until the vegetables are browned.

      • Add the stock & the milk and bring to the boil.Reduce the heat to simmer & cook for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

      • Add the chilli a few minutes before the end of cooking.

      • Blend until smooth in a blender or processor.

      • Season.

 

HOT LETTUCE SOUP

serves 4

This seems a bit strange..but it works.Just great when you have so many lettuces fully grown at the same time.

2oz /60g butter

1 small onion

4 lettuces washed,trimmed of thick stalks & chopped.

20fl oz/625ml chicken stock

10fl oz /315ml single cream

2 tbs cooked chopped chicken or bacon

2tbs dry sherry

salt & pepper.

METHOD

  • Melt butter in a pan,add onion & fry gently until soft.

  • Add lettuce & stir fry for 2 – 3 minutes then pour in stock & simmer for 20 minutes.

  • Stir in cream,chicken or bacon sherry,salt & pepper and gently reheat.

  • Do not boil or soup will curdle.

Strawberry time.


 

strawberryIt is strawberry time again and you can’t beat freshly picked strawberries from the garden or allotment plot . Below are a few ideas to use them if they have managed to get home .

Easy strawberry ice cream.

600g strawberries (plus 50g extra for chunks if you want them)

600ml double cream

200g sugar

(the proportions are equal measures of fruit to cream and 1/3 the weight in sugar so adapt it to suit the amount of strawberries you have)

  • Sieve (or use a food processer or blender) the strawberries.
  • Mix the strawberry puree, cream and sugar together.
  • Put in your ice cream maker and follow the machine’s instructions
  • If you don’t have an ice cream maker put it in a shallow plastic  container in the coldest section of your freezer. After a couple of hours, remove it and wizz with a hand held electric whisk. Leave for two hours again and repeat.
  • If you want strawberry chunks in your ice cream roughly chop the extra 50g and add when the ice cream is nearly set.

Easy strawberry jam.

Great strawberry jam is surprisingly quick and easy to make especially if growing your own  has left you with a glut, or you spot some overripe fruit going cheap at the market – it’s the flavour of summer all year round. All you need are good berries, and a little patience. And, of course, a good scone recipe.

…Don’t forget the cream..

Makes 4 x 200ml jars

2kg small ripe strawberries
1.7kg jam sugar
Juice of 2 lemons

  • Hull the strawberries and discard any rotten ones. Set aside about 10 of the smallest berries, and then mash the rest up into a rough pulp. Put into a wide, thick-bottomed pan, add the sugar and the lemon juice, and bring to the boil. Add the remaining strawberries to the pan, and put a saucer in the freezer.
  •  Boil the jam for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly checking the setting point every minute or so during the last 5 minutes. To do this, take the cold saucer out of the freezer, put a little jam on it, and put it back in to cool for a minute. If it wrinkles when you push it with your finger, then it’s done. Strawberry jam is unlikely to set very solid though, so don’t expect the same results as you would with a marmalade.
  •  Take off the heat and skim off the pink scum. Pour into sterilised jars and cover with a disc of waxed paper, seal and store

Strawberry Cordial.

500g strawberries
900g castor sugar
1 vanilla pod
2 lemons
500ml water

  • Crush the strawberries and sugar together until mashed to a pulp.
    Chop the lemons up and add to the water. Split the vanilla pod and add to the water and lemons. Simmer the lemon mixture for 10 minutes and then add the strawberry mixture. Simmer for 20 minutes and then allow to stand for two hours.
    Strain the mixture through a sieve and then through a coffee filter. Bottle in sterilised glass containers. Make up with fizzy water as you would bought cordial.