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Saturday, 14 December 2013

More snow and absent builders

Well, the builder has decided it would be more convenient for him to do the finishing after the new year. This is because the house he uses locally has been 'winterised' when he went home (he lives a way off) and he doesn't want to have to open it up just for a few days. Basically all water is turned off and pipes and toilets emptied in case they freeze and burst. If we had realised he was going home we would have pressed to get the inside finished as there was no reason they could not do it, the outside I can understand. I like people to be straight. If he wanted to go home I would rather he said as we were putting off jobs that we are now doing so we can get the room used. Bah!

And on the subject of that, we have started to do the staining of the ceiling wood, but as the stairs are not finished we can't do them. Dave has turned his new DIY hands to laying ceramic tiles on the floor and has done a very good job, as he always does. It was a bit stressful for him as the kitchen tiles are not straight so that finding where to start was interesting. But hopefully he can get our Christmas tree decorated, which we were putting off while we thought the builder would have been making dust. They will still get dusty from the fire but hey ho.

The fire is proving very efficient. As mentioned before we do not have central heating, but the heat travels through the extension and up the stairs and heats everywhere. We have frost every night so it has been well tested. Dave usually lets the dogs out in the night if he needs to get up (we go to bed by 9.30, old habits die hard!) and puts a couple of logs on, but even if he doesn't the embers soon catch in the morning, so we haven't had to re-light it for a while now. We occasionally light the one upstairs if it gets too cold, or if one of us wants to use the 'craft' room. Dave is still painting if the weather is bad or he is not doing anything in the house. He has done one recently of Marilyn Monroe, which is lovely, but unlike all the photos it hasn't been airbrushed and I think is better. So now he has had a go at a person, he is going to have a go at local beauty spots, so landscapes next.

Dave has also been having a go at plumbing. He is so busy, just as he likes it, but not when he is busy with something else! Just as he was setting up to paint I realised I was paddling round the kitchen. The U-bend had detached from the kitchen sink. So it was off to the shops for more bits and while he was at it he put some shelves in so I had more space to keep things tidy.

Our lovely neighbour, Venka, is still trying to keep us (Dave) well fed. Even though we bought all that meat last week she called him across yesterday and gave him a kilo of mince and a couple of jars of potted beef (she NEVER stops working, the outside fire where she does her preserving is always lit). When I was letting the chickens out there was a lot of activity over there, and Venka seemed excited when I said hello. It all became clear when I went out to put the washing on the line and there was an almighty noise coming from their stock yard where the pig was seeing it's end. What timing! In I rushed and switched on the radio and now all is quiet. Dave might be going over for rakia some time soon to see if he wants anything for the freezer again. They must think me very strange for hiding from the world at these times even though they know I don't eat meat. Bless them, I just hope they are not to offended.

In the garden there is not a lot happening. Weeds have sprung up under the snow, which disappeared overnight when we had a warm breeze, only to start snowing again by 8am. It was different snow this time. The first batch was like the wet 'snowball' snow we had in the UK, this was fine and powdery, no good for snowballs. I didn't last more than a couple of days. The broccoli is looking very sorry for itself. The snow had bowed it down and the constant frosts have kept it looking sad, but it still looks healthy, if that is not a contradiction. The forcast tells us that the frosty nights will continue for weeks yet, which I suppose is why the gardens are emtied of veg for the winter....apart from lettuces(?) and onions and garlic. The cabbages still there are frozen coming in to the kitchen so I just cut off what we need and send the rest to the chickens.

And talking of chickens, there is now a duet of crowing in the mornings. Mini Sev had joined Big Sevi in the dawn chorus. Sevi has a very clear "cock-a-doo" where as Mini Sev has a very hoarse "cock-a-gurgle" bless him. We are still only getting one egg most days with and from Silver occasionally, the rest of the time they are eaten.

In the kitchen I am still experimenting with making veggie stuff with walnuts and trying to get to grips with the wood oven. I am getting a dab hand at one pot meals, but obviously that has to be two meals, one with meat. The latest experiment was some beany spicy bites. Bites because the texture was not quite right so I couldn't roll them in to balls, so just put little bits on a tray in the oven. They were so delicious and I couldn't stop eating them. I kept it simple as I knew I would forget to write the recipe down, so it was a good handful each of sweated onion, roughly chopped borlotti beans, very finely chopped walnuts and breadcrumbs, with a beaten egg, sage, salt and pepper and garlic. With a dash of gravy browning as the colour was a bit too sludgy. Put a few in my 'meat and tater' pie when Dave had his beef one and really enjoyed it.

As Dave had been especially busy I also made him another favourite, chocolate sponge with chocolate custard. But with some butterscotch sauce and rather ripe banana in the bottom. I forced myself to join him but then suffered with indigestion at bed time. Ah well, sometimes it's worth the suffering!

And finally, we had the most beautiful little bird in the garden the other day. Initially, with the sun behind it Dave thought it was a robin as it was that shape. We have not seen a robin here but we are told they are about. But it turned out to be a lovely black redstart, which we found out after studying the photo he took and asking for ID. As my brother in law said, it looks like a very cold robin, due to the blue/grey colouring!


  1. I love the work Dave has done in the kitchen in the previous post. Looks really nice. You can't beat home-made, in my opinion. Even with all it's imperfections the feel of satisfaction every time you look at or use something you've created yourself is well worth the trouble.

    As for the builders...well...things aren't much better over the border here. The most important thing is not to pay them a penny till everything is done. Even if they're 90% done, don't be tempted to give them 90% of the cash otherwise they'll disappear leaving the job unfinished. I learnt this the hard way unfortunately and not only had to finish the job myself, but had to rip out a lot of what they had done (and been paid for) and do it again myself.

    Do you have a good recipe for bean burgers? I'm not a vegetarian, but neither am I a 'meat with every meal' type; I usually eat meat once or twice per week max. There's a burger place in Bath called Schwartz Bros. which does a fabulous bean burger. I usually prefer to order that rather than the meat ones. I had a go at trying to replicate it myself and the result was tasty, but it still fell apart a little too readily for a hand-held burger. Are there any tricks to making them stay together better?

    1. Thanks very much for the comments, I have to admit the extra work space is fantastic.

      With regards to builders, in a way I don't care if they don't come back (they will as they have left equipment in the cellar!) as the work left to do is something we can easily do ourselves. All the trims that need fixing to finish the T&G is stained and ready in the cellar, the rest is sanding and painting. What is outstanding is more than it is worth. But the English builder relies on word of mouth for his work and the Brit community is surprisingly small when it comes to spreading the word, so they will be back and they will do a good job!!!!!

      As for bean burgers. I really don't tend to use recipes, I use what I have to hand. I have tried adding potato and breadcrumbs to hold them together, but you need to use a lot and it spoils the texture. I have also used pumpkin in those and walnut sausages with little success. Instead I roll them in plenty of flour and fry them till they are crisp and very brown before turning. Then pick the bits that fall out of the roll up afterwards! No good for barbies unless you put them between wire mesh.

    2. Keep this up, now got Terry Doe reading it. ;)

  2. Thanks Growler tee hee
    You don't know how chuffed I am at your comment. I have been a fan of Terry's for years after home sitting for BC's parents in Liverpool and having access to all the back editions of Dogs Today and his lovely tales of Morris which had me laughing out loud, much to the confusion of the Bearded Collies I was looking after.