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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Looking forward to spring

I know we have a way to go yet, and the weather is bitter at the moment and due to get worse before it gets better. But I always feel that New Year is just that, a time to look forward to what the next twelve months brings, in the hope that it will be all good.
We had more snow in the form of a blizzard

It blew to the door

Then it froze and glistened like sugar

We have hibernated and Dave has taken up his paint brushes in an effort to keep his mind occupied. He has almost recovered from a bad chesty cough which he has kindly passed on to me, so I am not feeling guilty for veging out on the sofa, only rousing myself to make meals and see to animals. The fire is in constantly though we don't have it roaring. Once the temperature is up it doesn't take a lot of wood to keep it mellow. The upside being we have a constant source of heat for cooking and boiling water. (I do like my hot water bottle) The animals take turns to sit in the warmest bit when they are not on he sofas.
Taking turns



These two seem to end up on my knee
Splash trying to reach the mice which have moved into the open loft out of the cold. They are wily and we can't trap them, so it's about time he found his way up there!

But this isn't the way


We were round at the neighbours' house the other night to celebrate the daughter's 50th birthday back in September, with some of their friends and family from the village. As usual a lovely warm evening, with celebration bread and fireworks on the Christmas cake we gave them (we knew they would give it to the daughter) Lots of food as usual, such generous people.

Celebration bread, adorned with fireworks and some of the Christmas biscuits we gave them

SIL Angel, Venka, daughter Pepa, Dad Jordan

Christmas cake

It seems the mince pies had gone down well the previous evening when a party was held at their home. It's nice that we can introduce them to something new.

So, with the weather as it is the chickens are fed up (but still laying) but the ducks seem to like sitting in the snow and having a bathe in their pond which Dave is fighting to keep liquid. The wild birds are flocking to the chicken food and wild bird feeders with grain and walnuts in them.
Spot and Spotty (they have no names yet)
Some of the sparrows waiting for dinner

The weather has brought chaos to the roads and there have been several deaths directly linked to the cold. You often hear about Britain grinding to a halt at the first whiff of snow, and that other countries cope much better. But that is not always the case. There is a lot more traffic on the roads with it being a holiday season, not just Bulgarians but skiers too. Roads have collapsed, there has been sheet ice and many accidents despite winter tyres. An old person even died in the garden going to the outside loo (fell in the snow) I think if people here had to travel to work in the numbers they do in the UK there would be more problems but the population is only just over 7 million so the percentage of mis-haps is high. Many villages have been without electricity in our region making the wood burners absolutely vital for survival for heat, boiling water, cooking. There is a lot to be said for moving into one room, though they don't tend to have multiple pets cluttering up the place. But many in rural areas are still using the outside loos as it is considered unhygienic to have one inside and many don't have that option in the villages.

The house pets are doing quite nicely, they like a romp in the snow, even Splash, then there is a fight to see who can get closer to the fire! Bella likes to bring 'finds' in and currently that means large icicles, bless her
Bonnie still likes a play in the snow





Splash trying to see out of the window to find out what the noise is (Dave scraping snow)

We don't want icicles in here thank you Bella


We didn't go to the end of year do in the village hall this year. We are both feeling under par for one, and these days feel uncomfortable being segregated into the British group. How things have changed in a year, something I will have to think about for next time.

Meanwhile, we would like to wish all our readers, old and new, a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. I hape you all get what you want in 2015.


Sunday, 28 December 2014

Well, the weather held.....

....for a day at least. I was looking forward to having lunch outside and we moved the table out ready...then a sneaky wind got up...came from nowhere. Not to be put off by the flying tablecloth that the weights couldn't cope with, we moved the table nearer the wall. I was not going to be beaten. And yes, the wind cooled the food a little quicker than we would like, but we are in Bulgaria and cold food is normal! Of course, as soon as we had finished, so did the wind.
Santa's been!!! But...I haven't been shopping.

My pillowcase contained  jumper, a couple of sieves, one plastic and one metal, and sweeties. While Dave had whisky, Baba socks and sweeties. The box was from Dave's sister who also sent the lamp shade frame, with shorts, real vanilla products...and more sweeties. So many sweeties.

Quick pic before the food went cold. Nothing burned or overcooked. Lovely


We had a lovely meal in the sun, it was a lovely low key day altogether. We didn't see anyone except the neighbours (who thought it a good day to plough as the ground had dried a bit...they were right!) and a couple who brought us a card and ordered a birthday card. We talked to family on Skype, and as Venka was about when Dave gave his niece a tour of the garden (on Skype) she shouted lots of happy Bulgarian at all the family with great enthusiasm. Bless her, she couldn't see them but knew they were there.
My veggie meal.....which looks more than Dave's goosey meal but he hadn't finished loading.....


Tulip looking hopeful
And Sevi looking....nice but dim...in his new glossy feathers

A spot of bird watching, bothe for different reasons I suspect
Hawfinch

Pudding came much later


I don't like icecream....

The trifle can wait. It was nice by the way, didn't miss the sherry with having the boozy raspberries

Splash has continued his pursuit of shiny balls, but only, it seems, when he wants attention. The tree has got away lightly so we quit while we were ahead and it has been put away for another year.

Boxing day was taken up making the mince pies and biscuits for the neighbour. While Dave cracked on with decorating them I made some cards for our friend to choose from. Dave took them round to next door, away from the animals and damp in the back room or heat in the kitchen.


An ususual decoration for mince pies, but they were for a party rather than Christmas

So yesterday was our Boxing day I suppose. We talked to family again and showed them the snow....yes, SNOW. It had started spitting the evening before but was snowing hard by 5am, turning black Bella white when she went out for a wee. What a change. It snowed all day but it was wet and was melting as fast as it settled so didn't get any deeper than a couple of inches. Bonnie turned into a bouncing puppy for a minute or two, chasing Bella around the box bush, with Splash darting about aimlessly wanting to join in but knowing that Bonnie can be a tad clumsy. It froze hard overnight so at least it was easy walking about doing the birds in the morning. It seems to be thawing but we have -14 forecast next week, with a little more snow. Hopefully it will kill off any bugs which came out, fooled into thinking spring had arrived.

A nice pastel sunrise this morning. We have had amazing sunrises and sets these last couple of weeks

An alternative Christmas tree, the chillis are ripening well. Splash doesn't seem to want to play wth them

Dave is bravely helping to get through the sweeties before the season is over. Cadbury's was never like this in my day

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Is it really 24th December?

It's hard to believe. The sun is shining and temperatures are up in the high teens. We have taken our coffee breaks out in the garden, sitting on dining chairs in t-shirts. No doubt we will pay for it, we have weather warnings for the end of the week with snow and ice expected. But until then we shall enjoy what we have and if it is as nice tomorrow as today we will be having Christmas dinner in the garden!


It has been a busy week. On Sunday we took twenty or so mince pies round to Venka and Jordan as the daughter and son were round for lunch. Dave had made a list of what was in mincemeat as there is no translation for them and we thought it would be easier to do it that way. It's safe to say that they went down well with all of them, so much so that I have been asked to make some more and some shortbreads for a party to celebrate the daughter's 50th birtday back in September. So more mincemeat has had to be made. They can be our 'present' to her.
Something for us...cheese scones, yum

Monday we made a hundred or so biscuits and iced them all for the neighbours etc. As well as the vanilla and chocolate shortbread we made ginger snowmen...which we had to taste just in case...they were lovely and I will certainly be making them again. They took up the whole day and have now been delivered and appreciated. Venka has had her cake, with an explaination about what it is. She was a bit overwhelmed, but whether it was the cake, biscuits or the photos we had printed out of the puppy, which it seems they are all besotted with, we have no idea. Lets hope it continues when shw grows up. She is off the chain at the moment and living in the recently vacated pig pen. She will be fine in there till the new weaners arrive in spring.




Ginger snowmwn. Easy to make and delicious,

 http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/gingerbread-bunting


The marzipan just about stretched to two cakes


We decided to add the plastic snowmen and tree as they are traditional, but the rest is more modern with pearlised snowflakes

We favour the more simple approach for our own



Yesterday we went into the city for lunch with a group of people we met over the summer, and some new ones. It was a get-together organised by David Morgan, the plant grower, and his partner Graham and it was a really nice event. We had a laugh and caught up with news...and on top of that had a nice meal. Unfortunately I had been awake since 3am and that meant we were shattered by the time we got home after calling in for some shopping, and had to give a party given by an ex-pat in the village a miss.

We both had baked brie with almonds and blueberry jam (I could make them a chutney thet would work better)

Dave's steak and chips with peppercorn sauce. It smelt wonderful and he thoroughly enjoyed it

Crusted salmon, hollandaise sauce and scrummy potatoes. I can't eat big meals any more and we gave pudding a miss.

Today I have been cooking. I am my mother's daughter and I find it hard not to do too much. I hope I have only done as much as we will eat. All thet remains to do tomorrow is potatoes and cream for the trifle. I made an extra pud for Dave, a half sized baked vanilla and chocolate cheesecake. He would rather  have that than trifle....though he might change his mind as I used the raspberries out of the rakia wih some from the freezer. You can still have boozy trifle even if you can't get sherry!
Raspberry rakia

Home made fruity stuffing, bread sauce, apple sauce and Dave's goose breast, stuffed and wrapped in serrano ham, will have some thin pork fat sliced and laid over as there is no skin

Trifle, rather full with egg custard. We only have UHT cream so we won't have much on it.

You've heard of micro herbs? These are micro sprouts and caulis, but they are all our's. The caulis are going manky so we thought we had better use them

Nut roast

Grab and go olive and garlic and cheese and garlic bread sticks. Dry and plain for when you want something to chew on

Chocolate and vanilla cheesecake

You have to have sausage rolls don't you. These are made with my home made veggie sausages

We have had lots of ding dongs on the doorbell today. Dave took Venka and Jordan to the market and since he came back he has been constantly answering the bell, recieving cards from our British friends (they won't all come in) and small gifts from the neighbours. Dave went round to our rear neighbours to see how Angel was as we had been told he would be in hospital until next week. But he was home and they were so pleased to see him, though Angel is very frail and showing his 83 years. They have help from a lady in the village and Dave has said he will help with chopping wood and such if they need him. Bless them, lovely people.
Cake from our Russian neighbour

Chocolate and biscuits from our rear neighbours

A small bottle of rakia from Baba Danke........

....And some dried peppers
And, of course, we are still eating the goodies sent by my friend Nigel. I am limiting my smarties to make them last longer, the chocolate coins have gone and the Advent calendars are finished today.

All the animals have been enjoying the better weather. Splash spends a lot of the day outside playing and  hunting and being chased by chickens and ducks. The dogs have also been playing and Bonnie has a spring in her step. albeit a lame one. The fowl are spending their time either sunbathing or scratching about at the far end of the plot. The bees have even been out and Dave says they are doing housework, whatever that means.
The dogs look a bit bewildered with this weather

It's a bit hot mum....

Both after the same ball
And rest...

Before boxing himself.....

....or Dave. I'll 'ave yer....

As far as wildlife goes, there has been a lot of twittering going on as the birds enjoy the better weather. The hawfinches are still about and the black redstarts. They are hard to photograph with the sun being so low. The pine martens are screeching and chasing each other around the garden, Dave sees them when he lets the dogs out early. Splash doesn't take much encouragement to come in when they are about...he has no wish to meet them!

There have been no dramas with the Christmas tree. As expected, Splash desperately wanted to get up there to play with the shiny balls, but hanging plenty low means that when he has gone on there he has not needed to climb But like a naughty child who wants because you say no, if you don't make a fuss (or just squirt him with a syringe of water) he has more or less lost interest. Possible that wouldn't have happened if it had been cold and murky still outside and he had wanted to stay in.
No-one can see me.....

....this is fun....

////just see if I can reach that one....

Yesterday my blog reached 60.ooo page views and I would like to thank readers old and new for continuing to support and encourage, especially those who leave comments. Much appreciated.

So all that remains today is to wish everyone a happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous 2015. I hope you all get what you wish for.