Thursday, 18 February 2016

Wet and dry garden days

Yesterday was a wash out, it rained non-stop and I wasn't well. The highlight of the day was spotting 15 sparrows sheltering in the front of the stable, all of them hopping about picking up bits of corn and seeds dropped by the chickens or possibly by us. I also had a bad day healthwise, my adrenals were hurting, I was quite swollen particularly in my legs and in the early evening had a horrid allergic reaction to something. But I guess if I have to have a stay inside day because I am not feeling well, I'd rather it was a rainy day than a gloriously sunny day like today has been.

Luckily, the pain and swelling have subsided quite a bit today, so after breakfast Mr J and I drew up a new list of things to do and headed outside to tackle one of the jobs. We have moved more shrubs from various spots around the garden to the shrubbery and we also decided to continue the shrubbery around the corner of the parking area so it co-ordinates and looks more integrated.
This afternoon my sister came for a cuppa and a chat, at my request she also brought over some photo albums that she had stored from my parents' home. So over tea and homemade gluten free jam tarts we giggled at my baby photos and photos of her on a donkey, of us in matching coats when we were on holiday in Spain and Gibraltar as small children, of our brothers and of mum and dad looking so young.

I introduced the Cream Legbars to her, typically they had no manners and didn't even pause from their scratching and pecking to show her how lovely they are (Mr J managed to get this great photo of them playing in their house despite us having doubled the size of their run last week, today's game was tapping on the window with their beaks). Jack and Diesel were much more well-mannered and on cue ran over to us to see if we had anything of interest for them.

Just before the light faded I went out to take a few photos for this blog, but got side-tracked by the lovely sunset. So tomorrow, weather permitting I will take a few more photos of individual plants that are coming into flower prematurely (as so many flowers are doing this year).

The golden glow of the sun reflecting on the windows of the house this evening was delightful. I get so much pleasure from living here and feel very lucky to have found this beautiful place to call home.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Gluten free, low fat Cecily Chicken Salad

My late mother used to make her version of Coronation Chicken for us, especially at Christmas and I have continued that tradition for my children, although nowadays I vary the ingredients a great deal. My daughter has asked for the recipe and so that I can show her exactly how I make it, here it is and I'm calling it Cecily Chicken Salad.

This is a quick and easy dish to make and I use lots of leftovers so it varies every time. Some ingredients I have in my fridge and larder all of the time, I use fat free fromage frais and low fat cream cheese in any recipe that needs a creamy sauce, for frosting on cakes and as an alternative to cream on fresh fruit.

Yesterday we had jacket potatoes with our supper, so I put a few extra potatoes into the oven, a couple to dice for breakfast potatoes and one to use with this recipe. It makes sense to me to fill the oven each time I put it on, with food that can be used later in the day or the next day or that can be frozen for use at a later date. I also baked some butternut squash and took a bag of roast chicken pieces out of the freezer, so they'd be ready to use today .
I wrapped the squash in kitchen foil and baked it for the hour that the potatoes were cooking. If I hadn't had the oven switched on anyway, I wouldn't have included the potatoes or the butternut squash in my recipe and used leftovers of what vegetables we'd had with our meal last night.
This morning I scooped out the seeds (and set them aside for the chickens in the run as a treat for them) and cubed the butternut squash and baked potato and checked that the chicken had no little bones left in it and chopped it into large pieces.
 Then I was ready to assemble the salad.
 Cecily Chicken Salad

8 oz chopped Roast Chicken
1 large baked Potato, cubed
2 heaped tablespoons roasted Butternut Squash, cubed
1 small tub Lightest Philadelphia Cream Cheese
2 heaped tablespoons fat free Fromage Frais
1/2 small tin of Coconut Cream (shake tin vigorously before opening)
Pinch fresh Nutmeg
1/2 tspn coarsely ground Black Pepper
1 & 1/2 tspn dark Marmalade
1 heaped tspn Korma Paste
1 tablespoon Sultanas
Fresh Parsley to garnish

Put the low fat cream cheese, fromage frais and coconut cream into a large bowl.
Add a little fresh ground nutmeg and the black pepper and stir well until it becomes fairly smooth.
Add the marmalade and korma paste and mix until it's all incorporated into the cream cheese mixture.

I leave some small lumps of cream cheese for the variety in taste and texture.
Add the chicken and potato and stir until coated with the sauce.
Gently crush the butternut squash and stir into the mixture together with the sultanas. 
Cover and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours for the flavours to mature.
Serve with salad leaves, ice salad, rcarrot and orange salad or any other salad that you find refreshing.
Serves 4.

Monday, 15 February 2016

A constructive weekend

Mr J and I have had a busy weekend. Having built an extension to the chicken run last week, we turned our attention to the inside of the stable. We shared a few smiles about the romance of spending Valentine's Day morning mucking out. There's nothing like a couple of hours of shovelling partly rotted hay, sawdust and manure together to make you feel close to each other.

Half way through the morning we realised that we were starting to get short of space in the compost bin and not wanting to overload it with one type of material, we decided that we needed to make another compost bin. A quick search in the piggeries yielded two more pallets to strap to the existing compost bin as an extension.

We are rather short of green material for the compost bin at the moment, but as the year goes on I am sure there will be plenty available and I'll add it to the bin as I get it. Once we have created some more compost bins in other areas of the garden I can incorporate more of the partly rotted sawdust from the pile which I have been building behind the compost bins.

After a good wash and a bit of lunch, I settled down on the sofa to watch the Italy v England match while Mr J worked in his study. Mr J presents a couple of radio shows each week, one is his Retro Album Chart which features two years each week and plays tracks from the albums that were in the charts on that week of the particular year that he's selected. It's quite nice to listen to songs that I'd forgotten about and he tends to play the less obvious choice of track from each album, whenever he can.

The other show is the Titus Jennings Experience, which is a selection of songs that he's chosen. Sometimes there's a theme to the programme, sometimes he's inspired by an event, but the one thing each programme has in common is that the music isn't confined to one genre. Some programmes I like almost all the songs, other week's I am not so keen, but then, that's the joy of variety. His programmes can be heard on a few different stations and archived shows can also be found on his blog at

Late afternoon we decided to tackle the kitchen island which we are creating from the kitchen units that we found via Gumtree. We've been using it at the height it was when we got the units, but really that was too high by the time my butcher's block was sitting on top of the cupboards. So we removed the legs that came with the units and created a base for them from reclaimed 2 x 4 wood (another Gumtree find). We bolted the base units together and rehung doors and all that's left to do is for us add the decorative panels to the sides and to buy a new piece of work surface to go on top of it. The kitchen looks so much better now that it isn't dominated by the units in the middle of it and it's more functional too.

I have finally been able to empty all the boxes of cooking utensils into the cupboards. The utensils have been in extra large plastic tubs on the floor for the last two months, which although it kept them all together, wasn't very pleasing on the eye or very practical. I have toyed with giving some of the larger bowls, dishes and cake tins to a charity shop, but have decided to wait for a while in case I decide to make some large cakes for visitors during the spring and summer.