Garden. Books. TV

Loving the garden. Just loving it. I got the table and chairs out of the shed yesterday so I could actually sit outside (when it’s not raining . . .)

Just finished a marathon John Sandford binge. Lucas Davenport, Virgil Flowers, love them both. I also like that the characters are connected, and mentioned in books about the other one. Yeah. Then I tried to download some library books, and the Solihull library account is fine, but the Birmingham (UK) one isn’t. I have one last thing I will try and then if that doesn’t work just give up on Birmingham. It just widens the range of books I can download.

Also – Netflix. Heavily into Ozark – oh my god it’s so dark. And the plot twists always catch me by surprise. Nobody is very happy though. Everybody is either furious or terrified.Or dead. Nearly at the end of season 3 now . . .

And Parks and Recreation – late to the party as usual but oh we love this! we watch an episode or two of this after one episode of Ozark. I love all the characters, but I think my absolute favourite is April. And I worked for local government in the UK for the last 15 years or so of my working life, so it’s really interesting to see how it works in the US. The style reminds me of The Office, and the looks straight to camera crack me up every time.

Today I made some (dairy free) chocolate chip cookies. Yum. Thank goodness for the Thermomix (Bimbi). Makes cooking so damned easy.

Progress, sort of

I have just finished the second tension sample for the cardigan. Yes. Just. Normally it takes me an evening to knit up a sample square. Hey ho. Well, that one is too big too. I’m going to have to do another one on slightly smaller needles. Ho hum.

Went to Brighton the weekend before Christmas to see family. We stay in a lovely hotel in Bramber, which is right next to an old castle and church. It’s really nice and there is parking! which is an issue in Brighton. It’s about 15 minutes away in the car from ES. The only fraught thing about the whole weekend was charging the electric car. The infrastructure is simply appalling. Even when you find a charging point, you’re lucky if a) it’s working and b) there’s no queue. And it was cold!Christmas Day was wonderful. Just hubby and me. No worrying about the Appalling Mother any more. Just lovely food, gifts (of which more in a moment), siesta and relaxation generally.

One of the things hubby gave me was a paraffin wax bath for my wonky hands. Sometimes used by beauty salons, they are good for arthritic and painful hands. I had a go with it yesterday – takes some setting up the first time, as you have to wait for 3 x 1 lb blocks of paraffin wax to melt, but it was worth it. It’s very hot – 50-55o C – so you just dip the painful part in and take it straight out again, wait for the paraffin to set, and dip again. About 6 – 10 times is recommended. It is so soothing. The paraffin wax just peels off, and you can discard it, but as I’m the only person using it, I’m reusing the wax.

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Both the physio and the surgeon have discharged me from the hospital – 5 months after the operation.

It should continue to improve hopefully. Still a little swollen and quite stiff but I can manage most things.

Watching some excellent tv – Succession series 3, The Great series 2, the films Spencer, and The Power of the Dog. Wonderful drama. Spencer is about Diana (of course) and takes place one Christmas. The stuffiness and insistence on adherence to tradition, however dreadful, is claustrophobic. Some characters are invented, but make a strong point. Charles is portrayed as completely hidebound by the rules, but not a bad chap overall. Diana is portrayed as being very unhappy, resentful of Camilla Parker-Bowles (the mistress), unsurprisingly having mental health problems, and a wonderful mother. The Power of the Dog is a Western of a very different type from usual. Shot in New Zealand, directed by Jane Campion, it’s very very good. Dark and powerful.

Also last night watched Billy Connolly’s “My Absolute Pleasure”. He’s nearly 80 now, has Parkinson’s, and is such a lovely, lovely man. His sense of humour is delightful. I just love him to bits.

Hubby has gone into Solihull to spend some Christmas vouchers. Also he doesn’t feel comfortable being in the house when the cleaners are here. So I’m doing this, he’s in Solihull, and the cleaners are cleaning.

I’ve ordered myself a “monocular”. I can’t see through binoculars because of the stupid double vision, but I can see through a monocular. The plan is that when I see an interesting looking bird through the window I can grab it and actually see what’s going on. Mm. We shall see.

Not terribly pretty, but yum!

Made an apple and almond cake for Christmas. Hubby doesn’t actually like fruit cake. This is a recipe from Nadiya Hussain, who is just wonderful. I didn’t use olive oil for the icing though, just dairy free butter cream. And for Christmas I did white glace icing so it looks a bit more Christmassy. It’s absolutely delicious. Quite rich though. Even I can only manage one slice per day. But Oh. My. Days. it’s yummy.

I had to get a new computer in the end. The motherboard was clearly in distress. Strange random beeping noises and kept falling off the internet, when everything else in the house was fine. Hm. And managed to work out it is 3 years old. Not old for a personal/domestic computer, but the industry standard when I was working in tech (20 years ago now I know!) was to replace workstations every three years. So I’m on Windows 11 now. Had to tweak it a bit because it was quite slow, and took me a whole day to install it – which is usual, I will say, for Windows. But I’d backed everything up, so haven’t lost any data, so am fairly smug about it. I just need to nuke the old hard drive and Freecycle it – with clear warnings about the dodgy motherboard.

Hubby uses his Virgin email address and it wouldn’t work the other day. Eventually after much faffing about I discovered that it was locked for some unfathomable reason. So I ran a virus check (clear) and managed finally to change his password. After an hour it magically unlocked itself. FFS. What is that about? Damned blasted technology. But I think I won, even if I don’t know what happened. Mm.

And here is a photo of our cat. Just because.

And a very Happy New Year to you all.

Further Developments

Well, you’ll be delighted to know that the “empire” biscuits are absolutely delicious. A bit substantial, but delicious. Even I can only manage one at a time. I will be making those again!

The next day I made a Raspberry Bakewell Slice, which is something I do regularly. The last one wasn’t so great, but this time I made a special effort and actually read the recipe, and checked before/after I did anything. It’s for family at Christmas.

And as I’ve been feeling quite low and pathetic, weak and wobbly, I decided I’d have a go at some exercise for “seniors”. The exercise videos on YouTube for “the elderly” are mostly sitting down ones, and I can actually stand up . . . so I had a go this morning at Joe Wicks’ 10 minute exercise routine. I managed 5 minutes and that was fine. The next 5 minutes are a repeat of the first, so I’ll work up to that. Got the old heart pumping. Feeling quite good about it. If not actually smug.

Dreamed that our garden was horrible. Very glad to wake up and find out it is lovely. Here are some photos.

When I was at my lowest point in July and August, I was trying to think of what would help to cheer me up. The first thought was being by the sea. Not going to happen, I couldn’t have managed the journey. Next thought – being in the countryside. Same. So. I sat in our garden, in my pyjamas, with a cup of tea or a glass of water, just sitting. It was lovely. When it had rained, I could smell the herbs – rosemary, thyme, sage, mint. Just being outside helped so much!

Finally finished the tension sample for the cardi I have planned. It came up a bit big, so I’m doing another sample on a size smaller needles and will see how that turns out. I have a plan A and a plan B (of course!)

Winter is almost here

Today I did some baking. They’re called Empire biscuits (I don’t like even the word “empire) but they look lovely. Yet to be tasted . . . .

Hubby put up three wicker nest “boxes” at various points around the garden. The other day we were absolutely delighted to spot a little wren going in and out of one of them! excellent! however, as the photos show, I have a wildlife camera situated immediately above it. Now I dare not touch that particular camera because I don’t want to frighten the wrens. And that camera has the best view of both the bird feeding stations. Humph. I’ll just have to wait until any baby birds have fledged and then see where I could move it to.

Slowly starting to knit again. I’m doing a sample tension square, and normally I do one of those in an hour or so. It’s taking me ages and ages. Must be two weeks since I started it, but I can only knit two or three rows at a time – and there are only 28 stitches! ho hum. It still feels nice to be knitting again though.

(It’s actually a dark, garnet red)

I have a yellow rose, much beloved, that my sister gave me for my 60th birthday. It struggled with black spot this year but after some treatment came back fighting, and now there are buds trying to bloom despite the frost. Love it.

Not much happening, but . . .

Japanese Acer turned brilliant red in the autumn.

When I bought this years ago it was a twig. A tiny little twig. It’s in a pot so I can keep the soil ericaceous as that’s what it likes. It’s just outside the patio door so it’s protected by the house on one side and the fence behind it. I just love it. It needs very little maintenance. Every other year I scrape off the grit and top compost and put new ericaceous compost on top.

Still not started knitting yet – I have settled on a pattern and some yarn (Bergere de France Ecoton in this colour). I’ve gone off the original pattern I bought the yarn for, and found another pattern. (I prefer the shawl collar in this one). Then realised I needed more yarn. Luckily you can order from Bergere de France by dye lot number! which is excellent. However, what has happened now is that the extra yarn has arrived, but the original yarn has not. Apparently their system removes my house number from the label, so it’s probably gone back to the factory. In France. Yeah. Still, I’m enjoying the anticipation. And the colour of the yarn is even better in real life than I’d hoped. Mm.

Youngest granddaughter has lost her first tooth! Her mum has made a special pouch for the tooth so that the tooth fairy can find it easily. Her cousin (who lives in Southampton) is a year older than she is, and he decided to keep all his baby teeth in a box, so he can throw them at people should he want to. Love it.

Yesterday I made a cake. Different from my usual – a recipe from Nadiya Hussain. It’s apple and almond, dairy free. It was really good. My last efforts (muffins) eventually went mouldy, they were so dreadful. But this is nice. May well make it again. In fact, just thinking about it I want to eat some! but will wait till I’ve had my lunch.

The good, the bad, and . . .

A long time ago, about 20 years, I would guess, I went to our local supermarket to pick up some bits. I was feeling like five kinds of sh*t, and probably looked it too, although I was past caring.

Well. The product I wanted to get to (bacon, I think), was behind a trolley parked sideways with a small girl – I’d say about 3 years old? – sitting in it, dancing about and generally making sure everybody could see how cute she was. I was not in the mood, really not, so I ignored her.

She did not like that. She did not. So she leant towards me, and said, “You’re UGLY”. Her parents were absolutely mortified, as well they should be. They apologised profusely, and I accepted the apology with “oh it’s ok”. But it wasn’t ok. I was hurt, and still feel it now. How did that child learn that “ugly” was an insult? why did she choose to use it then? she was very small, I know, but neither of mine would ever have deliberately insulted a total stranger. Each other, yes, but total strangers? nope! They were not perfect, what child or what adult is, but really.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Look how long our grass has grown! desperate for the gardener now!

I’ve been very low lately, and sleeping way too much. I had a telephone appointment with a doctor, who arranged a face-to-face appointment at my local surgery, and that doctor (she’s the one I used to see before lockdown) has increased my anti-depressants. I have to go back in a month to see how that is going.

I feel slightly better straight away, knowing something constructive is happening. It felt like a long tunnel with no light at the end, but that feeling is fading.

Still sleeping too much, but apparently it can take about seven days for an increase in jolly drops to work. So that’s ok then.

Managed to go to the local shop today and get some bits and bobs. Yesterday I made carrot cake, and I was halfway through when I discovered that my self raising flour was three months out of date. So that went straight in the bin, and I used plain flour with extra baking powder. It seems to have worked ok, but both the cakes are in the freezer as they are for my daughter’s 40th birthday barbecue in July. She loves my carrot cake. So we won’t actually know until we cut into them whether they’re ok or not! love a bit of baking suspense . . . might need ice cream or glace icing, will see how we go.

Have ordered some full face visors. There is of course a bewildering array, and because I wear glasses I need ones with a head strap. I find the masks stifling and my glasses steam up.

Ironing is awaiting my attention, but having been to the shop today, and baking yesterday, it will need to wait until tomorrow.

And I’m wearing a brand new top today, from Fat Face. Sage green with little leaves embroidered on it. And the New Zealand quartz pendant from YD. Yeah. Little things.

Baking Fail

Well, tomorrow it’s my birthday, so I thought I’d make a cake. I made a chocolate cake the other week and it was delicious. This one was plain vanilla, but a disaster. The top was quite a lot smaller than the bottom of each piece, so it looked as if it was collapsing.

Huh.

So I cut it into squares, froze two lots and left one lot out and will make a trifle with it tomorrow. Ho hum.

The seedlings are doing their thing. Bit skinny but I’ve moved them onto the windowsill, reduced the heat in the bedroom, and am brushing them lightly with my hand each morning and night. This apparently makes them react as if it’s windy, and they grow a bit more sturdy.

The old Dell went the very next day. Excellent.

Am considering phoning the doctor’s to see if they’ll refer me to a rheumatologist for the pain in my hands (both of them now). Had steroid injections last September but am struggling now to do any knitting or crochet. Hmph. The doctor did say they would refer me if/when the pain returned. The specialist can do X-ray guided injections, which are more effective. And, I must say, less painful than injections done “blind”.

The garden is still a joy. And today the window cleaner came. Not only the windows, but all the outside doors got a jolly good wash. Really pleased.

Woke up at 10.30 this morning, but now it’s 14.25 and I’m ready for another sleep. Really? yeah. Really.

Been watching some excellent TV. The final series of Spiral (Engrenages), The Queen’s Gambit, Bloodlands, now the new series of Line of Duty, and we’re a bit late to the Netflix party, but Da 5 Bloods was excellent. Gory, fraught, emotional, all those things, but so good.

Right. Off to bed.

Frustration

Well, the new toaster and iron have turned up and are excellent. Hairdryer, however, has not, yet.

On Monday hubby couldn’t access his streaming service, all of a sudden, through the app he uses to listen to music. We both spent a fraught day trying to sort it out, and in the process we re-set his music player to factory settings.

That evening our cable supplier announced via its website that there was a local problem, so we weren’t surprised that we couldn’t access the cable box.

It took them until late Wednesday night to fix it and guess what? we still couldn’t access our cable box. I checked it on the internet and they said, after checking remotely, Oh it’s your box.

I spent 49 minutes this morning on hold waiting to talk to a guy who assured me it wasn’t the box. He talked to me like I’m an idiot, so I womansplained that I actually worked in tech support, and had already been through rebooting, checking connections, changing cables, blah blah blah.

He assured me nonetheless it wasn’t the box.

I eventually, by dint of faffing about with cables which are difficult to see upside down and close to a wall, even with a torch, then more faffing about inside the configuration program through which we’d reset everything (GAAAAAGH) , made it all work. It works a bit differently from before, but we can not only see but hear the blu-ray player, the TV directly, and through the cable box.

Meanwhile, hubby had contacted his hifi manufacturers, who advised him that they had just issued a new version of the software which runs his music, and lo and behold, his streaming service was magically back. 🙄. I remained calm, but suggested that next time his damn software goes wrong, we wait a day or two before doing ANYTHING.

First World problems, I do know. Yeah.

On the upside, I made some marvellous mince pies. And the Post Office/Royal Mail/whatever they’re called collected the five parcels I’d had terrible trouble arranging yesterday. Only one more parcel to arrange, and I’m looking forward to wrapping and sending that one.

Home Made (Ish) Mince Pies. (bought pastry, bought filling!)