Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Our extension plans

I have managed to get our plans scanned and uploaded so here's the update as to where they are at the moment with our planning consultant. We had a few ideas on things that would work better for us and things that we thought weren't necessary so we've emailed for them to take a look. It is such a big move round from what we've got but we've tried everything else to get it passed and as I say our new consultant seems to think these will pass. 

It involves taking down all of the existing extensions which were built in concrete block and never rendered (as I would imagine the original plan was). There is a large double storey side extension, small single story front extensions and a single storey rear extension. They are crumbling from exposure to the weather for many years and didn't have the same foundations as would be expected now. Overall not a great loss, but certainly more expense and time.

The stairs would need to be turned around and the hallway upstairs would be on the other side of the house. Current room plan is not on the before plans but suffice to say that we don't have a a bathroom upstairs at the moment. Also downstairs after, none of the rooms are where they are at the moment.

It may be a bit clearer if you think that everything shaded pink has to be removed.

So there it is, our grand master plan, who knows what will happen?!

Friday, 27 March 2015

The power of the sun

We all love a bit if sun, especially the British as we get so damned little of it. It's really bringing my seedlings on in the greenhouse, my aubergines look fantastic as do my chilli's. I bought some seed from the real seed company this year as I'm trying to get up a collection of heirloom seeds that I can use each year. Anyway that's straying from my point. 

We got some real sun complete with blue sky today. Why so much joy you ask? I managed to get the nappies on the line bleaching in the sun. They've gone from a murky yellow to almost white. This is the same reason I have white towels, they don't fade, you can wash them on a hot cycle with bleach if necessary and on a sunny day you can bleach them in the rays. It's the first time all winter my wash has coincided with sun.

I always liked the idea of washable nappies, they're environmentally friendly, especially if you use them through more than one child. They'll do both of mine and I'll sell them afterwards (yes there's a market in used nappies). They look really similar to normal disposables but are prettier and there's not all the weird folding and pinning them like when I was a baby.
Once you've bought them you're done so it's economical and I always know no matter what happens the baby has nappies (snowed in, ran out of money, post apocalypse)!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Soup and house plans, an eclectic mix

James has been away in Germany for a few days so I've been free in the evenings to get a few things done. 

Last Friday I was given a bag of the worlds biggest parsnips, seriously, they were as long as the top of my washing machine! Thanks Kev! So I thought I'd cook up a big batch of Parsnip and Apple Soup to freeze, 'sure that'll use 'em all up' I thought. Well you need 1lb of parsnips, the recipe suggests 4 parsnips a pound. I weighed one parsnip, it was 1lb 4oz!!! These parsnips are going to go a lot further than I thought. I tried a different recipe to usual as this one has cream, I don't usually put cream in veg soup for the fat but I thought as I had a treat with my parsnips I'd go all out.

So the recipe's below, it's not too bad, smells sort of funky, but tastes nice. I doubled it so I'd have some left over. It's from a pinterest pin I found by Foodess.
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large potato, peeled and chopped 
  • 2 medium apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1 lb parsnips (4 medium), peeled and chopped 
  • 4 cups chicken broth (I used 1 litre chicken stock)
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup cream 
  • salt and pepper, to taste
1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onions and saute until softened but not browned, about 8 minutes. 
2. Add potato, apples and parsnips; stir in chicken broth and spices. Increase heat to bring soup to a boil, then reduce back to medium low and simmer, covered, until vegetables and apples are very soft, about 30 minutes. 
3. Puree in batches, Stir in cream and season well with salt and pepper.

To be honest I didn't take a photo of the soup, it's not great looking and food photography is not my thing. I did take a pic of the parsnips though.
Mutant parsnips

We also had our planning consultant over today to show us the plans that he's drawn up for us. The best part was that he's already spoken to our planning officer and he's happy (so he says) with the plans so we don't need to go through pre-planning approval (slightly less cost).
They've got everything we wanted on the plans, it was just not at all how I expected, the whole configuration of the house moves around. We also have to take down all of the  old extensions that had been done previously on the house as part of the deal. To be honest they are incredibly ugly, it just means a lot more work, but hey what's more work?!
I'll try and get them scanned so I can put them on here, they're on A3 so they're difficult to take a photo of. I'll get a post together on the current configuration and suggested so you can have a nose.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

First good weather of the year and we used it to the fullest

It was beautifully sunny here today. We spent all day in the garden finishing digging over the ground for the spuds. There was so much rubble. We really could have filled a small skip and it was such hard going, but...it's done!!! It's so nice to think that this is going to be the hardest year and next year we won't have to make every bed from scratch. We got four varieties in the ground, a first early, second early, main crop and salad potato. I also planted another 6 strawberry plants as two of three varieties that I bought as barefoot plants haven't shown any signs of growing.

Little man was a star and he helped (loose term) dig and baby girl had a two hour nap this morning and an hours nap this afternoon which really helped us plough on.

This week I've also got quite a few seeds into the propagators and sowed some carrots, parsnips and early peas in the beds. I can't wait to see the first shoots come through.

We've also got our new planning consultant coming round with some plans on Wednesday so I'm really excited to see them.

My two new chickens are really nervous and ventured out of their temporary coop for the first time in a week last night. 

The other girl's were loving the sunshine and there was even a wee bit of sunbathing going on!

I've also taken a few photos of the enclosure we hastily put together to keep Mr Fox from the girls. It's not in it's final position, in fact it's making an ugly spectacle of itself in my front lawn at the moment, but it makes me feel better when I'm not at home to watch the girls.

I've also been trying to get an idea of the hours and days I'll be working upon my return to work at the end of maternity leave :-( so I can book the kids into childcare, I really don't want my time at home to end. Anyway happy thoughts, I still have a few months to go so I hope I'll see some sun before I spend the daylight hours a dark dispensary.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Elderflower liquor, dreaming of summer...

I'll start this post by saying that neither me nor my husband are big drinkers. I will say though that after I delivered my baby girl in August I really wanted to have a drink after all the prohibition. A few days after she was born we made a trip to a craft centre come garden centre come local produce shop. They stock a local range of vodka made by the chase company which uses Herefordshire grown spuds to make vodka. I like to shop locally where possible and this shop lets you try samples (yippee). 

I love elderflower cordial and last summer made masses of cordial. I didn't want to consume all of the kilos of sugar that the recipe requires all at once so I froze some of the cordial for later.

Now I'm probably like lots of people, I save stuff I like for a rainy day and well it never gets eaten or used.

Long story short I bought a bottle of elderflower vodka and loved it. I mean I drank the bottle in a few months rather than the years that spirits generally sit in my cupboard. When it was done I thought 'I'll have a go at making that!'
So I actually did it with some of my rainy day cordial.

This recipe isn't very seasonal as obviously the elderflowers aren't out yet but believe me when they are I'll be in the hedgerows on the common stripping them bare  (actually saving some to go to elderberries for wine and the local birds, but that doesn't do my passion for elderflowers justice!)

You literally mix an equal amount of the cordial you make with vodka and it tastes just the same, really identical to the shop bought, result! So if you have any squirrelled away make some and if not then dream of the days of summer when you can get cracking.

Friday, 13 March 2015

From Malta with love

I've not posted for a few weeks as we've been away on holiday to Malta. It was really lovely to get away as a family and to leave work behind us for a while. I even fell asleep straight away every night without worrying about what I needed to get done next. Just before we went we made a bit of an emergency chicken run to try and keep the girls safe while we were away and my mother in law stopped by daily to give them food and fresh water. I'll post a few photos after the weekend.

Malta is a really beautiful island and even though it is winter there it was much warmer than here. We walked around with t-shirts or jackets on the whole time. The locals were all bundled up with winter coats and hats, they must have thought we were mad being only half dressed.

It has so much history and culture which is my thing when choosing a holiday destination so I was in my element. James enjoyed it too and the kids were so well behaved walking for hours round windy old streets.

We saw medieval cobbled streets and city walls, Roman catacombs, beautiful bays, British forts, the oldest human buildings on earth and so much more. I planned to make one photo collage but as you can see I made three! I have close to 1000 photos from a week so I think I did well really. 

I'd highly recommend a visit and for Europe it was really cheap, bottles of wine were only €3-4!

But now it's back to the grind and I plan to start some seeds in the propagator this weekend which I was leaving as I wouldn't be here for a week to keep them watered.