Monthly Archives: May 2016

The Garden

The front garden, which has been my project for the last 12 months is coming along nicely. It needs more plants in it and I got another dozen to plant up on Sunday. Typically, since then the weather has been foul and I’ve not had a chance to actually put them in the soil. I’ve got Astilbes, Lupins, Freesias (my mums favourite if I remember correctly), Anemones and a couple more Geums. I also got several ferns for Eeyores place down one side of the house that is particularly gloomy. I think that once they’re in it will begin to look more cottage gardeny although I suspect more plants will be required to get the desired effect but I’m pleased with it so far.¬†20160531_113633

The tulips out there did very well on long, straight stems but didn’t last as long as I had hoped mainly due, I think, to the wet weather. The alliums are looking particularly good at the moment as do some other plants I put in last year but have no idea what they are now.

I have been disappointed with the foxgloves though. After writing about how easy they are to grow and how they self seed everywhere, this year, despite having loads growing previously and possibly a billion seeds falling to the soil, only half a dozen have started to grow. What a bummer!20150612_100703

I like foxgloves for their height, their attraction to bees, their beautiful flowers and how easy they are to grow (usually). I can’t help thinking that the extremely wet winter we had has caused the seeds to rot away or, knowing my luck, the seeds floated off and one of my neighbours has a beautiful display.20150612_100842

Having said that, apparently it’s one of the joys of gardening insofar as you never quite know what each year will bring. I’m inclined to go along with that although the sense of disappointment when something doesn’t quite work out how you planned is a pain in the neck or, in my case, a pain in the lower back. Still, very soon now the front garden will be looking splendid and it will be time to contemplate the back garden which is looking more than a tad neglected. We (by ‘We”, I mean PIL) have plans for the back garden. Just about any plants we put in the beds last less than a season due to being flattened by youngsters playing, in no particular order, cricket, football, basketball, tennis, trample dads plants and take off the flowers with a frisbee (the last two being particular favourites with our kids). Once the front is finished, all the plants in the back garden will be transferred to the front to fill in any spaces there and the ensuing space planted with shrubs.2004_OND-BELL-HEBEVI4

Shrubs tend to be more resilient to the kind of abuse my kids hand out plus they don’t seem to be so sensitive to being pissed on by the dog (and by me from time to time when I can’t be arsed to come in). The additional bonus of having shrubs there is that they quickly grow large enough to devour all kinds of balls, frisbees and water pistols. Either that or shrubs have some kind of portal to another dimension where stuff like that disappears for all time. A bit like washing machines and socks.

Now that I have made my sister Boo

Boo. My sister. She often looks like this

Boo. My sister. She often looks like this

happy by writing about gardens and my toiletry habits I am going to go and dig some holes to put our new plants in cos it’s stopped raining. I just hope there isn’t any cat crap out there.

Have an outstanding day. They are the best ones to have.

More Dick soon.auto

Guilt

I’m sitting at home feeling guilty. The soaps are on TV so PIL is destroying several million brain cells watching them. She enjoys mindless TV apparently and Morgan Freeman help anyone who speaks while they’re on.

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So why do I feel guilt?

I have been away for a couple of weeks working.

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I disappeared on the 13th May to start on a task on the 14th. It was scheduled to finish on the 29th. It didn’t. By 11am on the 28th we had finished and after a horrendous journey on the M25, I had returned home to my family by 4pm. This meant that I was able to watch the Play off final between Hull and Sheffield Wednesday and then swop channels to watch the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid while still being paid. I also spent Sunday the 29th poking around in the garden, the local garden centre, walking the dog, spending time with my family (except Greg who was at his girlfriends “revising”) and getting paid while I did so. Is this why I feel guilt? No chance!

No. I feel guilty because on the 16th the builders appeared to start work replacing the family bathroom, the en-suite and the downstairs loo and poor PIL had to deal with it all. It did not get off to a good start. Within 30 seconds of arriving, one of the builders had smashed a vase. It did not improve at all over the next couple of weeks. There were no major disasters, just a series of minor problems that started driving PIL nuts.

The builder sent an email stating:

“Get any shower you like for the bathrooms.”

assuming that we remembered a brief conversation we had many weeks previously where he said that the main bathroom needed an electric shower. We didn’t so PIL got the wrong showers which in turn meant there wasn’t any shower in the house for 2 days as a pump had to purchased and it had to be installed and because of that delay, the radiators haven’t been fitted. Not having a shower for two days is a major disaster in our house!20160530_150927

Then they installed the toilet for the main bathroom in the downstairs loo. Why? They didn’t ask and just installed the toilet closest to hand. Another morning lost. Each of the sinks is having a cabinet fitted underneath. The one in the downstairs toilet was going to be full length. So that’s what PIL got. Then it turned out that due to some issues with pipes, it needed to be a wall hung unit. So PIL ordered one. The following day she noticed they were installing the full length cabinet. So she had to cancel the wall hung unit but it had already been despatched and so on and so forth………..

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Work has commenced in the en-suite and has been more involved than at first thought but at the same time, the tiling in the main bathroom hasn’t been completed. Why? No idea.20160530_150833

I explained to the guy that we have absolutely no issue with the workmen or the standard of workmanship but there has been a distinct lack of communication and he has made a very dangerous assumption that we understand what he is talking about. Neither of us is thick and we are very good at every aspect of our professional lives but we know absolutely nothing about building, plumbing or tiling middle-age-man-tools-18781280

so he needs to treat us like a couple of morons and use simple words of one syllable or less and not assume that we will remember a short conversation about showers that took place some weeks previously.

“In future mate, put on your emails; ‘any shower you like but remember the main bathroom needs an electric one’!”

The builders are back today and I have told their Boss to be here later today so we can thrash out all these niggling issues once and for all. The plan is that the bathrooms should be finished this week. We shall see. Until then I will continue to feel guilty about leaving PIL to deal with all this nonsense although I have to say she has done a bloody marvellous job dealing with the builders and a never ending series of hiccups while at the same time selecting all the units and tiles and showers and baths and bogs and basins. It’s looking good.

I think our new bathrooms may be the subject of another post real soon. Until then have a bloody excellent day.

More Dick soon.

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Toad in the Hole. A recipe.

 

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For those of you who don’t know what toad in the Hole is, don’t worry. I’m not about to chuck an amphibian into a fire pit and cook it although I have eaten frog legs. Tastes like chicken. Nope. Toad in the Hole is Yorkshire pudding with the addition of sausages (bangers). The reason this culinary delight is called Toad in the Hole is beyond me as is the reason sausages are called ‘bangers’. I never said I would explain why the English are weird.

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Toad in the Hole is my signature dish. My mum taught me how to cook it and I do make a pretty decent version. You will note that I don’t list quantities or weights cos I never measure or weigh ingredients which probably explains why some of the meals I cook end up looking like baby poo and, occasionally, a plate of vomit. Heyho. I may look like the Michelin Man but I have no stars. It is a great meal to have though. Cheap as chips and if you use Quorn sausages, it’s suitable for veggies too.

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You will need the following:

Plain flour, eggs, milk, some vegetable oil and some bangers. I prefer to use Cumberland sausages simply because I like them but you can use whatever bangers you like.

You will also need a big bowl, a sieve, a whisk or fork and two deep oven tray thingies – a big one for the main event and a smaller one for the secret. Don’t use the trays for making little individual Yorkshire puds. Well, ok. If you really must then you can.

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Sieve the flour into the big bowl. This starts to put air into the mixture. Beat in two or three eggs until you have a gooey mess. This should add more air to the mixture. Then gradually start to add milk and stir it into the mixture. While stirring, try to beat more air into the mixture. You’ll know if you are because little bubbles start to appear in the mixture. Add milk until the mixture is sort of a thick liquid. Leave it to stand for a while.

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Turn your oven on as high as it goes. It needs to be really hot. At least 220 centigrade which converts to a shit load of fahrenheits. Put some oil into the oven trays and add as many bangers as you want to the bigger of the two trays (don’t put any in the smaller one) and put them both into the very hot oven. After about 10 minutes prepare to take the trays out by turning a burner on the hob on. Take the trays out one at a time, closing the oven door as you take each one out. Place on the burner to maintain the heat. Pour the batter into each of the trays ensuring you put enough into each to completely cover the base. Return to the oven as quickly as possible.

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After about 15 minutes open the oven door and don’t do what I always do and stick your head in the oven. It’s bloody hot and if you wear specs like I do at home, they will steam up and you can’t see a bloody thing! Turn the oven down to about 200. After 20/25 minutes the small one which is just Yorkshire pud should be cooked so remove it and leave it to get cold.

After about half an hour or 30 minutes if you prefer, the Toad in the Hole should be cooked. Remove from the oven which you should now turn off to save the planet, cut up into the required number of pieces and serve with veg and gravy. We rarely have it with mashed spud but you can if you want.

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Once the small Yorkshire is cold, cut it up and serve later with a decent smothering of strawberry jam. Don’t puke, it’s lovely. Try it.

Have a smashing day.

More Dick soon.

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