Friday festive photo hunt – baking

The topic for this week’s festive photo hunt  is Baking and this one did initially present a challenge as baking is one thing I don’t normally do, however a friend of mine just recently moved house and for some reason, during sorting out and packing away various kitchen stuff, she gave me a jar of mincemeat. Now I love mincemeat and could quite happily eat it by the spoonful straight out of the jar but with this challenge in mind I decided to get my brain into gear and make a small batch of mince pies.
Not having made anything like that for many years I wasn’t sure how they would turn out. They aren’t very big and they are certainly not perfect but as Michael doesn’t like mince pies anyway they are only for myself so it doesn’t matter what they look like.
I’ve sampled a couple and they are nicer than I expected them to be so I thought I’d better set up a suitably festive photo of some of them before I eat them all – in fact as I write this I’m just about to make a mug of tea and have a couple more.

Scenes of chaos and devastation

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting here at the computer, minding my own business – as you do – when I heard a fair amount of bumping and banging coming from Michael’s room. He’d been asleep all day following a 12-hour nightshift so wondering what on earth all the noise was I went to see what he was doing and found a scene of utter chaos – he’d decided, on the spur of the moment, to rearrange his room again and the whole place looked like a bomb had hit it.
While moving his bed he’d accidentally caught one of the curtains and pulled one end of the rail off the wall so he’d taken the thing off completely and rigged up the curtains on a temporary wire; the bed itself was buried under a mountain of furniture and other stuff and I could only just about squeeze in through the door as one of his units was on its end just a couple of feet in.
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There’s a bed under there somewhere!
Unfortunately the room isn’t the biggest and it’s also an odd shape with space at a premium so there’s nowhere really to put anything; it all looked such a mess that I just had to grab the camera and take these two shots but amazingly, just an hour later, he’d got everything where he wanted it, the room was tidy and the bed was clear. He does actually need a new chest of drawers though so it probably won’t be long before the room gets yet another makeover!


A surprise in the garden

A couple of weeks ago while I was strimming the back garden a moth suddenly fluttered out of a clump of long grass and landed near my feet. I hadn’t seen one like that before so as it was a pretty colour I caught it and took it indoors to snatch a quick photo of it before setting it free again. Unfortunately it seemed as though I’d taken a slight nick out of its wing with the strimmer line but it didn’t seem to have affected it and it fluttered away quite happily once back in the garden.
A quick Google later on told me it was an Elephant Hawk moth and though I’d never seen one before they are apparently quite common. I only managed to get one shot of it though without risking it flying off into an inaccessible corner of the room so I’ve sourced the second photo from the internet.
Elephant hawk moth
Finding the moth actually encouraged me to be a bit lazy where cutting down the grass was concerned. I’d originally intended to cut the whole lot but having also discovered some hollyhocks and a few other flowers I’ve never had before – and I’ve no idea how they got there – I decided to leave a large uncut patch to act as a wildlife garden for any creatures who wish to visit. I don’t really ‘do’ gardening anyway – cutting the grass and trimming the fuchsias is just about my limit so encouraging wildlife by doing a bit less has got to be a win-win situation.


What happened to the pizza??

For several weeks now, as Michael and I have been unable to go out for a Sunday meal, he’s often ordered pizzas for us on his day off work, delivered from a local takeaway. The bank holiday Monday earlier this week was his day off after finishing a night shift – he would be asleep for much of the day so when he was going to work on Sunday evening I asked him if he wanted me to cook anything for tea on Monday, to which he replied that he would order pizzas for us. Now I don’t particularly enjoy cooking at the best of times and the less I do of it the better I like it so pizzas for tea sounded good.
So with the weather being glorious on Monday I took Poppie and went out for most of the day to a place I hadn’t been to for about eight years. I had a lovely day and by the time I was ready for coming home I was really looking forward to my pizza. It was gone 6pm by the time I got back, Michael wasn’t in so I assumed that he’d gone down to Asda to get something to take to work for his lunch the following day. He came in not long afterwards and he had indeed been to Asda; his first words were “I’ve got you something for your tea Mum” and delving into his bag he presented me with….a sausage roll!! Thanks Michael, that’s just what I really wanted!

What I was looking forward to…
And what I actually got (both photos from the Internet)

Needless to say, having spent most of the afternoon looking forward to a ham and pineapple pizza a sausage roll was a bit of a let down so I just had to ask – “What happened to the pizza we were supposed to be having?” and got the reply “Oh, I got myself some chicken pieces instead”. Okay, fine – so I put half a can of baked beans with the sausage roll and ended up with quite a reasonable meal.
Thinking about it afterwards though I just had to laugh. Michael has often surprised and amused me over the years with some of the things he’s done and the sausage roll was the latest, though as there’s such a vast difference between that and a pizza it makes me wonder which way his brain was working when he thought of it!


Not a proper blog post

I’d fully intended writing a proper blog post last night to publish this morning but found it impossible as I can’t, at the moment, sit in front of my pc for long enough to do it. The reason? Yesterday at work I pulled a muscle in my back and I’m now in very painful agony – I can’t sit, stand or walk properly for any length of time and it feels like someone has stuck a knife in me and is twisting it. The first two lots of painkillers didn’t touch it but the third lot helped and I did manage to get some (very broken) sleep, though I got up this morning with hair which looks like a bird’s nest as I’ve moved around in bed so much.
The poor pets didn’t get fed last night as I couldn’t bend down to pick up their bowls so I sent Michael a text asking for his help when he came in from his night shift this morning; he picked up the bowls, sorted out their food and even took Poppie for a short walk before going to bed for the day. There’s no way I can take Poppie for a walk myself just now so she’ll be on ‘garden exploration’ only for the next few days.
I did this once before, about six years ago, and it took two weeks before I was completely pain free. Back then I did it while I was washing my hair, yesterday I was reaching for a mop bucket under the sink in the works canteen – who would believe that such simple actions would trigger something which causes so much pain. For someone who is always healthy, never ill and (usually) as fit as the proverbial flea my current condition isn’t just painful it’s downright annoying too. It does have it’s funny side though – it’s not often that I ever drop things but anything which lands on the floor now has to stay there until Michael can pick it up for me. The house could end up looking like a war zone!
I’m glad in a way that our lovely sunny weather has now gone pear shaped, at least I won’t be tempted to go out walking while my back is playing up. I’ve got three Monday walks in the pipeline so if I don’t go anywhere now for a while it doesn’t matter, and hopefully by the time I feel fit enough to go for a decent local walk the sun will be back again.
Well this is about all I’m capable of typing just now, sitting in front of the computer for any length of time is extremely uncomfortable at the moment though hopefully things will improve enough over the next couple of days and I’ll be able to write up a Monday walk – right now I’m going to make myself a much needed coffee and take some more painkillers.


So hard to say goodbye

It’s with many tears and a heavy heart that I write this – my lovely sweet little Sophie passed away peacefully on Monday afternoon. She fought so bravely against the effects of the stroke she suffered five weeks ago and on Monday morning I really thought she had turned a corner but sadly I was wrong.
A check-up at the vet’s last Saturday showed that although her progress since the previous check-up two weeks before hadn’t been quite as good as he would have thought there was no real cause for concern and I didn’t need to take her back for another month, although he did increase the medication she was on. For a few days previously she’d had a very loose tooth so I’d been blending all her food to make it easier for her to eat, however the vet took the tooth out with no problem or pain and gave her a shot of antibiotic to counteract what seemed to be a very minor infection in the gum. The injection seemed to knock her out of sorts for the rest of the day but by that evening she had perked up and we went for our regular slow bedtime walk round the block.
On Sunday afternoon a respite from Storm Ciara gave us three hours of lovely blue sky and sunshine so we had a nice walk round the field at the end of the street – she loved to walk round there and listen to the birds in the trees. On Monday morning I really thought that getting rid of the loose tooth had given Sophie her appetite back as she demolished one bowl of food so fast that I gave her another and she ate most of that as well, so it really seemed like that was a good turning point in her recovery.
Since a few days after the stroke happened her bed has been at the side of mine to make it easier for me to care for her during the night and after our walk on Monday lunch time I settled her down in her bed while I lay on mine to watch a bit of daytime tv. It was later on, when I was ready for feeding her before going to work, that I got no response from her and realised that somehow, without me even knowing, she had drifted quietly away.
I can’t begin to describe how I’ve been feeling since that moment and the range of emotions I’m now going through. Sophie had improved in many ways since her stroke – she no longer walked round in circles, she could stand unaided and potter about round my bedroom, she walked perfectly straight when we went out and only last week she was picking twigs up off the ground like she used to do before she became ill – so I now feel like I’ve been hit by a train going at 100 miles an hour.
Sophie has been buried in the garden so she’ll be with me as long as I stay living here ; she’s gone close to Sugar as they were companions for over five years. I know I still have Poppie but right now everything feels so empty – her den in the living room where she would hide away from the noise of fireworks in November, the space at the side of my bed where she lay in her own bed, covered with a fleece blanket and with cushions to rest her head on. And the silence. For the last four weeks my bedroom tv has been on constantly 24/7 to provide some comforting background noise for Sophie while I was out at work – now there’s no need for it to be on and the silence is deafening.
At work I’m functioning on autopilot ; it helps having people around me but with Michael currently in Ireland until the 20th I’m here on my own once I get home. Caring for Sophie took up so much of my time that a lot of the housework was put on hold ; there’s so many things now that I could  be doing but I don’t really feel  like doing, and the things I have  been doing no longer apply so I feel very much like I’m in limbo – and the slightest thing will have me in floods of tears.
As well as the space in my room Sophie has left a huge hole in my heart, a hole which will take a long while to heal – and it hurts to know that never again will I feel that gentle little paw on my leg and see that sweet little face looking up at me asking to come up on my lap for a cuddle. But the one thing which really hurts like hell is that even though I gave Sophie all the care and attention I possibly could I didn’t get the chance to hold her one last time and tell her how much I loved her.
Rest in peace Sophie, you were loved so very much – sleep tight and sweet dreams little one xx


Three new arrivals in the Mouse House

My local postie has been busy this week delivering a parcel for me on each of four separate days. First came a new-to-me phone – nothing fancy, just a basic Nokia to replace the model I’ve had for a while which wouldn’t properly send replies to any texts I got – then three new mice to add to my collection.
The first mouse to arrive is an Aynsley one – ‘Mouse with hinge and screws’ – dated 1985, then came a Teviotdale ‘Bank vole and flowers’ signed by the artist and dated 1989, and finally an undated Sherratt & Simpson ‘Mouse with seeds’.
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‘Mouse with hinge and screws’ – Aynsley 1985
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‘Bank vole and flowers’ – Teviotdale 1989
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‘Mouse with seeds’ – Sherratt & Simpson undated
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Most of my mice are grouped together according to make and type ; I’ll have to move a few around to accommodate these three so if you don’t hear from me for a while I’ll probably be playing a great game of ‘ Mouse Tetris’!


This is what you get when…

You ask for ‘a bit of cheap cake that will go with a brew’.
A few days ago Michael was popping down to our local Asda store and asked me if I wanted anything while he was down there, so I asked him to get me a bit of cheap cake which would go with a brew – I was thinking along the lines of maybe a box of individual apple pies or Viennese whirls, a couple of those go well with a mug of coffee. Half an hour later he was back – with a leopard print party cake which, according to the box, would serve 14! And it was all for me as he said he didn’t want any of it.
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At first I couldn’t see how it would serve 14 people as it wasn’t really that big, but having sampled a slice I realised why it would. It’s very sweet and not the sort of thing you would want a lot of so a thin slice is quite sufficient, though I must admit to putting some squirty cream with it – and very nice it is too. So bang goes the healthy eating for this week – I’ve still got quite a bit of the cake left so the diet can start next week!



Initially I wasn’t going to put this post on here and I thought long and hard before I did but then thought ”what the hell, I’ll put it on anyway”. The last week has been one of the most awful weeks of my life and one I hope no-one reading this ever has to go through. Why? Because last Wednesday night, soon after 10pm, my van was stolen from right outside my house and I actually saw it being driven away but could do nothing to stop it. It had been locked and the key was in my pocket so whoever stole it had obviously broken into it.
I reported it to the police straight away but from their initial response, ie they ‘won’t actively be looking for it’, I’m not very hopeful that I’ll get it back. It’s not only the van that’s been stolen though – it was packed up with all my camping gear ready for my holiday in North Wales in early September, plus I had various personal items in there which were of great sentimental value to me though worthless to anyone else. Some of these were rosettes which my previous little dog Sugar had won at various shows – sadly she died of kidney failure the week before Christmas 2014 so those rosettes were very precious to me and can never be replaced.
Needless to say, my forthcoming holiday plans have been cancelled, as have any plans of going out somewhere over the bank holiday weekend or in the foreseeable future, and getting to work is now proving difficult in some cases as two of the places aren’t on direct bus routes so it means I have a fair amount of walking to do. At the moment I just feel that not only has the van been stolen but half my life has gone too – yes, all my camping gear can be replaced, albeit slowly and at great expense (the van not so easy) but nothing will erase the gut-wrenching, stomach-churning feeling of having everything ripped out from under me and actually seeing it disappearing.
I wish I could feel angry at the low-life(s) who did this but strangely I don’t as other emotions are keeping any anger at bay. I feel I was targeted – out of all the cars parked in the street why mine? – but more than that I feel shocked, sad and upset to the point of frequently bursting into tears, and just so incredibly numb. I’m back at work this week after taking two days off last week but I’m not really working, I’m just going through the motions ; my world has been turned upside down and I feel like I’m just existing, not living.
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My gut feeling is that the van is still somewhere in my local area but just in case it’s gone further afield I would really appreciate anyone in the UK reading this to keep an eye out for it and contact the police if it’s seen – with the eagle on the front and the patterns along each side it’s very distinctive and not easy to miss. My lovely blogging friend Jayne has also posted it on her own blog and asked her readers to share so who knows, the power of the internet might  just bring a result.

Too nice to go on the floor

A couple of weeks ago when I went round to my friend Lin’s one evening I noticed that she had a new mat on the floor behind the front door. It was a mat with an animal picture on it and my immediate thoughts were that (a) even though it was washable it was too nice to have dirty feet and paws wiped all over it and (b) I just had to have one myself, so I asked where she got it from and was told that her daughter Dee had won it on a tombola stall at work.
Dee actually works at a local pet store not far from home and the staff there support my favourite local charity, Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary. Every so often they allow someone from the sanctuary to have a tombola/items for sale stall just outside the door with any money raised going to the sanctuary, and the mat had been one of the tombola items. Dee is usually quite lucky on tombola stalls and that particular day was no exception with the mat being one of the things she won, though as it was obviously a one-off the chances of me getting one like it were slim.
The mat was new but there was no clue as to where it had originally come from, though a bit of later Googling told me that mats like this are made in America and to get one from there wouldn’t be cheap. The ‘get lucky’ gods must have been smiling down on me that day though as I found a new one for sale on ebay at a very good price, and best of all the seller was in another area of my home town. I emailed her to ask if I could collect the mat rather than have it posted out to me and she was quite happy for me to do that so we arranged to meet the following day – and it turned out that she was the lady who had the charity stall outside the pet store where Dee works. Also any proceeds from animal-related items she sells on ebay go to the charity so I was more than happy to know that my purchase would, even in a small way, help the sanctuary.
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Apart from the colouring of the eye patch the little pup on the back right of the picture reminds me very much of my own little Sophie when she was younger. The mat is currently propped up on one of the bathroom units so I really need to find somewhere to put it, but needless to say it’s definitely not  going down on the floor!