Giant Couscous

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salad

As the days grow longer (although they don’t seem to be getting much warmer) I have started to think about eating a bit less stodge and preparing something tasty and healthy instead.

I love chargrilled vegetables, something about that method of cooking really brings out their sweetness, and I love couscous. I looked in the cupboard and the only couscous I could find was a packet of the Giant variety I had bought a little while ago, so put it on to cook.
While it was bubbling away in the pan, I chargrilled a selection of vegetables including mushrooms, red onion and peppers and set them aside.
I love yoghurt based dressings so I put some Greek style yoghurt into a bowl with plenty of chopped coriander, grated garlic, a squeeze of lime juice and chipotle chilli paste and mixed it together. It was a tiny bit thicker than I wanted, so I thinned it with a tiny dash of water. Perfect!
By now the couscous was cooked, so I tasted it. Oh boy! It was horrible. It was like frog spawn, so in the bin it went. Now, I was in a bit of a quandary because the vegetables on their own would not be filling enough. I searched the fridge and found some paneer, that lovely Indian cheese that is a great substitute for Halloumi and which is incredibly easy to make, although this was some I bought. I quickly sliced some and popped it into the chargrill pan.
The vegetables were plopped into a bowl with the paneer and smothered with the garlicky, spicy dressing. Heaven.

 

 

Fidget Part II

The vet visit this morning went well and she was very pleased with his progress.

He didn’t flinch when the dressing was removed and it didn’t look anywhere near as bad as I thought it would (although they removed a couple of his whiskers which I think most unreasonable).

I think that the dressing must have been annoying him because as soon as we arrived home, he was off doing “stuff” that he had not done since before he damaged his eye. He was climbing up the oven, hanging off the back door and generally making a completely nuisance of himself. I could not be more glad.

I can start to take off the cone in a couple of days, and see how he goes. The problem with that is that if he starts picking at his eye I have to try to get it back on again, which will be a difficult task.

He is back to the vets next Friday, for a progress check and all being well, that will be that. She is still bemused about what he did to his eye, and I think we have to accept that he is never likely to tell us. I just hope that this is the last problem he has. Silly sausage!

 

 

Fidget

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I am sitting in bed, very early on a Thursday evening, with a ginger cat on my knee.

That cat in question, Fidget, is feeling very sorry for himself. About 10 days ago, he poked himself in eye with something, and on Monday it went downhill dramatically.

I ran him to the vets who looked suitably horrified and suggested I dash to the Opthalmic Specialist 35 miles away, and dash we did. He took one look at the eye and told me that he could try to save it but it was unlikely that he could, and that if Fidget was his, he would have the eye removed.

So, Tuesday morning, I was on my vets doorstep when they opened, to ask if they could take out the eye. My poor boy!

He is now wearing the “cone of shame” much to his embarrassment. To add insult to injury, the other cats won’t go near him in case he wallops them with the cone, so during the day he has no-one to cuddle with, which is making him unhappy.

My evening duties therefore involve getting into bed very early indeed and making up for a day devoid of cuddles.

Tomorrow, the pressure bandage is removed and I will, for the first time, see the eye without the eye.

I don’t supposes anyone knows where I can get a cat-sized pirate patch?

 

 

Betwixt and Between

I always think this is a funny time of year, a bit like that brief time before dawn when you are just waiting for the daylight. It feels like we are in limbo

The days are lengthening, and there are signs of new life everywhere.  It is daylight until after 6.00 in the evening, blossom is starting to show on the trees and snowdrops and daffodils are  appearing. I know that we are moving towards spring, and yet it seems like time is standing still.

I can’t wait for warmer weather. The layers can be cast off, windows and doors opened and the cats can go and sleep in the plant pots outside. They are shameless sun worshipers and love lolling about in a shaft of sunlight. I wish I had their care free attitude. They eat, they sleep, they loll, they gallop around at a rate of knots and then they sleep. They have a fine life.

The dog is not much better. She eats her body weight in carrots, takes over most of the bed and would go off with anyone in a car. Ingrate!

What they fail to understand (or don’t care about) is that I work pretty much 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year to keep a roof over our heads. It is my choice to work for myself, (with a couple of days a week in an office to make sure the mortgage is covered), but it is not easy. Money is not regular, and it can be difficult to cover the bills, but, and this is huge I have freedom.

I am not very good at taking orders, I don’t enjoy routine and I hate being on the hamster wheel running just to stand still. Being in an office full time feels like I am trying to breathe through a plastic bag, so although I have less money that I have ever had, the positives completely outweigh the negatives. That said, a win on the lottery would be helpful.

 

 

 

Sunshine in the Park

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A beautiful, bright sunny morning found Bracken and me wandering around the park. At least, I was wandering and she was charging around at full pelt. She exhibits such joy to be alive which makes me smile, especially when I consider what she must have been through as a puppy.

She is a rescue, and it took a long time to build her confidence until she was not afraid of people and other dogs. Now she would be happy to go off with anyone she meets and will happily walk in to someone’s house if they are stupid enough to leave the front door open.

The park is beautiful at all times of year, but particularly so in Spring. There are early daffodils peppering the ground, and a carpet of snowdrops under the trees. In a couple of months, the native bluebells will be flowering in a glorious show, scenting the air, a clear indication that we are heading towards warmer weather.

We have finally had a couple of consecutive dry days. I can cope with the cold – just – but the interminable wet weather has been, well interminable. I don’t remember it ever being as wet as it has been for such a prolonged period, and enough is enough. After a few wet days, my front door refuses to open or close without an amount of force so it is rather a delight to be able to get in and out of my house without kicking, thumping and a deal of swearing.

So hopefully we have seen the last of the wet stuff for a while. The days are also getting longer and, you never know I may be able to put away the hot water bottle soon.

 

 

 

Storm

Animals bring so much joy to those of use who choose to spend our lives with them. They give unconditionally – well as long as they are fed, watered, cuddled and have somewhere warm to sleep – so not quite unconditionally, but you know what I mean.

As a cat/dog mum, it is so difficult when your furry companion is unwell. You know there is something wrong, but as they can’t tell you where it hurts, you don’t know what the problem is, and sometimes the vets are not sure either. Ahead of you lies the possibility of having to put your furbaby through a battery of tests to try to get to the bottom of the problem. All the while you feel completely helpless and all you can do is try not to panic.

There is a little kitten called Storm who has stolen the hearts of many people on a Facebook group I am a member of. He is a delightful little bundle of loveliness who is currently unwell and the vets don’t really know why.

The poor little thing has been ill pretty much since his Mum adopted him, so his condition is not covered by insurance. It is possible that he has neurological problems, but only an expensive MRI will show if this is the case. Over the last couple of weeks, Storm has made great strides, with his gastro problems seeing a huge improvement, he has put on weight and been growing like a weed.

Last night he has a seizure and had to be rushed to the emergency vet for an overnight stay. The vet now wants him to have the MRI as a case of urgency to try to get to the bottom of poor Storm’s problems. This is going to cost a great deal of money, and a few weeks ago Storm’s Mum Carol set up a funding page (link below) to help.

This little boy has such will to live, and is fighting for all his worth. He deserves a chance to grow up and get into mischief with his furry sister. If anyone is able to contribute to his medical fund, that would be lovely.

https://www.gofundme.com/stormkitty

Wistful.

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Britain is currently experiencing a cold snap, and it is hard to believe that a year ago, I was enjoying the warmth of Australia. Where does the time go?

As a fabulous 50th birthday present, for my friend and me, my friend’s husband flew me to Australia to spend the best part of a month relaxing and seeing some of the sights. I had a few days in Singapore on the way out and then on to Canberra to see my friend.

Emerald Hill1

Emerald Hill, Singapore

 

Chair at Kampong Glam

Kampong Glam

Orchids, Chijmes

Orchids, Chimes

Sultan Mosque, Kampong Glam (2)

Sultan Mosque, Kampong Glam

Singapore was sunny, beautifully warm and slightly humid. I walked so far that blisters the size of golf balls formed on the souls of my feet, and there was not enough time to do and see all that I wanted.

I have the need to wander, and Singapore was the perfect place to do just that. I left for Australia knowing that I would love to come back and see more of this fascinating place.

It is only when you fly over Australia that you realise how big the country is. Five of the eight hours it took to fly from Singapore to Sydney was over the Australian land mass.

Lanyon Homestead, Canberra

Anzac Parade, Canberra

I knew nothing about Canberra before I got there, except that it is the Capital of Australia. It had a relaxed atmosphere and reminded me of Washington DC in that, because it is a city that was planned from scratch rather than grew organically, it has wide streets and lots of open space.

Lake Burley Griffin is the lungs of the city, and around it the buildings housing the Government have been built, plus art galleries and museums. I had three days to myself and spent them having a fabulous time at those museums and galleries, looking at artifacts from around the world and some absolutely beautiful Aboriginal art.

Food in Australia is healthy and tasty, and the portions rival those found in America. Tasty, fresh fruit salads topped with a dollop of plain yoghurt provided a great breakfast or light lunch, muffins the size of small boulders provided sweet treats, and sandwiches packed with lovely salad and vegetables kept me well fed, and I don’t think I had a bad coffee.

My friend, Carol, and I had a week in Melbourne and a week in Sydney both vibrant, multicultural cities. Melbourne seems to have more of a bohemian feel to it with some stunning architecture, particularly the houses in Fitzroy. Sydney is a busy metropolis, but head to the Rocks and you find a quieter part of the city, in the shadow of the famous bridge, steeped in history.

Australia has a huge amount to offer, and I did not even scratch the surface. So, twelve months later sitting here in the cold looking at the photographs of my holiday, I wonder when I will be able to go back.

This is not Fish Pie!

I was watching a fish pie being made on a cookery program recently and had an idea.

As a vegetarian, I don’t eat fish, but something about a lovely creamy sauce topped with smooth mashed potato started me thinking. I decided I would make a none-fish pie. The question was what would I put in it?

I dusted off my thinking cap, and thought that a nice selection of vegetables such as mushrooms, peas, broccoli and red peppers would work quite well.

A shopping trip later, I fried off some onion, peppers, mushrooms, courgettes and peas and popped them into a dish. A lovely cheese sauce was poured on top and then the whole thing was covered with a smooth, creamy mashed potato.

The dish was set aside until I was ready to eat, and then popped into a pre-heated oven for 30 minutes or so. Then scoff! Very yummy it was too and something I would make again.

Memories of Welsh Summers.

The viewIt is funny how a smell, a sight or a sound can elicit a memory.

A couple of days ago, I was walking a couple of clients’ dogs along the beach road. It was a gloriously sunny day and as we walked, I glanced across the water. The tide was out, the Welsh hills clear and you could see as far as the Clwydian Range. Proud amongs the peaks, Moel Famau was visible and it reminded me of all the days we spent walking in Wales.

Both sides of my family were Welsh, and my maternal Great Grandmother lived in Connah’s Quay until I was about 16, when she came to live with us. At various times during the year, our family, dog included, would go and stay for a weekend, and my brother and I would stay with her for a week during the school summer holidays.

Not far from my where my Great Grandmother lived is a road bordered by woods. Drive up that road and you smell the wild garlic that has seeded itself. I used to wind down the window and inhale deeply. I loved the smell and still do. It is probably the predominant fragrance of my childhood. That and wet dog.

The dog used to paddle in any puddle she came across, and by puddle I mean any body of water – rivers, puddles, lakes and I swear to you she couldn’t pass a pub. She used to get as wet as she could which of course meant we drove home enveloped in eau de chien mouillé. Lovely.

One of the places we would visit regularly was the Ceriog Valley. It was here Dad was evacuated as a tiny boy during World War II. His family would visit Glyn Ceriog for holidays, and his grandfather considered buying a house there at one point, so they knew it well. When war was declared, Dad was sent to live with an elderly lady they knew. He had a ball. One of his childhood friends was also sent to Glyn and the two built a little dam over the Ceriog River using stones. This survived, albeit shrinking every year, until the 1980s and Dad loved to go back and check on it.

One of the things I remember most is going for lunch at the Golden Pheasant. They had a Mynah Bird which fascinated me and I would always go and say hello. Lunch was always a simple sandwich affair before we went off for our afternoon exploration.

Dad hated to follow the crowds and liked to follow the path less travelled. That often meant taking detours just to see where a road would take you. It has rubbed off and I love the wander along a road I have never been down before just to see what is there.

The start of a new year

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

We have arrived in 2016, a year that is starting in the same soggy fashion as 2015 finished. For the last month or so, northern Britain has been coping with a deluge which has flooded homes and businesses and made life miserable for many and there seems to be no end in sight.

We are lucky here. Apart from a few fields in which ducks are enjoying a swim and a few major puddles on local roads, we have escaped serious flooding issues.

I am starting the new year full or lurgy – sort of a cold with added extras I will not bore you with. The furry overlords naturally care nothing about the fact that I am not feeling well. They cats are still causing mayhem and the dog is still shouting at me. I suppose the time to worry is if this stopped, because then I would know something was afoot.

It is hard to believe that this time last year I was looking forward to a fabulous Australian holiday. Stopping in Singapore for a few days on the way, I was going to visit friends who live in Canberra. We had a fabulous week in Melbourne, a week in Sydney, and a week at the beach.

Australia is such a vast country, but I don’t think I realised just how big until I flew from Singapore to Sydney. The flight was about 8 hours, and 5 hours of that was across Australia.

The year has gone so quickly, and last year had highs and lows. It will be interesting to see what this year brings .  One thing is certain, the furry overlords will continue to rule the roost and the dog will continue to shout at me.

I hope that 2016 brings good things to all of you.

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