Farewell to 2011

New Year’s Eve already, a time to look back and think about the past year and to look forward to 2012. So much happened last year, most of it good and some of it sad

The lovely and gentle Charlie Bear died, although he only lived with us for six months he was very much a part of the family and he left a big space in our lives….so








we got Skye, a lovely black German Shepherd puppy







who got bigger and bigger and bigger








After ten long months we got Tilly back. We were so happy to see her and she was so happy to be home again.







Nino is still with us despite being so ill during the summer and developing dementia. He is a very confused little dog but still enjoys his food and a wee walk round the block if it isn’t too cold. He seems to like watching the other dogs playing but has no interest in joining in.






The kitchen cupboards were built , flooring installed and blinds put up at the windows.





I did lots of cooking both before and after the kitchen was installed, especially jam making which I love doing. The picture shows less than half the jars of jam I made, I donated most to the MacMillan Coffee morning to raise funds for MacMillan nurses.




I survived another year without dialysis, had to have my dialysis access fistula repaired and was accepted onto the renal transplant list, I had a few problems with my heart again and have to have some more tests but otherwise stayed relatively healthy.

I knitted lots of things… eight baby cardigans, a baby coat, three necklace and bracelet sets, five pairs of fingerless gloves,numerous pairs of socks, three pairs of pulsvarmers, two pairs of gloves, a couple of scarves, a hat and part of a blanket.

I didn’t do much sewing and as a result have far too much fabric sitting in cupboards. I went on a quilting course and have a quilt still to finish I’m ashamed to say.

I did even less gardening but we did get a wonderful lawnmower that is easy for me to push so I did manage to cut the lawns fairly regularly. The garden has been so wet over the summer and autumn that it now resembles a muddy mess but hopefully when it dries out in spring we can restore the lawn and sort out the flowerbeds.

We sold the pretty blue Saab and bought a beautiful Ruby Saab. We had a garage built. My son got a Harley Davidson motorbike, in bits and put it together.

I walked a lot and cycled a little .

I watched Forbrydelsen (The Killing) on TV and enjoyed it, I gave up watching most other TV because it has become less and less interesting but I renewed my aquaintance with the radio and the CD player and have discovered the joys of listening to audiobooks while waiting for hospital appointments.

All in all it has been a good year and I have managed to do most of what I planned to do. Tomorrow I’ll make some plans for the new year!






Merry Christmas in your house, Merry Chaos in mine

It was never going to be an easy Christmas with a 15 year old dog with dementia, a 9 month old puppy the size of a small pony and a 4 year old German Shepherd who is rapidly losing weight but continues to run about like a maniac. I discovered less than a week before Christmas that my aunt, an retired Matron of a maternity home with a deep love of Milton and hospital corners, was coming to stay and that not only were my sister and brother in law and their son and his girlfriend coming for the day but that the girlfriend’s two brothers (age 14 and 20)were also coming and finally that both my sister and the girlfriend were bringing their dogs -an 18month old springer spaniel and a 6 month old male Shih Tzu.

The day my aunt was to arrive I needed to clean the kitchen floor before going to pick her up as the dogs had trampled mud all over it. Despite the three dogs getting in the way I managed to get it clean and shining with minutes to spare before I had to go to pick her up at the station, as I pulled on my jacket the old dog had an “accident” necessitating cleaning and disinfecting said floor and spraying air freshener all around, then I jumped into the car and drove off to meet her taking the puppy with me. Why take a 9 month old GSD puppy to a station? Because she could then meet my aunt from the confines of her car harness instead of jumping up to greet her at the door. I gave my aunt strict instructions to ignore skye unless she was sitting quietly in her seat but obviously something was lost in translation as she proceeded to tell Skye “I’m taking no notice of you unless you are a good wee girl” whilst wagging a finger (enclosed in very tasty looking woolly gloves) under the puppy’s nose. Skye viewed this speech in my aunt’s lilting Scottish accent as attention and lovely melodious attention at that and was determined to get more of it so behaved appallingly all the way home showing off her full repetoire of howls, barks and whines. Inside the house it was little better, Skye was fascinated by my aunt and wanted to sit beside her (or on her knee) or run after her as she walked around the house. As my aunt is very slight and increasingly frail, much of my time was spent holding Skye back and preventing her knocking my aunt over.

Christmas Day dawned, wet and grey and the dogs were overexcited by the change of routine and the visitors arriving. All five dogs played happily together outside and churned the garden into a mudbath while I tried to cook two different meals (three vegetarians and six meat eaters) on a cooker that was for some reason struggling to maintain its temperature, control the amount of rushing in and out of large dogs chasing smaller ones (and small male dog chasing all the females with amorous intentions), be sociable to the guests and exchange presents. Despite it all we had a lovely day, there was plenty of food, and laughter and everyone got on well,even the old dog had fun watching the younger ones playing together.

I hope your Christmas was a little less chaotic but just as much fun.

Sneaky Santa

I chose my son’s Christmas present a while ago and reserved it online to pick up at a local shop. It is quite large and bulky and a very easily identifiable shape so I needed to leave it until close to Christmas to keep it a secret. I had planned to pick it up this afternoon in the belief that he would be out but he didn’t need to go out after all. I needed to pick it up by 6pm today or it would go back on the shelf so I said I needed to get food shopping and set off to town. Arrived at the shop to find I’d left my purse at home, drove home and son kindly offered to get the shopping for me but I muttered something about wanting to choose crackers and set off again. Back to the shop, bought the present and put it right at the back of the car boot, went to get some shopping and went home. Persuaded son to stay in the house, not to come and carry shopping in, chased Nino down the road when he escaped, hoping that neither my son or any passing opportunist would notice the open car boot and investigate. Finally he popped out briefly this evening and I was able to smuggle it inside, wrap it up and cover it in a big toyshop bag so that if he does spot the large parcel he will hopefully think it contains toys for a friend’s children.

The whole episode made me laugh, reminded me of buying him a tricycle when he was little and having to hide that until Father Christmas came. At least then I knew he’d be in bed in the evening while I smuggled presents in and wrapped them.



End of term.

The Christmas holidays began for me on Thursday after a busy and stressful week. On Monday I had an appointment in the renal clinic, appointment time 9.30am but the clinic was running seriously late. However it was a successful appointment as I spoke first to one of the Pre-dialysis nurses and then to the consultant both of whom were able to offer help with the recurrent sickness/nausea I’ve been experiencing. For the past few months I have felt sick much of the time (not the acute sickness I had after the Venofer treatment just a general daily nausea) but particularly in the morning when I wake which has made having breakfast and taking my medications very difficult at times. Cola helps but I don’t like the taste of it and worry about the effects of drinking cola for breakfast on both my teeth and stomach. so to learn that yes it is a side effect of the worsening renal function but that taking a small white tablet (cyclizine) each night before I go to bed will make it so much better was encouraging. I can take up to three tablets per day but they do make me sleepy so for the moment one at bedtime is fine.

On Wednesday I had an appointment at the cardiac clinic to investigate the continuing angina like pain I get when walking the dogs or doing anything physical like vacuuming. Again the clinic was busy and running late but it was worth the wait. I saw a very helpful doctor who is arranging a nuclear heart scan for me as I cannot have an angiogram,because the dye used might worsen my kidney function further. He was very concerned that the problem should be investigated while keeping me on the kidney transplant list – previously I have been taken off the list while investigations were carried out. I hadn’t realised quite how worried about this I had been until he said that I wouldn’t be suspended from the list and I felt the tension drain away.

Medical appointments completed I felt much more like celebrating Christmas and began putting decorations up in the house though we won’t decorate the tree until nearer to Christmas.

After school finished on Friday (I don’t work on Fridays) I met up with the rest of the staff and we all went out for a Christmas meal at The Walled Garden, at Barton. The meal was beautiful, the vegetarian options were delicious and unusual and everyone enjoyed themselves. The snow had fallen earlier in the day and the walled garden outside the restaurant looked quite magical with it’s sparkling white blanket.

Skye is less than impressed by the snow and very wary of icy pavements but is greatly enjoying watching all the Christmas baking – she loves sitting in the kitchen when I’m cooking,  she follows every move so carefully she makes me smile.

Lemon Marmalade time again.

I am determined to make marmalade, I can make jam, I like making jam. I like eating marmalade more than I like jam therefore I would like to make marmalade.

Round 1. The marmalade was made following the recipe in my Farmer’s Weekly cookbook, Boil lemons in water, half and scrape insides into muslin and slice peel finely then boil with sugar and the water the lemons were cooked in, smelled fantastic, looked pretty but is too runny to spread and the pretty finely cut peel floated to the top. Theory- the lemons were very thin skinned, not much pith or pips to add pectin, I used castor sugar and I should have let it cool before potting to stop the peel floating.

Round 2. This time I used thicker skinned lemons and also added pips from lemons used during the week for hot drinks and baking. Followed recipe in Marguerite Patten’s book of preserves. Recipe suggested chopping or mincing lemons, minced lemon looks pretty revolting so went with the chopping (note to self… slicing lemons with a very sharp knife is painful if the knife slips and you get lemon juice in the resulting cut!) Soaked lemons overnight then simmered for one and a half hours to soften peel before boiling. Only the pips went in the muslin bag so the pan contained all the pith and membranes. No mention of what to do with this and it looked a mess so I ended up fishing it out with a slotted spoon, sorting out the peel and throwing away the rest- not easy when it is all very hot and sugary. I used jam sugar this time. Marmalade then took forever to reach setting point but does seem to be setting in the jars this time. The peel looks a bit thick and uneven though.

Round 3- the plan is to use a peeler to peel lemon rind thinly and slice with scissors into neat, even sized pieces, sharp knives are dangerous! I will put all the pith, membranes, pulp and pips into a muslin square and I will use preserving sugar.

In the meantime I have some apples to make herb jellies with so I can forget marmalade for the rest of the week and concentrate on making good clear jelly.

Progress at last

The tiling in the kitchen is done…the tiles look lovely just as I had hoped they would …

and the flooring is done, the pale cream wooden plank design is beautiful but very unforgiving to muddy footprints

necessitating lots of mopping – Skye is just checking out the mop bucket in the photo with nino looking on in disgust! The rolls are the left over flooring material waiting to be stored away. We are getting a Turtle Mat for the back door in the hope of absorbing some of the muddy footprints. The flooring extends through to the hallway making the space look so much lighter and brighter.

Although it’s now four days into December I have yet to put up any Advent decorations, Christmas alternately seems a long long time off or approaching rapidly. It is grey and wet outside, not the crisp cold December that I would like at all!

The only preparations I have made so far are the Christmas Cake, which is baked and resting safely in a tin waiting to be decorated, and I have begun painting the Rosen chairs for the dining room, that’s one of them you can see upside down on the kitchen table after a coat of primer. I made an Ebay purchase too of a very pretty Royal Copenhagen Christmas tea set, many years ago I used to visit an elderly couple who had a special Christmas tea set, a Spode one if I remember correctly and I thought it was so delightful to have a set of china just for Christmas but such an extravagance. When I saw one like this (though minus the long plate and bowls) on Ebay I couldn’t resist it – there was a complete dinner service available too but that really would be an extravagance! I can’t wait to use the tea set though.

As yet there is no news of our woodburning stove, it is very unlikely to be fitted by Christmas so I will have to think of a way of making the empty fireplace look less desolate- suggestions welcome!