Christmas Cornucopia…

I thought I would share this, many of you may know of it, and many may not.  This is one of my favourite versions of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”, although I do like most versions, this is one carol that I have always liked.

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What’s Going On?

The past month or so I really can not be bothered with anything, and I have no idea way.  Is it because I am inherently lazy?  Is it because of the lack of daylight, cold, rain and general winter blues?  Who knows!  I am in a rut basically.  It feels like the walls to the rut are just too big to get over, and the ones that I can climb are covered with grease and it becomes a pointless task.  Now, do not get me wrong, I am not feeling sorry for myself one bit, I am just in a rut!

I started with a cold about 6 weeks ago, and from there on, which I think is the real problem, is that I feel shitty all the time.  It is like the remnants of the cold are still lingering and zapping my energy, and I am still snotty too, which is a royal pain in the arse.  Indeed I have nothing of real consequence to moan about in all honesty.  After all, I have all of my faculties, limbs, husband and dogs.  I know I am far better off than many, and I just wish I could get out of this rut and be of some real use.  

Apart from reading and making the odd loaf of bread, I have done nothing of interest.  I am behind on my pen friend exchange, and although I have bought them all Christmas cards, they are still sitting on my desk waiting to be written.

Part of me thinks this apathy is just part of the winter blues, especially this time of year, Christmas and all that.  I have never really been a Christmas person.  Partly due to being born on the cusp of Christmas day, no one remembers it, never did even when I was a kid, including my family, but they can remember the birth of a made up person that was born over 200 years ago.  Before any bible thumping starts, there is no solid proof that this guy existed; Fact!  Like being vegan and having to tell everyone, keep your arguments to yourself.  Now, on saying that, not that I want anything from anyone for my Birthday apart from the verbal wishes.  It is just nice to be remembered.

No, I am in a rut and have to get out of it, so here are my words that may be cathartic in moving me on.  Also, I am putting up the Christmas tree and decorations, so that may lift me.  Mazikeen is sitting with me whilst I write this, so maybe the light is at the end of the tunnel.

Go to the light Carol Anne 

Not Today Satan, Not Today…

Or words to that effect.

I have a few aquariums about the house, and one was a small one by my desk.  Within this where all my baby fish and other small ones, very cute indeed, and added to that was rabbit snails, apple snails, cherry shrimp, wood shrimp and a large Cameroon shrimp.  However, there was a problem, a big one.

I got up and turned on the day lights to this small tank.  I have automatic lighting on the other tanks, but this was a little cheap one.  For some reason the day before the water was too warm, so I turned down the thermostat, but this day I checked again and the water was too cold, so I reset the temperature to 28c, which is optimal.  I went out and within two hours M called me to tell me that the water was literally boiling and lots fo the contents were dead.  He worked fast to get the water temperature down by removing hot and adding cold but it was too late for most of the tanks inhabitants.  9 fish survived and the rabbit and apple snails survived along with the Cameroon shrimp, but all other life had expired.  To say I was gutted really does not cover my feelings.  I had spent hundreds of pounds on the livestock, and much more to get the tank looking good including bog wood with plants woven in the gaps.  Unfortunately, when I put the live plants in pond snail eggs must have been on one and they multiplied at an astonishing rate.

So, the heater had failed, it was not that old, about 2 or 3 years old and was a good brand.  As I had a few survivors I needed to get a new heater, but I was not fond of the tank as it was awkward to get into due to the lid, so I got out one of my other tanks, this one is a large cube on a plinth, and set that up, complete with new expensive heater, new plants, stones, ornamental sea rock and new livestock.  As I have tanks that are already established I used the water from them to stock three-quarters of the tank and topped up with fresh along with the other tanks.  Doing this meant that I did not have to cycle the tank for a few weeks to establish.  I also added water from the tanks that held the livestock at the fish store, so all in all when I tested it, it was perfect.  Thankfully.

In the new set up I have added guppies, mollys and platys.  I did get a few wood shrimp and the old Cameroon shrimp are in there.  I have seen some little frogs that I may get, but it is early days. and I do not want to go too fast with stocking it up.  Also, one of the female mollys is pregnant.  I will post a few photos when I added more.  But, so far so good.

Well, not quite.

The paint rollers were out again.  This time to do the bedroom.  As I mentioned when M was away I did the feature wall, which is really nice, but it has changed the dynamic of the room, so much so that I wanted to do the rest of the room.  Not only to clean it up but to go with the flow and change the room completely.  We decided to go with a colour called Egyptian Cotton.  It is a very subtle colour and has a tinge of wheat in it.  Again, this has changed the room.  

One of the problems with doing work on the house is that I have to repair the floors too.  The house was built in 1890, and most of it has not really been changed, especially the floorboards.  As I am not going to pay out for new flooring, I have just repaired what needs to be done, and then seal it so that there are no gaps or gusts of wind coming up through it before the new carpet was fitted.  I did have the house insulated a few years back, but there is quite a cavity below the floor to the ceilings below, and wouldn’t you know, quite an air flow through it.  A lot less since the cavity insulation, but all the same, it is cold air that I wanted rid of.

Once done, we needed to buy new drapes.  Sounds easy, but we have two windows in the room, one really large, the other only a few feet wide, but getting drapes to match really did feel impossible.  We have looked over the 15 years living here, and apart from very plain ones we never managed to get a matching pair.  We have vertical blinds throughout too, but a room is not complete without drapes.  We did manage to get really nice ones in the end from a department store.  However, we got carried away and bought new poles for both windows, then decided to get new drapes and poles for the hall windows, both upstairs and down.

Although not to everyone’s liking, we have many Tribal Masks from all around the world.  Some are really scary, others amusing but all originals and they have always been a focal in the bedroom along with quite a few African paintings, again all originals.  Sitting in the lounge writing this, and I look around to see 6 more African artefacts, so maybe it is more of an obsession with us.  Our main hall has African masks in it along with other paintings and artefacts.  But we have toned it down in the bedroom, and only have 8 in there now, and moved 11 to the hallway.  The paintings we did not rehang as I thought less is better in the bedroom, and I like the clean edges to everything.

I mounted the TV and sound system on the wall too.  I felt that it made the room feel smaller by sitting on the double chest of draws.  When you came into the room that was the first thing you saw, this bloody great big TV, but now it is on the wall it is as though it is not even there.  Also watching TV in bed is very relaxing now. I also have led backlighting on it, so a soft warm glow emits from the back when the TV is on.  I put a couple of dove grey floating shelves in the alcove on my side of the bed, may as well use the space for my books LOL.

So, now it is finished, it is a very relaxing place to be, warm and very inviting too.  

West facing
Harper relaxing in her bed
Some of my masks
Masks
50" TV looks so small now.
That’s Entertainment!
My corner
My Teddy is called Fred and he is 52 years old now.

Baking with Chairman Mao

I love to bake. I mean bake anything. There is just something so satisfying about the whole process.  I did make sourdough bread last weekend, but to be honest, it was a bit crap, however, that will not put me off, and I will keep going until I get it right.  The instructions for the proving overnight in the fridge was good, but the dough collapsed when I was putting it onto the baking sheet.  The other loaf stuck to the banneton as I had used flour rather than rice flour, so that was crap too.  The other thing I had problems with was the heat in the oven. The instructions said for 500f which is mega hot, and as I was cooking it on a stone dish it just seemed to sear and the crust was tough, so tough it could be in the marines.  It was supposed to bake for 20 minutes at 500f then 30 minutes at 450f, again, mega hot.  I have never cooked any bread at this temperature so it would happen that it was cooked on the outside and slightly doughy on the inside.  Not a bad crumb though.  It also didn’t taste like sourdough does, so I think that was the fault of the leaven as it had not bubbled and matured enough.  So now I know or think I know what went wrong I will try again.  I may do a variation too so that I know I can control rather than using the heat of the sun.

First go at Sourdough Bread

As mentioned, I love to bake, so here are some photos of my other bakes, successful bakes too LOL

Strawberry Shortcake with Strawberry Coulis
Strawberry Tarts (Pate Sablee) with Chantilly Cream and Passion Fruit
Brioche
Irish Wheaten Bread (Soda)

Here There Be Giants…

Thursday saw the arrival of The Giants in our city (Liverpool) along with over 1.3 million visitors to see them.  Liverpool is quite a wonderland, and we have many odd and wonderful things to see here.  This is the third time The Giants have visited, alas, it will be the last.  The city was littered with the giant’s possessions, including likes of clothes drying, a dropped butter knife that sliced through a bus and a dropped fork that went through a car.  Today (Sunday) they left to go back to their home, never to return again here or any other place.  Here are just a few photos from the last few days.