Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Baking Bread

Lee and I have been baking a lot more in lockdown, mostly because we've had a lot more time to, and we've enjoyed having nice things to eat in the house. I saw everyone baking bread and I wanted to do the same, but we haven't been able to get yeast anywhere. We've been in quite a few shops, and we had asked around at the market too. A friend told me about a place in Barnsley where you can weigh your own stuff, so I even asked them, but they didn't have any either. In the end I bought some off eBay, which proves you can buy literally anything you want on eBay. It was probably more expensive than in a shop, but it had free postage and it arrived quickly.

It also came with a recipe for bread, which looked really simple, so we baked it one Sunday morning. It was just flour, yeast, sugar, and water. You activated the yeast with some of the water and the sugar, and then added it to the flour. The recipe said to use your hands to mix it in, which I did. Lee is funny about stuff on his hands, so didn't want to get involved in that. Then you had to prove it for twenty minutes, which we did in the top of our oven. It rose beautifully. The recipe was for two large loaves or four small loaves, but we only had two small tins so we did two loaves at a time. It baked for around 40 minutes and then it was done!

The first loaf was quite dense, so I knocked back the remaining mixture as it had risen while the other was baking, and divided that between the two tins and baked again. I haven't actually eaten either of those yet, but we ate most of the first loaf for lunch. It's nice bread, simple but tasty, although I think I would have added a tiny bit of salt to it.

I'm already excited to try baking a focaccia maybe!

Mixing it all up in my vintage bowl that I got from an antiques shop years ago

The first two as they came out!

And we just ate it simply, with butter

Friday, July 3, 2020


We lost our cat Ivy this morning. As I write, it's the 5th of June. We rushed her to the vet at 7am this morning as I woke up at 6.35 and found her really floppy and unresponsive. She was still breathing and the vet did everything she could to save her, but unfortunately she didn't make it. We will have her cremated and have a little casket to put her ashes in to keep.

She had been a little bit not herself for some time. When lockdown started she seemed at first to like the fact that we were around all the time, but then she seemed to get fed up and spent a lot of time in the bedroom asleep where neither Lee nor I were around to bother her. She had still be playing, eating, drinking, asking to go outside, and demanding cuddles just  the same as ever, but we do wonder now if she was beginning to get poorly. On Wednesday she was definitely unwell - she threw up and had a bad stomach - but we had changed her food and thought she just had a bug. She did still eat. On Thursday she still wasn't well, so we said we would take her to the vet on Friday to make sure she was okay. She seemed very lethargic, although we have thought that was due to the heat, which always bothered her quite a bit. We cuddled her lots on Thursday night before bed, which I'm really glad about now. She had been sleeping in the corner of the bedroom on top of a bag.

I woke up at 6.35 and could hear her breathing was very funny. She was very unresponsive and breathing very shallowly. We phoned our vets, whose out of hours service didn't work, so that's really helpful. We phoned another, and met them there at about 7.05. They gave her two shots of adrenaline and some oxygen, but couldn't do anything for her.

They think she had a heart attack and had gone into shock. This may have been what woke me up at 6.35. They said her heart may have been failing for a while, or she may have had a tumour, or something on her lungs. We just don't know. I am confident that up until two days ago she did have a good quality of life. She asked me to let her outside on Tuesday, for goodness sake. I don't think there was anything else we could have done. I'm so glad I did wake up so that we could try to save her, even if it was ultimately unsuccessful.

The vet also thinks she was older than the fourteen years we thought she was. When we adopted her, she had lived with her sister Holly and we were told they were born at Christmas (hence the names) but we're unsure what year that was. Holly was a bigger cat and apparently bullied her, and so the two of them were to be split up. Ivy came and talked to me straight away, and I also loved the white markings on her bum that made her look like she was wearing tights. She came to live here in January 2007, so she had been here over thirteen years. Lee didn't like cats but Ivy didn't give him a choice - she just put herself into our lives and made him love her. She would follow him round the house and loved lying on him.

She had problems with her teeth and had most of them removed in January 2011. Looking at her remaining ones today, the vet thought she was older than fourteen, and this may have contributed to the heart failure. I really don't think there was anything we could have done, but it's easy to beat yourself up wondering what if.

When we got our garden mended in 2016, with turf finally put down, Ivy was allowed outside for the first time. She would ask to be let out, although if the weather was bad she would soon come back in again. She loved to lie on the path in the sun. She could have possibly jumped over the fence at either side of the garden, but she never bothered to try. She was very nosy and loved to see what the neighbours were up to, and they thought it was funny how she would just sit in the garden and please herself. I wrote about that here. We have spent a lot of happy hours lying outside in the sunshine with Ivy, and right up until Tuesday she still wanted to be outside.

I think I will have some photos of her printed off and put into an album or on the wall. She was extremely photogenic, although I appreciate that I am biased. She was very, very soft. And little! She had very little legs and was always a bit chubby. We gave her unlimited cuddles, all the cold water she wanted, lots of sunny windowsills to lie on, treats, and a lot of love.

RIP Ivy, possibly Dec 2005 - June 2020. You were a fantastic, loving, beautiful cat, and I was privileged to have you live in my house and give me such attention. You will be so, so missed.

This was a couple of weeks ago, and she was too hot. She often did this when she was too hot

This was a few weeks ago, she is sitting on Lee's pillow here. SHE was comfortable, but I'm not sure he was!

She liked sitting in little boxes, like many cats, and sat in the jigsaw box a lot

Cuddling me the other day

Her little crossed paws just absolutely slayed me! She had in recent weeks been sleeping on my pillows a lot (which makes me now wonder if she was unwell and wanted to be near to me) and this was one morning before we got up

Oh and look, this is her "no pictures, please" pose. So cute

And this was just last week when we were lying on the grass in the sunshine. Too adorable.

My heart feels broken right now. I loved her so, so much. Thanks, cat, for being the best

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Films of the Month - May

I watched quite a lot of films in May, partly because there were a lot I wanted to watch, and partly because I got into the habit of watching a film each week with my friend Sam, which was nice. We mostly used Netflix Party to have a chat while we were watching it. It was very companionable and ideal while in lockdown.

Here's what I watched:

Lee and I watched Ocean's 8, which I think is brilliant. I love a crime caper and an all female one is so amazing

I watched Echo in the Canyon which is a documentary about the musicians living near LA in the 60s, like Bob Dylan and the Mamas and Papas. I really enjoyed it, I would recommend it

Sam and I watched Liam: As It Was, a documentary about Liam's life post-Oasis. We both liked it - he is pretty funny and engaging throughout and it's nice to see him with his mam and ALL his kids (including Molly Moorish). I'd recommend it if you're even just a casual fan like me

I wanted to see Miss Congeniality 2 as I'd never seen it and I like the first too much, but I thought it was just rubbish unfortunately

A Secret Love is a Netflix documentary about two women who were together for years, but who weren't out to their families. It's a lot about love and family and also about getting older and what that entails. It's really good, watch it

I watched this, about the events of Bloody Sunday in Ireland, and I - well, I won't say liked it - but it is good

Lee and I watched Terminator 2, which for my money is better than the first film. 

Sam and I watched My Neighbour Totoro which neither of us had ever seen. We both really liked it

I don't quite know why Netflix recommended Book Club to me, but I watched it and thought it was quite fun. A bit of Monday escapism. The cast is all great

I watched The Half of It on a Netflix Party with some friends and liked it, it's a cute teen movie and I'd recommend it if that's your thing

I've been meaning to watch The Lion King (the original cartoon one) for absolutely ages. I've only seen it once, way back when it first came out when I was TEN! It's alright, I suppose. Not my favourite Disney

I haven't ever seen the film of Brideshead Revisited, although I have of course seen the 1980s TV series and I loved the book when I read it twenty years ago. I quite liked it, Matthew Goode is great, but I can't ever quite warm to Ben Whishaw. Still, I'm glad I saw it, and I do love the story

Sam and I watched Weekend together, which is about two men who hook up on a Friday night and fall in love over the weekend. I didn't love it, it left me a bit cold, but it was interesting enough to watch

Lee wanted to see Dunkirk as he hasn't seen it. I love it, I find it stressful to watch, thanks to the truly unnerving soundtrack. It looks amazing

I finally watched Napoleon Dynamite, which I'd never seen. I thought it was okay, I feel like I missed out culturally way back in 2004 so at least I've put it right now!

A few people had recommended Crip Camp on Twitter and it's on Netflix so I thought why not. It's about a camp for teens with disabilities and the ensuing fight for the rights of disabled people in America in the years that followed. It's REALLY good, definitely watch it

Finally, Sam and I watched The Social Network which she'd never seen. I have, and I like it because I like Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield. Sam thought it was quite ridiculous, which it is! I have such a soft spot for it, though

Friday, June 26, 2020

Baking Soda Bread

I have, like everyone else, been baking more while in lockdown. Mostly cakes and stuff, but I've been seeing everyone else baking bread and wanted to join in. I really want to make some sourdough or focaccia, but we haven't been able to find yeast ANYWHERE since before lockdown. Then I saw a few people making soda bread, which doesn't use yeast, and thought that sounded perfect.

We couldn't find buttermilk but the recipe we used said that if you couldn't find it, you could sour whole milk with lemon juice. That's what we did, and I think it worked fine. The other ingredients are plain flour, salt, and bicarbonate of soda. You simply sieve the flour, salt, and bicarb, and then pour in the milk. Stir until it's a sticky dough. Put it on a flour dusted baking tray and then cut a very deep cross into the dough. This helps the heat penetrate right to the middle of the dough, to cook it through at the same rate that the outside cooks. We dusted some flour on top, too.

We baked it on gas mark 4 for 30 minutes. That seriously seemed to be all it needed - it came out looking well. We left it to cool for a few minutes then sliced off a small slice to taste and share. It's quite salty - I think next time I would put less salt in. The texture is quite cakey and doughy, I think it would be really nice with jam spread on top!

We used this recipe here, it's good.

Pouring the soured milk into the flour and other dry ingredients

The dough all ready on the tray, but before we cut the cross

And this is after baking! Doesn't it look lovely? The cross lets the dough stretch

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Trip Out to Dunford Bridge

On the last Saturday in May Lee and I went out for a drive and then a walk, as we had done the previous Bank Holiday Monday. The weather was still beautiful and I was desperate for some sunshine. I was going a bit loopy having to be in the house all the time, as I'm sure we all were. I decided we would go to Dunford Bridge, which is between here and Manchester and where I've been before, a long time ago, way back in 2013. Lee couldn't remember it at all, but once we got there he was like ohhhh yes I've been here before.

There were a lot of people there, but mostly setting off walking or cycling down the trail. There's a few picnic tables and there were people sitting around some of them, but we could sit far enough away to still be social distancing from people (something which I think we'll be doing for quite a few months yet!). We had stopped in Penistone to buy lunch, but there weren't any ready made sandwiches so Lee had bought a container of egg mayo and some bread to make our own sandwiches. The sun was shining and it was so lovely to just sit there for a while. We walked down the trail a bit, then came home. I sat in the garden for a little bit longer catching some sun, before finally admitting that I had things to do and couldn't just sit around in the sun all day. It was a nice little trip out, though!

Here's my photos:

Looking down on one of the reservoirs - look at those beautiful moors


It was the first outing of my Saltwater sandals this summer! I love them so much, still. I think I might buy another pair. I wrote a review of them here last summer.

It was quite windy and this is what my hair looked like when I got back in the car!

Back at home we had an ice cream in the front garden

And here's what I was wearing. The skirt is Scarlett & Jo and is quite thick and warm, actually, but it was fine. The top is from Yours and is greener than it looks in this photo. It's comfortable to wear!

Friday, June 19, 2020

Scentful Wax Review

Back in March I reviewed Wax Crumbles from a company called Wax Addict, in a post here. I've been really enjoying using the crumbles in my wax warmer. Most of the fragrances are new to me and I've liked them. Now that the weather is so warm I do still like to burn a candle or have the wax warmer going, but I find myself wanting fresher scents.

I saw an ad on Instagram for Scentful Wax and liked the aesthetic on the page so went to look. They make hand poured wax melts, in bars that are five by two, and you snap off two bits to melt at a time. They say that two squares will last for around 12 hours, which is a whole lot of burning!

If I signed up to the newsletter I got 10% off my first order, so I did that. They sell selection boxes which are themed and which are £19.99 and which contain eight bars. This seems comparable to the Wax Addicts box I bought previously. Postage is free over £20 so I decided to add two bars, one in Pear Drops and the other in Flower Explosion (which is a dupe for a well known perfume that I love).

I placed my order on Sunday, and received the good on Friday. With a bank holiday on the Monday too, that really meant they got to me quickly! They came in a flat parcel, meaning they went through the letterbox without the postman needing to knock, which is good if you're often out of the house.

I was impressed with the packaging and the cute thank you note. Plus a loyalty card! That's good. The bars themselves are just gorgeous. They are different colours and have different glitter in them. Plus the scents are just beautiful! In my selection box were: Marshmallow Fluff, Snow Queen (a dupe for Lush's Snow Fairy, which I LOVE), Baby Powder, Cotton Fresh, Blueberry & Vanilla, Pink Fizz & Lemonade, Pink Opium, and Peony Blush. The other two in the box are the ones I mentioned above that I chose separately. All of the bars have an amazing scent, I couldn't wait to melt some!

I decided to go for Cotton Fresh to start off with, which is a fresh, laundry powder kind of scent. It seemed ideal for a bright sunny day. As the squares melted they released their glitter, but also had swirls of shimmer in them, like you get in cocktails sometimes. This made the wax burner look really lovely, which I like.

And the scent! It had such a lovely clean and fresh scent, and it threw a long way which I'm a fan of. I had it melting for about four hours to start off with, and the scent lingered most of the day afterwards.

I was not paid for this review and did not receive anything in compensation for it. I just wanted to share my thoughts on a company that is new to me!

Cute cards at the top of the parcel

All the wax bars. They're all soy wax, I think. They come packaged in cellulose wrappers, instead of plastic, which is biodegradable I believe. Look at these gorgeous colours!

Here are the scents

Just starting to melt - this is a pale green wax to begin with

And as it melts, it releases a ton of shimmer and the glitter you can see. It's so pretty!

I'm definitely going to buy from Scentful Wax again, and I'll definitely share some of these gorgeous bars with my mum who also loves candles and wax.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Underbank Reservoir

On Bank Holiday Monday Lee and I had a nice trip out. The weather was really sunny and Lee wasn't working, obviously, so we decided to go to the supermarket first of all and then go somewhere for some fresh air and sunshine. We went to the Tesco in Penistone, it's a medium sized supermarket which is ideal for us. The queue wasn't too long, but it was still only one person per household so I sat in the car while Lee went in. He was around 40 minutes, and I had my book with me so I just sat reading.

We then headed to Midhopestones which is a village we pass through if we're on the way to Hathersage lido. (Oh how I so wish we'd been heading there - my body misses swimming!) I knew there was a reservoir just off the main road, so we drove there and parked in a layby. There was a gate on to the land, and then just a small walk through the trees to the side of the reservoir. There were a few other people there but everyone was making sure to keep a safe distance apart. We had a bag of lunch and our camping chairs to sit down.

It was absolutely marvellous. The sun was sparkling off the water and it was so calm and beautiful. It feels like a really long time since I've been near water in that fashion and I really needed it. It was just perfect. We sat and ate our lunch in the sunshine. Lee doesn't deal well with sun so after that he was too hot, so he moved backwards into the shade. I took my shoes off and felt the earth beneath them.

We considered walking along by the very edge of the reservoir on the little beach bit, but I desperately wanted to paddle but it's really rocky and I didn't have my water shoes with me. Plus we had cold stuff in the car and didn't want to be too much longer. So we just drove home, but it had been a lovely lunch trip out, and much needed.

When we got home we had an ice cream each.

Beautiful panorama I took just as we arrived

The view across the reservoir - there were people on the other side picnicking too

These trees were so tall and so shady and beautiful. They were like the kind you get on campsites in France!

Look at the beautiful sky. I tipped my head back and tried to just be in the sunshine for a bit

Looking left

Looking right

And here's me and Lee

And finally, I ate my ice cream sitting on the bottom step looking out of the back door