Posted on February 7, 2013 in Food and Drink, Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay6 Comments »


Funny the things that make me happy, isn’t it?

I know you’re all squinting at the screen right now and wondering if I’ve gone mad, and what the heck that is in that bag up there, so I’ll put you out of your misery.

Up there, my friends, is a wonderful bagful of rye sourdough starter. And, unlike most sourdough starter sold in the UK today, it has absolutely no added yeast in it at all.

Today we went to see my brother and niece down in Darkest Essex. It’s been a while, and we had a great time. We had lunch, and chatted about this and that, and one of the things we talked about was bread. Seems my brother is a bit of an expert in his own quiet* way.

And sitting on a board in his kitchen was a rather lovely-looking loaf of dark bread. He told me it was sourdough, made with rye flour, and it had sesame seeds on it, which are a favourite of mine. We talked about my intolerance to yeast, and long fermentation processes, and why it’s better for you, and how much nicer the bread tastes and all, and then he gave me a slice with some rather good cheddar.

And heavens, that bread was good. One of the nice things about it was the sourdough taste, but another was the lack of over-salting. So that made me happy.

And then he made me even happier. He gave me half of his sourdough starter so that I could make my own sourdough, low salt, long fermentation bread! How cool is that?

So not only have I spent a lovely day with family, but I have a sourdough starter in my fridge.

It may not be pretty, but it’s a thing of beauty to me!

* Actually, not so quiet, since – as he cheerfully admits himself – he can talk about bread ALL DAY.

‘How to be HAPPY!’ is a brand new meme. It’s about finding the little things in life which bring a smile or a glow of warmth to our hearts and souls during our daily lives. Why? Because it’s the way all these little things add up which truly determines if we are happy people, not the big stuff like a lottery win.

To enter, write a post about one thing which has made you happy in some small way recently – it could be birdsong, a favourite smell, a particularly good loaf of bread, a blue sky, anything! Then scroll to the bottom, click the Mr Linky graphic and add your blog post details to the Linky which will appear in a new window, and you’re in.

If you’d like, copy the badge (up at the top of this post) and paste it into your own.

Oh, and it would be nice if you popped round to visit and comment on a few of the others, too!


It took me a little while to decide what to do for this week’s Illustration Friday prompt of ‘Wheels’.  Odd really, since I’d been researching dog ‘wheelchairs’ recently with regard to a possible future need for Sid, but I didn’t think of that right away.  And – being me – I wanted to do something original.

And then, while doodling (as one does), I found myself drawing greyhounds, and then greyhounds with carts, and lo and behold!  I had found my subject.

Most dogs who need carts are not amputees, but dogs with paralysis problems, or lumbosacral stenosis, which causes progressive weakness in the spine and back legs.  But many amputees do develop mobility problems as they age and the inevitable muscle loss sets in.  And what do you do?  Do you accept that they will find it less and less easy, and more and more painful to get up and down and walk around?  And that when they can no longer do so without too much pain, that you must let them go?  Or do you find them a way to manage?

It depends a lot on the dog.  Some take to carts like the proverbial duck to water and they’re off and running almost before you have the last buckle fastened.  Others don’t like this metal thing attached to them and find it awkward, unwieldy, or even scary.  Some – and I suspect Sid might be in this category – simply cannot tolerate the ‘saddle’ that their belly/groin area must rest on.  I suspect he might be, but I’m sure as hell going to give him the chance, if and when the time comes.

Meanwhile, here’s my Illustration Friday drawing.  I made a sketch using pen and ink, scanned it, and then coloured it and embellished it using Photoshop. I had to use many layers, and several different techniques, including laying down a colour, then selectively erasing areas of it.  The sky was done with a gradient, and the sandy earth and grass with some of the many brush tools.  I am not a Photoshop expert, when it comes to illustration and drawing, because I mainly use it for photography – but it’s been fun learning some new methods of making marks on ‘paper’!


Posted on February 6, 2013 in Life, the Universe and Everything, The Home Front by Jay9 Comments »


‘Tis the season of colds, flu and nameless viruses.

For some, this means bronchitis and worsening asthma. For the really unlucky few, it means pneumonia. But what can you do, short of barricading yourself into your home and disinfecting the milk bottles and the mail before anyone brings them inside?

We all know of the importance of washing our hands after using public toilets. We should also know about the door handles and the surfaces of restaurant tables. Yes, and the perils of free peanuts.

And have you thought about the ‘pick and bag your own’ fruit and veg section? Where people with non-too clean hands and clothes will be rummaging through the apples to find the best, and sneezing all over the produce. Well. I suppose we should wash them before eating them, anyway, should we not?

But what about the supermarket trolley? You hadn’t thought of that, had you?

Think about it now: All the great unwashed hordes, snivelling in the first stages of a vicious cold or incipient flu, wiping their noses on their hands or their sleeves just before detaching the trolley from the chain gang. Or there’s the snotty-nosed toddler in the trolley seat, rubbing his chubby little fingers all over his snotty little nose and then grasping the handle in front of him. Look around you next time you’re in a supermarket – it happens!

Those happy little viruses get smeared all over the handle, and if the atmosphere in the shop is warm and moist – as it so often is during the winter – and the turnover is quick enough, they will still be there when you take charge of it later.

Then what happens? Each time you lift your hand from the germ-encrusted trolley handle and pick up a loaf of bread or a pack of meat or a hand of bananas, you are transferring germs to your food.

What’s that I hear you saying? ‘It’s only on the outside of the package’?

Yep, that’s right, but who wipes the packages before stashing them in the fridge? Uh-huh .. you are bringing home flu germs from your local Sainsbury or Tesco or Morrisons and parking them IN YOUR FRIDGE!

Mmm! Ready-chilled germies. Tasty!

But what can you do about it?


Well, apart from food shops refusing entry to anyone who looks remotely unwell (impractical), and equipping their security staff with a ruler to smack people over the knuckles with if they wipe their noses on their hands (tempting!), I think our best bet is to keep a pack of hand wipes in your pocket so you can wipe down the trolley handle before you use it.


Simple, but effective. You can all thank me later!

So, OK, it might not be 100% guaranteed to prevent the flu, but it’s worth a try, huh? You might at least avoid the Winter Vomiting Bug, a nasty cold – or these days, it seems – Measles, which is staging a come-back!

Oh, and by the way. When I sent OH off to find a pack of hand wipes to keep in the car for this very purpose, he first carefully asked me whose car they would be kept in. I told him they would stay in his car, since I already had some in mine, and off he trotted.

He came back with that pack up there. I asked him why.

“Well”, he said, “It says on the front ’60+’, and I’m over sixty!”

Yeah, his eyesight isn’t that hot these days, either.


No, no, I haven’t taken up new habits. Tee hee!

Earlier today, I put a load of washing into the machine. I admit I was in a hurry. I further admit that I probably stuffed more into the machine than I really should have done. But I didn’t expect …

Well, anyway.

When I went to get it out, I put the basket in front of the machine, hauled out the (seemingly endless) tangle of clothes and pulled the basket from our tiny utility room into the kitchen to fold them.

I reached out a hand, and snatched it back as if stung.


WTF … ?

Something very strange was in there, half hidden in a violently pink fleece*. I couldn’t work out what it was, but that rat did disappear rather abruptly from the garden, so I wasn’t taking any chances.

I circled the basket, looking at it from all angles. It seemed to have a vaguely human face, despite the fact that it was all the wrong shape to be having a face at all.

I gingerly picked it up and looked at it more closely.



I took it in the conservatory, where OH was placidly reading something on his iPad.

‘I seem to have had a mishap,’ I said. ‘A rather big mishap’.

OH looked at me over the top of his glasses. ‘Why? What have you done?’

Me (holding up the Sodden Thing): ‘Look!

OH: ‘But what is it?’

Me: ‘Look at it! Can’t you see? It’s ‘A Monk’s Hood’!

And then seeing OH’s puzzled look: ‘It’s a book!

OH: ‘A book??’

Me: ‘Yes – it got into the washing machine!’

OH (Peering at it): ‘That’s not a book! That’s an EX-book’

Me: ‘But, but, I was reading it!’


OH (Hopefully): ‘Perhaps you could iron it … ?’


And as usually happens after one of these conversations, I was suddenly struck by a fit of … not exactly the giggles, more a case of the belly-laughs. Took a while to be able to breathe properly again, I can tell you.

But poor Cadfael. After all his many adventures, what a very unpleasant end for him. And I was only on the second chapter! Now I’ll never know who died, let alone whodunnit!

And of course, it would have to be a dark wash, wouldn’t it? Now I’ve got bits of gluey book pages all over my black and navy tee shirts.


I wonder if they’re still readable? I suppose I could carefully pick them all off, dry them out, and, um … well. Iron them!

* I am not a pink person. When I bought this fleece, many years ago, it was a beautiful, muted shade of dark raspberry – almost a light bordeaux – but with repeated washing, whatever colour was turning that screamingly luminescent pink into a hue of softer beauty has completely leached out. Trouble is that, apart from its new colour, it’s a great fleece. And so I continue to wear it … On very carefully selected occasions.

** Cadfael, the mediaeval monk detective, features in a series of ‘whodunnits’ by Ellis Peters. They’re wonderful books. The pace is slow, the plots are interesting, and they are a showcase for Peters’ extensive historical knowledge of the social and political history of the period.