The many and various ways I pass the time now has a new addition. Usually it involves drinking coffee whilst sitting at a computer keeping in touch with chums, or sipping wine sitting on our tiny terrace catching the sun, and wondering what else I can do to avoid any cleaning or tidying or putting away of stuff and things that aren't even MINE. And now I am going to type this blog. Provided that doesn't become a chore as well, in which case...

Friday, 31 January 2014

Another New Year Already?

Welcome to the Year of the Horse, one and all.  The Husband and The Dog and I are going to mark the Lunar New Year with this recipe, courtesy of an FB friend who gave me a link to it.  It is from a blog by a woman called Fuchsia Dunlop.

Photos to follow, which will be added and inserted when I have some, including action shots of The Husband sparking up his beloved double wok burner which resides splendiferously in the middle of our range cooker hob.

Gong Bao chicken with peanuts
gong bao ji ding

"This dish, also known as Kung Pao chicken, has the curious distinction of having been labelled as politically incorrect during the Cultural Revolution. It is named after a late Qing Dynasty (late nineteenth-century) governor of Sichuan, Ding Baozhen, who is said to have particularly enjoyed eating it – gong bao was his official title. This association with an Imperial bureaucrat was enough to provoke the wrath of the Cultural Revolution radicals, and it was renamed ‘fast-fried chicken cubes’ (hong bao ji ding) or ‘chicken cubes with seared chillies’ (hu la ji ding) until its political rehabilitation in the 1980s.

2 boneless chicken breasts (about 300g or 3/4 pound in total)
3 cloves of garlic and an equivalent amount of ginger
5 spring onions, white parts only
2 tbsp groundnut oil
a handful of dried red chillies (at least 10)
1 tsp whole Sichuan pepper
75g (2/3 cup) roasted peanuts

For the marinade:
½ tsp salt
2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp Shaoxing wine
1½ tsp potato flour
1 tbsp water

For the sauce:
3 tsp sugar
¾ tsp potato flour
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp light soy sauce
3 tsp Chinkiang vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp chicken stock or water


"Serves 2 as a main dish with rice and one stir-fried vegetable dish, 4 with three other dishes

  1. Cut the chicken as evenly as possible into 1cm strips and then into small cubes. Mix with the marinade ingredients.
  2. Peel and thinly slice the garlic and ginger, and chop the spring onions into Icm (1/2 inch) chunks. Snip the chillies into 1.5cm (3/4 inch) sections, discarding seeds as far as possible. Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
  3. Pour a little groundnut oil into the wok and heat until it smokes, swirling the oil around to cover the entire base of the wok. Pour off into a heatproof container. Add 3 tbsp fresh oil and heat over a high flame. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the chillies and Sichuan pepper and stir-fry for a few seconds until they are fragrant (take care not to burn them).
  4. Add the chicken and continue to stir-fry. When the chicken cubes have separated, add the ginger, garlic and spring onions and stir-fry until they are fragrant and the meat is just cooked.
  5. Give the sauce a stir and add to the wok, continuing to stir and toss. As soon as the sauce has become thick and lustrous, add the peanuts, mix them in, and serve immediately."

Thursday, 30 January 2014

I Feel Like Goulash Tonight...

...'cos it's just that sort of a day.  The wind has dropped, it is still and relatively dry, but relentlessly, in every bloody direction you can see, GREY.  Like being under a gigantic Eastern European, Cold War army-issue blanket.

There was some foolish talk on the national (i.e. UK, Scotland hasn't voted yet...) weather forecast of the possibility of snow on high ground (near) here, but good ol' Derek on BBC Wales was much more cautious and circumspect.  He said there maybe some snow on the Black Mountains with the odd flurry in Powys possible this afternoon.

Powys is a very large county.  I don't think my Dear Old Uni Chum who commented on my FB page last night saying that the BBC had said the rain would suddenly turn to snow at 7.00pm "where you are"quite appreciates how big.  Even though she and her husband visit here us at least once a year its very size and scope and variety of terrain may have eluded them.  Our fault for being such good hosts and so generous with the drink.

They actually met at our wedding, these friends, which happened in the Montgomeryshire bit of Powys on a glorious late-May day.  He was the handsome be-kilted usher in charge of The Dog (who was a mere one-year-old whippersnapper when we married in 2003) and sat with his charge on his tartan knee in the back pew nearest the door during the service.  A good-looking Scotsman in a kilt attending to a lovely wee West Highland White Terrier?  Oh how cute, you cry and yes! They looked divine! 

There was also a black lab in a side aisle, with her human family, but I am not sure the vicar (aka Perpetua from Perpetually In Transit) knew about that.  It was too hot to leave a dog in a car for forty minutes even with the windows chinked.  Needs Must, and we are all God's creatures. 

Our usher heard his destined but not-yet-met beloved give the Old Testament reading, from The Song of Solomon, yes that one.  She did it beeeaaauuutifully.

They got talking at the reception.  And haven't stopped talking to each other since. They got married three years later.  I love that story.  "Out of a wedding comes a wedding" goes the proverb, and in our case it actually happened.  When you think of the words he heard his wife speak before he'd ever even clapped eyes on her it is an uncanny, even slightly spooky tale.

Cue Twilight Zone music...

Anyhoo, no snow here.  It doesn't feel like snow, and I've stuck my nose out of the door and it definitely doesn't smell like snow, either, but in any case it's still goulash for us, 'cos it's just that kind of day

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Oh, OK, then, you CAN have some photos...but only a handful

Mrs Charlotte Dolly and her adopted daughter,
Miss Amelia van der Graff, finish breakfast
Edith the nursery maid checks on baby Louisa Dolly

Edgar the white terrier and Lionel the spaniel grow hopeful that 
Old Mrs Dolly will soon take them on their morning constitutional

 In the afternoon visitors call by to practise their music together
and entertain Old Mrs Dolly with Beethoven's Archduke Trio

The dogs think string instruments sound like cats,
but are well-trained in not barking

Friday, 24 January 2014

By Popular Demand...

I woke up at 8.30am this morning and then - wait for it - got up, put on some socks and a cardie over my PJs and then came down and made the coffee. This is some sort of record for late January. However, I am now at a slight loss now to know what to do with the extra time, so I thought to myself, I thought, erm, well may as well BLOG.

Because we are by way of being neighbours (five miles is cheek by jowl, almost, in the blissfully underpopulated stretches of rural mid- Wales we inhabit) I see more of my Big Sis (aka Perpetua of Perpetually in Transit on Blogger) than I do of any other family member apart from The Daughter, The Husband and The Dog.  Of late she has been encouraging me/repeatedly requesting/nagging me (strike as you think appropriate) to do a blog update on The Dolly House, which has taken shape and form, been decorated and furnished by me and had lighting and twinkly fire grates installed (thanks to The Husband) and is populated by a large extended family of dinky little dolls, all set in the early Victorian era of about 1845-59. 

The menfolk are between 5.5" and 6" tall in this 1:12, inch-to-a-foot miniature world, the ladies and their female servants are about 5" to 5.5" and the children considerably less, right down to the baby who is an inch-and-a half long and meant to be about three months old.  It took me quite some days to get into the swing of dressing them in handmade clothes to my own design, the very smallness eluded me at first, and my early attempts were clumsy and ungainly.  I ordered some specialist books, and watched various YouTube videos, and then I gradually got the hang of the scale, started using very fine fabrics (fine cottons like Liberty Lawn are particularly good but silk is a nightmare to handle), cut the pattern pieces small with a narrow seem allowance, pressing them open as I went and hand-stitched everything in the teensiest stitches I could muster.  I have even learnt to repaint the faces in modelling enamels, where I felt the need, and my crowning achievement has to be learning to re-wig dolls in viscose or mohair fibre, and add facial hair for the chaps.

I have been Very Busy.  I said so yesterday, didn't I?  NOW do you believe me?!

I fit and stitch straight onto the dolls, which have soft arms and legs and torso over a flexible pose-able wire armature, but have porcelain arms/hands, lower legs/feet and shoulders/neck/head.  So a lady has pantaloons fitted first and stitched to the body at the waist (and gathered at the ankle if the design demands), then petticoat skirts after that, then her outer dress skirt over that, and then the sleeves stitched at the shoulder, and finally the dress bodice over that, with any trim or lace added beforehand in the case of cuffs and at the hem, and afterwards for the collars or neckline.

I have a taken about a gazillion photos of the process, step-by-step, and also of the room settings and the dollies going about their daily dolly business.  I have put lots of albums of the best of these photos on Facebook.  I could edit it down to half a dozen and add them to this text, but the story and weeks and weeks of work would be lost in such an abridgement, and the choice of which to use will be very time-consuming for me, so I am now going to go over to my Facebook age and change the privacy settings to "public" on all the dolls house albums.  That way,  you can find Marion Griffin Bulmer on Facebook and view the photos at your leisure when it suits you, and leave the odd comment next to them if you like.

So there, Big Sis, you can stop your "encouragement" now.  I have at last done as I was told.  Obedience has always been slightly eventual for me.  The Dog takes after me in that.


Tuesday, 21 January 2014

I've been Very Busy - OK?

No blogging done, at least not by way of writing my own, since August 2013.  The Dolly House took over, and then my annual episode of SAD shortened my waking time by two or three hours a day, then there was Christmas, and then visitors and visiting.  But today I thought, oh go ON write one, so I shall.

I have been awake, up and about, with weary smeary bleary blurry eyes, but awake since 10.30am! The Husband and I both have sight test and eye examination this afternoon. The ophthalmologist is likely to take two steps backwards and exclaim Mrs Bulmer, how have you been getting around without being covered in bruises from bumping into furniture? and hand me a white stick.  Either that or he will pop out my eyeballs, sigh heavily, give them a good polish with a lint-free cloth, and then fit them back in.

Mild exaggeration, but I expect tutting. Last sight test I can remember was December 2005. There may have been one since, but I didn't have any new specs made up, and I rarely wear the distance ones I had made in 2005, and only use off-the-peg readers for music and the instructions on packets. Use it or lose it is my approach to my eyes...the only part of my body I exercise apart from my vocal cords.
  I have about four pairs of sun glasses and even more reading specs from 1.5+  to about 2.5+in strength, so I am guessing my reading add has gone up.  Otherwise, except for the mornings, my eyesight is pretty much OK.

More to the point, The Husband is being tested.  As he has Type II Diabetes (controlled by diet) and a family history of glaucoma, he really needs to be checked out every couple of years without fail.  And because I am the female spouse it is rather down to me to arrange it, as I am in charge of the calendar and pretty much everything that goes in it.  T'was ever thus when a couple marries, no?

The Husband calls me the Social Secretary, when he is not referring to me as the War Office.

And yet, I let him live...