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A Hard Post To Write…..

My life has changed enormously since I started to write this blog four years ago when my daughters were just 12 and 14……they are 16 and 18 now and have turned into beautiful young ladies who we are very proud of.

Three years ago I lost one of my best friends to cancer and then two years ago my father-in-law passed away too.

After this I then had to give up my lovely four allotments in January 2015, due to family problems and our rescue dog, who turned out to be highly reactive and took up an awful lot of my time (and our money) to train.

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On top of this I have recently developed a lower back problem that is causing me a lot of pain when I bend.  I visited a physiotherepist and he said it is just ‘wear and tear’ and I should continue doing everything as normal, taking pain killers when I need to…..and this is what I have been doing.

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The last few years have really been hard for our family, though I have tried to put a smile on my face and carry on as normal…. but things are now settling down in the Thrift household and life is finally beginning to calm down again.

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Time to be honest:

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However recently I haven’t really felt myself, but I have struggled on regardless.  Quite often I have felt very drained of energy and tearful and I have been really struggling to sleep at night which doesn’t help.

Mr Thrift and I have come to the conclusion that either the last few years have finally caught up with me or it is simply that ‘time of life’ that all women my age go through….or a mix of both!  Either way I feel I need to sit back and relax a bit more and take some time out for myself, instead of my usual rushing around.

So for now I have decided to take a break from my blog for a few months (as it does take me quite a lot of time planning and writing it each week).

I really hope you don’t mind me making this decision, but hopefully it won’t be for too long.

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A quick update before I go:

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My kitchen garden continues to do well and I am harvesting fruit and vegetables every day in small amounts:

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This week I have taken up my onions and I have had a great crop….I am very pleased with them:

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My outdoor and indoor cucumbers are doing well too and we are picking them daily:

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My beetroot, kohl rabis and cabbages are just about ready to pick:

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And so too is my one and only butternut squash that I grew in a pot this year:

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And I am picking raspberries, blueberries, tomatoes and runner beans almost daily:

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The flowers are doing well around the garden as well, which is great for beneficial insects that pollinate the crops…… it also looks very pretty and I’m hoping to spend more time enjoying it all:

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And Finally…..Judy:

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Lots of you ask about Judy our rescue dog.  In October 2014 we brought her home from the RSPCA – we were fourth owners and she had a hugh amount of problems that became apparent two or three weeks later.  The poor dog was scared of everything, but unfortunately it all came out as barking and lunging.

She reacted to traffic, men, bikes, birds, prams, the TV, men in hats, walking sticks, litter pickers, any little noise in the house etc. etc. but the worst thing of all was her reaction to other dogs….which caused many dog owners to shout and yell at me when their dogs approached Judy (even though she was on a lead and muzzled).

The two photos below were taken on her first week home with us in Oct 2014:

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As you know we tried everything, kalm aid in her food, pheromone deffusers and collars and even doggie ‘prozac’ from the vets and nothing worked….until we found Steven Havers.

Steven trained me to deal with all of Judy’s insecurities and we will forever be in his debt as Judy has now turned into a wonderful dog, who we all love very much.

She hasn’t worn a muzzle for over a year now and over the last few months Judy has made lots of doggie friends and calmly socilises with them, sometimes in groups of ten or more dogs at a time.  She is now off-lead on the field in the park and nearly always comes back to me when I recall her……I am so proud of her and other dog walkers comment on how well she is doing nearly every day.

I am so glad we perservered and didn’t give up on her.

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Judy now

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Well that really is it for the moment.

In the meantime I want to say a big thank you for your continued support over the last four years and I really hope you understand my reasons for taking a break.

Thank you for reading my blog today…….I hope to be back in a few months time.

Look after yourselves and enjoy the rest of the summer.

XXX

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Tomato Blight & A Cake Sale

My small garden is continuing to produce crops.

This week I have been picking cucumbers (both indoor and outdoor ones), raspberries, runner beans courgettes, patty pans and I dug up the rest of my early potatoes (marfona) and a few of my main crop potatoes (desiree):

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I also picked my first kohl rabi of the season – which my daughters love to eat raw, dipped in salad cream, hopefully there will be more soon:

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I have also continued to pick tomatoes from my greenhouse and chery tomatoes from my outdoor hanging baskets:

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However, I spotted the dreaded ‘blight’ on my outdoor tomatoes.  I grow a variety called ‘outdoor girl’ which usually give me a good crop each year before blight strikes, however this year they didn’t grow as quickly as usual due to a colder start in late Spring and so all the tomatoes were still green.

Tomato blight:

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“Tomato blight is caused by the same fungus as potato blight.  It is called ‘Phytophthora infestans’, but it is more commonly known as ‘late blight’.  It is a windblown fungus that can travel long distances.  It spreads when the temperature is above 10C and the humidity is above 75% for two consecutive days, known as a ‘Smith Period’.   In the UK outbreaks can occur from June onwards and apparently it is usually seen in the south west first.

The disease is common on outdoor tomatoes – tomatoes grown in a polytunnel or greenhouse have a bit of protection from it, as the spores have to enter through doors and vents.

The early stages of blight can be easily missed and not all plants are affected at the same time, however it will spread rapidly”

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For some strange reason, the tomatoes next to my shed and my cherry tomatoes in hanging baskets haven’t yet succumbed to the dreaded blight, though I am checking them daily, together with my greenhouse tomatoes:

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However the cherry tomatoes that are growing in pots, began to show blight symptoms a couple of days after blight was first spotted in my garden:

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What to do if you spot blight on your plants:

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“If you catch blight early you can strip the tomatoes from the plant and ripen them on a windowsill.  Be careful to check them every day as some of them may already be affected.

If you have caught it really early, you can use the green tomatoes to make chutney, as provided they haven’t turned brown, the tomatoes are safe to eat.

Take up your blighted tomato plants straight away and dispose of them, so you don’t help to spread the spores to your neighbour’s plots.

 According to ‘Garden Organic’ the stems and leaves of affected plants can be added to your compost heap, as the spores won’t survive on dead plant material, but do not compost any blighted fruit (the tomatoes) as the spores survive in the seeds inside”

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My tomatoes are now on trays waiting to ripen….I always pick them off the plants when I first spot blight and this way I manage to save approx 75% of the tomatoes…provided blight is spotted early enough:

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I’ve been busy in the garden this week, summer pruning and cutting back overgrown plants.

I started with the pyracantha that was trying to escape over the fence into next doors garden.  The trunk was quite thick at the top so I had to ‘saw’ the top off.  Unfortunately I did lose most of the berries that would have ripened in autumn, but it needed to be done before it upset the neighbours:

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I then removed the sweet peas that were growing in a pot…they have given a wonderful display, but they sadly succumbed to mildew and were hardly producing any more flowers:

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 I also removed the sweet peas that were growing over the arch I made, again they gave a wonderful display but they also succumbed to mildew and had stopped producing flowers.

At the end of May I had also planted two pumpkin plants (that produce small pumpkins) alongside the sweet peas……these are growing nicely now and I made sure they tied onto the arch for support:

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I also gave my bay tree a summer prune and it smelt lovely as I was cutting the leaves.  It looks much neater now:

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One final job this week was to remove the lettuces that I tried to grow in guttering.  Unfortunately they didn’t do very well at all.  When I first planted them it was very wet and as they were so close to the fence…. I thought that they would stay really dry, however this was not the case and they were too wet and I suspect the roots began to rot.  This was followed by really hot weather and  the compost was really really dry even though I watered them every day.

So I removed the compost and drilled drainage holes along the guttering so the new compost wouldn’t become water logged in bad weather:

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I then thought about how I could keep the compost from drying out too much and came to the conclusion I should use water retaining granules…but I didn’t have any.  Then I remembered that in a gardening program once, Christine Walkden said she used old sponges that she cut up…..so this is what I did:

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I then mixed the sponge with compost and put it in the guttering……

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…..and then I sowed some more lettuce seed.

Unfortunately the local squirrel came along then and buried some monkey nuts in a couple of places, so I had to put some wire over the guttering too:

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I will let you know if this now works.

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This week in the home:

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This week has been a baking week.  My youngest daughter did a cake sale with her ‘NCS’ friends to raise money for ‘Wishes 4 kids’ and my eldest daughter and I helped by making some little cakes for her.  I also made a chcolate cake to raffle off and altogether they raised £120, which is incredible.

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However an hour after starting the sale they were beginning to run out of cakes and I quickly made some more.  I made 28 chocolate chip fairy cakes, 12 double chocolate muffins and a massive tray of cereal cakes and I defrosted some cheesy courgette scones from my freezer (which defrost quickly).  I somehow managed to deliver them all in the car within 65 minutes…..I didn’t know I could bake that quickly, but it helped that I knew the recipes off by heart.  Unfortunately when I got back home the kitchen was in a right mess with pots and bowls everywhere, but at least they raised some more money at the cake sale.

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This week I have also been doing my usual baking…

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And I also made some cheesy courgette scones which I froze for another time (though most of them went to the cake sale in the end):

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I also made some laundry liquid as I had run out (I still love making this as it is so cheap and I really can’t understand why I brought expensive powders for so long when laundry liquid is so cheap and easy to make):

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And finally I made some homemade burgers to freeze for another time and some to have for tea.  Homemade burgers are delicious as they actually taste of beef (I never think shop brought ones do).

They are so easy to make……I mix good quality lean mince beef with a couple of grated onions and a chopped garlic clove and I then mix in an egg to bind it altogether.

You can mix in any herbs and spices too if you want….a teaspoon of chilli powder makes them taste delicious too.

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I then take a handful and roll it into a ball and then flatten it into a burger shape (make sure your burgers aren’t too thick or they won’t cook evenly).  At this stage you can freeze the burgers between pieces of greaseproof paper for another time, or you can fry them until they are cooked.

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I served ours inside homemade rolls with salad, mayonaise and a slice of cheese.  I also added a side portion of sweet potato wedges and they were a real treat!

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Thank you for reading my blog today, I will be back next week as usual.

Have a great week.

XXX

A 2015 Garden Review….

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas.  I can’t quite believe how quickly 2015 passed by!

The tree and decorations have been put away and I removed the bows and cones from my Christmas wreath and I have put it outside to decorate my table whist it is still alive.

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Mr Thrift is back at work and my daughters are at school again preparing for their A levels and GCSE’s in the coming few months, so the house is quiet again.

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Unfortunately this week Judy has been very poorly with some kind of bug that she picked up.  The vet told me that quite a few dogs in our local area have had it over the last week.

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I spent most of the early hours of Tuesday morning sitting with her, as she kept being sick.  Then during the day I kept getting her to lick a bit of water off my hand to stop her becoming dehydrated.  However, she is now recovering well.

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Today as it’s my first blog post of the year, I thought it would be fun to look back at my new kitchen garden which is now twelve months old.

For those that are new to my blog….unfortunately due to family problems and our very reactive rescue dog (who is a lot better now through training) I had to give up my beautiful four allotments last January.  I decided to embrace the situation and turn my garden at home into a ‘kitchen’ garden.

Below are the before and after photos:

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Unfortunately along the way there were many large roots that I had to remove….

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…and I found an awful lot of rocks which I laid around the edge of the garden to give beneficial insects places to hide:

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Unfortunately we also found that the fence behind all the shrubs, was rotten and we had to replace it (which was an expense we hadn’t expected):

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I brought a few things back from my allotment to plant (before I gave the keys back) i.e a gooseberry bush, three currant bushes, rhubarb, autumn raspberries, strawberries, a bit of comfrey, my blueberries and some jeruselm artichokes.  However I needed to buy some dwarf apple and pear trees which you can see in the photo above that I planted along the new fence as cordons.

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I planted my strawberries next to my greenhouse in the one raised bed I brought back from my allotment, but this was the one area that wasn’t successful over the year and I only harvested a handful of berries.  I can only think the bushes behind it were taking the water from the ground and it was just too dry, even though I was watering regularly:

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 The new kitchen garden filled up very quickly and so I started to plant in whatever space I could find around the rest of the garden:

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I quickly realised that I needed more space, so I brought the wire fence forward and used a bit of our lawn to grow sweetcorn and few a tomatoes in:

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I planted the sweetcorn and tomatoes through weed suppressant so the grass underneath would die back over the summer and this worked well.

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The garden produced an amazing amount over its first year and the photos below show just some of my harvest:

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I also managed to grow flowers here and there to attract beneficial insects to it:

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 So I was very pleased overall and I know when my fruit trees, bushes and rhubarb are properly established I will have more fruit, but I wanted to find a way to grow even more fruit and vegetables in 2016:

In September I decided to bring forward my lawn area so I could have more growing space, but still have a grassed area for our dog. I acheived this by lifting the slabs where we had a second table and chairs which was where the previous owner used to have their rotary washing line……

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…..however I didn’t expect their washing line post to be cemented into two feet of concrete which I found impossible to remove!….I sat for hours chipping the top four inches of concrete off so I could turf over it – I’m praying that this area will not dry out too much in the summer due to the remaining concrete under the top soil that I used to cover it:

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So after digging in lots of compost, I prepared the area and laid some turf:

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I had to leave this area protected from our dog for a few weeks while the grass rooted.

So in November I started the middle area of the kitchen garden:

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I used the old slabs I removed earlier to make a path around the greenhouse and along the boundary for my mini greenhouses (in the area which was really dry because of the bushes).  I also set up my waterbutt to collect the water from my greenhouse:

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I bought some wood and made five new fixed beds and bought in some woodchip to make the paths:

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Now Christmas is over my garden needs a good tidy and the lawn doesn’t look quite as neat after a couple of months of our dog running around on it (especially after all the rain we have had).  I also still need to work on the area next to the lawn too, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

My garden looks remarkably different compared to this time last year and I am now looking forward to a new year of growing my own fruit and vegetables.

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 Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

I hope you have a good week!

Easy Stew & A New Area in My Garden

It’s been another wet week here and I have been dodging the showers.  It has also been very mild for this time of the year too and at times I have been too warm in my coat which is strange for November.

My primroses are still flowering, obviously very confused by this years weather:

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However, the trees on the park are shedding their leaves thick and fast now and soon the only trees left with leaves will be the evergreens……..

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……..and this reminded that Christmas is on it’s way and I will soon need to make my Christmas cake and start to prepare my hampers.

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Unfortunately my step dad has been poorly for the last month or so and he ended up in hospital twice this week.  This has meant I haven’t had a lot of time to do the things at home that I normally would, as my sister and I have been visiting him and looking after my mum.

I have been very, very glad that I have had some meals prepared in the freezer as it has been an extremely tiring week.  One day as well, I used my slow cooker to make a stew……it has been ages since we have had stew and it was gorgeous!

I used stewing steak that I had lurking in the bottom of my freezer.  I am ashamed to say I brought it a year ago and it has remained there ever since:

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A Stew Recipe:

I make stew the way my mum taught me…….I put in the cubed stewing steak, a couple of chopped onions, peeled potatoes cut into quarters and whatever vegetables I have available

(I don’t even bother to brown the meat):

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I sprinkle with mixed herbs and then cover the whole lot with beef stock:

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I then leave it in my slow cooker all day on low

(if you haven’t got a slow cooker you can cook it in your oven in a casserole dish for

2 ½ – 3 hours  on gas 4 / 180C / 350F )

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In my garden this week:

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The curly kale is providing lots to harvest and so too is my perpetual spinach:

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The leeks I planted in early summer are now ready for me to harvest when we need them….I can almost taste the leek and potato soup I will be making when I get a chance.  They are not as big as I would normally like as I was late sowing them this year, but they are big enough to eat and that’s good enough for me:

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My lettuces under the environmesh are still producing lovely salad leaves….

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….And the lettuces I planted under a cloche are growing well now and hopefully I can soon start to use the odd outside leaf or two:

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I am still picking a few raspberries each week, which has surprised me as this is the first year of growth since I transplanted them from my old allotment:

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 Incidentally the tomatoes that I brought inside last week are continuing to ripen on my windowsill…..I am amazed that I am still eating homegrown tomatoes in November:

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And I also have plenty of stored potatoes left to use, which is something I didn’t think I would have after giving my allotments up in January this year.  It has made me really appriciate what I do have growing in my back garden:

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The one thing I managed to do in the garden this week was to start my new vegetable area.  I don’t know if you remember, back in September I began to rearrange my garden so I could use all the available space to grow fruit and vegetables, but also to have a space for my little dog to use.

I began by removing the slabs (which really served no purpose) and after preparing the ground I laid a new lawn in their place:

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I put chicken wire around the lawn to temporarily stop the dog from running on the lawn until it rooted into the ground below.

The grass has now rooted really well and this week Mr Thrift helped me to remove the chicken wire.  He also helped me to bring forward the fence and gate so it is level with the end of the new grass.

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Judy absolutely loved the new grass to run around on and ‘sniff’ and she didn’t stand still long enough for me to take a photograph, which is why the photo below is blurred!

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We also started to lay a new path around the greenhouse, using the slabs I removed in September….unfortunately we only managed to lay three slabs and we ran out of time:

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The next day I started to dig an area along the fence to create a small flower garden.  At the beginning of the year I grew flowers in front of the fence and my dog destroyed some of them, so this time I decided to put the new flower bed behind the fence:

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I removed the old worn out grass along the fence (which I will use later).  As the area has been walked on for years I used my fork  to aerate the soil, to ensure that the drainage is good.  I then planted some daffodil bulbs that I brought at the beginning of September:

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To be honest some of the bulbs didn’t look too brilliant, but I planted them anyway as I have nothing to lose.  It’s also a bit late for daffodil bulbs, but I have planted them in November before and they grew well.:

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I then added some compost to the soil and planted the wallflowers I grew from seed.  Hopefully my new area will give a good display in the spring:

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 I still need to do alot of work in this area, but first the slabbing must be completed around the greenhouse and unfortunately I need Mr Thrifts help for this, as I can’t lift the slabs on my own.

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So that’s it for this week.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a great week!

Clematis still in flower in my garden

Clematis still in flower in my garden

A Lovely Week & A Peanut Butter Biscuit Recipe

I’ve had a lovely week.

It started last Saturday when I woke up early and sat outside watching the sun rise….it was stunning.  In just under an hour it went from darkness to daylight.  This is something I have never watched before….nature is so beautiful:

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On Saturday myself, Mr Thrift and my daughter went on the ‘Bradgate Park’ dog walk again with Judy.  I am still amazed that less than six months again she couldn’t go anywhere near dogs without barking and lunging madly at them and yet now we can walk for a couple of hours with lots of other dogs…….and as you can see in the photograph below, she is chilled out enough to even lie down when we stop.  I am so proud of her:

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Also this week I saw the most amazing rainbow whilst I was walking Judy in our local park.  The colours were really bright and it looked as though both ends of it were in the park…..(so I will keep a look out for a crock of gold over the coming weeks).

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And this week it was my birthday and I had some lovely cards and presents.  My daughter also made me a gorgeous cake.  She spent ages making it into my kitchen garden and even put ‘pretend’ mud on the vegetables…..and it tasted delicious!

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This week in my kitchen garden:

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I picked the rest of my sweetcorn this week as the weather is turning colder and I was very pleased with it.

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I blanched the cobs and froze them so we can enjoy them over the winter:

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I then cut all the sweetcorn down so I can start to prepare this area for next year…

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I also removed the dead leaves from around my curly kale and cabbages as these can harbour pests like slugs and snails etc.  I gave it a good weed and it looks much better now.

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I picked my last white summer cabbage and I left four red cabbages to harvest another time:

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I also picked some more parsley to freeze….

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and some spinach so I could make a spinach and poached egg florentine and it was really nice:

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Unfortunately I also had to cover the overwintering onions and garlic that I planted last week, as the local family of squirrels (that one of my neighbours insists on feeding) keep digging in this area to hide the nuts they has been given:

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And finally I harvested my first few mizuna leaves from the seeds I sowed at the beginning of September.  Hopefully I will have many more leaves to follow over winter:

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This week in my kitchen:

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I’ve been very busy in the kitchen this week.  I started by making the crab apple jelly from the crab apples I was kindly given last week:

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I also decided to make some things in advance for my freezer, to help save time when I prepare meals over the next few weeks.

I made a big portion of spaghetti bolognaise sauce and we had some for tea, but the rest I froze in portions ready for another day:

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I also made a double portion of white sauce to use half in macoroni cheese and I froze the other half after it had cooled completely.  It is really easy to reheat in the microwave and then add cheese for a cheese sauce:

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I made pastry this week for a pie with some leftover chicken and vegetables.  I made a big portion of pastry so I could freeze three portions for a quick pie another time.  It defrosts quickly when I need it.

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I also made another load of passatta out of tomatoes that I picked at the end of last week:

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This week I ran out of cheese, so I bought three big blocks and grated it all in my processor.  I then froze it in bags of 250 grams so it is easy to defrost a pack each time we run out.  I find grated cheese seems to last much longer when I grate it, as it’s so hard to cut thin slices of cheese when it’s left in a block…..and also ready grated cheese costs more money to buy than cheese in blocks:

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And I also made a double load of chocolate ice cream and separated it into individual portions…. again I find it goes further this way.

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All the above things help to save me time or money, which has to be a good thing!

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As you have probably guessed by now, I really don’t like to waste any food in my house and this week I found some peanut butter lurking in the back of my cupboard that really needed to be used up.  So I made some peanut butter biscuits, which really are one of the easiest biscuits to make and they tasted absolutely delicious:

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Peanut Butter Biscuits Recipe:

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150g smooth peanut butter

150g granulated sugar

1 egg

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Preheat your oven Gas 4 / 180C / 350F

Put all the above ingredients into a bowl and mix together:

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Put large heaped teaspoons of mixture onto a baking tray (there is no need to grease the baking tray):

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Bake in your oven for 10-12 minutes until golden:

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Enjoy!

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Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a good week!

A Judy Update & A Kind Visit

I just wanted to say a big ‘thank you’ to an allotment friend that popped round last weekend with some of her produce.  I do miss my old allotment companions and so it was lovely to catch up with her and the goodies she left me were very welcome:

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Judy (our rescue dog) – an update:

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Judy is continuing to do well in her training classes and we are working hard on ‘recall’ with her at the moment.  At home she is lovely now and we all absolutely adore her cheeky ‘Jack Russell’ ways.

Last weekend we took Judy to the vets for her yearly vaccination and the vet was wonderful with Judy as he knew she was a nervous dog.  When he went to update the vaccination card that the RSPCA had given to us with all her previous vaccines on, he pointed out to us that the card shows that poor Judy had been in the RSPCA three times!  He showed us the three vaccinations they have given her and he explained that the RSPCA only give them when they enter their kennels.

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We hadn’t really studied the card before, but we realised that you can also see three different name and address stickers underneath ours……so we are the fourth owners!  From the dates on the card we can see that Judy was in the RSPCA at four months, again twelve months later and then again two and a half years later……thank goodness we found her when we did.

This explains everything to us, as she was bound to have lots of problems after the upbringing she has had.  I don’t know if the RSPCA have a policy of not telling people the dogs background or whether they hadn’t checked her history, but it would have been nice to know.

We will never know what our poor dog has been through but we do suspect that she was hit at some stage, as she used to cower if you went to stroke her unexpectly and she hated walking sticks, litter pickers etc. and she had nightmares over and over again where she would wimper and move her legs like she was trying to run.   This is improving as she is starting to trust us, especially with the training as well…..and she rarely has a bad dream now.

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  I know now that I certainly wasn’t experienced enough to deal with a dog with problems like Judy and I’m not sure if the RSPCA knew this or not…..She could quite easily have ended up back there if it wasn’t for the fact that I was so stubborn and determind to find a way to train her.

I have had to learn such a lot in a short period but I am glad to say Judy is now responding to the training and other dog walkers now comment on how much she has improved, which is wonderful.

The hard work is starting to pay off and I couldn’t imagine life without her now as she is always by my side.

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This week in my garden:

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This week I sowed some lettuce, summer radish and winter radish.

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I also planted some lettuce plants that I bought from a local nursery.  I may have to put a cloche over them if the nights turn cold in September, but they should be fine:

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In the meantime I needed to protect the lettuces from the birds so I used some enviromesh as my nets aren’t quite wide enough for this bed:

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I also sowed some carrots in my greenhouse (it says the latest sowing should be July on the packet, but as I think they will be fine as they are in the greenhouse)

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As it is now the middle of August, I decided to give my outdoor tomatoes a bit of help to ripen…..so I removed a few of the lower leaves so the sun can ripen the tomatoes easily:

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The outdoor tomatoes are doing really well this year, but unfortunately I can’t say the same for my greenhouse tomatoes.  I have been battling with whitefly in my greenhouse all summer and now four of my plants have finally started to die off, maybe from a virus transferred by the aphids?

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I picked the tomatoes and then I have removed the plants and destroyed them.  A lot of them were ripe and ready to eat, but I’m sure the green ones will still ripen (though some will be small), so I have put them in my mini greenhouse as I don’t want to waste anything:

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I noticed in my garden this week that the ’60 day’ raab and the phacelia (green manure) that I sowed last week has already germinated……I suspect that is because we have had quite a bit of rain this last week:

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This week I have had our first spinach harvest and it tasted lovely fried in a bit of butter…

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I dug up the last of my second early potatoes (marfona):

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And I have continued to harvest runnerbeans…..

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….and spring onions, lettuce, chives, kohl rabi, outdoor tomatoes and the odd cucumber.  We have had some lovely salads:

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At home this week:

I made some pickled red cabbage this week from some of the cabbage I picked last week:

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I made some pickled onions from the spring onions I picked last week that were going over slightly:

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And I have continued to freeze the runnerbeans that we haven’t cooked and eaten straight away:

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I also cooked the beetroot that my friend gave to me and sliced it and froze it.  This way I can take a few slices out of the freezer at a time, for my daughter who doesn’t like beetroot that has been pickled in vinegar.

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I also went blackberry picking this week and managed to find quite a few to freeze.  These will be used for pies and crumbles, but mostly for ‘smoothies’ which my daughters love:

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Finally this week I did my usual batch bread baking session.  I made white and wholemeal rolls and a loaf of bread to slice.  Most of these will be frozen to eat over the week as usual.

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So over all it has been a very productive week!

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Thank you for reading my blog today, I will be back next Friday as usual.

I hope you have a lovely weekend!

The Kitchen Garden Harvest & An Old Holly Tree

This week has been wet and miserable outside with a distinct lack of sun, dispite it being July!  Never the less the garden is still growing well, though my butternut squash, outdoor cucmbers and greenhouse melons really need the weather to be a bit hotter as they are sitting sulking at the moment and not growing at all.

I have started to reap the benefits of my small kitchen garden and for a small amount of work I am harvesting some lovely vegetables and there are some lovely flowers for the bees and beneficial insects:

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This week in my new kitchen garden:

My potatoes are beautiful this year with hardly a slug hole in sight at the moment (though this wet weather may change that).  These potatoes are a variety called ‘Marfona’ which are a second early and they are absolutely delicious and have grown to a good size:

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The lettuces are continuing to feed us well, together with the first spring onions I sowed in modules back in March.  My greenhouse cucumber plant has produced its first two cucumbers as well, though the remaining fruits are a long way from being ready yet.

Also we are now eating tomatoes from the one greenhouse plant that I brought from the nursery….(the other plants I grew from seed).  I bought this one plant in the hope I could spread out my harvest as I was a bit behind sowing my greenhouse tomatoes, so the plan was this plant would give me fruit until my others were ready….and the plan seems to be working.

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I have picked my first onions this week and they were also really good and tasty.  There was no sign of the allium leaf miner because I was very careful to cover them in environmesh.  You can read about the damage the allium leaf miner does here.

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I also had my first cut of curly kale.  It has grown really quickly since I sowed it on 22nd April and it looked too tasty to leave, so we had it for dinner last night:

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I also picked some parsley from my garden this week and I made a lovely parsley sauce to go with some fish that I bought:

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And not forgetting the courgettes that are coming thick and fast:

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And I picked some fruit this week too.  There isn’t loads of it as my fruit bushes are young yet, but it’s not bad for a first year.  I picked a few more gooseberries, some black currants and white currants and a few blueberries:

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I always think that the currants look like ‘jewels’ when you first pick them.

One thing my family were happy about this week, was I picked my first kohl rabi of the year.  I think it is a strange looking vegetable but it tastes lovely.  You can cook it like a turnip, or grate it raw into a salad, but I just chop the skin off and serve it raw as a snack with a dollap of salad cream and it dissappears in seconds in the ‘Thrift’ house:

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I have noticed a few things in my new kitchen garden will soon be ready:

My french beans and runnerbeans are growing well…

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My red and white cabbages are starting to bulb up in the centre:

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And in row of beetroot there are some I will be picking and cooking in the next few days:

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And my outdoor tomatoes just need some good sunny days to ripen:

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I also noticed that my swedes are growing nicely too, though these will be a while yet until they are ready.  I sowed these in newspaper pots on the 23rd April and then transplanted them when they were a decent size.  I always think this protects them from the slugs and snails as they are big enough to cope with a bit of damage when I plant them out:

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So amazingly the kitchen garden is doing really well in it’s first year.

I absolutely love the ability to pick something and cook it / eat it straight away.  This is one luxury I didn’t have with my allotment and I can honestly say I didn’t realise how lovely freshly picked lettuces tasted when you eat them immeadiately after picking them.

Homegrown potatoes, kale and parsley cooked within 45 minutes of picking

Homegrown potatoes, kale and parsley cooked within 45 minutes of picking

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I have got to be honest I haven’t done a thing in my new kitchen garden this week, other than water my pots and harvest my fruit and vegetables…..I suppose this is the beauty of having a ‘small’ kitchen garden rather than an allotment, though I’m not sure if this is a positive or a negative thing for me as I still really miss my allotment plots.

However, this has given me some time to start to think about the rest of my garden that I haven’t yet planned.  This is the area that Judy (our dog) runs around in and we sit in.

Unfortunately there was an old holly tree next to the fence that really had seen better days.  It only has a few red berries on each year for the birds to enjoy and what few leaves it has, it sheds daily during the summer on the ground below…….so we decided it was time to chop it down.

An old photo of the holly tree on the right hand side

An old photo of the holly tree on the right hand side

We considered paying someone to chop the tree down, but it wasn’t really that big so we did it ourself by removing as many branches as possible first…..then while Mr thift sawed, I pulled the top of the tree in the direction we wanted it to fall, using our extendable dog lead as we didn’t have any rope!….yes you did read this right and yes ‘health and safety’ went out of the window for this job.

The top section cam down well and then Mr Thrift sawed the bottom two sections off easily.

I have since read that old folk law tells you never to cut a holly tree down as it brings bad luck…I am not superstitious but if we do have any bad luck from now on, at least we have something to blame it on!

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This will free up another growing area for me, though I’m not sure yet if it will be ornamental or not.

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In the home this week:

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This week it is a year since my father-in-law passed away and I decided to make a flower arrangement for his grave side.  I bought some yellow and white flowers to use as these are the colours he loved.  I used bay from my garden which reminds us of the wonderful greek kababs he used to cook us and I used roses to make a cross as they were his favourite flowers and the cross symbolised the church that he loved so dearly.  I hope he looks down and likes the arrangement and knows we still miss him so much:

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This week I decided to make a victoria sandwich (using my ‘chuck-it-all in method) as I have been fancying one all week and it was lovely.  I also made my usual bread rolls (white and brown) for the week and froze them so they are fresh each day for lunch and then I made some more dishwasher liquid out of soap nuts, as I had run out:

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My daughter has been cooking again this week (I love it when she cooks).  She used some of the homegrown vegetables to make a risotto and served it with a homegrown salad and some ‘whoopsied’ garlic bread…..a very tasty, frugal meal!

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My daughter and her friend also made some dolly mixtures at home this week using ready made coloured icing.  I thought they look brilliant!

They stuck the colours together by just wetting the surface:

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They put them in a bag made of cellophane and tied them with a ribbon and they looked great….they would make a really good gift:

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Finally this week I was about to hoover our bedroom carpet when I decided there wasn’t enough carpet left to hoover!   This carpet was left in the house when we first moved here and it wasn’t up to much then……it now had more holes in it than actual carpet.  I decided it was rediculous to keep it any longer, (especially as we kept falling over the edges where the holes were), but I knew we couldn’t afford a new carpet in this room yet.

I pulled some of the carpet up and found some lovely floorboards underneath.  There were no gripper rods either to hold the carpet down.   So being impulsive as I am, I shouted Mr Thrift and together we pulled up the whole carpet and underlay and took it down to the tip.  There was dust everywhere as the underlay and carpet had disintegrated in lots of places and it took me ages to hoover it all up.

Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of the old, horrible carpet with the massive holes, but I did take a photo of the floor boards that we uncovered and they look great.

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I will sand down and re-varnish / paint the boards another time, but until then they look loads better than the old carpet.

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Finally this week, Wilkinsons had a sale with lots of gardening equipment and seeds.  I bought some seeds that I knew I needed for next year and I also treated myself to a sign for my garden that was reduced to £1.75.  I placed it on our outhouse door that sits directly outside my kitchen window, so I can read it everyday as it sums up ‘my world’ perfectly:

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Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

I hope you have a lovely weekend!