Blackberry Whisky.

I can’t remember where I first read about River Cottage producing their first Christmas recipe book, Christmas at River Cottage. I suspect it was some self promotion in the Sunday Times by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall or just a passing comment that I noticed on the internet, but my interest was piqued so I picked up a copy. To be honest and I know Christmas is looming but I’ve only glanced through it so far. But the recipe for Blackberry Whisky called to me and I happened to mention it to a friend, who does not have television or I think Sunday Times’s much preferring to gather his news through the medium of radio and he immediately waxed lyrical about hearing Hugh F-W on the radio and how if you stored the blackberry whisky for three years it transformed into the nectar of the gods.

The recipe looks to me a little short on sugar, but having read around the subject I think the idea is you add sugar at the end while bottling. I like this idea as I often find things too sweet for me, so it is good to retain control. I also could not fit the required 2kg of blackberries into my jar, just fitting in 1.2 kg. But again that was a very generous amount of blackberries according to some other recipes I’ve found, so I am sure it will work out.

Day 1, adding the frozen blackberries, all picked from my own blackberry bush, so I know they haven’t been sprayed.

One full bottle of whisky added along with the sugar. It will be shaken daily until the sugar has dissolved and then when I remember for about three months or so and then decanted into a bottle.

We will see. I will have to save some to see what it is like in three years time. It might become a regular item to make. I’m not normally a fan of whisky but I know a few that are.

Christmas card writing.

I do enjoy the ritual of the Christmas card writing, especially when we seem to be about to undergo another round of covid mark iv or is it mark v I seem to have lost count. It is a simple way of showing your affection for the people in your life, no matter how infrequently you might see them. I had for a few years decided not to write Christmas cards and to donate to a charity, but it never felt the same and sometimes I think we live in too much of a nanny state which dictates what is seen as acceptable and right and proper and which is not. And if I want to waste my money on paper, stamps and ink, then I will, although I do concede and always buy charity cards these days. Long gone are the days where I would buy a bumper pack of 50 from Woolworths, the cardboard being that thin they would barely stand up to scrawl my good wishes to all and sundry. Although I wasn’t as bad as my friend Georgina, she used to carry a selection around in her handbag so she could write one, whilst on the hoof, to whoever she came across. I’m really not sure what the boys in the Kings Arms made of it all. But they all got a card.

This year I couldn’t find my inks, so I borrowed hubby’s precious pot of green ink. I’ve never chosen green ink for myself mainly because at school someone decided that if boys wrote in green ink that they were not to be trusted, that they were invariably mad. This was followed up by a close friend, who after a pretty nasty divorce decided to put an advert in the lonely hearts column to see if she could conjure up a few dates. Piles of letters came, who knew that there were so many keen men in the days before the internet. And even though she had gone to a different school, she immediately discarded the men who had written in green ink…. and there were quite a few. To be honest we had one of the best nights dissecting the letters for hidden clues about the personalities of the writers, but the green ink writers seemed to be the most troubled.

So when hubby had chosen the green ink for himself some years previously, I had valiantly tried to push him into another direction but he was not to be moved. I decided he probably was mad and it made me laugh how attached men seem to be to this particular ink colour.

I whiled away a happy couple of hours listening to Kings carols, watched the half finished Christmas tree lights flash (It is still half finished!) and the smell of the Christmas puddings steaming wafted through the house. Then hubby took them up to the main post office and off they went on their merry way.

Merry Christmas everybody.


I am sure I have many but my dirty little secret is that I quite like TikTok. You never know what is going to appear and it can be as entertaining as it is educational or just a waste of time, one never knows. But one evening a lady popped up talking about the beauty of growing your own paperwhites for Christmas. I think I have left mine a week or so late, but I’ve made a mental note that I started them on the 1st of December so it will give a good marker for future years.

So I bought some bulbs and a big bag of glass pebbles, also popping into my basket another type of daffodil to try.

The rules as I understand them are one waters them and lets them grow and then after a couple of weeks when they are getting tall, to feed them a measure of gin or vodka so as to stunt their growth and that prevents them getting too leggy. Well I will tell you this, I have never shared my gin with a plant! But if they reward me with a beautiful display of flowers, I will forgive them almost anything.

All set ready to go,

As are the daffs.

Fingers crossed that they bloom.

Christmas puddings.

The Christmas puddings have been steaming gently for nearly 9 hours today, and have now had fresh greaseproof and foil applied. They look like they have been a success but the truth as they say is in the eating.

To that end there has been much discussion as to when the eating should begin. Hubby has decided that should be in about a weeks time and I agree with him. Not for my own ends of course as these puddings are purely for him, as he has strict instructions to build himself up before starting his course of radiotherapy. The grim truth is that half way through his course it is going to become very difficult to eat, which could lead to a feeding tube straight into his stomach. Other complications to consider with the amount of weight loss they are expecting is the mask will no longer fit securely which means the radiotherapy might not be going to the correct place. So we need to keep him at a good weight for as long as possible. The Christmas cake may well be started much earlier than is usual too…

We have also had to make the decision to keep Christmas very simple just us two. Not least because hubby is not going to want to feel like socialising, but also because of the risk of catching covid. Although there seems to be evidence that the new strain of covid is a little gentler than the others, it would mean that he had to miss a couple of weeks of treatment, if not more if I then caught it and the main thing with the treatment is that it must be continuous to do the most good.

It is a difficult choice, not to invite son no.1 for Christmas, but in truth he works and socialises so much that he is bound to catch it sooner or later. I socialise for a total of five hours a week with various clubs and an occasional, every few weeks, trip to the pub in an afternoon when it is dead as a dodo apart from a few of the boys who I have known forever. Hubby socialises less than that. I’ve even limited my Dad to a couple of hours a week of late. And I am worried, just very, very worried. I know this will probably go down like a lead balloon with son no.1 and I should have thought it through earlier. It is just a very difficult situation.

Anyway think of hubby eating all of his Christmas puddings won’t you. He may well finally come to a conclusion of the perpetual debate on whether it should be brandy butter, cream or ice cream or even custard!

Christmas traditions.

No matter how hard I try to resist the Christmas traditions and trust me, there are years that I do, they always seem to pull me back into their warm embrace. This year for instance has been one of where I have valiantly tried to fight off the traditions knowing as I do that hubby may not be well enough to partake of much of the traditional food. And I have talked myself senseless about the ridiculousness of making a huge Christmas cake, christmas pudding and roasting a turkey just for son no.1 and I. And I even have a plan to do a luscious lasagne which with luck would be soft enough for hubby to eat with sides of fresh garlic breads toasted in the oven and a home made coleslaw for others.

But then I started to mooch around the cupboards and realised I had enough dried fruit for not one, but two Christmas cakes and… a christmas pudding. And a quick reconnaissance of the butter, brandy, fresh citrus fruits and eggs revealed that I had enough ingredients to make said Christmas cakes without going to the shops! Well you can’t ignore a push like that from the spirits of Christmas past and so I set to work and started the process of soaking the fruit in brandy.

There are two cakes carefully wrapped up in greaseproof paper having been lavishly anointed with brandy waiting for a couple more dosings before the next stage of the marzipan and icing. One for hubby and one for Dad.

Hubby has made the Christmas pudding today and this is resting overnight before being steamed for 8 hours. Apparently he used to make Christmas puddings at school, he made one and he was so happy with it he went on to make more and more, said his mother to me once, whilst wiping a bead of perspiration off her brow at the memory of eating them all. As it is, I have got two puddings to steam tomorrow, which I am not sure how that has happened as last year with the same recipe I only made one pudding… I think it is best not to ask questions at this point.

And some how, due to the requirement of having to spend some Tesco vouchers before they expired, and only remembering at 3.00 a.m. whereupon I made a mad cyber dash to secure a home delivery before they ran out of time. I have ended up with a turkey in my freezer, as well as a ham to boil, streaky bacon and sausages.

The Christmas spirits must have been whispering all good things to me in the dead of night, just the mince pies to go!


Just an aid memoir that we had snow in November! I can’t ever remember that happening before. I wonder if it is a sign that this winter is going to be colder than normal. With us having such mild winters I think there would be deep shock and probably some ill equipped people in the way of warm clothes and footwear were we to experience the winters we did as a child in the early 80’s. With one particular winter where it was still snowing heavily in March! The country nearly came to a standstill because of the terrible weather, and school children were still expected to walk the nearly three miles to school, no days off for a bit of snow in those days.

Needless to say we are well prepared in the mandycharlie household. The chimney was swept a couple of weeks ago, fuel and firelighters have been bought as have candles, the cupboards are full, emergency long life milk is in the cupboard and I have plenty of flour for bread. I love winter but I don’t want to go out when it is slippy, I have no sense of balance at the best of times, something to do with small feet for my height I suspect.

So I shall tuck myself up with my knitting and my Christmas baking and all will be well with my world.

The end of November.

The last two months have been quite difficult. Hubby’s diagnosis of cancer and treatment rocked our little boat at the same time Dad had a very nasty fall and was hospitalised for three weeks where he had a bit of a turn and we nearly lost him, followed by rehabilitation. Hubby’s recovery from surgery is going well and we are now onto the next stage of his treatment with intensive radiotherapy. To that end he has had a tooth removed that may cause trouble in the future and will be having his mask made at the end of the week.

So for the most of October and November I have felt pretty tired. But now I feel recovery, which has been long awaited and very welcome.

We have managed a little jaunt to the German Market in Birmingham. The first try met with disaster when hubby eager not to miss the train decided that not having been out for weeks meant he was as fit as any athlete and sprinted for said train. Of course that did not end well and he face planted onto the path. I knew non of this as I’d been dropped off to get tickets whilst he parked. And the first I knew of it was a man covering his face walked past me as he was being led into the ticket office by a young lady was wearing one of my hand knit hats… I’d never have recognised him if he’d been wearing a commercial woolly hat. I exclaimed ‘that’s my husband’, and immediately realised there had been an accident. Needless to say the paramedics were wonderful.

On the second try a few days later we managed to get to Birmingham successfully and had a lovely day. A little light shopping in Selfridges, mainly so that I could look at the latest winter edits from Chanel as I love both their eyeshadows and lipsticks and with the closure of so many department stores over the years this is now the nearest to me to indulge in my small twice yearly passion for Chanel make up. Which was followed by a lovely walk in the dark and twinkly coloured lights to admire the wooden cabins and all that they offered.

A meal at Mrs Chews at Grand Central was a success with hubby able to eat the seabass and rice and homeward bound content with having done over 10,000 steps each, which I think was a wonderful achievement for hubby.

My computer is up to date!!!

It has been so long since I logged onto WordPress that I could no longer log onto WordPress. After a couple of days trying to work things out I realised that actually, it was probably because I hadn’t upgraded my system in forever. So I have just spent the last couple of days doing that and I will endeavour to post a few belated blog posts about the plot and the odd recipe that I haven’t got around to posting and other little ditties.

The reason for the gap in writing is two of the main characters in my life have both had life changing events at roughly the same time, at the moment they are tag teaming to see who can create the most amount of worry, stress and anxiety in me, whilst desperately trying not to, but not being in control of their health they can only watch on the side lines routing for me and holding me up as much as they can, for which I then feel really guilty about.

My anxiety is very high, I’m barely sleeping and I have a feeling things are going to get worse before they get better.

Fortunately I also have some very dear friends who are routing for me. So when Noelle sent me this beautiful stained glass Angel, I just wept and wept and when I came to, I rang Noelle and told her what a precious, beautiful gift that was absolutely perfect this little Guardian Angel was and thanking her I wept and wept some more. I am nothing if not a little bit over dramatic when it comes to matters of the heart, but the girl is, what the girl is and you really wouldn’t want me any other way.

She is now hanging from my five armed candelabra above my bed where she will look after me and mine while we sleep, and I can gaze at her for ‘Bon Courage’ as Noelle might say.

I can feel her gentle spirit working already.

Pigeon Pastilla by Honey and co.

It was my turn to choose a recipe for Noelle and I to try our hands at. And as it was hubby’s birthday I decided to push the boat out and choose a recipe that I hoped he would love as I know he enjoys pigeon very much, it just requires a bit more effort in sourcing the ingredients.

I found my pigeons online from Ox close fine foods and they did a lovely job of sending them with lots of ice packs so they arrived quite chilled.

After poaching the pigeons in the aromatics I removed the flesh, and roughly chopped along with the hazelnuts.

Then made the pie mixture and started to fill the pie.

One birthday present wrapped up ready for the oven.

And out it pops all golden and lovely.

And it slices very nicely.

But they say, the truth of the pudding is in the eating.

And this is where the recipe falls down. Firstly no seasoning is mentioned, So I seasoned lightly, I wished i’d added more salt and black pepper. But the biggest problem was the hazelnuts, I wish I’d roasted them before adding them. Every mouthful the flavour of raw hazelnuts took over. It was very disappointing with the effort that had gone into the pie. Nowhere in the recipe does it say they should be roasted and I think it is almost an unforgivable oversight to ruin such an expensive dish. Very disappointing. If you happen to like the flavour of raw hazelnuts, then maybe this dish is for you. Would I try this dish again? Yes, if I came upon a surplus of pigeons but there are other Pastilla recipes with a sweet egg formulation in the filling that call to me to try first. Maybe hubby’s next birthday!


Sometimes in life that is all you can do, wait, for a change to occur. Personally I find waiting to be almost therapeutic, which is why I have no problems in waiting in hides for the wonders of nature to appear before my very eyes.

I’ll not lie, that last lockdown, well, it bulldozed me. Mainly because I’d then been in almost continuous lockdown for over a year, as many of us have been due to concerns with ours or our partners health.

And then I found I was stuck, I couldn’t read, I couldn’t write, I didn’t knit, I haven’t sewn and at its worst, which was for many weeks hubby did the cooking. And to be perfectly honest I have no idea what I did. I know some days I was up for a maximum of a few hours, before returning to my den to hibernate once more.

At this point, I was thinking, do I need to go to the doctors? Do I need antidepressants? So I decided I’d wait.

And at one stage I seriously doubted that I was going to be able to click out of it without some sort of intervention.

But I tried to keep going. I joined a slimming club, and rejoined my swimming pool, but that didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped, they are closing and the hygiene is becoming extremely questionable and I’m no prude, I take the rough with the smooth, but when your skidding across the flour because its slimy, noooo. So I joined another swimming pool and that one is lovely and clean. Started a new dog walking regime and started cooking again.

And then it happened.

And I have no idea what happened, but last week, half way through the evening my brain cleared.

I didn’t think much of it, it wasn’t like a big bang or anything, just a change in perception. And I’ve had to think about when this happened to try and realise what if anything did happen.

The next morning, it remained.

I’ve been a bit startled. I’ve been waiting for it to close down again, but it remains.

It is early days, but I am hopeful, that change has occurred and will continue.

I’m going to toddle off to the allotment this weekend, and I’m so glad that hubby has kept it going for me.

And you know who you are, for those that contacted me in my quiet time,

thank you.