Friday, October 30

Two weeks and 4 days (at least) to go mouldy!

I couldn't resist posting about this loaf of bread......

We usually eat Vogel's bread, and the occasional spelt loaf either made by me or bought at the local market, but one day nearly 3 weeks ago we had run out. On our way home from a day out there was nowhere close by that sold Vogel's so I had to buy this one from the Co-op. What they had left was all much of a muchness. Husband had sandwiches made from it in his lunch box for a couple of days, and I tried it once for my lunch. That was enough! It was yuck - didn't taste of much at all and the texture was horrible. There was about 3/4 of the loaf left but it really was so awful that I just couldn't bear to eat any more once we'd got some more Vogel's. So I got it out of the bread bin and, er, left it out in the kitchen, while deciding what to do with it........ No smell of mould hit me so I admit it continued to get left.

Yesterday, as I still hadn't noticed any smell of mould coming from it, I had a look to see if there was any.

This was all there was after 2 weeks and 4 days AT LEAST! After all, who knows when it was made!

The mould is hard to spot isn't it?!! If I'd left the Vogel's bread for that long it would have been one big heap of mould.

Then I read the ingredients, as obviously stuff had been added to prevent it going mouldy too quickly.

A lot of sliced bread has the same rubbish in it. I don't actually know much about the preservative Calcium Propionate without googling it, but I certainly don't like the idea of eating bread that "keeps" for this long. It is just not natural and that alone puts me off. Some bread is actually advertised as keeping for a long time - these additives are the reason why.

This is the list of ingredients in the Vogel's loaf. No preservatives or emulsifiers.

This loaf usually costs £1.50, although can often be found on offer at less. The Co-op one cost 75p. 

Obviously anyone with a freezer can stop it going mouldy by just taking out of the freezer the number of slices that you will eat in a day or two, and also by storing it under the right conditions. Even if our bread does go mouldy, I don't automatically throw it out - I just cut off the offending mould, and I have never suffered any unpleasant consequences. I did once, though, when as a sort of experiment as much as anything, I tried some yogurt that was 3 weeks past its did admittedly taste a bit sharp but even then all that happened was a mild tummy ache and a visit to the loo......!

The other day I started to add some cream cheese to a pasta dish I was cooking and it was only after some had gone into what I was cooking that I noticed that some of the cheese still in the container was mouldy, and also that a tiny mouldy bit had gone into the pasta. The rest was OK. Well, I fished out the tiny mouldy bit, did not tell husband, and we ate it and were fine of course. [As I write You and Yours on Radio 4 is talking about wasted food!]

Do you always throw out food which has got mould on it??!!

Bye for now


Tuesday, October 20

Wool jumper converted to cycling top

It was a case of not so much "what this bike needs....." as "what this cyclist needs....." and what this cyclist needed was a wool, full zip close fitting jumper, to be worn over a baselayer and midlayer. Obviously there are hundreds to choose from on the web (and even in real shops!) but they are not cheap. So, while putting away clothes in a drawer recently, I realized I had one too many charity shop men's jumpers. (As an aside, you can always get PLAIN AND SENSIBLE men's wool jumpers in charity shops, but rarely do I see PLAIN AND SENSIBLE women's ones. It's not that I wear "plain and sensible" all the time - it's just that anything that isn't plain and sensible will always have something against it for everyday wear, like baggy sleeves that get in the way of rubber gloves......)

The one-too-many was a colour that doesn't suit me - maroon, so I thought "Hmmmmm, I wonder if I could chop this up the front and put in a zip and take in the sides so it fits more closely and which will then be my ideal go-to winter garment for bike rides?" Might as well have a go.

This is what I did:

I cut the jumper down the middle. Then I pinned and tacked the sides, and also the sleeves both under the sleeve and on the top, so as to make the whole thing closer fitting. I stitched these seams on the sewing machine - I did think about doing them by hand as if I were sewing up a jumper I had knitted, but I thought I might as well just try doing them on the machine. Seems to have worked OK!

I sewed a narrow hem down each side of the front. I knew that I needed to sew something down the fronts to stabilise them before attaching the zip, so I started to attach some grosgrain ribbon (which is what you see on woollen cardigan front bands). However the fabric started to wave, so I decided to stabilise it even more before adding the tape. To do so I used a strip (about 3/4" wide) of iron-on woven cotton interfacing. I love this stuff - I use it much more than the non-woven stuff and even save the tiniest scraps of it, as it has all sorts of uses. 

You can see from the pic that I have also cut the jumper so that it is longer at the back, and curves up at the front. I used the interfacing all round the bottom too, and then hemmed it with bias binding. I was being adventurous, so used yellow.......

Then I sewed the ribbon onto the fronts, and it worked well this time - no waving.

I sewed on the zip, tacking it first as I have found in the past that if you've not very careful when sewing on open ended zips then you end up with the two sides not matching up. Even this time they didn't match up 100% but I have managed to disguise the fact! 

Then I thought "Perhaps I can somehow detract from the maroon-that-doesn't-suit-me", so I dug out an old green cardigan which I had accidentally shrunk ages ago (and which DID suit me) chopped off the front bands and stitched them to the front and round the neck. Plus I did some coloured stitching along the bottom, up the front and round the neck. I'll confess that I also cut out from this same green cardigan the letters LIZZIE and sewed LIZ on one side and ZIE on the other, across the front, but decided that that was a step too far and unpicked them. It made it look like a baseball jacket.

I think you'd be hard pushed to see that the tops of the zip don't quite match up....

or the bottoms.....

I tried it out yesterday on a 20 mile bike ride with Husband. The weather was coolish - one of those days when you're not quite sure what to wear. I had on a long sleeved merino wool baselayer (I wear these all the time in the autumn and winter - what did I ever do without them? wore even more layers - that's what! You might guess that I am a fairly chilly person....) plus a cotton long sleeved top and then my new zip up. On top of that I had on a very lightweight windproof/waterproof jacket and a home made "buff" (made from a child's t-shirt). I was just the right temperature - and inwardly gloated over husband who was a bit chilly in what he was wearing.....

I have got another similar jumper, but in a colour that suits me reasonably well, that I might give the same treatment to, as this attempt was successful. And I shall be keeping my eyes open in the charity shops for more....... We've got a new one in town where all the rails of clothing are either £3 for the good stuff and £1 for the average stuff!!! 

Haven't forgotten about the Aldi clothing review. I'm drafting it.



Saturday, October 10

Bike ride into the Cotswolds

This was last Friday, a lovely day weather wise - indeed all last week was lovely and I definitely wanted to get out for a decent ride while the weather was still good.

First this: The other day Husband made me watch ("Have you got two minutes?" is his favourite phrase...) a video on YouTube of Michael MacIntyre explaining how long it takes to get out the door with young children. It is SO accurate and very funny (but don't let that put you off having children!) and I couldn't help but be reminded of it when I was getting ready to go out for this ride. Going out on a bike takes longer to get ready for than going out in a car.There are so many things to think about - food to take, what coat/s to wear, which shoes to wear (different in winter and summer for me), have I got my phone (I'm not a mobile phone person and so it doesn't matter usually but I do like to have it on bike rides), have I got my two water bottles which I put in the fridge earlier, have I got my Garmin, which panniers shall I put what in, have I got my trouser legs sorted out......... Having said all that, it's definitely worth it!

Whenever I read other people's accounts of bike trips I am always interested in what they wore and what they ate (read my hero Josie Dew's books! she eats a massive amount!) as well as what bike they've got, so here is precisely that. The forecast was for chilly and foggy first, then warm and sunny later, so this was what I started out wearing.

[My gear - I only have a few bits of specifically cycling gear. I am trying to build up a bit more of a collection. It's the colder weather that's more of a problem. Jeans for instance, are OK for my usual 5 1/2 mile ride into town for shopping but not so comfortable, or warm enough, for longer rides. Hopefully this autumn I will be able to buy some more cycling specific legwear].

On top:

Baselayer of merino wool, long sleeved (Vulpine, about £35 I think) bought in sale last year
Cotton jumper (£1 in charity shop)
Softshell jacket (bought in one of Aldi's special cycling clothing sales this year, £20 - more on Aldi clothing in a future post)
Dare2b very lightweight windproof (Halford's, £25 down from £30. More on that in future post too).
Bontrager Profila Race Windshell Gloves (about £30 I think, from local bike shop, pretty pleased with these though have not tried them out in REALLY cold weather)

Bottom half (don't laugh): 

Craghopper's zip off trousers (brilliant buy from charity shop, new, £6.75,                                             very comfortable for cycling in).
Vulpine padded merino boyshort (£45 this year, never thought I'd be comfortable in "padding" but these are very comfy and fit well. It was a toss up at the time between these and some Corinne Dennis ones (which I'd still like to try).
Merrell Bare Access Arc shoes (bought in sale in Blacks last year, about half price I think, £35ish, very comfortable).
Short cotton socks (Sainsbury's if you must know, £2 for three pairs!)
Home made trouser straps made from leftovers of Vulpine musette bag (see this post on converting a musette bag to a bar bag)

This was the food I took: 

Cheese (in the foil)
Fruit and nut mix
Two apples
Nairns cheesey oatcakes
Snicker's bar (my chocolate fix, but with nuts in so more filling, to possibly prevent me buying cake later)
A tuna meal thing (pictured later on)
And two bottles of water

I normally eat sandwiches in the middle of the day but I find that they sit too heavily in my stomach on bike rides so I don't take them. But I'm still working on this subject - would different bread or different fillings (I usually have cheese) be better I wonder?

I always prefer to set off soon after breakfast, but as I had had stuff to do earlier I didn't set off until 10.45, and I think that this late start, despite having had coffee and a biscuit since then, and a handful of fruit and nuts, and some water, was the cause of my having to stop after a mere 4 miles, as I was already lacking in energy. This seems to happen to me sometimes even when I have eaten recently. When I stopped to cross the A420 (horrible!!) near Faringdon,  I ate and drank again and was then OK. In Faringdon I noticed that one of the charity shops had bikes outside so couldn't resist going to have a look. One was a bit pricey at £40 I thought, and oddly not all of them were for sale.

I considered buying this for use on the journey - could I carry it on the bike? Or should I just continue my usual practice of going behind a hedge? Hedges won the day. Simpler, and less weight on the bike.

I then left Faringdon and cycled out on the Clanfield road, turning left towards Langford but stopped for lunch not far from Grafton. The sun had come out soon after I left home so I had by now removed the two coats. This is my bike; it's about 18 years old, steel, not the original handlebars - replaced the beautiful rather swept back ones for Thorn Comfort bars which I am very pleased with. 

This is the tuna thing I mentioned in my food list. This one is actually from Lidl, and cost £1.50, but I first discovered this sort of thing when I bought a John West version - normal price in Sainsbury's or Waitrose £2 (my two local supermarkets) but you can sometimes get them two for £3. They are very tasty, the ingredients are fairly wholesome and they are not stodgy. I really like them for eating on bike rides. They seem to give me the necessary calories without being stodgy. They come with a plastic fork (which I take home and save in my tub of "things that might come in useful one day"). Husband likes these meals for paragliding (there, that's given away his hobby...).

My next stop was where I was aiming for - the Cotswold Woollen Weavers at Filkins. I've been here before but knew I'd enjoy another visit. And they've got the all-important-to-cyclists cafe. If you like wool - and this is Wool Week! - this is a lovely place to visit, if only just to eye up lots of wool blankets, throws, Baavets, and racks and racks of beautiful clothing. They have a museum too and generally lots of stuff to do with sheep in the Cotswolds. There are also bargains to be had in the shape of bags of offcuts, ends of rolls, and some fantastic HUGE bags of buttons, of the sort you'd put on woolly clothing, for £5 and £8. I didn't buy any of these as I have so many buttons in boxes and tins and more boxes.....

Wool duvets are definitely warmer than down ones (which was what we had before we got our wool one). Best duvet we've ever had, and the only one where we don't need extra layers on top (our bedrooms are unheated. I always say this makes for hardy children). (Our duvet didn't come from here though.) I think their only disadvantage is that they are very heavy to lift so changing the cover, or putting them outside to air, is tricky if you are a weak and feeble woman.....(Shakespeare I believe, another Elizabeth speaking).

Lovely cushions.

Shelves full of blankets!

Bargains to be had.

This is the garden where I sat and had my pot of tea (I did resist the cake, but only because it was too soon after lunch...). A forager's paradise! The three apple trees were loaded and I picked some for the journey home (I already had some as you know but I do like to sample different varieties). I wondered if they were all going to go to waste, but then spotted a box of giveaways, so that was good. I do wonder why anyone actually buys apples at this time of year when there are so many to be had for free if only you look.

Filkins isn't far from RAF Brize Norton and I saw Hercules aeroplanes circling round overhead and very low about every 10 minutes, and some other white ones (husband says Boeings of some sort. Is he right?). Practising I believe. Must take quite a lot of practice to fly one of those.....

This is a place called Shire Gate, which is self explanatory when you see that the gate (not in the picture) parallel to the road must once have been meant to go across the road to the white gatepost. Obviously the locals from each county once wanted to keep each other out. Or at least to make them have to open a gate to get in to their neighbouring county. Fortunately it was open for this Oxfordshire-but-born-in-Hampshire lass to get in to Gloucestershire. And here I ate apple in Oxfordshire (to the right) and cheese in Gloucestershire (to the left) and the latter benefitted from the apple core from the Filkins (Oxfordshire) garden, which I chucked in the hedge without finishing it as it wasn't as nice as the ones I had brought with me.

I then cycled on towards Eastleach and then to Southrop (stopped to eat half the Snickers bar) thinking I would take a slightly different route back to Faringdon, but in the end I went back the same way as time was getting on and I know what I'm like - I go too far and then realize that actually I have got a long way to go to get home before dark... Especially on a day like today when the weather was about as perfect as it could be for cycling and the temptation is to just ride on and on.

I stopped for a rest, and more food and water, at Grafton, on a bench, in the shade, as I had actually got quite hot being in the sun all day, despite it being October. A postman emptying the nearby postbox said "You're sat in the shade!" as if I shouldn't be. I said "Yes but I've been in the sun all day!" That seemed to satisfy him.

On a slightly different note, in my opinion the Cotswold villages are extremely pretty, full of small cottages that I look at and think "Ooh I could happily live in that!" but...... actually I wouldn't like it at all because to be honest a lot of these villages seem dead, lifeless. If there is life it's well hidden. One of the joys of cycling (and walking) to me is getting chatting to people and I saw no-one today to have that spur of the moment sort of chat with. On with the journey home..........

This is the bridge over the Thames at Radcot. There's a dog in the river which jumped in to chase ducks. He wasn't successful.

And here is the last picture, which I knew you'd love to see which is why I saved it till last.
In the car park adjoining the campsite. Picturesque isn't it?

"On the way back" I had an earworm, which was from the song Day Trip to Bangor by Debbie Cook (I had to google to find out who wrote it but one should give credit where credit's due)

   "But on the way back I cuddled with Jack and we opened a bottle of cider
     Singing a few of our favourite songs as the wheels went around."

I was annoyed with myself for not having asked in the cafe if they would fill up my water bottle, so after slogging up the hill into Faringdon I had to pay a whole POUND for a 500ML bottle of water there. I got home before dark, despite it taking me 5 MINUTES to get back across the A420. Rush hour. 

My trip was about 38 miles - a good length for a day, not too long, but long enough. (And I can't get the font to go back to the right size and now I've got the earworm again.)

My next post will probably be about the wool jumper I have chopped down the front to make a zip up mid-layer for future colder bike rides.

Hope you enjoyed this and that you too have got the earworm. Let me know.


Thursday, October 1

Cot pockets organiser Mark 1

I recently saw "cot pockets" somewhere on the web whilst googling baby stuff, and asked my daughter if she'd like some. Yes please she said. I particularly liked some that had multiple pockets on them, and decided to have a go. This is the final version, photographed on the cot that awaits our grandchild. (The photos don't seem very good - not sure why. More investigating to be done...)

I made these out of some old curtains that a friend gave me ages ago (recognise them, Barbara?), and the plain cream backing was from a bag of offcuts I was given from the wonderful Wesley-Barrell furniture factory in Witney a while ago. Daughter has still to choose some fabric that goes with the lovely wall paper in the background and the other bits and pieces in the room.

Diagrams and maths!

I had taken measurements of the cot, as I wanted the pockets to fit in the right place with regard to the position of the bars, so that it looked neat and tidy. At this stage I also worked out how big I wanted the hems to be, and the size of the pockets.

Top layer and backing cut to the same size.

I cut four pockets, and stitched a double hem on the top
and folded in a single hem on the bottom. The sides don't need hemming as they will be tucked under the backing when it is turned over to the front.

I turned in a single hem all round, and then placed the backing on top (wrong sides together).

I didn't take enough pictures, but then this wasn't meant to be a tutorial, more just to give you the general idea of how I did it! Across the top of each pocket piece I sewed twill tape, for decoration and for added body. I then stitched the pocket pieces to the main piece at the sides only, very close to the edge - just to hold it in place. I turned the backing over to the front - at the bottom the backing sits just below the pocket bottom. I was intending to do mitred corners, but as you will see later on I changed my mind and didn't as it was easier. (I was making it up as I went along!)

Here I have now added the top pockets as well, and turned over the edge all the way round, and tacked it. I stitched down the centre of each pocket. In these two pictures you can see that I have pinned in place the gussets at the sides and centres of the bottom pockets. (The creases you can see at the bottom of the pockets is probably the original hem fold of the curtains.)

 I then pinned in place all the gussets, and stitched them in place across the bottoms of the pockets. I stitched the hems all the way round, on the outer and inner edges, and added twill tape to the back of the top corners for attaching it to the cot.

NOTE: Regarding safety, I would not tie the tapes in bows with long loops like I did in the first picture. I would wind them round the bars to shorten them and then tie them in double knots. I will probably add some more tapes along the top as well, otherwise the whole thing might end up sagging down in the middle once the pockets have stuff in them. 

Of course, this organiser could have all sorts of uses, e.g. on the back of a door attached to hooks, or on the inside of a wardrobe (although I think it is too nice to be shut away!).

The pockets are a good size for small soft toys, and even for books. I love the idea of a favourite soft toy being tucked into one of the top pockets, and the baby, once it's at the standing up stage, reaching over to pull it out! Or maybe reaching in to get its copy of Mrs Armitage on Wheels, or Burglar Bill (said daughter once sat up in bed at about the age of two and ripped up the copy of this - naughty girl! - that I had bought when I was young and worked in the children's department of George's bookshop in Bristol) or Cops and Robbers ("Here are the cops of London town, hardworking, brave and true....") or one of the Mog ("in the morning we have a little stretch!") books, or The Tiger who came to Tea (he drank all the water in the taps) or Lucy and Tom (I once met Shirley Hughes in said bookshop).......can't wait to read these again....

And speaking of Mrs Armitage (if you are not aware of my blog's connection to this book then you haven't read the About Me page!) I must write a letter to her (c/o Quentin Blake) apologising for pinching her words without asking. Another post perhaps!

Has anyone else made cot pockets? Any tips?

And now, I'm off to check over my bike which has some funny noises coming from it. Hopefully I'll get in a decent ride in the next day or two while we have this lovely weather!