Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas 2015 - Our first in Hotnitsa, Bulgaria

Christmas is upon us now and the festivities are hotting up. We gave our first dinner party for two ex-pat friends, Warren & Sylvie by way of a thank you for giving us information about doctors, dentists etc and also they showed us some good dog walking territory.  They asked us to go for a walk with them and their two dogs.  I think they would like to socialise their dogs a bit more because in Bulgaria a dog is kept as an alarm and not a pet.  The meeting was unsuccessful for their dogs because they were both gnashing and snarling at Bracken and so could not be let off the leads to meet him.  Bracken was completely indifferent towards them - aloof is the word!
 Walking between homesteads towards the field walk - I suppose you call this a street!
 This is one of the fields we walk around - could be the edge of the world
 Frosty December morning
   The field on the right had just been ploughed
I didn't take any pictures of the dinner party because we don't know Warren and Sylvie very well and I didn't want to put them off. However I served a main course of chicken breast stuffed with my sisters wood roasted peppers, mozzarella and basil then wrapped in panchetta (but I couldn't get panchetta so I had to use parma ham).  I accompanied this with boulingere potatoes and a crisp salad on the side.  Nothing was left and I do like a good eater.  For desert, I asked my sister Sara to show me how to make Creme Caramel (don't do puds) which I now know must be the easiest pudding in the world.  Next came the cheese board with a French, an Italian, a Bulgarian and a home made cheese on it (the home made being from Sara and her goats - bit like Boursin)  All was washed down with some nice red and crisp white wine and a good night was had by all.

If you want to know more about Sara's adventures with the good life, see: www.debrazzaman.blogspot.co.uk

The following night we had been invited next door to have "Rakia".  This always means that you are invited for a meal which starts with Rakia.  Every Bulgarian household makes their own version of this drink with whatever fruit they have in abundance.  Radco made this batch with white grapes and he informed us it was 43% proof.  It certainly packed a punch but was very like a nice whiskey.  Pepa made us a lovely meal which started as all meals do in Bulgaria with a salad.  Unlike Sara's neighbour's who serve pickled vegetables to start, Pepa served a coleslaw made from carrot and beetroot.  Much nicer if you are not so keen on vinegar.  For the main course we had chicken coated in herbs and served with potatoes roasted with dill.  If that wasn't enough, we then had a piece of traditional Bulgarian Christmas cake.  Apart from the Rakia, Radco served us some of his home made red wine which he has promised to show GJ how to make next year.
Radco, Pepa's Mum, Me and Pepa
We have been doing a bit of work on the garden getting my seed beds  sorted which will actually be within the poly tunnel frame.  Sara's husband Dave has been helping GJ to clear it all up.  The previous owners grew fruit trees which have subsequently been planted in the garden but they were grown in pots in the tunnel and they had put down a plastic membrane and then used a lot of roof tiles (left over from when the second barn was demolished to make way for the straw bale house) to cover the whole of the tunnel.  These all had to be dug up and stacked and look what we found under one of them
We didn't mean to wake him but we picked him up carefully and put him in the sunshine and he was soon scuttling away to find another resting place.
GJ tidying up the wrecked area of poly tunnel
Dave doing the heavy work.  That night........no rocking required here

.......or here.  Note my new rug bought from Bulgaria Buy and Swap - Just like Windermere seek and sell.

Last Monday was the "kill the pig day" for a family down the road.  The crowds gathered (5 adults & 2 kids) and the pig bought it!  By the time GJ got down with his camera, they were cleaning the pig ready for the butchery.  He didn't think it appropriate to take photos but for all of you who may now be squirming, this is how the Bulgarians live.  They grow and rear what they want to eat.  No waste.

On a lighter note, last night was the village Christmas party.  A great time was had by all and here are some pictures (and later a video).
                                      
Warren and Sylvie in the front, Tanya, the Mayors secretary taking photo's whilst the Mayor himself is helped into some rather large knickers that he won in the raffle - Superman style.
 GJ sitting next to Annie May, a very nice American lady
 Chris and Karen from up the road
Ivan who works for Chris - also won a pair of pants - big character this fella!
The dancing starts - from the back left Keith (partner to Tanya), the lady with grey hair is another immediate neighbour, next is Annie May and then Warren doing his thing whilst Chris and Sylvie have a giggle about something 
Then the entertainment started with 2 locals dressed up doing a jig around the dance floor wearing funny costumes.... yes that was a bloke
 And the lady next to the hat stand (left) is another neighbour called Evanka whose turkeys were using our garden.  Funny, they seem to have disappeared now!
 These were the raffle prizes that I won, the little square is a 2016 calendar - quite humbling really.
Just to finish as I write this on Christmas Eve, what could be better for lunch than a fish finger buttie
Hoped this video works?
video


Tuesday, 8 December 2015

So much to do - a busy retirement!

Apologies to my two registered followers and to anyone else who will stumble upon it, but I have been so busy that to sit down and actually start to type and download pictures seems impossible.  Anyway here is an update.  Having moved into the house now - thankfully it is furnished because our stuff is still in the UK - we have decided that whilst the weather is un-seasonally brilliant we would concentrate on the garden and get the poly tunnel sorted out for Spring.  Heartfelt apologies for those whom are suffering in Cumbria.
 Yes it's under there somewhere
Clearing it slowly
We're getting there
Clearing the debris
The other priority we have is to, in the short term, increase the height of our wall onto the road...
(Don't know whether you can make out the wall but it has collapsed in various places)
.....because as the house hadn't been lived in for two years it would appear that we have lots of visitors on a daily basis:
Baba Turkey's 3 sheep (we call her that because she has turkeys too and Baba means Grandma in Bulgarian).  We think she is actually called Elenor
And these turkeys belong to another lady called Evanka
and we are not sure who owns this tailless cat!  Apologies for the photos because they were taken through a window.
A funny thing happened the other day, Baba Turkey took her sheep just up the road and she decided to lay down on the grass verge whilst watching them - seems weird for an old lady to do that on a bright but chilly morning.
We have got to grips with the central heating, There is a pump that needs putting on before you light the fire which has a back up battery sitting in my lounge because apparently we have power cuts when the weather is bad.  If you didn't have back up and the fire was doing this, then whole thing would explode!  But actually it is very efficient and we sit in our lounge very cozy on the clear frosty nights.

I took a picture of the first meal I cooked in my new house.  As you will all know, Lasagne is made with beef mince which when we went shopping, I thought I had ordered because it was the darkest mince there.  Turns out it was Pork and quite highly salted but I put plenty of bechamel sauce with it so it was OK 
For those of you at Impact - note the book on the table.  well it does for shopping lists and things!
and we did our first entertaining - Sister and BIL but that's me
We have also done some socializing.  We were called on by some neighbors who run a guest house and they suggested that we call in at the local bar on Friday night to meet some of the ex-pats. Unfortunately, because of all the work I had been doing in the garden, my sciatic nerve from my back down to my toes decided to let itself be known.  I had 3 days laid up with it until I decided to take it by the horns and try some more exercise.  It worked, after a few days I was up and about again and doing a bit more in the garden.  We did find out where the doctors surgery was but as they don't have appointment systems and we went of the one day of the year when they are giving children their vaccines, it was a waste of time as it was children first and they just kept coming into the surgery.  Luckily I sorted myself out.   The following Friday we did however go along to the bar and had a couple of beers each - you help yourself from the fridge and pay at the bar. 2,90 lv per round approx £1.04 for two litre bottles.  They do sell the infamous rakia but they also sell a selection of bottled beers (Becks, Stella etc) and a very nice Bulgarian beer.  We met quite a few people and a good night was had by all.  The following morning we had been invited to our immediate neighbors Radco and Pepe.  A panic phone call to my sister the day before and she came to the rescue with a lemon drizzle cake (always nice to take a cake apparently).
Yum!
However, Radco and Pepe are the same age as us and are a little more modern as far as Bulgarians go so would you believe she likes to bake a cake as well
It was almost a madeira cake with chocolate swirled into it but there was also some fruit in it - very nice.
We managed to communicate quite well over coffee with the use of phrase books and the limited Bulgarian that we already have and the limited English that they have.  We took a piece of paper with us that we had translated into Bulgarian, explaining who we were, where we were from etc, etc.  I think they appreciated it.  Turns out Radco is a builder and so may be very useful.
A few more pictures from around the village:
On one side of the road a wall is built like this with bricks but I can't see any mortar
and on the other these are cob bricks!
We hear these every morning - he is a handsome lad, and we hear scuttling of critters in the roof space - probably edible dormice or pine martins.  
Just to finish, Sarah and Dave have been taking us to all the local supermarkets but certain things are a bit limited for example Lamb and Beef but yesterday they took us to a cash and carry called Metro and they have a wide selection of fresh meat.  Freezer suitably stacked up.  Graham even came across a baby whole suckling pig in one freezer - wouldn't see that in Asda.   We managed to get some aged rib eye steaks which I must say cut like butter.  I even managed to get some asparagus (but not British) and rather than chips, I served it with little fried potatoes, home-made onion rings and bearnaise sauce. - Yummy! 
Cheers for now
Helen, Graham and Bracken

Monday, 23 November 2015

We've Hot Footed to Hotnitsa!

Sorry I have not been in touch lately, we have had to sort out the inter-web at our new place...

Well we've found it...
It's in a village called Hotnitsa which was once featured on "A Place in the Sun".  This caused the village to be well populated by ex-pats two of which owned this house.  There are not so many ex pats now and we have met at least 7 of the locals and said "Priyaten den" which means have a nice day in Bulgeski but probably not spelt like that.  The house is in good nick and has some lovely features not least the Strawbale house that sits in the grounds...
GJ has this marked out as a " man-cave"
The previous owners had a business making these homes out of straw and there is a website showing just how this one was made  www.hotnitsa.com/strawbale.html 
The house itself has a summer/kitchen
Needs a bit of tidying up and a lick of paint
 which is basically a covered area for sitting in on the hot balmy summer nights. Opposite this is a large unused template for a poly tunnel for me to hone my skills at grow your own.  This should allow me to extend the growing seasons but I will still need some raised beds to make things easier for me in my old age.  See I've got plans to keep GJ working for ever.   In the grounds there is a large barn
Just the half that was not in the dark!
We met the neighbors who live behind the barn, on our second visit and the estate agent was told in Bulgarian by them that the wood inside the barn belonged to them.  This was queried with the owner and found to be untrue so the agent hot footed it back to put a padlock of the barn door. We will however be able to use the wood as a sweetener for the neighbors when we come to put Kevin into the barn because the approach is from the back of the property and it will need some adjustment to a walnut tree in the lane which happens to be on their property.  That's how things work out here - give and take. 
These branches will have to be removed....
To allow access to our barn and the neighbor will also have to move his van and bits and pieces  - only to get Kevin in but I think we are going to need a translator!
Inside the house is a beautiful old wood oven which was discovered behind closed doors.  I can see me doing the leg of lamb on one side of this for Sunday Lunch.
Think we better get it swept first though!
We have a downstairs loo and shower room which is very unusual in Bulgarian houses as are internal staircases, and we must be very posh because we even have a bath in the upstairs bathroom.  The house itself was split into 2 with the kitchen area actually in the main living room..
You can just see the fridge on the right hand side and a sink and some units follow on.
It has to be said that I like a nice kitchen, and so the plan is to convert the annex which holds the wood oven above, into a nice live-in kitchen
Oven hidden behind those doors - this could be a dining area
some sort of sleeping area which will become the main part of the kitchen
and then the door to the summer kitchen.
The Man Cave:
I don't think I get a look in here but it has running water, shower etc and there is even a mezzanine sleeping area so if he does something wrong - he can go to the naughty corner.  Here's a few pickies:
 There's that women again!
 The lounge area!
and the kitchen area - but I don't think he will be using this as such!  More likely to be storing oily rags and tools than tea towels and utensils.
Up the naughty steps
And a window in the wall just to confirm the straw bales.
Oh well!!!
Catch up next time with our first few days as homeowners again - at least this one is all ours and we don't have to share it with the bank.
H, GJ and Braken