Monday, 25 January 2016

A trip back to UK

Since my last installment, we have made a trip back to the UK to organize our worldly belongings for transport to Hotnitsa.  We have been storing our belongings in two containers in Flookburgh in Cumbria and we have been adding to it by way of ordering a few bits and peices that we cannot get in Bulgaria.  Namely a cooker - yes you can get them but they don't do range type cookers which is what I'm used to.  A bed - yes they also do those but not in king size, again which is what I'm used to besides all my bedding is king size so any excuse! And curtains - well you should see the ones they sell here!
The day before departure, we had to take Bracken to my sisters house for his holidays.  Not sure it was a holiday for either Sara, Dave or the other animals!  We booked our taxi to the airport which was with a young lad called Georgi who was very friendly and kept us entertained en route, not least with his Bulgarian driving!
This is our plane
We arrived safely but I thought I had been married to a spy.  The machine that reads the micro chipped passport decided it didn't like GJ so he was ushered to a human who let him through.  He had me worried for a bit.  We were met at the airport by our good friend Paul with whom he and his wife Anne, we were spending the night.  He cooked a nice steak and ale pie - well he did the base and Anne did the rest... 
And poor Anne had had a hard day at work.
When we arrived at P & As we went to look at the car that had been parked in the field on Paul's property.  GJ re-connected the battery and tried to start it up with finger crossed.  With a few coughs and splutters, like a trooper it finally fired into life.  Safely brought around to the driveway, we spent the night boring Paul and Anne with our photos of Bulgaria and our new abode.
Next morning we headed up the motorway to Preston where GJ had ordered lots of DIY stuff from Tool Station.  We also called in to a chemist to find some anti indigestion stuff for Sara's neighbour.  She gets heartburn and can only take certain medicine with those she is already taking.  I'm not surprised because she eats a lot of pickles (see our dinner party with them on previous blog).
Further up the motorway and a quick trip to our old doctors, we then booked into The Newby Bridge Hotel which is not far from the containers. 
En Suite
Our bed

The hotel had just been updated and everything smelt nice and new but they still have a few hurdles to overcome.  One of which is the bar menu and they had no real ale which GJ was looking forward to.  Only four things to chose from so I had a burger......
And GJ had Gammon & Egg
I don't know why establishments think that deep fried roast potatoes are better than chips.  Make them skinnier and give us less!

The next night we decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and eat in the restaurant.  Bad move.  Because by this time it had started snowing (they don't know the meaning of the word) the restaurant was busy because other guests had decided not to venture out and they had minimal staff working - in fact one person waiting on and the Receptionist had to come and help out.  30 minutes before we even got a drink.
I had grilled mackerel to start with sea bass for mains (very similar really) and GJ had ham hock terrine and a steak for main.  All were not particularly memorable and no photos taken. Again a poor choice on the menu.  Oh well that's the Lake District winter for you.
View from our hotel window - only a touch of snow compared with Bulgaria
We spent Saturday, Sunday and Monday checking boxes, labeling and writing an inventory for our goods and chattels and on Sunday night decided to go for our last UK curry.  We were partial to a restaurant called "India" in Kendal when we lived in Cumbria but found out that it had been severely flooded when Kendal was hit by storm Desmond over Christmas.  Very sad driving through Kendal and seeing all the empty houses and furniture in skips.  In the event of "India" closure, we decided to go to our second choice of Indian restaurant in Bowness called "Mela Spice".  On a cold Sunday night in January, we were the only customers to start with and so got very good attention albeit in a very cold restaurant.

Looks Good!
King Prawn Lemon Sath for me
Chicken Jalfreze, Mushroom Barjee and Tarka Dhal

We were joined by another couple, not quite an atmosphere but an enjoyable meal all the same.  On Monday we decided to have a treat for lunch (as if we hadn't had enough treats) and just to make my Sister jealous, had fish and chips from, in my opinion one of the best chippies in the North West, Flounders in Flookburgh..............
Yum Yum - I think they twice fry their chips because they are always crispy just how I like them.
Tuesday arrived and we met the truck that was to take our stuff down to Newark....

....... where it would be loaded onto an artic ready for the trip though Europe to Hotnitsa.  We drove the Range Rover back to Paul and Anne's house where a driver took it further down to meet with the artic in Newark.  Skinny little Polish guy called Victor whom we were assured could get out of the open front window when the car was parked in the artic.  Bet that was fun!
That night we treated P & A to a Chinese takeaway (doing a lot of lasts on this trip)....
Very nice it was too.
After spending the day looking around the local shops and doing a bit of shopping, I decided to make a meal for the family.  A Jamie Oliver recipe that I still keep going back to which involves good quality sausages (without skins and turned into mince) made into a ragout and tossed into spaghetti.  Served with garlic bread for mopping up the sauce.  I completely forgot to take a photo.but there was  non left.  Paul took us to the airport the next morning at 5 am - don't see that time very much!
Back in Bulgaria and there had been significant snowfall but as ever, it does not stop movement like it does in the UK however there were a few hairy moments on the way back with Georgi and Dave and Sara managed to drive to our house with Bracken (I bet they were chuffed to get rid of him)!!  I think he was pleased to see us or was it just frolicking in the snow?
Freezing temperatures means that 6 days later and it still isn't melting but we have no broken/iced up pipes and the central heating still works so we have been very lucky.
After raiding the fridge for left over veg, I managed to knock up a Cauliflower, Broccoli and Potato soup just what you need in this weather...........
Keep warm folks!
Helen, Graham and Bracken.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Happy New Year from Hotnitsa

The last time I updated my blog was on Christmas Eve so I thought I had better catch up.
We spent Christmas day in Polski Senovets with my sister Sara and BIL Dave.  When we arrived there was a familiar smell of roasting meat coming from the kitchen and Sara had been working hard on producing some canapes for starters.  There were blinis with various salmon/fishy toppings, cocktail sticks with steak strips and a horseradish dipping sauce, devils on horseback and homegrown beetroot and homemade haloumi cheese sticks.  All very moreish.
We had roast pork which Sara had sourced with crackling. Lush!

In Bulgaria it is hard to find pork with crackling fat because usually the fat is rendered down to make lard.  Sara was given a bottle of it by her neighbours but as she is vegetarian she has passed it on to me - I hope it lasts a long time because I will only use it for roasters on special occasions. The sprouts by the way were home grown by Sara, home made bread provided bread sauce and stuffing balls, home grown red cabbage and potatoes for the roasters and mash - only a small meal then!  Dave made crackers in the true Good Life fashion.

I do love to see people opening presents no matter how small!
Yeah! there was a whole box of digestive biscuits in there - his favourites!
We were still having good weather between Christmas and New Year so we cracked on with some gardening.  The poly tunnel is all cleared now so it was time for some rotavating.
Some smashing soil, not like in the UK where every time I put a spade into my back garden, I hit a rock.
On boxing day we were invited to meet Radco and Pepa's son and daughter, both of whom speak English 
By this time Radco had met Bracken and he had obviously gone home and told the rest of the household that he was "friendly" so their daughter asked if she could come across and meet him.  I didn't realise the whole family was going to troop over, still Bracken took it all in his stride and offered each of them his favourite ball.
Yet more work in the garden stripping down all those branches into kindling and logs and this is before we started polarding the mulberries
One down, only another 10 or so to do
And yes in the first picture, I even have washing on the line, the heat of the midday sun did most of the drying.  We still managed to eat our lunches outside:

 Left: Meatball soup for GJ and Sara's homemade ricotta with garlic & herbs and wood fired peppers.

Right: Spanish Omlette

On New Year's Eve, Sara and Dave came to Hotnitsa for lunch.  I did a whole leg of lamb with boulingere potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and veg.
Excuse the measuring jug but most of my kitchen stuff is in a lock-up in Flookburgh! - we even had to have square Yorkshires.
We had been invited out to an ex-pats house for a 'Fondue Night' but declined because I was too tired (and too stuffed) after the lunch but we did stay up until after midnight when all around us were fireworks going off - Bracken went galloping around the garden getting very excited but I think that's the gun dog in him.  Strangely enough, we didn't hear another dog bark which considering they all live outside and all start at the slightest sound, I would have thought we would have a chorus.
And then it got frosty....
...and then the snow came...
Poor Kevin
And now for some random pictures...
just thought this looked nice
Sara's Christmas pressie - a new rug which Bracken is generously leaving hair all over
Lovely grass outside the front door - very statuesque
Look what we found when we opened a manhole cover!  There is two in there (sorry Helen Whitehead)!

Thanks a lot to all those who take the time to read the blog, it makes it worthwhile writing it and of course it will be a good reference guide for us when the garden starts growing and I can log where and what is growing.
Happy New Year to everyone/anyone
Helen, Graham and of course Bracken.