Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Time runs away with me.

Hello again.  Its a funny thing this retirement lark, don't seem to have time to sit down, let alone write my blog.  I promised myself that I would sit down in the summer months (when the weather is too hot to do anything) and I would try to learn some Bulgarian.  My Bulgarian is being picked up only slowly because as I mentioned in the previous post, the weeds have got the better of me so I have spent days, nay weeks pulling at the little buggers and those that I haven't yet got to, are now big.

Well we thought we would invest in a pool being confident that the weather would allow us to make use of it.  In fact it has crept up to a high of 45ยบ in direct sun and it's great to to have a quick dip now and again to cool down (in between doing job's of course).  We tried to put down sheets of wooden fibre board but even with the help of sand, we could not get it level so we asked our neighbour and his building company to put a patio down and they made an excellent job of it.
Radko's team on the job

See how I made the picture larger so the pool looks huge - well you can get 5 strokes across.

While we were filling the pool and Bracken could still touch the ground, he was quite happy to stay in once GJ had lifted him in......
....but once it was at the correct level and he couldn't touch the bottom, he got a bit panicky so we thought we had better get him a pool of his own that he could jump in and out of at random.

Complete with ducks

In order to keep his interest while we are still in our pool, we have devised a game for him.  As he is a retriever, we put all his balls and floaty toys in the big pool and once by one, slowly chuck them into his and he insists on going in for each one individually.  Oh well, its giving his some exercise because his walks in this heat have to be short ones.

Are my toys in here?

The kitchen is finally fitted with the exception of the tiling and lighting.  The fitters insisted that the extraction fan should be level with the units either side which made it impossible for me to avoid banging my head.  GJ asked them to move it but they left it where it was quoting that it would be inefficient if it were any higher. We didn't make a fuss and GJ moved it himself.  These pictures were taken before he put the housing around the top.

 Just got some tiles and lighting to do and we are sorted - at least now I can use my new cooker.
 Our friends who have the B & B over the road (called "Odyssey Gate" (see website) for all those masses who want to come and visit and need more than just our spare room), Warren and Sylvie brought this over for us!
How kind I thought - now what can I do with it?  Well the first thing I thought was "I'll give them some back" in the form of Marrow and Ginger Chutney....

.... and Spiced and Brined Marrow because Sylvie said she made curries with them so this meant she could just add to onions and other spices of her choice.  Don't tell them but the chickens had some as well and I have some in the freezer ready to add to soup in the winter time.

Talking of chickens, all four are doing well as is Dandy, the cockerel.  I am still getting an average of 3 eggs a day which suits us very well.  Unfortunately they are feeling the heat a bit at the moment and they only come out of the shade when they hear my footsteps (food).  They have their wings slightly held up and their mouths open.  I even leave an inner door open at night because I looked in on them one night as they were roosting and they were still panting.  Bless them!

They sit with me and chat when I'm weeding - the ex-battery hen being the most talkative (the small one in the centre of the picture)

Along with the weeds being a nightmare, the produce is very prolific now.  Stats to date (just to remind me next year):

Tomatoes, Various, 28 plants 4.5 kilos (still an awful lot to come)
Courgettes 10 plants, 72 in total (still going strong)
Carrots, Various, 4 kilos A lot yet to harvest.
Cucumbers, 2 plants, 13 in total (weakening now)

Gazpacho soup made with all my own grown ingredients! Mmm.

Fennel  10 x pot sown and 10 direct sown, all taken only harvested 2 so far but rest are ready.
Swiss Chard, 3.5 Kilos harvested so far - cut and come again so still going strong.
Chillies, 6 plants from market, only harvested 2 so far and a few to come (disappointing).
Peppers 10 plants from market, harvested 3 so far quite a lot to come.

Shallots, bag of 60 sets, harvested 3 but all taken just waiting for size increase
Potatoes, Early's, dozen sets, 7.5 Kilos
Potatoes, Main crop, dozen sets, 500g so far but the growth died back so I had a look, Although there are a a lot of potatoes, they are only tiny so I will wait a bit - think it might be blight.
Legumes: Planted various Peas: Round, Mange Tout, Sugar Snap.   Beans, Broad, Runner,French, but overall they were all a bit disappointing. The biggest harvest was broad beans.
Herbs: Basil, Parsley, Chives, Mint, Dill all doing well.
Beetroot still small
Cabbages, Broccoli, Sprouts, Leeks - all in but not ready yet.

These small plums grow everywhere in Bulgaria and the locals make Rakia from them.  However I picked a load from our trees and made a Plum cordial.  I now have pink and purple ones in the freezer ready for more batches.  Because of the weather we don't drink coffee and tea during the day now.  Its only cold drinks and sometimes (only sometimes) a cheeky bottle of wine at lunchtime.  I inherited the plum/olive stone extraction thingy from my mum - comes in very handy.

I have also invested in a dehydrator.  The first thing I tried out in it were mushrooms.  My sister had given me some dried mushrooms that she had done and they were great and even though when I was in the UK, we had mushrooms every week is some shape or form, I still cannot get out of the habit of buying a punnet each week and they are big punnets here and I was wasting some.  So I thought I would give it a go, but unfortunately the instruction manual doesn't give you a reference chart so I had to wing it on the timing.
I did them for eight hours at 70 degrees and the seemed OK but a week later they weren't as much dried but softened but preserved for a little longer for all that.  Now I have started drying some as soon as I buy a punnet so I can prolong the life.  Its all about preservation here.

I now have a bit of colour in the garden but don't ask me to name them all!
 Possibly Campanular?
 Daisy like things!
 This was meant to be a picture of the deep red almost brown chocolate plant - bit blurred

I have got a nice crop also of Sunflowers but they are grown everywhere here.  Last week when we went to our local town Veliko Tarnovo and en route took these lovely pictures of the fields
 As far as the eye can see
 We also came across a few other visitors to these parts although I don't think the tortoise has come far

Our adoptive home town of Veliko Tarnovo is beautiful and I thought I would do a little tourist advertising for you:

 Even though we are getting familiar with VT, we still sometimes have to use the sat nav!

 This cobbled street leads to....
 ...a medieval fortress called Tsaravets
 and the whole town is surrounding a snaking river on the banks of which the buildings rest.  Was that affective advertising?

Although we have been out for lunch in VT occasionally, We have only ventured into the town once at night for our wedding anniversary (27 years). I had seen a couple of Chinese restaurants and after quizzing our new ex-pat friends decided on which one we should go for.  Taxi booked (Ruman - speaks English and can get anything done for you!!!) we arrived at about 7.30pm and the place was deserted.
We had just ordered drinks and the place came alive
Bulgarian waitress in Chinese costume
We had Salt and Pepper Calamari to start - Yum
 A chicken dish with "noodles" (actually Tagliatelle) and a dish described as Crispy Duck, nice but no crisp at all.  Fried rice as well - massive portions but a doggy bag was offered but turned down. We had eaten all the good bits!
 Mmm, What are they having?
We (I mostly) had a bottle of wine and GJ had 4 beers and all that came to 42 leva which before Brexit was about £12 - I think something was missed off the bill!

As I write this, we went into town again yesterday and went to a restaurant with outside seating.  Unfortunately on a table quite close to us a lady in here 60s I would say, had a bit of a funny turn. we think it was heat stroke but loads of people crowded around her making it worst probably, an ambulance was called, lots of shouting ensued and although she was being doused with cold water, she insisted on sitting in the sunshine to wait for the ambulance.  Bless her I think she just wanted to get out of the restaurant. Meanwhile, her dinner companions continued to eat their meal, one did go in the ambulance with her but the others stayed for about 3/4 hour then paid the bill.Consequently our food was very much delayed because the chef came out while this was going on - I think to make sure his food wasn't the cause and he dithered a bit. We had only put two hours on the car park ticket so we kind of ate quite quickly (small pizza's, only about 12" in diameter!) and got back to the car with only a few minutes to spare.  We didn't take any pictures because we we both in a bit of shock and everything was rushed in the end but the food was great, two pizzas, a coke and 1/2 bottle of wine - £8. Can't say fairer than that! 

Last Saturday night we had our first party.  I spent time planning the menu having to cater for a few Bulgarians, a Vegan and two Vegetarians.  I made two vegetarian Quiches with my ladies eggs and home made pastry (turns out I'm not bad at pastry - no soggy bottoms here). Various salads two of which I knew the Bulgarians would like, a sausage plait - something my mum used to make, looks good and very tasty.  I also had in my freezer, a leg of lamb that I had ordered from 'Terry the Meat' which was far too big for the two of us and I roasted it over 4 hours with some Moroccan spices and served it with Tazikki, jewelled Cous Cous and pitta bread.  My other centre piece was another too big piece I had bought from Terry (all ordered you see and you don't really know what your getting).  A piece of belly pork with the Ribs still in.  Again slow roasted sitting on a bed of apple and onion the meat braising and the skin crackling.  My Bulgarian friends went mad for it!  Pulled pork with a choice of apple sauce and stuffing in a bun or barbecue sauce. Mmmm.  

Unfortunately I forgot to take photos of the dining table because I was too busy being hostess but because I had relaxed after the main course I remembered to take pickies of the sweet table:
Two of my very generous friends bought dishes with them, the cheesecake at the front came from Karen Fox, while the bowl of water melon (just right for this weather) from Sylvie.  My creations were a fruit flan and a lemon cheesecake.  Now the trouble I had with that b****y cheesecake!  Well here in Bulgaria, you can get cream cheese (Philadelphia was used because you don't know how theirs would perform) but the cream here all seems to be either single or whipping cream.  OK you may think that whipping cream would do, but it doesn't hold up as stiffly when folded into the cheese and lemon mixture so in the end after 24 hours in the fridge I had to put it in the freezer for an hour or two.  It didn't seem to matter because both cheesecakes were demolished and of course both had different textures, one chilled and one semi frozen.  Anyway everyone gave me lovely compliments, the night went well with a few of my British friends being able to integrate with the Bulgarians who have as much English as I, Bulgarian. Oh and we had two Americans as well.  Mary Lou was extremely helpful in the kitchen and she bought an American style potato salad.  Many thanks to Barbara Fenton too for all her help. (I think she reads this!)

From the left - Suzie Keates, Ivan (whom you've seen before if you follow my blog), Radco and Pepe, my lovely neighbours and Karen Fox who speaks very good Bulgarian and did a lot of interpretation.
Various other friends

Let the dancing commence - Me and Radco

Even Elenor came across (on the right in pretty in Pink)

Warren, Karen and Radco tucking into the puds
 Karen and James, and even Bracken joined in to say hello

We have been invited to a birthday doo at Ivan's house on Thursday.  Looking forward to it but trying hard to think of a present - they like homemade things not bought things - what do you give a big burly Bulgarian who lives on his own (but been married several times) drinks much Rakia (but makes it himself) has a barn full of relics that he sells at the monthly car boot sale in the village and was a chef in the Bulgarian army?

More about that next time!

Keep cool folks
H, GJ & Bracken