Sunday, 30 October 2016

One year on since we arrived

Yet again time has run away with me.  Life just seems to be so busy that I not only forget to catch up with the blog but I also forget to take photos.  I remember my sister Sarah took her camera everywhere with her just in case, but I keep leaving it behind. Still here goes.....

The last entry ended with our trip to the rock festival at Mindya - that long ago!  Since then we have had Kevin registered and both he and the car now have their Bulgarian plates.  What a palaver.  We thought it was bad with the Range Rover but this time we decided to pay an insurance man to take it though the process for us.  Well the English plates came off, went back on again, came off and went back on again.  When the KAT office (registration office) people finally decided that it came under the category of "Special Purpose Vehicle" then we were granted some plates and all the taxes were paid.

We have been doing some restoration work on little things in and around the house.  GJ has tackled the fire place giving it a respray.  It came up very well.
 Oh and who put that bottle there.  It wasn't there for very long!

......and I have been restoring the gates that go into the barn area because we want to move the chickens into here for the winter.  I will take another photo when GJ has hung them again.
This area was used as a dumping ground and we couldn't actually see the barn when looking over from the poly tunnel frame so finally we decided to tackle it.  We hired a lady from the village to do some clearance work and we had several fires. She was amazing, they build them strong around here.  So now with a lot of hard work and effort by us all, the area is cleared.
Looking from the barn to the house......before work done

The barn just visible through the winter trees last year
 .....but they've all gone now

 This was how the chicken run looked before all the hard work.

....and how it looks now
Before Kevin's parking spot was established.....
 and now he looks quite cosy.
 and so do the chickens if a bit straggly from the molting.
 We had another dinner party. Chris and Karen came whom I have mentioned before and two of their friends who have bought a house in the village and as yet have not sold up in England but are hoping to be here by spring next year.  As usual, I didn't take any pictures of the actual party but I did take a picture of the table setting...

It was a good excuse to get out the crystal and family silver.  I seem to have inherited it so I might as well use it.  I was going to serve a vegetable terrine to start which consisted of carrot and cauliflower layers but unfortunately when I decanted it from the terrine mould, there was an overwhelming smell of cauliflower which I thought might be a bit off putting so I ditched it and served a Smoked Salmon Pate instead. When I say ditched - the Chickens loved it.

It looked good and tasted good but you are never sure with things like cauliflower.  I followed the Pate with a Spanish Chicken dish with Savoury Rice, designed for minimum work on the night.  However, when I tasted it, it was a little too spicy and I tried everything to cool it down - great for GJ and I but I had heard a conversation once about someone not liking things too spicy so I had to recreate the sauce and transfer the chicken into a milder version.  The third thing to go wrong was my pudding.  I had decided to follow a Mary Berry recipe for a lemon tart which used a sort of Shortbread pastry case and it turned out to be hard as nails so that was ditched for a Chocolate Roulard.  I don't think I have ever had such a challenging dinner party in my life!  Nobody knew anything about my capers and calamities but if they read this now, they will!
Karen bought two tubs of clotted cream with her to the party and as we only used one with the dinner party, I decided to make some scones to go with the other and I took them down to the bar on Friday night to let all the ex-pats have a little reminder of "old home".  At least they worked OK first time!

I have been using up the last of my home grown tomatoes by making tomato sauce and chutneys.  I have also put portion size packets in the freezer to last a while into the Autumn. 

This first year in the garden has taught me a lot, not least how the weather affects everything and how well certain things grow.  I have been planing what to plant where for next year and I am not going to do such a wide range of things but only plant things that we use a lot of. i.e Tomatoes (large ones for sauces and chutneys) Carrots, Beetroot, Courgettes, Sweetcorn and Onions.  I still have Leeks, Brussel Sprouts and Swiss Chard in the garden so I still have something to harvest but things like Cabbages, Potatoes, Broccoli etc are very easy to come by here and don't seem worth the effort to grow.  I have had very poor results with peas and beans this year but when I spoke to our friends, the nurserymen, they have assured me that the heat this year was exceptional and that they would have been better in the shade.  As I still have seeds left, I will try again next year in the area which is inhabited by the chickens at the moment.  They are fertilising the area nicely.

We have been to our local cash and carry again where we can get some nice meat products.  As an example, we bought quite a few of these pork chops (made for Desperate Dan I think!)  They were all extremely tender and now I'm itching to go back and refill the freezer.

I had some of the girls around for lunch one Saturday.  Their partners were off on a long bike ride so I thought it might be nice to have some fun too.  We chatted long into the afternoon and only opened two bottles so we were quite well behaved.  Barbara (one of the girls) and I took ourselves off to Veliko Tanovo for a girly day out and lunch.  We had a great time and it was a chance for me to get the layout of the shopping streets of the town.  While we were there, there was a festival on and the streets of the old town were laden with market stalls


Here a lady was teaching children to make flat breads....
...... and I would have loved to have bought one of these ladies but I'm over the stuffed toy stage now!  I did in fact go in search of chickens! Bulgarian windows are double windows with a void between each one so I have one window in my kitchen with ducks in it and another which I wanted to have chickens in (pottery ones of course).  I have now filled both windows but I haven't photographed them yet so I will post the results on the next blog.  Barbara and I went to lunch in restaurant that was on the edge of a rock face (a lot of VT is) and the view from the veranda was stunning...

Lunch as usual was quite slow - well there was a festival on.  But we both ordered Pizzas so you would expect them to come at the same time - no mine was about 10 minutes before Barbara's.  Still they were hot for once.  It was a lovely day out.

The temperatures have started to drop a bit but we have still been able to sit out in the summer kitchen for a while at night.  GJ has put up enough lights around the property to light up Blackpool but you never know what lurks out there....

 As with the advent of Autumn, the pool has been taken down and put into storage......
..... and as with Autumn comes the fruit - Apples.  Our lovely neighbour handed GJ a carrier bag full of apples so to thank him, I made an apple pie.

We took it round and Pepa his wife insisted we sat in the sunshine and had a portion with them.  When we left, Radko handed GJ a crate of Apples.  I'm still making things with them, one of which is an Apple, Ginger and Sultana chutney.

One of the bottles was duly swapped with a neighbour for green tomato chutney and recently I had made a batch of my Mum's Sweet Pepper and Tomato chutney (all from the garden).  We went out last night to Warren and Sylvi's (swapping neighbour) for dinner and of course I took him a bottle of this too.  I think it might be chili jam next!

 Sometimes I do have my camera with me and would you believe that in October we have a type of Crocus growing on the grass verges - I couldn't believe my eyes.

And finally to the Christmas cakes.  I have made 3, one each for my immediate neighbours and one to take to the Christmas party at the Town Hall.  I have been told that you can get Marzipan a bit closer to Christmas but I'm sure Sarah told me you couldn't so I have a large stash of ground almonds just in case I have to make my own and finding Santa's, Reindeer or Christmas trees for the top is proving quite difficult.  I did think about asking my friend Barbara if she could bring me some Marzipan back for the UK (as she is out there at the moment) but as GJ reminded me, it does look a bit like Semtex which can be used to make bombs! I thought I wouldn't get her into trouble just before Christmas!!
 Look at the different sizes of eggs from my girls - some huge and some slightly smaller!

I've been feeding all three with liberal amounts of Brandy - Just like Momma used to make!

That's all for now - doesn't sound much but retirement is full on, but with it comes memory loss! Keep warm folks!
Helen, GJ and Bracken x