Books Read 2020

Monday, 25 May 2020

Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie is a traditional English dish that first came into use in the late 1700s.  It was peasant food, a pie made with any kind of meat in gravy and topped with mashed potato.  Cottagers ate it – hence the name.

Today there are many variations to be found but they are still basically the same dish.

I was sent this lovely sunrise photo by a friend 

My mother used to make Cottage Pie using finely chopped leftover roast beef.  I like to make mine using raw beef mince (ground beef), and made this up for my midday meal today.

After sautéing a finely diced small onion in a little butter, I added 300g raw mince and fried it until the red colour had gone (I mash it up during this time as I dislike large lumps in this dish).  Add one cup of beef stock (ready-made bought – I am not that good a cook!), and the mince was left to simmer.

I took one tomato and sliced up some of the flesh to keep aside for a garnish.  The rest was roughly chopped and added to the mince, along with quarter of a cup each of frozen peas and frozen corn kernels.

While the mince was cooking I boiled up a large potato and mashed it – I am not that keen on potato so I only look for a thin topping on my Pie, not the traditional thick one.

The mince was cooked for about 45 minutes and then thickened slightly with some cornflour in water, and seasoned with salt and pepper and a dash of Worcestershire Sauce, before being poured into a small Pyrex dish.

Using a spoon, I dotted the mashed potato over the top and then my strips of tomato flesh.  Pop it into a hot oven (somewhere around 175 degrees Celsius works well) until the dish is hot and the potato has turned crispy – the time this takes will depend on whether you are reheating from cold or just finishing off a newly cooked dish.

I ate half of this Pie for my meal.  I never added any extra vegetables because it already contained them, but I may add some green beans when I heat up the remaining half tomorrow.

I like these old stand-by recipes.  They are easy to do, can be altered without any fuss to suit what you have available, and are (usually!) tasty and filling to eat.

Keep smiling J

Sunday, 24 May 2020

A Bit Under The Weather

The last couple of days I have been feeling a bit “under the weather” and not wanting to do much, but am thankfully feeling much better today.

Sometimes I think we just need a day or two to blob out and do next to nothing.  It is like the body needs to take a break every now and then, to relax and rest.

A kind of recharging of the batteries, perhaps to stop us from becoming seriously ill.

This morning has been good.  Son and I got the washing machine connected properly to the hot water and so I was able to do a hot wash of towels (cold water is okay, but sometimes I prefer to use hot water).

When they were hung out I decided to give the washing machine a thorough clean.  That didn’t take long as it wasn’t too dirty.

But the tub beside it!!  When we moved into this place it was obvious a previous inhabitant had used the tub to wash paint brushes as the tub was badly stained and had paint spots all over it.

I thought that we would eventually have to replace the tub (it looked dreadful) but then I read that it could be cleaned with steel wool.

I always thought steel wool would scratch, but nothing ventured nothing gained, and there wasn’t much to lose if it didn’t work.

Half an hour of hard scrubbing with a soapy steel wool pad and the tub looks much more respectable.  It still has more to scrub off, but I am very happy with the results I am getting.

After a week of frosts and sunshine we are now heading into a week of wet weather.  A lot of places are still needing rain, so it will be welcome.

I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend J

Thursday, 21 May 2020


I ventured out yesterday by myself for the first time in almost nine weeks – and discovered that I still knew how to drive my car!

It was a pleasant trip across the city to visit my sister-in-law and I enjoyed being out and about, and seeing the autumn colour on so many trees.  Many of the leaves have begun to drop now, and there were piles heaped up in places along the sides of the roads.

I also noticed that traffic islands were covered in wild plants all busy flowering and seeding.  They must have been loving the respite from being weeded on a regular basis.

This morning I dropped grand-daughter off at school (her father usually does this, but he worked all night) and then thought I would call in at the supermarket for a few things.

I had barely got inside when I was approached by a lady who said she wanted to “share her good fortune” and dropped a $100 gift voucher into my trolley!  I was so delighted – her wonderful generosity made my day J

Hope your day is going well too,

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Visiting Mapua

Not that long ago, Mapua was a sleepy little village nestled on the edge of Tasman Bay between Nelson and Motueka.  Now a lot of people have discovered what a pleasant place this is to live in, and the town has increased accordingly.

There are now many shops and eateries built in the vicinity of the wharf.  This photo shows one end of the area.

The wharf still operates for small craft, and cafes in this area are a great place to sit with a cuppa and look out towards the sea.

The spot is shared with Hamish the Heron, a lovely wood sculpture.

Around the back of Mapua village is the Waimea Estuary, a safe harbour for launching and mooring small boats.

Next door to Mapua can be found Ruby Bay.  Whenever I visit this area, a trip to Ruby Bay is a must-do, and I always leave with a rock or two.

The whole beach is stones, many of different colours and frequently having streaks of quartz running through them.

Leaving Mapua and heading up into the apple orchards in the hills, there is a good view back over the Estuary.

The Tasman District, where Mapua is situated, is a pretty area to visit and well worth the time if you are ever in the area.

Enjoy your day J

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Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Pottering in the Garden

It has been another sunny day here today.   Much too nice to stay indoors, so I spent the morning pottering around outside in the garden.

The weeding has been done, the paths have been swept, flowers have been dead-headed, peas have been sown – and I’ve sat and contemplated life while sipping my tea and soaking up the sunshine!

Autumn sunshine out on the farm 

Son has been cleaning up the tree prunings he made recently.  They have now lost their leaves and I grabbed some of the twigs to make a sort of fence to give my peas something to climb up.

If the peas ever grow, that is.  The last lot I sowed had a very poor germination, so hopefully the ones I have just sown will be better.

My pea fence

I have been sitting on the bed this afternoon with Mittens the Cat for company.  The cat has been sleeping, and I have been working on my Family History book.

It is son’s turn to cook dinner tonight so I am feeling quite lazy J

Hope you day goes well,

Monday, 18 May 2020


I love to place lavender sachets among my linen.  They leave a lovely fragrance and work just as well as mothballs when it comes to repelling insects.

Lavender ready for picking and drying

Years ago I used to use mothballs to stop insect damage in anything that was being packaged up and stored.  Naphthalene flakes were sprinkled beneath bookcases to stop silverfish infestations in the books.

My mother-in-law swore by the use of DDT for killing all bugs and used to sprinkle it around the skirting boards of her rooms.

My uncle and his father regularly used horticultural sprays without any protective clothing.

It is a wonder any of us have survived!

Lichen will only grow like this when it lives in a healthy environment

Schools are open again today after being “mothballed” for a couple of months.  Grand-daughter set off with some trepidation about what school would be like – some girls (she goes to a girls’ school) were wearing masks but most were not.  The school has asked only that each student carries their own bottle of hand sanitizer.

She was looking forward to seeing her friends again, in person instead of via a screen.  It will be interesting to hear what she has to report this evening.

A typical New Zealand country primary school

Stay healthy and happy, and have a great day J

Saturday, 16 May 2020

A Cosy Evening

The cooler evenings of autumn are now with us and the sun is setting earlier and earlier each day – it is, after all, only five weeks now until the Shortest Day arrives.

Most evenings we are lighting the fire.  The house is well insulated and the fire only needs to be ticking over to keep everything nicely warm and cosy.

I can sit in my favourite armchair and watch TV while soaking up the warmth of the flickering fire.

We had a lamb roast for dinner last night and I was going to photograph it – but was so hungry I ate it before I remembered!  With the lamb, we had baked potato, kumara, parsnip and swede, boiled silver beet (Swiss chard) from the garden, and homemade gravy.

No wonder I was happy afterwards to just sit by the fire!

There wasn’t much I wanted to watch on TV though – the programme I enjoyed most was one called Wild Britain, with Ray Mears.  When that finished I completed reading my latest book – The English Cottage Garden by Jane Taylor and Andrew Lawson (published 1994).

It is mostly a book to browse, with some gorgeous photos of cottage gardens, but also contains a brief and interesting history of cottage gardens in England.

A hot cup of Lady Grey tea and a small piece of Brownies that granddaughter made, and my evening was complete.

Nothing like a comfortable lazy evening to set one up for a good night’s sleep J