My Trip to London

February 23, 2016
So this post is a bit late as some other events took priority. (SEE HERE!)
Last week, as some of you may know, I took a trip to London to record with Libby Purves on Radio 4's Midweek programme. It was very exciting! Naturally I took loads of pictures and thought I'd share my little trip with you. I have only been to London once in my life before, and never by myself so this was a bit of a nerve-racking experience for me. I felt like such a country girl in the city!
I arrived at Kings Cross and walked out the door, gazing around in awe and taking pictures like a nerdy tourist. Yah.

I got in one of those cool, London cabs that you simply have to get in when visiting London and travelled in rush hour to the Grange Langham Court Hotel. London traffic truly is a sight to behold!

My hotel room was very nice but small. Apparently it was quite roomy by London standards (gosh!). It had a nice sized bed though, which is all I can ask for. It also had the cutest little coffee and tea station which came in a little fold out cupboard!

I was starving by the time I got up to my room and settled. I didn't really fancy going to a restaurant by myself so I took full advantage of room service!! I ordered a massive, huge, delicious burger and promptly texted a picture to Rick to make him jealous.

The next day, I had a wonderful breakfast in the hotel's restaurant. A big buffet style with all sorts, I was very impressed.
I walked down the road to the BBC building and was very excited to recognise all the parts of the building that you see on tv!

I really enjoyed recording my episode with Libby and learned a lot about the other guests on the show. If you would like to listen to it, you can listen on the iplayer.

So I made my way back to Kings Cross station and of course I made my way straight to Platform 9 3/4. What Harry Potter fan wouldn't? I really wanted a picture...but there were too many muggles around.

Also, randomly there was a man practising falconry in the station. On further investigation, it turns out that birds of prey are employed to keep the station free of pigeons! How cool!

So all in all, I enjoyed my little trip to London. I was there for less than 24 hours though, so I think next time I will try and stay longer. I will say one thing though...although I enjoyed a short trip to London, I would not live there if you paid me all the money in the world!

Exciting News!!

February 19, 2016
So yesterday Bosun and I went on our afternoon walk as per usual and we stopped by Rick's workshop so that we could all walk home together when he finished work. Nothing unusual there, I do that a lot.
We walked home together as a family. Along the way, Rick pointed out a set of steps that he had constructed that day and was very proud of and to be fair, they are very good steps. I like talking to Rick about what he does day to day, he's very passionate about it.
We got home and I stoked the fire while Rick towelled Bosun off. We started to go about our evening routine business when Rick casually said that some post had come for me and handed me an envelope. I spent ages looking at it trying to figure out what it didn't really make sense. And then I suddenly twigged as Rick was leaning against the kitchen counter smiling at me that it was the start of a treasure hunt! He had handed me a clue! I turned into a massive child and got all excited, running around the house solving lots of riddles to get to the next location. The last clue lead me to the gun safe. I was thinking "has he bought me a new shotgun?!"
I opened the safe, and there on the top shelf was a little black box containing a beautiful golden ring with an emerald on top and the words "Marry Me" on a little slip of paper! I was so excited!
Rick took the ring from me, knelt down and slipped it onto my finger and I said yes!
So my exciting news is that we are officially engaged!

I have no idea when he had the time to hide clues all over the house...or how I didn't find any of them during the day. But I am the happiest girl alive!
Who else has a cute engagement story?

Favourite Blog Posts from the Week

February 15, 2016

Articles and blog posts that have been floating round the internet that have caught my eye.

On another note, just thought I would mention if anybody listens to BBC radio 4, I am going to be a guest on their midweek programme this Wednesday morning. So...tune in if you want to hear me rambling on about the Chillingham Wild Cattle!

Valentine's Day

February 14, 2016
Ahhhh yes, the obligatory Valentines Day post. I've seen so many people posting how-tos and recipe ideas for Valentines Day. But I don't really have anything useful to share with you, so here's just a few lovely photos of what we got up to today. Rick, me and Bosun.

We woke up late having overslept, and exchanged cards. I literally had to nag him for the last two weeks to make sure that he didn't forget to get me a card. I wasn't expecting flowers or a grand gesture or anything, but I sure as hell made sure I was getting a card!

Bosun and I went on our usual morning walk (albeit a bit late!) and had sooooo much fun playing in the snow. Although Bosun has seen snow on the ground before, he has never actually been out in a snow storm. He had so much fun running round and round, chasing the snow. When it's snowed overnight, I try to be the first one out and about in the morning so that I can be the first person to leave tracks. But clearly somebody had been out before me this morning, it's ok, it made a nice picture.

Rick and I are massive rugby fans. Those of you who are also rugby fans (and also possibly those who are not) may be aware of a little tournament called the six nations that is happening at the moment. For those of you that don't know, it's a tournament between England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France and Italy. Today England were playing Italy so we sort of planned our day around it. I made a wonderful feast for us to munch on while we watched the game and Bosun had a lovely big knuckle bone to chomp on (mainly to stop him attempting any drive-by snafflings of the feast!)

Our offerings to the Rugby Gods

The match was a success, England won and we are currently at the top of the leader board! Woohoo!

After the match, Rick and I still had a couple of hours of daylight to make use of, so we took the chainsaw and the axe out into the woods and hacked up a few more windblown trees. There's always more than you think! We knew of two trees that we wanted to hack up in this one particular area, and then found another one that was down over a water source. Bosun came with us of course, he is a fantastic work buddy. While we're chainsawing, he knows to stay away and usually sits a few metres away watching.

This is not product placement

We got home, had a cup of tea and watched Legally Blonde. Legally Blonde is one of my favourite films from my teenage years and is just a feel-good watch for a Sunday evening. Rick had never seen it before but admitted that it wasn't so bad. Ahhhh boys...

So I will leave you with a cheesy family photo of us in the ATV. I hope everybody had a lovely Valentine's Day wherever you are and whoever you're spending it with.

My Bad Relationship

February 12, 2016
So I am having a few problems at home. I feel like I put in a lot of effort to make wonderful baked goods, and my baking partner just throws it back in my face. I am of course, talking about my oven. My hormonal, annoying, pain in the bum, unpredictable oven!

When Rick and I first moved into this house just over a year ago, I was so excited to use my new big oven. I would think "wow, I could cook an entire roast in that all at once!"
So I decided to make one of my famous Dorset Apple Cakes for us to munch on while we unpacked. Now what I haven't mentioned so far, but you may have been able to deduct from the picture is that it is a gas oven. I learned to bake, and have always since used, an electric oven. I have come to learn how different they are. The oven has a temperature dial on it, I turned it on and away we went. The cake seemed to take a lot longer than it usually would. I kept dip-checking it and eventually, I think it was nearly 45 minutes, the cake was cooked. Sort of, the top was not brown but the cake was at least no longer wet in the middle. So I turned the cake out, and my god! It was completely black and crispy and charred and cremated on the bottom. To quote Rick
"Wow I love how it's so burned and raw at the same time." Yeah cheers love of my life.
So I proceeded to do some research...and it turns out that gas ovens are weird! The heat comes entirely from the bottom (hence burned bottomed cake) and there are different heat zones in different parts of the oven. Yup, So instead of just chucking stuff in and leaving it, you actually have to do stuff. What fun.
Over the last year that I've been using this oven for baking I've picked up a few techniques for using a gas oven. I'm sure this is just common knowledge for many of you, but there may be a few of you who are new to gas ovens and if I can help you make your transition, then I will be a happy camper.

Five Tips for Baking with a Gas Oven

  •  Make sure you rotate, and move, and mix it up! When your baking wonderfulness is in the oven, halfway through make sure you rotate the tray. If you have several things in the oven at once, swap them around. Basically, the gas oven has hot spots. Some areas of the oven are hotter than others. (I just kind of assumed the whole oven was hot).So by rotating stuff round, you make sure it's all roughly evenly cooked.
  • Bake at the top! If you have your tray of cookies in the middle, what happens is the heat rises up and hits the bottom of the tray, bounces back down and kind of floats around and then stays at the top of the oven. It's a mess. What I sometimes do, and it really does help, I put another baking tray on the shelf below. This helps to protect the bottom of your baked goods (no more crispy bottoms) and directs the heat towards the top.
  • Experiment with different bakeware. It's really bizarre, at first I thought that one of the problems was my cheap baking trays. So for my birthday I got some really amazing, good quality baking trays. It improved the situation for cookies but not for certain cakes. I'd say experiment with different kinds of trays and baking tins to find what works for you. 
  • Get an oven thermometer. I found that my thermostat is not particularly accurate. It's not that much of an issue when you're doing a roast or a casserole, but baking is a science! Get yourself an oven thermometer and you might be surprised.
  • Keep the bottom clean! Cleaning my oven was not something I tended to do before...I know. Cringe. But now, what I find is that grease and crumbs can get into the holes at the bottom and prevent heat getting through at certain intervals....or burn and make your kitchen smell gank. It doesn't take long just to give the bottom a quick wipe over. (I'm not suggesting a full on oven clean every day, because that is a mission!)

These tips are all well and good, but at the end of the day every oven is different. Even two ovens that are the same brand can act differently. Build a relationship with your oven and get to know each other. Only then can you truly be a master baker.
Also this list is by no means exhaustive. Do you have any tips for baking with a gas oven? I need all the help I can get!

In closing, Bosun is convinced there is another little yellow dog living in the oven. He is constantly barking and pawing at the door! He is a spanner!

Big Game by Dan Smith

February 10, 2016
So yah I have another book review for y'all. I seem to have found myself with a bit of free time (yay me!) and I have been mainly filling it with wading through my "to read" pile. Does anyone else do that? I have my book shelf, and then any new books go next to my bed in a "to read" pile, which is slowly getting bigger because of the charity shop I stop in whenever I walk to the post office. I am weak. I cannot walk past a stack of books for sale without at least looking. And mostly buying.
I digress.

My Review

I like, literally ran through this book in about two sittings. It is the very heart and soul of un-put-downable. Twists and turns, baddies, action combined with some really useful survival tips makes for a seriously epic read. It is aimed at young adults, but then so are a lot of the books I read.

Oskari is a nearly thirteen year old, who has to undertake a special ritual to enter man-hood, as is the tradition in his village. Using the traditional, ancient bow he has to spend a night in the wilderness and come back triumphant with a trophy that he has hunted and killed. Only then can he call himself a man.
 Once his trial has started, he witnesses a series of events that will change his life forever. 
A plane crashes on the mountain, and Oskari rescues none other than The President of the United States. 
Ahaaa! But the crash was no accident, no no no. Bad guys waving anti air-craft weapons deliberately shot the plane down. And could it be possible that one of the President's own men could have betrayed him? Duh duh duh!! Oskari realises that he is the President's only chance of getting out of there alive and so vows to keep his new friend safe.

Seriously, if I could describe this book in two words? READ IT!
This would also be a fantastic gift for a teenager who's into adventure books.

You might remember that I am a huge fan of who-dunnits. Well I also really like adventures! So this was right up my street.
Anyways, this is also a film starring Samuel L Jackson so naturally I've ordered it. I'll let you know if it's as good as the book.
Have you read this book or seen the film? What good books have you been reading lately?

Finally Some Sunshine!

February 05, 2016
I didn't quite realise just how much I missed the sunshine until the sun finally came out! For weeks now we've been enduring gales, rain, clouds and all manner of horrible weathers. Yesterday, we had a fine crisp morning and I took full advantage with a beautiful long walk. It was still quite cold, which is nice. My favourite kind of morning.

We're still reeling from the effects of the gales that we've had over the past few months. I have literally lost count of how many trees have come down. Rick and I have been out in the woods with our chainsaws almost constantly trying to clear up the worst of it. Our main priority has been the trees over the footpaths that are posing a risk. There are still so many that we haven't been able to sort out! A travesty! But the plus side of all these wind blown trees is that we are not going to run out of firewood for the next few decades! Aside from clearing up the trees themselves, we've been repairing fences, bridges and gates that have been damaged by falling trees.

We enjoyed the sun while we could anyway, because today it was back to cloud and rain. And according to a certain blonde weather lady, it's going to rain some more over the weekend. Booo!
This is February! We are supposed to have cold, hard frosts and ankle biting snow! Gah!

My Happy in the sunshine face

So I will leave you with the sight of this home-made pizza that I made and am pretty proud of! Of course I made the dough from scratch, and the tomato sauce. Then on top, I put duck, red onion and cucumber all cooked in hoisin sauce. Yeah, it tasted as good as it looks.

Have you all been enjoying the weather? Anything to report?

The Santa Klaus Murder By Mavis Doriel Hay

February 04, 2016

My Review

So I bought this book just before Christmas, intending to read it over the Christmas Holiday period as it has a festive theme to it. I've only just got round to reading it though as my Christmas Holiday was mainly spent trying to keep Bosun from jumping onto Rick's Granny's lap and licking her to death. Yah. Fun times.
I have not put any spoilers in this review so feel free to read on to decide whether or not you'd like to read it. (I suggest you do!)

I am a massive fan of the classic "Who-dunnit". Although I can persuade myself to read a crime thriller every now and again, I much prefer the whole who-dunnit genre. I like there to be a murder victim, four or five suspects with a motive, and a detective who brings everyone together to tell them all how clever he was in solving the murder. Chuck an affair and a dodgy will in there, and you have yourself a good read!
This book ticks all those boxes. The story is set on a country estate owned by Sir Osmond Melbury in 1935. He is a stickler for tradition and insists that the whole family gather every Christmas for celebrations. This particular Christmas, Sir Osmond wants to put together a surprise for the children and so orders a Santa Klaus outfit and asks one of his guests to dress up and hand out presents from the Christmas tree. After the presents have all been handed out, Sir Osmond retires to his study to await a phone call. But when Santa Klaus goes back into the study to tell Sir Osmond that he's finished his duties, he finds that Osmond Melbury has been murdered!! Duh Duh Duh!!!
On first appearances, all evidence points to Santa Klaus as he was the only guest with the opportunity to do the crime but later on as the story unfolds, it turns out that there were two Santa Klaus outfits! 
(I know I said I had no spoilers, but this is written on the back of the I didn't spoil it first!)
So the big question is, WHODUNNIT?

What I really like about this book is that it's written in the form of statements from the family which makes the story a bit different. 
The thing that irked me a little bit was the spoiler on the back. I feel like there would have been a massive moment in the book where you're shocked by the fact that there's two Santa Klaus's if I hadn't already read it on the back. But that's just me. When Mavis was writing this in the 1930s, I don't think they really did cover blurbs so it's not really her fault.

So over-all I can thoroughly recommend this book. It's not got a psychotic mad-man who kidnaps and tortures his victims so if you like that sort of thing, this book probably will not float your boat. But if you're into Agatha Christie-esque type novels then this will fit very nicely onto your bookshelf.

Click here if you'd like to buy this book.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Leave a comment!

Making a Murderer...

February 02, 2016

Have you seen it?

Here's a Quick Rundown

This a series on Netflix that everybody has been talking about, so I thought I should give it a crack and see what all the fuss is about. If you haven't seen it, I suggest you read this little section and then go and watch the series before reading my entire blog post because there will be spoilers. Basically, there's a chap called Steve Avery who lives in Wisconsin USA who is wrongfully imprisoned for rape for 18 years. He is finally released when they find DNA evidence which proves he definitely didn't do it. Then, not long after he is released, a woman goes missing on his land (he runs a salvage yard/ auto type business) and he is accused of her murder. The series follows his trial over several years using actual court footage, interviews and phone calls. It is really gripping and I cannot recommend it enough. It is so exciting that we pretty much binge watched it over 3 days. It is so interesting knowing how the American justice system works and what really shocked me was how much access the press had to really sensitive information that in the UK, nobody would find out until well after the case has finished (if at all).

Here's my full discussion **SPOILERS ALERT**

Now then guys, I assume if you're reading this that you'll know and understand everything that I am talking about as you will have seen the documentary series. I will start off by telling you my overall opinion of the whole affair and then continue with why I think this.

I do not know whether or not Steve Avery and/or Brendan Dassey had anything to do with the murder of Teresa Halbach. What I can say for definite is that if I were a member of that jury, I would not feel like I'd seen enough evidence to warrant sending a man to prison for the rest of his life.

Nonetheless, SOMEHOW the jury managed to find both Steve Avery and Brendan Dassey guilty of several charges and are both serving life sentences.
So I have several points to make on this that were made in varying amounts of detail throughout the series that stood out to me.
Also, incase you wanted a quick re-cap, here's a few things that you might have forgotten.

Why risk it all?

Steve Avery had just spent 18 years in prison on a wrongful rape charge and was in the process of suing the Manitowoc Sheriffs department and District Attorney for compensation. Why in the world would he murder Teresa Halbach at this point? We know he's not the sharpest tool in the box, but surely even he would realise that the media attention around a woman disappearing on his land would jeopardise his claim? Yes I think so. He knew this woman from the several times that she had come out to photograph his cars for auto-trader and he knew that surely someone would know this was going to be her last job for the day so this would be the first place for the police to start. Surely he's not that special?

Brendan Dassey's Dodgy Statements

Brendan Dassey is Steve Avery's nephew and somehow got caught up in the whole mess. I do NOT believe that he had anything to do with it. His first statement (if you can even call it that!) was taken without a parent or legal representation present. As he is a minor at this point, I thought that was illegal? Later on, the prosecution state that Mother didn't want to be present, but she says that they didn't let her. Hmmmm....
We get to see the actual footage from his interview and to me, it clearly looks like Dassey is having ideas planted in his head and will say anything to get these scary men to leave him alone. It's a complete witch hunt! It is obvious to everybody apparently apart from the prosecution that Dassey clearly has some mental issues and is not operating at a level that other sixteen year olds are. He doesn't comprehend the seriousness of what he is saying and really just wants to get out of there. These ideas were first suggested by his cousin who later admits to having made it up. So why are they continuing with it? 
The thing that annoys me the most about the whole Brendan Dassey situation is that there is not a scrap of evidence to connect him with the crime scene. Not a hair, no DNA, no blood or anything! So the jury during Dassey's case literally based their entire verdict on the incoherent ramblings of a scared teenage boy who has been coerced into saying a lot of things that he does not believe. Not cool!

Where's the Blood?

So according to Brendan Dassey's incredibly inconsistent and random statement, Teresa Halbach was chained to the bed in Avery's bedroom. Avery and Dassey apparently both raped her and hit her a bit and then Dassey slit her throat, before they dragged her out and shot her in the garage. Right. Do you know how much blood pours out when a living thing's throat is cut? It's a lot! There would be blood on the ceiling, on the walls, on the bed and all over the two men. However, not a scrap of Halbach's DNA was found in that bedroom. Forensics by 2005 had advanced A LOT, I can guarantee that Steve Avery would not be able to clean a room full of blood to a high enough standard that a forensics team would not be able to detect anything. Even if he changed the bed sheets etc, some sort of trace would have got onto the mattress or the bed frame. 
More to the point, if this doris has just had her throat cut, why does she need shooting? Brendan Dassey knew nothing about a gun until the police mentioned it, and then he said that Steven shot her. Pffft! Bullets with Halbach's DNA were somehow found in the garage after several searches but not a single drop of her blood once again. Even after digging up concrete with cracks in it, they were not able to find any blood from Halbach. Curious!

This infamous RAV4...

This whole car thing just makes me absolutely furious. There are so many things that are just not right!
So according to prosecutors, Avery kills Teresa and then "hides" her car on his land with a few branches, really close to where the searches were starting. Yeah. No! Even Steven Avery is not that stupid! And to top it off, he has access to a car crusher. I don't know about you, but if I were trying to hide a vehicle that was full of incriminating evidence, I would use that car crusher! 
So they find Teresa's car, and inside is Teresa's DNA in the form of blood in the form of a stroke or flick as if put there by her hair. So, Steve Avery put her body in her RAV4 and drove her to his bonfire site which is roughly 5 metres behind his garage? hmmm?
And then Avery's DNA. Oh hohohoho. Random drops of his blood spattered in no particular pattern inside the car. But not a single finger print. When examined, the only cut they could find on Avery was on his finger. So if he wore gloves so as not to leave fingerprints, how did the blood get in the car? Hmmmm? Oh theories abound...
And then the key...yes the key. Upon seven previous searches, the key was not found. But miraculously, on the eighth search, when the Manitowoc police are present (naughty naughty!) the RAV4 key is found right out there in the open, with Steve Avery's DNA on it. Isn't that a coincidence? Yet, not a single shred of Teresa Halbach's DNA was found on it. Not a single trace. So how was it, that she was using this car every day without touching it? Beats me!

The Hole in the Vile

Avery's lawyers inspect a vile of Avery's blood that's being kept on file. Not only is the tape on the outside already open, but there's a hole in the top of the vile! Da Da Daaaaa!!! Sorry but come on!! Clearly someone has poked a needle in, extracted the blood and squirted it all over the RAV4! If that isn't suspicious, I don't know what is!

These are my main points regarding all the evidence that the prosecution collected. I had loads more observations but I feel that I should probably stop there.
I really have not seen enough to say for definite that Avery is innocent, but I certainly don't think I've seen enough to say he should go away for the rest of his life. And I'm sure there's many an outraged person out there who would agree.

I would love to hear your opinions on the case and let me know if there is any important point that I missed!

Also, I don't watch as much tv as it may seem, but sometimes a series just really grips me and I have to watch the whole thing at once!

Favourite Blog Posts From the Week

February 01, 2016

What blog posts have caught my eye this week?

  • I loved Helene's method of planning everything. I am a massive fan of planners, sharpies and staples in general so I really enjoyed this post. And I admit I went on to look at the staples website afterwards!
  • Kezzie is always posting pictures of her outfits, which are always fun and imaginative. I particularly loved this pink Alpaca sweater! You see, I have a bit of an addiction to bright garish jumpers. Kezzie says "'s not the most stylish thing ever..." Pffft I beg to differ!
  • Amy over at Ten Penny Dreams wrote about a local book shop called Barter Books in Alnwick,  This got me really excited because I'm attending a work function there in March and I've never actually seen the inside of this shop before. I'm a book lover so I really should have visited already! Bad Ellie!
  • I really like this idea of a home detox in 31 days. Sometimes it just seems like such a big job to sort out your entire house in a few days. With this detox, you can spread it out to 31 days by just doing 15 minutes a day. Love it!

Well, I hope I've given you all a few new things to read. Let me know in the comments if there's anything you think I should have read this week!

Copyright © This Country Girl's Journal. Designed by OddThemes