Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Totally Muddled

The weather here is totally muddled up again - today hit a high of around 13 degrees C, the sun was shining, all the animals were happily grazing or pecking around outside and it was like spring had come early! According to our friends we are expecting temperatures of up to 20 degrees C in the next week and then 4 weeks of bad weather between mid February and mid March.

On checking the 10 day forecast for the closest city it's showing +14 on new years day and then a fall in temperatures dropping to -2 on Monday, but nothing worse than that so far. I do tend to check the forecast quite regularly and find they're usually right within a couple of degrees. The summer we reached well over 40 degrees C and it was unbearable to work in. Our house doesn't have air conditioning and we have no plans to put any in as we're getting quite good at coping with the temperature changes now. Plus the fact that air con does cost a fair amount to run, we're happy to live without it.

I've been looking today for a downloadable FREE garden planner but not yet found really what I'm looking for. I want something based on vegetable growers and not where to put your fountain and reading bench! If I find one I shall post details as I'm sure there are others out there like me who forget where everything is planted or draw a plan only to lose it in a week!

It's almost time to start planting seeds in trays to get ready for the garden. So far I've sorted out a few things to start off with, they are :- Broad Beans, Peas, Chilli Peppers, Lemon Balm, Sage, White Cabbage, Leeks, Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli, Swede, Melons and Lettuce. All of the packs came from the UK so the planting times are a little out on the packets but I'll give them a try. I still have Red Cabbage, Garlic, Black Radish and some Lettuce in the ground overwintering and they seem to be doing well.

What are you growing this year?

Monday, 28 December 2009

Rodents 0 - Humans 1

For the last couple of days we've been hearing the pitter patter of tiny feet through the night, rodent feet to be precise and I'm sure they're wearing hob nailed boots! A few nights ago a rat ran across the upstairs hallway as I was sat on the computer and it was aware that I was there, so we've had the traps set again and caught nothing!

It seems that the little blighters are getting rather clever - they aren't afraid of us even when I'm armed, with a badminton racquet of all things! they are happy to go about their normal business. By the way I did hit the thing with the badminton racquet, 4 times, and it still managed to survive and get away!

So yesterday when we saw a rat on the pipework above the living room ceiling drastic action was needed. It quietly sat there with hubby swiped at it with a metal rod we use to clear the fire grate, he hit it a few times and the rat  moved just out of sight. At that point I'm beginning to think the thing is invincible! Then out comes the artillery - other half gets his air rifle and sets it just below the point where we think the rat is in the ceiling cavity, a minute or so later and a small furry head, nose and whiskers appear in the right place and "Boom" it's life is cut rather short. One down, probably many more to go, but at least last night was quiet, roll on spring when they'll move back out into the barns and leave us humans alone!

Friday, 25 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from a mild and muddy Bulgaria! The snow is almost gone here and temperatures are rising, well above freezing today.

The kids have opened all of their presents, tried on new clothes and boots plus started eating their way through the chocolates they've been given. Dinner is cooking and our home bred turkey looks wonderful.

I hope everyone is having a good day and enjoying the holidays. Take care and have fun xxx

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Latest Photo's

I promised a few days ago to try and upload some more photo's so here they are. Uploading anything from here takes ages due to the fact that our internet connection is rubbish, unfortunately it's the only way we can access the internet until one of the companies here in BG decide to upgrade things in our neck of the woods.

Rural living does have it's disadvantages and despite the estate agents telling us that broadband wouldn't be a problem where we are that proved to be a bit of a false statement!

And a pic of the goose I got a couple of days back for some friends......It'll be in the oven at some point but for now it's having fun chasing the small chickens and attacking Snotty the cat!


Tis The Season To Be Jolly

I'm not feeling very seasonal today and finding it hard to believe that Christmas day is not far away. Hopefully I'll start to feel more festive over the next day or so, right now I'm just feeling cold despite having lit the wood burner early and the snow outside. it's hard to get motivated to do anything when you're cold so there's not much been done here although there are a few jobs that I should have done.

My winter garden is impossible to find and I hope the vegetables still in there are ok. I'm really looking forward to the growing season and hope to fill at least the main house garden with food stuff, and possibly some of the other plots with food for the animals. Planning ahead is key here, trying to buy hay at this time of year is almost impossible as we found out last year, and when you find it invariably the price is at least double what it was in summer.

Anyway, back to Christmas! Festivities here are a little more low key than back in the UK. There are decorations about but not to the extent as we used to see. One or two houses in the village have lights at the windows but there's not the whole "Let's drain the national grid" type that seems to be quite normal now in other places. I don't miss the competitiveness of our old neighbours with the christmas lights, every year they bought more lights to try and outdo each other and it drove me mad, but must have pleased the electricity companies!

The village church bells are ringing as I type this which means unfortunately another resident has passed away, which seems to be a daily occurrence in this type of weather, also in the heat of the summer. Living in a small village where at least 40 % of the occupants are elderly means that death is often the talk of the cafe, where they get together to commiserate and chat about all aspects of daily life. Our friends have been round this morning with 2 liters of fresh (straight from the cow) milk and to ask if I'll be making the normal friday morning trip to the cafe for a coffee! Just because it's Christmas day doesn't mean anyone here is going to change their weekly routine.....apart from me, because I'll be at home, warm and enjoying a festive break with my husband and children.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Time Flies

I've been in Bulgaria full time for 2 years today and can't help wondering where the time has gone! Doesn't seem that long since I left the UK to start a new life here and maybe that's because I can honestly say that majority of the time we've been here I've loved it warts and all.

Bulgaria is far from perfect, as a country there are still some quite large problems and issues that do need dealt with and a lot of left over things from communist times that probably aren't helping the country move forward as well as it could. On the whole though life here is peaceful and less stressful. I'm not saying that life here is better than the UK but it is different, in a good way.

Looking back we've had our share of problems and will continue to do so, some things could have been avoided and we've learnt a lot from mistakes. Isn't that what life is about?

There are a couple of things I would have changed that we've done so far but nothing major I guess. I'd still have bought a house with land, something to renovate that will hopefully turn out to be our dream home one day. I'm glad we decided to move to Bulgaria even if it ultimately doesn't work out as we'd hoped, things are always changing and there is scope to do so much here. If we hadn't moved then we'd have stayed in a rut and continued to think about moving but not actually done anything proactive. I read somewhere that the first 2 years of living somewhere new can be the hardest, and we've managed to survive that far without any major mishaps. Whatever happens I'll be writing about it!

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Current Driving Conditiond

Today it's snowed all day, last night the temperatures rose to -0.5 degrees and it felt quite warm outside, things had thawed during the day thanks to the sunshine and we were hoping the snow was going to make a quick (and early) exit. Alas, that wasn't to be and the temperatures here are falling again.

Driving conditions aren't great in villages, although the snow plough does usually come out to clear the most used roads. Winter tyres are wonderful and really do help - I can't understand why they aren't used in the UK to be honest. Snow chains are another essential to have in your car boot during the colder months and they've helped us out of some tight spots. Most of all common sense is the biggest must have when driving in heavy snow, taking things steady and concentrating on what you are doing can save your life.

The Bulgarians in general seem to drive like lunatics although from my experiences they aren't the worst drivers I've encountered. Romania gets my vote on that one, driving through there was terrifying and not something I'd like to do again. One thing I will say though is that when the bad weather is here the Bulgarians at least know how to cope, they drive slower, all have winter tyres, wrap up warm and are usually well prepared....of course if they aren't they have a stash of home brewed rakia that's guaranteed to warm even the coldest parts!

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Keeping Warm

Keeping warm in the winter is a must and there are various things you can do to help keep an even temperature. We wear layers of clothing rather than one thick item, vest tops, t-shirts, fleece jumpers, leggings, thermals etc can all help to keep you at a comfortable temperature when it's freezing outside.

One of the best things we did was to install a central heating system that runs from the wood burner. It wasn't as expensive as we thought either and definitely worth the time and money we spent installing it. We are lucky that my hubby is good at most things and after over 20 years in the building trade has picked up enough knowledge to be able to do plumbing, electrics, tiling and most things also his chosen trade of joinery. If you're good at plumbing and have a knowledge of how central heating systems work you can install a basic system for around 1500 leva (under £1000), the price all depends on how many radiators you want and how big your home is. Don't be taken in by people asking silly amounts to install a system that can be done by anyone with some good DIY skills.

There are lots of jobs that you can do yourself is a relatively short amount of time and with basic skills. Insulating a loft or cellar area is easily done and not too expensive but can cut your heating costs. If you're using a wood burning stove then your firewood will burn hotter and better if it's at least a year old and has been stored somewhere dry, also the type of wood burnt can give off differing amounts of heat. Keeping flue's clean is a must for safety reasons and will also help your fire burn better.

Friday, 18 December 2009


I'm very happy today - my brand new, shiny cash point card has arrived, well done Nationwide! So after a few weeks of waiting and me saying this morning that I'd have to contact the bank and have them send another as the first seemed lost it's been sorted out.

So this afternoon I put the old card to good use and re-grouted some of the bathroom tiles with it. It's not the fact that we've not really had access to money that's bothered me, more a feeling of being cut off and slightly lost. We physically don't have lots of money and do have to watch what we spend. So a trip to the "Hole in the wall" isn't something that happens too often.

I'd like to find a job here in Bulgaria and have been trying to think of things I could do to earn some money and so far I haven't come up with anything wonderful. A few vodka's and a brainstorming session may help there though lol either that or we'll get drunk, have a laugh and suffer terribly the next day with hangovers! I know which is more likely to happen lol So any suggestions would be more than welcome.

Soon I'll be starting my garden planning and once spring arrives everything will be all go again. There is so much stuff I'd like to grow and we have plenty of space here but some things just don't do well and others require too much hard work to make them viable. Hopefully the last 2 years will help me plan what to grow and where to help minimise the work that has to be done to produce a good crop. I'd really like to try and sort out a watering system this year too as that alone was taking me over an hour a day, every day.

So I'll be trawling the net after Christmas to see if I can find any easy to do and cheap plans to help out with the workload and also general hints and tips. There are a lot of good sites around it's just a case of searching for something specific and weeding out the rubbish.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Donkey's Don't do Snow!

Well we've had more snow overnight and the garden looks lovely, the scenery is fantastic here all year round but I do love to see the smoke coming from chimneys and the sparkle of frost/snow everywhere.

The animals are all in their houses happily munching away and every so often the donkey likes to let me know she's run out of hay by braying loudly every half hour. Not having kept a donkey before I assumed they were very similar to horses and didn't mind the snow but I was wrong......very wrong! Maggie does not do snow, or rain for that matter. Horses don't seem to mind and will scrape the snow away to graze, in fact our horses love to roll in deep snow, play in puddles and generally get filthy at any opportunity. But donkeys, well, the like to roll in sand, are truly stubborn and strong willed and refuse to go out in snow!

Even the dogs have to stay inside during some of the extremes of weather we get. In summer it's just too hot to let them run around (as Spaniels do so well) during the middle of the day and in winter they tend to collect snow on their legs, ears and belly's making them resemble yeti's so again they're housebound and only go out for the obligatory number 1's and 2's and a quick dash around the garden then back in to the warmth for a nap!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Ooooh MMMM I want!

Right now, more than anything I'd really like a large tub of Celebrations chocolates! Mmmmm I'm almost drooling just thinking about them lol

I'll admit to being a bit of a chocoholic but most of the sweet stuff here just isn't up to scratch. For a country whose people have a sweet tooth you'd expect some wonderful delicacies but sadly it's not the case. Really good chocolate is as rare as hen's teeth and when you do find it expect a hefty price tag.

The one thing I did enjoy on a trip back the the UK last June was being able to buy chocolate almost anywhere, although my waistline did show a difference when I got back home! I really thought I'd missed the likes of Asda and other well known supermarkets but in reality I'd missed the variety and amount of produce they stock. Although there are now quite a few supermarkets here (and more opening all of the time) they all seem to stock the same stuff, the only difference being the prices occasionally.

Clothes shopping is not something I do a lot of here - the prices are quite high on anything of half decent quality and the sizes are small, small or small, if you're over a 10 then you are large or even extra large as one woman told me once. When we first moved here I lost 3 stone without trying, the extra manual work and change of diet suited me and the weight fell off. Size 16/18 to a size 10 in 6 months or so. Now I've evened out at a size 12 and am quite happy, much healthier and feel younger too.

Possibly the weight loss was helped by the "Not so good" chocolate situation, who knows? Oh well, back to dreaming and slobbering over chocolates I can't have..............I'll just have to stock up if/when I go back to the UK for a break again lol

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

10 Days to go....

What will you be doing over the holiday season? I'd love to hear from readers what they have planned.

Christmas seems to have come around very fast this year, only 10 days to go and as yet we've not really done much shopping - mainly because of a shortage of cash (and still no cash point card) and also because there isn't much to buy here for the kids that they A) haven't already got and B) need or want.

We'll be having a fairly quiet Christmas I expect. A nice lunch and a relaxing day, maybe the neighbours will come round, who knows? There will be no queens speech for us or games of scrabble as we're not that kind of people (not that there's anything wrong with either of those things) but more of a chill out day where the animals get cared for, the meal gets cooked and we get to spend some quality time together. We might even have a glass of wine or 2!

Christmas is one of the times when we do miss other family members being around, but in a way it does make us appreciate them more and when we do get to see them makes the time more special. We'll be making a few calls and sending text messages to special people over the holidays and also chatting to some friends online I'd imagine, but if you don't hear from us it either means we've not had a chance to get in  touch or our phone/internet is playing up again, which is something that happens regularly in rural Bulgaria.

Monday, 14 December 2009

An Interesting Poem

I found this poem on another site and liked it. Unfortunately have no idea who did write it.

The Firewood Poem

Beechwood fires are bright and clear
If the logs are kept a year,
Chestnut's only good they say,
If for logs 'tis laid away.
Make a fire of Elder tree,
Death within your house will be;
But ash new or ash old,
Is fit for a queen with crown of gold

Birch and fir logs burn too fast
Blaze up bright and do not last,
it is by the Irish said
Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread.
Elm wood burns like churchyard mould,
E'en the very flames are cold
But ash green or ash brown
Is fit for a queen with golden crown

Poplar gives a bitter smoke,
Fills your eyes and makes you choke,
Apple wood will scent your room
Pear wood smells like flowers in bloom
Oaken logs, if dry and old
keep away the winter's cold
But ash wet or ash dry
a king shall warm his slippers by.

We love having a wood burner and it does make the house warm throughout thanks to a back boiler and radiator system. It's very cosy and you quickly adapt to living with fire as opposed to a gas fired central heating system like we had back in the UK. Wood burners can change the whole atmosphere and feel of a room but do need extra care when cleaning otherwise you can end up smoked out!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Who Ordered Snow?

Well we woke up this morning to find that the weather forecasters were right - it had snowed overnight and is still snowing lightly now. Everything looks very wintery and dare I say it - Christmassy! Maybe it's hint that I should let the kids put the tree and decorations up.

So this morning we've been outside to get the horses and donkey some hay and water and also fetch in some logs for the fire. Wood burner lit, outdoor clothes now off and I'm warming through nicely with a hot cup of coffee and debating whether or not to add a dash of Rakia to it just for medicinal purposes!

Tonight I'm having a break from cooking as we're going off to visit my sister in law for pizza and alcohol, it's not often we drink but we do enjoy a good knees up now and again which usually means we play cards, have a laugh and generally put the world to rights over a bottle of vodka! Should be a fun night and she doesn't live far away so it's easy to get home too.

I've taken some photos of our surroundings today but admit that I forgot to take the camera outside with me and only realised after I'd removed my over trousers, coat and gloves so I've cheated and snapped some pics from the upstairs windows for you to have a look at.

The photo's look a bit dark and it's not really like that here today so I'll come back later and try to upload some better ones. Part of the problem could be my ultra slow internet connection!

Friday, 11 December 2009

Hopes and Expectations for 2010

I've been thinking a bit about what 2010 might bring and in reality I have no firm ideas. Sometimes I wish I had a crystal ball that would let me see the future but I guess some of the things still to come might not be what I'd like or expect.

As for hoping, well that's one thing that anyone can do, plus it's free! We can all dream and wish we'd won the lottery or invented something that saved countless lives. I'd just like to know that things will be all right in the end, not that things aren't good as they are but some things in particular could be better. Money is a concern here, we don't have huge savings or any investments to fall back on, but we don't lead an extravagant life either and don't want to.

I'd really like to be able to get the renovations of the house and bungalow finished over the next year, even to the point where the bungalow could have some paying guests staying there. Renovating a house on s small budget takes time, especially as hubby has done most of the work himself and will continue to do so when time/money allow.

Another on my list of "would likes" is a sofa! We've managed with a cheap sofa bed for 2 years now and I've hated the thing since day one lol it's functional but doesn't look nice and is very uncomfortable. Wish I'd been able to bring my 2 big, lovely, sink into sofa's from the UK but we couldn't fit them in the van or find storage for them until the majority of our stuff got shipped over. There are a few other things I miss from the UK and some things that we really shouldn't have brought as we don't use them and haven't done since they arrived. If I had to do it again I'd leave the dishwasher and tumbledryer and have brought wardrobes and of course the sofa's.

I also still miss our horses we had back in blighty, in particular my lovely Friesian X gelding, Sol, who I'd had from him being a year old and watched him grow into a fantastic looking animal with a temperament to match. Riding him was fantastic and he was a wonderful and loyal friend. Bringing them with us was an option but in my heart I knew that they'd be miserable in a horse box for the 4 days travel here so I made the best decision for the animals and sold Sol and Flint our young horse and gave away our old pony Rob and my very behaviourally challenged pet pony CJ, both to lovely homes. One day I'd like to track them down and find out how they're doing as I lost the new owner's details when my old UK mobile phone sim card disappeared. I hope they're still happy and well cared for with their owners.

In the new year I'm planning on posting about the pitfalls and common traps that catch people out when buying/living in Bulgaria. Plus some helpful hints to avoid being ripped off etc. And of course still waffling away about everyday things and hoping that someone out there in cyber space is actually reading this blog and getting a few laughs out of it!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Having a PJ Day

Today's been wet, windy, cold and dull, even the horses weren't too keen on being outside and have happily spent part of the day in their stables. I really must get round to sorting through our tool room to find wellies and boots that may be in there for the bad weather which we're expecting this weekend.

We'll be able to have more PJ day's soon cos it's cold enough now to be wearing winter over trousers so no-one will know what I have on underneath lol, coats and things were sorted a few weeks ago and the kids have even found their gloves from last year. Winter is closing in fast now and it seems ages since we've been able to wear sandals and shorts!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

And again the fridge was bare!

I'm amazed at how much the kids can eat these days - no sooner do I seem to get back from shopping and the fridge is empty again. Food that used to last us weeks now lasts only days and every attempt I make at stocking up on things doesn't last long at all.

In reality they don't eat any more than other kids their age, maybe I eat a bit less than I used to  so it seems like they eat more, but we all enjoy food.Going back to basics has helped bring about a renewed interest in things like hot pot, casseroles and soups and just as simple meals during the summer like seasonal salads with home made burgers or something similar.

My cooking has changed a fair bit since moving here and I now make more things from scratch than ever - sauces, jams, chutney, broth, soups etc. Cooking is something I can do but don't always enjoy, I used to class myself as a "Can cook but can't be bothered" but I'm finding that I'm starting to enjoy it more and love to potter about in the kitchen and preserve things.

Over the summer I made lots of jam and experimented with some marmalade too, it must taste ok as we've almost run out already so I'll have to dig through the freezer and see what bags of fruit I have stashed to make some more. The only thing left is a solitary jar of quince marmalade that we found today and mixed with some plain yogurt for dessert. At least it'll give me something to do for a while tomorrow, there's no tea to cook as there hopefully will be enough of the leek and potato soup I made tonight left for tea and lunch is usually sandwiches. I'm planning on making rice pudding too and am looking forward to that almost as much as another helping of soup!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Christmas Preparations

I use Facebook a lot  to keep in touch with friends and family and am reminded daily on how long it is until Christmas. Some people seem to be very excited about the forthcoming holidays and others have a definite "Bah Humbug" attitude.

I'd class myself as somewhere in the middle, not one to rush around and make sure my tree was up by 1st December but I do like Christmas and enjoy seeing the place decorated and the excitement grow in the children. I've promised the kids that they can put the tree and decorations up 10 days before Christmas, we did bring all that stuff from the UK and it's quite nice having something to remind us of years past.

We had hoped to be eating pork and turkey this Christmas with all the trimmings, plans were tentatively made, a piglet was bought to be fattened up and of course we bred some turkeys this year too. At this moment the turkeys are in the garden eating and hopefully putting on a last spurt of weight, the pig is in the barn with her sister and eating well but still too small to warrant eating! So maybe I'll have to go buy a piece of meat and our piglet gets a reprieve for a while.

On the other hand - Our female pig, Charlotte is starting to really look pregnant and the local pig expert says she is. So in about 5/6 weeks time we hope to have piglets here. Apparently anything between 8 and 15 is normal, once they're weaned we will be selling some but may keep one or two to rear for us to eat. We also have 2 piglets here from the same breeder as Charlotte came from last year, seeing them close together it's amazing to actually see how much Charlotte has grown in a relatively short time - she must be at least 150 kilo's now and we think she's bigger than last years boar.

Recent Weather

Up until the weekend the weather was lovely, sun shining daily and temperatures in the high teens during the day, brilliant for this time of the year.

The last few days however, have been foggy, dull, damp and much cooler. It's really starting to look like winter has found us. The trees are almost bare now so the wind fall apple supply for the animals has dwindled to next to nothing and time is running short for our young male turkeys too!

The latest on the weather forecast is that we're in for snow from friday, temperatures are set to drop with a windchill of up to -9 on some days.......not too good then, best sort out hats, gloves and woollies for everyone beforehand!  We have plenty of firewood but will have to set some time aside and log some more up and also split it down, it's not much fun trying to use a chainsaw in a snow blizzard!

I'd better try and get out to do some stock up shopping before the snow arrives too as we aren't sure how long it will last or how severe it will be. Last year we were stuck in the village for 3 weeks and were really glad of the food we'd stock piled in the chest freezer! The local shops do open but don't carry a huge range of products, mainly basic Bulgarian provisions like rice, bread, beans etc.

The kids are looking forward to the snow, son says he wants to try using a broken skateboard as a snowboard lol, best get the camera ready for that! Daughter says she won't be wearing ski trousers to school as they're not fashionable - that may be true but they keep you warm and dry so are essential in the winter months here, have mine all ready and wouldn't be without them! Although I'm not a fashion victim and prefer to be warm than trendy any day - the kids laugh at some of the things I wear but isn't that normal?

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Something Smelly

Occasionally there's an awful smell in our house and over the last few days it's started again and was getting stronger! Yuck

Through past experience we now know what causes the smell and unfortunately we are part of the problem! Not that we smell bad but it's to do with how we try to keep the house rodent free. Now I'm all for healthy living, not putting chemicals on our garden produce and eating less fat etc, but rodents I just don't like and have no problem in baiting with poison inside the house - well away from the cats and dogs though of course!

We use a combination of poison (bought locally over the counter very cheaply and legal) and traps, although not the humane traps as I prefer to kill the vermin quickly rather than just catch them over and over and not actually cut the population down! Anyone living in a rural area will know that mice coming in is normal in the winter and as people who keep farm animals know you'll always get rats where horses etc are as the food supply is usually good. Based on this we expect a certain amount of vermin and do try to limit the food they have access too. Our problem is that although the poison works and kills them quickly, sometimes a mouse or rat dies in our ceiling cavities and then we get "The Smell". It really does pong and is quite easily distinguished from other bad odours.

Part of today has been taken up removing ceiling panels in our kitchen to find a critter, we knew it was there but weren't sure which panel it was inside.....3rd time lucky and we had a body! That's the second one since September. The question now is what happens when we actually get round to plastering the ceiling? At least this time my underwear draw doesn't seem to be affected and I don't have any new crotchless knickers!

Saturday, 5 December 2009

What the hell is a "No post zone"?

Well I'm a bit confused today to say the least. After contacting the bank a couple of days ago to let them know that I hadn't received my new cash point card I've had a lovely reply from them.

Now bear in mind that this particular bank/building society has no problems with account holders living abroad, sends me regular junk mail and statements via the postal system and doesn't even charge me extra for withdrawing cash abroad, you'd think that with facilities like that they'd be quite forward thinking wouldn't you?

Not so I've just read! They in their wisdom have decreed that Bulgaria is a "No post zone" therefore my new cash point card has been sent to my branch in UK for me to collect! Which would be fine if I was in the UK, alternatively the branch may allow a nominated person to collect the card on my behalf or even if I'm really lucky they'll agree to forward the card to me. Either of which would actually be classed as posting the card to me which the bank in their wisdom won't do!

It's utter madness, I'll admit that the postal service here isn't always 100 % reliable but neither is the service in the UK. And why couldn't they have at least let me know that my new card would not be arriving so that I could try and make some other arrangements? Oh dear, I suppose I'll have to spend time on monday phoning my building society branch and begging them to send the card to me as none of my remaining family in the UK live near said branch and it would be well out of their way to go and collect the card for me.

Just another quirk in life's path to keep me on my toes......and here was me thinking that this week had been relatively quiet and mundane! Ha

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Gypsies and Roma etc

The Roma as a whole get a load of bad press and treatment where ever they go as do what the Bulgarians call "Gypsy's". When we moved here we had no pre-formed ideas about anyone and decided that although we'd read various things about the so called gypsies that we'd make our own opinions based on the people themselves.

In any Bulgarian village there will be a population of gypsies, Roma whatever you want to call them. Personally I do think that many of them are not true Roma but just get bundled in with them as they don't fit into the Bulgarian bracket. Certainly here a part of our community is from Turkish decendants, whose family's have been in Bulgaria for more than one generation. Let's not forget that Bulgaria was ruled by Turkey years ago and there is still some bad feeling between the Turks and Bulgarians, at least there can be. Our village nightclub was closed due to fighting between the 2 races although majority of the people involved were born in Bulgaria!

If you listen to most Bulgarian people they say that gypsies are lower in the pecking order than a dog and have various other names for them including Mangalli, Siganni etc although I believe gypsy is the most derogatory. Madonna mentioned the plight of the Roma people on her recent world tour and was booed and jeered at in Bucharest, Romania. More details of this story can be found  Here!

I must say that the Bulgarian people are lovely on the whole but I can understand some of the reasons why they don't like the so called gypsies/roma,siganni etc. There is a difference between the 2 peoples, not always evident from the outside although some of the gypsies do have darker skin. From experience I find many of the to be arrogant, ignorant and able to lie their way through anything! They seem to think that the world owes them something and if they want an item it's ok to take it whether it's theirs or not. Before anyone jumps on this - I'm not saying that they are all the same, but majority of the ones we have met are as I've already described, some to a greater extent than others.

We've employed and worked alongside some of these people in the past, even classed some as friends at one point but to be honest we learned the hard way, had our fingers burnt and realised that although these people acted friendly they were only truly interested in finding out how much money we had and how was the best way they could get some!

School Days

Schooling here is somewhat different than the UK. The subjects are mainly similar with an emphasis on teaching the 3 R's, reading, writing and arithmetic. The school books I've seen are colourful and informative without being overbearing or boring.

I love my mornings when the kids are at school, the house is peaceful and I can get on with things before they get home at lunchtime. Our kids go to the village school and are learning Bulgarian very quickly, also Russian which they don't care much for but it is part of the curriculum. School starts at 8am and the younger classes get breakfast at school (free), by 12.30 school is usually finished for the lower classes and 1.30pm for the older students so every day the kids have the afternoons to themselves. Most children here help their families and do some kind of work, whether that be helping prepare a meal or collecting firewood etc.

Our kids do help around the house and feed the animals twice a day as part of their chores, we feel it's important that kids are involved in things and do help out and learn life skills etc. Sometimes they complain about having jobs to do but there are days when I don't feel like doing much either!

Today I've gone about my usual routine of horses and donkey out, animals checked etc then decided to head off up the garden to one of our derelict properties and collect sticks for lighting the fire. That done I headed back to the house to grab a coffee to warm up. A strange smell seemed to be following me so I left my boots outside thinking that I'd probably stepped in something.....still the smell was around me and getting stronger by the minute! So after looking about and not seeing anything that would cause such a nasty smell I decided to drink my coffee and have a break. Now this is when the smell seemed to get worse! and it wasn't coming from me......At last I spotted the culprit - my lovely little Cocker Spaniel Molly, not known for being ladylike and affectionately called "The Ginger Minger" by all of us she;s lived up to her nickname today! Oh and boy does she stink, she's been rolling in something dark coloured and rancid smelling and looks ever so proud of herself. Time for a bath me thinks. She aint gonna like it but it has to be done!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

A Rant a Day

Sometimes living here can be a pain! Oh for most of the time I love being in Bulgaria and most things that come along with being an ex-pat on foreign land. But today I need to have a rant!!!

The Bulgarian postal system is absolutely rubbish, the pits, unreliable, haphazard and many other things that would involve me using foul language lol. For instance - last march I posted qa card to my mother for mothers day, didn't cost loads, I'd posted it in plenty of time, in fact I'd posted it weeks before the event as she lives in Cyprus and the post there isn't wonderful too! I got the card back months later - it never left Bulgaria, why? Because the address was in the middle of the envelope and not the bottom right corner like some pen-pusher in Bulgaria has decreed is the correct way to address a letter!

Ok then, lesson learner and now all addresses go in the bottom right hand corner of the envelope. Some things sent to us here do find their way, although sending anything valuable or cash is not something I'd suggest or ask anyone to do as items like that invariably never arrive. Neither has my cash point card, hubby had trouble getting his cash point card sent here last year and when it finally arrived there were 2, from the same place and sent weeks apart, both arriving here on the same day!

I never thought to check the expiry date on my card so went to withdraw some money today for food shopping and was a bit miffed to say the least to find my card was out of date. Out of date card = no cash from machine. I've no doubt that my new card has been sent from the UK, but where it is, is a mystery. Possibly stuck in a forever loop of Bulgarian post that hasn't arrived, gathering dust down at the village post office or worse still in the hands of someone who has illegal uses for it in mind - fat chance of that with my card!

So I've e-mailed the bank and requested a new card, god knows how long it will take to get here if ever. Hopefully it won't take too long or I'll be off begging in the village centre lol But that's my rant over, now I can get back to more normal things and chill out with a lovely cup of coffee, since I haven't yet given up caffeine!

Monday, 30 November 2009

Not long till Christmas

Only a few weeks now and it'll be Christmas, our 3rd here in Bulgaria. Time flies so fast here. This year we'll be having pork and turkey (home reared of course) loads of veggies and all of the trimmings too. The tree and decorations are ready to be put up around 10 days before the event and we'll be having a few days off hopefully over the festive period.

Last year we had the neighbours over for lunch, which they enjoyed although they were a bit confused over certain things and not used to being served a full meal at once instead of many small courses. Some things they liked better than others but in all we had a great time.

Christmas shopping here is a bit of trial and error, there's not a lot of good quality items for children to be found unless you're willing to part with large amounts of money. A lot of the stuff here is cheap tat imported from turkey or china and likely to fall to bits 20 minutes after opening the present. Our kids are too old now for games so they tell us and are mainly interested in clothes these days although they have developed a knack of thrift shopping and are quite happy to wear things bought from the second hand stall as long as they're good quality and not marked/patched or worn out, something which I also do. There's no harm in wearing used clothing as long as it's washed and not things like underwear/socks etc.

We're all looking forward to Christmas and don't mind missing the Queen's speech, we'll have a couple of quiet days where the only work to do is cooking, caring for animals and making sure there are logs for the fire and I'm sure we'll have some friends round and maybe even have a few drinks! And if we're really lucky it'll be a white Christmas here, something that rarely happens in the UK and the kids love.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

A productive day

Today we've all worked together and managed to get most of the roof finished off, well the tiles are on anyway. We formed a chain and passed tiles to each other with me on the ground as I'm scared of heights! It's great to see the kids helping and not whining about having to do some work, I think they've enjoyed it really lol. And it's wonderful to see the roof almost done.

Any work that needs done on our house has to take a back seat when there is work for other people on, the need to make a living here is strong as we haven't a pot of money to rely on or any other income coming in from another source.We did toy with the idea of buying my sister out of the house in the UK and then renting it out to give us an income but there's no guarantee that we'd have had a tenant or that any tenant would actually pay the rent!

Of all the houses I've lived in during my life I don't think I've ever felt a bond or longing to stay there, apart from  here. I love this house whether it's finished or not, our neighbours are mostly good and not too close, the garden is just waiting for something wonderful done with it and we also have plenty of opportunity to alter/build/extend or whatever should we feel the need to or even have the money to do so!

Update on the smoking thing - Hubby is smoking again but only a couple a day, he was so miserable without the fags and is happier now but realises that cutting down is a step towards another attempt at cutting them out completely. I gave in and tried a couple of cigarettes to see how it made me feel and to be brutally honest it was awful, I didn't enjoy them at all and have no urge to go back to smoking, I feel happier knowing that I've given up and hopefully beaten it. The best part is that by not smoking we have saved enough money to pay the monthly electric, water and phone/internet bills for the month!!!

Thursday, 26 November 2009


So far my willpower and determination to succeed at quitting smoking has been enough to get me through, today though feels a bit different. I find I really want a cigarette and I think it's a comfort thing to be honest. I sold our young horse this morning and found it quite upsetting - so I think that's the reason behind today's craving.

David is also still off the cigarettes but mainly because I am, I think if I'd had a cigarette he'd have been back on them like a shot. I often wonder if I just had one cigarette would it put me off more or encourage me to start smoking again? The latter probably and then it would be harder to stop again.

Selling the horse today was something I've been putting off for ages but something that needed to be done. Trying to look after all of the animals here, plus kids and hubby and also sort out the garden etc is quite time consuming and in reality I just didn't have enough time to keep 3 horses and spend quality time with them individually. The young horse has gone off with the benefit of having an extra year to grow and mature compared to other bulgarian horses - they are usually broken in at a year old and I personally don't think they're mature enough or strong enough at that age.

Having one less horse to look after also means one less mouth to feed over winter, which is not cheap. Although the saving we make not feeding a horse will probably be swallowed up by the fact that our pig is hopefully due to give birth mid january, so we'll have to feed piglets and a lactating sow.

I'll feel better over the next day or so about selling the horse. It's one thing I've never been any good at and I cried for days after parting with our horses in the UK even though I knew I was doing the right thing. Hopefully the want for a cigarette will drop off again too and I'll get back to feeling more positive about now being an ex-smoker.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Ahh Country Life

One of our lovely neighbours has been around today with his 50 year old Russian tractor and plowed our garden. The same happened last year and we're ever so grateful. Because none of our land had been worked for at least 5 years it's mainly gone to weed and needed a lot of work and will continue to do so.

There are some fantastic gardens here, everything has a place and they look so well tended - barely a weed in sight, ours on the other hand is a bit more of a handful! Our garden is actually 10 gardens - we have 9 separate deeds, originally there were more buildings on the land and they are still shown on the "Skitza's", Still standing are the main house (that we live in) and a small bungalow that is almost renovated, plus barns beside both of them. At the top of the gardens we have another 2 bungalows but they're in a derelict state and cannot be repaired so we've removed any materials we could re-use (roof tiles and timbers for the fire) and hopefully nature will take it's course and the old mud brick walls will collapse in.

I'd love our garden  to look like some I've seen in the village and to produce most of our vegetables and fruit, hopefully one day it will. The soil here is a fantastic dark brown colour and the garden looks amazing after being plowed. We're so lucky to have neighbours who are willing to help and try to teach us things, even if some of the things I don't agree with, like using chemical pesticides etc. Maybe one day my bulgarian will be good enough so that I can explain why I don't want to use any chemicals etc and how companion planting works!

So far we've only managed to work the main house garden but do hope to plant some lucerne on a double plot and also some maize or sweetcorn on half of another. We also have a lovely mature orchard with lots of apple, quince and plum trees. One thing we're never short on here is fruit as it's in such abundance.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Less Posts but Zero Nicotine!

I've not posted as much lately here, which is probably not a bad thing! My nicotine cravings are at their worst late evenings when everyone else is asleep and I'm on the lap top, but still another day has gone past and it's another non-smoking day here. I'm starting to feel much more confident about giving up smoking although I don't think David shares the same opinion.

The weather today has been fantastic, sunny, warm and dry with a tiny breeze. I've been promising some friends of ours that I'd pop over and harness their donkey up to see what she's like on a cart, so off I went this afternoon. After sorting the harness out, fitting it, checking all of the parts were there and making changes for some small missing bits we managed to get the donkey all ready and on the cart. I jumped on, sat down, shouted "Hi-De" and off we went at a brisk trot down the road, nothing like I'd expected!

I must explain that our donkey - the lovely "Maggie" has an aversion to work lol and therefore only has 2 speeds when hitched in the cart, slow and stop! I'd presumed that most donkeys would be similar and was totally wrong in the case of Pat and Nev's donkey, Daisy. She was a joy to take out and I had to slow her down instead of urging her to go faster. As she's very unfit we did only have a short trip out today but it was a good start and very enjoyable.

Actually makes me want to do something more with our lot so tomorrow I may get Milka out on our cart and even ride Maya if there's time.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Day 2.5

We're still not smoking, 2.5 days so far and I'm already feeling the benefit. For the first time in weeks I'm not coughing all of the time and can breathe a lot deeper already. I've found there are some triggers to wanting to smoke and being on the laptop/PC is one of them.

I guess it's just a case of reconditioning my body not to want to smoke, I still don't actually think I'm craving nicotine more the physical side of lighting up and having something to do with your hands. Let's hope that over the next few weeks things will get a little easier as my mind starts to forget about cigarettes. I must admit to not feeling as "Tetchy" as I thought I would but then again we're spending a fair amount of time chilling out lately due to colds and the weather.

By the way the weather here today is awful, cold and very foggy, damp too. I put the horses and donkey out this morning and hope they're still there cos I can't see them for the fog! It's the sort of weather that makes your joints ache and the wood burner seems a great idea too. Ours has been lit since just before lunchtime and will stay on until late this evening. A  nice soup is planned for tea and I may even make a dessert too.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Time to Quit

Well we've hit a small money problem (or lack of money problem) and have decided to quit smoking as we A) can't afford it and B) it's not good health wise.Neither of us (or the kids) want to have to go back to the UK so we need to lower our outgoings in hope that things pick up a bit over the next months.

Renovation work on our house is really slow at the moment and there's lots of jobs need finishing off but not the spare cash to do it. The credit crunch is affecting us now and prices of things continue to rise here in Bulgaria. But it won't put us off staying here, in fact it's made me even more determined that we will succeed, we'll never be rich but that's not what we moved here for anyway.

We have over the years been through some rough times (as most people have) and I believe the bad times have made us stronger. Certainly the determination to improve things doesn't lessen and I'm holding onto that thought now.

Quitting smoking is not the hardest thing I've ever had to deal with and I'm sure over the course of the next few days things will improve. I think I need to prove to myself that I can stop and just have to take a deep breath and think rationally when the urge to smoke comes.......the mood swings could well be a different matter Lol!

Well I'll let you know how we get on as soon to be confirmed ex-smokers hopefully, wish us luck!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Other Ex-pats

To be honest there aren't many other ex-pats living full time in our village. Only 2 families so far and another planning to move over soon. Some villages tend to attract ex-pats and they flock there in hordes, which is fine if you want to live where there are plenty of English speaking neighbours and people to socialise with.

We're not anti-social but wanted to live in a village where we could find real, rural Bulgaria. The ex-pats we've met so far seem a nice bunch of people. A fair amount have retired early and are enjoying their free time in Bulgaria. Some, like us are younger families hoping for a better lifestyle and working hard to achieve this.

We have a few english friends in  Bulgaria and it's always lovely to see them. As everyone is busy working or renovating we don't get to see them as often as we'd like to. Yesterday I popped round to see some friends who live in the village to borrow some paracetamols and while I was there another couple popped by from a neighbouring village. We spent an hour or so chatting about life in general and having a cup of tea!

Whilst we do miss friends back in the UK at least we can now keep in touch with them via e-mail and facebook etc. We've all changed a lot since living here and maybe that has altered some friendships but we are lucky to have some good friends still.

One problem with a minority of the ex-pats here is the fact that alcohol is cheap, a few turn to the drink and give the rest of us a bad's easy to get tarred with the same brush all because a few individuals can't behave. Then again it's the same in the UK. If anything I'd say that our alcohol consumption has dropped since moving here but we were never big drinkers, more social only and although we brewed our own wine in the UK we usually ended up giving it away!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Cabin Fever Cured!

Today I've been feeling a bit stuck, normally it doesn't bother me that we don't go very far or out very often but after almost 2 weeks of being home with the kids every day I just needed to get out for a while.

I'm not the kind of person who can shop for fun or who enjoys endlessly wandering about window shopping etc. Shopping is ok if and when you need something but I don't class it as a hobby or daily occurrence. The village shops (we had 9 at the last count) stock most basic provisions like bread and salami's but there isn't a huge amount of choice. It's nice to help support the local people who run the shops and we're now used to the odd hours that they open.

Sometimes it's just nice to go into town and visit one of the supermarkets and do a full shop. Now with extra choice in the local town there are 3 supermarkets and most things can be bought there at reasonable cost. Slightly cheaper than the village shops but a little less friendly.

This afternoon I've been to Kaufland supermarket with my sister in law and it was lovely just to have a break from the kids to be honest, plus I came back with bags of food to replenish the fast emptying fridge and freezer. Even nicer was the news that my daughter had brought all of the horses in for me as it was dark when we got back. Both of the kids helped with unloading the car which was nice and there hadn't been any new arguments or outbreaks of war while I was out. Other half is still poorly and is tucked up in bed with a supply of paracetamols and vitamin c rich juice.

Tomorrow is village market day so we'll be heading off to see if there are any bargains to be had and then off for a coffee in the cafe with the local ladies. Plus it's my daughters 14th birthday so there will be chocolates handed around as is the custom in Bulgaria.

Changing Weather

After a couple of nice, sunny and warm days today we have wind and it's a bit chilly. It rained last night so my winter garden got a good watering unfortunately so did the washing I'd left on the line!

One of our chicks has been hurt overnight when the young horse managed to get in the pen and had a very obvious broken leg so my first job of the day has been to put it out of it's misery. Not something I enjoy doing but it was for the best, being sentimental about animals doesn't go along with self sufficiency but we do care about them and hate to see anything in pain.

We're trying to fatten the turkeys up now as their days are numbered, extra corn every day and some time out grazing in the garden for them. We keep getting told by the locals that donkey meat is excellent for sausages, as much as I'm up for trying new things I do draw the line at horse and donkey. It's a personal preference and I don't think that will ever change although I'd imagine I've probably already eaten something containing at least one of the two!

The locals are now starting to slaughter some of their livestock, a neighbours cow has gone today as she doesn't have enough winter feed to keep 3. We have bales of hay and lucerne in the barn for winter but I do worry that we'll run short. Our horses and donkey are on minimal feed as none of them are working hard and they all look well. Not fat but not thin either. Luckily there's still some grazing around so they're happy during the day and overnight either get apples or hay to keep them busy for a while.

They do however still get bored and had started eating the timber partitions inside the stables, a quick paint with a chilli concoction soon stopped that though! Daylight hours are getting shorter and now the animals have to be in by 5pm and fed, in a few weeks it'll be 4pm and once the bad weather comes there will be days when they can't go out at all which I hate. I might get the electric fence out this year and make them a small turnout paddock where they can at least stretch their legs one at a time just to break up the day and enable them to let off some steam.

The general consensus here is that when there's snow on the ground the animals need to stay inside, I can understand the theory of it but don't agree. Horses don't mind the snow, some really enjoy it. It's the wind and rain combined that they don't like. Predictions are that this winter will be mild and short, snow on the ground for only a few weeks at the most, hopefully that will be the case but if not I'll be trying some things to keep the animals and us humans amused!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Tidying Up

We've spent today tidying up, the kids have cleared a load of stuff from the garden, David's been working on the roof again and I've done a much needed weed and sort out of my winter veggie plot.

The weather has been nice over the last few days so we've been outside a lot working and getting some of the jobs done that were put off because of poor weather. The roof is really starting to look great and I'm looking forward to seeing it finished. The garden is so green now and my winter veggie plot is doing very well.

I've planted garlic, red cabbage, sprouts, lettuce and black radish which is like a spicy turnip, peppery and great in casseroles etc. We'd never tried black radish until moving here and like it, although I do sometimes yearn for a proper swede or turnip. The black radish seeds that I sowed last month are doing very well but did need thinned out, so today after weeding my small patch I decided to get stuck in, thin out and re-plant some of the seedlings, now my small patch has grown by a third as I couldn't bear to throw any of the seedlings away and had to plant them all! If we don't/can't eat them all I'm sure the horses and donkey will.

Our small chickens are doing ok in the barn now as it's not too cold, the horses and donkey are looking very woolly with their winter coats now fully through and the turkeys and large chickens are enjoying the freedom of the garden during the day. The kids seem to be enjoying their extra week off school although I think they're a little bored at times. It's nice having them around a bit more during the day but I'll also be happy when they go back to school and my normal routine can resume!

Monday, 9 November 2009

An Impromptu Holiday

I'd expected the kids to be fit to go back to school this week and they are, unfortunately for me all bulgarian schools have been closed for a week due to outbreaks of flu in certain areas.....oh well.

The kids knew that when we moved here they would get various jobs to do daily and would have to help out with certain things. All great in planning but not quite the same in practice! They do feed the animals morning and night and also do the dishes but getting them to do anything else is a pain to say the least. They argue, throw tantrums and mumble and moan about having to do small things that they're capable of doing in a small amount of time. Now that our oldest is a teenager (she'll be 14 this friday) her mood swings can be awful too and the youngest has always been moody lol

We spent the weekend making sure the animals had clean bedding and housing, did some housework and also watched a few films. David has had a couple of days off but has been working on various jobs around the house that needed doing and I've pottered about as usual, even managing to spend some time with our young horse introducing her to a bit and bridle.

Our young chickens have been moved into the barn so it's almost peaceful in the house now and we've made ready space for 2 piglets that we're hoping will arrive soon, one for us and the other for a friend who is hoping to move over soon. Our piglet will provide meat for Christmas as our big pig is hopefully pregnant and due mid January. The turkeys and chickens have been allowed out of their respective houses and are happily roaming around the garden for the day since there isn't much growing now.

I say there isn't much growing now as I've only got a small winter vegetable patch. But while wandering around earlier today I found there's a fair few things growing that weren't planned! Onions that have self seeded, garlic that I didn't dig up as it was too small is growing again and doing well and there's also some peas sprouted up the garden that must have self seeded. So more work than I'd expected but free food for us!

Soon I'll have to plan the spring garden and decide what I'd like to plant next year and where. The growing season here is much longer than the UK but does get much hotter in the summer so some things don't do wonderfully while others flourish. Maybe I'll write another post about what we grew this year and how well it did before I post my next year plans.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Trying New Things

Since living here we've tried a load of new things and not just food. Bulgarian cuisine is wonderful and most of the food is very enjoyable.

We've drastically changed not only the way we live but also our diets. Gone are the ready prepared meals and convenience foods, replaced with fresh, in season vegetables and meat that we've usually reared ourselves. Life has become much simpler and our needs/wants have altered too.

There are things I do miss though - good chocolate, a fast internet connection, friends and family, my horses that I sold before moving here and decent books or magazines. There are book shops in Bulgaria and some do sell English books. We swap books between friends too which helps but after a while the choices get slimmer. Some expats to buy books either online or at various book stores, but I must confess to being a bit tight! Although I love to read I begrudge paying over the odds for anything. I've always been the same I guess.

Yes it's nice to have some things from "back home" but is it really worth the extra we have to pay to get things? If friends come over to visit or for a holiday we often ask them to bring Oxo cubes or Marmite as we can't get them here, but everything else we've about managed to live without......apart from books!

So I've added a Free e-book download tool to this blog and I will be trying it out, if you click the link and then browse through the site it takes you to there's a huge list of books available. Hopefully this will come in useful for others too......Enjoy!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Raining Cats & Dogs & Rodents!

Good morning, it's rained here all night long and is miserable outside to say the least. It's foggy, cold, breezy and still the rain comes down. Time for a PJ day I think.

When the weather changes here the rodents invariably look for somewhere warm to spend the winter and lately we've been hearing them scurrying about. Not that it's anything to worry about - all part of rural life really, but still I don't like them!

Because we've been here a couple of years now we've tried and tested a few methods to get rid of rodents inside. Traps work well for most of the time but we also use poison in areas where there isn't space for a trap. This year we've heard the mice more in the pipe boxing that runs around our bathroom and as space is limited there have had to put poison in the gaps. It seems to be working or so I thought until this morning!

My usual routine is to get dressed, have a coffee, put the horses out etc. This morning I went about my usual routine but felt that an item of clothing just wasn't right..........decided to check why I was feeling a little uncomfortable and well to my horror have found that the mice have eaten some of the fabric of my knickers!!!! They are now almost crotchless LOL  just goes to show how much attention I take while dressing.

Fashion goes "Out of the window" here during the colder months and staying warm is a priority, so layering becomes habit and my Thinsulate over trousers are my best friends. Today I'm going to try and hunt out the hats. scarves and gloves and also need to check everyone still has suitable winter footwear. I'll be putting some more rodent poison down too!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Perfect Timing........Hmmm

As usual with anything in Bulgaria timing is crucial. There's a right time to sow seeds, a right time to go to the village cafe for a coffee, a right time to put animals out or bring them in etc.

So why is it that whenever we get a delivery of anything it always seems to be at the wrong time?

We had some friends here last week that have also bought a house in the village. Because they're not living here yet I ordered them some winter wood about 3 weeks ago and hoped it would arrive while they were here so there were more hands available to shift the wood. That was the theory anyway!

They set off back home last friday with no signs of their wood arriving. Of course it's arrived today when a) David's out working, b) I'm stuck home with 2 poorly children and c) there's not a hope that I can move the wood on my own.

The same happened with the straw we ordered earlier in the year, weeks go by, no-one mentions it and then all of a sudden a tractor and trailer turns up and dumps 250 bales in your garden! I wonder how the Bulgarians cope with this? Do you have to stay home for 3 weeks just in case they decide to deliver your order? Maybe I'm being a little uptight about least they do deliver, because I can't imagine how else we'd manage to get 250 bales here or 10 cubic meters of wood. Also have you ever actually seen how much wood there is in 10 cubic meters?

I'd imagined a decent sized pile but nothing prepared me for the reality of how much there really is.......Think I'll have to take the camera outside and photograph it just for future reference! And once it's all chopped and split the pile will be of monstrous proportions! Back later with a piccie, time for coffee now before I do anything else.

More Green Tomatoes

I still have a whole load of green tomatoes and am struggling to find things to do with them. I've made different types of chutney, salsa, a pasta sauce dish (which wasn't very nice), green tomato and chilli jam (very nice) and generally thrown a few into various dishes like chilli con carne.

As I seem to be having a bit of a mental block and the internet isn't throwing up any more recipes that I fancy trying I think I'll probably end up just blending them all down and bunging them in the freezer till a later date. It's either that or feed them to the pig!

Every day here has a moment when the thought processes turn to "What shall we have for tea?" And although the choice of food stuff is growing all of the time sometimes you get stuck in a rut so to speak. There are no take away's in  the village and the local shops are mainly small. Of course we do have a couple of new supermarkets in the local town but I don't want to go shopping every week!

Back in the UK Asda was a 5 minute drive away and open 24 hours. I find that places like that encourage me to spend more and I fall fowl to impulse buying. Living here we are on a budget and maybe I should plan the weeks meals in advance to help keep the costs in perspective, but to be honest I quite like the randomness and prefer to choose what we eat based on mood/weather etc.

Summer we eat lots of salad and tend to BBQ quite often, winter it's stews, soups and warming food. Our diet here is as varied as can be. What produce we grow is used or frozen to be used at a later date. I love to see stuff that I've grown as part of a meal on my plate.

Off Days

Yesterday my son was off school complaining he felt sick, ok fine, there's been a bug going round and I had it last week so can sympathise with him. Although by 10 am he'd made a miraculous recovery lol

Today my daughter is feeling poorly and not gone to school, as they're not usually trying to truant I do believe that both of them aren't feeling great, although Cameron went off to school this morning only to be sent home as he has a cough. The teacher sent a note which said "The boy is sick and must go to a doctor, come back to school only when healthy".

I do agree that children who are poorly shouldn't be in school, if only to stop the spread of any infection. Coughs and colds are about at this time of year and sometimes can't be helped. The Bulgarian's seem to think that medicine is necessary for any illness and I disagree. Their children are wrapped up all of the time and rarely allowed to play out in the winter in case they get a cold. They also think that if you have a cold drink in cool or cold weather you'll get a cough! Some "Old wives tales" are still very much believed here, whereas I'm different and know that given time and rest a cough/cold will generally run it's course.

I believe that too many lotions/potions and courses of antibiotics are unnecessary and can do more harm than good. Children should be encouraged to play outside to enable them to build up a good natural immunity. Yes it's good to stay warm but being overly warm is not a good idea either. I must add that my mother was a nurse and possibly my ideas came from her. Certainly the way I was brought up never harmed me and I was ill less than my school mates. If a friend had chicken pox/measles/mumps I was sent over to play with them in the hope that as a child I'd either get these infections or build up a resistance to them - for me it worked, I've had none of them and even when my own children got chicken pox I showed no signs or symptoms.

So what do you think is best? Opinions are more than welcomed.

Monday, 2 November 2009


Either I've gone really soft or the temperatures here have plummeted over the last couple of days. I'm constantly cold and have already started wearing my winter over trousers when working outside. Not started wearing the thermals yet but that's the next step lol

Although the winters here can seem harsh and cold usually the rain holds off and the sun manages to shine most days so winter doesn't seem bad at all. This will be our 3rd winter here so at least we know what to expect and can plan ahead a little.

As we live on the edge of the village and don't have an official road to our house once the snow arrives driving can get a little tricky, which reminds me I've yet to put anti-freeze in the cars or check the snow chains are intact! We hope at some point to put a small road up to our house but until we have the time and funds to do it we'll just have to carry on driving up the field. Off road driving is something we're used to after having the horses back in the UK, muddy tracks and dirt roads are the norm to most equestrian establishments.

We were snowed in for about 2 weeks last winter, which is fine when your freezer is full of food and there's plenty of fire wood around. Maybe if I catch the plow driver this year he might for a small price make us a pathway from the house to the street so we can get out if we need to.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Happy Halloween

Ok I know I'm a day late but we've been busy lol

Hubby's been busy and managed to get the alterations to the central heating done after we moved the wood burner, system filled and up and running now and it's lovely to have hot radiators again.

Last night we went to a party hosted by a lovely couple who are also British ex-pats. There were a few others there who we'd met before and some new faces too. Mostly everyone dressed up and we all had a good time. It's nice to see what others have done to their houses and how they live. I was designated driver and to be honest didn't mind staying sober.

Today we've cut up a load of firewood and moved it into what will be the new workshop when it's finished. so tomorrow I'll be out with the axe logging some of it up. This evening we've been to visit one of our neighbours and his wife, again lovely people and she's a fantastic cook too so we've come home happy, stuffed full of food, relaxed and ready to start a new week.

The weather here has definitely changed and it's very autumnal now, the kids are looking forward to snow but I'm hoping it stays away for at least another 6-8 weeks!

Friday, 30 October 2009

Rainy Days

It's another wet, cold and slightly miserable day here so no outside work can be done. Managed to catch up on a load of housework yesterday so there's not a lot to do really.

Animals have been checked, fed and watered, the horses are still in because they hate the rain and wind combination, kids still at school for now and my hubby's actually at home today.

My choices for today are:

A) Find something to do with the rest of the green tomatoes,
B) Surf the net, catch up with some forums etc
C) Bake a cake
D) Sort through the chest freezer
E) Have a lazy day and do a little of everything plus maybe some reading or watching a film!

Not exactly the high life but I'm not complaining, I really do love it here even when the weather isn't great. Things aren't perfect but I'm not sure I'd like to live in a perfect world. Being content is an amazing feeling and something that I believe most people should try for themselves.

What do you believe in?

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Autumn pictures

The Marigolds have done fantastic this year and I've plenty of seeds saved from them. We had lots of different varieties and they have flowered all summer long and continue to do so. Definitely something that I'll grow again here and I've given all of the neighbour's and some friends seeds too. Great for companion planting alongside tomatoes.

Finally having found out how to upload some photo's here I thought you might like to see a couple of snaps I took a day or 2 ago on a wander around our garden.

I'm no expert with a camera but just take pics of things that interest me......hope you like them. Things are very "green" here again now, summer though can be very dry and hot and sometimes the landscape looks a little parched and bare.

The leaves are starting to fall from the trees now but the colours are fantastic. Just driving down the road today a friend said that the trees are beautiful, yellows, reds, gold, brown and green. Wish I'd taken the camera with me!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Off colour

I'm feeling a bit low at the moment, runny nose, headaches, aching joints and generally full of cold. So there's not a hell of a lot getting done around here.

Today I've tried to stay inside and keep warm, watched some tv and had a nap, which is not like me at all! Usually I'm not a good sleeper, 6 hours max a night (hence the reason some of my posts are made at random times). Last night I slept 9 hours and have felt shattered all day.

I'm sat here writing this with a lovely hot toddy next to me, a pan of homemade soup ready to be eaten and the wood burner going nicely downstairs. Tomorrow I might take it easy too although my winter vegetable garden needs a tidy up, weed and there are some black radish plants that need thinned out. Nothing that won't wait for a couple of days until I pull myself round a bit. The same goes for the housework lol

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Randomness and Children

I'm the first one to point out that my posts and this blog are somewhat hectic and haphazard. Random is me! The Bulgarians seems to be pretty organised as a people. They follow the seasons, go to work, meet friends for coffee and day to day life goes along the way it has done for years.

If I could sort my life into complete order I think I'd get very bored quickly. Life needs some random moments, although not as many as we have here possibly LOL.

My daughter seems to have inherited the random streak and grown it into a total lifestyle......or is that just teenagers in general? My son on the other hand is somewhat of an order freak and spends hours sorting through his various card collections etc. How can 2 children be so different?

I've tried over the years to become more organised and it works but only for a certain length of time. So do I keep on trying or just go with the flow as seems more appropriate here? I get things done, not always on time but the jobs get done. Isn't that what counts? We try to live a peaceful life here - not always easy with a teenage girl and 12 yr old boy around but most of the time things run pretty well.

David, my husband, works long hours most days renovating houses for other people, on the odd day off he gets he does like to go fishing and who can blame him? I can honestly say that I'm rarely bored here because there's so much to do especially when the weather is good. We spend more time together as a family now than ever and I hope the children appreciate and realise how much better life here is.

No longer am I scared that they'll be knocked over or abducted if they go outside to play. They walk to and from school every day without any hassles and are generally much more active here. In the first 6 months of living here I lost 3 stone in weight! Having been off and on dieting for years it was a total revelation as at that time I wasn't trying to lose weight. I've put some of it back on but am still 2/3 dress sizes smaller than I was in the UK and it's all down to the healthier life.

If you offered me money to return back to good old blighty and live I'd turn you down without having to think twice. Our life here is far from perfect but we're happy, albeit as poor as a church mouse but oh so rich in other ways. Life is hard wherever you are unless you make it otherwise.


I've just realised I haven't added any photo's to this blog yet, so it's time to take the camera out and about today and see what I can find.

Although I do try to take photo's pretty regularly sometimes life gets in the way! The one thing I do wish we'd done was take piccies at every stage of renovation so far. Then I could look back and know how far we've come.

Maybe I'll find some older photo's on disc somewhere but I'll have to hunt through them and see. I'm nowhere near a professional photographer and could probably do with taking the time to read the huge manual that came with the camera, but I like to take pics of things that interest me.

So I'll sign off for now, grab another coffee and make a start on my plans for today....


Confidence is an amazing thing. Some people definitely have more than others, while some manage to make you think they're confident when in reality they're not.

I'm quite confident, usually outgoing, rarely shy and can be opinionated at times. Typical of an Aries as some might say lol There are some things I'm not as confident with as I'd like to be though. Cooking for instance, I like it, manage well most of the time but just don't rate my abilities as any more than someone who potters about in the kitchen.

Horse riding is another......I've ridden for years and when I was younger was probably overly confident, to the point of almost dangerous at times. I'd ride any horse, even when I knew they were the ones that frequently bucked/reared etc etc.

These days that confidence has gone and it's taken me a while to admit it to myself. I'm not scared of horses just can't help thinking about what might happen! Strange because my big horse back in the UK was the most gentle soul you could ever meet and I'd owned him since he was a year old so knew him very well. Maybe it's age and the fact that I've got responsibilities now, although I'm not sure about that. I rode right through my pregnancies and never had any problems. In fact I've never been badly hurt, yes I've had my share of falls but nothing major.

Well over the next few weeks I'm facing some of my fears and have been out for a short ride again today on Maya. What's the worst that can happen? I'll keep you posted on how we get on. Hopefully Maya is going to enjoy her new career as a riding horse!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Animals in Bulgaria

Animals in the majority of the villages are not what we'd class as pets. They have a job to do and if they no longer do that job then they have no use anymore. Cruelty to animals is something that is tolerated to a certain degree here and there are no laws to stop it.

Certainly some of the animals you see are well looked after and even loved to an extent. Sadly for some life isn't good. There are shelters and organisations trying to help animals in Bulgaria but without the back-up from the government and funding it must be incredibly hard.

Mostly every home here has a dog, it's there to guard it's home. Most are not fed on commercial dog food, they eat the scraps and leftovers or dry bread. They're chained sometimes without shelter and not walked at all. The odd thing is that when these dogs bark no-one looks out to see if anyone is there!

A lot of the Bulgarian people disagree with neutering/spaying their animals so there are a lot of unwanted kittens and puppies left to fend for themselves. In the last year or so we've had 7 kittens and a puppy left outside our house, most of them went to very good homes.

Our animals are mainly pets, we have 2 dogs that live in the house and another one outside who has a lovely kennel which he shares with our 2 cats! Then there's the pig, turkeys, chickens outside with their runs and houses and of course the 18 chicks that are currently housed in big boxes downstairs in my living room as it's too chilly overnight for them out in the chicken house until they're fully feathered.

I'm hoping in years to come - and it may take a long time, that with education and patience some of the cruelty to animals can be stopped. It's impossible and naive to think that it will ever be totally eradicated but things are slowly changing for the good. Our neighbours now feed their cats and dogs commercial dog food and have noticed a big change in the animals...a small step but at least it's progress!

Monday, 19 October 2009

More Ups than Downs

Living here definitely has it's perks. Not everything is wonderful though I must admit.

We live in a rural village of about 1200 people, about a half hour drive from the nearest town. Further away than some ex-pats like to be from major airports, bus routes and shopping malls but that's what we wanted. Never having lived in a major city I can't really see the attraction. City life isn't for me!

The downside to being so far from town is our internet's truly rubbish! Slower than dial-up, not very dependable and as it's wireless it also needs an electric supply to work. So if the power goes off so does the internet.

Customer service isn't the same here as it was in the UK. Store staff aren't usually being intentionally ignorant, they've just never had any training about how to deal with customers. so when I complained to our internet supplier about the quality of the service I didn't hold out much hope that they'd actually do something about it.

A few days go by and we get a call from customer service - They tell me to pack the system up, take it into town and they'll cancel the contract! Now what I expected but he wasn't going to listen to me telling him that I don't want to cancel I just want the bl**dy thing to work!

So now we're in a conundrum, they've offered to cancel the contract, the service is rubbish, staff don't listen and the phone line that comes as part of the system only works when it feels like it. But what next? Is there a better alternative? Think I'll be spending some time tomorrow having a look into what else is available.

With winter on it's way I don't fancy being stuck without the internet.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

An interesting read

Today is another dull, cool autumn day. Not the weather for being outside so after a spot of shopping this morning I've been busy catching up on e-mails and various forums and websites that I read.

I came across an article that caught my eye and thought some of you readers may like it too so here's the link

Personally we came here to live a better life and as things go it's working ok for us. We don't have a bottomless pit of money, work for what we have and basically get by. We took some time off to renovate our house but have had to start working again to make money for everyday life. Hopefully one day we'll make enough to finish the renovations too.

On the whole though we're happy and healthy. Much healthier than we were 3 years ago. Who cares if we don't have a pool or top of the range car....we don't! What we do have is so much more important and we're content. Of course there are a few things we'd change if we did something like this again but looking back most people would say the same I think.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

The 4 seasons

Bulgaria is a country of varying weather. Most of it good to be honest.

Spring is usually from 22nd March to 22nd June and can be warm, sunny and mild. The days start getting longer and everything starts growing again.

Summer runs from 23rd June to 22nd September, temperatures can vary and range from high 20's to high 40's, even night time can be well over 20 degrees and the ground gets that scorched, parched look. My poor garden needs frequent watering during the heat of the summer and I have to remind the kids constantly about wearing sun screen.

Autumn is a beautiful time of the year. From 23rd September to 22nd December, the sun is still present most days but the heat of the summer is waning. It's much easier to work in the cooler weather although this year autumn is pretty cold even for here. It's a time for cutting firewood, making sure your snow chains are ok and looking for things that can be done over the winter.

Winter can be like a wonderland, totally picture perfect. Bright sunshine, crisp, white snow and smoke coming from everyone's chimneys. But with temperatures sometimes as low as -25 degrees it can be very harsh. Keeping warm is an essential, boredom can be a problem too - heavy snowfall can knock entire village's electric supply off for days at a time and there's only so much you can do by candlelight!

Having a back up plan in winter is a great idea. What will you do if the electric supply is interrupted for any length of time? How will you cook and/or keep warm? What if you get snowed in.....Will you manage with the things you have already in your home?

Over the next few months I'll be answering some of these questions in this blog as we go into another Bulgarian winter. This will be our third winter here so lessons learned from the last 2 should help.

Planning Ahead

You can never plan ahead enough here. When I think back to this time last year the weather was mild and still warm through the day, garden still producing and we had a house roof!

We've managed to get a load of things done over the last year, built an extension to the house (finished outside but not inside), had the exterior of the house insulated and rendered, moved some plumbing and the wood burner, plaster boarded walls, tiled floors, moved windows, added windows and the list goes on. The house roof is still a work in progress too with 3/4 of it done now and the rest on our urgent list!

The decorating, small finishing touches and general making the house more attractive can wait, the winter can seem long here and inside jobs get done then.

Included in the planning is what we'll eat over the winter. The crop from the garden was ok this year so we have a fair few vegetables frozen, other things pickled, made into chutneys or jams and a bit more to do. We won't starve that's for sure!

We've successfully managed to breed and raise some turkeys this year so they'll provide some winter food too, they aren't raised to sell on as we couldn't make enough to cover the cost of feeding them and the time it takes to clean and pluck them. But they do taste fantastic. There are also a few extra chickens being fattened up, although we do keep some for eggs.

Last year we slaughtered a pig and he provided us with 150 kilo's of meat. This year we've decided to breed from our female pig and her babies should be due around the middle of January fingers crossed! A neighbour is going to give us a small pig for meat in the next week so it will be pork and turkey for Christmas lunch again this year mmmmmm.

Oh and there's the winter wood to cut and stack yet. An essential to living here is a good chainsaw. Luckily for us the old timbers from the house roof will become our firewood, they aren't any good for anything else as they all had woodworm but at least they can keep us warm.

Stripping the garden

We've had a slight ground frost overnight which has finally finished off my remaining tomato, chilli and squash plants. So this afternoon I'm off out the strip the rest of the produce off and pull up what's left, there are quite a lot of green tomatoes still about so I'll probably be making chutney later too.

Some of the plants can be fed to the pig, although please remember that tomato and potato leaves are poisonous.

The garden is looking pretty messy right now, I've got a small winter vegetable patch going and nothing else worth mentioning, the leaves are starting to fall off the trees and autumn is definitely here. Every day is a little colder and the nights are drawing in, but at least there's plenty grazing right now for the horses and donkey.

Hopefully over the next 2 weeks we'll get the tractor in to plow and that's really it for the garden until the spring. Some of the trees and grape vines will be pruned back, I'll keep a check on the winter plot, collect up any tools that have been left lying around and concentrate on other jobs like collecting firewood, animal care and maybe even find time to do some decorating!

Friday, 16 October 2009

Winter comes early

It's awful outside today - wet, cold, foggy and miserable. Plus windy again too.

I guess it's someone's way of reminding us just how quickly the Bulgarian weather can change! I've been out to the local market, not much there because of the weather and most of the villagers are crammed into the tiny cafe in the village centre chatting and staying warm. Not that I blame them!

The horses are stuck in again but are happily munching away on a load of wind fall apples that I've picked up, kids due in from school soon so I've lit the wood burner to warm them through.

Racking my brains to think of something nice for tea. Meal times tend to get a little repetitive here when you're trying to use seasonal produce. Lately when I ask what anyone wants for tea the answer has been "A random recipe off the net" Lol well we'll see. I think I may have a check in the freezer and see if there's some chicken left to make a nice pie with.......It's definitely time to start eating winter comfort food again.

Best go check on the fire, there's something very satisfying about putting logs on the wood burner and boy am I glad we have a central heating system that runs from  it too.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Setting goals

I do try and set myself small goals - without them things would be quite hectic here!

As someone who's not great at schedules and keeping on track of things at times I find the relaxed atmosphere here suits me. I'm no domestic goddess - housework is something I have to do and not something I like to do. Horses though are one of my passions, I love most things about them and even though I tried for a while, just couldn't live without them.

Of course there are other jobs that take preference over spending time with the horses, and although we've had them for over a year I haven't really done a lot with them to be honest. Spring I spent planting, summer weeding and wedding planning, autumn is time to clear the garden and preserve things and winter can be very cold here so you just don't have the urge to go outside and away from the comfort and warmth of our woodburner.

Last night I decided that if the weather was good today and the wind had dropped I'd get the saddle out and take Maya one of our mares for a short ride. When we bought the horses 2 were broken to drive (pull a cart) and one was still too young to do any work. Last year I did try both of the older mares with a saddle a few times but that was all.

So today I have achieved at least one of my goals, I've had a lovely 20 min walk around on Maya which we've both enjoyed, although I'll probably ache later lol.......not as young as I used to be!

Time to set another goal for today, but first I'll have a coffee and a shower I think.

Work, work and more work or not!

Today was windy and not very warm, definitely an inside day!

Went shopping this morning for a few bits and pieces, home to warm up with a coffee and then I planned to spend some more time experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen.

The horses and donkey were all out in the garden so I could keep an eye on them, kids came home at lunchtime and I was thinking about cooking and what else I could find to use up in the garden.

As with quite a few things I plan, nothing seems to happen! I couldn't get warm, had no motivation and felt worn out! Oooh let's light the woodburner and relax for a while.........yup I fell asleep lol, woke up with enough time to muck the horses out, sort out their bedding and feed and get them in before dark. So a bit of a wasted day!

On the plus side I did find a nice little gadget to go on here with the weather and local time etc. And the Pumpkin Gingerbread I made was lovely, although more of a cake than a gingerbread.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Baking Day

Well today's weather has been a bit miserable, woke up to wind and dark clouds looming bringing the promise of rain.

The workers came to get on with the roof but due to the wind it's far too dangerous to be up there. They've done a couple of hours of clean up work but had to finish at lunchtime due to the rain arriving....and boy is it coming down! At least the under felt membrane is keeping the rain out of the house for now.

I've pottered about this morning, collecting walnuts and apples blown from the trees. Apples for the horses and donkey who are stuck in (they hate the wind). Walnuts to be kept for later although I have used some in a recipe I'm trying out. I've also collected a load of firewood in case tonight is cold and picked some green tomatoes for another recipe I'm going to try at tea time. Oh and potted up some plants to move them indoors for the winter.

Must point out that I hate food waste of any kind. At least the pig eats a fair bit of our leftovers if I can't find anything to do with them. I've been busy lately making various chutneys and jams to make use of some of the seasonal produce. Our freezer is jam packed with bags of tomato puree, garlic puree, pumpkin, other veg prepped for soups and stewed fruit.

I'm not a fantastic cook, but have been trying new things lately and I'm enjoying it. We have an old copy of Mrs Beeton's cookery book which has now been named "The Bible" in our house. Never thought a 107 year old book would come in so handy!

Today's recipe I'm trying out is something I found on the internet on

Here it is, I'll let you know later if it's any good!

Pumpkin Gingerbread

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups cooked, pureed pumpkin
1/2 cup water
2 1/2 cups sifted flour
1.2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tbsp baking soda
1/4  tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup chopped raisins (optional) 

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees F. Cream together sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Squeeze excess moisture from pumpkin. Stir in pumpkin and water and mix well.
Whisk together dry ingredients and gently fold them into the liquid ingredients.
Mix only until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in nuts and raisins.
Pour into a large loaf pan that has been well greased with shortening.
Bake for about 1 hour or until a cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean.

This recipe may be doubled and baked in 3 large loaf pans.

Pumpkin gingerbread freezes well for 3-4 months if tightly wrapped.
Submitted by CM