Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Lay a little egg for me...

It feels like forever since I've updated this blog...probably because it is. I don't know why but I had the urge to do a blog post this morning.

Sunset from our garden overlooking Kings Island.

We're still enjoying life here in Luxor. We've now got chickens that free range in the garden and we are now getting as many as 25 eggs a day. I've also got into incubating  eggs and raising birds from babies. It's really quite a commitment as you have to manually turn the eggs over like a Mother Hen would, three times a day. Here are some of my egg in the 'bator' as my fellow Chicken enthusiasts seem to call it.

I've been quite successful so far and manage to hatch these little cutie Baladi chicks...

and yesterday saw the arrival of four little Pekin Ducks which are just the most adorable balls of yellow fluffiness you've ever seen

A few hours after hatching, all nice and fluffy.
The second duckling taking a snooze after hatching
I'm hoping to have a go at Geese and Turkeys next.

We get so much fruit on our trees now it's just incredible, the coming months we'll see peaches, mangoes, apricots, applies, figs and Dates so lots of Jam making to crack on with.

We had a rather lovely guest stay with us recently who made a video of our garden and chickens. It was in February so probably the worst month as it's very wintery but if you're interested in watching you can see it here and feel free to 'like' my Facebook page while you're at it.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Flying with easyjet during March?

If you are flying on easyjet during the month of March, take the inflight magazine out of the seat pocket in front known as Traveller and turn to page number 31. There you will find a column written by little old me.

There's a feature called "On the Ground" where every month they ask a Blogger from one of their destinations to write a piece about life in their town/city. They asked me back in January and I was delighted to do it and thoroughly enjoyed it.

You've probably noticed that I hate having my photo taken so was a little mortified to have to supply a photo. I took this photo myself with Little RT's children's camera. I tried for ages trying to get the appropriate facial expression. Must of them looked just too cheesy. I opted for this one in the end which is my thoughtful yet with a hint of cheekiness face.

If you are not lucky enough to be flying with easyjet during the month of March then you can read my light hearted article by clicking on this link. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Tragic news.

This morning there was a terrible hot air balloon accident here in Luxor. 19 people are believed to have lost their lives. Luxor is in a state of shock.

My thoughts are with those who lost their lives today and their families.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Family visits and Tagines

Sorry I've not posted for a while. I've had trouble uploading photos on blogger and a blog without photos is like a night without stars! 

By Brother and Leah have been visiting us at the moment. Here they are at The Orange Grove overlooking the Nile.

Leah loves to cook and wanted some clay tagines to take back home. Egyptian Tagines look different to the Moroccan style Tagines that you may have seen before with a conical lid. In fact here is one:-

This is what a Moroccan Tagine looks like although this one was handmade in Egypt and is just for decorative purposes.

An Egyptian Tagine is a unglazed clay pot with no lid so you need to put foil over the top to retain the moisture and to stop the dish getting too dry.

 When you get them they are unglazed or "unseasoned" and the clay comes off in your hands like a red dust.

Me demonstrating the red dust from the clay :-D

 To get them to the state where you can use them for cooking is quite a lengthly process but worth it as apparently the clay imparts flavour into the tagine.

 If you've ever been to local restaurants in Luxor and eaten a Tagine, you'll know how lovely and authentic it is when the waiter brings a sizzling tagine direct to the table still in the clay pot. They are relatively cheap to buy but as I mentioned, they take a little while to season. I'd done it years ago when we had a home in my husbands village although we did it in a mudbrick oven which is how it would have been done no doubt for hundreds if not thousands of years.

For those of you, like me without a Mudbrick oven, here is how you can season an Egyptian Tagine using a conventional oven ready for use.

First of all you need to soak the tagines in cold water for a couple of hours, if not overnight.
Here is one of the tagines having a good soak.

Once soaked you need to removed, wash, dry and paint with Molasses (like a syrup that comes from the Sugar cane). Sometimes men come round with their donkeys and carts selling Molasses for 2/3LE but I got mine from KZ Supermarket which was more pricey at 7LE.

Here is me painting the tagine with Molasses

Then put in the oven at around 150 degrees, don't preheat it as they crack if they are exposed to rapid temperature change. Leave in all day, the molasses will bubble away and probably splatter all over your oven making you wish you had never blooming well attempted it (I know I did).

When the pot looks like it has soaked in all the Molasses, remove carefully from oven (again silently cursing the state of your oven) and place in warm soapy water. Rub off the excess Molasses that will be black, crusty and a bit grim looking by now. They will then look like this.

Then brush them with oil and there you have it - Egyptian Tagines ready to use!

The vegetables in Luxor this time of year are great but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Mr RT has a "thing" about buying cauliflowers the size of 10 heads, kilos of broccoli or humungous Butternut Squash's. He recently picked up this beauty:-

It weighed in at about 8kilos and I spent about two weeks trying to find things to do with it. I've made litres of Butternut Squash and Rosemary soup, Jamie Oliver's BNS Muffins (tastes like carrot cake), Steamed BNS, BNS Ravioli with sage butter (posh I know but was getting desperate by this point), roasted BNS chips.. the list could go on.

Anyway, bye for now


Monday, 31 December 2012

A bit of recycling!

My 5 year old, Little RT is on holiday in England at the moment, back next  Monday.

He really needs his own desk in his bedroom so we've had one made and have been busy sanding it down and painting it. There aren't many furniture shops here in Luxor so if you need or want a piece of furniture, it's usually made to order by a local carpenter. You can provide them with photos or sketch something out on a piece of paper and they will do their best at making it.

Little RT is Lego mad, in fact here he is in a Racing car made from Lego at Legoland, Windsor.

I've been looking around the house for things I can turn into pencil pots. Recycling being the name of the game. I've got lots of Baby Milk tins but stumbled across a brilliant idea - turning a Baby food jar into a Lego Man Head pen pot. Here is how you do it!

Take a Baby Food jar and give it a good wash out. I don't usually buy Baby food but make my own so I only had this one left which I was already using as a jar to store sunflower seeds.

Then squirt some yellow acrylic paint in the jar.

Give it a swish round

Paint on a Lego Man face

There you have it! I think it is a great recycling idea. I'll post some more pictures once his desk his set up.

So readers, I know you're there because I see you on my Feedjit. What do you have planned for New Years Eve? Any resolutions?

Friday, 28 December 2012

Resolutions for 2013

It's around that time when people are thinking about resolutions they can make and probably break for 2013. I've decided that I'm not going to make any this year as I always end up breaking them anyway.

The world seems so full of uncertainties at the moment that I just want to enjoy this year as much as possible and practise a bit of gratefulness.

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade! (I just wanted to try out my Instagram type program really)

2012 has a been a tough year for Egypt and indeed the people of Luxor who have seen their incomes drop due to a reduction in tourism and price increases.

Pair of Senegal Thick knees that come and visit us every morning

Someone in a group I'm a member of came up with a great idea. You get an empty jar and every time something good happens during the course of the year, no matter how small, you make a note on a piece of paper and pop it in the jar.

At the end of the year you open up the jar and remind yourself of all the good things that happened. It's so easy at times to fall in to a negative pattern of thinking that it's a great way to remind yourself that amongst the mundane or bad times there is usually something to be thankful for

I enjoy taken photos but I'm certainly no great photographer! However, I was sent a link to a Facebook page and blog about a photo a day challenge:-

Everyday throughout January there is a word prompt which I need to focus my photo for the day on:-

So for example on the 23rd the theme is "Electric". It should be fun and also encourage me to look around and find the beauty in the things around me. I'll be posting a picture on here everyday .

This month I also found out about a new Project, "Plant a Tree Day in Hurghada".

A group of Hurghada Residents have started an initiative to encourage the planting of more trees and shrubs and make more Green spaces that everyone can enjoy. There are schools, dive clubs, restaurants, bars, social clubs, hotels and businesses all working together to make Hurghada more Green.

Most of the events are in the middle to end of February but Plant a Tree Day itself is happening on Friday February 22nd. They have put in so much work and have the full support of the City Council which I think is wonderful. It is probably too late for us to organise anything of that scale here in Luxor, however, I will be showing my support by planting a couple of new trees in my garden on this day. If you are a Luxor resident and have your own Green space, perhaps you could do the same?

You can find out more here:-

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

On the Feast of Stephen.

I hope you are all enjoying your Christmas.

This photo was taken at 7am from The Orange Grove, lots of balloon drifting over the Nile.

Have fun, whatever you're up to today!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Twas the Night before Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all those celebrating it!

One thing that is not the same here in Egypt, is Christmas. There are usually Christmas parties in the hotels and restaurants but besides that it is just a normal day.

It is very strange if you've always be used to celebrating Christmas. I always get a strange feeling that I just can't fathom. Home sickness? Sadness? I really don't know. It seems to just zap all my enthusiasm and va va voom.

One year, I went to a local restaurant and had a real Christmas Dinner. There was even Father Christmas handing out presents as you walked in and we had Roast Turkey with all the trimmings followed by Christmas Pud and a Mince pie. It's the nearest I've ever got to feeling "Christmassy" but yet the event still rang a little hollow for me.

Since the year 2000 I've counted that this will be the seventh Christmas I've spent in Egypt although not all in a row. In 2001 we travelled down to Aswan and spent the evening of Christmas Eve eating peanuts in the bar at the Old Cataract Hotel at the top of the cliffs overlooking the Nile. That was a goody!

I've spent another couple of Christmas's just ignoring it and another with a trip to the West Bank for lunch with my family "just to mark the day". However, whatever I've done, it never feels the same as a Christmas back in the UK. It is a feeling that you just can't recreate by simply roasting a turkey, putting up a tree and playing Christmas songs. At least I can't anyway.

Little RT has gone to the UK to be with his Grandparents so things are even more quiet than usual.  So we won't be celebrating Christmas as such. I've got some Turkey breasts from the local supermarket. They seem to get them in for the expats here who do the whole Christmas thing so it makes a change more than anything.

 I'm going to be making some English comfort food but sometimes that is what you need. I'll be making a Turkey and Leek pie with veg which could be described as Pub grub and the type of meal we never really eat here. I found a few Sweet potatoes in kitchen that needed using up so I decided to make an American favourite - Sweet potato pie! I just can't seem to say it without putting on a Southern American Drawl. Anyway, it's a common desert in the US at Thanksgiving and Christmas so I thought why not! A British Dinner and an American dessert... in Egypt. How multicultural can you get?

My Sweet potato pie which doesn't photograph well at all. 

I've just realised that its a bit of a pastry overkill so perhaps the pie won't be dessert and just more of an in between meal snack. I think the SP pie is possibly a little overdone. It took ages to cook, it said on the recipe 50 minutes but it was still sort of wobbly after that time. I went upstairs and forgot about it so its a little "well done" round the edges which shows up even more in the photo.

I've given myself a couple of days off where I will allow myself to be more than a little thrifty with the housework, watch some DVD's, do a bit of Reading and be grateful when Christmas is over and the feeling that I just can't fathom, disappears.

I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas.


Saturday, 22 December 2012

In a pickle.

22nd December and the sun still shining

Despite being nearly Christmas the weather here in Luxor is still around 23 and more like a Summers day. It is difficult to imagine that back in the UK and elsewhere everybody is rushing around getting last minute presents and all the other Christmas preparations.

Little RT (who is now 5 and not so little) has gone back to the UK with his Nanny (for non English people I mean Grandmother) for nearly three weeks. He goes to an International School so the holidays are very similar with long Christmas breaks whilst the Egyptian State schools are still open. The Coptic Christmas here is on 7th January and is a Public holiday. About 10% of Egypts population are Copts but apparently in Luxor this percentage is much higher.

Anyway, Little RT's absence has freed up some of my time for my new obsession - pickling and chutneys!

 I'm well known in my family for my frequent "hobbies" that become my number one talking point only to be dropped and never mentioned again. So if any of them are reading this they will probably be rolling their eyes as I speak. We've had the Cello, Knob painting, Mosaics, Saxophone, the clarinet, Holistic massage, candle making to name but a few.

But Pickles and Chutneys? This is going to be a hobby for life...I just know it. Already I've developed what I know like to call my "Pickling eye". A lonesome apple in the fruit bowl, the desolate carrot in the cupboard the last remaining courgette - they all have the potential to become the most amazing chutneys. Quite frankly, given half the chance I could spend ALL DAY chutney-ing!! Is there anything more satisfactory than seeing glass jars filled with homemade pickles, jams and chutney? No! of course there isn't.

Ta-da! Some homemade pickles and chutneys
Soon I'm going to start dehydrating fruit and making fruit leathers and I just can't blooming wait!

Little-est RT who is now one has started going to nursery a fews mornings a week and loves it. He can't get out of the door fast enough and even brings me his shoes to put on. It's shut today because the second round of the referendum so we've have a nice morning. Mr RT has been gardening and we've had a delicious homemade lunch of Chicken Curry, rice, cucumber Raita, salad and homemade Garlic Naan breads sat in the sun by the river. So I think that is us well and truly stuffed for the day.

My homemade garlic naan bread.

I hardly watch any TV as I'm usually so easily distracted. However, I'm watching a series on DVD at the moment called "The Syndicate". It's about a lottery Syndicate of 5 who win £18 million. It's a drama and brilliant - only two more episodes to go.

The Syndicate.
I love the Winter Evenings in Luxor, it is usually so warm at night that it's lovely to get snuggled down in the evenings with a good book or DVD.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Mud Glorious Mud - Part II

Do you remember ages ago I was rambling about mudbricks?

As we recently welcomed our first guests I thought I'd tell you a little more about "The Orange Grove".

We've built two traditional adobe (mud brick) self catering apartments for rental here on the East Bank. They are built with domed and vaulted ceilings. There is a garden which I think you'll agree is pretty unique here on the East Bank. It's perfect for those wanting to be in close proximity to  Luxor/Karnak Temple, shops and restaurants yet in a more peaceful environment than the City Centre can offer.

Rental starts from £150 per week in low season (that's approx 187 Euros). Here's a photo of one of the bedrooms..

If you'd like to find out more, please visit

There is both a Twitter and a Facebook link, so if you are on Facebook, please "like" us

Anyway, this isn't a blog for commercial purposes but it's a huge part of what I've been up to lately so it would be a bit odd not to let you know. I'd love to hear your feedback and then it's back to posting about gardens, fruit and cooking.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Sowing the seeds.

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.
Martin Luther 

Oranges starting to ripen

We've been really busy the last few days sorting out the garden. We had somebody watering the garden but no doing any pruning and things certainly to grow fast here.

Our garden is now not so jungle like so we can can start on this years gardening projects.

Grapple me grapenuts

I've still got so much to learn about gardening in Luxor. I'm going to be starting a lot of things off from seed but it is difficult to work out which is the best time. In the UK frost and day length determines when we can plant outdoors but here in Luxor we don't get frost and still get many hours of warmth and daylight even during the winter months.

A local collecting Dates from one of our Palm Trees

 At first I thought February would be a good time to start but I was speaking to a Facebook friend in Hurghada who has had a lot of success starting seeds off in October which I guess makes sense. Young seedling are not struggling to survive in high heats that we get here even in spring and we are still a good few months away from the coldest of the Luxor weather in January and February.

Morning Glory Vine starting to lose some of its glory in the mid-morning sun

So I've come to the conclusion that there are probably two growing seasons in Luxor September/October time and February onwards.

Cutting down dates...
going, going...

 I intend to give both a shot and see what happens. After all, no one is going to be handing me a book entitled " The Definitive Guide to Gardening in Luxor" anytime soon.


Ruby T is on her own - but up for the challenge.

Orange Tree
I will be growing some plants and flowers as I'd like to fill some containers and I also love how they attract certain birds and butterflies. However, it's more important for me to be growing fruits and vegetables and making sure our land is productive as possible.  I intend to make full notes of my successes and failures in the hope that at some point in the near future I will know from experience what works best.

We've just pulled down our Nabaq tree or "Ziziphus Jujube", it created great shade but didn't look very nice and the only fruit it produced was some small sour berries. Every Egyptian that came into our garden on seeing this tree would shake the branches to make the berries drop down. The berries seem to be really popular with the children here but I just found them tasteless. New Nabaq trees keep sprouting up everywhere so it just had to go.

 We decided to pull it down and will be putting Mango tree's in it's place. The wood is going to my Father in Law who is going to make something with it.

Bye bye Nabaq tree

I intend to grow lots of different types of vegetable, Loofahs (yes those vegetable that can be eaten or dried into back scrubbers), Chilli's, Beetroot, Cherry Tomatoes, French Beans, Carrots, Pak Choi to name but a few. I hope I'll have some success.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Water water everywhere...

When I was in the UK during the Summer I was watching the film "Erin Brocovich" and it got me thinking about water quality.

If you've never seen the film starring Julia Roberts, its a true life story about a Legal Clerk with no legal training who compiled a case against a large company for alleged Water Contamination. Hmmm... when I put it like that it sounds like a right barrel of laughs, but trust me, it IS a good film

Most people that visit Egypt tend to stick to bottled water to be on the safe side but recently a couple of lesser known brands have been withdrawn from the market due to quality issues.

It's no problem sticking to bottled water if you are on holiday for a week of two, but when you live here it gets a bit of a pain. 

Stockpiling lots of boxes of water.
What to do with the empty bottles? It's a recycling nightmare. 
Where to store all the water boxes? 

The ideal solution would be to just drink the water from our kitchen tap...the problem we have is that we don't have mains water.

As we're in a rural area, mains water hasn't reached us yet so we like others in our area source water from a well.

Driven wells are pretty common here in Luxor in areas that are remote or don't yet have access to mains water for whatever reason. These type of wells are not just used here but in countries all over the world. Here is an example of what it looks like under the ground.

 Ours is powered by electric but some of the villagers pump it by hand. The pumps look a little like this one (ours is painted black though and a little shinier). 

Many of the people here actually prefer mains water and say it's safer than mains water which they say tastes funny and is often heavily chlorinated. When we used to have a flat with mains water, sometimes the water used to come out less than crystal clear.

 I can't imagine drinking the well water without a filter but which one to buy? I had no idea how safe our well water was but curiosity got the better of me so I purchased one of these Well Testing Kits. I've asked on lots of forums in the past where I can get water tested but nobody seemed to know until a lady from Alexandria suggested I get a testing kit.

The test comes with test strips and vials and tests for the top 10 most common contaminants. This photo is of the box and details the contaminants as well as the implications to your health and white goods if your water contains them. It's a little scary especially when you realised that many of these contaminants will not just disappear during the boiling process.

Now prior to this test I have to confess to being a bit ignorant about water quality. I've often been guilty of thinking "Hey! If it doesn't give me a dose of Tuts's revenge it must be ok?" Even though I never put it to the test...

So, I, Ruby T unleashed my inner scientist and got testing. Would the villagers be right? Would the water be safe to drink? Or would it have any hidden nasties? What do you think? Here are the results.

First up, Bacteria. Now this one was great to do. The vial has Bacteria Growth powder in, you add a water sample then leave it in a warm place for 48 hours. If after this time span it remains purple it is Bacteria free, if it turns yellow it contains Bacteria and needs further testing to ascertain what Bacteria it is. is my sample after 48 hours

Bacteria Vial - Free of bacteria!!

Yes, still a lovely shade of Purple which indicates it's Bacteria free. Phew! I'm relieved about that one I can tell you.

Next up, Lead and Pesticides. A negative reading for lead and pesticides is indicated when there is either no line near the number two on each strip or the line is fainter than the line nearer the number one.  Here goes...

Bingo! Yes, a negative reading yet again. This is getting fun isn't it?

Next up we have Ph and water hardness. Now I know we have a bit of a problem with limescale which doesn't have health implications but does have an impact on your white goods, taps and showers when you get a build up. Plus I'm always descaling everything. So I wasn't expecting to do to well on this one. Here are the results...

Yes as expected, the levels of hardness of pretty high, but in regards to health the chlorine levels are well within the safe range (set by EPA a US based Environmental Agency).

Next up, the Nitrate test which as you can see was yet another good result for "The Orange Grove" well :-)

Finally, last up we have the Iron test...

Yes, the results were "well" within the safe range, so it looks like the Villagers were right, the results are pretty good!

We're still going to get a water filter for our drinking water but I have to say, I'm pretty happy with these results.