Wednesday, 31 December 2008

My 10 New Year Resolutions

It is that time of the year, a time of reviewing the last year, all the good and the mistakes and thinking of ways I could have done better. Having read Gavins recent post I feel an urgent need for the emphasis on greener ways of living our life here at Catzscorner.

1) Most important to me now is my faith. An important part of respecting myself is to respect my beliefs and I know that I must put God first, no more half hearted attendance at our local church, my faith is strong but my commitment has been weak. I can use my illness and often do when energy is low, to excuse myself, but for me it is not enough, I need the company of others.

2) Looking after myself so that I am well enough to look after others. I must lose some weight and get fitter. I know not to "boom and bust" so will pace but "up the anti" and increase slowly the distance I cover when out for walks. I will improve my diet - out will go overly sugary/salty/fatty foods and in will come more fresh produce and more pulses/protein etc., Most of all I will look after my inner child and remember to have some fun along the way!

3) Reduce, reuse and recycle - We already recycle a fair bit as our local council is pretty well organised on this topic with regular collections of paper, cardboard, glass, tins, plastic and compostable materials. The rest I must educate myself in, we use the string from the organic box deliveries in the garden and for parcels, jam jars are re used for home made preserves but I can do more. I can stop buying books and magazines (new ones anyway) I can reduce the amount of plastic coming into the house, if I need food containers use pyrex.

4) Seriously de-clutter the house, using some wonderful advice from the lovely frugal trenches, I shall get this under control this year, I could either sell on ebay, amazon or send to the charity shops all the things I no longer have a use for.

5) Get the bottom of the garden sorted out and put in those veg beds and some fruit bushes. The vegetables I did grow were a great start this year - courgettes, potatoes, herbs, tomatoes, runner beans and spinach, which helped reduce our food spend and enabled me to reduce our veg box order from weekly to fortnightly.

6) Plan and stick to a tighter budget, as it will be the only way to gain the money for our 10% overpay on the mortgage next year. We need to see where the money is going and to plug any holes.

7) To stop any unnecessary shopping - it is not a healthy past time now and never was! So no more magazines, new books, sweeties (we all have sweet teeth here). I have already reduced clothing shopping as I need to lose weight (for the wedding) and so will buy what I need from the charity shops.

8) Reduce our fuel usage, we already have a £90 credit on our gas and electric bill, so our cutting back has made a difference already! Cutting back on my car usage will be the next step! When I was working I could justify this, when I was newly ill with cfs and couldn't walk very far without a stick, I could justify this! but now I will use my, car boot sale bargain, shopping trolley to get to our local Aldi for the bits we need. The shopping trolley even has a built in fold down seat, just the thing if I start to tire before I can get home! :-) Maybe if we have a good bus service (something else to look into) I can get rid of the car!

9) Volunteer - even if just once a week, I have been asked if I would like to help our local hospice by doing a shift of sorting goods at the warehouse. Sounds like a good use of time if my energy allows. I would also like to try some fundraising of some sort, for a couple of my favourite charities, most charities are going to suffer a loss of sponsorship in this economic climate and as a result will struggle. I can't fill the void made by that but they say every little helps!

10) Me time! Mum used to remind me to make time for me, even if only 1 hour a day for a hobby of some sort. Time to get the sewing machine back out!

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! Wishing you peace, health and happiness

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Turkey a la King recipe

For the last 30 odd years, this is one of the regular ways we have used up the leftover Christmas turkey! If I have enough turkey I make double the quantity and freeze some away for a later treat. It is Mr C's fav after Christmas meal and I would be in a ton of trouble if I didn't have a good excuse for not making it! Seriously it is yummy, can be made with chicken instead and we use both paprika and nutmeg together. Anyway as requested here is the recipe taken from my very old Good Housekeeping Book - a brilliant cookbook I would be lost without!

Turkey a la King

50g/2oz butter
100g/4oz sliced mushrooms
½ green pepper, chopped
40g/1 ½ oz flour
400ml/ ¾ pint milk or milk and chicken stock mixed together
225 -350g/8 – 12oz diced cooked turkey
Salt and pepper
Paprika or ground nutmeg
15-30ml (1 – 2 tablespoons) sherry (optional)

Melt the butter and fry the mushrooms and pepper until soft.

Stir in the flour, cook for 2 – 3 minutes, remove from the heat and stir in the milk/stock gradually.

Bring the sauce to the boil and continue to stir until it thickens.

Add the turkey and season to taste.

Add the sherry if using.

Serve with boiled rice or noodles.

I have managed to freeze this but stir while de-frosting to stop it splitting.

Our daughter is starting to feel a bit better now, the pain is still there but easier to deal with. Thank goodness for anti-biotics. She has also managed to get some yogurt down her to conteract the ab's side effects. She is still very drained and weak so it will be a quiet New Year around here. We still have so much to be thankful for though. The news is appalling isn't it? All those deaths over the Gaza strip. I pray for peace and would encourage everyone to do the same, if prayer is not your thing then positive thinking as I truly believe in the power of positive thoughts.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Return of the Christmas Curse!

Sorry folks but it has struck us again! This time last year our daughter suffered a huge hemiplegic migraine attack and the start of a very worrying period for us all, while she had appointments and an MRI scan to check that nothing more sinister was going on. On previous Christmas's she has had mumps (at the age of 21 when it was doing the rounds of the universities in the uk, heartbreaks, horrible colds etc etc., This year found us dashing to the emergency department of our local hospital after a niggling toothache developed very quickly into something far worse! Poor girl has a very bad dental abcess. Even after a day on very strong anti-biotics prescribed by the emergency doctor, she still started to run a very high fever and was very sick.

Yesterday was spent bathing her with cold flannels (my Mum was a nurse and taught me how to do this to bring down a temperature safely) and trying to get painkillers and anti-biotics to stay down. Today, with her temperature down, we got her to the dentist, who confirmed the diagnosis and gave her stronger painkillers so that she can get some much needed sleep at last. The anti-biotics are kicking in, she is still in pain but the swelling is coming down and she has managed some of my home made cream of turkey soup (and kept it down). She is asleep now thank goodness. In 2 weeks time, after the anti-biotics have reduced the size of the abcess, she will have to go back to have the tooth extracted as it has already been root canal filled and crowned, unfortunately the infection is too severe for the tooth to be saved.

Thank you so much for the good wishes for her, it helped to see your posts when I took a break from nursing her. Today has been a quiet day with all of us recovering, I have caught up with some ironing (while watching Jane Austins "Emma" on tv) and made some soup and have turkey a la king to make up for Mr C (his favourite meal) Mr C bought some yogurts for our daughter, as she needs soft food
for a while (does that expense count as medical?) Mr C has just said that he will cover it, along with a magazine he bought her, so that my limited budget survives a bit longer. :)

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Dents in the allowance already!

Day 2 of my using it up/store cupboard challenge and I have spent some of my £50 allowance already. I intended to stay away from the shops but my daughter has, over the Christmas period, developed raging toothache, so with a long wait until we can get any medical help, we visited Sainsburys as they have a pharmacist, on her advice we now have some more effective painkillers and some oil of cloves to take the edge off the pain. I suspect she has an abcess though, as nothing is really touching it, so we will be off to the hospital later for a late appointment having phoned the emergency number for help. Isn't it just typical that something like this happens over the holidays? Poor girl hasn't been in this much pain since having mumps while at uni! Can you get Mumps again?

While at Sainsburys I hurridly grabbed some meat bargains, not what I expected, all the turkeys had gone but 4 packs of lean braising/casserole steak, reduced to half price so £6.46 instead of £13 and this will make up casseroles for 8 meals by my reckoning, 6 if our daughter joins us.

Earlier today for lunch, we had more of the cheese selection we were given as a gift, with salad, crackers and fruit. This evening we will be having some of the saved beef slices in gravy with roast potatoes and parsnips, steamed carrots and broccoli and yorkshire pudding in the remoska, followed by leftover Christmas pudding and brandy butter. All from stores. Daughter will be having soft food in the form of mash, gravy and some vegetables. Fingers crossed she gets some anti biotics soon!

Total spend so far £6.46
Money left for storecupboard challenge £43.54

Friday, 26 December 2008

Christmas leftovers

Sorry I have been missing for a while but our main computer has been playing up! So it's back to the laptop and very little choice of photos for now! Hopefully we can get it fixed soon.

Hope you all had a lovely and peaceful Christmas, we certainly did. I actually got to Midnight Mass this year and then to the Christmas day morning service with my daughter. It was lovely and a welcome salve to the craziness of the shopping centres, which I avoided as much as I could this time around. Despite making a fair bit at home (mincemeat, puddings, cake, cookies and sweets) we still bought in far too much food, although less than in other years, but I have a plan for using it all up over the next month! I am going to do another month on a £50 food shopping challenge and make the Christmas leftovers and what is in store feed us until next payday.

I have made a good start, for brunch we had boxing day frittata - gently fried chopped onion, garlic and chilli in olive oil until soft, add sliced leftover cooked sausages and bacon (pigs in blankets) cooked turkey, stuffing, cranberries, roast potato and parsnip. When all is warmed through and sizzling hot pour over 4 beaten eggs. Cook until set. We used the remoska lid over the frying pan to help set the top as our frying pan has the wrong kind of handle for putting under the grill. This fed 3 of us nicely. For tea we had some of our cheese supply (a welcome present) with home made cheese biscuits, grapes, clementines, a glass of a lovely red wine and some home-made iced cookies.

The turkey has been stripped of all the meat (enough for turkey a la king for 4, curry for 4, several sandwiches and salads and the remains have been slowcooked today producing 3 jugs of stock and yet another dish of meat to add to some soup. I still have 3 platters of cooked sliced meat in the fridge and thanks to Shirley Goode's advice, our freezer now holds 5 pkts of beef slices and 4 pkts of ham (Nigellas ham in coke recipe cooked by daughter) so plenty for packed lunches or future easy roast dinners or adding to pasta/rice meals. Our son will be with us tomorrow so we will use some of the beef slices and have a roast beef dinner with yorkshire pudding made in the Remoska.

Tomorrow I also have sausage meat to deal with as an extra packet got defrosted by mistake, so will need to cook that (another sausage pie I think) in order to put back into the freezer. The first sausage meat pie has yet to be cut into!

I want to try to avoid buying much new, even with the sales on my heart just isn't in to shopping, it feels wrong at the moment and besides as far as clothing is concerned I really need to lose a bit of weight first as I am feeling very unfit, charity shops will do just fine until then. I will just have to make do with what I have, I did get the Make do and Mend book for Christmas which I am loving as it also has advice for fuel saving as will as sewing and darning advice.

Off now for a long soak in the bath to enjoy the lovely Sanctuary gift set Mr C bought me for Christmas!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Happy Birthday Mum!

Today is the shortest day of the year! It was also my dear Mums birthday so I could never forget it! Co-incidentally, my Grandads (Mums Dad) birthday was on 21st June, the longest day of the year!

Mum was born close to Christmas 1919 - 1 year on from the end of the first world war when times were very hard for folk. I just love this photo of her as a little girl, and the wonderful outfits the surrounding people are wearing. I believe it was taken in Brighton about 1922 (which was the year my Dad war born!) She must have seen some incredible changes in her lifetime. Christmastime would have been a much simpler time with not a lot in her stocking, perhaps a homemade toy an orange and some nuts. I wonder what she would make of all the stuff we now expect to have at Christmas.

Today is also Yuletide, so Happy Yuletide Greetings to those of you who celebrate! From now on the days will get longer again and lighter. Definately worth celebrating that!

This morning we went to visit our son and his wife to be, so that we could swap presents as this will be the first Christmas he won't be with us! He is off to spend Christmas with his future in laws this year. They will be joining us for a couple of days after Christmas. Our daughter will be here though to keep Penny occupied!

We are off to Church now for the Nine lessons and carols service, which I love! If I don't get back to the computer soon - Happy Christmas!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Our tree of memories!

No particular style but lots of wonderful memories. I love our tree! All of the ornaments have been collected over the years and each holds a memory! Do you have a particular colour scheme for your tree? We mainly stick to red, green and gold these days but multi colour lights soon change that effect! :)

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Christmas 1970

De-cluttering ready for Christmas visitors, I have found some treasure! A 1970 christmas Issue of Family Circle, one of my Mums favourite magazines. Note the 2 prices, one in old money and one in decimal currency (the new currency came in April the following year,I think) I was 14 years old when this issue came out and can remember making the flowers (number 7) (from plastic cups) when I was in girl guides! Very easy to make, you just cut slits part way down the side of the cups and curl the strips over a ruler (like curling ribbon) and then decorate. Of course we all try to avoid having plastic cups now, but if you have any and need some decorations this could be the answer! The fashion page certainly dates me as I can remember clothing like that being worn. An only slightly older friend of mine still has a very similar blue trouser suit! It has (like my friend) worn well!

Please excuse the photos all grouped together, I am having trouble with blogger uploading the photos - just comes up as rows and rows of type on my input page! Not sure why?

Monday, 15 December 2008

Fingerless mitts

I've finished! They are so snug and warm and now I can sit at the computer and type with very little pain so I am very pleased! Thank you for the instructions Elizabeth!
They were so easy to knit up - on size 4.5mm needles cast on 36 stitches, knit 2 purl 2 rib for about 8 inches, cast off and sew up the seams leaving a gap for the thumb. I have enough wool left so I think I might make another pair up for a friend of mine.

Tagged back to the 40's

Well I have been tagged by SharonJ for the 6th photo from my 6th folder and this is what I found! The above picture was taken a couple of summers ago at Plotlands, Laindon in the bedroom of the only remaining 1940's bungalow. It was wonderful to see all those sewing bits and bods just like Mum and Nana used to have. Thanks Sharon for a lovely reminder of a very enjoyable day!

I must now go and tag another 6 blogs:-

Making good Use

a new blog from a fellow MSE old styler - lots of advice on growing veg without digging up your garden

Move to Portugal

At the Good Life

Home matters most

Nostalgia at the stone house a beautiful blog with the most lovely photos!

Friday, 12 December 2008

Christmas tagging and Shopping madness

I used to spend a pretty penny on gift tags at Christmas but this year I had a go at making some from bits (card and cord) I already had (kicking off my using it up plan). My sister sent the stamped images for me, to start me off and some lovely papers for some card making. I have to admit the bit I enjoyed the most was the colouring in :) The above are just a few of the end product, also made a few snowmen tags. Nothing grand but perfectly usable.

This has however distracted me from a few other tasks that need doing, like writing and posting cards, wrapping presents, baking, tidying up the house ect., etc.

I am determined not to get caught up in the Christmas panic that descends on almost everyone and to that end I am avoiding our town centre as much as possible this month. I didn't go to the Woolworths sale and am glad of that, I have heard some awful tales of customers being rude and abusing the poor staff, who are, after all, losing their jobs and I am sure would rather not be there, no Christmas spirit there then! Years ago I remember taking my teenage son (bless him) Christmas shopping with me to a well known supermarket, on Christmas Eve. We could not believe the bad behaviour of our fellow man, pushing and shoving, knocking people flying, somehow we found our sense of humour (maybe craziness was setting in) and starting singing Bing Crosbys "It's beginning to look a bit like Christmas" as we finished our shopping! Yes we did get a few strange looks but also some smiles from equally bewildered shoppers!

I have managed to order a Christmas fruit and vegetable box from Abel and Cole and while I was at it, some dairy products. Going to ask a very good friend to get me a turkey torpedo in (cooks up a treat in the slow cooker). It all helps to keep me away from the madness!

Remember to take time out to enjoy the season and de-stress!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Frosty and unsettled

Brrr! It is very cold here and rather frosty! Penny is going to be feeling it on our walk today. The first heavy frost had her shaking her little paws in puzzlement at this new sensation COLD! Maybe I should get her a coat if she would keep it on! :) Me I dress up like the Mitchellin man, with so many layers on I can hardly move! and none of them match! I look a sight but I am toasty warm!

Is anyone else feeling unsettled at the moment? or is it just me? I usually love this time of year and throw myself whole heartedly (energy allowing) into all the preparation for Christmas. This year is different though!

Of course it could be my daughters redundancy. It is heartbreaking to see her so upset about that. It has, of course, brought home to us just how much trouble this country and others are in at the moment. There is also the worry of how many more jobs will go, will it be Mr C next? We are now holding back on the next overpayment on the mortgage, just in case.

This time last year we had a plan, which is amazing in itself, before we just used to drift on through life and hope for the best! Now I am wondering if we need to change the plan? I need to decide and focus on a newly tweaked plan. Then I can get back to preparing for Christmas!

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Christmas Past and lessons learnt

The bauble in the above photo is the very first one Mr C and I bought together! It has survived 3 house moves, 2 children, 7 cats, 2 dogs and is still in one piece!

Christmas memories over the years are so very precious, more so as you get older. Ever since buying that first little bauble, we have made it a tradition to get a new little ornament for the tree each year. After 32 years of marriage, we now have quite a collection! Each one holds its own sweet memory. That very first one was bought in Woolworths (sadly in administration now) back in 1975, we were young, newly engaged and had very little money but we did have our dreams of what we hoped our future would be and that bauble, we knew, would be the first of many that we would buy with our future family.

How much our expectations of Christmas have changed! Our first few Christmas's were very frugal, the first year as new parents, we bought most of our little sons gifts secondhand! I am not sure when things changed but change they did. We soon found ourselves caught up in the panic and madness that overtakes the majority of us at this time of the year. We made the big mistake of taking on store cards in order to buy our children some super presents. Then we had the lean months afterwards when paying the cards off became our reality.

Of course now we know better, or do we? We no longer have young children to buy for but we still want to make our loved ones happy this Christmas. How easy it would be to join the annual panic and buy, buy, buy! All that would achieve would be to put back paying down this years 10% off the mortgage. Luckily I have been collecting presents over the year (from ebay, charity shops, car boot sales, charity catalogues etc) it is not about how much we spend that matters, it is about the thought and time we have taken, that is what really matters. The Christian message is one of love and an unfrazzled Mum who can spend some quality loving time with her family has to be the best gift of all.

Wishing you all a stress free time preparing for your own Christmas celebrations.

Friday, 5 December 2008

We all want some figgy pudding!

I have finally made my Christmas Puddings! I used Delia's recipe as I am told that her recipes rarely go wrong! They haven't met me then! :) I haven't made Christmas puddings for more than 20 years as last time they went very wrong!

Fingers crossed this time. The quantity was for 1 x 2 pint pudding but I made a 1 pint, a 3/4 pint and had enough for a baby one which we will try out tonight!

The twine I used for the handles on the puddings has come from my stash of re-cycled Abel and Cole twine that comes tied around the organic box deliveries! Waste not want not! I might pretty them up with some Christmas fabric!

While rummaging through the kitchen for some greaseproof paper, I found tucked away in a little plastic box, these lovely little vintage Christmas cake decorations which I think I will use on the Christmas log cake this year.

Daughter and I have spent some quiet, down time together, cooking, walking Penny, making popcorn and watching some old Christmas movies, from my charity shop/car boot sale stash of videos, so far we have watched Santa Claus the Movie, National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, Love Actually, Its a Wonderful Life (with tissues at the ready) and we still have Miracle on 34th Street and The Snowman to watch! Very theraputic!

Thursday, 27 November 2008

I'm knitting my stress away!

I have picked up my knitting and inspired by Elizabeths post have started on a pair of fingerless mittens to keep my hands warm, this should reduce the pain, which is always worse in the cold, as well! The variegated wool has been hanging around long enough and this seemed to be the ideal way of using it. Anyway doing something positive helps me to de-stress about situations I can do nothing about!

The international and local news is pretty dire isn't it? The unthinkable happening in India and all those poor people suffering makes me want to despair of mankind.

Locally news of MFI (a self build furniture company) and Woolworths (a much loved store, over the years)going into administration and rumours of other stores in trouble is also very depressing. I think very soon there will be more of us affected by this than not. The dreaded redundancy has already hit this family. Soon our daughter will be typing out her updated cv and hoping for something as fulfilling as she had. If only a hug could make it all better!

Instead all we can do is pray/send positive thoughts out into the world, pay down our debts, reduce our outgoings and hunker down, making the most of what we have. What we have is still a lot compared to a lot of the world and I am eternally grateful for that. Sponsoring a child helps to remind us of that and that is one expense that we shall keep on to the last!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Eggless, Fatless Chirstmas Cake!

I was given this recipe by my friends Dad who was diabetic, it is also sugar free but as I add a bit of alcohol mine isn't. It makes a great alternative for the usual richer Christmas cake recipes. It also freezes well.

Here is the recipe:-

6oz Brown flour
3 teaspoons Baking powder
2oz Ground almonds
2 teaspoons Mixed spice
1lb Mixed fruit
4oz Dates
4oz Apricots
Grated rind of an orange or lemon
1/2 pint water (for a Christmas cake, I substitute half the water for Contreau)
2 tablespoons orange juice

Soak the fruit overnight in the liquid. Add the dry ingredients, stirring well, add a little more liquid if needed to give a stiff dropping consistency.

Bake in a lined 2lb loaf tin for approx 1+1/2 hours at 160c, covering with some foil for the last 1/2 hour.

I am going to store mine for a while in greaseproof paper and feed a couple of times with some more contreau. Then I will cover it in marzipan and ice.

Soak the fruit overnight in the liquid

Add the dry ingredients and stir well

Bake in a lined 2lb loaf tin

Leave to cool before wrapping in greaseproof paper, ready to decorate. It looks a bit bumpy but that will soon even out when the marzipan is covering it!

I am trying to do something towards Christmas every day now but have still to make some cards! Most of the presents are bought, thanks mainly to ebay and charity shops/catalogues this year.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Christmas Mincemeat

I finally got around to making my mincemeat! I doubled the recipe and managed to get 7 jars of lovely whisky mincemeat for Christmas. Here is the recipe (which will make about 3-4 jars) if you would like to try it yourself:-

Home made Mincemeat

4oz currants
4oz raisins
2oz glace cherries
2oz candied peel
4oz cooking apples, peeled and cored
2oz walnuts
4oz shredded suet
8oz demerara sugar
1 level teaspoon mixed spice
Brandy, rum or whisky to mix

Mince or finely chop the fruit, peel, apples and nuts, I used the processor. Add the sugar, suet and spice and enough spirit to give a moist mixture. Stir well, leave covered for 2 days. Stir well again and pot into jars. Allow to mature for at least 2 weeks before using.

I can't wait to make those mincemeat pies now!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

I've been tagged!

I have been a bad blogger! Got a bit tied up with all the wedding plans, sounds great as it is going to be in a castle at Christmas, it is a hotel so we can stay there the night as well! Must save more pennies now! lol!

I have been tagged! Thank you SharonJ - never been tagged before! Here's my answers!

A - Z of Homemaking

A is for Aprons - yes/no? If yes, what’s your favourite?
I have several. One with a snowman on for Christmas, 1 vintage hand made pinny , my favorite one though is a little red patterned tabard, bought when my children were small and has so many wonderful memories of baking with my children attached to it.

B is for Baking - favourite thing to bake?
I love baking, most of it is edible! Lol! I guess I enjoy making cookies the most and love my copy of the American Woman’s Cook Book with it’s incredible cookie section.

My Mum had a copy of this (with older sister now) and we used to make refrigerator cookies together.

C is for Clothesline - do you have one?
Yes, one of those pull-out ones that I keep forgetting to pull back and put away afterwards. I also have a couple of indoor airers in regular use.

D is for Donuts - have you ever made them?
No never tried this, I try to avoid fried food as much as I can. I did hear that you could make them in the oven though!

E is for Every Day - one homemaking task you do every day.
I cook everyday,, very rarely get a day off from that one!

F is for Freezer - do you have a separate deep freeze?
Yes, in fact I have a fridge freezer and 2 deep freezers! One was given to us by our lovely neighbour. It mostly has produce from the garden in it.

G is for Garbage Disposal Unit - do you have one?
No, not really although Penny would love to apply for the vacancy. I compost as much as I can.

H is for Handbook - what’s your favourite homemaking resource?
The internet! Other than that the Dairy Book of Home management is very useful, my copy must be about 20years old now!

I is for Ironing - love or hate it?
Strangely I don’t mind it! I have bad circulation and ironing often warms me up. Different matter in the summer though! I love watching someone else do it though! Rare treat though that is!

J is for Junk Draw - yes/no? If yes, where is it?
Oh dear! Better make that plural! Mainly in the kitchen! Must get back to de-cluttering!

K is for Kitchen - colour and decorating scheme?
Buttermilk paint on walls, green, peach and cream tiles on wall and terracotta tile effect laminate on the floor. Light wood effect units with dark green worktops. My kitchen is very dark and needed warm colours.

L is for Love - what’s your favourite part of homemaking?
Sitting in a newly tidy living room with a freshly made tea tray (home made cake or cookies on a plate) on the coffee table.

M is for Mop - do you have one?
Yes it is the kind you pull a lever to squeeze out the water.

N is for Nylons - machine or hand wash?
Machine wash, I hate having them dripping all over the bathroom.

O is for Oven - do you use a window or open the oven door to check?
Although mine has a window, I do tend to open the door to check properly.

P is for Pizza - what do you put on yours?
Tomato pizza sauce, grated cheese and then anything that needs using up. Favourite would be ham and mushroom.

Q is for quiet - what do you do during the day when you get a quiet moment?
Surf (the net) or blog, read, craft work, make lists and talk to Penny!

R is for Recipe Card Box - yes/no? If yes, what does it look like?
I have the Marguerite Patten recipe card collection, bought many years ago on a monthly basis, when I was engaged. My daughter has bought me a recipe file book which I am trying to get all my favorite recipes into, it is bulging a bit now though!

S is Style of House - what style is your house?
Cluttered! But homely and cosy!

T is for Tableclothes - do you use them?
Yes I love them, I have a couple of vintage ones and one I won in a competition 10 years ago! Also a lovely Christmas one, with a holly print all over, bought in the Salvation Army charity shop!

U is for Under The Kitchen Sink - organised or toxic wasteland?
Fairly well organized, although a tad cluttered. It is where I keep my pyrex and mixing bowls. My cleaning stuff is kept in another cupboard.

V is for Vacuum - how many times a week?
If I had the energy I would vacumn every day but I don’t, so beware the dust bunnies!

It is as and when I can.

W is for Wash - how many loads of washing do you do each week?
I seem to average 1 a day! I am trying to keep it down by

doing some hand washing of delicates.

X’s - Do you keep a daily list of things to do that you cross off?
Yes I love lists!

Y is for Yard - who does what?
Y is for garden here, Mr C cuts the grass and digs where I ask and I plan, potter and weed etc.,

Zzzz’s - what’s the last homemaking task you do before bed in the evening?
Washing up and making sure the dog has enough water.

The meaning is to keep the chain going by sending this along to a few other bloggers to complete. If you’re on the following list, enjoy ;)

Elizabeth at Making Good Use
Jennifer at Home Matters Most
Arkonite at Arkonitebabe
Sharie at Sharies view to the Hill

Caroline at What's happening at my house

Please don't feel obliged to take up the tag. It's just for fun, after all.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Backward thinking!

The photo, at the top of the blog, was the view of the end of our garden, taken this summer, before the wanton destruction of those lovely trees! All for 2 huge half a million houses to be built on the land with tiny little gardens.

Am I alone in thinking that this is backward thinking? Surely as we approach peak oil (or are we there now?) we should be building smaller, more economical to heat, houses with larger gardens, so we can grow as much of our own food as possible! This would make so much more sense but people don't seem to see the signs, they want to live in the past with all it's wasteful, unpractical ways. Crazy world we live in!

If I had that sort of money to spend (sadly I don't) I would be buying in the countryside, an older property maybe, with open fires, a multi fuel range, insulation, solar panels, out houses and a big but managable garden with established fruit trees and room for a large vegetable garden and greenhouses!

Anyway I don't want to speak too soon but things have been quiet on the building site recently! One can only hope! Too late for the poor birds though!

Monday, 10 November 2008

Ahhhh! Hot Chocolate!

This was possibly the very best hot chocolate drink I have ever had! It even had cherry sauce poured over the cream! :) and a little Lindt chocolate on the saucer! Almost a year ago we visited the Cologne Christmas Markets with our family. It was very, very cold (like today in the uk) and we had just visited the Lindt Museum of chocolate (yum) and after braving the heat of the rush in the museum shop, had sat outside, not as bad as it sounds though!

- we had lovely red wool blankets over our knees and some heaters if required (I know not very green) we chose hot chocolate to drink as, after all, we were in Lindt chocolate heaven!

Today it's cold and very wet here in the uk, Penny and I were soaking wet when we came in from our walk. It's a worrying day as well as my friend is very poorly so I've been feeling a tad down. What is a soaking wet, cold and down in the dumps girl (well all right middle aged lass) to do? Towel down the dog, get changed into dry clothes and make an old fashioned lovely hot mug of chocolate! (Hot chocolate Horlicks made with Soya milk in my case) Warms your hands and comforts the soul! Highly recommended! I didn't have any posh choc to hand but found some chocolate scrapings, from when I last melted some chocolate, to sprinkle on the top! I save everything! lol!

Hope you are all managing to stay warm and dry!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

New beginnings mean new challenges!

It's been an exciting week at Catz's Corner! Our son and his lovely girlfriend have become engaged! He even (in a cold and frosty London park) got down on one knee with the ring, who would have thought our lad could be so romantic? A winter wedding, in the north, next year is planned.

It is all very exciting but also means the budget will have to be pulled in a notch, so that we can have a worry free celebration. We will have to travel north and book into a hotel etc., and we would like to contribute something towards the costs but not sure really these days what the grooms family are responsible for. We will have to do some research and then diplomatically offer if we can.

We nabbed a bit back from our savings this week to cover the cost of some amazing lovers (they cuddle!) lead cystal decanters, as an engagement present, so that has contributed to their bottom draw collection.

To kick off the new tighter budget I have started a store cupboard challenge for this month, still getting the organic deliveries and any fresh needs (not wants) to the total of £50 only for 2.5 of us! Miss C is only really with us for a few days of the week and Penny's food lasts a long time, so unusual for a spaniel type dog!

I have plenty of flour, oil, butter in freezer, lentils, oats, sugar, chickpeas, beans, tinned tomatoes, potatoes, 1 froz joint pork, 1froz med chicken, some froz pollack, salmon, loads of frozen vegetables from the garden, powdered milk, rice, pasta, tuna and tinned fruit.

Yesterday I made the first "storecupboard" meal which was very tasty and would suit vegetarians and vegans but still kept my meat eating hubby happy:-

Curried Red Lentil Soup

1/2 medium peeled and chopped onion (from veg box)
2 tablespoons oil (used olive oil)
1 chopped garlic clove (from neighbours home grown supply)
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger (I used a tsp of lazy ginger from larder)
1 + 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup of rinsed red lentils (from big bag in larder)
1 + 1/4 cups water
3 cups of stock (I used home made chicken stock but vegetable would be good too)
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (I used some tinned plum ones)
Fresh lemon juice to taste (jif bottled juice worked)
seasoning to taste

In a large saucepan, cook the onion in the oil stirring until golden brown

Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds, stirring the whole time

Add the rinsed lentils (I also soaked them for 1 hour) with the measured water and stock

Bring the liquid to the boil and simmer, covered for 25 minutes - once ready to simmer I transferred all to the slow cooker and left it to it's own devices for the afternoon.

Stir in the tomatoes and simmer for a couple of minutes.

Add the lemon juice and seasoning and serve with lovely thick slices of home made bread.

This makes a lovely thick and spicy soup, loads left for today as well :)

Now I must find some chickpea recipes!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Re-cycling success!

A habit can take a while to kick in but it looks like re-cycling has definately kicked in here in our town!

A year ago when Penny, our dog, first joined our family, our walks used to be eventful in many ways. One being the dreaded wheelie rubbish bins! She was terrified of them! Often they were loaded to the brimful and impossible to close the lids down on them. There were also, around many of them, lots of surplus rubbish in black plastic rubbish sacks, fluttering in the breeze. Now to a small puppy these were monsters to be feared, you never knew when they might jump out at a young pup! :)

One year on and all is very different! Our walks are peaceful now! On Wheelie bin collection day the bins remain tightly shut and no surplus rubbish sacks hang around on street corners to frighten a young innocent pup. On re-cycling days most folk leave out their boxes of cans and bottles and bags of cardboard, papers and plastic bottles.

Yes a definate success story!

Monday, 27 October 2008

Staying Calm

Without going into too much detail, I have to calm down, my blood pressure is high and soon I will have a 24 hour monitor fitted to see what is going on (could be a family problem as older sister is on medication for high bp). In the meantime I have undertaken other measures to bring it down.

I am not alone with this problem, I know that, there must be a lot of folk who are worrying and that worry is affecting their health, so I wondered how much of it may be down to the media hype coverage of the recent global financial problems. We now have 24/7 (hate that term) news broadcasts into our homes. It is on the television, the radio and online news pages. there seems to be no escape from it! There are, however, ways to deal with it and not get stressed.

We could just switch off the news, but I feel reluctant to do that as we do need, to some extent, to be kept informed. Instead I check in online and read through the headlines, then if I don't see a need to read further, I switch off and get on with other more relaxing things. Here, and not in any particular order, are my top 10 ways of calming down:-

1) Meditation/Hypno cd's - when my doctor takes my blood pressure he tells me to close my eyes and imagine I am on my favourite beach, I find it is always the one from my childhood holidays when we lived in Singapore, so waving palm trees, heat, bucket and spades and sand figure. It seems to help and to top up I have Paul Mackenna on cd

2) Music - Whatever is your favourite but it must be relaxing. My personal favourite is my Menorcan Caves Chill out music which Mr C dislikes lol! so I have to play that when he is out. Also love my Enya cds.

3) Go for a walk - with a dog in the family this is a must anyway but I do try to enjoy the experience. This time of year the leaves on the trees are changing colour and are beautiful. Plenty of leaves on the ground right now so if you are really fed up you could kick your way through a few. Be careful though that you aren't going to be disturbing hedgehogs etc. Shallow piles of leaves only. Breath deeply if the air is good and make the most of any sunshine for the vitamin D, yes I know highly unlikely in Britain lol!

4) Garden - If you have one, even 5 minutes a day out there makes you appreciate how wonderful nature is. Listen to the birds and realise life carries on just the same for them, recession or no recession. We could learn from them. Other than in church I feel so close to God in the garden.

5) Get in the Kitchen - Not as a chore, but as a valuable resource for producing healthy and tasty food. I have a chair in there and sit with a notepad and pen and cuppa and make my lists. I enjoy cooking, so the kitchen is a happy place for me, I feel by taking control in there, I am doing something positive about my health and finances.

6) Create something - knitting and sewing are valuable skills, will save you money and give you a real feel good factor when you look at your creation. I am not particularily talented at either but still enjoy doing both.

7) Clear some clutter - I am the worlds worse at throwing "stuff" out, possibly because I was brought up by a very resourceful Mum who started out her married life just at the end of WWII while rationing was with us. I do visit here for inspiration though. Whenever a bag leaves the house, either for the bin or a charity shop, I feel great!

8) Exercise gently - easy for some but not for everyone. Health issues can restrict what you do but it is important to try. My daughter bought me some pilates yoga balls to exercise my upper arms with and I can do this while sitting down. We also bought an exercise bike when it was reduced to half price and I use this sometimes, on the lowest setting though for now. Hopefully this will make up for giving up the gym membership. Maybe one day I will be fit enough to get the old push bike out!

9) Friends - Time spent with good friends who encourage you and share the good (and bad) times and laughter are so very good, possibly our best resource in these worrying times.

10) Taking control - of your finances, your health (as much as possible), your food, processing your own food leaves you less vulnerable, it means I can cut my intake of salt considerably, and it all adds up to less stress.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Keeping warm - Lap quilts from the junk pile

Sorry I have been away for a while, I needed to recuperate from the pleurisy and damaged chest cartilege and also get used to a new low salt diet. All is well, I managed to walk Penny all the way around the field today which is a first for quite a while. I am now very determined to improve my fitness levels as they are so very bad :( Anyway apart from lots of reading, this is what I have been up to today,

Making lap quilts from junk

Well almost junk! This tatty old double quilt was destined for the bin, surplus to requirements since Miss C moved back in and used the better quilt that we already had for her bed. Thanks to Moneysaving Experts Old style board, an excellent resource for all those trying to save money at home, I found this idea for how to keep warm on a tight budget. First I cut the quilt in 2 lengthways (a single duvet cover will then be the right length and you will only have to adjust the width)- this also means that after I have finished the sewing they will fit into my washing machine for a good old clean. I then overlocked the edges of the duvet on my sewing machine.

Then I found 2 old single duvet covers no longer required, after measuring for the lap quilts, I cut off the surplus material, leaving enough for generous seam allowances.

I turned the cut down duvet covers inside out, pinned and overlocked the edges

Just don't look too closely at the stitching, lol! So long as the stitching holds it will do as it will be out of sight. turn the covers right side out and fill with the 2 small lap quilts.

Really easy and lovely and warm on the arm chair, 1 under and 1 over! Unless Mr C insists on one! :)

I have two of these lengths left over, cushion covers?

Thursday, 16 October 2008

How lovely!

How lovely and thoughtful! This lovely package was popped in amongst my post today. Imagine my delight when I opened the beautifully wrapped parcel (I love the label Elizabeth!) and I found this lovely pretty flower pin! Thank you Elizabeth, I have always admired your flower pins and the colour is gorgeous, a favourite of mine.

It was very kind of you to think of me! I feel thoroughly spoiled now and can't wait until I am well enough to go out with it pinned onto my coat to show it off!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Organic box delivery

Loads of curly kale
1/2 dozen organic eggs

We have leftover chicken casserole tonight with mash, runner beans (from garden) and steamed curly kale.

I treated myself to an old fashioned 3 tier steamer today so the kale was cooked above the potatoes. Mum gave me an electric steamer many years ago, which has been used a lot, but now, like many other folk, I have to cut back on fuel usage so this will get a lot of use.

Not sure what to do with the aubergine as I have to cut back my salt intake dramatically owing to high blood pressure, we love moussaka (made with soya mince) so may have a go at that without salting the aubergine slices.

More bananas means lovely warming bananas and hot custard yum! and easy too!

The apples will go into an apple crumble cake, a really easy Delia Smith recipe

Make a plain victoria sponge mix and put into a greased cake tin. Peel and thinly slice a large apple and lay over the top of the sponge cake mix. Make a crumble mix (4ox plain flour, 2oz marge/butter, 2oz sugar) and sprinkle over the top. A small sprinkling of cinnamon mixed into the crumble mix is wonderful. Cook in a moderate oven 180C - test with a skewer until it comes out clean.
Serve on its own or with custard.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Help is at hand!

There is a new blog on the block started by Rhonda Jean over at Down to Earth, Rhonda and several other excellent bloggers from around the world, who are part of the simple living arena including our own uk based Frugal Trenches, are going to be adding pieces to help us through these uncertain times.

I was so pleased to discover this important resource, as I no longer have my Mum to ask, boy would she have been good to have around right now, she grew up during the depression years, married at the end of the war, had her babies during the rationing years and was a superb manager on very low funds. There was no such thing as unplanned leftovers in her kitchen either, surplus vegetables became soup, the odd spoonful or two of curry became some tasty curry puffs, stale bread was transformed into bread and butter pudding, 1 egg fed the whole family when she made Poor knights pudding - basically jam sandwiches dipped in one egg batter and fried with a little bit of sugar sprinkled on the top!

Something else I must do is get back to sewing, once I made a beach wrap from an old bath towel and a smock dress (it was the 70's and height of fashion at the time lol) from one of my aunts 1950's dirndil (very full) skirts. Mum would never buy new material if there was something around that could be re-purposed! Once she even made our winter coats from old army blankets! Even our old terry towelling nappies were sewn up with a bit of elastic at the top, into "training pants". For knitting, our old jumpers were taken apart, unravelled, the wool washed, dried, re-wound and knitted up into other items of clothing or toys. She did all of this without us ever feeling poor or that we were missing out and in their later years they managed to buy their own house and collect a few nice pieces of furniture, always by saving up the money, they were very wary of getting into debt. You can see why I would love to have her around right now can't you!

To Spay or not to spay that is the question!

This little cutie is Penny our cockapoo at just 3 weeks old! She was initially booked by someone else and they cancelled! Can you believe it? I think it might have been because her markings aren't so desirable! So we stepped in. Their loss is our gain, she is so cute and has since grown into a lovely affectionate pet and companion. We have to make a decision soon as to whether or not to have her spayed - a sensible move we feel as the "local lads" are getting a tad friendly! Now if one of the local lads was another lovable cockapoo it would be very tempting - our vetinary nurse and Penny's groomer have both expressed an interest if she has puppies because of her wonderful temperament, also we would love to keep one for ourselves and for Penny. We have bought various books and I remember my Nana bred airedales and red setters but I have no experience in these matters. Mr C really wants her to have a litter but I am holding back, possibly not just my lack of experience here but also we are living in uncertain times financially, it feels a bit irresponsible really if you understand what I mean.

I have also been reading that already there are lovely dogs out there needing homes because of the global financial crisis and that is heartbreaking. Perhaps we could give a poodle/doodle dog a home? Yes I think I have made the right decision - she should be spayed! and soon!

In the meantime I am still in pain, seems like the antibiotics haven't worked :( so I guess I had better go see the dr again soon as possible. Hope you are all coping with the latest "interesting" developments, wasn't the expression "May you live in interesting times" meant as a curse? Chin up everyone, my Dad used to say "worse happens at sea" well he was in the merchant navy during WWII. Thank goodness we have cleared most of our debt (just the mortgage left now) and those of us who have started on the simple living way of life should be able to cope, I certainly pray that that is so.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Christmas Preparation Update 1

The photo above is of our tree last year, we don't have a theme just a lot of happy memories as each year I would take the children out to choose a tree decoration, (still do this with our daughter). Some of our tree decorations date back to my childhood! I think I will post photos of my favourites with each update. Don't worry all is still in the loft - I just took a lot of photos last year : )

As I mentioned before this year I intend to get organised and keep track of just how much Christmas is going to cost. We normally get through far too much money and like many others cannot afford to do that this year. Also this will give me something to focus on as the news regarding the global financial crisis is very depressing and this seems to be an excellent way of keeping control of part of my life. We are going to try for as traditional a Christmas as possible and just enjoy spending precious time with family and friends. I hope to be able to buy some fresh cranberries Christmas week to make our own sauce but have picked up a jar just in case as our daughter loves this in her sandwiches, so it won't be wasted.

So far I have finished knitting a scarf for my sister and as it is in lovely lavender and blue colours I have also tucked into it a lavender sachet (she loves lavender). I am finishing off a knitted dishcloth with a cat on (she also loves cats lol) and just need a couple of other little bits to add. So a lavender/cat theme going on there!

I have also started to knit a scarf for my brother in law in a lovely tweedy wool and will add some thermal socks and a wind up torch Mr C managed to pick up from Lidls today. Again a couple more little bits to add.

Present box:-

4 wind up torches from Lidl @ £3.99 - £ 15.96
Lavender sachet £ 1.50
Wool for scarf (lavender/blue) £ 3.00
wool for tweed scarf (charity shop buy) £ 1.00
1 eyemax solar/wind up torch/radio £20.00

I have enough in the pantry now to make a start on the mincemeat, home made mincemeat is lovely and much nicer than the overly sweet stuff the shops sell. Hope to get this done over the weekend if I can find the energy. I will add pics and recipe then as well.

Christmas cupboard now has:-

5 bags of Lidls choc coins @ £1 - £5.00
1 tin chestnut puree (for stuffing recipe) £1.75
1 jar cranberry sauce (dd loves this in sandwiches) £0.57

I learnt a very important lesson at Christmas many years ago, a friend was struggling financially and had no money to pay for Christmas that year. I had gone round to give her a huge bag of reduced items I had found at the supermarket on Christmas Eve and found that she and her 4 children were very happy and content. She had got the tree and decorations out from the loft the same as always and the children after helping her to decorate were having a lovely time playing with some board games they had found in the loft. Family and friends had made sure there were some presents under the tree and there was a chicken dinner ready to roast and some pound shop crackers on the table. She told me that you can't "cancel" Christmas it happens whether you have the money or not! What matters is quality time with family and remembering the true meaning of the season. I left feeling very humbled but wiser.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Who's that Pup?

Not a long post, just thought I would show you a photo of Penny our cockapoo after she has been to the groomer. Hard to recognise her but it had to be done to get rid of some matting. We are keeping her snuggled up with some fleece blankets to cuddle into until her wooly coat grows back in! Hopefully it won't take long! the groomer did a very good job (only cost £20) and said Penny was so very well behaved (our pup?) and had a lovely nature.

Still got some pain so I am off for another hot drink and to snuggle up myself with a hot water bottle and a fleecy blanket!

Friday, 3 October 2008

2 steps backwards can be a good thing!

Oh dear! Just when I thought I was getting better I developed a sharp pain on coughing and breathing in - Pleurisy! this bug is really not to be messed with. I have anti-biotics, painkillers and have been told to rest up, which is frustrating when I think of all that needs doing in the garden.

In the meantime I am back in bed and thinking! a lot! It has been quite a week with the global financial crisis playing out on our tv screens daily. With all the financial worries we are all facing this winter it makes sense to take some time out and re-evaluate our expenditure, this illness is maybe for me a blessing in disguise.

I have felt for a long time that most of us have forgotten what it is to appreciate what we have, replacing that with a longing for "stuff" we think (so the advertisers tell us) we need. Just before the Pleurisy struck I had been sorting out a couple of kitchen cupboards and have found, cleaned and rearranged some treasures I had forgotten about. A lovely large roasting dish and rack (used only once), a vintage measuring jug, vintage pyrex, a colourful set of mixing bowls - all will be back in regular use as soon as I am back on my feet. I don't need to make an order from Lakeland, tempting though their catalogue is, I have had my "shopping fix" at home.

On sorting out the spare bedroom for our daughter moving back in, I found various balls of knitting yarn and some lovely and colourful remnants, including some Christmas prints so I now have to find some sewing and knitting projects, maybe to try to make some Christmas presents this year.

Christmas itself is not that far away and it wouldn't hurt to start to plan it now, not as a consumer panic buying bash but in an alternative way, home made and traditional, using thought rather than lots of cash. The family prefer home made cookies and cakes and there really is no need for the overfilled cupboards of ready made confectionery, apart of course from our traditional tin of quality street (hopefully bought at half price) which look lovely with cotton loops threaded on and hung on the tree instead of those very over-priced chocolate tree decorations the shops are full of. I will try to do a once a week review of my progress towards Christmas on a budget. One book I have at my bedside to read is "Trade Secrets Christmas" by Annie Ashworth and Meg Saunders ISBN 0 75284 4199 published by Orion in 2001 and full of tips for managing Christmas in a hassle free way. Of course Christmas is so much more than this as any Christian knows and remembering the true meaning and being together as a family will hopefully bring comfort and hope to many. Another great book is "Unplug the Christmas Machine" by Jo Robinson and Jean CoppockStaeheli ISBN 0 688 10961 6 - A complete guide to putting love and joy back into the season.

I make no apology for bringing up the subject of Christmas so early on, as the shops are already filling with all the goodies they want you to buy, the best way to cope and avoid more debt and despair is to plan ahead, read all you can and make all you can.

Right now to find that notepad and make a few more lists! lol!

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Octobers first organic box delivery

Now to menu plan!

Main courses
Tomato and courgette bake x 2 (1 for the freezer - lots of tomatoes from the garden))
Jacket potatoes with baked beans - 2 lunches
Steamed shredded cabbage with smoked bacon pieces & remoska baked sausages
Bubble and squeak (I have a large bag of potatoes as well) eggs & bacon rashers
Cream of vegetable soup 8 potions (4 to freeze) with home made bread
Courgette frittata

Apple Crumble
Bananas and custard
Fresh fruit salad in apple juice (from cooking apples for crumble)
Baked bananas in honey and orange juice
Trifle - will do 2 days
Apple batter pudding

Hopefully with a bit of padding out that should feed the 3 of us for the next week. I have taken to dishing up a small starter to take the edge of the appetites a bit. Toast and pate, home made blue cheese and garlic focaccia, soup, whatever I have in that needs using up really. Fingers crossed this cunning plan works!

Monday, 29 September 2008

Hello again!

Well that was fun!!! 1 week later still coughing but so much better now the temperature is down. Thank you for all the get well wishes!

I have learned a lesson the hard way though and that is "Be Prepared" crikey I was a girl guide for long enough! Anyway I can at least advise you all to stock up on your favourite cold cures, tissues, cough sweets and some ready meals (home made ones if you can) as the last thing we wanted to do was to cook from scratch. Hopefully you won't all go down with this (I hope not) it's not nice at all.

On the positive side I did get to read a really great simple living book "Driving over Lemons" by Chris Stewart, it just provided blissful escapism, you really feel you are in the Andalucia region of Spain and you can almost smell the sun ripened lemons, oranges, figs and olives that grow so profusely around that area.

Over the weekend our daughter moved back in with 3 carloads of belongings! Our washing machine is working it's little heart out, thank goodness we have had good drying weather. I suspect her move back home is the first of many for other youngsters her age, like many others she has a high amount of student debt and a graduate loan to pay down and it seemed to be the only answer, she is a sensible lass, has no credit cards, thank goodness and has realised that in the present climate things can only get worse if she stays in the city. She now has to work out a new budget that will allow her to snowball her debts and get clear, ready to begin again. The book that helped her to "see the light" was my tatty well thumbed copy of "Your Money or your Life" by Alvin Hall. This book was the one that did it for our son as well and he cleared over £20,000 of debt (student debt, grad loan etc) by using the snowball method. I am needless to say very proud of my grown up children!

Monday, 22 September 2008

Feeling yukky!

Well Mr C has been most generous and shared his cold bug so now we are both shivering under quilts! :(

Being ill is expensive as we are too poorly to cook much so some easy to prepare food has been bought in and of course night nurse,vick vapour rub, cough sweets and tissues! If only I had been better prepared and had emergency provisions in, we had food but it was all cook from scratch which isn't so easy to do when you are running a temperature! Something to think about when we feel better.

It might be a few days before I get back to blogging but I will try to look in on you when I can.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Thank goodness for soup!

Very easy to make and cheap too especially if most of the ingredients have come from the garden! The sweet potatoes and onions are from the veg delivery but the courgette, white potatoes and runner beans are from the veg garden.

I used to follow a recipe in order to make soup but now I have the gist of it I just judge if I have enough vegetables, peel and chop into chunks and throw into the slow cooker with about 1 and 1/2 pints of home made stock and some seasoning. Once all is tender I strain the veg with a little of the stock into the food processor and blitz until smooth. Then into a large saucepan and add the rest of the stock stirring well. Add a knob of butter and stir until melted and season to taste. A dash of milk later and you have cream of vegetable soup.

I added some cooked chicken to this batch and it was very soothing and comforting which was just as well as Mr C has sucumbed to the latest flu type bug that is doing the rounds. Even in the latest bit of sunshine he has been shivering under a quilt and is back sleeping it off in bed. fingers crossed the bug doesn't get me! I have been trying to keep up with the laundry just in case!

Friday, 19 September 2008

Last Harvest

I've brought in the last of the runner beans, leaving only the ones forming seed for next year, we have done so well with these and I have been slicing, blanching and freezing trayfuls every other day.

This is the last of the vegetables:-

The last pickings of runner beans

Just a few potatoes but it was fun digging them up - a bit like digging for treasure! We will grow more hopefully next year.

A large overgrown courgette/marrow lol - More chutney I think!

I brought the tomatoes in as the plants looked very unwell and needed to be cleared away, so green tomato chutney to make as well.

Not a large harvest but more than enough for our small family, we have full freezers and its been fun. Well certainly more fun than the financial news at the moment - quite a worrying week for the banks and their staff, I do feel for those staff who are losing their jobs. I am so lucky to be able to switch off from trying to understand "short selling" and "hedge funds" and to be able to go out and "smell the roses" and listen to bird song instead.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

This weeks organic box delivery

A huge bag of spinach, broccoli, carrots, spuds, 2 large onions, 5 oranges, 5 apples, 3 bananas and 6 organic free range eggs - total £12.85

The spinach was a nice suprise as I was expecting green kale as advertised online, now I can have a go at making that spinach, potato and chickpea curry. Everything else looks great and will keep well in the green lakeland stay fresh bags until I can use it up.

I am only getting a delivery every fortnight now and with all the produce from the garden am coping well. The freezers are full and it may be a while before I will find that I need to top up supplies.

The last 2 days have been no spend days so the total is now - NSD 8/15

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Really easy cheesy biscuits

I made a batch of these cheesy biscuits today and Mr C is already polishing them off pretty darn fast so I may have to make some more! I used a mix of 3oz cheddar and 1oz parmesan cheese as that was what needed to be used up but 4oz of just cheddar would be good. I managed to get 16 biscuits out of the following recipe:-

Easy Cheesy Biscuits

4oz/120g grated cheese
4oz/120g plain flour
4oz/120g butter or margarine
Cayenne pepper (go easy on this just a little pinch to begin with unless you like hot and spicy, you could leave it out or add italian herbs or black pepper instead.)

Mix together in a bowl all the ingredients until the dough is smooth, this may take a while using a spoon, using your clean hands to bring the mixture together works well.

Roll out on a floured board and cut into shapes.

Cook on a greased and floured baking sheet in a hot oven, I set mine at 180C, until golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack.

This is based on the recipe for cheese fingers from Elizabeth Wests "Kitchen in the hills" cookbook, one of my favourites.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Charity shop haul

Just thought that I should show you the result of Saturdays charity shop expedition. The lace jacket (to cover up the tops of my arms where age has definately taken it's toll, when I wear a sleeveless dress) it cost me £4 at the Help the Aged charity shop and I love it. The video "Miracle on 34th Street" a Christmas favourite 49p and the Mary Jane Staples paperbacks £1 each also from Help the Aged. The football books are a present for my son and cost £5 from our RSPCA charity shop. The purse and Tenko club paperback £1 from our Hospice shop. The butterfly coasters, which look great in the conservatory £1 and the candlestick £1 which will join the rest of my Christmas candlestick collection were found in the Cancer Research charity shop.

I found this amazing clock in the first shop for £3 and on getting it home we discovered that it plays various bird songs on each hour. This could get annoying later but we could take the batteries for the birdsongs out if that happens, in the meantime it is fun watching Penny trying to figure out where the noise is coming from! Even Mr C agreed that it looks good high up on the conservatory wall.

Total spend £19.49 - I put 10% of housekeeping and pocket money by into a charity shop fund so out of this month's £35, having already paid out on dd's to 2 local charities we support, I have £7.51 left to spend. Last month I had £27 left so will roll it all together (£34.51) and hope to get some bits for Christmas hampers next time.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

New beginnings!

As you can see I have been playing around with the layout, there were too many dots before my eyes with the old one! I am liking this one quite a lot! What do you think?

Talking of new beginnings, I am having to re-think a lot around here as in just two weeks time our daughter will be moving back in for a while! We need to de-clutter fast and thankfully I have a friend who works for a local charity and can take any useful clutter off my hands for a useful cause.

Next on the list is a new menu plan/shopping list to include 1 extra adult for main meals and packed lunches. Don't laugh but I hope to do this at no extra cost simply by better planning and a whole lot less waste. Fingers crossed I can achieve the impossible! We were eating far too much anyway and both need to lose some weight so who knows it might just work.

This is also my first term back at home again and I must try not to become a recluse. I love to read and would be quite happy at home with my books but will endeavour to get out on a regular basis (symptoms allowing) and have offered to take on the organisation of a book swap group with some friends, meeting once a month - 2 books each to swap and maybe a meal deal/pub lunch out while we are at it if the price is good.

Oh and the builders are back so I have preserved the view that will soon be gone and popped it at the top of the blog!

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Let me Outta here!

Sorry about the photo quality (a lot better now though, thank you emmani!) I couldn't resist this little pleading cutie, she hates being shut in away from us all (Cockapoos are very socable), it doesn't happen much just when we are trying to get the grass cut!

I have been feeling much the same recently, after a regular flow of lovely visitors, which I have really enjoyed, I've been exhausted, cfs raised it's unwelcome head again and I had to take a break and rest up, very boring! I have managed to read some of my favourite blogs but been too tired to post much.

Today I am getting out!!! I am off to meet one of my friends to explore a few of our charity shops. We will be concentrating on just one road which has about 6 charity shops and a couple of coffee shops (for pacing ourselves) so fingers crossed I find something from my list (yes I have a list for charity shops as well! :) or any useful bargain or treasure really.

I did manage to phone my mobile phone company in order to cancel my contract, once it ran out next month, as it was costing far too much for my low usage, I was ready to go to pay as you go but the lovely chap has given me a new contract costing only £5 a month which is saving me £35 a month! Really pleased with that, it pays to negotiate even if it wasn't quite what I intended! So now with cancelling the gym (£50), cancelling 2 organic food box deliveries a month (£25.70) and re-negotiating my mobile contract (£35) I am only about £20 worse off without my wages! I am probably saving that much on fuel as I am not using my car for work! Yay! Result!

During my week away from it all I had another 3 No spend days, would have been more but I had to ask Mr C to go on a few errands for me and it was his birthday this week. So NSD 6/15