Thursday, 26 June 2008

Riches that really matter

Sharon from finding simplicity has written a lovely post listing her "riches that really matter" and has asked me to do the same. At first I thought I would struggle but then found it difficult to stop, this is what I came up with after just a few minutes. Interestingly the more material things seem to pale into insignificance.

Sharing this life with Mr C

Knowing I am one of the first my children phone when they have good news

Ditto when they have bad news as even though it may be sad it means they trust me

Playing fetch with our playful puppy

Cuddles from same calmer puppy

Getting an "all clear" result from drs

Being cosy inside during a thunderstorm

The sound of rain on the conservatory roof

Egg and tomato sandwiches, egg custard tart and chocolate cake (mum's favourite tea both my sister and I still see this as comfort food)

Fishfingers, mash and peas (more comfort food)

Feeding the ducks

Sitting by a river watching the world go by

Paddling in rock pools

Being the first to tramp a path through crispy new laid snow

A field of daffodils


Decorating the Christmas tree with totally mismatched decorations collected over the years that mean so much to our family

The memories and watching the video of our cats 5 kittens (many years ago now)

Cuddling a new and freshly bathed and talcum powdered baby

My Mum's little aluminum "tea for one" teapot because it reminds me of Mum

A tray of tea and biscuits shared with a friend

A walk in the woods

Sitting by a fountain

Working in the garden and soaking up the sun


Picking the first runner beans of the season and each harvest afterwards

Watching a dragon fly flit across a pond

New baked bread

Cinnamon and spiced cookies baking

Bargain hunting at Car boot sales and charity shops

Making something and feeling the sense of achievement

Seeing happiness in my family and friends

Curling up with a good book (and some chocolate)

Having the time to smell the roses

I could happily go on adding more and more of lifes riches!
I wonder what your list would be?

Energy limits!

The trouble with having an illness, that means very limited energy, is it does tend to mean that new and exciting interests use up vital energy supplies and that means a distinct lack of energy for the normal everyday business of looking after a home, and sad to say, it shows! I am blessed and lucky to have enough energy to at least realise this and care, in the early days it was all I could do to raise my head off the pillow!

Family and friends take us as they find us, it is us they come to see not a tidy house, although that would be nice sometimes.

With the weather being perfect for keeping on top of the gardening jobs, indoors is becoming neglected. Which way to go? How to fit it all in without aggravating the cfs again? I feel another list coming on!

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

This weeks box delivery

In this weeks delivery I have 2 little gem lettuces (must find a recipe to use up all these lettuces! lettuce soup?) cucumber, why does an organic company have to use plastic? tomatoes, carrots, new potatoes, bananas, pears, melon and 1/2 dozen organic eggs. Apart from the melon, it seems a bit boring and not a lot for my money so I am considering changing to a delivery once a fortnight and using our local farm shop inbetween, it will be interesting to see how much I can get there for my money (£12.85)

I wish I had more energy to shop around and get some bargains but with the pesky cfs, needs must etc., I did manage to get a bag of fresh brussels sprouts knocked down from £1.49 to 20p the other day at sainsburys just because the outer leaves were a bit tatty, just peeled those off and used half yesterday with the roast dinner and the rest are in the freezer.

20 days of changes!

It's been 20 days since I started this blog and what have I changed?

Well for starters I put myself on a reduced grocery budget (£150 for the month) and lived out of the cupboards and freezers. We had some interesting meals this way but at the end of the month we had enough money for me to make a bulk order (£47) on some organic beans and pulses and some oats and soya mince (all regular standbys apart from the chickpeas - have to get used to using these!) I should have enough to last a few months anyway. With the residue of what I would normally have spent I bought a Remoska which should save me 80% electricity over using the electric oven. I cooked up a (happy meat) roast chicken in it last night and it was lovely and moist, will definately do that again.

We have also added another vegetable bed and planted up some runner beans, courgettes and spinach. The digging goes on though as more beds are planned. The greenhouse is full of tomato plants with a promising amount of fruit already and Mr C has planted up some pepper plants. We are very much beginners in this field though and have much to learn.

We are using the library more and the only books I have bought were the bargain bags from the church fete which included one treasure - a 1964 edition of Good Housekeeping Look and Cook which includes the GH childrens cook book that Mum used to teach me to cook! Mainly rock cakes, flapjacks and jammy buns! Ah good memories are priceless!

I have started to knit again, easy stuff so far - dishcloths using cotton yarn from our market and charity shops, so useful and cheap. I have yet to dust off the sewing machine, that is next on the list.

Entertainment is now a 50p or less film on video (they are so cheap now) from the charity shops or boot sales, there are so many films out there that I haven't seen so this will keep us going for a while and much cheaper than renting dvd's. Barbecues in the back garden with family and friends are top of our list at this time of year and hopefully we will soon be able to provide home grown salads.

The main thing I have learned is to stay away from the shops as much as possible and to avoid shopping as a sport/hobby, I now look at what I have and make do!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Lost views!

I shall miss this view of the end of our garden! The builders (cowboys) are back again after a couple of years of protests from the neighbours, ourselves included, incredibly the plans have been approved for another couple of £500,000 houses (they have already built 3) to go ahead on land at the end of our garden. Thank goodness we have a long garden!

Yesterday all we could hear was the sound of trees coming down, so sad and I suspect there are still some nests in use in those trees, not that these particular cowboys would care about that.

Over the years we have become used to this view and pretended we lived way out in the countryside surrounded by trees, we had owls and in the summer bats would fly over our heads while we sat out on our patio enjoying a glass or 2 of wine with friends. It is so easy to take such things for granted and believe that they will always be around but sadly things do change and from now on we will have the noise and swearing and eventually a 3 storey house overlooking our little bit of heaven.

At the moment I just want to move away and find some peace but for now we have to put up with it!

Friday, 20 June 2008

Worrying times!

My Grandparents ( WW1) and my Mum as a baby 1920

When my grandparents were bringing up their 5 daughters in the 1930's they lived in a draughty victorian house with no mains water, just a well in the back garden complete with a live in frog (Granny said it ate all the flies) no electricity just gas for lighting and cooking. They then survived WW2 with all the rationing and trials that entailed. Although they worried they did however succeed in bringing up those girls and while they may at times have been hungry, nobody starved, I think of them a lot these days and weigh their experiences again my own recent worries. It certainly has the effect of shrinking my worries right down!

There's talk of fuel prices going up by as much as 40% over here! Food prices are also increasing rapidly - worrying times indeed. We rely on gas fired central heating and have had a condensing combi boiler fitted for 2 years now, this only heats the water we use and certainly made a difference to our gas bill, apart from only running it for a very short time each day in the winter, I am not sure what more we can do, the house has double glazing, wall and loft insulation. I run round behind Mr C turning off all the stand by buttons, have replaced light bulbs with the energy saving ones, things are not too bad yet but then again it's summer - longer, warmer days, the winter will be the challenging time! Doors will be shut, might even make a couple of draught excluders, heavier curtains put up at the windows and doors for a start and hot water bottles and cardigans employed.

Our cooker is a multi fuel one, gas hob and electric oven - one way to go is to bulk cook only - maybe try the cook once a month for the freezer method this book recommends

Mr C often has problems choosing my birthday presents, I truly am happy with all that I have and rarely desire more but this year knew I would be able to use one of these and hopefully save a lot of electricity so this is now on order and I can't wait to start trying it out!!2511

There is still a lot more we can do to cut back our fuel usage and our food costs - a real work in progress and a steep learning curve but when I think of Granny's problems I realise just how lucky and blessed we are.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

This weeks organic box contents

Some lovely nectarines, kiwi fruit, bananas, lettuce, red pepper, carrots, new potatoes and beetroot. The beetroot was a last min substitution for broad beans, I used to be overwhelmed with beetroot as I mostly pickled it but now make a grated carrot and beetroot salad with a fresh orange juice dressing which is very refreshing and an incredibly bright colour. The kiwis I don't eat fresh but peel, slice and freeze and add to fruit salads. Other than that I will make a large salad and hopefully some banana bread.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

The Old Hollow Tree

By Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosoms now has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

I love this tree! It has been around a long, long time. I remember climbing it as a child (what child could resist such an easy climb) and then climbing it again while on my honeymoon. On sorting out old family photos I see my father did the same!

The tree is old and weighed down but still it is here and in leaf, maybe not for much longer but in these worrying times I will take strength from it still being here despite it's weary appearance.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Arcopal at the church fete

The top photo shows the vintage rose patterned arcopal I inherited from my Mum. It has great sentimental value as I can remember being with her when she bought it. Whenever I use it I remember Mum. The trifle bowl came out on special occasions and the butter dish and egg cups were in regular use. Mum had the tea set as well but i can't remember what happened to that. I have never seen any of this pattern come up on ebay but I keep hoping. There are a few of the lovely lustre tea sets on ebay at the moment though.

I thought the butter dish would make a great alternative for refrigerator pyrex dishes (can't afford them yet but will save up) so I was pleased to find another arcopal butter dish in clear glass for 50p at the church summer fete today. I also was found a glass storage jar, pretty blue bowl, 2 small floral dishes (might put some tea lights in these) in the 10p box. The linen "God bless my kitchen" tea towel was 50p and the little bag in a purse 20p. We also picked up 2 bags of books at 3 for £1

Friday, 13 June 2008

Plumb tuckered out!

The puppy could and still can do this with cute panache but I alas cannot. I consider myself to be "recovering from" rather than "suffering from" cfs/me and often overstretch myself just to try for a while to keep up with the fast pace of others around me, it doesn't last long and I am soon put in my place and have to rest up (no choice in the matter). The house is a mess and needs a good old fashioned "bottoming out" but that will have to wait, in the meantime I can make lists. Truth be told I could make lists for England! and then lose them again in all the clutter! lol So today I am making lists, shopping lists (trying to keep that one very small, still getting over the shock of soya mince doubling in price!), his and hers lists for jobs around the house, gardening list, wish lists, reality lists! Even if I only manage to cross one thing of my lists it will be an achievement and mean I am going in the right direction again.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Organic slug repellent

Last year I made a little frog pool by sinking an old washing up bowl into the ground just a couple of feet away from my bean patch and within a few weeks this little critter moved in with 3 friends and we had very little trouble with the slugs (unlike my neighbours) There is still movement in the pool this year so I am hopeful my little slug eating buddies will do their bit again this year.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Organic box deliveries

For the last 3 years I have been receiving an organic mixed fruit and vegetable box, first fortnightly and now on a weekly basis. It has just gone up to £10.90 for the box and £1.90 for the eggs and I know I pay more than perhaps I would at the shops but the quality has been consistently good and the home delivery side of things has been a lifesaver to me since my illness started. If I wish I can also (with 2 days notice) add to my order online from Abel and Coles grocery section.

Above are photos of a few I have received recently, bottom one being this week (with delicious strawberries and melon) , as you can see I sometimes have organic soya milk and soya yogurt added to the order, always adding organic eggs weekly. It may not look like much but I can normally make a few meals out of this and anything I can't use up quickly I pop into the freezer (this is why my freezers are bulging with bags and containers of veg!)

I still pick up any bargains I can to pad meals out, this week the fruit and veg man at the car boot sale was selling 2 huge cauliflowers for £1.50 and a butternut squash for £1 so I will be adding cauliflower cheese, butternut risotto and a vegetable curry to the menu plan.

Mind you having seen the wonderful bargains Jennifer at Home Matters Most found at the weekend, I am feeling inspired to try some late night shopping!

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Awash with plastic

I bagged another piece of pyrex yesterday from the charity shop, it had some burnt on marks around the side but these have lifted off in the dishwasher. It has a lid which, although not a perfect fit, will cover the lobster patterned dish I rescued on sunday from an unwanted "stuff"

The top photo shows I have been reading my dog eared copy of "Tightwad Gazette" and wash out my "baggies" ready for re-use, including some of the super lakeland "stay fresh" bags (next to the bag of soapnuts) which really do work.

I do feel though that we are becoming a bit too dependant on plastic, we probably all have some tupperware in our cupboards and freezers and they certainly do stand up to the test of time, but I do worry that so much plastic around our foods may not be such a good thing, chemicals can leech from the plastics and when the item is no longer required or good for it's intended use it goes into the landfills and causes problems there. Plastic bags can only be washed and re-used so many times (not at all if wrapped around raw meat) this adds to the cost. I need to look into the alternatives. Tupperware was just coming out when I was a child and I do fondly remember the pastel coloured tumbers for our squash, but other than that there wasn't a lot of plastic in the kitchen. Food like sandwiches and cheese were wrapped in greaseproof paper or brown paper bags, cakes were mixed in earthenware or glass bowls and casseroles were cooked in pottery casseroles or pyrex. Maybe a trip back in time would be better for our health and wealth. Any excuse to add to my pyrex collection.!

Puppys first year!

It's was our puppys first birthday yesterday! She celebrated with a charity shop stuffed fimble toy (doubt it will last the week! don't worry though i do check it's condition several times a day for safety), a new tug toy and a pigs ear. How quickly that went by, and how she has grown. Her coat is just beginning to grow back towards the typical cockapoo teddybear like appearance after a very close clip to get rid of some tangles. Regular brushing and trips to the groomer should stop the tangles but it isn't cheap, however this cuddly pooch is definately worth it.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Boot Sale Bargains (or some folks rubbish is definately other folks treasure!)

I finally got to my first car boot sale this year, I do try to go as often as I can but hadn't got around to it until now. So glad I did this time as the first stall I came to had the lovely Johnson Bros Rose dawn platter and sugar bowl for only £1.50. I already have some green dawn plates so I guess I am collecting them now!

Other bargains were the much needed sewing basket for £1 so I can now "make do and mend" and the videos were only 10p each! Much cheaper than hiring a dvd! I have always wanted to see Fried GreenTomatoes with Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy.

Best of all was on our way back to the car someone had just dumped a pile of stuff saying help yourself and a few folk were, I had a quick look and in a box on the top of the pile I found some vintage pyrex! The first piece was a meatloaf dish in the 1982 "poppy" pattern and the other was a real delight as I have been hankering after some of the 1961 lobster pattern pyrex after seeing some on Elizabeths Making Good Use blog so I was thrilled to now have a piece for free! What a lovely day!

Saturday, 7 June 2008

To help you feel serenic. Well it works for me!

A peaceful river early in the morning, taken in Norfolk last week.

The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can and the Wisdom to know the difference
My Mothers favourite prayer (mine also) and it kind of sums up my journey. I can't stop the rising costs of food and fuel, it is difficult to be serene about this but I will try. I now need to find the courage to change things around here so that we can make ends meet and pay down the mortgage. As for wisdom well I can only hope!

Friday, 6 June 2008

Soap opera or getting in a lather!

This morning I find myself pondering on the small ways of saving the pennies and soap came to mind. In the shower we take it for granted that we have shower gel, it is so easy to use and although I will only buy it at £1 or under so when it is on "bogof" the price is normally "right" it is still a lot of money compared to a bar of soap which would hopefully last for longer. Soap was all my grandparents had and every bit was used, when it became too small a sliver to use it went into a jar with other slivers and some water and was stored under the sink and used for hand washing clothes.
I used to have a "soap sam" from kleeneze and used to grate the soap ends on an old grater (not used for food and probably picked up from a car boot sale) and with a little bit of water moulded it into a shape to fit the soap sam and after drying out had a perfectly usable bar of soap for cleaning hands after gardening, sadly I have lost it and would love a replacement, maybe it would work without the mould, I will have to try. Soap is a bit awkward to use in the shower (whatever happened to soap on a rope?) but we have a perfectly usable soap dish in there though I think my husband may take some convincing! On a quick check in the cupboards I have 2 more bottles of scented showergel for me and another 2 suitable for husband and 6 bars of soap in the airing cupboard, so will try to get a bar of soap back into the shower. A bar of soap from Sainsburys and Tescos basic ranges costs only 15p not sure what it would be like though.

In the kitchen I have 156 washing detergent tablets, although the recommended amount to use is 2 I find 1 is enough but recently have started to use soapnuts, a large bag for about £7 (I believe lakeland have started to sell these) I use 8 at a time in a small bag, the one provided is not much use so I use one of the net bags supplied for the tablets, they last about 7 washes (and are compostable) and are great for the wash loads that just need freshening up, I just add a tiny drop of fabric conditioner for the smell. This should help to keep down the costs of wash days. Still room for improvement though so I am going to investigate making my own laundry detergent. Will keep you posted on that one.

Thursday, 5 June 2008


I couldn't resist adding these, my favourite being the dressing table 1940's style, the last is a reminder that if toilet paper gets any more expensive there is an age old alternative!

More photos of Plotlands

The Way We Were

With the cost of food and fuel rising almost daily a lot of folk are talking about returning to the housekeeping ways of days gone by, this is understandable but I wonder if we really realise just how hard life was then. Last summer I visited the last remaining bungalow at Laindon Plotlands, where time has stayed still, well worth a visit, I think there was once a tv series based on the people, who moved out from London to live on, what was often not much more than a 20ft wide plot of old farmland there,some in tents, some in old railway carriages but some built their own bungalows carrying bit by bit on regular train journeys to Laindon, and here is a reminder of what life was like in the 40's

Washday 1940's style and the kitchen and larder of the times! I think we are all going to have to get fit if we ever have to return to this.