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

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

My favourite walk back to the past

This is one of my favourite views, pretty ordinary to some I guess but look again, you could be back in the past, no signs of modern times like telegraph poles, lamp posts or traffic. For me to walk our dog here is a brief escape from the stress of living in this day and age and Penny loves it too! :) Sadly we do need the car to get there as it is off the beaten track and away from bus routes and no way could I cycle, but we don't go often and it is worth it for refreshing our own batteries.

We have more visitors this weekend but, thanks to a timely reminder from Sharon J at Finding Simplicity - thank you Sharon! had some savings put by to cover most of the expense thank goodness! We are having fish and chips tonight made by our local landlord with the most amazing home made beer batter! One day I must ask for the recipe. I have cookies to make to fill any hungry gaps over the next couple of days and a couple of loaves to go in the breadmaker.

Yesterday was the first day of a new term and a strange one for me as I no longer work at the school! I kept busy though with paperwork and made more chutney! It was also a no spend day so - NSD 3/15

An afternoon in the kitchen

An unexpected gift of plums meant a spell in the kitchen making some of my Aunty Beryls recipe for chutney! It took a while to thicken up, in fact I started this yesterday and had to stop when i got too tired and start again today! but when it did thicken it was lovely and I got 4 and a half jars of something very like mango chutney. One jar will go to the donor of course along with some courgettes the rest will be in the preserve cupboard ready for Christmas.

Next to the chutney is a banana and choc chip loaf and some muffins, which got a bit overdone in the oven but were still nice to eat, some of which are destined for the freezer and packed lunches. It is a very easy recipe to make and will make 2 small loaves or 12 large muffins.

Here's the recipe:-

Banana Bread
(great for using up those over ripe bananas)

3 very ripe bananas (almost walking) or use defrosted frozen bananas!
pinch of salt
6oz melted butter
1 teaspoon bicarb of soda dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
6 oz caster sugar
1 egg
9 - 10 oz plain flour
An optional extra is a handful of choc chips which is yummy

Smash bananas (food processor is great for this recipe). Add remaining ingredients, mix together. Pour into 2 greased or paper lined 1lb loaf tins or 1 lined 2lb tin or muffin cases. Bake in moderate oven (180C/350F/Gas mark 4) for 45 minutes. If making muffins 15 mins should do. Freezes well and is lovely sliced, toasted & dripping with melted butter.

While this was baking I managed to prep and freeze more runner beans and tomatoes.

Today was another no spend day - NSD 2/15
Dinner today was mainly using up leftovers - left over soya mince chilli made into a shepherds pie with leftover courgette and tomato bake.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Bartering the gluts!

I have spent this evening making plum chutney with some lovely plums given to me by Mr C's boss, we will be sending back some courgettes from our garden and a jar of the end product.

Earlier on I managed to get some lovely windfall cooking apples from a neighbour in exchange for some cherry tomatoes. These will be added to our rather large courgettes/marrows to make yet more chutney!

We have exchanged some more courgettes for runner beans from our other neighbours. I just love this time of year, everyone else who is growing food and has gluts is as eager as we are to swap some of it for something they are not growing in quantity themselves. This way we all have a good variety of fruit and veg and have a lovely chat about how we are going to use the items up, swapping recipes as we go. The kitchens are busy and some lovely smells are emanating from the kitchen windows. Who needs the supermarket! (well maybe for the vinegar and sugar!)

I came in at about £30 over budget on my grocery challenge, we had visitors, I will try again this month to keep to £150, also only managed 8/10 no spend days! I am still going to try for 15 no spend days this month, today was nsd 1/15