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!