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!