Friday, 30 January 2009

Resting up but happy!

I am stuck upstairs resting up, yep overdid it again! Today I was reminded of how far I have come, at the ms/oxygen centre I visit, I met a couple, the husband has M.E/cfs and quite badly I think, how lucky I am to have recovered as well as I have. 3 years ago I too could hardly walk and brainfog was so bad I could hardly function either. Yes today I overdid it and was reminded that the journey is not over yet but I am not depressed! All I can hear through the windows is the lovely sound of a rotivator ploughing through a large chunk of our garden. Our vegetable garden is on its way! Yippee!!!!Four beds with a grass path, for easy access, left for now in the shape of a cross.

The sheds have been moved to their new home (on hard standing) at the end of our garden and partly screening the building works in the next garden, that I am afraid has begun again. The guttering on the sheds is in place, tomorrow we get our water butts to link up to the guttering. You see, I am greening up in the garden! I have some old gardening magazines to look at, seed catalogues to drool over and all is right in my world!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Friends and old fashioned sunday tea

Today has been about friends, seeing friends at church, visiting my friend who has been very poorly for many years now and being visited by very old (not in age) friends, our best man and his wife. With some friends we are very lucky in that we can pick up where we left off, even if we haven't seen each other for a long time and today the years rolled back and all our grown up children became little ones again (in our minds eye anyway)

We chatted about previous recessions and how we got through them, without all the panic being caused by the media, which only adds to the stress! We coped with all the problems then, the insecurity, watching friends suffer negative equity, living on very, very tight budgets. Our children were small then but we coped. Our horizons were smaller perhaps, a holiday abroad was very rare, in our case we didn't go abroad until 1994. We went on camping holidays, self catered, took the cricket set and encouraged the children to make friends. Day trips meant picnics and rounders, which were great fun. Birthday parties were of the old fashioned sort, a birthday tea and party games. My house was often full of neighbours children as well as our own, they were allowed to make a mess at our house, we baked and iced cookies, played with home made play dough, and painted using potatoes. Many of my friends knitted for their children or like me sewed their little play trousers and party dresses.

Today we reinstated one favourite tradition - sunday tea, with sandwiches cut into triangles, sausage rolls, quiche, salad, crisps, hot buttered crumpets and jam, and a cake on Grandmas old china cake stand, all served with lashings of tea. So much cheaper to do than a dinner party and just as much fun. This is one tradition I am going to keep up with.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Now we own two thirds of our home!

Well we did it! After checking how little in interest we were getting on our savings, we decided to pay the next 10% (maximum allowed in 1 year) off the mortgage. We are stuck on a highish 6.4% rate for the next couple of years and on asking if we could transfer, to a lower rate, found that such a high penalty would be charged, along with transfer fees, that it simply wasn't worth bothering with! It would have cost us more! By paying 10% we will be saving about £300 a year when set against the tiny amount of interest gained in the savings account. We have some emergency money but the cupboard feels awfully bare now! Still it is the reason we are going without in other ways, we always knew the savings would have to pay down the mortgage, ever since the endowment dipped so dramatically.

The good news is we now own two thirds of our home!

The belt tightening goes on, we need to replenish the savings until the next payment can be made and every penny is now being well and truly pinched (not the cockapoo though, she is well and truly cuddled! :). Home made soup every day and home made bread to go with it and we found our way back to our local library today, so tonight I will settle down with:- "The Cranks Bible" by Nadine Abensur (so I can find more recipes for those lentils!, "Stitch and Bitch Nation" by Debbie Stoller (I nearly bought this before Christmas but behaved and it paid off) and "The Handmade Candle" by Alison jenkins (just because I love candles!)

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Road trip

We went on a road trip at the weekend. It doesn't happen often but I don't get to visit my big sister often and miss her very much, especially since Mum died. Not only do I love her but She is my link to the past, shared memories and also a source of information as she can remember more than me and is the holder of family stories.

My sister lives in a beautiful place along the coastline from the Gower penisular in Wales, well worth a visit to blow away the cobwebs! I have put up a couple of photos of the views she can take in just by walking a short distance along her road! The other photo is of Lizzie, her beautiful tabby cat. 16 years ago Lizzie was one of 5 kittens born to Daisy, my beautiful tortie girl. We kept her sister Holly, a tortie kitten, she lived for 15 happy years but Lizzie is still going strong, although she now has meds for high blood pressure.

I am very lucky as my sister is on the same wavelength. I took her a sack of locally grown potatoes, a jar of home made mincemeat, a carrier bag of bramley apples and some jonagold eating apples. She not only supplied a lovely roast dinner for us but sent us back with several home made preserves and a box of card making supplies. It is so good to have a member of the family understand where you are coming from!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

A day of hope

He may not be our President, he may be many, many miles away on the other side of the pond but today while watching the inauguration of the new President of America on our tv, I saw plenty of hope reflected on the faces of many. This man really does seem to have his finger on the pulse, his speech was wonderful, we celebrated with Jambalaya and a £1 Asda special strawberry cheesecake. So now I just want to know one thing, why can't we in the UK have our own Obama? We do so need one, someone that can stir us up, give us courage and make us feel we can all dig ourselves out of this mess. Instead we have Gordon Clown and one heck of a lot of worry on this side of the pond!

Friday, 16 January 2009

De-clutter bug

I've got the de-clutter bug and it hurts! I ache all over but am pressing on, pacing as I go but I now have a clear and tidier larder, I have been brave and am showing you photos (believe me it was a lot worse than it is now) I can find things now! :) also de cluttered the dresser, chest of drawers x 2, bedside draws x 2 and am still raring to go!

The thought ocurred to me that if I didn't get it sorted and anything happens to Mr C and I, then it would be our grown up children who would have to sort it all out and that just wouldn't be fair. It is very much a work in progress but it is keeping me occupied and away from the shops spending money I cannot afford. The charity shops are going to do well too! It is also keeping me away from the tv and all the depressing news.

I am finding treasures as I go, drawings made by the kids when they were little and now destined for the scapbooking file, a clay heart with "I love you Mummy" imprinted on it, first pairs of shoes, all now sorted where I can find them. I have also found a plentiful supply of "free samples" of hand cream, shower gels, hair conditioners and so now have a pamper box packed up and ready to cheer Miss C and I up.

I have spent no more on food and we are coping well, yesterday we ate cereal and soya milk for breakfast, homemade vegetable soup for lunch with home made olive bread followed by clementines and easy slow cooker lentil curry and rice for dinner (plenty left and in the freezer for another day). Today we had eggs for breakfast,(plenty in from organic box delivery) cheese, biscuits and apples for lunch and turkey a la king (from the freezer) with rice for dinner.
The lentil curry is very mild and fruity and of its era 1960's. It was very nice and tasty but if like us you prefer something spicier then add more curry. I might try curry paste next time.

Lentil curry
(mild and fruity)
from "Kitchen in the Hills" by Elizabeth West

8oz red lentils (rinsed and soaked for 1 hour)
3 onions - chopped
1 clove garlic - crushed
1 dessertspoon of curry powder
1 pint water
3 apples - peeled and chopped
1 dessertspoon sultanas
1 dessertspoon chutney
1 - 2 bananas - sliced

Heat the oil in a pan and lightly fry the chopped onions, chopped apples and garlic unti soft. Add the curry powder and stir well. Add the lentils and the pint of water and bring up to a steady simmer. Transfer to the slow cooker, adding the sultanas and the chutney. Leave to cook and 15 minutes before serving add the sliced banana. Makes about 6 portions

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Free Meals! well almost!

A couple of days ago I made a "leftovers" frittata using cooked sliced sausages, mushrooms that were fading rapidly, onions (similarily wilting) and some eggs that were periously close to their use by date. Cooked in my smaller frying pan I managed to use the Remoska lid to set the top. Served up with a winter salad made from grated carrots, beetroot, red onion slices, tomatoes and cucumber - all that needed using up, with lemon juice squeezed over the top, it was a surprisingly good and cheap meal.

I am so very pleased I visited Shirley Goodes blog last year! She advised freezing down some of the Christmas meat for easy dinners later on. I got carried away and froze stuffing, sausages, yorksire pud, parsnips, spuds, veg and even gravy! Today, still not feeling too well, all I had to do was look in the freezer and get the food out to defrost. A few hours later we sat down to a lovely roast beef sunday dinner. I am now freezing everything I can rather than waste it. Trouble is I may never get the freezers empty enough to defrost! :) Even the smallest of bread crusts goes in.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Belt tightening!

I am back after the dreaded lurgy got me! I guess it was my turn, after all the rest of the family had been through it. I am just thankful it waited until after Christmas and New year before it pounced on me! Not a lot has been done but I have had time to think and make some plans.

We are tied into a fixed rate mortgage for a hefty 6.4% it seemed a good idea back in 2007, before the credit crunch/recession happened. We knew trouble was coming and prepared in the best way we could, after all back in the 90's recession interest rates soared to about 15%. We hoped a fixed rate of 6.4% would protect us from that for a while. Things seem to be quite different this time though and unfortunately any savings we have are now no longer earning their keep. It is time to visit our building society for some advice.

We have also tightened our belts (and budget) and have started to keep a record of any spends, I know that this is basic and very good advice when you first start to change your moneyspending ways, but the areas that need particular monitoring (for us) are house maintainance, entertainment and pocket money. It is incredible how much money can leak away in these areas! We are now plugging the gap! Also having a well stocked medicine cabinet, perhaps by buying a few bits each trip to the shops, would have saved us some panic buys while we all battled the lurgy!

Mr C has finally cancelled his gym membership, saving £50 a month, long walks with Penny and an exercise bike at home will suffice for both of us.

The food budget is incredibly tight this month £50 but I think I will go over slightly as despite (like most folk) having a fair bit of Christmas food left over, there have been some very good buys at Sainsburys and our farm shop which couldn't be missed.

2 x 4 tins of tuna in spring water @£2.69 £5.38
2 large (4pts) organic semi skim milk (normally £1.78 for 1) £3.00
(most is now in freezer for rest of month)
large sack of potatoes £6.00
2 pkts of birds eye fish fingers (ultimate comfort food)@89p £1.78

With a couple of earlier shopping expeditions for milk, eggs and bread (which I must start to bake again as soon as I feel better) bargain reduced braising steak, and a organic box delivery, my total is now £41.28 and it is only the 10th of the month! On the plus side I am using every leftover piece of food I can (lots of home made soups) and we have enough food stored in the freezer for 3 stew and dumpling meals (lovely on the really cold days) 3 turkey a la king meals, many meals of chilli con soya mince, 1 pork joint to roast (3 meals?) plenty of smoked haddock for kedgaree, 6fish finger meals, at least 4 roast dinners from the Christmas meat I've frozen, and whatever else lurks at the bottom of the freezer. There are also plenty of vegetables and fruit from the garden and organic boxes tucked away in the freezer so we should get our 5 a day!

It would be all to easy to watch the news, read the papers and panic but that is not the way to get out of this situation. I love the old WW11 saying "Keep Calm and Carry On!" That together with "Be the Change you want to see in this World" (Ghandi) are fast becoming my mantras these days.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Slowly changing!

It's the 2nd day of a new year and progress has been a tad slow here at catzscorner! Still going forward slowly is better than staying still and making no progress at all! We have had 2 No Spend Days in a row! Hurray! We will be running out of milk soon so that won't last :)

I managed a healthy breakfast of yogurt and hm muesli with dried cranberries and it was delicious and lasted me until lunch.

Lunch was a couple of freshly baked rolls with some leftover cheese and tomato (it needed using up)

Dinner tonight was my friends recipe - chilli tuna with wholemeal pasta, fairly healthy, cheap, filling and made enough to be able to freeze away a couple of "ready meals" in the freezer for later.

Although we are eating up the fruit for snacks, I also remembered to take my vitamins and suppliments, to pick me up until I get this diet under control! I am having to remind myself to drink more water instead of putting the kettle on for tea (a weakness here I am afraid) but I have the sweetie urge under control - 1 treat a day while we have so many lovely treats around, so todays treat was half a slice each of my christmas cake, which had worked out well, the royal icing had stayed soft with the adding of some gycerine to the icing mixture. I shall slice up and freeze away most of the cake, ready for packed lunches. Unopened packs of nuts, crisps and crackers that have a long use by date have been put into my store cupboard, ready for any entertaining and a family barbecue later in the year.

Today we sorted out the recycling ready for collection day next week, it certainly keeps the dustbin fairly empty! I emptied the families selection boxes and boxes of chocolates in order to get the cardboard into the recycling bag. After seeing how much plastic was in the packaging, I will not be buying those packs again! The greening up of my family is going to take a bit of time but I am working on it! We then packed away a fair amount of the decorations. Just the tree left now (my favourite decoration)and that will come down on 12th night and be packed up in the loft ready for next year.

Helping out at our local hospice charity shop warehouse looks like a definate possibility! So that should be another achievement reached soon. I have still to work on the budget though! I was always bad at maths!:(

Daughters pain is under control now and she should be back at work on Monday! Only 10 days to go to extraction day! Thank goodness for anti biotics!