Tuesday 31 January 2012

Additions to tabs, book sales & tea

Just to let you know that February additions have been made to the War Diary Year II and Seasonal Food tabs above. Enjoy reading.Oh and I have sold another 3 study books, making a total of 4 so far!
I recently bought a pack of 6 thin pork chops and have thawed 2 for tea. Now, not being so big means they have to have stuff added to them. I hope to get two meals out of these little chaps, in the form of curry & rice for tonight then left over curry & chips for tea for another night.

After finely slicing both chops plus 1 onion, I sautéed them then added 1 heaped tablespoon curry paste. 3/4 pint pork stock had a good squirt of garlic puree and an even large squirt of tomato paste added before it went in with the meat. This was left to simmer for 1 hour. I then added 1/2 large diced courgette, 2 carrots, 6 mushrooms, 1/2 pepper and some sultanas. Finally, I added 1 heaped tablespoon mango chutney, a tin of chick peas then thickened with a little cornflour. We had two ladles each tonight.

There were 4 ladles left over for another night.

 All in all, a pretty cheap 4 meals!

Another award!

Thank you to Patricia at aplacefor-everything.blogspot.com/  for nominating me for the versatile blogger award. It will take me time to get organised with this so as they say on the TV series Miranda – bear with, bear with!

Just to let you know that today, I am passing the 'Versatile Blogger' Award on to those of you mentioned below. It is rewarded to blogs that you thoroughly enjoy reading.

I don't know who makes up the rules for these awards (and in my 'old' age, I am becoming very much a rule breaker) so although one is supposed to nominate 15 blogs and say 7 things about yourself, can't say I can completely comply, but will do my best.

As with the Liebster Award, I'll try to nominate those I enjoy that so far, might not have received this award:

The first is to Sue over at flowerpotdays.blogspot.com
A fascinating one frugaldom.blogspot.com/

Phew!! Also, welcome to my new follower, Mrs. Tightwad.

Seven things about me:

I love being a wife and mother - the two best jobs in the world, 
tracing my ancestors, 
going for walks, 
being a home maker, 
making rag rugs, 
canal boats,
the sound of the wind in the trees and electricity/phone wires!

Monday 30 January 2012

A response and good news

I was asked recently, why I don't make use of my degree, what was the point of doing it etc.

My first response was to tell them it wasn't anything to do with them and to butt out but then I thought about it further.

After taking my son around different universities for him to check out, he could see I was very interested by my excitement in the different departments, especially art and crafts. He said “Mum, why don't you go, give it a try, if you don't enjoy it you can stop”.

There was an Open Day at my local college so I went along, thinking I would have to do some A levels (I had none) in order to get into higher education - I was wrong. They quickly informed me that I could do an Access course in Art & Design and I signed up. I was now a student and quite a frightened one at that!

Anyway, the first few weeks were exhausting to say the least and without fail, I cried my way through every drawing class - I absolutely hated them. The theory side of things had to be undertaken to be believed, nothing short of mental torture trying to get the old neurons stimulated. Anyhow, I persevered and succeeded.

The college was a partner to our local university so I could do most of my art degree with them also, although some of it I would have to travel over there to complete. Five people from the Access course joined me although one promptly left when she realised she had to be a bit more serious in her swotting.

The previous Fine Art tutor left just as we joined and the new chap took time to find his feet. I took to him like a duck to water (as did most of us mums). If any one got shirty with him, we dressed them down in front of the class – they soon shut up.

I had no idea where I was going with my studies but had begun them out of sheer interest and eventually achieved great enjoyment. I had no plans for my future, much to their dismay.

Anyway, the tutor finally saw, before me, where my interests lay and gently guided me towards them. He was of a similar ilk so was a great guide. 
The essay writing got harder and harder and I thought I would never manage the dissertation but by then (the beginning of the third year) I was in my stride. None of the others in the class understood anything I was doing or saying. By this time, I didn't mind, I was truly enjoying myself and was making friends with like-minded artists around the world (take note KMB amongst others!).

Anyway, I graduated with a First Class Honours Degree in Fine Art but was still hungry for more. I chose the same university to go to that was the partner to our college. I could access them by rail rather than a long road journey to, what was in hindsight, a better suited place.

They didn't do a Masters in Fine Art but assured me that my skills would manifest themselves in printmaking as a digital art. I hated the tutor, he was completely stumped by my work and after making many rude and often callous remarks, I realized I couldn't continue. After just 10 weeks, I had enough of the whole shebang. I decided to grit my teeth, force myself through the first year and achieved a Post Graduation Certificate in Printmaking.

After a break of almost 9 months, I don't want to do any more studying. I most certainly don't want to teach in any form, neither do I want to make a career out of what I do. I studied for pleasure and enjoyment and for the most part, achieved it.

Now, any work I produce (none for the past 9 months such was the effect of that tutor), I will do for enjoyment. For the moment, I am more than enjoying just being, crafting as and when the mood takes me, and being at home.

So, to anyone else who asks, get knotted, it is my life and I am leading it! 

Finally the good news. Having taken the decision to not study any more, I have listed 18 of my books on Amazon. Today, I sold my first one!

Sunday 29 January 2012

Making puddings for freezing

As tonight's tea (stew) is already made and waiting to be warmed up, I though I would make a basic sponge pudding and create some mini steamed ones with the mixture.

I mixed together 3 oz margarine and 3 oz sugar. Added 1 beaten egg and then 6 oz S. R. Flour. One finely chopped ball of stem ginger and 2 tablespoons of the syrup were added. As I had used half S. R. wholemeal flour, I also added a little milk to get a dropping consistency.

I greased and base lined 6 mini tins (although in the end only had enough mixture for 5).

Then I divided the mixture up between them (around 1 1/2 tablespoons each one).

I cut and folded some parchment paper (slightly larger than the tin size) and held it in place with a rubber band.

They were steamed for around one hours and here they are, fresh out of the steamer. 

Once cooled, two will be used with some custard for after the stew, the other three will be frozen. Next week I shall make some more in a different flavour, then we will have in the freezer enough for another 3 puddings each.

Trials and tribulations on the home front

Welcome to my new follower Sandra.

I have now had two unsuccessful attempts at making Portugeuse corn bread. I hate throwing anything away so have given up and instead am going to keep adapting a normal bread mixture (substituting fine cornmeal for bread flour) until I get a loaf that is different to normal.

Yesterday was my first attempt. I normally use 1 lb 2 oz of bread flour but this time substituted 2 oz cornmeal. It handled well, rose well (the other two didn't move) and tasted good. So, next time, I will change 4 oz of flour and see how that goes. Anyway, here is a picture of my first loaf.

I had thawed 7 chicken wings to make into a soup but didn't get around to it so we had them for tea. I tossed them in some flour with paprika, black pepper and garlic salt – did the same with the potato wedges, dribbled with oil and baked at 200 celcius for 45 minutes. They were then served with home made coleslaw. These wings cost £1.15 so I reckon along with everything else, it was good value for money.

This 'going to be' lovely sunny Sunday morning, found me making up a 1/2 quantity of frugal laundry liquid. This time I used all the scraps of soap that had seen better days. I decided to sieve it after the soap melting stage as there were a few bits (garden rubbish?) floating in it. I now store it in milk containers. 

Sometimes it sets as a gel and sometimes it doesn't - works just as well either way. As I never know why or if this is going to happen, I leave 2" – 3" spare at the top so it can be shaken or poked with the handle of a wooden spoon to loosen it to pour. Then I add 200 ml or 1 cup of it to each wash, along with 1 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar for the conditioner. This works out at 1 1/2p per wash for those of you new to home made soap liquid. The recipe for this can be found under my cleaning label on the right.

Saturday 28 January 2012

Adapted pasties

If I can adapt a recipe to either suit our needs/purse/cupboard/fridge or freezer contents - I will.

My mother in law made fantastic pastry and mine, at the time, was always hard and chewy. She told me her secret and that was to exchange 1/4 of the amount of P. flour for S.R. flour. Not only can you keep rolling it out but it it always light and melt in the mouth - just how we like ours. If you want to eat one of these without it breaking (after all we will have ours with vegetables and gravy) just use all plain flour.

I made up some pastry using 1 lb in total of such a mixture plus 1/2 lb lard/or vegetable shortening if you prefer. I had only S.R. Wholemeal flour so that was what I used alongside white P. flour!

After rubbing in the fat and bringing it all together with approximately 6 fl oz of cold water, I wrapped it in cling film and rested it in the fridge until I had made the contents.

I had 1 lb of beef skirt, 2 small onions, 2 medium potatoes, a 1” thick piece of swede and 3 medium carrots. I minced the beef and finely chopped the vegetables. A generous addition of salt and black pepper were added by hubby as I continued to mix everything together.

I don't have any saucers or small side plates so used the lid of a 6” pan to cut out my rounds. I also don't glaze with egg as I consider it a waste of an egg (remember, when we were on rations, you were only allowed 1 egg each per fortnight). I either leave it be or use a little milk.

Variations number 1 was to put 1 teaspoon of wholegrain mustard over the base before adding the meat mixture.

Variation number 2 was to use 1 teaspoon of home made plum and date chutney.

Variation number 3 – not really a variation but you know what I mean - I kept the pastry base free of any additions.

Add in all, I got 2 x mustard, 2 x chutney and 4 x plain pasties out of this flour/vegetable/meat mixture. There was about a cereal bowl full of mixture left which I am going to add to some stew that I shall make later this afternoon. If I'd felt like making some more pastry, I reckon I could have got probably 4 pasties out of the meat/vegetable mixture.

Here are the first four, straight from the oven set at 200C for 45 - 50 minutes. The two on the left are mustard and the next two traditional.
I have also turned into a stew, some braising steak, potatoes and vegetables. With added potatoes and vegetables, I have managed to make us 2 meals each from it, as well as I small tub of spare gravy to go with one lots of the above pasties.

Friday 27 January 2012

Drop scones to tide us through til next bread making

Been out to get some food/toiletries shopping missed off the monthly shop. It came to £28.45, so only leaves £29.62 until 24th February. I think though, that we have got all the meat we need now, so other than fruit and veg top ups, we ought to be okay! Having arrived back later than anticipated, I don't feel up to making bread, so decided to make some sweet as well as savoury drop scones.

For the sweet ones, I used 4 oz S.R. Flour, a pinch of salt, a tsp of sugar (the recipe calls for 1 tablespoon but as we usually have something sweet on them, so cut it down), 1 egg beaten into 150 ml of milk. Then mix it all together.

Warm a large frying pan and add 1 tablespoon oil and swirl around to coat its surface. Using a tablespoon, drop in 4 dollops of mixture. 

When bubbles form on the surface, flip them over. (You may need to turn the heat down a little otherwise they will burn before the bubbles rise!).

Cook for a short time until the new side is brown. Lift out onto a tea towel and fold it over to keep them warm for instant eating OR put on a cooling rack for packing away.

For the savoury scones, I used the recipe above but added a heaped tablespoon of garlic and herb Philadelphia cream cheese and mixed it in before cooking them in the same way.

Here are the finished drop scones, savoury on the left, sweet on the right. The recipe says you should be able to make around 15 but it varies for us between 12 and 14.

Thursday 26 January 2012

Freezer stock check ready for food challenge

Yesterday saw our monthly shop (excluding meat and further top ups) come to £81.93, which leaves us £58.07 for the rest of the month. In the indoor freezer are: 2 meals of fish, some meat to make probably 3 cornish pasties each, 2 soups worth of frozen chicken wings, 3 meals of Bratwurst, 2 chicken legs and 1 breast. The outdoor freezer has: 2 pea and ham soup, 2 sweet potato soup, 1 chilli con carne, 1 port and tomatillo stew and various packets of home grown gooseberries, plums and cooking apples.

We are going to try yet again, getting back to a more usual way of eating – still with lots of vegetables. Food combining is great but quite expensive. I will endeavour though to not mix every meal as I don't think my stomach will take it. Time will tell.

Breakfasts are always set so we know what we'll be having. Monday to Friday porridge, Saturday cereals and Sunday, toast and marmalade.

Almost every lunch is soup except on our walks when it might be a sandwich or a small meal. When we have a meal, we don't eat in the evenings. Soup is very satisfying and is cheap and can be stretched to at least 2 days, often 3.

No, it is the evening meals that I will have to be careful on. It seems no matter how well you cater for food, price wise, it is on an ever increasing spiral. Still, we are looking forward to the challenge.

Tonight won't count as it is our ex school bi-monthly get together, this time at our house and is considered a treat. We order a set meal from the chinese then divi up the bill between us. Hubby and I of course feel this pinch as we are the only ones as a couple that attend. Still, all in all it should work out at around £7.00 each – drinks included.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Mother Hubbard's Fridge

Welcome to my fridge, the day before our monthly delivery of food.
The fruit on the top shelf is from this week's top up. In the bottom drawers, (not visible in this picture) are a few carrots and 1 courgette. These will be used tonight, along with my last few onions and a butternut squash, to make an oven roast tea. Anything we don't eat from that tonight, will be turned into soup for another day. The condiments in the jars/tubes, live in my fridge to keep them fresh.

Items in the door part vary little from this. The only thing to go in there are 3 blocks of butter (that's all we have in a month), plus one block of fat for pastry making. Ah yes, and yet more condiments. Quite a lot of these, such as chutney (home made), mustard, horseradish, mint etc are often added to the mayonnaise (in a ratio of 1 tablespoon mayonnaise to 1 teaspoon other) to give us flavoured dressings for our salads or coleslaws.

Tomorrow sees us beginning our £35 per week food challenge. In the past month, we have been using things from the 24th December including any extras that were bought for guests. From that date until today, we have spent an extra £54.82. So that is not bad really but we did have quite a bit in.

Tomorrow's monthly shop (excluding meat), is estimated at around £70 so that will leave me £80 to spend during the rest of the month, until 24th February. Cross your fingers!

Reminiscing and all that jazz!

Welcome to my new follower Claire over at The Little Pom. 

I absolutely hate chain e-mails, even those from family members. I don't like the idea of my e-mail being bandied around without my permission so I never pass them on. Sorry folks! Now you know. 
However, below is one I received from one of my walking pals. It is not the kind of thing you need to forward to x amount of contacts from your address book and it made me laugh. I don't know either, who it originated from so can't complement them on it. I have altered it in one or two places. Hope you enjoy it.

CONGRATULATIONS TO THOSE WHO WERE BORN IN THE 1940's, 50's, 60's and 70’s - we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank Sherry while they carried us and lived in houses made of asbestos... They took aspirin, ate blue cheese, bread and dripping, raw egg products, loads of bacon and processed meat, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes or cervical cancer. Then after that trauma, they let us sleep in baby cots, covered with bright coloured lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets or shoes, not to mention, the risks we took hitch-hiking. As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.
Take away food was limited to fish and chips. Even though all the shops closed at 6.00pm and didn't open on a Sunday, we didn't starve to death!
We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this. We could collect old drink bottles and cash them in at the corner store and buy Toffees, Gob-stoppers and Bubble Gum.
We ate cakes, white bread and real butter, milk direct from the cow, and drank soft drinks with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because...... WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!! We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the street lights came on (if you had any).
No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K. We would spend hours building our go-carts out of old prams and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. We built tree houses and dens and played in river beds with matchbox cars.
We did not have a Play Station, Nintendo Wii , or X-boxes. There were no video games, or 999 channels on SKY, nor video or dvd films. We didn't have colour TV, or mobile phones (most of us didn't have a phone in the home, if we did it was often on a party line), no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms..........WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

Only girls had pierced ears!

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever. You could only buy Easter Eggs and Hot Cross Buns at Easter time.. Christmas items usually didn't arrive in the shops until after November 5th.

We were given air guns and catapults for our 10th birthdays. We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!

Mum didn't have to go to work to help dad make ends meet because we didn't need to keep up with the neighbours.

Not everyone made the rugby/football/cricket/netball team. Those who didn't, had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!! Getting into the team was based only on
MERIT. Our teachers used to hit us with canes and gym shoes and throw the blackboard rubber at us if they thought we weren't concentrating. We can string sentences together and spell and have proper conversations because of a good, solid three R's education.

A policeman could clip you around your ears and no one would say anything.
The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL ! And YOU are one of them! 


Our family had it really tough! Fourteen of us lived in paper bag in the middle of road!

Monday 23 January 2012

Start of a new rag rug

I'm feeling good. Just come back from my monthly medical massage – well oiled and smelling lovely. Left shoulder took quite a bit of work to get rid of a huge knot of muscle. My hair unfortunately looks like I've just been dipped in the chip pan! Shall have to wash it once my lovely spicy chicken and tomatillo soup is digested.

The weather began lovely and sunny, clear blue sky. The clouds are now beginning to converge and go from white to grey so may have to dash outside soon to bring in the washing.

Have at last made a start on my next rag rug for the bedroom. I have sewn the edges over on the canvas and am currently engaged in crocheting the edges in a lovely mixed turquoise colour. 

During the last lot of sales, I managed to buy quite a few 'fleece' blankets, the sort sold in B & Q. Different colours to match different decors, you know the kind of thing. I think I managed to buy 6 for £10 so feel that is okay.

The canvas is 'free' as I had it from 1994 when I bought a huge roll during my crafting business years. I still have enough to make one for the spare bedroom and maybe a little left over after that. So, unless I need to get anything else, I should have enough of everything to complete this rug. All in all, excluding time (which is my own free time), I reckon when completed, it should have cost me no more than £14 (including the cost of the above wool) and probably less. Plus it gives me something to do on wet and windy winter days, sitting in front of the log burner, keeping warm. Ah bliss. 

By the time I finish this one, spring will be just around the corner and I will be getting on with starting hardy vegetables in seed trays ready for transplanting outside later on.

Sunday 22 January 2012

What would you go without to have a new pair of knickers?

Finally, after much research, I have been able to add clothes rationing to the Rations (WD) tab above. Irregardless of how much or little money you had, no coupons meant no purchase.

In this throw away world which most, but not all, people seem to inhabit today, it is quite an eye opener. I wonder just how many clothes shopaholics would be able to cope with such restrictions. If you are trying to buy less than 12 items of clothing this year, this is even more restrictive.

Say for example you need some new knickers, we often buy them now in packs of 4-6. Buying a pack of 4 would use 16 coupons. Certainly towards the end of the war, when you only had 24 coupons at your disposal, would knickers still be at the top of your list?

Saturday 21 January 2012

As I had lots of leftover bits in my fridge, I decided to make an 'anything goes' quiche. It contains pancetta, onion, mushroom, tomato and cheese. I made it using a base of pastry made from 1/2 lb of flour and 4 oz lard. 

After lining and blind baking the quiche base, there was enough scraps of pastry left over (more or less) to make a rather scruffy open mince tart. No matter, looks aren't everything and it will be delicious with some custard.

We have been on the prowl for some nice oak furniture for our dining room. This room is the bane of my life. It was once a bedroom and when the previous owners extended the bungalow, it became the dining room with not only a patio door in it but also another three. There is an open arch to get through to the two extra bedrooms, another arch into the kitchen and a proper door to actually get into it from the hall.This door was removed as soon as we moved in otherwise it takes up too much room.

Anyway, after visiting many shops over the past few weeks (timed on our normal shopping days to save petrol) and beginning to despair of ever finding what we wanted, we ended up at a local hand-crafted furniture shop. We have had no-where to store our crockery other than the spare bedroom wardrobe. Now we have bought a lovely little solid oak unit to store it in (plus other things no doubt). 

We had also been looking for a blanket box for the spare room as the bedding for the bed settee goes to and fro from the attic. Now it can be stored in this lovely oak box.

What was more important, despite spending money on them, was the fact they ended up a third cheaper than the other places we had looked. More important still, they were exactly what we were looking for as we don't intend to buy any more furniture once this current spend is over. We are now shopping for our ahem - 'old age'!!!

Friday 20 January 2012

Sausage and lentil casserole

I decided to try a recipe from Louisa's blog, The Really Good Life. The article and ingredients should be at the below link:

As is always the case when using up what you have, I didn't have puy lentils so used yellow split peas (a bit of a mistake as they took forever to cook and in the end, had to have them al dente). As you can see from my photograph of ingredients, I also substituted and added other things. I used a few fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme and sage. Also added 2 tomatoes, a courgette, some pancetta and of course, the split peas!

The upshot of all this messing about was a lovely meal, served with vegetables (hubby had carrots and peas with his) and enough for another day as well. I have high hopes that the split peas will be more cooked second time around! I used her full recipe but with only 4 sausages (or 1/2 lb), de-skinned and rolled into little balls.

Thursday 19 January 2012

Washing and making soup with cheat's garlic bread

Decided to make a fresh batch of soup for lunch as we had forgotten to get some out of the freezer. This is what I started with:

Scrabbled around in the bottom of the fridge for most of the above items, cupboards for the rest.After cooking, it was whizzed up with some milk and a small amount of chilli flakes. The smoked bacon (leftover from Christmas!!) made it taste, oddly enough, as though Stilton had been added to it. However it was lovely. 

I made some cheat's garlic toast to go with it. Slice and toast one side of some bread (need to use the grill for this but it might be possible also in one of those toasting bags in the toaster). Spread margarine/butter on the un-toasted side then squirt around 1” of garlic paste on this and spread it around. Put back under the grill and when the outside of the bread is toasted and the butter/garlic mixture is bubbling, it is ready. Taste is great.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Bread and pine cones

Another cold but sunny day here. A load of washing is on the line but as the current temperature is barely above freezing, don't hold out much hope for it. Nonetheless, the sun is on it, steam is rising from it so should be a little dryer than when it went out! Whilst the sun was out, I went to take a photograph of some things in the garden that are still nice and green. The first is our bay bush. It was transplanted into its tub when it got too high for the plant pot it was in. It is about 3 or 4 years old and was a very small pot plant when purchased.

A nice surprise that arrived just under 2 years ago is some mistletoe. According to a gardening book, it is a female but hasn't yet produced berries. I gather it can take 5 years to flower and obviously needs a male in the vicinity. Might have to cut some of it off as it is on a small cordon grown apple tree. I gather they take care not to kill their host plant, even so, it is quite big for such a little tree.

Have made a loaf of multi- seed bread plus a little extra to make a pizza for tea. 

Had some pea and ham soup plus some going stale scones for lunch. Fancied a trifle yesterday so made one (without the cream as we didn't have any). That should do us for 4 desserts.

Also took a walk to our local woods after lunch to gather pine cones. This gathering took less than an hour including walking to and from the woods. Hubby unfortunately twinged his back bending down too frequently so has had some Voltarol cream applied. Hopefully he will be okay for our weekly walk tomorrow.The area covered on the photograph of our haul, is about 2.5' wide x 2.0' deep.

They should dry out quickly and will be used as extra fire lighters, alongside the kindling, for the wood burner. Many people are complaining that their fires are not starting so well. A friend said someone she knows, works for the local paper and they have changed their printing ink – maybe that it the reason, who knows.

Monday 16 January 2012

Hot chips on a cold day

Welcome to my new follower Fran over at Bonnie of Clyde. 

We drove over to Norwich today for a look around. As lovely a city as it is, I really detest shopping, especially in the cold. Had a nice tray of newly fried chips in the market though to warm us up!

Called in for food shopping to get us through this last week before pay day. I think it is now apparent in this test run, that whilst £30 per week for food might be more or less okay, to include toiletries etc in this amount is just not going to work. So come pay day, we will allocate £35 per week and see how we get on. We normally do a monthly shop followed by top ups. It is these that raises the cost, so we will really have to try and keep them down as well as the cost of the monthly shop itself.

Sunday 15 January 2012

Cooking and washing and a visitor

Having simmered 2 chicken legs in water (stock ready for soup), I have used the meat plus vegetables, to make a 4 portion chicken curry. Half of these will be for tea tonight and the other half is in the fridge ready for another day.

The ham hock and pea soup made 4 double portions, the first of which we have had for lunch with some soda bread. Again, another double portion is in the fridge and the other 2 in the freezer.

Expecting a friend soon for a quick visit so have lit the fire a little earlier than normal. Sue is someone I met on the day we both turned up to sit the nursing entrance exam. Needless to say, we both passed and over the course of our training (some 21 years ago), we became very good friends. We still keep in touch and as she has family in this area, whenever she visits them, she visits us also.

We feel we are able to talk about absolutely anything and I know she is a person who can be trusted implicitly.

Weather forecast says it will 'warm' up mid week. Maybe I can get some weeding done in the front garden as quite a few are around due to the lack of a sustained cold period (current frosts notwithstanding).

Did our weekly read of the electricity meter, still managing to keep our usage down. When the mid week warm up arrives, I will wash the bedding and what ever else needs doing. No point hanging it out at the moment as there is no wind and the temperature means it is as wet coming in as it originally went out.

Saturday 14 January 2012

Another one bites the dust!

Last night's temperature was -2 celsius and sleeping with the bedroom window open meant that I was woken up several times by feeling cold only to find the duvet had slipped!

Well, it's a sad day in our village today as yet another amenity has been lost, namely the Post Office. We had signed a petition believing only the sorting office was closing but no, the whole thing closes after today.

Irregardless of what has been reported in the local newspaper, we know the post master quite well and the cut is due to funding. The shop in which the Post Office currently resides, can only keep it fully open if they are prepared to pay for an assistant to run it for 40 hours a week. As good a shop as they are, they can't afford it.

A Post Office local was the next option but such a service is very restricted and the PO would only fund an assistant for 10 hours a week, the other 30 hours would have to be covered by the shop owners, so again, no use. We do have another two Post Office's (one full the other a PO local inside a garage) within driving distance but for those who don't drive (and there are many who don't) as well as the sick and the elderly, it is a very sad day indeed. Where are they supposed to get their pension money from, post parcels or obtain the myriad things that our good PO provided?

This closure comes on top of our 2 local infant schools being closed last July to reform in-between us and the next village as a small primary. There are rumours that the butcher is also thinking of closing (and not selling as a going concern), what next?

The local stores that housed the PO has applied for planning permission to extend their shop into the area previously occupied by the PO counter and sorting room – hopefully that will be granted. They also have a lottery machine but some one said that as it is attached to the PO, it will be lost (not sure about that as many shops have the lottery machine that are not PO's).

Ah well, still a good village to live in, good shop, currently a butcher's (plus the one I visit in the next village), a pub/restaurant and a fantastic medical centre. We have lovely neighbours and fantastic scenery. It does make you wonder though, as we all age, what exactly will be left.

Friday 13 January 2012

Supporting your local butcher

Whilst it may be true that the meat from the supermarkets may be cheaper, and I do on occasions buy meat from them, I like to support our local butcher. I set myself the challenge today of only buying the cheaper cuts (not including the sausages) and this is what I bought:

4 herby sausages for £1.66, 1 lb of beef skirt for £2.38, 3 chicken legs and 1 v. large breast for £6.49 and a smoked ham hock, weighing 3 lb 7 oz for just £1.00.

Yes, the chicken was the most expensive but the legs and breasts are huge. I shall simmer them to get myself some stock then make at least 2 meals for each of us from them. The same goes for the skirt. I should be able to make a large pot of beef and vegetable something with that. If I serve the sausages just as they are, that would be one meal each, but I can stretch them to two by doing mini toad in the hole or sausage balls with pasta. Finally, the hock, gosh it is huge. It is now steeping in some water for 24 hours then I shall boil it until done. I had intended using it just for pea and ham soup but feel there is enough meat on it for at least one meal plus the soup.

All in all, for £11.53 in total money spent, I reckon I can get at least 14 meals (7 each) out of it, working out at around 82p per portion for the meat side of things. If I then get at least 6 portions of soup, that will drop the bought portion price to 57p – not bad me thinks! 

Our way of eating, i.e. not mixing protein and starch at the same meal, makes it very difficult to eat very cheaply, but we always have 1 and sometimes 2 main meals that are mixed just to catch up on those things we miss. We tried before and during the holidays to get back onto a more 'normal' way of eating but we both felt dreadful - bloated and very uncomfortable. So for us, at the moment, we shall stick to it and our 1 or 2 'treat' meals. 

Thursday 12 January 2012

A looking to the future post

Welcome to my new follower, Keeping it simple.

It's one of those days today – lovely, sunny and windy but my get up and go has got up and gone. I think giving blood, having chiropractic treatment, a longer than expected walk and stacking a load of logs has caught up with me.

We both also slept badly last night so that doesn't help. My brain is screaming at me to get on with something but my body doesn't want to know. Hey ho, that's just the way it is sometimes, no point letting it get me down, so am sitting down to write a longer than usual post.

The new vegetable seeds I ordered for the garden have arrived. I have quite a few now and like to try something new each year if possible. I normally buy in baby leeks plants to fatten up but the last 3 years have seen them not bulk up much at all so will have a go at growing some from scratch. The seeds I will be trying are called Bandit.

Have also got some new tomato seeds (Red Robin), lettuce (Red Batavian - Roger), Beetroot (Golden Detroit), plus a runner bean (Desiree – not new to me) to try. As we don't have a proper greenhouse, I have to buy tomato seeds that can go outside but these ones only grow to around 12' and are a bush variety so might be able to grow some in the conservatory.

We are lucky in that we have a south facing back garden and if we have a good summer can usually grow lots of tomatoes which we love. Last year was a bit of a flop though due to the weird weather. The 3 large raised beds are, as previously mentioned, around 4' x 4' x 3' tall. Their height helps my back no end when tending to them. We also have another slightly smaller bed constructed by lovely hubby last year which is about 3' x 2' x 1' deep on legs which raise it up to 3' tall. We grew all our lettuce in this last year and they kept going until the first frosts. All these raised beds have had manure or own compost added and a weed suppressant fabric put on top.

Down the garage wall (moved into place from tubs last year) are 2 Blueberry and a Blackcurrant bush and growing over an arch nearby that leads to the water butts, a Loganberry. Their tubs now house a large bay bush and some roses. Down the opposite side fence are 6 Autumn Raspberries plus flowers and 2 small apple trees (getting less fruit each year unfortunately). One arch that leads off the patio has 2 pears and 2 apples trained over it. Another arch has 2 plums and a quince tree growing on it. The back fence has a cooking apple tree growing nearby. The patio mainly has the furniture on it as we have a very large electric blind that comes out to take the heat off the back rooms as well as our heads and shoulders. Last year though, hubby constructed me a herb garden in another raised bed which sits on the patio. The back 'garden' is a constructed area, with no grass only gravel and paths (colour co-ordinated though). 

The front garden is also gravel but has lots of flowers and flowering bushes growing in it. For us, being in one of the driest counties, gravel helps keep moisture in though it can prove a mighty pain scooping it to one side to add manure/compost to plants in need.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Tired ...

Well, in just 35 minutes, the log man cometh, unloaded (manually) and we moved and stacked 0.9 of a cubic metre of seasoned logs. They have filled 1 1/4 parts of one of our tall log stores. I try to keep a count of how many logs I put into the wheelie bin to roll around to hubby who tips and stacks. Always lose count but I reckon around 500 logs (could be slightly more), which burning 6 a day on average totals around 80p per day and should last for around 84 days. 

Don't know if that is good or bad but they were certainly cheaper than our usual supplier and slightly smaller which is better for our sized burner. We still have maybe 2 more months of previously stacked logs to use before we start on these.

Although the weather chops and changes, on the warmer days, we often don't light the burner at all. Come summer, we will buy a full trailer load (around 1.9 cubic metres) and stack them so they can dry out fully ready for next winter.