Thursday 30 April 2015

Saving money

Welcome to Kath Jones via Bloglovin.

Last month was another money saver on food and toiletries. For ages, we had settled on a maximum of £160 each month for food and toiletries for both of us. Again, this month totalled £120. That even includes stocking up on some things for the spare cupboard.

Whilst we have always tried to be careful with spending on this front, it does show that meal planning using a menu really does pay off. Breakfasts are always the same, midday lunches are devised from stores on what is available and what we feel like eating. Dinner/tea is from the menu and supper, usually though not always (we eat at our tea at 5pm), is fruit and yoghurt. Bread and other baking also falls into this monthly amount.

DDiL and DS generally manage on the same amount (excluding dogs), so it is nice to know something has been passed on!

Each month we have varying amounts of money leftover from DB's pension, which goes into savings. Bill money is put to one side each month as well. We don't feel we are scraping by and if financially we couldn't afford a light lunch out on our walking days (a nice treat each week), then we would take sandwiches. Being careful allows us a few treats and that is lovely and greatly looked forward to!

Wednesday 29 April 2015

Another make do...

We use horticultural grit on top of large pots to try and keep in the moisture. This poses a problem when emptying out said pots at the end of the season. Up until now, we have used a variety of large sieves whose holes catch some, but not all of the grit.

We have looked all over the place for a large sieve with small diameter holes (4-5mm). Other than an 8" wide sieve, designed to put a fine amount of soil/compost on top of seeds, nothing has been found.

We thought about buying some smaller mesh and putting it around existing sieves. DB even went up into the attic after I asked him for an old colander that I knew was up there. This worked but was just too small. We needed something bigger as quite a lot of grit (and gravel previously used) has found its way into our raised beds over the years.

The colander did give us both the same idea though, find something the right size, decide on the size holes required and drill them into it.

Off DB went into his garage and came out with a large, rectangular box. After a few trials, using a 3mm then a 4mm drill, we settled on 5mm. You can see on the bottom, the grid he drew to line up the holes:
This shot gives you an idea of its depth, around 4":
Size wise internally, it is about 1.75 of an A3 sheet. It sieved loads of dry soil very quickly, only letting through about 5% of grit, a great improvement all round. Well done and thank you DB.

Tuesday 28 April 2015

Mutton Spaghetti Bolognaise

I thawed the mutton neck fillet the other day, that was bought from the Farmers Market at Swaffham.
It was minced along with one onion and fried in the pan to remove as much fat as possible. 3 large carrots, 2 tins of tomatoes, 2 stock cubes, 1 pepper and a few frozen mushrooms were added along with some fresh herbs and dried basil.

Whilst that was finishing, I boiled a whole packet of spaghetti so we could make up some for the freezer as well as for lunch. Everything then went into a large mixing bowl:
Once mixed together, we had some for lunch and the rest was divided between 5 tubs for the freezer:
When cooled, the lids were put on, name, dates etc. written on before they went into the freezer:
I also took the opportunity whilst in cooking mode, to make some date slices. Unfortunately, the pan I chose was a little large so they are more like date crumble slices - recipe here:
3 packets, each containing 4 slices were put into the freezer as well. I get a great sense of achievement from batch cooking:)

Monday 27 April 2015


Welcome to Homemaker Tales via here and Jackie Hawkins via Bloglovin.

The new log store (shown below sitting next to its twin which is hidden behind it) is finished! DB has done just about all the work by himself, I only helped hold down things whilst he was hammering the roof from underneath. Wood was donated for the roof from our neighbour J. and apart from buying some Hessian, it was all free of charge:

We now have 3 of these and that should be enough, not just for our logs but also to house kindling, pine cones, other wood to burn etc.

Despite the weather deteriorating at the moment, we hope not to have to light too many more fires so should get away with buying our usual 2 cubic metres of logs rather than the 3 we thought.

I have also updated our menu with meals from last week. Meat staying very low so that is good.

Friday 24 April 2015

Menu planning and shopping

Welcome to Sarah Walley and G. Guthrie via Bloglovin.

I have designed myself a sheet for planning our menu and working out a shopping list from it:
It is a little blurred due to being a screen shot but you get the idea. Anything with an * means that particular meal is already made and in the freezer. Toast allocated to each Wednesday when we may be out on a walk though we also walk on other days but I can't be bothered to change it here! Meals are planned around what is in the house and other menu's so we don't get too bored.

The shopping lists are typed that way as this list lives on our fridge door. Once shopping for week 1 is written, it can be torn/cut off leaving the following week in situ ready to be filled in - see, there is method in my madness:)

With the exception of fish and the occasional sausage, everything else is cooked from scratch. We know what goes in them and very little is wasted (fat, used bones etc) which go into our council waste bin. In case you are also wondering, the chicken nuggets are home made, can't abide any of the bought ones.

We were sitting out on the patio yesterday afternoon, just long enough to have a cup of tea. Although we were under the big awning, our feet and legs weren't. I could feel my feet and legs burning, even through jeans. After 45 minutes couldn't take it so went inside and checked. Yep, sunburn on both knees. Just shows you, jeans are not what they used to be!

Same thing with my face and neck chatting to a friend on the doorstep for about 20 minutes. Bring on the rain, we are bone dry here now.

Have a lovely weekend everyone.

Thursday 23 April 2015


The apple and pear blossom in the garden is beginning to open and it looks so delicate and lovely. Of the five trees down our left back fence, only this trained conference pear has blossom:
The next two apple trees have one set of blossom each, the final two are still too small. However, the front arch of trees (two pears and two apples) are in blossom:
Mingled together at the top of the arch:
The two plum trees on the back arch are almost done with their blossom and I think the quince has been pruned too hard so won't get any this year.

A strange thing is happening in the front garden though. My oriental poppies are coming into full leaf but one has decided to flower - at ankle height:
How odd!

The back alpine bed also has some plants in blossom:
Isn't that Sedum in the front a glorious colour, it isn't that colour normally, again, how odd.

Wednesday 22 April 2015

Baby Collared Dove

DB was busy working on the new log store when he popped his head inside and asked for the camera.
Sitting on our garden gate was a baby collared dove:
We sat and watched it for a few moments as the parents came back to feed it:
They kept trying to entice it back into the trees at the front, eventually it landed in a rather slapdash manner on the front gravel:
Now a bully of a wood pigeon keeps chasing it and them. Blasted things. When we first moved here there were only a few pairs of collared doves, now they are in the minority and the wood pigeons have taken over. When they have their early morning fights on the roof, it sounds like someone running along the roof in hob nailed boots!

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Working... Updated!

DB is still very busy building our second log store. Timber for the roof has been garnered from our kind neighbour J., who has an abundance of stuff!

Normally we would buy and use marine ply but once these planks are all joined together and have the felting put on, it should be watertight.

I've only managed to do little jobs due to my back. Thankfully, it didn't go completely, just kept twinging. Such a nuisance but I have been careful and it feels almost back to normal.

Dental check up this morning. Had a surface filling put in last month but pressure has been building up slowly and I can't eat on it so guess it will have to be cleared out and a new filling put in. Even though I hate the needle etc, I'd rather have a filling if possible, than lose the tooth!

Just come back from the dentist, the filling was a little high so he has smoothed it down a little and we'll see how it goes. So, no treatment and no payment even better!

DB did find a piece of wood to hang my planters from that now sit above the dustbins and they can be seen from one of our kitchen windows - which seems to help a bit to draw the eye rather than stare at the dustbins:
They look more on a tilt than showing here. We think he may have to put a square baton behind them, near their base to push them out a little, otherwise when watered, it will all rush out the front.

I have belatedly uploaded our menu for last week under the menu tab.

Onwards and upwards!

Monday 20 April 2015

What's in your medicine cabinet

We watched this programme a short while ago and hopefully, this link is correct and you can still view it for another 22 days here

We regularly go through our cabinet (bedside draw!), getting rid of anything out of date but as the years have gone by, we realise we need less and less things in there and old fashioned remedies really do work.

All we really need for coughs (those associated with colds and sore throats and which are not infectious requiring a visit to the doctor for medicine) is honey, lemon and hot water.. Mind you, before bedtime I'll gargle with neat whisky or brandy, then the honey and lemon!

Tired aching muscles - forget all the rub on stuff, temperature probes deep in the skin revealed they only affect the skin and apparently don't seem to reach the muscle itself - just have a hot or a cold bath.

Painkillers targeting different parts of the body - apparently not needed as all pain killers reach all muscles, delivered via the blood once the stomach has finished working on it. You only need basic painkillers, whichever you are able to tolerate.

For indigestion/heartburn, a well known brand beginning with G which comes in anise/mint flavour, really works but only after meals. The test he did was impressive. Other than that, chalk (calcium) tablets to suck/chew work well for indigestion without heartburn.

From other programmes I have also learnt that apparently, 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 pint of hot water to dissolve it, can be sprayed or applied as a couple of drips up the nose (laying down head tilted up) to relieve congestion for a cold and other maladies. Store in the fridge once cold and make fresh every few days.

Steam inhalations also helps you breathe through your nose  - a few drops of an appropriate essential oil can relax and make it smell nice.

There you have it, simple but effective. Our medicine cabinet will become smaller as things run out not to be replaced.

I wish someone would do a programme on face creams and hand lotions to see what we really need to be using rather than the huge price required to buy things which may/may not be really effective.

I wonder how all the companies that make these products felt about this programme?

Friday 17 April 2015

As busy as bees...

Welcome to Judith Koop via Bloglovin.

We have been busy removing the alpines plants, soil, gravel and wood from the top of the 1/2 size log store that sits directly outside the left kitchen window. In summer, it normally looked like this:
After a bit of discussion, it was decided that we would be better off making another full size log store to sit beside log store number 1, just inside the back gate. Once completed we would then have a total of 3 full size log stores, (two here and the one further down this path just in view in the background) enough for the logs, kindling etc.

The plants were put into buckets until all the soil had been sieved and a little food and compost  added to make it ready for replanting:
The plants were finally potted into four long green troughs, previously used by some strawberries:
Two were placed on the sunny side of vegetable bed number 1, the other two have been put down the drive. DB then dismantled the half log store, lifted up the bricks under the dustbin area, and put them where the log store once sat. This means unfortunately that we can now see them in all their glory through the left kitchen window.

However, small troughs have been bought and planted up with alpines. Once this area is finished, DB will hang them onto sturdy wooden batons and then we'll have a few plants to look at!

We think we have just about enough wood around the place to construct the full size log store without needing to buy anything else but we'll cross that bridge if needed.

Herewith a picture of the area once the half log store has been removed. The bricks for the dustbins, have been moved from next to the tall log store 1 to the area where the half log store once stood!
Dustbins back in place:
Once log store 2 is rebuilt and the alpine containers are on the fence, I'll show you what it looks like.
Unfortunately, putting on my socks this morning my back pinged. Although it hasn't completely gone, it is aching badly and stiffening up. We had to go into town to change a tyre on the car so walked around the area for 20 minutes whilst that was done.

Guess I need to try and take it easy today otherwise it will go completely then I'll be laid up for several days. So annoying as there is loads I need to do!

Have a good weekend everyone!

Thursday 16 April 2015

Dandelion and Burdock Bread...

I bet that got your attention.

We made some Root Beer bread courtesy of The Iowa Housewife blog, the recipe of which can be found here

The bread was rich and deep in flavour and when toasted was fabulous. However, the root beer itself, the one we used was Boylan Root Beer from Mr. T. was awful, very medicinal and with a strong taste of wintergreen, some of which ended up tasting in the bread.

Not able to find molasses for the first root beer trial, we used one egg cupful of dark brown sugar and 1/4 cup malt extract. We have now found some at Holland & B------ As I said, everything we substituted worked well but the beer could still be tasted slightly, at least the wintergreen part of it.

Not to be outdone, we thought it might work just as well with dandelion and burdock cordial, the very good version made by F-t-m-n  was used. Together with the molasses, it made quite a dark dough. This was it after 1 hour of proving:
It was divided between two loaf tins - this mixture makes medium rather than large loaves and baked for my usual 34 minutes at 220C rather than the recommended longer time. It does require covering with parchment or greaseproof paper halfway through or it has a tendency to burn. Even with this covering, mine still caught slightly but here they are, fresh from the oven and with a crust (heel) cut too to try:
Delicious but a little on the sweet side. Personally we never put sugar in our bread. Another time, we shall try it without the butter and molasses and see how that goes. DB wants us to try ginger beer next!!

Looks wise, it looks a little like gingerbread but is as springy as normal bread. Taste wise, a cross between brown bread and malt loaf.

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Check list and menu

Realising that the new fruit harvesting season will soon be here, thought it about time, I got my freezer check lists up to date and start eating some of the fruit from last year!:
Removed from this list and currently thawing is a 1 lb bag of cooking apples given us by our neighbour R.

I have also updated our menu tab with the meals eaten last week.

Tuesday 14 April 2015

Lamb leftovers

We had roast leg of lamb (well 3/4 of one) over two nights for tea. The rest, plus a few leftover carrots and runner beans) were minced and mixed with the last of the lovely gravy to create two meals for the freezer:
Looks a little like luxurious dog food doesn't it!
Didn't have any potatoes left so made up some instant mash and cheese for the topping - above.

In the mood for baking, leek pie from my Cranks recipe book was also made but without the pie base. Where possible, I try to cut down calories in meals and as this had 6oz of cheese in it, thought no pastry might help. We had it over two nights:
You can find the recipe on this blog here

Monday 13 April 2015

Been Busy

First of all, welcome to Lynda Welsh via Bloglovin.

During the tail end of last week, during the warm weather and atmospheric pollution on the Friday, we were both busy, shovelling 2 tonnes of shingle. Most went on the front garden, some down the side near the back door and some on the drive. We may well need another tonne to complete the drive.

We worked for about 30 - 45 minutes at a time before getting too tired. Had hot baths each night to ease our aches and eventually got it all down:
You might be able to see but there is now a top layers of very sandy shingle. The rain on Saturday helped to wash the sand off it which was helpful as we kept bringing it into the conservatory on the bottom of our gardening shoes!

This chore (and it is now a chore believe me) gets done every few years. Despite not walking on the garden area in the front, it slowly works its way down into the soil. I'm really surprised any plants carry on growing but it has been like this now for years and each Spring and Summer, they grow then flower their hearts out.

The roses have been given a manure top dressing under their gravel mulch and each year, pelleted chicken manure or blood, fish and bone get scattered over the gravel.

Sunday 12 April 2015

Congratulations to Mr and Mrs Murray!

Glad you had a lovely wedding Andy Murray and Kim Sears - at least the worst of the weather held off until you were safely inside.

Kim - you looked radiant and beautiful and Andy, very happy and also handsome in your kilt and traditional clothing. I don't think I have ever seen anyone move so fast out of a cathedral but that might partly have been to do with all the paparazzi!

I'm sure you and yours had a whale of a time in private and am so glad you managed to keep your wedding just that, private and for family and friends.

Friday 10 April 2015

Parsnip and pear soup...

Welcome to Cathy McKenzie via Bloglovin. Also, have any of you remembered about Beechgrove Garden. You can find it on BBC2 Scotland at 7.30pm on a Thursday evening or BBC2 Sunday morning at 8.30am. This Sunday will be the second programme.

I know, I know, this soup sounds weird doesn't it. I didn't have an apple but did have a bruised pear so that is what I made. Herewith the recipe:

1lb Parsnips, peeled and diced
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 courgette, wiped and diced
1 pear, peeled if preferred, diced
1 level tablespoon curry paste/powder of your choice
2 chicken stock cubes
Cornflour to thicken
1 level tablespoon crème fraiche - optional

Gently fry onion in a little oil until soft.
Add curry paste/powder.
Stir to cook slightly, then add everything else including crumbled stock cubes.
Just cover the vegetables with hot water.
Bring to the boil then simmer for 20 - 25 minutes.
Checked if everything is cooked.
Whiz up with stick blender or cool a little and whiz in a liquidizer.
Thicken to how you like it then stir in the crème fraiche is using.

You can taste both the parsnip and the pear and just a little spice from the curry powder. Have a lovely weekend everyone.

Thursday 9 April 2015

Seed sowing and an error

During the Easter weekend, I got on with sowing my outdoor seeds. It was only as I was studying my map of planting for this year that I realised my first mistake - I had sown peas in Bed 1 when they should have been in bed 2.

Ah well, they will have to stay there, be harvested then the area replanted with what should be in there, which is carrots, lettuce and radish. I also did a small nursery area of leeks. They will actually be transplanted into bed 3 when the time comes but this little patch in bed 1 is the only spare ground for now.

Bed 2 had peas and broad beans sown and the small raised bed 4, some beetroot and spinach.

The other big mistake was in sowing a couple of round courgettes and tomatillo seeds. I thought the compost looked a little strange but it was only as I was packing everything away, I realised they had been sown in manure instead of compost - oops!

They will probably die in which case, I still have time to sow some more in the proper compost.

Honestly, what am I like.

On a different note, remember my aborted jumper, well, it was duly sewn by hand into a cushion cover. I sewed the bottom of it closed with a different colour wool so it can be unpicked for washing if necessary:
Not too bad for a knitting mistake!

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Fruit cage tidying finished

In the end, it took a total of 5 bags of wood chips to cover all the bare soil in the cage. It was weeded,  had manure and/or compost and blood, fish and bone meal applied, raked again, slightly flattened then wood chips applied. Mind you, come a few weeks time, it will be growing that dreadful mare's tail - we don't worry too much as it is near impossible to get rid off and believe me, we have tried!

It looks so much neater:
The two trug's sunk into the ground hold our Autumn raspberries - it helps to stop them running everywhere and can be pulled out of the ground to completely revamp if necessary.
Think the parrot upside down needs sorting out!

In the cage we have 2 Blueberries, 2 Gooseberries, 2 tubs Autumn Raspberries, 1 Rhubarb, 1 Blackberry, 1 Loganberry and a Blackcurrant!

Sunday 5 April 2015

Bathroom Spring clean

The bathroom has been looking decidedly jaded for quite a while. Although the woodwork will soon be re-painted white, which helps brighten it up, the tiles were dull and had tiny patches of mould growing in places.

We got out the mini steamer, and DB did all around the top tiles, steaming, wiping and occasionally scrubbing them clean. I helped once we got lower down but had to break off to make some soup for lunch! The white micro clothes that came with the steamer looked like this before we started:
Then this after finishing, although the one on the right was also used on the floor:(
They were soaked in laundry bleach ready for use somewhere else. The whole place looks lovely and clean.

The ceiling needed painting - which DB did:

 That just leaves the door and door frame, it will then be lovely for another few years.

Baking, cooking and eating

Whilst the oven was on for baking our 2 loaves for the week, I decided to use up some of the leftover mincemeat from Christmas and made mincemeat Chelsea buns, instead of hot cross-less buns:
Half were eaten over a few days, the rest were frozen. Talking of freezing food, whilst in freezer meal mode, after making a chilli the other day (vegetarian with a little bacon), there was enough left over to do these future meals:
Finally, having bought and tasted just a single batch of hot cross buns, here is one way that we like to serve them (and teacakes) for a change:
Toasted with cheese on the top although sometimes, we also like them as a cheese sandwich. Delicious!

I have also uploaded last weeks menu.

Friday 3 April 2015

Demise of my jumper...

I freely admit to not being a very good knitter, especially with complicated patterns. Only being able to do 2 long lines of knitting at a time before my thumb gives outs just compounds the situation.
It has taken me literally months to get to this stage:

Can you see the most obvious problem?

That's right, the pattern is on the back rather than the front. It has been adapted from a WWII very complicated pattern which I just could not do. I decided in the end just to do a 12 stitch double moss pattern on what I thought was the front!!!

On top of that, it is too wide at the top and too short. I knew it would be a bit short as it is meant to finish at the waist but it is at least 2" too short. You would not believe how much cursing went on just to pick up the stitches for the neck so I had already decided to crochet the arm-holes!

Anyhow, it is uncomfortable to wear and just plain wrong but not to be out done by my own stupidity, it will get turned into a cushion cover or some such thing - some day...

At least it only cost just under £5 to make as the acrylic "wool" was on special offer. Think I'll stick to dish-clothes now or learn to crochet basic squares. I remember my sister making some sort of over jumper with crochet squares - I think.

Have a lovely weekend everyone.

Thursday 2 April 2015

More gardening

First of all welcome to Joy via here.

We are still trying to clear a 'path' between the inner circle garden stones and the outer bits, a few plants are still in said path area:

This year we have two separate lots of frog spawn in the pond:
The bunch above is floating freely in the main part
This lot however, is attached to the stones right on the edge where the birds normally sit and drink. We have covered it with netting in the hope they don't eat too much of it. Once the baby blackbirds are around we have to cover it completely otherwise they tend to slip in and drown!

Wednesday 1 April 2015

Gardening, wind damage and updates

A very low level dusting (due to high winds) of blood, fish and bonemeal was scattered over our fruit cage yesterday. After a gentle raking in and levelling of the soil, wood chips were put down around the blueberries, loganberries and blackberry before we ran out of it. Another three bags should see the job finished. It isn't exactly cheap to do but necessary for weeds and keeping the soil good, especially for the blueberries. It usually gets done once every three years.

Although the garden suffered no damage over Monday night, a few very strong gusts, managed to blow off a very heavy perspex top. It wasn't folded in half like it is here but is very heavy nonetheless:
It crushed a plant along its edge:
and broke one of our cane fence poles:
Herewith a view from the front window, showing the mini daffodils and the green leaves left from the snowdrops:

War diary year IV, has been updated for April as has last weeks menu meals.