Monday 30 October 2017

Makerel Dog Treats

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As we had dogs with us for the weekend, I decided to make half the recipe of the above treats. Not made them before but the recipe sounded good and some of the bakers even admitted to trying them for themselves!  The recipe came from here.

Also, here is a link to the rest of his recipes. We did try the gluten free ones but they were too tough but that might have been me!

Before baking - I added 1 teaspoon finely diced fresh parsley to the mix:
After baking at 180C for 30 minutes, turning over after 20 minutes. My oven cooks hot so that is why I reduced it down from 190C:
A total of 25 dogs treats, using my 1 1/2" cutter. You would obviously get more with a smaller cutter. Once thoroughly cold, they will be stored in a screw top, airtight jar.

Although there is a huge debate on giving dogs garlic, I think 1/2 a clove distributed between 25 biscuits is not a great threat.

The dogs loved them!

Friday 27 October 2017

Saving food money

This month, I have £31 leftover food money. That means that each weeks total shop for food and toiletries, averaged £32 each week. Combined with September’s leftovers, we currently have £66 savings for a food stock, Christmas or what is needed.

Some will be used for the foodbank, maybe the end of next month, when I can check their needs online and get them what they actually need rather than what we think they need.

Sticking rigidly to a menu, shopping from the freezer and cupboards have all helped alongside savvy shopping. We have visitors coming for a few days and our total bill came to just over £33. That included toiletries and basic medicine. Meals are planned for including breakfast, lunch, tea and a snack or two. One is GF and currently sugar free so a pudding experiment is on the cards! I do love a challenge:)

Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday 26 October 2017

Chose something for ...

The top of the Advent wooden tree:

We repainted his legs in the same gold as the snowflakes and numbers. We could have left it blank but both felt it needed a little something!

Thanks for your interesting comments yesterday. If required, I will still happily use a bucket!

Wednesday 25 October 2017

Calls of nature ....

Not too many years ago when you needed to go to the loo at night, most houses only had an outdoor toilet. You either had a bucket in the bedroom to pee into, a commode (big potty), or got half dressed to go outside. You were only allowed to wee in the bucket, the other wasn't allowed under any circumstances!

Summer wasn't too bad to visit the outside loo but winter was a whole different ball game. Outdoor temperatures at night were often -10C or more (Fahrenheit in those days though), it was very windy and/or raining, so not a pleasant journey.

Often, only a candle or small torch was used to guide you to the building, torch bulbs were not very bright so once at the toilet, you lit the candle. Now, balancing on a high, very cold wooden toilet seat, wind blowing in under the door, making your feet very cold, the candle (providing the matches hadn't become damp), flickered menacingly over the walls.

Scurrying noises could be heard and very often, huge spiders wandered over the walls. Once finished, newspaper or izal toilet paper were used to finish with (soft rolls came later and were often useless as they became too damp). Depending on the temperature, you may or may not be able to flush the toilet as the cisterns and pipes were not lagged and often froze solid.

Blow the candle out, light the torch and go back indoors, remembering to lock the back door. If you didn't own a torch (most people did as power blackouts were common in those days), you had to cup your hand around the candle to stop it blowing out in the wind as you came back up the yard. Climb back up the creaking stairs and back into an even colder bed.

It was the job of the head of the house to unfreeze the cistern to get the toilet ready for the next nights adventures.

So as you can see, a bucket was a very handy tool to have in the bedroom. I stayed in many houses where this was common practice and even when married, staying with relatives when DB was away a similar practice was adherred to but for a different reason.

DS was in their tiny bedroom, the other children were in the bedroom nearest the bathroom so to avoid waking them up, a bucket was used.

I know this practice was carried on well into the 1990's. Wee by the way, is an excellent, occasional compost bin activator, providing the contributor is fit and well and not on medication.

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Rows one, two and three...

Of my jerkin for winter:
All I have to do in the next few weeks is put the purple edging on the other 26 squares, sew them into place and then decide on the edging - both the colour and pattern. Might mean learning another new stitch:)

Monday 23 October 2017

DB baked

DB fancied doing some baking just before the weekend, must be the influence of the Great British Bake Off. I found him a recipe for a magic custard cake - see here. There are further recipes on the page if you scroll down. From a GF point of view, I think you could easily exchange the flour for a gluten free version. Talking about flour, it took us many similar recipe searches to work out, that in this country, we needed to use Plain (or All Purpose) flour, rather than S.R. Flour.

We don't like things too sweet so reduced the total sugar down to 120g. Also, we didn't think the vanilla flavour from the extract came through so we might add 3 teaspoons rather than the two.

We baked it in a silicon pan (no greasing required), and here it is cooling down for the required 3 hours:
In our electric oven, it took just 40 minutes.

We divided it into 12 and here is one slice:
As Judy Murray would say, "no unnecessary foliage or icing sugar". It doesn't quite look like the picture from the recipe, probably because it isn't in a deep round pan, but tastes nice enough for us to give it another whorl sometime.

We would adapt it again to add the finely zested rind of 1/2 a lemon and may reduce the flour by 25g and add 25g of dessicated coconut instead for a lemon and coconut version. The recipe seems very adaptable as she has shown here.

Well done DB!

Friday 20 October 2017


DB thanks you for your lovely comments on the Advent tree project.

When DB and I first married, there was no internet, barely any video game machines, no mobile phones and not all homes had their own phones, we did luckily. When stationed overseas, we often only had pen and paper to communicate back home as phones in quarters were rarer than hen's teeth!

DB and I often communicated by letter and I really regret getting rid of them, when we married, ah well!

Being an only child, I didn't want DB's parents to feel left out. We phoned them every other Sunday, they phoned us inbetween. No such thing as free weekend phone calls then and Sunday was a day when we all knew we would be at home. DB would speak to his dad, then briefly to his mum before handing over to me. In the end, he spoke to his dad to find out what they had been up to, and I spoke to his mum. It was not easy at first and often the calls were short but it got better the more we all persevered and eventually, the calls became more natural.

We also made sure we visited them, to stay for several days when possible, about every 10 weeks, they did the same. That way, we saw them around 5 or 6 times a year. One Christmas they came to us, the next we went up to them. We sometimes did the same for Easter but not always. This was especially important once DS arrived on the scene.

Was it easier to communicate 'back then' when communication was harder? It seems that if you are not on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or do FaceTime or Skype, you don't get to know what is going on with friends and family members. My cousins all seem to know far more about their cousins lives than we do, that's for sure. I shall have to stop being such a luddite and get on something so I can find out what everyone is up to.

Girls, more than boys, seem to communicate more readily with their parents from what I can gather in conservation with friends. If organising needs doing, the boys usually get their parents to communicate with the girls as 'they don't really know' what is going on! Instead of using a calender that has everything on it, individual's phones and computers are used, making it more difficult to know what the other is doing, wires get crossed. Give me a calender that has everything on it anyday!

DB was lucky in that I didn't have any parents to worry about leaving us just his to fit in around what we were doing. Two sets of parents seems to make life far more complicated. Add older children and animals and it gets more complicated too. Some I know don't like pets and won't allow them to visit which can cause logistical problems and ill feelings. There are often step parents with their own children to fit in as well and several sets of grandparents!

Children nowadays appear to have far busier lives than we did, yet, in our day, we felt just as busy, working, catching up with housework etc.

There seems to me, from what I can gather talking to people and reading blogs, that there is a lot of mis-communication, lack of communication, general feeling of being ignored or no communication going on at all and that is very sad.

In a world where there is so much social media available to everyone, how sad that people still feel ignored. As we all age, communication becomes more important, because one day, we may all be in the unenviable postion that some elderly find themselves in, of spending hours, days and weeks - alone:(

Our families, children, grandchildren and other relations, need to be in touch more, because one day, we will no longer be around and then it is too late. You can't get that time back and will seriously regret it, as I and other family members found out the hard way.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday 19 October 2017

Advent tree finished...

This time 6 years ago, I started my blog.

DB spent most of a day, finishing off the tree, inbetween others tasks he had set himself to do. Here it is:
It can either hang or be free standing. We wanted to use Christmas colours so it would fit into any room. We are still looking for the right thing to top it off but that can wait.

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Sorting out your pension and when you can retire

Phil, over at Mr Home Maker, makes a very valid point to a work colleague, for those living in Australia, in this post.

Here in the UK and other countries, things will/may be a little different. In the UK you are currently still entitled to a full 'old age pension' providing you work and pay into it for the relevant number of years, currently 35! You can get a greatly reduced pension after 10 years of full payments.

Myself and numerous others, got caught in the gap and instead of getting our expected pensions at 60, having paid in the then 30 years worth of contributions, now have to pay another 5 years worth of contributions and also wait another 5 or 6 years to get said pension:(

So annoying when you retired because you had made the full contributions, expecting to get your pension then have that bombshell dropped on you. You may not consider it worthwhile to pay those extra 5 years of contributions (around the £650 - £750 per annum mark) but for me, because we have saved hard (and continue to do so), it is worth it, providing I live long enough to collect it. Those payments will give me an extra £80 or so, every month and that is a huge difference.

Women on average, live longer than men and if widowed, that extra money might make a huge difference to merely existing rather than living. Things are vastly different for a lot of women due to part time contributions, being divorced and not having access to their partners pensions, or partners dying before being able to build up much of a pension pot etc. It really does pay to think about it and get it sorted whilst you are still able to do so.

I know people who won't top up their contributions as 'everyone they know', has died before receiving their pension - a perceived reality not a truth in their case, as we know who they are referring to. Others, who are so superstitious that although they have pensions in place, won't make a will because they believe they will die if they do - I kid you not!

Even if the figures Phil quotes, might not apply to you in the country where you live, it is an excellent read and well worth considering your own circumstances and starting to think seriously about it.

Now is the time to sort out your expences, your bills, your debt. Get rid of the debt as soon as possible if you are able to and don't add to it unless you really have to. Reduce your living expences where possible, and your bills. Overpay your mortgage if possible as every year you no longer have to pay, is money in your pocket, not theirs!

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Next Stage of Advent Tree

Welcome to Alison Murphy via Bloglovin.

The tree is now the green colour that we want and the boxes have had 2 coats of red. We decided to spray it with satin varnish rather than gloss. The red on the boxes is gloss but when we put the final decorations on the front, it will tone them down nicely:
We have bought, from Hobbycraft, some wooden numbers and snowflakes, these are the snowflakes we have decided to put on the boxes:
They have now been sprayed gold ready for putting on. DB is busy making a template so they and the numbers all sit in the same place on each box front.

Chocolates have already been purchased and one will go into each box and we shall each open a box every other day. DB will probably get the odd numbers and me the even ones so I can open the last box:)

Monday 16 October 2017

Faggots for winter...

In this country, a faggot is a meat based ball. Using the recipe from the link on my recipe tab Faggots (2) adapted, I decided now was the time to get started on a batch of them for the freezer as well as one meal.

This time I used 1lb minced pork shoulder steaks, you could use bought pork mince or mince your own belly pork. 1lb of bacon from those big value bacon packs, 1/2 lb pork liver minced - I prefer chicken livers as they are milder but couldn't find any, 1/2 an apple minced (tip from local butcher) a whole one could be used and one whole dry packet of sage and onion stuffing (170g). No salt but 30 grinds of ground black pepper. No water or egg or other moisture were needed. Once combined well, I left the mixture for about 30 minutes then fried a teaspoonful to test the taste. 

I used a 2" wide ice cream scoop for these. DB squirted oil spray onto my hands every now and then and gave me one scoop at a time for me to form into balls. Note to self, base line the tins!

First batch out, dry into their containers, ready for the gravy:
3 ladles of gravy per container usually gives enough for potatoes and vegetables to be kept moist. I normally put some gravy into the roasting pan once the faggots have been lifted but the pan had burnt slightly and I didn't want the taste to transfer to the meat:
We don't eat too much meat so shall have one tray between us - 1 1/2 faggots each. The last four went into a dish with some gravy to be microwaved for said meal.

Friday 13 October 2017

Bindweed and Bins

On the 3rd October, I mentioned about my raised beds which are starting to get their own compost bins installed in them. I re-filled the one in bed 1 and just 7 days later, it looks like this:

The worms are working well. Lid back on then:
Every time I put garden and food waste into the two full sized bins at the back of the garden, there are always loads of worms sitting around the lid, so I knock them out and divide them between both these new bins.

Early in Spring, I found a bindweed plant in my front gravel garden, near the hedge. Using a tip from the late, great Geoff Hamilton, I inserted a cane close to the plant and tied it onto it.

Donning plastic gloves, I rubbed the plant throughly with glyphosate based weedkiller stick, then removing gloves. I carefully wrapped plastic around it to protect any plants that might touch it as they grew.

Now, it appears well and truly dead after sweating all summer long inside it plastic tent  and should be fine to remove:
Have a nice weekend folks!

Thursday 12 October 2017

A lovely smell

A delicious smell filled the house earlier in the week. Date and walnut loaf mingled with our weekly loaf of fresh baked bread:
The recipe for the date and walnut loaf is from the Centenery Bero baking book but as you can see, isn't quite enough to fill the silicon loaf pan I used. Sounds like an excuse to double the recipe!

Wednesday 11 October 2017

Extreme couponing...

Drifting through the free tv channels, waiting for my programme to begin, I came across Extreme Couponing on a channel I don't normally view. I was both fascinated and appalled at the same time.

The lady in question, who doesn't work but does couponing as a full time job (she needed to), proudly showed the tv crew all the rooms in her house that were, basically, like a shop.

Her house contained $20,000 worth of food that she had paid just $2000 for. I was fascinated at that and continued to watch as she prepared to do her usual $600 monthly shop. She spent hours/days cutting out coupons from everywhere, stuffing them into her folder, working out dates, 3 for 2 etc, then broke the list down in order to maximise the coupons and special store offers. The wonders of the internet eh!

Her and hubby went shopping, using two trollies (plus small child in one of them). I have no idea how long their shop took and would have been very glad not to behind them at the checkout:(

Eventually they arrived back home, having spent their full $600 dollars and bought around $6000 worth of food.

Back home to her three, slightly plump boys, they unloaded all the food and helped put it away. Yes, she uses a menu plan, yes she budgets and obviously feeds her family good food but a large part of me couldn't help wondering if she was just a tad obsessed/addicted.

There was enough food in her house to have fed them for years and I again wondered, despite food rotation, whether anything ever got past its sell by date. Couldn't she have shopped from her house rather than go spend another $600 every month topping it up?

I didn't finish watching as my15 minutes was up and quite frankly, I was beginning to get rankled. Hey ho!

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Semi cloud pruning

I decided earlier this year to begin to semi cloud prune our bay bush. It was growing leaves all the way to the ground and just looked a mess. Now, after two prunes, it looks like this:
I shall continue to lift its canopy of leaves until I get it into the shape I like. I have just started with this photinia:
And also this plant, whose name for now, I can't remember:
I shall continue to prune them until they get to the size and shape I want them to be!

Monday 9 October 2017

Dressing gowns...

It took a total of 4 washes to dye these two dressing gowns - wash, dye, wash, wash machine out! The long one was already purple but very faded and looks so much better:
The short one was a pale turquoise one, but in a different material so came out lighter but still lovely:
Although the machine has been cleaned, I think the next wash in it will have to be a dark one just in case. Also, the first few times I wear these, I might sit on a towel just in case!

It may have been 'expensive' from a washing machine point of view but overall, I think it cost about £10 including the dye, and they are the colour I wanted, so a win win change!

Friday 6 October 2017

£10 ...

Just had my flu jab - a £3 increase on last year. The pharmacist explained it was nothing to do with them as the drug companies set their price each year. So greedy! Think how much extra that will be costing the NHS this year!

Our first two shops for this month have both been less than expected so I hope to have some more money left after the next couple of shops. My menu/budget wrangle seems to be paying off:)

Glorious day here again today. I have a couple of dressing gowns in the washer at the moment and when finished, I shall dye them.

Thursday 5 October 2017

The sun is shining....

Despite it being breezy and a little on the chilly side, the sun is shining brightly. Washing is billowing on the line and little chores are getting done.

DB has done the ironing from the other day and is now busy sorting out a huge box of old receipts, instruction books etc. Lots of shredding is taking place and those shreddings have already been added to the two mini compost bins in the raised beds.

A parcel I have been waiting for has been delivered and contents admired!

Wednesday 4 October 2017

A few months ago

We purchased, quite cheaply, a wooden tree Advent calender:
DB is busy preparing it ready for decoupage:
I shall post more as and when it progresses!

Tuesday 3 October 2017

So far, I'm impressed...

You may remember these posts here and here,  about our new trial of worm compost towers embedded in our raised beds.

I needed to empty the inside compost bin and thought on the way to the big bins, I would check out both towers. The one in Bed 1 has now been on the go now for about 11 weeks and had hardly anything for the worms to eat so half the indoor bin, along with a good few handfuls of shredded paper, were added and stirred up well:

You may wonder why the beans have gone in there, I didn't harvest them in time so they were stringy! Not wasted though as they will compost down well.

Next stop, the bin in Bed 3, not so far down as it has only been going a few weeks but again, was getting composed well and full of worms. The rest of the indoor bin went into it along with more shredded paper:

I think the secret to keeping them healthy and aerobic rather than anaerobic, will be plenty of shredded paper throughout the winter months. It will also help insulate them.

Bed 2 is full of leeks, sown from seed:
so as soon as they are harvested, it too has a pot waiting to go in. We need to look out for a slightly slimmer bin for the smaller Bed 4 and get one started in there as well.

From what I can gather, they can go anywhere in the garden, to help feed vegetables, flowers, shrubs etc.

Our aim is to completely get rid of our two compost bins as it drives us mad emptying them out every year, usually giving us backache or a pulled back in the process. We ain't spring chickens anymore!

Monday 2 October 2017

Multi tasking in the kitchen

For a change, I managed to organise myself enough to cook/bake several things to take advantage of the oven, it doesn't happen often but there you go.

On the hob I cooked a vegetable and chickpea curry:
We ate one bit for Saturday tea and froze the rest in 2 x 2 person servings.

Once the oven was on, I made a half batch of granola:
A joint of ham followed, we had some with mashed potato and the last of our dwarf green beans, alongside some 'wartime lobscouse sauce' for Sunday lunch:
No photo but the ham was followed by some plum crumble. Yum!

Wartime lobscouse sauce is easy to make and very tasty despite its looks:)

A small knob of butter is put into a saucepan*. Then 1oz of grated cheese per person is added, along with 1 tablespoon of milk per person and either 1 finely chopped fresh tomato (previously cooked in the butter until soft*) per person or 1 tinned tomato (chopped) per person.

Everything is gently simmered until the cheese is melted and poured over whatever you are eating.