Monday, 30 June 2014

Menu Plan June 29 - July 5

We've had a hotchpotch of meals this week. Lunches have been really healthy with a big fruit salad on the go all the time, thanks to yellow sticker joy, a little salad bar with everything chopped and ready to go, a nice dressing, some toasted nuts and seeds and all that good stuff. Evening meals have been a mixture of using things up, being not too unhealthy and being quick and easy so we don't miss any of the football.

29 potato wedges w. salad and a Dee's bean burger (reduced from about £3 to 69p for two)
30 plaki w. ciabatta
1. salad w. roast veg cous cous (Dan not home for tea) 
2. roast mushrooms with lemon dressing
3. vegetable and lentil bulghur
4. chillies stuffed with beans 
5. rogan mushrooms

I'm so glad we're on the eve of July. The past two months have been so out and about and so expensive I want to be at home and I want to stop the shopping madness! Other than some chairs so we can sit out in the garden, and a tin of paint to finish the kitchen cabinet. I'm using my desire map money for those things so nothing needs to come from the main budget. Phew, time to relax I hope. 

Sunday, 29 June 2014

I Never Buy Fabric Conditioner

I don't buy fabric conditioner, haven't for years and years, but when I did a search for "removing hideous decoupage" I was told time and again that this was the product to go for. 

So I nipped to the co-op and picked up a bottle, mixed four capfuls with hot water in a spray bottle and set to it. 

Just like removing wallpaper, I put some slits into the layers of paper then sprayed. Left for a couple of minutes then attacked it with my stripping knife.

It works! It did take a while, but I was listening to London v Widnes so it didn't matter. Spraying and scraping started to reveal the shelf 

About an hour later it was done!

Friday, 27 June 2014


around half way with the blocks

So now the party is over. 

For the past few months we've been using the phrase "we'll start after the wedding" when discussing pretty much anything from tidying my wardrobe to losing weight to saving money to changing our lives. Combines the stag do and wedding cost a lot, I don't really want to think about how much as I'd probably faint, but it was worth it. We had a great time, saw some new places, made memories, had an amazing time together, and met some really wonderful people along the way. 

Since the wedding Dan has applied for two jobs and changed his GP, we've had another round of decluttering, I've eaten fruit every day (the strawberry harvest is relentless) and have set up a very exciting salad bar in the fridge. I even did yoga yesterday - we shall not talk about the trail of destruction and rabbit distress that caused. The credit card balance has gone, the credit card is in a safe place, all the photographs are backed up and the floors are clear.

I really didn't want to go food shopping on Wednesday, but I'm glad we did, it was a yellow sticker bonanza - bread, fruit, veg, salad, toilet paper, virtually everything on the list was there for the taking. Thank you very much Mr Booth. I also picked up a dvd for 99p from the charity shop, series one of Spooks, we've never seen it but have wanted to for a while. It'll be good for nights when we just want to relax. In a tense way. 

The hot weather has made me want to work on the big quilt. I've decided, when the time comes, to use a very light wadding so we can use it year round. I like the weight of something over me when I'm sleeping, even when it's hot. It won't be ready for this winter, maybe it'll be ready by next summer, it's a long way off, but at least I'm working on the cool bit now it's hot. It's a positive time, a time of change and a time to reflect, but most of all, a time to eat strawberries. 

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Feeling Special

We stayed in a great hotel at the weekend. We were in a standard room so the decor was basic. Well, I say basic, I think I really mean simple, which is good for me. Plain walls, simple bedding, no great piles of cushions and extras clogging the place up. I hadn't stayed in a hotel for many many years so I was fascinated by it and couldn't help but focus on what it was that made everything seem so great. 

Unsurprisingly, it was all the small things. We received a call to the room a short while after arrival, just to check things were fine - they were. Everything was where it was supposed to be and just so easy. Other than simplicity, the main things I took away were what I've been calling managed expectation, and the sheer amount of items that it takes to create certain things. 

Second one first, take breakfast. At breakfast we were seated at our table, offered tea or coffee and toast. Simple - as long as you didn't need to choose from the dozen or so teas and infusions available. So we already have cups, plates, cutlery, coffee pot, toast basket, butter plate, milk jug and a sugar pot on the table. As we'd mentioned in advance that we aren't meat eaters, we were offered hash browns and veggie sausages, they arrived in another couple of dishes. So off to the buffet. There we could choose from two types of fruit salad, three types of juice, water, all the cooked things, pastries, cereal, muesli, jams and spreads etc. You get the idea. All these small items, small choices going to make up just one simple breakfast. No wonder I'm always nipping to and fro when I prepare a meal at home - so much goes into even a simple snack. 

That leads me on to managed expectation. Even though we knew Dan had filled the form in saying we weren't meat eaters, it was so nice for someone to ask us if we wanted something rather than us having to ask for it. That simple act made us feel that the hotel was exceeding expectation - even though we'd done the work! If you manage someone's expectations, then it's easy to exceed it just by doing what you were going to do, no extra effort needed. There was a lot of choice on the surface, but everything is very measured, the initial offer is slightly less than you'd go for if dishing things up yourself, but then the server asks if you'd like more, so it seems like things are limitless. 

Same with the spa (which we didn't use), at check in we were told about the spa and were told that there was no need to bring our own things as everything would be provided, all we needed was a pound coin if we wanted to use a locker. This sounds like the hotel is making it easier for us, but it's not really, it's making it easier for them. But it sounds so nice, that I don't have to worry about anything. It's a great thing. You're being managed but you feel like you're being treated. When I think about that, I think about all the charming people I know, they have that way of making you feel special just by the way they speak, regardless of what the message is. 

The other managed expectation thing I came across was milk. On the hospitality tray there was, of course, cartons of long life milk. If we wanted fresh milk it was available, we could have as much as we wanted for no charge, but we had to ask for it. It's brilliant, no waste for them, feeling good for us. It's a fantastic thing, knowing what your goals are and doing them, knowing you can exceed them with little effort. 

I'm looking for ways to bring this into our everyday life, to bring about simplicity and to achieve goals but without having to make a gigantic song and dance about it.I can make my bed, or I can spend another 20 seconds and make it look really nice. I can not spend money and have some to put into the ISA, or I can actively save money and sock even more away. I think I'm at my training bootcamp at the minute but maybe soon I'll have beautiful hair and glide round like a beautiful swan, where no-one will see my legs flapping under the water. 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Hard Worker

The first time I heard about minimalist dressing was years ago in an article about packing for travel. I wasn't going anywhere but read the article anyway. The article told me the best thing to pack in my carry on bag was a sarong because it was a multi-purpose item. 

So when we went away I packed my lovely turtle sarong, bought for me by my housemate when she had a placement in Indonesia back in 2000. I didn't know if it would get any use but thought I'd at least feel like I was going on holiday if I had the proper kit. 

It has headed straight up my list of useful items. On this trip alone it was used as a skirt, pillow/neck rest in the car, bedcover (waaaaay to hot for anything heavier), post-bath wrap, picnic blanket, and a headscarf. Pretty good and almost certainly one of the best gifts ever. 

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Holiday Clothes

I'm trying to unpack this as I go along, so it may not make much sense. We had our road trip to the other end of the country this weekend. I learned a lot and took a way a lot of things about my lifestyle and how the things I did on holiday could be translated into life here - more about that in the future.

I always really enjoy reading about minimalist wardrobes, Project 333 and all that stuff. for a long time I had a pretty small wardrobe, but it was just because I didn't own much clothing, nothing to do with a beautifully maintained capsule. I now own many more clothes and I'm fairly happy with it, it all fits and if I'm being honest, it's nice to see lots of things hanging in the wardrobe rather than not. For this weekend I travelled down in sandals, shorts a vest and a t-shirt, I wore a nice dress and the sandals for Saturday night as we went out for a meal, then met some of the other wedding goers for drinks. On Sunday morning and yesterday I wore a nice stripy beach dress and a different pair of sandals. In the middle I wore one of the two dresses I'd picked for the wedding.

The lessons were that I still took too much, and I was glad I didn't buy the pair of flip flops I'd been looking at. I took my inspiration from all the people on the beach and in the town who just wore what they wanted, because the important thing was fun, not fashion - the clothing was there to help facilitate the fun, rather than being something to think about while the fun was taking place. So I wore the small dress to the wedding, the larger dress remains unworn. I realised that my clothing decisions were partly made on the basis of "it doesn't matter, I'll never see anyone again". I wouldn't have thought I bothered about that, but it turns out I do. It's a funny thing isn't it. Why would it be in my mind that one set of people I don't know have no impact on my choices, but another set make me think I need/want three dresses rather than one.

Had it not been so sticky and hot on the journey down I think I'd have worn my shorts and t-shirt the whole time and left the dress in the bag. As it was, the t-shirt was pretty stinky so I decided to not wash it and keep things simple. 

Because we don't go on holiday or stay away overnight I think it was hard for me to think about how a weekend would be where I didn't have all my stuff around me. It was a bit of a revelation that part of my issue is that I have everything available to me all the time because I'm always at home. When I started to notice this, I couldn't stop noticing all the things that I didn't know were choices because I never feel like I'm picking between them. 

There is more, but not today. 

Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Week

The week has been made up of eating out, laughing, strawberry wars with the blackbirds, shorts, mystery shopping, sun, beach, The Lakes, friends and gossip, tight dresses, strict instructions, lots of football, the occasional beer, white fuchsias, rugby league calamity, New Girl, RVP, haircut, fluffy dogs, family visits, sore legs, no sleep, resisting charity shop temptations, saying yes, saying no, car heat, roses, parks, watch batteries, stocking up on that one elusive item, and all round loveliness.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Freebie and Bargain of the Week

This week has been a week of silence for me. I've not really had anything to say to anyone, I have enjoyed being on the beach and at the shop though.

Dan's mum decided she needed a change, it transpires that change has been to tear out all but two plants out of her front garden. There remains a small tree and some campanula. We didn't bring any of the plants back here, it was one of those situations where things just had to go. I don't know where they went, just away. Anyway, what does this have to do with me? 

Olly didn't order enough weed guard sheeting stuff so had to nip to Wilko for some just to do the last little section. She gave us a full roll, I didn't know what we needed it for but Dan said - for the strawberries. What a great idea, so now my strawbs are off the ground and all is well. There's still 7m of the roll left. 

The bargain was from the charity shop on Wednesday, there were rich pickings this week, but I was trying to not buy too much. I didn't want to resist this clamper bracelet for the grand sum of £1.19, it should go well with my outfit for next weekend.

Also, Widnes have reached the semi-final of the Challenge Cup, they'll play Castleford at Leigh Sports Village in August, 80 minutes away from Wembley etc .

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Signs Of Life

I mentioned yesterday in one of the comments that I have been running an experiment with my broken plant. Some bits are in water, some in the compost. All being spoken to on a daily basis by me. 

I left the jug and pot in the porch, it seemed like a sensible place as the temperature is pretty stable, the door is partially glazed so there is some light, but never direct. This morning's check revealed something positive, bits of green!

Only just visible, but to the right of the original stalk is a little green blob of growth! Hooray!

The jug dwelling teeny tiny twig has what looks like a very small sign of movement too. The large twig in the compost is still upright, there is nothing visible yet but it looks more perky, as much as a twig can look perky. Maybe I'll end up with three plants for the price of one, fingers crossed. 

I'm doing another bonus shift at the shop today as we're still scrambling for staff. I feel good about going in as the cleaning continues so I hope I can get lots more shelving cleaned today and maybe the changing rooms. I won't be on my own as I was yesterday so I should be able to get a lot done. 

My parents are coming over at the weekend so my mum can learn all about looking after rabbits. We're going to take them out for a meal too, they took us out last week, and as they're doing us such a massive favour it seems like a small price to pay. I'm hoping to pick up a few other bits and bobs for my mum to enjoy while she's here. Not sure what though yet, other than some wine gums. She loves a bag of wine gums.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Under Sink Tidying

hmmm, it looked worse in the flesh

The cupboard under the sink needed the junk drawer treatment today. To round off the bad week last week I decided to do some of the jobs I'd never choose to do when I was in a good mood. Things like cleaning out the wheelie bin, fun. At the end of the cleaning session I just shoved everything into the cupboard, hoped it would stay closed, and went for a sit down. 

I was going to post today about my garden project but the photos currently make it look like the most depressing piece of garden in the nation so I'll leave it for a bit. 

It took about 5 minutes to clear, wipe and shove everything back, although I appear to have misplaced the lint roller. 

I chucked away some empty boxes, a lone rubber glove and some nearly empty things. There are more cleaning products in here than usual. Along the same lines as the shampoo issues we've had, there are many bottles and bags of laundry detergent, trial and error until we found something that didn't irritate Dan's skin. Right at the back, out of sight, is a bag of Bio D powder, I just use that for the bunny stuff as we can't use it for clothes. There's a bottle of liquid behind the floor cleaner, I use that for my handwashing as I love the smell but again, no good for Dan. When they're gone they won't be replaced. 

Behind the bottles is a basket with all the lesser used stuff, like iron and metal cleaner, stuff to waterproof our waterproof jackets and trousers, shoe cleaning stuff, bin bags and sponges. Right at the back is carpet spot cleaner, fabric refresher, a bottle of bicarb spray and a bag of moisture absorbing crystals. Most of this stuff is Astonish brand, cheap, effective and not tested on animals. The tin behind the bucket with cleaning cloths in holds my pegs. We don't have a dishwasher, so no need for tablets or anything.

And what of the junk drawer?

Not as empty as it once was but not too bad. 

Monday, 9 June 2014

Menu Plan 8-14th June

After eating so much sugar at the weekend I just want some simple food with as much veg crammed into it as possible. We're reaching back into the River Cottage Veg Everyday book to try a couple of our favourites again and rounding off with something super simple. I'm also trying to use stuff up from the pantry. We only have one portion of rice left, no pasta, hardly anything by way of tomatoes or things to make sauces. We do have a shelf full of spices and lentils though, so it's not looking too bad. 

8. houmous, avocado & salad wrap
9. shepherdess pie
10 l/o 
11 mushroom orzo or pearl barley broth (depending on the weather)
12 peppers stuffed with beans w. couscous
13 some kind of lentil curry
14 jacket potato and plaki (or tin of baked beans if I'm being lazy)

I'm still mulling over a few things in my mind from the weekend so a week of good simple food should give me lots of brain space to work it all out. 

Saturday, 7 June 2014

No Animals Were Harmed During The Writing Of This Post

the red base of this is the giant snack!

We had a really good day out to the very beautiful Lancaster Town Hall to the North West Vegan Festival. Don't run away, this is mainly about cake! We'd never been to anything like this before and were a bit dubious and was a little out of our comfort zone, but I knew the folks from Coconut Rose Bakery were attending. They're top of the list to make my birthday cake. I wanted to taste the goods before I put all my flax-eggs in their basket.

It's probably fairly obvious why we were a bit scared about going, it's all those pictures isn't it, all the unpleasant stuff. I like the tasty bits, not the bits that make me cry. I did talk for a while to a lady from Sea Shepherd*, who was fascinating and engaging without being ranty or extreme. It's so easy to get emotional about things isn't it, whether it be saving the planet or making a loaf We navigated our way around the distressing/ political things, and examined the other stalls.

I had a make up lesson from a wonderful lady selling Bohemian Chic Minerals make up. I learned more about applying make up in the 10 minutes with her than the rest of my life. OK, enough messing about, it was lunchtime. Down the corridor was the food room. The room was pretty busy by the time we arrived. We did a circuit before choosing some things to try. We tried nettle soup *yum*, a thali (3 curries, rice, pakora, roti and a samosa), a fajita from Swampy's and some rather nice beer from Pitfield Brewery.

Onto the important part of the day, the cake. 

Dan went for a piece of hazelnut bundt cake from these very nice chaps all the way from That Old Chestnut bakery in Leeds. An excellent choice. Everything about this stall was what you'd expect from an artisan bakery, things were beautifully laid out, the branding was great, just ideal for the jaunty cake lover. Dan also went for a peanut butter bourbon cream from Coconut Rose. 

I went straight for a chocolate and violet cupcake (sorry, no photo) it was GORGEOUS!!! The whole time I was thinking about the Ananda Foods stall - home of marshmallows. I squeezed into my bag a "Round Up!" and we picked up 4 bags of mini marshmallows - chocolate and banana, 2 x vanilla and just for me, coconut. Haven't tried them yet and have to hand a couple of bags over to my brother to enjoy when he's off his juice diet. 

a bit squidged from being in my bag
There is no way that dress is going to fit!

It goes without saying but I was given nothing for writing nice things about this event or any of the stalls or products. I parted with my own cash and I'm looking forward to 13th September when the fun arrives in Blackpool

*no link to this as it is potentially upsetting/ annoying. I'm just telling you about what I did this weekend, no agenda! 

Surprise Visitor

We decided to nip out for a few emergency provisions in order to get the weekend off to a cheery start. When we returned Dan opened the curtains (the sun streams in all afternoon so closed curtains prevent us from boiling in our skins). What did we see?

A lovely racing pigeon!

Not ideal to have it sitting there on the clothes airer, but what can you do? The bird was asleep for quite some time, then it woke and had a little stretch and a look around. Dan had a look online for information about what we should do. The homing pigeon site Dan visited assured us the bird was probably just having a rest during a race and if we wanted we could leave out some food and water. So I went out with both of those things, the bird looked at me but didn't move at all. I checked all around it to check it wasn't injured, and took the opportunity to take a few pictures and note the ring number. It was very tame and sat, totally unconcerned as I went about my business.

According to the website one ring is a racing ring, the other for ID. What I learned is that our bird was born in 2013. I think we could possibly find out more if we chose to but I haven't delved into it yet.

Our visitor stayed on the airer for about 45 minutes, obviously we don't know how long it was there beforehand. Eventually after much looking around and having a think, off it flew and that was that!

Friday, 6 June 2014

Is It Nearly Over?

I have not been a happy girl this week. A series of small and mildly distracting events have added up to reveal the seething, tiny ball of rage you see before you. I think Monday was OK, Tuesday started the slide and it all came together yesterday. 

I arrived at the shop yesterday to learn that my till buddy who we all sang the praises of on Tuesday didn't turn up for her shift on Wednesday. What can you do? Although she did then phone in to say she wouldn't be there, this is an improvement. 

I've been looking for a white fuchsia (which I realise I've been spelling incorrectly for a long time). At the monthly market in the town I picked up a very nice Halsall Pearl, it's not white, but it is very pale. Got to the shop where someone put their bag on top of my bag (which clearly contained a plant) and snapped every single bit of it. When I took it out of my bag at home the plant bits came away and the root bit was still in the pot. 

I would have asked Father what to do last night at the Widnes v Keighley game but I burned the tea and it was decided that I was far too volatile to sit in a ground where people would potentially get on my nerves - let's just say I have form where that's concerned. So we stayed in and I had a fondant fancy instead. We did see Father on the telly though so that was fun, he was clearly wishing he'd taken his sunglasses.  

Just before bed last night I moved my cushion to give it a plumping when I noticed that as well as seeing to the rug The White Rabbit has chewed a hole in the back cushion of my sofa too. Delightful. I went to bed and hoped for a sunny Friday. 

I can't end on a sour note, so five good things this week - 

1. My garden project is coming along nicely.
2. I was given a very useful book to help me with my garden project.
3. Denis Betts (the Widnes coach) made me laugh during his post-match interview.
4. I chose quinoa over crisps (I know the "goodness" of this could be debated).
5. Had a nice sit at Granny's Bay last evening. 

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Not About The F Word

I'm not going to talk about how much I laughed and laughed and laughed about the wonderful green news that carrier bags are soon to cost 5p and the other wonderful news that we're bending over backwards to help fracking get going, right under our houses*. I'm not going to do that as we talk politics enough at home. 

I'm not going to talk about my terrible day yesterday, it peaked when The White Rabbit chewed a hole in the living room rug.

Nor am I going to reveal my modest, yet mildly fun garden project. It isn't yet finished as I ran out of materials.

I am going to give the new greengrocers a whirl today on my way to the town, I'm doing another shift at the shop. Just a few hours to get some new stock sorted and out. As I mentioned last week, things have been slipping recently but since then meetings have been had and we are all systems go for change (for the next three weeks at any rate). So much nice to go into a clutter free, clean shop rather than the thing it had become of late. We're all stepping up and taking a bit of responsibility, having that acknowledged and appreciated is going a very long way. Far better than feeling like a pack horse and till widget. It just doesn't take that much to say something positive instead of something negative does it?

I had been warned about my new till buddy, told how useless and unreliable they are (and to be fair, their presence is a little hit and miss). But treating someone like they are useless isn't going to motivate them to work harder and be confident in their actions. That's what we did this week, we worked as a team and it really showed. To see someone look initially confused and then proud when the management thanked them for their good work was brilliant, especially when they're having a hard time getting paid work. It made my day

*Yes I know it doesn't mean my house would fall down, my brother's house is built over a massive hole where salt was extracted in Northwich and a few hundred metres up the road from us in East Lancs were big underground holes where coal was mined.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

I Never Thought I'd See The Day

I have stolen this phrase from my mother. She has taken to saying it whenever she receives a gift with the word "Nanna" written on it - this is a very very very very frequent thing as my niece loves to buy Nanna gifts. She must be the youngest shopaholic in the land. 

Anyway, this isn't a discussion of the whirlwind of gift giving, family meals out, visits, girlie chats and general family togetherness I've become embroiled in for the past 8 months. It's about gardening - because no-one is blogging about gardening at the minute are they. Yesterday I bought... a gardening magazine. Yes, yes I did. I bought it mainly because there were packets of seeds on the front cover. But I must confess I have already found out something useful and interesting from a quick skim through so there we go! 

Peering out of the window yesterday I spotted yet another plant in the "mystery plant jumble", the back bit of the garden we haven't untangled yet. On Sunday I found what I believe to be a fuschia deep in the undergrowth. It appears to be growing out of a tree so don't know what to do with that really. 

mystery plant jumble
The thing I found yesterday is a pink thing, it's very nice. 

this is the best I could do, it's windy and high up!

I think the garden originally had a system of wires to hold all these plants in place, there is evidence that there were hooks or something in the back wall. I think maybe if we could beat the garden into submission that could be something to try again. Although Father will be here for a few hours while we're away so anything could happen when I'm not there to say "STOP!"

Speaking of which, I think gardening has the potential to be the most thing baby heavy pursuit known to the world. There really is always something, I had my suspicions it would be this way and know I'm learning just how true it is. 

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Nervous Wait

I can't be alone in having that slightly fluttery feeling when the car goes to the car hospital. The potential costs are all so vague. 

Dan took the car in yesterday, when it was last serviced the guy told him that we'd need brake pads, the MOT is happening next week so Dan decided to have the brakes done yesterday and everything just checked over. We're driving all the way down to Bournemouth this month so best to know that everything is safe and sensible. Dan came home looking not too unhappy, my chanting of "please less than £200" must have worked as we paid just over £110 to have the bits and bobs done. Phew. 

Forgot to say yesterday, my mum also gave us two small square planters on Sunday (no photo yet, it's raining). 

My frock for the wedding doesn't fit. The wedding is in 2 and a bit weeks, that's another nervous wait, no cake for me at the charity shop.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Menu Plan 1-7 June

The menu plan is back for June, but I'm doing it on a weekly basis. Partly because we have to work to a tiny budget this month for various reasons and partly because I can't be bothered to think of a plan for the whole month. 

The first day of the month ended up being very expensive. It was my mum's birthday so we went down to visit her and ended up joining them for a meal out. It wasn't expensive really but it was a fair chunk of our food budget, but we don't see them all that often, let alone go out with them. It was fun. 

We did come home with some little bonus items though. Two ready to eat turnips, a mystery purple plant, a bit of bronze fennel and half a dozen empty 2l bottles. Some are for cloche making and others are to use as cool blocks for the rabbits when it gets hot. 

The shopping list for this week is really just basics, all the meals are made from things we already have in. The shopping list is -

bunny greens

1. out
2. spicy spaghetti w. v-pud 
3. chilli (frozen)
4. roast veg chickpea stew w. v-pud
5. nut roast w. veg and onion gravy
6. chickpea curry 
7. l/o