Thursday, 31 July 2014

Turning On The Style

In our minds our house is super stylish, we have a very clear idea of how we want it to look. At this point in time it does not look that way. 

We have taken steps this week to remedy that. Firstly, a plumber has worked his magic on the weird gurgly-vibrating sound, and I have had a lovely chat with his mate about Big Grey Bunny. Secondly, I have painted some woodwork, thirdly we are going to look at flooring on Saturday. The flooring is the single biggest thing we can do to make things look at bit less squatty. I am mindful that the price tag may well be fairly big too! 

I ended August £17.67 under budget. Half of that is down to the fact that the window cleaner didn't come, so that cash can just roll over to August. I will be focusing on getting the most from the pantry and getting as much done with things we already have during August. Much of our entertainment is already paid for - Tom Jones, the Challenge Cup semi final (although that may not be classed as "entertainment") and we're going to see a show called "Blam", which sounds like loads of fun. Every weekend is already filled so hopefully that should keep the spending down a little bit - famous last words!

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Trouble At t'Mill

Do you remember those old weather stations where there were two figures, one would pop out of the little house if the weather was fair, the other would pop out if the weather was foul? That's what the shop will be like today.

Relations have broken down so much with the manager, who leaves this week, and her deputy, that they can't and won't be in the same room together. So that should be fun. 

I must have either been very lucky with my previous places of employment or I've forgotten the finer details of the drama as I am astounded by the behaviour I've seen in the past weeks. And how much arguing is really required when it comes to buying a card? It's ridiculous. I'll be very glad when the next few weeks are out of the way, when the new manager is revealed and we can all move on. 

It's a good job I'm not interesting enough to gossip about. 

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Life's Too Short



to stuff a mushroom apparently. Well, I disagree. I stuffed six mushrooms last night and was all done and dusted by six o'clock. 

Dan and I have held clear the air talks about the house, and things in general. The main outcomes are that a plumber is coming over tomorrow evening to listen to our funny noise and we are going floor shopping on Saturday.

Today I am surrounded by lists, one shopping list, one inventory, one master to-do list, one jobs I need to do but have been putting off list, one list of plants we want to obtain (some of them are not euphorbia), one list of people to contact (repairs, jobs to do etc) and one list of weekend things.

As luck would have it the Local List arrived yesterday so it made some of the work a bit easier. I love this booklet, it advertises everything from plumbing to Paul's Miracle oil, from dance classes to New Horizons (a place for free thinkers, I think I might bump into my chap from the charity shop there). Useful and kind of cute. It really made me think about how much goes on even in a small, quiet place like this. There really more opportunities than we could ever take.  

Monday, 28 July 2014

Breadwinning

Being a housewife has been a great thing, it has really worked for us. Now it doesn't. I don't know how it's going to happen or where it's going to come from but I need a job. 

There we go. 

There are things I really want to achieve with the house but it will never be a priority. If I want it to be a priority I think I need to have the cash to make it happen. There's only so far I can get snaffling a few pence here and there from the grocery budget, I need real cash. As far as I know, finding paid work is the most reliable way to do this. 

I know it's going to take quite a long time for me to find something as I have no references and haven't worked for over 10 years, but eventually something will come along and my new phase can begin. 

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Menu Plan July/August

I've been a bit all over the place recently, especially with food. We've not been eating the same so a plan would have been useless. As a consequence I've done a two week plan to cover the end of this month and the start of next. It's based around the contents of the fridge, freezer and pantry with lots of space for salad. 

27 bean burger with salad
28 stuffed mushrooms w. couscous
29 plaki with herby potatoes
30 veg tart with batata harra
31 fried rice
 1 cauliflower curry
 2 out 

 3 l/o curry
 4 chillies stuffed with beans (River Cottage Veg)
 5 herb crusted smoky bean stew
 6 sesame roasted tofu w. satay sauce and broccoli
 7 l/o tofu w herby peanutty noodly salad (R.C.V)
 8 black eyed bean burrito
 9 bean & tomato soup w. avocado and flatbread (R.C.V)

I'm trying to keep the grocery spend right down in August as it could be a costly month. We're going to see Tom Jones with my brother and his girlfriend next Saturday. Widnes are in the Challenge Cup Semi Final the following weekend. If something very odd happens and we manage to beat Cas in the semi (it would be a surprise to everyone) then we'll be going to Wembley later on in the month. We need as much cash and we can spare - although we all know that we won't be going to the final so there's no need to worry really!

Friday, 25 July 2014

That Time Of Year Again

I won the bean bag race at sports day every year from 1980-86.

It's that time of year again where we do lots of handwringing about why women don't involve themselves in sport all that much. I'm listening to women who have chosen to be professional sport people discussing/judging those women who don't involve themselves in sport. I think they're part of the issue (yes, I know I've spoken about this before).

I heard a lot of things from the professional sports folk today and they connected lots of things that I'm not so sure about. 

Sport is not the same as activity or fitness. 

Not wanting to involve yourself in sport isn't the same as being unhealthy.

Not wanting to involve yourself in sport doesn't mean you're lazy.

Not wanting to involve yourself in sport doesn't mean you need to be educated.

Not wanting to involve yourself in sport doesn't mean you eat unhealthy food.

Not wanting to involve yourself in sport doesn't mean you don't know how to cook.

Not wanting to involve yourself in sport doesn't mean you lack intestinal fortitude.

Not wanting to involve yourself in sport doesn't mean you're scared of competition. 

Not wanting to involve yourself in sport doesn't mean you're not strong, whatever that means. 

Not everything is a this or that issue.*

Lots of people have no interest in playing sport and it's nothing to do with laziness, or not having a role model, bad parenting, money, or not wanting to take you clothes off in public. I was very sporty at school, I have no idea how that happened. I played hockey, did athletics, gymnastics, dance and inexplicably rounders and represented the school. I don't know how it happened, it just did and once I was in I couldn't get out. I wanted to play badminton but for some reason it was not to be. why did I stop playing sport when I left school? I have no idea, possibly the same reason I stopped wearing a tie every day, I didn't have to.

Doing something doesn't make you special, or better than anyone else. If you play sport/ lift weights/ crochet/ eat meat/ don't eat meat/ have no mortgage/ cook from scratch/ live off grid/ anything else and it makes you feel good then that is delightful, it doesn't mean it's delightful for everyone else. Even if it would be delightful for everyone else, judging people or acting as though you know better isn't going to help. 

I suppose what I'm wondering is whether sport is important at all and whether we're saying "sport" when we mean something else. 

*I realise that I'm talking about sport, but not just talking about sport. 

Bottom of the Fridge Tea

Yes, I call dinner tea because I'm common. 

We've spent so much time eating salad for the past couple of weeks I had totally forgotten to buy any non-salad veg. For the previous evenings we'd been eating salad plus something, but by Wednesday I fancied a change. When I say fancied a change I mean I'd run out of tofu so we couldn't have BBQ tofu salad again.

I looked in the fridge and there wasn't all that much non-salad. So I poked in the freezer hoping for inspiration and found a blob of red Thai curry paste that had been in there for about a year, some peas and sweetcorn. Rescued a quarter of forlorn looking cauli, a little bit of orange pepper, some spinach and two spring onions from the fridge added some coconut and made curry. We had some soba noodles in the pantry (I had declared I didn't like them so they'd been hanging around for months) and when it was ready, topped it off with some cashews and seeds we use for with cereal or on our salads. 

It was delicious! I have no idea why I didn't enjoy the noodles last time, they were just what the doctor ordered. Dan declared it a top notch back to the wall meal so everyone was happy. Especially me as I didn't have to do the washing up. 

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Freebie and Bargain of the Week 2




Not that I'm showing off or anything, but my current purse is too small. I have a couple of loyalty cards, there are generally some coupons and I mainly use cash so there are coins sloshing around too. It's easy to lose things. So I was after a replacement. I used to have multiple purses for my various budgets but that is just annoying to me now. 



Of course charity shops provide. For one pound I obtained my new purse. It was brand new! Silica gel and little bits of padding stuff still inside! There are lots of compartments for aforementioned vouchers and so on, a nice zip part for change and room for cards. Plus it looks like an old lady purse so I like it, Dan said it reminds him of an old soup bowl. That's good enough for me. 



The freebie was a case of "I saw this and thought of you". A friend came across a fat quarter pack somewhere along the line and gave it to me! I don't know what I'll do with the hot air balloon fabric but the white and blue fabric will be used as part of the spare bed quilt. Another great week. 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

A Guy Came Up To Me And...



It felt a little like I was a bit subversive today, actually as a housewife I feel a bit subversive every day, but today I wasn't alone... I was at the charity shop when a young bloke came in to buy a blanket. We talked about the blanket for a bit when he asked me if I was the person who'd been talking about Build A Bear.

Build A Bear? Yes, Build A Bear... Hmmm no I don't think so. He was certain it was me as a lady had been talking with me about Princess Diana.

Oh! Bilderberg, yes, that was me.

We had a chat about conspiracy theories, David Icke and all that stuff when he wrote something on a piece of paper (a web address as it turns out) and promised to return to talk about things again. It was almost as hard to convince my colleagues that I wasn't being chatted up as it was to explain what we really were talking about! I'm not a conspiracy theorist really, but my best mate from college is so I have delved into that world a little bit. 

A little while later I was chatting with another lady and we ended up discussing Tram Sunday, which was last weekend, hopefully no explanation needed about what that is. She apologised for paying me with a note as she'd used all her change at Tram Sunday, even though she'd spent most of the day on a stall. She looked a little sheepish when I asked what the stall was, it was The Green Party. "I'm not political" she said "but things are important". I agree, things are important. I tried to put her at ease by mentioning Sea Shepherd, so she knew I was a bit lentilly too. I've to nip over for a cup of tea at their stall at Blackpool Vegan Festival, better brush up on thoughts about Important Things!

I had to promise not to turn the shop into some kind of gonzo philosophy and general oddity hangout. Although I think that ship has already sailed. 

Just for the record, we only spent £1 at Tram Sunday, not too bad. For anyone in the area this weekend, it's the Kite Festival in St Anne's this weekend 11-5 each day. It's also the tail end of the LSA Festival. There are art displays at Silantro, Second Hand Rose and Soper's (all in the St Andrew's Rd area), plus music in Ashton Gardens. 

Monday, 21 July 2014

All Change



Despite the fact the month doesn't have an R in it, I have been quilting, and I'm running low on blue to mix in with the grey for the spare bed quilt. Worrying times. 

My brother has just moved in with his girlfriend, so he's been clearing out 41 years worth of stuff and giving much of it to me to take to the shop. This generally means a bit of an odd exchange in the car park whenever we go to watch Widnes. The weird and wonderful things I took possession of this week did nothing to alter the perception of Widnes in the eyes of the opposition fans I fear. 

At this point I will mention Widnes beat dear neighbours Warrington 28-14 on Friday, this came as a shock to everyone other than my brother who placed a wager on it and won £251. Well done to fans of both teams for giving Widnes superfan Pat Price a decent send off. It was a very strange experience to not see Pat about the place and to think she never will be again - who will start the singing/ sell programmes/ keep Willie Isa on his toes/ make sure the kids behave/ wave the flag?

On top of all the junk/ cherished items was a small and very old National Trust bag and inside were some scraps of fabric. Just what I needed. 

Friday, 18 July 2014

Gossip

The problem with gossip is that you find out a ton of things you don't want to know. This week I have heard a lot of gossip, I didn't really want to hear it, but I was a bit of a captive audience. What I learned from the gossip is that I feel a bit sorry for the subject of all this talk, they are totally in the right to be doing what they are doing, I don't like gossip, and I am almost certainly being gossiped about by these self same people when I'm not around. 

It's quite an eye opener isn't it?

It's been a bit of an odd week, lots has happened but nothing worth talking about. I bought a shoe rack, there's lots of turmoil, I have been amazed at how much people outsource their brains when they think someone will do their mental heavy lifting for them and that marinades are the best thing when you're busy but want to be reasonably healthy. 

I didn't mention it last week but I made a couple of things from Anjum's Indian Vegetarian Feast cookbook, yes the one I was supposed to be cooking from in March. I made roasted spiced portabella with creamy lemon dressing. Well, I didn't make the lemon dressing, the creamy aspect came form some mashed avocado with lemon - pretty much the same thing. The mushrooms were marinated in garlic, ginger, chilli, garam masala, cumin, lemon juice and oil, cooked in the oven then filled with herby breadcrumbs. I also made tandoori potatoes, new potatoes coated with yoghurt and spices. It wasn't fiddly, but it was a bit time consuming. Just as well it was so delicious. I don't generally go in for having a BBQ, but if I ever do, I will certainly feature both of these yummy items. 

Dan's having a flare up at the minute, so this week we're keeping it very simple, nothing to excite the tummy! 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Not Quite Regrets

Something happened yesterday that under other circumstances could have been an opportunity for me. Although I can't regret it because had things been different then I wouldn't be here to see the potential opportunity arise. 

The lesson of this year seems to be a little bit of lots of things.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Another Hard Worker

aka the march to old ladyhood.

Over the past few months I've been doing more on my own, in order to free up the evenings and weekends. So I've been doing the grocery shopping and general dogsbodying about. To make this is a little easier I now have a beautiful assistant. 

It looks a little like a suitcase here, but it's currently full


I've not had it for very long, but it is already making life a lot easier. My brother has just moved in with his girlfriend so gave me a pile of stuff to take to the charity shop. Usually I'd have to wait until the weekend so Dan could take things in the car, or I'd have to have things hanging around the house while I took things in in dribs and drabs. Yesterday I just loaded up and off I went! 

I haven't needed it for craft purposes yet but I can see it will be better than my wheely toolbox for carting my quilting things around if and when I take it out and about.

It's roomy, easy to move about, nice big wheels has an insulated lining, plus a large zip pocket on the back for other bits and pieces, and lots of pictures of dogs! I wish I'd had one when we lived in East Lancs, getting up that big hill on Whalley Road would have been far easier!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Blinds and Scotch Eggs

We did a lot of talking this weekend and concluded we were approaching a "blinds" situation. A "blinds" situation is the opposite of a "scotch egg" situation.

I mentioned The Scotch Egg Incident a really long time ago. This type of thing comes about when deprivation becomes too much and something has to give. A blinds incident is the opposite, this is when one of us (usually me) really really really really really wants to buy, do or achieve something yet it never happens. The original blinds incident came in summer 2009, but had started the previous September. It was agreed that when we'd saved up to buy the car (which was for both of us but Dan chose the one he really wanted) then a couple of things could come off my wishlist. It was no secret that I had always wanted blinds for the house so that was what I wanted as my thing. It never happened. Every month I mentioned it and every month we were blindless. 

It blew up in spectacular fashion when I refused to go out with our friends to see Blackpool Illuminations because I was invisible. We never bought blinds for the old house, but the lesson was learned.

Dan even passes this bit of wisdom on to his friends I discovered a couple of weeks ago. A work colleague was having a bit of marital disharmony so Dan floated the idea that maybe there was something his wife really wanted and he was putting it off. He said actually there was. Dan said "yep, it's usually blinds". Guess what, that's exactly what it was! 

All this to say that we talked about our spending and how we were avoiding the real stuff to do by leaving the house and spending on bits of nonsense that didn't improve things any in the long run. So we got out the blinds list and crossed a few things off. It's not all about shopping, it's just about prioritising and doing.  Shopping is easy, dealing with things is harder but more worthwhile. 

Friday, 11 July 2014

one in, one out

I couldn't sleep last night, turning things over in my head. I spoke with Dan about it, even though we have a rule that we don't talk about money when in bed.
I quite like a lot of thrifty stuff, I even quite like cooking when it's making do, rather than having a choice. Dan doesn't. He doesn't want to spend his time thinking about that stuff, having lists and things like that. He likes a straight edge.

That's what our issue boils down to - choice. We are fine when there's no choice, things are easy, we just get on with things. But when we do have choice it's different, there's conflict. We do what we need to do, pensions, emergency funds etc, so it's hard to maintain intensity for other things. Our pressures are mainly internal, I can't blame friends, family or society.

Our priorities differ too, which makes it difficult to set any goals. When we're aimless it's easy to waste resources. Emergency budget meeting ahoy!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Minus

Over the past few months we have added nothing to savings. Not only have we saved nothing we have taken money out of savings to get rid of the credit card balance.

There you go.

When we got out of debt I thought it would feel amazing. It didn't. It didn't feel anything as there was nothing to show for the years of paying it all off. For a really long time I thought we'd never have any debt ever again. But then we wandered into it, all down to the wedding ( it became a very convenient excuse for spending on pretty much anything).

It's easy to sleepwalk into bad habits, but impossible to wander out. It's like losing weight, the slimming is the easy bit, the maintenance is hard. I learned a lot during our "debt free journey" but it's not second nature like it is to some. I wouldn't last five minutes in the country, I don't crave the simple life, and by no means have friends who can be a good influence in this regard.

The learning phase is easy, when you're reading the tips and the goals seem so clear. Being in the middle between choice and necessity is hard. Call it weak willed, pathetic, easily lead or immature, I'm just being honest. I'm not perfect, and this stuff isn't always fun.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Back In The Garage



The new tv unit is unfinished, but it is working hard as a tv unit. Our old tv unit is a bit big and clunky for a modern telly so we've had no luck getting rid of it. I still really like it, it's just a bit big for the room and doesn't fit with the rest of our decor. 

There was no way it was going to be skipped so we moved it to the garage for safekeeping. Dan moved it to under the window in the garage which gave me the idea to use it as a potting table. A potting table is on my list of things I'd quite like, here's a nice flat surface with some extra storage, problem solved!

Dan put two spare exercise mats on top for a bit of spongy protection for the top and there we have it.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Menu Plan 6-12 July

A bit samey but it's what we're enjoying at the minute. I am now used to eating salad and want to eat it all the time. Having it all washed and ready to go makes things so much easier. Same with the massive dish of watermelon, I don't usually eat much fruit, but I find this hard to resist. 

6. salad (lettuce, spring onions, new potatoes, avocado, cucumber, tomatoes, beetroot dressing, lemon and herb seeds) w. falafel

7. summer veg stew (red onion, roast leek, yellow courgette, pointy pepper, spinach, butter beans, tinned tomatoes, 2 tsp Hannah's mixed chilli chutney, oregano, thyme and lemon thyme from the garden). 

8. stuffed mushrooms w. roast veg.

9. pasties w. salad

10 mushroom & lentil curry w. bombay potatoes/cauli 

11 l/o

12 moussaka

Monday, 7 July 2014

Curtains For All Of Us

the destructive force 

As I've mentioned morale is low here at the minute. Even a trip to Shrewsbury on Saturday didn't lighten the mood all that much - other than the wonderful market.  Yesterday got off to a very glum start, so I threw down a challenge to Dan, for us to do three things that would improve the state of our living room. 

The state of my environment really has a great impact on how I feel, as I'm sure it does for most people. So we set about doing a few bits and pieces. The living room is where the rabbits live, as a consequence it's never going to be the nicest room in the house, all the nice stuff is upstairs, where it can't be chewed. Our living room leaves a lot to be desired, we've had no proper floor in there for about three years, with no sign of that changing any time soon. The carpet was chewed by the rabbits, so we took it up and now we have bare concrete. 

The new tv unit is now in place, so Dan set about sorting the cables so they are away from prying teeth and so they are hidden from view as much as possible. We decided on a few simple changes - like removing some pictures and so forth, and I spot cleaned the curtains, then decided to wash them as it was a nice day and the larger pair could be washed and back up before the sun was strongest. 

Can you see what's going to happen here?

a wee bit wonky!

I promise I checked the care label and washed them on the most gentle cycle, but it was clearly too much. Oh dear. 

a wee bit shorter than before!

Our living room is south-west facing, so the sun is very strong during the hottest part of the day, we can't do without a window covering. As the whole window (about 5m) is floor to ceiling it's impossible to find something at a charity shop and pretty difficult to find off the peg. Except for one place. There is a shop where the curtains are 3m long as standard... So on a Sunday afternoon we went to Ikea.

It was great! No rows, no tantrums, just some new curtains. 


Friday, 4 July 2014

Exasperation

Even with a list I'm all over the place at the minute. After my mammoth shopping trip to the market yesterday I couldn't believe I came home without any potatoes. That particular cloud had a silver lining when Father handed me a bag of spuds and broad beans from his garden last night after the rugby (least said about that the better, other than we had someone singing live after the tries - song of choice "Business Time" by Flight of the Concords, and a man dressed as a tiger dancing to YMCA, fantastic). 

Dan's horrorshow at work continues and morale here is very low, so what should a housewife and cheerleader do? Stuff, morale lifting stuff. It appears, however, that what is morale lifting for one person is flipping exasperating for another. 

I thought I'd start small and do a couple of little jobs that are a source of annoyance but never quite enough to fix them there and then. I set about replacing a couple of hooks in the pantry that are too big for their purpose. Removed one no problem, couldn't get the new one in. Couldn't even remove the second one. It was only half past eight and I was already hot and bothered. 

And so on. 

Thankfully rabbit litter tray cleaning went well. 

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Win Win Win



I didn't feel too much like a winner yesterday, until we took ourselves off to The Grand in Blackpool to watch Avenue Q. We got the tickets with some of our Christmas money, so it seems like an age since we decided to go. Well worth the wait. Although getting to spend any amount of time in such a great building is a wonderful thing. 

It was a bit dull and dreary when I got up this morning but as it was Lancashire market day I headed out. Everyone seemed very cheerful on the way into the town/beach/park and I had a little chat and exchanged greetings with a few people, always nice.  I nipped in to J.R Taylor to have a look at the pretty things and ended up talking to someone who used to manage the shop where I volunteer. I had a poke around some of the charity shops where I found some unworn office wedge sandals, just what I'd been looking for. I'd like to say they were bargain of the century but they weren't. I'd set myself a budget of £12.99 and they were less than that so that's fine. 

Time to have a look at the market. There weren't quite as many stalls there today I don't think, but the main contenders were still in evidence. I headed over to the black pudding stand with my £2.20 in hand to buy a V-pud but as I was waiting (there's always a queue at this stall) I spotted something else that Dan loves 



Veggie haggis! We usually buy another brand but it tastes a little too much of marg for my liking so I thought I'd give this a go. The picture on the front is a little distressing though. 

I munched my way through bread, crackets and chips with various chutneys and jams (restricted myself to two jars), one from a lovely lady named Hannah and the other from a stall I've bought from before Spice Up Your Life. The products are made by users of the Ormerod Trust which works with adults and children with disabilities. 

Of course I am in love with the V-pud man, but today I am also in love with the veg lady. I've bought bedding plants from her before but never veg. I decided to try some golden beetroot, it looked amazing under all the mud.Then she brought out the free samples - candied and garlic roasted golden beetroot. Yuuuuuuuuuum. 

So the menu plan is changing today, I couldn't find any exciting looking mushrooms anywhere, si we're having roast veg orzo with garlic golden beetroot and v-pud instead. Should set us up for a stressful night watching Widnes v Castleford. 

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Door Curtain

I bought a big roll of curtain header tape for 49p from the charity shop yesterday in order to make a door curtain for the porch. 

I love our porch, it does an amazing job as a cold/heat trap. But it leads directly to the dining area, so it can let in a big draught. Plus I just like door curtains. Ours isn't going to be thick or bulky, just enough to be a barrier. I'm using the sheet I bought for 99p from the charity shop a few months ago. It's orange so goes well with our decor. 

I decided I'd give the sewing machine a go, to get the job done quickly. after a couple of minutes of sewing I remembered why I hadn't used a sewing machine for nearly 20 years, put the machine away, made a cup of tea and set to hand sewing as I listened to the radio. 

Now I just need some small curtain hooks. 

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Determined

Were we not already determined to up the savings then yesterday drove the point home. Dan arrived home from work demoralised and furious. 

We can't do much about that yet, but we can work on the domestic side of things to make things easier and keep up the bank balance and the spirits until, hopefully, a job change can take place. 

The charity shop should be interesting today too, the manager is back after 5 weeks off sick. The feel and appearance of the place has been so different, more fun, more relaxed, more productive. I'm dreading what's going to happen this afternoon... At least the sun is shining!