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Showing posts from March, 2014

the knock on effect

I think what I was trying to say yesterday was about unexpected benefits and the power of letting things unfold. I don't always know what will be most beneficial to me, buying the best isn't always going to be best value for money. I think we all know the best things in life are free but sometimes maybe don't see the other side of it that other stuff can be a drain.

I say this as I look at our tv unit. It was the best we could afford and now I dislike it very much indeed!

Art Pass

I know I've gone on about it before but we were talking this morning about the benefits of having a National Art Pass. We signed up for ours last summer when Dan decided he wanted to go to Bowes Museum to see the swan. The entry fee for Bowes was £9.50 each and the annual pass was £60 for both of us. Seemed like good value at the time. We've also received discounts in some gallery shops and half price entry to exhibitions at Tate Liverpool. 

The benefit of the pass has been so much more than getting free or reduced price entrance to various exhibitions though. It has kept the idea of going to a museum or gallery in our mind wherever we go - even when the place is free entry, we're just more aware of the choice we have. It's opened up the places we travel to too. 

Before we went to Bowes we thought it would be much too far to do in one day, but it wasn't. A long day yes, but not impossible. A few weeks ago the latest magazine plopped through the door (as well as the p…

Four Years

Four years ago yesterday three men came, packed up all our belongings and moved us across the county, from a big Edwardian terrace, to a sugarlump.

When we first bought our house in East Lancs it was ideal, the neighbours were fine, the house needed a ton of work but was great, the area was suitable and everything was grand. Sad to say I couldn't say the same about the place when we left. Our final morning at the house involved Dan, the most placid man in the world, having an argument in the street with a near naked neighbour, our removal guys offering to superglue his wiper blades to his car, another neighbour refusing to get out of bed to move their car so our van could park and thus causing a massive traffic jam up and down the main road. 

"So why are you moving?" asked one of the cheeky removal men. 

Four years ago I had only been to this town twice, I had never made a quilt, never prepared tofu, never eaten samphire, never seen a rabbit on a dune or an old man on a sco…

Do instead of Buy, Part Two

For the past few days, since looking at my spring and summer clothes I've been thinking about a new bag. I have a beach bag but the straps are not great so it's really uncomfortable on my shoulder as soon as there's any weight in it at all. My attention had been drawn to these Jenn Ski tote bags, I love these designs and used the Mod Century range for Dan's sofa quilt. But then I thought, "I have Jenn Ski fabric, could I make a tote bag?" Answer, yes I think so. 

I've never made a bag before believe it or not, so I have made a part practice run part I'm going to use this one bag. Again, were I the owner of a sewing machine this would have taken about an hour but I don't so it didn't. I have a ton of canvas bags but I tend to find that the straps are too long or too short for me. I chopped the straps off one of these bags and used the bag bit as a lining/pattern then stitched up some of the very large piece of zig zag fabric I bought from Abakha…

The Focus Of My Attention

The focus of my attention at the minute is this very normal looking bush.
We usually have a blackbird nesting in the garden. But now we've cut the garden back, although there's still a lot of mess and space for wildlife, the tree they usually use isn't quite as full. 
Yesterday I saw the male blackbird on the fence with worms in his beak, so I watched. I had an idea where the nest was a I'd seen the female carrying bits and bobs back a little while ago. They've built a nest in a smallish bush on the other side of the garden. I am on high alert, five cats use our garden as a thoroughfare and they pass right by the bush, one was having a little sniff around this morning, so I am right there as soon as I see a cat. Luckily for me the buns dislike the cats so let me know about it as soon as one appears. 
It's a stressful time, but I do enjoy it.

A Few Small Things

We've been puttering around the house this weekend and a few things that could have cost us cash have been sorted out for little or no cost.

1. As you know I made a scarf, removing an item from my wants list. 

2. I tidied the coats in the porch cupboard which lead to

3. I moved my shoes into my wardrobe and laid out all my spring summer clothes, I want/need a pair of trousers (I only have a pair of walking trousers) and some leggings as my current ones have baggy knee syndrome. I would like a bag and a coverup/cardi but I don't need them. That simple act has reduced my shopping list by about 6 items. I also located my two summer hats.

4. We planted some old packets of seeds. If they grow then great, if they don't then it doesn't matter but it got us doing a few bits in the garden.

5. We needed to replace the lino in the bunny pen. We took the spare bits we had and found one that was just a tiny bit short, the pen is 8ft x 4ft so takes up a fair bit of space in the living ro…

We Use A Credit Card

There you have it. Shock and gasp.

In July 2003 when we started to get our financial lives sorted I read all the old stuff, Tightwad Gazette etc and tried virtually all of the tips. We got rid of the credit cards, I had one, Dan had a few. It was fine, we paid them all off, cancelled them and life was grand. Then, we bought something and like good people we paid cash all was well. In the time it took for us to pay for it and wait in for delivery, the company went bust.

I was distraught. Were it not for the fact that the administrator was very approachable, our item was in the storeroom and one ex-employee was amazing enough to bring the item to our house and fit it, on a Bank Holiday Monday, without being paid we'd have lost the item and our £1541. It would have been a very painful case of "stupid tax" and was sheer good fortune that it worked out in our favour. 

Never again. Dan got a credit card soon afterwards and we use the card for any larger purchases that we're n…

The Tyranny Ends

We've learned a lot from my food fug and subsequent cookbook cooking experiments. Realisations for today are that a week long menu plan doesn't work, planned leftovers don't work and that we buy way too much food. 

It's all to do with barriers. When we were paying off our debts, saving up for the car, saving up to move and all that stuff (the first three of which cover the period 2003-2010) it was good to have the barriers. Having barriers meant we could rationale our thoughts. Obviously getting out of debt was for the best, paying cash for a car was for the best, overpaying on the mortgage for the old house was a good idea but the barriers protected us from feeling too glum about having no spare money. 

All those games we play with ourselves, sealed pot challenges, making something from nothing, finding free things to do, it's good to convince ourselves that they're the best thing to do because it removes anything else from the equation. If we're already doi…

New Scarf

I've mentioned a few times that I'm sorting out my clothing in an attempt to look less scruffy/relaxed and I think a lot of that, for me, is about accessories. Jewellery gets on my nerves and never lasts the day, but I do like badges, brooches, scarves and things like that. 

We have set a bit of our budget aside each month for me to build my new wardrobe (or to spend on whatever I like). This month I spent it on some Tevas, I wanted something I could walk for miles in but that weren't too clunky and that I could wear on the beach. They fit the bill well, I'm made up with them.

Back to scarves, I've seen a few I like but they were over £10 each, which is a bit much. I am keeping an eye out at the charity shop where I could get a few for a tenner, but no luck yet. Yesterday I saw someone with a beautiful mid-Century style one, absolutely gorgeous, she was a craft teacher. Then I thought "hang on, I do crafts, could I make a scarf..?" Answer, yes I could!

A sew…

March Shopping Week Three and Menu Plan

We've done a menu plan for the next week (Thursday to Thursday) as we've been a bit all over the place this week and it's been a bit "grab and go". We're trying a few new recipes. Some are from Vegetarian Living Magazine, some are from "Anjum's Indian Vegetarian Feast", the book I talked about a while ago that came from The Book People. Finally there are a couple of junky things that we just wanted. 

Th. Mexican bean and tortilla bake extra will be frozen for Tuesday
F. lentil bol
S.  pizza
Su. soup w. falafel toasties
M. Rogan Mushrooms
T. blackened tofu w. bean bake
W. tofu tikka masala it's supposed to be paneer but we'll have tofu left over from the night before
Th. use-it-up one pot rice or quinoa with whatever's left in the fridge

It seemed like we spent a lot this week, although the pantry is looking very plump so I can't complain. 

£10.78 f&v the usual - broccoli, onions, lemons, many many mushrooms, salad etc
£ 3.55 dairy and n…

Doing

I always think I'm fairly lazy, or at least not rushed. Although I could certainly cram more into my day I've been having a look around myself and I've been getting a bit done recently. 

I've not been sleeping well at all for the past week so I think the extreme tiredness has kept me moving. If I sit down too much I might never get up again. My wardrobe has been cleared out, shopping list written and stuff for the charity shop has gone to the charity shop. The cabinet revamp has been slow but it is ongoing, the garden is having bits and bobs done to it, the house is alarmingly tidy, we had a couple of decent walks over the weekend and everything just seems to be ticking over. I guess it's true that doing things gets things done. Things seem harder when I sit and think about it rather than just getting on with it.

Funnily enough, after saying I didn't want to eat the orzo pasta thing, guess what we're having for tea tonight? Yep, it's the best way to stret…

The End of the Experiment

As we're approaching week three of River Cottage week it has become clear that I don't want to eat the risoniotto at this point and we don't have anything to go with the potato layer thing. We certainly will at some point, just not this week.

Having the idea of following the book has been brilliant though. The recipes we did try were all delicious and they'll be added to future menu plans and there are many others in the book we're looking forward to trying over the course of the year. I will tweak some of the ingredients a little for some added protein but other than that I have been pleasantly surprised (as I have mentioned before) at how inexpensive the dishes are to make, just normal veg and normal pantry ingredients. Cooking instructions for dried or tinned beans and all those little things that make things simple. 

The other great thing is how it's made me think about cooking and ingredients in general and also about the meals we eat that I've really mi…

Friend of the Junk Drawer

I received this large and very nice bag for my birthday. Well, I received a TK Maxx voucher and used it to buy this bag. I use it to hold my WIP items in a vague attempt to keep the coffee table clear.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I can't find something and thought maybe it would be in the bag. You see, it's a little bit like the junk drawer, it occasionally contains the items it should and more often contains everything else. 

I emptied the contents onto the coffee table. Well, that's how it started, it then took up a large part of the living room floor too. Nothing can spend more than about 5 seconds on the floor before rabbit investigations begin so I laid it all out on the dining table, the measurement of which is 75 x 119.5 cm. I could measure it easily and quickly as there was a tape measure in the bag, as you can see from this photograph -  




It doesn't look all that bad, other than the sheer amount of stuff, the fabrics are neatly folded now, they were not …

Slight Overreaction

I am suffering with a small amount of rage today.

Something has been put in a safe place and you can probably guess the rest. 

Also my webcam just came on and there was a person sat sitting there. As I am in the rage I said "go away" in my sternest voice and hung a sock over the camera bit.

Time for tea.

March Shopping Week Two

Outside the grocery budget it's been quite an expensive week. We've booked the hotel for Bournemouth and had the car serviced. That's the two biggest expenses (unless there's an emergency) of the year over and done with.

The next week was supposed to be cooking from the Indian Veggie cookbook, but as the last cook from the book has taken longer than expected we've had to rejiggle. There are still a couple of River Cottage recipes to make, then we're going to just have simple stuff over the weekend. Then to see us to next Wednesday it's going to be a case of using up everything we have in the house ready to start again.

In terms of groceries, this is what happened -
£ 3.50 f&v broccoli, tomatoes
£ 5.26 dairy and non-dairy milk, almond milk (almond milk is 3 for £3 again)
£ 6.25 bread (full freezer!)
£ 6.49 pantry chutney, tinned beans, tacos
£ 7.79 lentils and things v-pud, falafel, omega burgers
£ 1.41 junk
£ 1.90 non-food daffodils, handwash

£32.60

Running Total …

Weekends

There is no mention of cooking today!

This is nothing to do with anything, or it's about loving life, maybe both. I know anyone not having to work at the weekend says they love weekends but these days I really do enjoy them. In the past I've not been all that bothered, a week was just a week, the weekend was fun but it was also hectic and involved squeezing too much in to too little time. Just recently though I've really started to get a lot from them. It's not all about lazing around, I can do enough of that during the week. We don't have a lie in or anything special for breakfast and we don't always have a day out, but they're just special. 

It's all a part of our stripping things back and looking at what we want to do rather than what we think we should do. OK, sometimes we need to go off somewhere to buy socks, sometimes we "need" to watch Widnes but even things as fraught with danger as that can be fun if we structure the day well - like vi…

More Cooking...

Meal 4, Wednesday was peppers stuffed with beans. It's supposed to be chillies stuffed with beans but I couldn't find any large chillies, to be honest I didn't actually look and I had a reduced family pack of peppers already. 

The prep for this was marginally more faff than on previous nights and a bit of washing up was created, but when I say faff it went from zero on the other nights to mildly detectable. I also ended up with all the worksurfaces covered in water, not quite sure how that happened. Anyway. the main source of fiddling was removing the skins from the peppers. I did the grilling until charred thing but but had some difficulty getting the skins off, so I didn't bother. If life is too short to stuff a mushroom then I don't really know what to say about peeling a pepper! I know it's possible to do something with a bowl and some clingfilm, but I don't buy clingfilm so that was out of the question. 

Regardless, I soldiered on. The recipe itself was …

River Cottage Week Continues

It's still not over, I know, it feels like forever.

Now it's not the weekend, the sun is out and I feel happy the cooking is back on track. I cooked two things on Monday so I didn't have to prepare anything when I got home from the charity shop yesterday and I'm glad I did.

On Monday night we tried Curried Bubble and Squeak scroll down for the recipe. Very simple to make, no special ingredients required and if you're using leftover potatoes and veg then it's a one pan dish too. I used potatoes and cauliflower in mine, we have a huge cauli and it seemed sensible to use some of it here, I love cauliflower and curry. I also used green beans instead of general greens as I'd bought some for the stew so these were left over. As we were having this as the main dish I added some Quorn squares too as they were languishing in the freezer. 

Verdict - another winner! It was very tasty, simple, no fuss, full of the flavours we like and endlessly adaptable. Next time I thin…

Incomplete

It's going to be hard to get through this without sounding like I have a giant chip on my shoulder. I don't, I'm amused and vaguely annoyed by this in equal measure. I think probably more because of the insensitivity and the "oooh, so that's what you really think" than anything else.

Twice this morning I've had the mother v non-mother thing in my face. One was one of those text about the beauty of motherhood alongside an unrelated picture of a rainbow infographics informing me that I have never been in love until I have looked into the eyes of my child. That confused me as Morrissey told me I had never been in love until I'd seen the stars reflect in the reservoirs. That was an eye roller as it was only indirectly poking the childfree and childless. Interestingly (or not) childfree has a red squiggly line under it here, childless doesn't.

Second thing was said in a message. I had dared to use the word, hang on to your hats here, it's pretty offe…

Just Like Everyone Else

As the sun is out I can see the dust so like everyone else (or so it seems) I am doing a spot of spring cleaning. The big and boring things like washing the mattress topper, cleaning on top of things, wiping ignored surfaces and maybe even behind the fridge, but probably not. We've also been doing a bit in the garden, mainly removing the thick covering of leaves that have sat around for months. I'm working on spending a little time every day in the garden, even if it's only a couple of minutes, just to get into the swing of it. 

I'm also catching up a bit on the cooking. Currently simmering away is a pan of porotos granados and some potatoes and cauli for curried bubble and squeak. The squash stew smells fine but it looks nothing like the picture so we shall see. That's on the menu for tomorrow, the recipe states it benefits from sitting in the fridge for a day before eating so it should be ideal for when I get home from the charity shop. the bubble and squeak is fo…

River Cottage Everyday, Day Five

Quick update. Day five of cooking from River Cottage Veg Everyday and I've made... pearl barley broth. That's it! I made that on Wednesday we had it again on Thursday and I have cooked nothing since. So it's not going very well. It's a good lesson though as I now know that no matter how amazing the food sounds, I just don't want to think about cooking at the weekend. 

I went to the market on Thursday and bought a veg black pudding from the black pudding stall. On Thursday night we had some of that to top the broth, on Friday I cooked the rest with some onions and mushrooms and we had it as a gigantic sandwich. It was delicious. This weekend has been far to enjoyable to be in the house cooking so I haven't. Yesterday we ended up in Grange over Sands and we didn't have anything to eat when we came home. Today we had another walk, this time we didn't get any further than Cleveleys but we had a good wander. Then it was time for Blackburn v Burnley and a spot…

River Cottage Week, Pearl Barley Broth

No photos, I don't photograph food, imagine a bowl of soup, that's what it looked like. 

The worst thing about making this was that it was the first time I'd chopped anything since hurting my hand, so my hand was aching by the time I'd chopped the onions, celery, carrot and parsnip! We started the week with this as I knew this would be the meal to drop off if my enthusiasm diminished, after all the name isn't all that exciting, it sounds a bit austere. 

It was simple to make, the main work was all the chopping and the not getting stuff all over the book. It didn't generate much washing up which is also a good thing. Other than mace which I'd never used before all the ingredients were things we'd generally have in the pantry so no one use ingredients were needed. 

Taste-wise it really was delicious. The broth is flavoured with cayenne, thyme, mace, nutmeg and coriander so there are some really nice warming flavours in there. The texture was good too, the pe…

March Shopping Week One

I've done a lot of ordering this week. Today the order from Seasoned Pioneers should arrive with all the spices for following the Indian cookbook next week. Last night we went shopping for this week. We arrived at the right time as plenty of stuff on the shopping list was reduced, not to rock bottom prices but cheaper and as it was all on the shopping list it was a bonus. 

£12.50 f&v onions, broccoli, beans, squash, peppers, salad stuff, apples
£ 7.28 dairy and non-dairy cheese, butter, milk - apparently dairy is the order of the day.
£ 3.33 bread
£10.06 pantry barley, sesame seeds, curry paste, salad dressing, orzo, veg sausages, beans 
£29.83 herbs and spices 
£ 9.37 drinks tea, coffee beans, wine for cooking
£ 3.87 non-food kitchen roll, 2 x books from library book sale
£ 4.64 junk chocolate, nuts, cake

total £80.88

We only caught the tail end of the book sale at the library as we'd been to Preston as I mentioned but we had a look at what was left, everything was being sold off f…

One Week On

More mundane fun. 

I couldn't feel more different to the way I felt this time last week! It's Tuesday which is charity shop day and that's fine. I haven't really thought about it since last week and that's the way I like it, it's just a thing to do for a few hours. 

I had some money to spend on myself this month. I had some last month too but I spent that on a salad spinner and a bin. This month I spent it on a pen, a notebook, a make up bag, an embroidery book (someone wanted to borrow the one I had from the library so I had to return it) and some trainers. It felt very strange to spend £60 on things just for me, rather than on things I like but are for us both or for the house. But I have and that's that. 

The pen and notebook are for me to write things down as I go through the workbook section of "The Desire Map", the embroidery book is for the sampler I started last month, the make up bag is for when we go to London in May and the trainers are fo…

River Cottage Veg Everyday, Everyday

For the week of March 5th - 11th we're preparing things from the River Cottage Veg book. We've waited until then for reasons such as money, shopping, being in to eat "proper" meals and so on. 

We chosen - 

chillies stuffed with beans
courgette and rice filo pie
three root boulangere
porotos granados (aka squash and bean stew)
pearl barley broth
oven roasted ratatouille
and curried bubble and squeak

We've chosen these as they seem pretty simple, we already have some of the ingredients in and the additional ingredients will all be used up, so we're not buying any single use spices. 

There will be a couple of tweaks. Dan chose the pie but I didn't realise it had cheese in. Ages ago we had a rice filled pie at FILs and I've been thinking about it ever since so we are going for it but the filling will be ever so slightly tweaked. Probably cheating but who cares? When we were in Preston the other day I picked up some orzo, I thought it would be super duper expensive …

Silliness Stops Play

On Thursday evening I knocked my wrist on the top of the airing cupboard door, now I can't do much. No quilting, no furniture scraping, no chopping and very slow typing. What didn't help was all the clapping and arm waving on Friday night when Widnes defeated Huddersfield 22-20, another great performance by Joe Mellor. Just for the record, we play Salford Red Devils on Thursday, who plays for them now? That's right, my ex-bad boyfriend Gareth Hock. 

So instead of spending yesterday tidying the garden and sorting out the cabinet we went to the art gallery in Preston. Preston really frustrates me as a city, there are so many great buildings, not just the amazing bus station, but no-one seems to make a big deal out of it, all the nice bits are obscured by some of the most hideous, uninspiring shopping arcades I've ever had the misfortune to see in all my days. I feel cross whenever we go. But go we did, to see a fantastic exhibition which is one of the Artist Rooms  exhibi…