Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Laying On A Spread

I have never done a buffet before, but as we are having guests on Thursday and Friday night I thought I would give it a go. I've been informed that a cake is being baked for the occasion so I don't have to provide that *phew*. Other than some salad the buffet will be created purely from things we have in already.

Our buffet will consist of - 

mushroom pate
puy lentil pasties 
nut roast rolls (like a sausage roll, only with nut roast)
chinese-style snacks
spiced fruit and nut mix
assorted nuts
veg couscous 
potato skins 
garlic bread
crackers (chilli, and cracked pepper)
dips - tahini, chilli and lime, mango, thai-style sweet chilli

We went to Sainsbury's yesterday as I was desperate to get out of the house for a bit and really wanted some salad. I am so glad we have the frozen roast veg and the batch cooking but I was craving something fresh.

We used a gift card Dan had received from work so we didn't spend much out of pocket, but we received till spit vouchers for £5.50, a combination of price matching and a regular voucher. We were planning to shop next week anyway so will go on Monday so we can take advantage of the offer before it expires. I will be planning carefully, we do need rabbit litter and a couple of other big things and I want a couple of bathmats so we should be able to get to the £30 minimum spend to use our big voucher. I'm hoping to get as close to £30 though as there's no point in spending for the sake of it.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Lazy Sunday

In the spirit of doing something different, and with there being only so much waking on the beach people want to do at a weekend, we decided to see Star Wars. Dan seemed to recall watching one of them, which we narrowed down to almost certainly being The Empire Strikes Back and I had seen the three original films so we thought we'd give it a go. We have a small cinema in the town so I booked tickets online, under £4 each even with booking fee. 

Thankfully the rain stopped overnight and it was a gorgeous, sunny day so we were able to wander down rather than take the car. We did decide to stop off for a coffee beforehand, a last bit of wasted money before the new year and hard savings. Plus we received some money as a gift and were told in no uncertain terms that we should try to not spend it on anything sensible. Only the chain coffee shops were open and they were both packed so we got our drinks to go and had a walk on the prom. You'd have thought it was summer, you can't tell from the photograph, but it was packed. There were children riding bikes and scooter - all still very new and shiny, lots of dog walkers, people eating ice cream and even someone building a sandcastle on the beach!

There were quite a lot of people in for the screening of the film, more than I'd expected so there was a really good atmosphere. We both very much enjoyed it, I had to explain a couple of things to Dan at the end but he enjoyed it even without knowing all the details. On the way home we found ourselves in Wetherpoons and were on the verge of ordering food and drinks until I changed my mind. Before we came out I'd chopped the last bit of a red pepper* and the few remaining mushrooms ready to make something when we got back and I was determined to do so. Instead of eating out we nipped into the corner shop for a treat, we decided on some Pringles, we've not had them for years, and they were only just over £1 so not too expensive. 

I made curried veg noodles which we had with some fizzy water and now we're sharing a bottle of Stringers Dry Stout and the potato snacks. Happy times. 

*the menu plan has gone a bit sideways as we didn't eat out on two occasions we thought we would, thankfully everything has stretched and we've had plenty to cover the extra meals at home. 

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Long Term Project

the beans are for scale
If you're having a happy Christmas full of wonderment you probably don't want to read this post of frustration. 

I don't know what it is about Christmas gift buying that makes people second guess. I think it must be something about buying the luxury thing or the thing you wouldn't normally buy for yourself, bigger is better, even when better is not appropriate. Yes I sound ungrateful, I'm not I'm just cross that people have wasted their money with things we won't use and will be sold for a fraction of the price at the charity shop. 

I think people sometimes, when gift buying, think about the gift but not about the person. So we received bath towels that reminded the buyer of the beach - blue, white and beige. Our bathroom is bubblegum pink and black. So in a sense they're thinking of us, but not the reality of our life.  

Anyway, the long term project. Dan's Mum bought us a sealed tin last year for us to save our cash and Dan suggested I'd like another one this year. I don't think I'll need a new one for the next decade (see picture above). It is huge, how on Earth am I going to fill that? I didn't even know they made them that size! Still, who doesn't enjoy a challenge, I laughed for about a minute when I unwrapped it. This was preferable to her alternative which was to buy a lockable cash tin, but then the amount inside wouldn't be a secret so to keep it locked there would have to be a slit in it so we asked at a local hardware place would they be able to do that and make it safe so I didn't cut myself etc. Do you see what I mean about overthinking?


On the plus side, someone asked about the card that made our friend laugh so much, it turns out I have another one, so here it is. Inside it says "stay a step ahead at Christmas" who knows what that means!

Speaking of stepladders, Dan is currently in the loft as we have water coming into our bedroom. 

Friday, 25 December 2015


We have made some improvements to the festivities, the two worst bits (visiting people) are unavoidable but we have changed things a little. 

We are not having a roast for Christmas lunch. We are having a nut roast, stuffing and sausage sandwich instead. We made the trifle yesterday and decided to start eating it last night, it was a very good decision! For anyone interested it was made from Just Wholefoods jelly crystals, Basics mandarin orange segments, Birds custard made with almond milk, Soyatoo whipping cream and Sainsbury's sweet confetti.

I haven't switched my phone on and have unplugged the landline. I spoke here about my feelings on over-thanking and over-wishing. If I've seen someone/sent them a card/ spoken to them in the past few days there's no need for phonecalls, texts or messages on social media to send best wishes that have already been sent.

For the next couple of hours it's just us, Sky Sports News and a big dish of jelly! 

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Aldi Convert

I've been visiting Aldi more often over the past couple of months, just for bits and bobs and I'm starting to quite like it. Yesterday I went in for some potatoes, everyone was so polite and calm there unlike other places in the town. I got my potatoes and they were 29p for 2kg. I know everyone already knows but 29p when I'd seem the same variety for £2 at the other supermarket. I do like to shop locally, but as we don't have a market or greengrocer on this occasion I think I'd be a bit daft to pay more. 

Anyway, that wasn't the good thing, at the checkout there was a bit of a kerfuffle (in a good way). One of the cashiers was starting to come down with a cold so a regular customer bought her some cold and flu medicine so we wouldn't feel too bad over Christmas. What a lovely thing to do.

Merry Christmas to anyone celebrating tomorrow, and have a lovely day to anyone who isn't. 

Wednesday, 23 December 2015


I admit it, I am feeling a little more positive about Christmas. 

Other than a slightly tense interaction with my coffee buddy from the shop last week where she shoved a milk chocolate biscuit into my mouth and said "it doesn't count, it's Christmas" everyone has been so wonderful. My family were full of the spirit of the season on Saturday, Father is looking forward to sneaking around with my brother to build a wendy house (are they still called that?) for my nieces while my Mum and SIL distract them.

I found an unusual card in the charity shop and it got an amazing reaction from the recipient. He's not easy to get a reaction from but Dan showed me a text from a very excited chap, lots of exclamation marks. He said he laughs every time he sees it, well worth 9p. I've nipped into the local shops to say Merry Christmas to the owners and had a nice chat with them. 

 We had an unexpected evening out on Monday with friends who are in the country this week. As I said they had taken some photos for us, they also gave us four bars of chocolate, one was nougat - something I thought I would't have again! Last night we met up with our friends from London and a few other people. It was so nice, everyone was so happy and genuinely happy to see each other, it was brilliant. Plus a young chap said he thought I was 32, the same age as him, so he can come again!

We had a lovely day at the shop, impromptu carol singing, a small amount of dancing and nice conversations with customers. We've even received Christmas cards from customers, how gorgeous is that? 

I haven't been this heartwarmed since we saw Tommy Steele a few years ago. 

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Freebie And Bargain Of The Week

A very good week. 

Most of the stuff came via my mum. Along with my Christmas presents (of which there are many this time round) there was a Moomins calendar, I did think I was getting this as a Christmas gift as I'd spotted it in The Book People catalogue a while ago, but she gave it to me as a bonus!

I also received two Style At Home magazines, these will be good during coffee and feet up time. 

I was still on the lookout for something else for Dan as I'd only spend £12 of the £20 gift budget. An old table football game came into the shop and I bought it for £5. Very happy and still well under budget, it all looks very impressive as the other gifts I bought for him are very small. I hope we don't fall out when I beat him!

Last night we saw a couple of friends who are in the country for a week or two and they gave us some photographs they'd taken of the modernist buildings in their town, what a lovely gesture. 

Today and tomorrow I'll be wearing the reindeer antlers I bought for 79p, I don't have a Christmas jumper (compulsory attire at the shop) so antlers plus some baubles and tinsel will do the trick. 

Monday, 21 December 2015

Making The Most Of It

Making the most of it sums up my aims for the next year or so. It's an easy way to cover everything - time together, time alone, the house and garden, the things we own - books, craft things, other entertainment, people, the beach (I think we've been to our beach maybe three times together this year), money of course. 

Some of it is just a mindset, the rest is very practical, especially for me who does most of the house and garden stuff. So I'll be spending lots of time sorting things out at home, lots of digging and keeping things ship shape. Hand in hand with this will go quite a lot of learning too, I'm hoping to spend some time with my cookbooks and garden magazines over the Christmas period. 

In the spirit of making the most of things we're out and about quite a lot this week. We have an unexpected night out tonight with some friends who live overseas but are nearby for a couple of days this week. Of course their chosen date to meet was tomorrow, when we're already out with our mates who are up from London. Luckily we were all able to jiggle to make it work. 

I will also be using things up rather than constantly replacing things. To get us started we're on a use it up menu plan for January. There's nothing all that different to the usual stuff, we might end up having the odd handful of this and that thrown into recipes - that's where stuffed veg works well! The frozen meals I made this month make an early appearance too an easy start to the year!

1. clear the fridge one-pot
2. soup (frz) and sandwich (frz falafel)
3. dhal (frz)

4. chilli (frz)
5. aduki bean stew
6. soup and toasties
7. lasagne
8. chips!!!
9. out
10 pizza

11 nasi goreng w. ginger tofu
12 stirfry w. l/o tofu
13 paprika chickpea stew
14 lentil and rice pilaf
15 peppers stuffed with beans
16 soup and sandwich
17 nut roast

18 leek & butterbean crumble
19 dhal
20 shepherdess pie
21 l/o
22 curried stuffed mushrooms
23 thai-style noodles w. sweetcorn fritters
24 stuffed squash

25 plaki
26 lentil pie (frz pastry)
27 chestnut cobbler
28 l/o
29 curry
30 tacos
31 tacos

Sunday, 20 December 2015

The Soup Cure

At the start of the month I did lots of cooking, including roasting loads of veg and shoving it in the freezer, I think I mentioned it. I have to say it was one of my better ideas, it's been brilliant to be able to grab a handful to start off a meal, and there's still plenty left to make all manner of other stuff to keep us going until the start of January. 

I made some more of the Thai spiced bns and sweet potato soup which was just as popular this time round, so I decided to branch out. Somehow a celeriac had escaped the roasting process and was looking a bit sorry for itself in the pantry so I made some soup with it. The first bowl I had was disappointing to say the least. It wasn't horrible, it just lacked something -I followed a recipe and everything. There is a ton of this soup so something had to happen. I shoved some in the freezer and left the rest in the fridge. 

Today it was time for soup, I had primed Dan by telling him he would be eating disappointing soup for lunch, after a day or two in the fridge it looked better than before which was a good start. I had a look at what was on the door shelf in the fridge and saw a bottle of chilli and lime sauce. This stuff is great, it can be used as a dip, marinade, to make a sauce or whatever you like. I ued it for tofu last time and it worked really well. So I heated the soup, added a nice amount of seasoning, then swirled a bit of the sauce on top when it was ready to go. Soup cured! It was delicious, the lime and chilli were great with the celeriac and the flavours really came out. 

Plus in making this soup I used up a dubious celeriac, most of the remaining chilli sauce and as we had some yellow stickered muffins in the freezer Dan could satisfy his bread craving. Happy times indeed. 

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Book One

The book I've decided to read first is one I've had for quite a few years. I have looked at it many times but never read it cover to cover. We saw a Shirley Craven and Hull Traders exhibition at the Harris in Preston in 2011 and we just astounded by it.

That year Dan bought me a piece of Phoenix fabric (1961) as you can see, it really cuts through the gloom on a December morning! 

Wednesday, 16 December 2015


the most lovely of Manchester's stations

I think I mentioned a few weeks ago that we had found out who designed our house. Dan did a bit more digging around and found a short film was available at the North West Film Archive he arranged a visit. It was very exciting to be ushered through the building to a special room. The film was only about 10 minutes long but it was useful, it showed the Panorama houses (like mine) and also some interior shots of Keith Ingham's home at 10 Regent Avenue, Lytham. It gave us a few ideas. 

We had also booked to see a talk brought to us by the Manchester Modernists. We're really getting into university talks and lectures these days, we're on the look out for more, but the ones we've been to already have been really interesting. It's also lots of fun to be back in that kind of environment, it makes me want to read and learn more about... anything! There's the New Year resolution - read, read, read. 

Between the film and the talk we just had a bit of a wander around the centre and finally visited St Ann's church, it's a place we've walked past many times but have never been in. I read an article about it a while ago about what an amazing building it is. The article was not wrong. It's a small but beautiful place and it really is a calming space among the bustle of the city - the Christmas market is right outside, but you wouldn't know once you're inside. I didn't take any pictures inside, if you get the chance do nip in and see for yourself, but I did get one photograph from outside

At the end of the lecture there was an announcement about the next event, it's three films. One about Rochdale, one about Skelmersdale and the last one a "quite rare" film about Keith Ingham - typical, we do all the (not all that hard) work then someone else does it for us!

Monday, 14 December 2015

Good Weekend

It was our work Christmas party on Saturday and I was very happy to come home having only spent 95p. We had paid £5 each for the buffet but as there was nothing I would/could/whatever eat the manager gave me my money back! 

We went to Sainsbury's for a few things and got a price match voucher for £1.12 to use next time round, we only spent £11 so it wasn't a bad return. I'll be doing the last of the batch cooking this afternoon. 

We went for a walk on the beach and I found a penny. 

Dan made tea last night so I didn't have to. 

Friday, 11 December 2015

Freebie And Bargain of the Week

I don't think I have either this week.

I did, however, put £1 too much into the window cleaner pot so I rescued that and put it in the sealed pot. I didn't go out for coffee after work this week saving a few pounds, again into the sealed pot. We were supposed to be going out for a meal this weekend but our friend has had to cancel so that's who knows how much not spend, it made the bill for Christmas* and New Year** buffet food less painful.

Finishing my small quilt has made me want to get the big thing finished. To save both money and sanity it's going to be more of a patchwork throw than a quilt, so I'm just stitching the backing and front together and leaving it at that. It's so big I don't know how I'd manage to stitch it with wadding as well. It's mainly for show anyway. 

I've done some more batch cooking, the freezer is almost full. I have a pile of socks to darn over the weekend, my old boots made my feet slide forward and all my socks have a hole in exactly the same place. Should give me something to do when watching the winter sport. 

From the charity shop I bought a small wooden decoration and a giftbag, there was no other temptation. 

*Dan's Mum is rather fussy so we have the same things each year. The main switch is that we pay for it now. 

** I had enough to cobble food together for my brother and his girlfriend staying for one night, but now it's going to be at least two nights/three days so I needed a bit of padding. 

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

In The Gloom


It's very dark again this morning, but as I finally finished my small quilt last night I didn't want to wait. 

It's the first quilt I've made just for myself, and it has taken an exceptionally long time to get to this point. This is the second time it's been bound as I just didn't like the stuff I used first time round, but when I saw brown with white spots I knew it was right for me. 

For my 40th birthday my friend sent me a little frog patch to remind me to be childlike sometimes, so I decided to add it to the corner of the quilt front

Now all I need is some cold weather as it's soooooo warm. 

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Happy Domestic

I know for some people whizzing up a vat of soup is the easiest thing in the world, my soup is always not all that amazing. So armed with my roast veg I was going to make a very simple sweet potato, squash and onion soup. Then I was inspired by something I read somewhere yesterday about a spiced soup. In the fridge was a small amount of red Thai paste, not enough for a proper curry but enough for something, it had been in there for months. Along with it was a friend, creamed coconut, so I added them to the pot too. 

It was really delicious. I tried a small cup for my lunch, the flavour of the roast veg came through, it was spicy with a lovely creamy texture. More than happy, especially as I used up a couple of things that could have hung around in the fridge forever. 

The couscous also used up the last bit of harissa paste too. I used the last bit bathroom cleaner today, it was really a bottle of shower gel I received as a gift, it was rubbish for my skin but made the sink shine. Then I found two samples, one of shampoo and one of conditioner. I don't use conditioner as my hair is exceptionally fine so I used it for shaving my legs instead. There was more shampoo in the sample than I'd anticipated so I used that too wash my body too. Three more things used up.

Last night I had a very interesting chat with my Mum about Christmas, there is still no negotiation about presents of course but she did describe certain family members as "a bit cheeky" for inviting themselves round for meals on both Christmas and Boxing Day (as well as for other meals throughout the year). She asked them what they would do if they had decided to go out, and was unimpressed with the reply "well you wouldn't do that would you?". Not nice to be taken for granted, especially when you turn up for these things empty handed. 

Friday, 4 December 2015

Make It Easy

I'm a not bad not particularly keen cook as I've said before, so if there's an easy way I'll give it a go. The cooking tip that has had the biggest impact on me isn't about cooking, it's about washing up. Having a washing up bowl full of hot soapy water there means I don't have to be faced with a massive pile of dishes, and things are usually clean when I need them

Yesterday, as mentioned, I took another easy option and roasted a big pile of veg, four onions, a bag of peppers, sweet potatoes, a squash and the punnet of mushrooms. Most of it is currently open freezing, then will be bagged up for future use, some was added to some couscous for lunch, and some squash and sweet potatoes will become soup for tomorrow. If I can stay a day ahead of myself then we should be able to keep away from the lure of the takeaway or junk.

It took about an hour to peel and chop everything, get it in the oven, wash up and match lids to tubs for overnight storage, but it was worth it. 

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Freebie and Bargain of the Week

Obviously the best freebie of the week was the cheque from the bank!

Two nice bargains. The first one from our big shopping trip 

A nice punnet of mushrooms for 19p. I wanted a decent amount of mushrooms for roasting so I was made up with these. 

The second thing is from the charity shop. We decided one Christmas thing we did want was trifle, neither of us has had it for years. We have managed to get hold of some dairy free whipping cream and some jelly crystals, along with the usual fruit, custard and sprinkles. But we didn't have a dish. I've had my eye on one at the shop for a few weeks but couldn't make my mind up. The manager was taking it off the shelf and asked me if I would like it as it would be sent to the pound shop otherwise. I said "yes please" and we settled on a price of £1.55 which was all the change I had (it had been £3.49 beforehand).

Very pleased with these two small things. 

By the way, I heard from my brother last night, he's fine about the no gifts thing and they would still like to come over for New Year, as long as there's a pub with a jukebox they're happy apparently - maybe they are coming round to something more simple. His girlfriend is going to bake a cake for the occasion, I'll be able to make a decent spread from the things we have in the pantry and freezer so it should be good. 

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Big Shop, What A Shock

Thank you for all your comments yesterday, I've closed comments on that post now because we really have tried everything and we're at an uneasy truce with ourselves over the Christmas situation. It means more to our families than it does to us so I'm not prepared to argue about it with them any more. 

Simple Living, I posted the scarf yesterday so hopefully it should be with you soon. 

any excuse for a pantry picture

In the spirit of getting everything out of the way so we don't have to go to the shops we did a "big shop" last night. We don't generally do this so it was... different. We decided to go to Sainsbury's rather than our usual shop, mainly because there were a few things available there that aren't sold at the usual place. Wow. I was so glad we took a list, the store is huge compared to what we're used to, our local supermarket doesn't sell clothes, electrical items etc so it was a bit much. We even managed to scare up a pound coin for the trolley! Dan bought a couple of work shirts and a tie too, with 25% off which was great.

For the first time in I can't remember how long we used a big trolley, I could hardly reach into the bottom of it, all very exciting. I did feel a bit queasy part way round when I started to think about how much it was going to cost, but it was on the list so I bought it. When we finally got to the checkout it was £60.10 not including the shirts.  It was considerably cheaper than our usual place as we stocked up on tins of beans which were on either two for £1 or even cheaper at 30p-45p per tin.  In the true spirit of a supermarket advert I was pleasantly surprised, that's just over half the grocery budget gone, but should cover most of the food we're going to eat this month and into the new year. 

just to prove we have some veg!

I know some people would never buy bottled water but after a month of not being able to drink from the tap we will always keep a couple of bottles in case of emergency! The kitchen roll is something we could do without but it makes cleaning the rabbit pen far easier, and it means Dan is more likely to help out too - he is not a fan of washable cloths! Roasting lots of veg tomorrow to stick in the freezer for a quick meal starter when things get a bit more hectic. 

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Power Shopping

As you may or may not know I am not a fan of the December celebration, but for the sake of family harmony I go along with it. When I say family harmony what I mean is upsetting-my-brother-and-his-girlfriend-by-telling-them-we're-not-buying-them-a-present-this-year-and-it's-fine-for-them-to-invite-themselves-here-for-NYE-but-I'm-not-booking-anything.

Dan took yesterday off so we could go gift shopping. It seems a bit extreme to take a day off for this but it means we're not taking up a weekend with it. We wanted to go to Shrewsbury but the weather forecast was not too good so we stayed closer to home. We stopped off in Preston first, where we did a trolley dash around Tiger, then headed to Lancaster for coffee, treats (for us) from Single Step and a second trolley dash around TK Maxx. It went very well. We have virtually everything and furthermore we wrapped it when we got home. 

Power shopping like that works for me/us. I have spent years trying to be thoughtful but I've learned it's really not worth it, so people get what they get and if they don't like it then it's just tough. I told everyone years ago I would rather donate the money to charity, it caused a huge amount of unhappiness so I backtracked, now people can reap what they have sown. 

Now, thankfully, I can stop thinking about the whole thing for the next three weeks.   

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Face Like A Wet Weekend

When Dan started his current job we put our old house on the market and had very little interest, it was 2009 so a really bad time and our house was one of thousands of similar properties in the area. So we decided to replace the kitchen, in part to help it sell, but in part to have a decent kitchen for if it didn't sell. 

Fast forward to today. That house is a distant memory and here we are, about to start the getting a new kitchen process again - only this time without borrowing any money. Last night we talked about various ways, big and small, to squeeze extra savings from the money we have, and everything was very positive.

This afternoon we got back from a very wet trip to Clitheroe, we had two very serious looking letters when we got home. One was something to do with the County Council, the other was from the bank. It turns out that they had not complied with the Consumer Credit Act (1974) and had not provided the correct information regarding our loan. As such we received back the amount we'd paid in interest for this period! 

It was over £400! 

I love wet weekends!

Friday, 27 November 2015


another dark, grainy picture from the bathroom 
I've done my annual toiletries check up. Have we managed to reduce the amount of products we use? Have I learned anything at all? You can see last year's post here.

The first thing to notice is that Dan and I have at least the same amount of products, we still share quite a lot. There are also a fair few things hanging around from last year - tea tree oil, spray gel, hair wax, shaving foam, big bottle of Lush shampoo, they will be the things we don't replace. 

The bottle of Paul Mitchell hair stuff is virtually empty and won't be replaced. The face wipes won't be replaced either, we bought them for use on the train when we went away, the bottle of face serum was an emergency purchase when I was at the shop and my skin was so dry it was painful so I ran out to buy something from the town. There are two virtually empty shower gels there too, one of which will be replaced by one we bought from Preston last week, I will use that too until we visit somewhere to get my favourite, Sea Buckthorn. 

I have a couple of extra products as I've got a new hairstyle this year and my hair is so fine I need something to tame it. Dan will probably use whatever I buy when the wax is gone, he's taken to have his hair much shorter now so doesn't use as much as before. So the amount of stuff is getting smaller. I'd like it to be smaller still by this time next year. We shall see. 

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Shop Update and December Menu Plan

As I mentioned the big boss was coming to the shop yesterday and we were going to offer our views about the tea situation. I read the volunteers handbook and ran my arguments past the managers to check I was right, they said I was. Then the boss turned up. She walked through the shop and into the back room, the door closed and that was that. My colleague took a donation through so the manager introduced her - 

Manager : I'd like you to meet our longest standing volunteer.
Boss : Oh, and for how long exactly have you been standing?

Then the boss took the manager and deputy out for coffee, as they were leaving she said "come on girls, this one is coming out of my pocket". 

They came back after about 90 minutes, a bit more chat in the back room, then she left. She didn't say hello, goodbye, kiss my whatever or anything. I was again furious. To not even introduce yourself just tells me what little respect she has for volunteers. Then the manager said to me "I thought you were going to tell her what's what" to which I explained that I'm not rude (well, I am a bit) there's no way I'm going to burst into a meeting ranting and raving. My opinions were not sought so I would have been shouting into the wind anyway. At least now we know where we stand and I will spend no more time or emotion on the shop side of the organisation. I'll raise money in the shop to the best of my ability, but that's it. 

Onto the more fun part of the post, food. The plan goes right though New Year into the very start of January

1. jambalaya
2. out
3. stirfry
4. lasagne
5. out
6. soup and sandwich

7. orzotto
8. smoky chickpea stew
9. pasta bake
10 l/o
11 curry of some kind
12 bean burgers
13 out

14 lentil stuffed something (peppers/squash/mushrooms)
15 out
16 vegetable and lentil pie
17 sweet and sour tofu
18 l/o
19 nasi goreng
20 chilli

21 shepherdess pie
22 l/o
23 spaghetti
24 orzotto w. v-pud
25 all of the things
26 out
27 gado gado

28 leek and butterbean crumble
29 stirfry
30 lentil and rice pilaf
31 out
1. clear the fridge one pot
2. soup and sandwich
3. dhal

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Snakes and Ladders

Has anyone played Snakes and Ladders recently? Dan and I played last night, wow, it was hard, those snakes were unforgiving. Dan's mum asked me to look at the charity shop for Monopoly and Scrabble for her to try to play with her mum. She thought maybe she would recognise the pieces and even if they couldn't play it might stimulate some conversation about something or other. I thought we had both in the drawer under the small bed, and indeed we do, there was also a compendium of games, I assume that must have been part of the pile of stuff MIL had given to me to take to the shop. 

So we decided to have a game, and it was lots of fun. We're keeping it handy as it looks like the weather is taking a turn for the wet and windy, we don't want to get stuck in a routine o just looking at various screens. Luckily we're both fairly good losers so it doesn't cause any marital discord. 

Today is the day the area manager, she of no more free tea fame visits the shop. We shall see what happens. 

I have also done the menu plan for December. I found it quite hard. We have our Christmas lunch in the pantry now. We went to Preston on Saturday for one final look at Art From Elsewhere and decided to look for any health food shops or other interesting places. We found one really good shop - I bought no healthy food I can assure you, but I was happy to buy a bottle of my usual shampoo in the bargain bin (due to it being the old packaging) for almost half price, Dan picked up a body wash. Good timing. Anyway we bought a cranberry and nut roast, we're have other things from this brand before so I'm hopefully it will be just as nice. Even if it's not there will be mashed potatoes so that will make up for any disappointment!

I'm also trying a couple of new recipes, one is a lentil and rice pilaf with onions we had when we were in London the other week. A couple of other things are from my two newest books, Keep It Vegan came from The Book People, the other, Vegan Street Food, was gift from Dan. Apparently the street food book was written by a Masterchef contestant, I don't watch it so I wouldn't know, the food is up our street though. I'm hoping to slightly lower the grocery budget in December as we have a lot of our festive food already and we'll be out quite a bit, plus we won't be shopping between Christmas and around 3rd January so everything needs to stretch. It should be fun.   

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

But Where Do You Get Your Pasta?

It's strange what we get into our heads and what we think is a thing but it turns out not to necessarily or always be the case, for us yesterday it was about pasta. Dan told his parents he is vegan. 

It was... interesting. Dan's dad spoke to us about nutrition, which even his wife found funny as he hasn't cooked anything for as long as anyone can remember and doesn't have the greatest diet in the world, he takes his own tins of tuna with him when they go on holiday because, you know, food from other places. We went back and forth about the milk thing for their cup of tea and in the end Dan said they could have soy milk or do without (no-one has any allergies). So he just made tea and didn't mention it, he was greeted with "that's a champion cup of tea, you've done that before". Success! I think the Booja-Booja truffles may have helped (we bought them with a voucher we had from Holland and Barrett). 

Dan's mum was concerned about calcium, so we went through that and she seemed sceptical but accepting. Again she has a very restricted diet and doesn't really bother herself with nutrition so we decided between us that no lectures were in order. We did have to have the protein, what if your neighbours had hens and offered you the eggs, and what about cake discussions (she had a slight vested interest in this one) but it went fairly smoothly. She now wants proof that the cake mix + fizzy pop = cake thing works! 

The one thing that she couldn't get out of her head was that we wouldn't be able to eat pasta. I assured her many times that I am too stingy to buy fresh pasta anyway but that dried pasta is egg free so we can still eat as much pasta as we like (which isn't all that much). She was then fascinated to know the nutritional value of pearl barley, because she really likes it but had never thought about it before. Isn't is funny what we focus on given a free choice. 

Monday, 23 November 2015

Fun With Fleece

I'm really not feeling in the mood for making things, I can't ever imagine picking up my quilts ever again. It's a weird thing but I suppose I can't be the only one. Anyway, the manager was describing our festive window and it's a Victorian theme, so I offered to make a Christmas stocking to decorate the fireplace. 

In the end we negotiated eight stockings, two "proper" ones and six "just for show". I don't know what her thoughts are so it will be an interesting surprise when I see it for the first time. 

 I couldn't bring myself to make them identical. They're a bit rough and ready, but the manager said she just wanted something basic, they didn't need to be too neat or anything. It's so hard to do that!

These were supposed to be plain, but I couldn't resist adding the ribbon. These were harder than the others, I had to be neat from the start - not my usual style. 

Friday, 20 November 2015

Giveaway Winner

Two people showed an interest in the stripy scarf, so I picked a name out of a dish (I wrote each name twice so I could confuse myself).

And the winner is Simple Living

If you can send me your contact details to my new email address - thriftdeluxe@gmail.com I will shove it in the post, it probably won't be until the middle or end of next week but it will happen soon! Thank you. Sorry I couldn't send something to you Sara but you never know what I'll come across next. 

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Little Things

Or how to win friends and influence people. 

There is trouble brewing at the charity shop. 

The manager received an email from the person in charge of the shops informing her that it costs the charity however much per year to pay for cups of tea and coffee for the volunteers, so this money can't come from petty cash any longer as the charity won't pay for it. 

The manager broke the news to us and as you can probably guess it didn't go down too well. She did speak up for us and sent an email back saying that we weren't happy about this to which the reply came that she, and the charity must not be "held to ransom" by volunteers (their words, not mine). 

Held to ransom. Seriously?

Surely a cup of tea is literally the least they can do for volunteers. I understand that if we want biscuits maybe we should take it in turns to buy them, or the manager should pay for them, the manager has always paid for biscuits out of pocket everywhere else I've been, including when I was a manager myself. But a cuppa I think is different, am I wrong? I know that many workplaces have a tea and coffee fund, but they're also paid positions, we don't get paid, we all have our reasons for volunteering but obviously we care at least a little bit about the charity without being paid to take an interest.

The manager is coming to the shop next week to discuss all matters financial and here's my problem, because if course it's when I'm going to be there. The manager has said we can defend our position should we so choose, but I see a problem, the area manager is going to tell my manager that emails are confidential and she is to implement new policies, not have a consultation period with volunteers, so anything volunteers say will come back to my manager as her speaking out of turn, if you see what I mean. 

I have always had a lot of time for this particular charity and while it doesn't really impact me personally as I take my own milk or fruit tea with me, what does irk me is the attitude. Using the phrase "held to ransom" doesn't exactly sound as though this person sees volunteers as valuable or people whose views should be respected. There are ways of saying things and had the reply said "these are tough times and we are asking everyone to do their bit to help us through" or similar that would have been a very different matter. I think it's very telling, the way someone speaks about people when they don't think they're going to hear says a lot about what they think in my opinion. 

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

More Mess

Thank you to everyone for your replies yesterday, they cheered me up no end. As there was more than one taker for the scarf I'll pick a name out of a hat, I'll do that on Friday so if anyone else wants to throw their name in you have today and tomorrow to do so. 

I have not been out into the garden, other than to hand out washing, for a very long time indeed. Yesterday the wind died down, there was no rain, there was no sun either but it wasn't cold, so I went out in my pyjamas and planted some bulbs. I don't know if it's too late to plant bulbs now but they can just sit in the ground and either grow or wait. 

I ignored the rest of the mess, the massive weeds, the things that need to go into the compost, the rotting sunflower, the tomato plant that's still hanging about, the leaves and everything else that makes me leave the blinds down at the moment. I went out and shoved things in holes for half an hour or so then I came back in and tried not to think about the rest of it. 

Hopefully at some point in the future something lovely will appear. I both enjoy and don't enjoy bulb planting, on the one hand my calves always end up hurting with all the crouching but on the other hand it's the best way to spend not all that much energy, time or cash in order to get a lot of nice things to look at. 

Then the rain came back and I was very glad I'd got out while the getting was good. 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Sling It and A Giveaway

I spoke recently about my mini meltdown last December, I think it arrived early this year. I was starting to think about the nice things about the festive period, then the other side of it started and I felt like pulling my hair our - literally, I had to sit on my hands. 

"Do it your way" people helpfully suggest. I can only assume these people don't have a family. I know that advice is meant with kindness, but for our family it just makes things worse so I have to try to make the best of a very bad forced jollity laden job. Yesterday I overheard part of a conversation between Dan and his Mum about gifts. It went along the lines of "I don't really want to buy any presents, but if I don't buy you anything then you won't buy me anything and I won't have anything to open". What can you do with that?

Everyone has their own coping strategy when stress arrives, some people hit the bottle, some go out jogging, some bake, I have a sort out. The house seemed stuffed to bursting and all I could think about was the stream of junk that's about to flow into the house. So I grabbed a bin bag and got to it. We started with the easy stuff, some bedding that we never use, most of our wool items and some other bits and bobs that I have been thinking of donating for a while. I have managed to fit everything into the porch cupboard so I don't have to risk the door falling off when I go in for the ironing board or Henry *phew*

The weird cupboard on the landing is no longer a stash and dash site. It was mostly stuff to be donated or things that needed to be returned to the garage. Now there's nothing. 

In the kitchen I have one empty drawer, I have no intention of finding something to go in it. It's nice to have a bit of space. 

Which brings me to the giveaway. When I was working through my wool items I came across this scarf. It's a Gap lambswool scarf that I bought for 50p many many years ago from the charity shop I volunteered at before this one.

I don't know if anyone would like it, but if you would then let me know. It's in good condition and that's all there is to say about it. 

Monday, 16 November 2015

Sealed Pot Opening!

I know I said we'd agreed to open the pot at the start of December, but it was burning a hole in Dan's pocket just a bit too much, so as we were at home all day yesterday watching the wet, blustery day we went for it. 

I was allowed control of the tin opener, this is what we found

All in all there was £231.73, not too bad at all, especially as we didn't really concentrate on it this year, we'll make it more of a focus from now on. We'll also keep the sealed pot for 50p and larger so we can keep putting the smaller amounts into the bank throughout the year. 

In terms of bankable cash there was £221 which Dan took with him this morning. Our small change bags are well on their way to being filled so hopefully there will be something else to go into savings before the end of the year. 

I'm going to keep more of a running total this time, so I'll make a note of it here whenever something goes into the bank. 

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Saving and Not Spending

The sealed pot is burning a hole in our mental pocket. It's not that we want to spend the money, we just want to know how much is in there! I think we've settled on December 1st to open it, although I'm not convinced.

It seems like a very long time since we saved any substantial amount. We did reach our basic savings goal of filling the emergency fund, so that's a very positive thing. Having multiple changes jars seems to be working well. The sealed pot is for larger amounts, the open tin is for 20p and smaller. we've both got into the swing of emptying our change into it at the end of the week. We have dipped into it occasionally, mainly for parking, but it's been very useful and great for painfree savings. 

"Proper" saving will start again at the end of this month. I know December is not traditionally a good month for saving but I think it will be a good one for us. Even more than last year we're stripping back celebrations. We spend quite a bit of time out and about meeting up with people we don't see the rest of the year (quite a few of our friends live overseas). But we don't need to spend tons on this like we have in the past. I've also spoken to people about not exchanging gifts this year, which has reduced the shopping list considerably. Dan's mum has suggested we have a £20 budget again this year as she enjoyed it so much last time round, so we're down to only a couple of more extravagant gifts now, phew. 

This month (I know it's only early) other than buying some hay online I have gone back to cash for everything. It's easier for me. I withdrew some cash at the start of the month and I don't want to have to use any more. If this works I'll have a nice buffer in my account which I'll use as an overdraft should I ever have an expensive month, or if there's some kind of deal that's too good to miss. As it is, we don't need to buy anything other than bunny greens, milk and mushrooms this week, less than a fiver isn't bad going. 

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The Spirit of Optimism

Dan surprised me with this book when we got onto the train on Sunday, I was made up with it and had a good nosey through it on the way home. One of the things I like most about Modernism is that it was an experiment in optimism. Things were built for people to share and to work together. OK, much of the time we didn't go with that idea and the experiment failed but there you go. 

"nothing is too good for ordinary people"
As I mentioned the other day, we stumbled across the Finsbury Health Centre by Berthold Lubetkin. This building was completed in 1938 and offered healthcare free at the point of use for local residents, something we take for granted now, but this idea predates the NHS. It is not necessarily a thing of great beauty to most now, but it's a beautiful and important thing to me. (You may also have seen this poster from WWII featuring the centre, created by Abram Games).

We spent a long time at the Eames exhibition and we both took something away from it, for me it was that I really like Ernest Race and for Dan he is more in love with Kenneth Grange than ever before. Neither of them featured in the exhibition, but our minds naturally turned to their output after seeing the industrial, commercial and domestic output of Charles and Ray Eames. I was also in love with the Barbican complex itself, especially the covered walkways which offered some protection from the rain!

We ended up in Poplar on Sunday after seeing something exciting from the train on our way to Greenwich, Balfron Tower (1967). The smaller, older, less glamorous sister of Trellick Tower by Erno Goldfinger (yes, feel free to sing). A dull, grey, silent Sunday morning in November was the perfect time to visit this lovely piece of Brutalism.

To bring us right back to the spirit of optimism we finished our trip at the Southbank Centre where everything seemed possible.

Something for everybody, for food, a walk, sightseeing, togetherness, families, couples, individuals, skateboarders, cyclists, residents, visitors, silence, noise, water, concrete and rain. 

power to the people

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Bits And Bobs

We were so busy the weekend that we decided not to go out for a meal, we'd just pick something up as and when we wanted something. It worked out well as there was a food market outside the Royal Festival Hall and there was plenty to choose from.

On Saturday night before we went to La Soiree we tried some Indian food, on Sunday we ended up back there, mainly to take photographs, and had some Lebanese food. This was a particular hit and now I have a new recipe to try, mdardara lentils and rice with onions. It was so nice and it looks like a great pantry meal, nice and cheap to make, I'll put it on the menu plan next month. 

We did make time for a detour or two, after wandering off to look at a ghost sign on Saturday we stumbled upon Finsbury Health Centre. After spotting something from the train we went on another detour on Sunday to have a look at Balfron Tower which made us very happy indeed. 

We also made time to go on a boat. Dan and I have never been on a boat together, and considering we live near lots of water it seemed a bit daft. It was probably the highlight of the weekend. It was either that or the little girl on the train who sang Agadoo for a good 10 minutes!

Monday, 9 November 2015

Weekend Away Part One

There may or may not be part two. 

I seem to remember when we came home from Berwick that I said going away was more trouble than it was worth. I still believe that to be true for me. 

We went to London at the weekend to see The World of Charles and Ray Eames at the Barbican Centre. We were only planning on going for the day but when my mum said she was looking after my nieces that weekend she suggested they come to stay and we could stay overnight in London. So we said "Yes, thank you very much".

Dan did some good work with train tickets and managed to snap them up for £30 return each, we booked the same hotel we stayed at last time, got an early bird booking for the show we wanted to see, and used our Art Pass for the exhibition itself.

The day before we went away we had the boiler serviced. At 4am on Saturday there was no hot water. On Sunday there was no heating either.

My parents couldn't switch the tv on. For more than three hours. There were many many many many many texts about it.

And a phonecall.

And something else I can't remember.

I almost threw my phone in the river.

When we got home there was a bin bag on the drive. Thankfully it was a bag of rubbish, it was in front of the bin shed.

I don't know why.

We had an amazing time, but I really don't think it was amazing enough to deal with the small stones in my mental shoe. The boiler guy is currently here fixing the boiler - of course the fact that it didn't work after he serviced it is nothing to do with him and must be something that we've done.

I'm having a nice cup of tea and a sit down. It is, after all, great to be home.