Saturday, 28 February 2015

The Very End of February.

February was successful. At the end of the month we added another £50 into savings which was fantastic. It has spurred us on to have a real push in March. I already have in my possession a large (for us) cheque, I tried to pay it in this morning on our way to the charity shop and the tip, but the cash machine had no deposit envelopes and the last time I tried to pay in at the counter the cashier told me off as my savings account is supposed to be a postal one. It can wait until Monday where our bank has just had a mini refurb so all the machines are new and I don't need to deal with silly things like envelopes.

On Friday I dealt with the veg lurking in the. Along with the 36p tomatoes we bought a lettuce so that was washed and spun. The celery, red cabbage and carrots we bought at the start of the month were still going so I chopped the rest of them and put them into a grab-and-go salad bowl. Winter salads are great, the ingredients are so cheap and can be used for stews and other hot meas too - carrots, onion, celery, beetroot etc. Left to my own devices I would just have a piece of toast or similar, but if the salad is ready to go then lunch is far more interesting (I've tried making soup, I'm not a fan). 

We ran out of handwash in the kitchen, so I just swapped the bath soap for a shower gel that was going to go to the charity shop and the soap is now in the kitchen. Non-problem solved, sorry charity you're down 50p. 

I starting the seed sowing, my biggest problem is that we only have one windowsill in the house, so Dan's dressing room has turned into a greenhouse. Some of the flower seeds are very old, they may not grow, but they certainly won't if I never plant them. 

We did buy a couple of things. Dan had his hair cut, but the service at his usual salon was so bad he left without being chopped. He had an appointment yet they left him sitting there for 20 minutes without speaking to him, they only said something when he asked the receptionist for his coat. He went the following day to a barber shop near his office and paid £12 less. It doesn't look as nice but it looks pretty good. 

I bought a lip pencil, some crisps and a cardigan, a total cost of £3. 

We have also had another very serious chat, about excellence and trying your hardest all the time. We agreed it's not necessary.  

Friday, 27 February 2015

Tastes Like Chicken

We ate the freekeh this week.

Freekeh is toasted young wheat grains. According to the box it's a good source of fibre and is high in protein. To compare, freekeh contains 18.5g protein per 100g which is higher than quinoa 14g, cashews 17g and bison 18g, and it's just below turkey 19g (according to this Men's Fitness article).

Were you to ask me how it tasted like I'd have to say it tastes a bit nutty, which is the veg*n version of it tastes like chicken. I say that not in a rude way, we both really enjoyed it. I can't say it was inexpensive, I think we paid £2 for a box big enough to provide for two meals. Nor did we do anything experimental with it, we cooked it and ate it with some dhal (which was such a hit on the first night we had the same thing the following night). I will certainly buy it again, but due to the cost it won't be something we have on a weekly basis, but that's the only reason. I'll be more adventurous with it next time round.

Fly the town hall flag, we also ate (some of) the orzo! I bought this almost a year ago when I was cooking from the River Cottage Veg book, but it never happened and I'd avoided it ever since. But I used it last night, along with a pouch of puy lentils to stuff some peppers. Turns out I really enjoyed it!

Yesterday I cleaned the fridge and did some cooking for the weekend. Managed to pick up some fancy looking tomatoes for 36p, we'll have them with the tofu when it's cooked in that pesky lemon and herb marinade. We have a shepherdess pie in the pyrex, the blue lid has the leftover baked beans, Dan will have them on toast tonight whenever he gets home from Newcastle. I'm going to have some of the puy lentils with pasta tonight, I'll make an extra portion to have with the aforementioned tofu (yes, I'd forgotten he was away when I did the menu plan). 

Thursday, 26 February 2015

A Quick Dash

I don't know where this is going, so eventually it will just end. 

I saw Sam Cleasby on BBC Breakfast this morning. I had been pointed in the direction of her post "To The Lady Who Tutted At Me Using The Disabled Loos" a few days ago and it was well worth a read. The blog is about inflammatory bowel disease, it's something we live with here. Dan has ulcerative colitis, and sometimes it's not very nice.

The thing about being a chap with UC is that public toilets can be a bit of a nightmare. The ladies toilets consist of cubicles, the blokes toilet don't. There could be a couple, or sometimes only one cubicle, often a bit grim and frequently in use, occasionally not working - especially true in the case of our local trains. But when you've got to go, you've got to go. 

Along with our emergency winter kit in the car we carry bin bags, wipes, toilet paper and spare clothes - just in case. It's never got to that point, but there's no way of knowing when they might be needed. People in our life know Dan suffers from this and sometimes it means he can't have a pint, or we have to dash off, or we can't go out for a meal. I do think people sometimes believe it's an excuse to get out of things though.

What changed things for us is when the former Manchester United and Scotland player Darren Fletcher revealed he had the condition. It had such an impact on his career, with him having to take a break from football, and having surgery I think that was the first time people we know really appreciated, if not understood, how debilitating it can be. In some cases it also kind of felt like people were taking it seriously as a real thing for the first time. This post "Ten Things Not To Say To Someone With IBD" resonated with me, I'm sure everyone with any illness or disability will have a similar list. I know people say things like this because they don't really know what to say or they want to show support, I'm not being nasty, it's hard to talk about illness, especially when it involves things we'd rather not mention. 

Dan is really fortunate in that he hasn't had to have surgery and his medication helps with the worst of it most of the time, it helps with the blood loss and much of the discomfort, but he does get flare ups and they can have a big impact. People have enough to deal with without being mocked or judged by people (ill or not), why not be kind instead.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

25% Off

After we decided in mid-January to give ourselves a pay cut we started to put things into action immediately. It might seem a bit... fake to some people but to us it's just doing a dry run to prepare us for a possible future. It was quite easy to start straightaway as we'd had a big day out, I was still working through my birthday gifts, the car had just been serviced the tyre replaced and things were easy. We didn't plan it that way, the plan came to mind afterwards, there's never a perfect time to make a change, so it didn't feel as though we were cheating. There was still enough of the month and the usual budget left to do a bit of jiggling and set a few things up. 

In order to set myself up for the smaller budget I thought it would be a good idea to retain £50 from the January budget as a float/overdraft for myself. That is for emergencies only, it should just stay as the base level of my current account unless something very serious happens. 

I was going to list a few things we did differently or to save money, but I don't think a lot of things fit into those categories. Quite a lot of things we did were just to organise ourselves or to do things we had to/wanted to do, or things we did instead in our free time instead of spending money, so it's a bit of a mish mash. 

5 things in February

1. used cash only for grocery spending 
2. got out and about with the camera
3. more cooking together, especially at the weekend
4. lots and lots of talking
5. the house was cleaned, tidied, organised and embraced - we really have enjoyed how much we love the house and spending time here

We haven't scrimped on things, we've just been aware of them and the more we've saved, the more we want to save. I've been very pleased to have saved £100 pounds from my budget, it was really easy as it's a cheap month for me as I wasn't having my hair cut, nothing was needed for the buns and it was a cheap pension month. Next month could be harder, but we shall see. 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Wrapping Up

We had thought there would be another bit of cash to chuck into savings at the end of this month, but then we remembered bunny vaccinations so that put paid to that. 

We made soap at the weekend. It did involve the purchase of a mixing bowl but otherwise it was free. It's now doing what it needs to do on top of the fridge for the next thee weeks. 

I still haven't planted anything. 

I've done some more exercise and am getting smaller, but also more hungry. 

The quilt is coming together quite quickly, I'm very pleased about it. 

Next month we have a few things to look forward to. We're going to Lancaster for another university talk, we're also seeing Jon Ronson (a belated birthday present) and there's a landsailing event on the beach one weekend which could be fun, if the weather is good. Also, we must plant something. Dan has also mentioned decorating. 

I've done the pantry inventory. The lemon and herb marinade is still there. I really want to put off a big shopping trip for as long as possible, I'm hoping to a couple of purchases will stretch things out for a while, I need a tin of baked beans and some passata. Next week's food will then look like this 

Sunday - lemon and herb tofu (let's see if that happens!)
Monday - stirfry with roast tofu
Tuesday - shepherdess pie
Wednesday - shepherdess pie
Thursday - dhal (I made double yesterday)

So without giving it any further thought, it looks like shopping night will be Thursday of next week. Prior to that we need passata, baked beans, bunny greens, milks, chickpeas or something for Dan's lunches. Not too bad. Maybe after that I'll cook something interesting, but I doubt it, simple all the way next month I think.  

Monday, 23 February 2015


One thing the first pay cut month has thrown up is how many opportunities we have. I know we know that there are opportunities everywhere to but not only realise, acknowledge, and even embrace them is a bit different. 

We've saved over our aim for this month and we aim to save double in March, what this push has done is opened up conversation about things we wouldn't have considered before. Not just the small things like the TV subscription, shopping and all the free things around us, but also bigger things. There's always the car conversation (we have this every couple of years) but Dan headed off to work this morning to ask what his voluntary redundancy would be worth, turns out it's not lots but it's not bad. This is something we would never have even thought about before but now it's on the table, only as a point of discussion but it's another thing to think and discuss seriously. You can't change your life without doing things differently after all. 

I had a very exciting evening on Sunday, we went to St Helens to watch a game of rugby, Saints were playing South Sydney. Souths are my Australian team, so to be able to see them in the flesh was amazing! We saw Russell Crowe too, but only from a distance, he certainly wasn't on the standing terrace like us!

Food for this week - 

Sunday - toast! (it was very late)

Monday - spiced root veg stew

Tuesday - dhal 

Wednesday - stuffed peppers (we didn't have them the other night for some reason)

Thursday - chestnut pie with mash

Friday - chickpea curry

Saturday - kind of moussaka

Not very inspired, but it's what we have in and I want to put off going shopping for as long as possible. 

Friday, 20 February 2015

Plodding and Not Plodding

I like to talk about my day to day, because this is all about the amount of times my friends have asked me "but what do you do all day?" I've noticed I talked a lot about plodding on and how things are just taking care of themselves. But things don't have to just take care of themselves and my life doesn't just plod on, they may be slow and relaxed, but lots of things are still deliberate. 

I know I've spoken recently about when my house was a mess and that the stuff I hoarded was all about memories and remembering all the details. I think that's why I don't post too many photographs and I don't really talk too much about our big days out. I think it's because it's important for me not to fixate on them and that it's OK for someone else to jog my memory, rather than hang on to everything all the time. So the junk drawer can be important here, because I wouldn't talk about it out there. Here is different to out there in the real world. If I spoke about all this stuff there then I wouldn't need to be here would I?

So what has the normality brought about this week? 

I cooked and ate something new, a butterbean goulash-type thing. We bought this paste before Christmas and I thought I'd better try it out. Yummy, but I used a little too much of the paste so it was hot hot hot!

I tried something old

An exercise DVD from years and years ago. I've done it three times this week and I can tell the difference already. I do look a bit less flabby and this morning I didn't have to flop out on the floor at the end!

Spurred on by this post I remembered I received this as a gift

Now we have an activity for Saturday afternoon and I won't have to buy any soap for the rest of the year with a bit of luck. 

Finally, previous ploddy days have brought about this

A daff I can't even remember planting! Yes, raking is also on the list for the weekend. That afternoon some time last year is paying off as we have leaves and flowers poking their little heads out all over the place. So I suppose the things I don't notice the benefits of now are things that can be a reward in the future. 

Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Right Reasons

People ask me quite often why I volunteer at the shop and why that particular charity. I always laugh it off by saying it's to spot bargains or even to meet people or something like that. 

Yesterday a lady donated a few items to the shop and thanked us for doing so much for her Father before he died, and she started to cry, but kept on telling us about all the services and support they had been able to access through us. It was a very special moment, and it was nice to be reminded that the money does make a difference, right here in our town. 

She then told us about a brand new with tags skirt she'd piked up at the shop for less than a fiver. We were declared to be all round good eggs. 

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The Experiment

We are getting towards the end of the first month of living on less money. Well, we really started right after we'd had the idea in mid-January so we had a little bit of a run up. January and the start of February are made easier by the fact we both have our birthday, so there's generally a little bit of a cash boost and gifts to scratch the itch of shopping. 

So far there's not all that much to report. We have been spending time at home, just relaxing, Dan has a couple of library books and I've started up again with the quilt, so easy no-spend activities there. We spent most of the weekend at the beach which is also fun and free if we avoid the walk through town on the way there and back, easy to do.

I have bought one or two things from the charity shop but have only spent £1.99 on the Sea Swallow book and an ironing board cover - cheaper than a new board. I haven't window shopped on my way there or home, I've taken the beach route to avoid the town and not really browsed while I've been volunteering. Something I've found amazingly easy, I thought that would be the most difficult thing. 

The freezer is full as I did some cooking on Monday. The house is really really clean and tidy, I've done some exercise and can now fit into two skirts that didn't quite fit before, and things are just plodding along. We don't need anything at the moment thankfully and we haven't been looking for things to spend money on. So it's a fairly uneventful month so far. It's a huge relief to see the savings looking more healthy though. 

Tuesday, 17 February 2015


I used to be a fit person who ate very healthy food, avoided junk and did lots of exercise. I am now not like that, even so I was shocked when I had to run along the beach with my niece*, I was worn out. So today I shifted the coffee table out of the way and did an exercise dvd. The rabbits were horrified. 

We had a great day at the beach on Sunday, Dan, Father and I ran around with the older children and everyone else strolled on the prom with the little one. We visited the RNLI station where I tried on the rescue gear, I carried a wriggling 6 year old until my arms gave way, we discussed tapas, why we lived near the sea, the purpose of statues, favourite superheroes (not my strongest subject), and the relative merits of different animals.

We had an early night.

Also, menu plan for the week - 

Sunday - out

Monday - stirfry w. noodles and cashews 

Tuesday - overly-hot goulash with roast celeriac

Wednesday - chilli

Thursday - jacket potatoes with chilli

Friday - veg balti

Saturday - peppers stuffed with lentils and freekeh

*she's not technically my niece, she's the daughter of my brother's girlfriend, but niece is close enough. 

Monday, 16 February 2015

Close To 50 Shades of Grey

I've finally started to sew the blocks for the big wonky 9 patch quilt together. It is making me realise exactly how big big is! Still, it's good to be moving on and seeing how it will look when it comes together. 

It's fairly easy to tell which fabric is my favourite, I've used rather a lot of it. 

My work basket is still pretty full so that should keep me quiet. I'm hoping to have it done by the end of the year. 

Thursday, 12 February 2015

The Sea Swallow

illustration by Hannah Megee

I've posted a couple of photographs of The Ogre on the beach in Cleveleys here and here. The sculpture is all part of a larger installation along the seafront, telling the tale of The Sea Swallow and the Mythic Coast. 

Anyway I was tidying the bookshelves at the charity shop the other day when I found the book to go along with the public art, I was delighted. Written by Gareth Thompson, illustrated by Hannah Megee and published by Foxtail the book tells the story of Mary and her bid to save her town from being lost to the sea. 

It's a really lovely book, beautifully written and illustrated, with lots of nice touches such as including the petrified forest into the story. I'm so glad to have spotted it. 

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Quick! To The Tram!

Inspired by Leanne and Kezzie along with a few others I decided to get out and about yesterday. Partly because I want to become a bit fitter, partly because it's nice and partly just because it's part of the reason we wanted to live here. 

I set my phone alarm for 30 minutes and set off from home towards Blackpool to see how far I could get. Instead of nipping through a tiny gap in a hedge onto the dunes I used the proper path. 

There's quite a big dune conservation project going on at the minute. I walked past the area where all the Christmas trees were planted

There were lots!

There were also two trucks going back and forth from quite far out towards a place where the sea will be if it ever comes in and dumping loads of sand onto the dunes. 

By the time my alarm went off I could see the tram shed at Starr Gate, helicopters and planes from the airport were flying overhead and it felt so close to just make it to the next landmark. So I did. The sand was a lot softer from here so it took longer than expected. But I finally arrived on the prom, with just enough time to catch a peek of The Big One and a tram before I had to head off.

I walked back along the road, thinking it would be quicker. It wasn't but I was able to nosey at what is going on at the old Pontins site (what was happening was lots of men in hi-vis jackets pointing) at a few piles of bricks. 

As an extra bonus I spotted some dune rabbits, of which there are many

I just about got to the charity shop in time, but I don't think anyone else appreciated my walk as I did have a bit of wet dog smell! Oh well, you live and learn. 

Tuesday, 10 February 2015


I read a couple of posts yesterday about wonderful days out, home or away and they made me think about how little time I spend at the beach. It's something Dan and I talk about quite a lot but it really struck home. It's right there but a week or two can go by and I won't walk on the sand. Weirdly we spend lots of time on beaches, not just our own.

Speaking of Dan. He comes home today from his work thing. His being away has made me realise how much he does for me, for the house. I mean, I had to get myself up and out of bed! It's been a good thing in a way because I've had time to miss him and time to see what I get up to when I'm on my own. 

I think I've started to appreciate the impact the shop has had on me, and how I have some genuine friends there, I'm trying to not seem so surprised when I'm included in things these days. 

Finally, I appreciate the hand quilting thread I bought last year from Empress Mills in Colne. I've just run out and am having to stitch with something else. It's not as sturdy, but it'll do the trick, having to stop would be the worst thing.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Food Time Again

I seem to be doing nothing but think about food at the minute, which makes me less hungry than ever! Dan is off out and about so I have all day today to do whatever I want, despite this I'm going to do some cooking. Partly for this week, partly for the freezer and partly to make sure I eat something while he's away. Although I haven't got off to a great start on the eating something while he's away front. I had some chocolate chilli penguins for breakfast

8. toast

9. chestnut and mushroom stew* w. veg (in theory, the reality may be different)

10 chestnut and mushroom cobbler*

11 jacket potatoes w. pepper sauce

12 roast veg pasta we're off out to another lecture

13 lentil, squash and sweet potato curry*

14 l/o

* things I'm making for the freezer. 

Sunday, 8 February 2015

I Confess!

There has been a lot of talk this week about the Eat Well For Less? show on BBC1. Here is my confession - I sometimes  frequently buy bags of carrot sticks.

I don't like cooking, I don't particularly like eating but I must do both. Dan can't eat carrots, or many root veg, but I do quite like carrots. I can leave a bag of carrots in the fridge for yonks, I will eat a bag of carrot sticks in a couple of days. It's a small win for me. Same with shop-bought houmous, I've made it in the past, a task I do not enjoy and actively avoid, but if there's a tub in the fridge I'll team it with carrot sticks and get some nutrition into me. 

Maybe I sound like a brat, probably do, but I know myself and although eating is reasonably easy for me now - mainly due to Dan, if I was on my own for a period of time I wouldn't eat much. Some small conveniences mean I'll look after myself at least a little bit.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Pantry Check

After dealing with the bits yesterday Dan commented that I was "really getting on top of the house again". A compliment indeed. I have to confess that I almost enjoyed cooking the other day too.

Speaking of cooking, I did a stock check this morning, after spending nearly £47 at the supermarket the other evening I've decided that, other than bunny greens, that must be enough for a fortnight. So I'll have my pondering cap on. I need to cook something for Sunday and Monday evening as Dan won't be here at mealtimes and I know I won't cook anything for myself unless it's really easy.

I don't think we'll go short, we have -

pasta, Udon noodles, orzo (still left over from that River Cottage Veg recipe I didn't get round to preparing), freekeh, bulghur, brown rice, sweet potatoes, potatoes, onions, bread mixes, gram flour, plain flour, oatcakes, assorted baking things (left over from Em's visit at the end of 2013).

Yellow split peas (dried), pinto beans (dried), mung beans (dried), red lentils, green lentils, tinned black eyed beans, butter beans, red kidney beans, cannellini beans, cashews, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, chestnuts.

Passata, curry paste, Rendang curry paste, goulash paste, lemon and herb marinade (which has been here for a loooooong time), chutney, olives, peanut butter, marmite, coconut cream, all the dried herbs and spices I could want.

The fridge and freezer add yet more - 

tofu, carrots, spinach, celery, two kinds of mushrooms, celeriac, red pepper, broccoli, butternut squash, leeks, soya yoghurt, pickled beetroot, pickled red cabbage, tahini, peas, sweetcorn, chillies, sweet potato fries, bread.

I think the contents of my purse are safe for a while, my slightly scruffy assistant made sure all items were counted. 

Please don't send Greg Wallace round!

Quick shout out to Widnes Vikings who fought back from 10 points and a man down (Patty Ah Van received a red card for a high shot on Josh Charnley) to gain a draw with Wigan Warriors last night. Crazy game, fun start to the season. Wishing a speedy recovery to Josh and to the wonderful Kevin Brown. Yes, we did wobble about going, but we stuck to our resolve and watched it on the telly.

Thursday, 5 February 2015


the coffee table

I've trained myself to be fairly tidy, or at least I am used to tidying up. However I am not very good with "bits", sometimes I need Dan's help to sort out those little bits and bobs that mount up. 

The to-do pile

The above photograph i a prime example of something I've spoken about before. Other than the onion sets, everything here is a gift - glittery stickers for my Converse, a birthday card (yes, I know my birthday was a month ago), chillies and a tin full of seeds, most of which I did not buy or ask for. I'm not saying they're not useful, in the main they're really useful, but they came into the house without me asking. 

The put away pile

This stuff has been waiting to find a home since my birthday or even since Christmas, I think it's time. 

Wednesday, 4 February 2015



Where am I? In the garage

What am I wearing? amazing dress, flip flops, grey cardigan

What's the sky like? not visible

what's motivating me? looking for a suspected bag of hay, saving money


Where am I? behind the counter at the charity shop

What am I wearing? amazing dress, black tights, sparkly boots, yellow cardigan

What's the sky like? beautiful blue

what's motivating me? finding a new fleece for LJ, coffee, talking about Slimming World, and of course doing my good deeds for the day!


Where am I? in the car at Edge Hill University

What am I wearing? as 2pm plus a striped scarf

What's the sky like? darkening to a lovely inky blue

what's motivating me? finding the Health and Social Care building for our lecture "The Divided Self" with Prof. Geoff Beattie (free lecture, drinks and buffet provided). 

Linking to Mum's blog today as she gave me the push to do one of these for the first time in ages. Thanks Mum!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

New Supermarket and Menu Plan

We usually shop at a local supermarket, Booths, but a few weeks ago we found ourselves in Morrisons when we needed just one or two things. We decided to try it out for our stock up shop as it seemed quite cheap. 

£46.79 did net us a lot of food. Some of the vegetables were inexpensive compared to our usual place, we didn't need/want most of the 69p veg selection but we did get 800g sweet potatoes and 1.2kg of carrots for 69p each. Dan picked up some heavily reduced bread, which is now sliced and in the freezer, and I confess there were a few things there that we hadn't seen before, such as some vegan slices for his lunch. Oh and we paid £4 for 12.5kg of potatoes. Non-fresh things weren't that much cheaper though, maybe a couple of pence here and there with some items and a little more expensive gram for gram with others e.g the own brand tins of beans were only 300g rather than 400g, we eat a lot of beans so it made more sense to buy the branded item instead. We also noticed that virtually all the tins we picked up were dented. 

So will we shop there again? Yes, but we'd go to the larger store that sells larger bags of lentils and dried things, I don't think we'll shop there regularly though, maybe once or twice a year, I think we'll do just as well with our usual combination of the supermarket and Home Bargains.

I've decided to not menu plan for the month, but week by week, so here's the plan for the first week of February.

1. mushroom pie w. ratatouille and sweet potato chips

2. bottom of the fridge Thai-style stirfry w. brown rice

3. falafel wrap (we're eating on the run)

4. spinach dhal

5. Root veg paprikash

6. squash stuffed with beans

7. leftovers with jacket potatoes

Tree update! The branches are still visible above the wall so I can see what a popular perching post it is for all and sundry. I have giggled a lot at the antics of the pigeons who are using the stumps as a diving board to launch themselves into the ivy in our garden. It is not the most graceful movement I have ever seen, but they seem to benefit from it.