Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Bit The Bulghur

view from the Judges' Lodgings

Yesterday when I was getting ready to go out I noticed a lump under my arm, on our way to the train station I nipped into the GP surgery to make an appointment to see someone about it. I went this morning, impressive. The GP was mildly surprised to see me as I haven't seen a doctor, only nurses, since 1998. "You never see a doctor, what made you come today?" he asked, I told him I was always being told you should get these things looked at, he poked me a bit, told me there was nothing wrong with me and sent me on my way. 

Back to yesterday, we got the train to Lancaster and it was one of those days where everything just worked, we got off one train, straight onto another and soon as you like, there we were. 

We had lunch at the Whale Tale cafe, which is above Single Step Co-Op that I've spoken about before. I came away full, and full of ideas about things to make. Dan had samosa pie, which was samosa filling topped with filo pastry plus lots of salads - some kind of brown pasta I don't know what I was coated in but it was delicious, green lentils, and a nice coronation chickpea. I had a creole wrap with salads and a really really delicious avocado and kiwi salsa. After talking about it last time around I treated myself to this

a seed sprouter! We stared at it for ages discussing the pros and cons and in the end just bought it and some seeds. I'm not going to start until next week for various reasons but I'm glad we took the plunge. 

The main purpose for our visit was to see The Cottage Museum, Dan's dad mentioned it the other week and claims his dad used to visit that house as a child, so we went. It's right opposite the castle, I won't say you can't miss it, you could as it's tiny.

the cottage museum , just the left side of the building

It's on 5 levels despite it's teeny size, and was really interesting, full of bits and bobs and with very knowledgeable staff. We weren't the only people there during our visit so another couple had to take a seat in front of the fireplace while we looked around. Well worth half an hour and £1. We then took the short walk to the Judges' Lodgings and as a review of the Cottage Museum said on Tripadvisor - very interesting to compare and contrast the two dwellings. We got into this museum free of charge with the Art Pass (it's usually £3), again well worth the money, the staff were friendly and knowledgeable, plus there's a small Museum of Childhood on the top floor. 

After learning all about Gillow furniture, it seemed only right we ended our trip at the pub named after the man himself, well worth a trip too. On the way home we bumped into some very happy anti-fracking nanas in Preston. A great start to the holiday. 

Sunday, 28 June 2015

A Scramble

Now I've been to sleep for a couple of hours I am a little less cross than yesterday. We've looked into hiring a car and the cost might not be too bad, I am firmly on the side of leaving our car where it is and not worrying about getting it fixed until after the holiday. I think we might hire a car for a full week, rather than just to get us to Berwick and back. We really want to go to Hull next week and it would take forever on the train. For the rest of the time we'll stay local or head off on the train. 

The trip to York is off, but that can be rearranged and we will be able to use the money we're not spending today to pay for the car. The only downside is that I had already planned what I was going to eat at the restaurant, so I know what I'm missing! But today is grey and wet so it's an ideal day to be at home lounging and drinking coffee.

It's also a good day for a scramble of our holiday plans and to take stock of the good stuff around us. I hear the weather is going to be hot this week, so even if we're stuck at home we can sit under our parasol and not do all that much. The salad leaves I planted last week are poking their heads through already which is very exciting and even with my bad knee I can make it into the town, which isn't the worst place in the world to be, we have a bag of coins we can use at the pier arcade, our flask still works and the beach is as nice as others we'd go to. Plus Dan wants to challenge me to the Mini Links golf course, which I'm surprised at after our crazy golf experience, he's clearly a happy loser! 

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Grumpy Face.

Day one of our two weeks away from work, there is something wrong with the car againI am so sick of seeing how much money goes towards keeping the thing, but I'm not the one who uses it to get to work every day. 

I now appreciate why I never learned to drive, what a waste of time, money and other resources.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Crumbly Gold

We sort of have a compost bin. Last year, or the year before Father turned up with an old single bed and told me to paint it with three coats of outdoor something or other, which I did. He them made a compost bin, we then had a gale, part of our roof came off and the compost bin flew across the garden. It was then dismantled and rebuilt into a kind of compost fence arrangement. 

Thanks to a tip from Mum and others, when we dug the lawn up to make the veg bed we stacked up the lawn bits and shoved it under the weigela, a year later it is now soil without grass and is becoming part of the garden. The rest of the compost area is not quite as successful. The main reason for this is that is because we currently have a lot of sticks and not a lot of much else. I need to get a lot of chopping done, and we have a trip to the tip planned *yay* so we should be able to get rid of most of the surplus so I can see what's at the bottom of the heap and them start afresh. The main thing I want to do is reduce the amount of rabbit litter going into the bin. The pen has two litter trays and they are emptied a couple of times a week, that's a lot of stuff. If we didn't bin this we'd only have to put the bin out every two or three collections rather than every fortnight as we do now. 

Another thing that has slipped down the priority list is recycling the tetra-pak, one of the first things to be subject to the cuts here was our local recycling centre, which was about a mile from here. Now we have to go to the other side of Lytham to the main place so it's a less frequent visit and so it's less convenient to drop a bag of cartons off. But now we're having milk in cartons rather than bottles we'll be generating a few more so I want to be on top of dealing with them as sensibly as possible.

If anyone has any good ideas for reusing Tetra Pak cartons I'd love to hear them.

Extra happy bonus! When I went out to look at the garden waste area I noticed signs of life. My peppermint had survived the winter then for some reason it was moved into the direct sun and it withered. It's been under a pile of twigs for a few weeks now and there's a healthy little plant again. Being a bit of a lazy gardener can be a positive sometimes. 

Thursday, 25 June 2015

A Leg Up

Yesterday morning I was just going about my business, well actually I was sitting down reading Money Saving Old Style and my lower leg went in the opposite direction to my knee. It's happened before so sadly for me I knew what had to happen. I was not very brave, and phoned Dan so he could hold my hand while I straightened my leg. It was not fun for either of us. Fortunately I already have a knee support - bang goes my even suntan!

The extra bad part of the tale is that I had been asked to look after the shop this morning as the manager and deputy are away. Bad timing. 

It's also reasonably bad timing as our holiday starts tomorrow, we're not going away tomorrow, but Dan will be off work from then. He's in London today for something to do with the next Census so it's almost like his holiday has started - he got up really early, went on a train, will be able to see a few sights and maybe he'll even bring a souvenir home!

I have been well provided for, I have some old magazines, a banana malt loaf with some peanut butter, coffee and apple & rhubarb juice. The veg have even been watered so I don't feel the urge to get out there with the watering can. Plus, those holiday lists won't write themselves will they?

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Totting Up June

In terms of the savings, June has been not very good, a few bits and bobs have gone into the sealed pot but in terms of cash in the bank, not a penny. We had a large bill to get the car repaired, we had a ton of gifts to buy and we had to set some money aside for a day out at the end of the month - we're being introduced to the girlfriend of Dan's friend for the first time. 

So that's that really, hence no week by week updates. 

We've eaten from the pantry quite a lot, we're under budget in terms of groceries, Dan managed to get the new shoes he needed in the sale and the window cleaner didn't come in May, so the money carried over to this month. We've been able to do quite a lot of cleaning and tidying in preparation for our holiday, I cleaned out the garage, washed the garden furniture and filled my trolley with some of the tons of stuff I have to take to the charity shop (my family and all their friends give me donations to take to my shop rather than their local one, which is nice, but it does clog up the garage a bit). 

Five things this week

1. I planted some rocket/chard/mustard/kale seeds. Dan picked up a pepper plant and some beetroot plants for a couple of quid

2. I sat in the garden and read some magazines given to me for free. 

3. Another garden one, I divided a few plants and used them to pad out the bare borders. 

4. We received a £5 voucher from the supermarket.

5. Dan made some jam buns and I roasted the rhubarb my mum gave to me - why have I been stewing rhubarb all these years, roasting is easier and tastes better!

Dan and I differ a little over the savings for next month, so we'll see how it goes. 

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Cookbook July

After my excitement about food yesterday, I had a cooking disaster with the evening meal last night. Typical. I managed to save a fair bit of it and turn them into something else, I did think it was funny though. 

I've done the menu plan for July, and this time round I'm basing it on a cookbook. Some of you may have witnessed my failed River Cottage week last year, well I@m trying it again for July. I feel more prepared now, so it should be fine. There's no plan for the first two weeks because that's when Dan's on holiday from work, so we don't know what we're going to be doing. We're not going shopping next week or the week after, we'll just use things from the pantry and buy things when we need them. The food budget is not larger next month so we shouldn't go too wild with it. 

Not everything from the cookbook is the main part of the meal, sometimes it's just the bread or the salad, not all of the recipes are new to me as we already have some favourites, but there's something from the book in almost every meal. Here goes

1-12 no plan

13 chillies stuffed with beans
14 porotos granados
15 l/o
16 quinoa w. courgettes & onions w. cauliflower fritters
17 dhal, flatbreads and salads
18 herby peanutty noodly salad
19 roast/bbq

20 stuffed cabbage leaves
21 potato skins w. oven roast ratatouille
22 l/o w. rosti
23 roast tofu w. spelt salad
24 asian inspired slaw w. gyoza, greens and tofu
25 pizza
26 roast
27 mushroom risoniotto

28 patatas bravas w. puy lentil pasties
29 not-pot noodles
30 dhal
31 vegetable biryani

Monday, 22 June 2015

Eating With My Eyes

I've always said that I'm not bothered about food, and given a free choice I'd never eat again. I also get overly dramatic about how much of a fuss and faff cooking it. But I'm coming round to it, through a slightly wonky route. 

We've been trying a few things people have recommended to us, and it's been interesting. We don't usually eat a huge amount of convenience food but we have been recently. It's a good thing and a not so good thing. The not soo good is that it's pretty expensive and often not all that nice, the good thing is that I can take the idea and come up with a version that is more to our liking. 

The other thing is that we've been going to quite a few co-operatives and health food shops. Strangely I've been quite inspired by seeing all the dried food and an excited again about turning this cheap, brown food into something exciting. The other good thing about shops like this is that it's obvious that everyone else there is excited about buying this stuff and turning it all into something, rather than buying stuff that's already something and just eating it. The super freshness of the veg is a big draw, still so full of vitamins and flavour, it made me think about our little veg patch and how it seems mundane, but it's not really, it's exciting - you can't get fresher than really fresh can you? And my leeks (if they grow) will have cost me about 50p for two dozen. It's starting to seem weird that I'd see something as "better" because it's not mine. 

An extra boost was our trip to Unicorn in Chorlton on Saturday, I was very interested by their deli section. There was an amazing selection of fried goods, I don't make them myself, other than onion bhajis, but I could find and follow a recipe. There were some curries and a fantastic looking dhal, I know my dhal is delicious and I make a lot of things from my Indian cookbook - maybe it's not all that authentic, but it's really tasty. Then there were the salads, they looked amazing, so I looked at them to see what made them so amazing - I liked the look of the ones with sprouted seeds, I don't do that but I think sprouting seeds was the first science experiment I ever did at infant school when I was about six years old, so how hard can that be? The rest of the veg looked so wonderful because it looked different to my salads. The main difference seems to be using a spiraliser or some nice chopping, but in terms of ingredients there was nothing out of my reach or capabilities. 

I may be slow at catching up with slow food, but I could just be getting there. 

I didn't buy anything, and I loved Unicorn even though I kept my money in my purse. 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Behind Closed Doors

Linking up with Mum today to steal her idea for a post all about poking about in cupboards. I've spoken about my pantry and various cupboards loads of times before herehereherehere and amazingly again here. I know there's a post somewhere about keeping all my quilting scraps in jars too but you probably get the idea by now. 

We bought the jars when our house was on the market and I wanted to inject a bit of "lifestyle" into the kitchen. Since then they've been in and out of fashion at the minute they're in, it stops me knocking packets of food off the shelves in the pantry when I'm standing in there snacking on something. 

We use them for cereal too, it helps with portion control, we tend to use the measuring device rather than doing a lovely long pour!

There are no jars on the worktop, there's no room, and it would not be sensible for me to leave food on view, way too tempting. Speaking of which, I've not had any milk since I mentioned I wasn't having milk anymore. I occasionally think about having a cup of tea but my brain is lagging behind in that regard, I'll wait a while. I'm getting used to soya milk in coffee, it doesn't bother me at all, although I have noticed I'm having fewer hot drinks in general. I also bought some mango green tea for times when I want something a bit more refreshing, it's OK, nice in the afternoon when the sun is out. 

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

I'd The Film

So I thought I'd get the book!

I was looking for something quite different when I saw a very exciting looking book in a charity shop. Turns out it was exciting.

It's a book produced by Bergen Line in the 50's for their cruise ships, a handy guide to the tour. It has a lovely mixture of illustrations and photographs, plus my copy still has the map of Norway, a complimentary Norwegian coins guide and the diploma to certify that the cruisers had visited the northernmost point on Europe - stamped by the Captain. 

And the Arctic Circle. 

The only downside is that the charity shop had stuck a large price sticker on the dust jacket

Very annoying, but a nice thing nonetheless. 

Monday, 15 June 2015

Freebies and Bare Necessities

The postman brought joyful post this morning in the form of a £5 Booths loyalty card voucher. That should come in handy at the start of next month when I want to buy a couple of treats for our bunny sitting guest. 

I also received two freebies, with the promise of things to come in the form of a few sticks of rhubarb and two plants from my parents on Saturday, I will stew the fruit tomorrow, I planted the plants this morning. Twig number one is, apparently, bay.

Twig number two, is a honeysuckle. I've only just started clearing this bit of the bed (on the right of the garden) so it's still full of weeds, but there is space for this baby climber 

Hardly astounding specimens at the moment but given time they should be great.

I also splashed out on not one, not two, but eight pairs of lady undergarments this weekend, what a time to be alive! I wear dresses and skirts a lot of the time so I favour some nice substantial shorts to avoid distress to either myself or other people. Others will be flung this afternoon - into the bin, not in a Tom Jones type of way. 

Sunday, 14 June 2015


We went to meet my new niece yesterday, but before we went my mum needed to print some photographs so we went to the local shopping centre. It's well over a decade since I was last there and longer than that since I was there for more than a fleeting visit. So Dan and I were both excited to see it, we both love modernism and I am from a New Town so it's ideal.

The place has changed but there were still a couple of little gems that I remember from my younger years, mainly this tiled mural 

It features the long since demolished transporter bridge, the current road bridge (opened in 1961) , the railway bridge crossing the River Mersey and some of the ships that use the port and sailed up and down the Manchester Ship canal. 

It's just a cool thing. Another cool thing was a small display in an empty shop (it was Halfords when I was little) with some models from the original New Town plans (the Town Plan was developed by Arthur Ling, who had also worked on the redevelopment of Coventry) , one for Southgate (designed by Sir James Stirling)

apologies this was taken through glass, through a window

And one for the shopping centre, busway and other bits of the new town. 

What I didn't know last year was that there was an exhibition covering 50 years of the New Town, these models form part of it, I love the posters too 

My Mum is going to see someone on Monday to see if I can get hold of a copy of the posters (and hopefully to see if I can arrange to view the other parts of the exhibition). Fingers crossed. 

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Being Bold

In a small way. 

This week has left me thinking about being bold, and how making the bold step, even when it's small bold - not like selling up and moving across the world or changing career or opening a donkey sanctuary. Just saying that's it and doing something that you want or need to do. 

It came about this week through gardening. I was finally brave with the tangled mess and just got on with it. Now it looks better and I'm not as scared to get in there with the cutting devices. With food the other week, I wasn't going to give up milk by continuing to drink milk. Same with money, we weren't going to pay off our debts and move towards the life we want by continuing to live the same way we lived before. 

Then when the bold move is made, it isn't bold anymore, it's just living. 

I'd make a rubbish frugal blogger, when we made the change in 2003 we were both massive spenders, we were both into the latest new thing, designer clothes, fancy this and that. But then it stopped. I suppose it was bold at the time, but just stopping doing something that no-one in their right mind would care about anyway isn't all that interesting, it's just going to different shops, or not going to shops at all. Saving is all that interesting either, the occasional benefit of saving - like the big deposit we could put down for this house (which we didn't really do anything to achieve, we just sold our house for more than we bought it for) or buying a nice car for cash - that's exciting and kind of interesting, but everything else, well it's just being alive isn't it. 

Suffice to say, it's not interesting a lot of the time, but I am very happy at the minute and it all started with roses!

Friday, 12 June 2015

The Not-Cost Cutting Week

We don't shop at Tesco as a rule, I think the last time we went was when Em came over from Germany, she loves it there so we went for a spot of recreational shopping. To soften the blow of the garage bill Dan treated me to some of the fabled free-from strawberry cones. They are amazing. I was very good and only had one though. 

The car came home from the garage with the part we need in the boot. Our garage uses official branded parts, and as ours was coming from Sweden it hadn't arrived in time. So in order to fix the car and get it through the MOT they used a cheaper brand and will fit the Volvo part, which arrived in the afternoon, when the next service comes around. The car fixing was not cheap at just over £420, but that's cars for you isn't it. 

Have I already said we bought all the gifts we needed on Saturday? I think so, we got everything at a very decent price.

Dan bought some new casual shoes as the ones he bought last year had a sole hole. I don't know what he does when he walks, but he gets through shoes like you wouldn't believe. 

As if by magic, after mentioning that this year was the first time we hadn't had birds nesting in the garden, for the past two days there has been a flurry of blackbird activity. Speaking of the garden, my worst fears have been realised, the biggest of the big bushy plants at the bottom on the garden is indeed growing through from next door. I could cut it back but I think it's the only thing holding the fence up. But, I have found a few new plants hidden in the undergrowth so that should pad the greenery out a fair bit when they recover. 

It has been a lovely week in the town, I know I complain a lot about living here, but when the sun is out and everyone's happy it's the best. We have done very well at the shop, lots of day trippers and holiday makers have been nipping in for bits and pieces and everyone has been in such a good mood, it's been wonderful. I don't really mind what the weather is like this weekend as we just want to relax and enjoy some time together - as inexpensively as possible!

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Fairytale World

Firstly as Campfire mentioned it in a comment yesterday here is a picture of my white thrift Armeria maritima 'Alba', if you squint you should be able to make it out - it's a very sunny morning again today. Bees love this plant even more than I do.

Yesterday I only went out into the garden to make sure I got my daily top up of vitamin D, but I ended up doing a bit. I know I've spoken before about the bottom of the garden (I say that as though its more than a couple of metres away from the house!). It's been neglected for a long time, and it never seems to be the right time of year to attack it, we either can't be bothered at the end of the summer, it's too windy at the start of the year, or the blackbirds are nesting nearby. Yesterday none of this applied so wrong time of year or not I ventured in.

This tangled mess of stuff is on top of the garden wall in front of the fence and this picture is above my eye level, so over 5ft off the floor, and there's a lot of it. I started off by removing as much of the dead branches and things as I could, but then, as I looked above my head I thought it might be better to wait until Dan is here, as the whole thing was a bit like a cave, it was so intertwined it was one huge structure. It felt a lot like I was in a fairytale and when I got through the mass of twigs I would find a gingerbread house or some other such thing. So after a couple of hours of pulling and cutting I called it a day. 

From the outside it looks no different. 

When I was out in the garden this morning, enjoying the sun and a cup of coffee (tea free life is not going too badly) I noticed this little plant. I moved it last year after it was found struggling under a bigger plant, it looked very sad for a long time but it's doing well these days. I don't have many blue flowers in the garden but this one Lithodora 'blue star' is lovely to me. 

Monday, 8 June 2015

Dan's Good Idea

We had the best weekend thanks to the car being not all that well. 

We can still use it but we decided it was probably a good idea to stay close to home, we did manage to buy all the gifts on our list before heading home for a weekend of just seeing what happened

I think I've mentioned before that our lawn is not a thing of great beauty so we have never been able to decide where to go with it, but we both like the fact it has clover and other things in it to attract birds and insects. So out came the spade and a little while later we had five holes filled with seeds. It's probably a bit late to do this for this year but when Dan wants to do something with the garden we must strike while the iron is hot! Hopefully, at some point in the future, the holes will be filled with wild flowers. And if they don't then the lawn won't really look much worse than it did before! I think we might plant some bulbs in the holes so we have a bit of colour at the start of the year too.  

Additional good news, the hosta I bought when we went to Ingleton Falls last year has come back to life! It disappeared about a fortnight after we bought it last year, but I just left it in case of a miracle and here it is. It looks a little forlorn, but it's alive and I'm happy. 

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Gone A Bit Winston Smith

Dan's Mum that is. 

She loves Big Brother.

She's also the type of person who even if you say you have no interest in something will tell you all about that thing in a very detailed way, so it's easier to just know about that thing in advance. So for the sake of family harmony (and to save Dan the misery) I have been watching this series of Big Brother on Channel 5.  

But, even I have to draw the line somewhere. Wow, it's just disgusting.  There is an individual on the show that makes me feel sick, whether it's an act or not it's everything I dislike about people, so I've had to turn off. Weirdly, the thing that brought this about was the thing that was most like a social experiment which is really the interesting aspect of the show, but it was way too much. I managed three loooong weeks of it before I said "enough", which is better than some of the contestants did. 

I love my mother in law, but I've learned it's not unconditional. 

Just for the record, this isn't a snobby look down my nose at this type of show, there are plenty of others who seem to love doing that, I actually think it's a great idea for a show, and would make the most amazing slow tv, but that's not what it is. Although whether anyone would want to watch a slow tv version is open to question really.

Here's a picture of a nice flower that appeared in my garden yesterday

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Little Treats

We happened to see a little bit of Springwatch last night and I was delighted to see a piece about the RSPB reserve just outside Middlesbrough, I mentioned it here in response to a comment when we'd been to Peterlee the other month.

I bought some furniture polish. I haven't used polish for years and years, but I just really wanted some so I bought some and now the house smells of almonds. 

The sun has come out!

And despite a couple of days being battered and bashed by the wind and the rain I still have some roses. Huge, very yellow and gorgeously scented. What could be better?

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Useful Domestic

A while ago I mentioned I'd bought a steam cleaner and I'd update about how useful I find it, that day has arrived.

I really like it, I think I've said before that I didn't like it for cleaning the shower screen/tiles, but for everything else it's great. It really helped when I cleaned the kitchen blinds and windows last week, the nozzle is great for getting into the nooks and crannies of the window frames. For the blinds I just blasted steam all over before using the usual cleaner on them. The steam certainly helped to loosen the gunk and it made a really long job a little bit easier. 

I've also used it for steaming some dry clean only clothes, to freshen up the mattresses and curtains, but the best use is still when cleaning our the buns. I keep a couple of the brushes for this purpose, it's great for the litter trays and the vinyl flooring. It makes the job a lot quicker and I'm not using chemicals as much - I attract a lot of attention when I'm cleaning so I have to keep an eye out for licking tongues!

Update number two is on the soap we made a few months ago. I received a soap making kit for Christmas, had forgotten about it then was reminded by another blog. I have been using the soap for a few weeks now and I have to say it's really good! It has a pleasant fragrance (lemongrass and lavender) but it's not overwhelming, after using it I smell fresh rather than perfumed. The lather is nice and light and the soap isn't drying at all, even to Dan's skin which can be very sensitive. The one downside is the bits of lavender, they are driving me bonkers! On a couple of occasions I thought there were dead insects in the sink when they have come apart from the bar. Nothing that a quick wipe doesn't solve, but it's mildly distracting. 

In other news the drive shaft (?) of the car has a crack. A couple of days ago Dan noticed a bit of a weird noise at certain times so he took to the garage as he thought maybe the tyres hadn't been balanced properly when we had the new ones put on last month. Sadly the man said that was not the issue, so it's booked in for a poke around on Friday. I already know this means we're not going to have the car over the weekend which is a shame because... my niece has been born *yay*. It's not been a simple process but the baby and my brother's girlfriend are not too bad and are being looked after for the next little while at the hospital. We were hoping to visit this weekend but it may have to be a train journey and a request for Father to pick me/us up from the train station instead.