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 - 

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

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?

 Phew.

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

Unplugged



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

Thawing

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

Building


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

front

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. 

back
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.