Monday, 29 February 2016

Needs vs. Needs

For the past little while I've been making all these bold claims about wanting/needing some new clothes. I am always wearing the same few things. Other than a few unstructured peeks on the charity shop rails I hadn't done anything about it because I just didn't want to spend the money. 

Of course as everyone already knows I didn't need anything new at all. What I needed was to get my paws in the sink and do some handwashing, what I needed was to get the sticky tape out and get the bits of washed tissue off my blue cardigan, what I needed was to get the iron out (yes, I know there will be some non-ironers here, I used to be one myself), what I needed was to get to the bottom of the laundry bag. 

So for the cost of some electricity I have more than doubled my wearable winter/spring wardrobe. Surprise surprise - doing things gets things done. I have finished the bottle of laundry liquid, but still have some of the bag of powder left, so I managed to get to the end of the month without buying anything. 

I still don't need to go shopping, but I do need to clean the fridge!

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Treats Galore

This month I aimed to lower our grocery budget and use things up from the pantry and freezer. We are very nearly at the end of the month and I was surprised and happy to discover I was under budget by nearly £60. Considering we have been to two gigs and had a night out which I paid for I am very impressed. We didn't do a "proper" shopping trip this week, just bought a few bits and bobs, other than some bunny greens we won't need anything until the next planned trip on Thursday, the freezer is still well stocked with the batch of meals I made the other week.

Today we went to Blackpool, mainly to go to the art gallery but also to nip into Wilko, for some reason I love having a look round, although we don't often buy anything. We decided to buy some weed fabric and pegs to help with the new bit of garden, some crisps, and some sweets for in the car. We also went to the pound shop and I bought two shrubs to fill out one of the borders, this came to just over £15. 

We went to Grundy Art Gallery for a specific reason, the gallery was having a sort out and they found a piece by Paul Nash, it had been hidden away in a drawer since the 1970's, now it is on display for a short time. It is wonderful, a real treat. If you've not seen it before, here's a clip from a BBC4 show about Paul Nash and his war art. If you get the chance to nip into the gallery in Blackpool (free entry) it is well worth it (in my opinion).

Thursday, 25 February 2016


I had a wonderful day yesterday. Nothing much happened, just a normal day but the weather was beautiful. The sun was shining and there was virtually no wind so I had a gorgeous walk on the beach before work, I didn't get out as far as the old bit of the pier, but someone did to collect their dog! 

I was able to make a few changes at the shop, for which the manager seemed very happy and I think it looks a lot better. I saw my work mate, who was away last week, so we were able to have a good catch up. 

I made a small amount of progress on my new stitching project. 

Dan peeled the potatoes for tea so I didn't have to. 

I found my lip balm. 

I found 20p!

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

More Micro Management

The Grand Overlord Of The Shops has given each of the shop managers some light reading material, to help whip their underlings into shape. My manager asked me if I wanted to read it before she did, so of course I said yes. Dan attends courses like this on a not infrequent basis and I enjoy nothing more than hearing about it, with the accompanying eye rolls. I would enjoy nothing less than attending such events, I'm not the sitting-around-in-a-room-being-motivated type. 

My favourite course has to be Pack Types, a self awareness rollercoaster where you find out what kind of dog you are according to your personality, approach to work and to other people. 

As a humble till widget I'm far too unimportant to need the wisdom of such books, I know my place and all that stuff, but just for fun I did choose my strengths from the list provided. I was unsurprised to discover that my strengths are about how I feel about things, not whether I get approval from any other source - it has often been said I can be led to water but there's no knowing about my thirst.

Removing my tongue from my cheek for a moment, as I know people do this for a living and some people get more from it than a morning out of the office, there was one aspect of the book I did agree with (it was not that the author seemed to assume I wouldn't know what a synapse is). I agree that sometimes you have to manage around weaknesses rather than focus on the damage limitation exercises of trying to make people less rubbish at things they're rubbish at. 

The author claims the best area for growth is not by working on your weaknesses but on focusing on your strengths, I think that to some extent at least it's a really good idea. If you can get individuals or groups all working to their strengths it's probably going to be better than trying to get everyone to behave in the same way. It's just like being at home isn't it, Dan does stuff like phoning people and making sure the house doesn't fall down, I organise things so they happen at the right time and in the right way - it balances things out. If we were both the same there would be no point to one of us being here. 

I am very interested to see which five of the thirty four strengths my manager thinks I have, and will her view be in any way similar to mine? This afternoon should be fun.  

Monday, 22 February 2016

Micro Managing

This morning I have done the smallest amount of activity that could be classed as gardening. I looked at the empty pots to see how many of them looked nice enough to be on display on the new garden, there were four, being generous. 

I then planted some basil seeds and left them in the kitchen, looked into a trough and quickly realised it was going to take more work then anticipated to unravel the plants from each other, although on the plus side it appears that something I believe to be garlic chives is on the way up. I managed to extract something - thyme? from the tangle and it's been repotted so the wander towards the new garden has begun. 

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Sloppy Jack

This weekend has been a kitchen sort out weekend. We've cleaned out the pantry and most of the cupboards and things are better organised now, we didn't throw anything away, but lots of things were returned to their proper home, mainly in the garage, and I found the two upholstery cloths for the steam cleaner, very happy about that.

In the spirit of using it up we finally ate the jackfruit, it's been hanging around since Dan brought it back from Norwich at the start of November. I have been reluctant to try it, mainly because I am reluctant to try most new foods (although I am far better than I used to be) and because jackfruit is used to make a meat free version of pulled pork and those words together make me feel queasy! So I named what we made "sloppy jack" which, truth be told, is probably no better a name. 

This is what the fruit looks like when it comes out of the tin, pretty horrible isn't it? It looks very meaty in its raw state. 

It was coated in ground cumin, coriander and cayenne and cooked for about ten minutes

Then I added the sauce, I couldn't find barbeque sauce so I used a jar of Hunters Chicken sauce (I used about two thirds of a jar for this meal and had used the other third in the chilli I made on Friday as I ran out of passata).

After about 15 minutes I pulled the fruit apart with two forks and added the very last bits of sauce, swilled out of the jar with a bit of water.

It was very steamy! Served on a big bun with some potato wedges.

The verdict? We both quite enjoyed it. I can see why people who don't eat meat but still enjoy the meat texture/appearance rave about it, I'm not bothered about that so it didn't have quite the same appeal. But the jackfruit took on the spices and worked well with the sauce. It was a good Saturday night treat. It wasn't particularly cheap, the jackfruit was £1.40 and the sauce 85p, we already had the bread and potatoes. I would have it again, but wouldn't go out of my way to buy the ingredients, should I ever see it on a menu anywhere it could be a good option. Well worth us giving it a try, quick, easy and pretty tasty.  

Saturday, 20 February 2016

A Warm Glow

We're a little bit wonky but the Kaplan panels are up.

Luckily for us we were able to use the hooks from the old pictures, each panel is the same size as two of our previous pictures. The one on the right is about 2cm lower than the one on the left, so we'll have to have a little tweak. 

It's a little hazy this morning but there they are, pride of place above the rabbit pen, where else would they go? (for scale, the rabbit pen is 8ft/2.4m long)

This, however is my favourite view, it's the first glimpse I get when I open the door at the top of the stairs. 

I think the red Ikea fleece we use to cover the buns really sets it off a treat!

The rain is back so I'm going to enjoy the orange glow from my new gift and get on with some sewing, listen to the football on the radio and hopefully finish my current book - The Secrets of Happiness by Richard Schoch. I had started a library book Invisible by Philip Ball but I just didn't get on with it at all, I think Dan may enjoy it though. 

Yesterday I made a big vat of chilli, a chickpea tagine type thing, some lentil bol and roasted a celeriac we bought for 29p on Thursday. Tonight I'm going to brave the jackfruit, I have no idea what to expect so we shall see. Have a good weekend if you can!

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Upside Down

This month has been all over the place and the house is upside down. 

I've spoken before about how I've struggled with hoarding and chronic disorganisation. Today is a prime example of how a mere two days out of my tidying routine can cause havoc, it's also a great example that I can be back to tidy well within half an hour. Also, if fabric didn't exist then I would be very tidy indeed!

This is the living room, dining table, spare bedroom, main bedroom. The one area of calm in the whole house? The room I rarely go into, Dan's dressing room.

After the time it took the board to revolve (which included hanging some laundry out and shoving another load in)

The spare room is still a little bit stash and dash, as you can see my birthday gift is resting there until we get some hanging hooks at the weekend. I did a mini kitchen rescue too, just the dishes and a wipe of the surfaces (just to show I didn't just stash everything on the worktops!)

Now I can start with the daily routine and get the place clean!

eta, I didn't turn the pill clock back when the clocks changed, it involves a screwdriver and I was too lazy. It'll be right soon though!

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

A Simple Plan

I doubt I'd win any awards as a garden planner*, but this is our basic idea for the garden. As we have plenty of established trees and shrubs we're going to leave them, the original owner of the house must have been a very keen gardener as this planting works really well, there's always something that looks good whether it something in flower or gorgeous bright berries, it works year round - or at least it will when we finish tidying it up. 

We have a very small budget for the project too, so I think most of the money will be spent on some paving stones and whatever gravel or chippings we choose to cover the ground. We already have a lot of alpines so we're going to relocate them from the right hand border and put them at the front of this new area and use the space freed up there for something else, and more shrubs to cover the space easily. We also plan to have things in pots, again we already have lavender and some potted herbs so moving them into this area might work. Then I think we'll have a couple of wild flower areas and that will probably be that. 

Thankfully we still have a huge pile of soil from when we dig something else up, I can't even remember what that was, so we can use that to even out the surface a bit to prepare it for what comes later. That's as far as we've got for now. It's not the most ambitious pan you'll ever see, but we want something simple but useful and attractive. I'm excited. 

*eta. Thanks to Marlene for pointing out I didn't include any mention of where the house is! The house is at the bottom of the picture, so out of the living room onto the patio then we have the veg patch then the rest of the garden. 

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Stuff In, Stuff(ing) Out

Dan hired a van. 

Yesterday I got the distinct impression that Father just didn't want to come up. I don't know if it's because we forced them to take the artwork or whether he's in pain but doesn't want to say. Either way, it's up to us to sort it out. We also still have the furniture we promised to Chris and Holly. I thought it would be really expensive to hire a van, but as we're just having it for the evening it's £20, someone is coming to collect Dan from work to take him to the depot/ showroom/ van hire centre/ I don't know what it's called.

Our use it up meal last night was based around a small amount of leftover sweet pepper stew - it was roast peppers, butternut squash, spinach, lentils and blay eyed beans in a sweet pepper sauce. To this I added some passata, a couple of mushrooms and pasta. It was topped off with some crumbs of tomato and basil flatbread, I bought these last week for my lunches but lots of them were broken, so I used them as a crunch topping instead. Annoyingly I accidentally deleted the photos. We served it with haggis. 

To avoid hunger and junk food temptation I've made some food in advance for us to have before we set off this afternoon. Of course there's cous cous with roast veg, chickpeas and lemon and thyme flavouring, the last serving of sweet potato soup from the freezer, and some pasties made with the leftover haggis and half a sheet of ready rolled puff pastry.

I know they're hardly a thing of great beauty, but Dan likes an open/ exploded pasty so that's how I make them. Of course this trend started when I wasn't very good at cooking and my pies tended to explode of their own accord!

There was still a bit of haggis left, so it has gone into the freezer, I think I'll use them to make rissoles or something at a later date.

Tastes better than it looks, I think that's what I should rename my recipe file.

Monday, 15 February 2016

The Year Of The Garden

I promised myself this year I/we would get to grips with the garden, yesterday Dan got on board too. Apparently it called for drastic measures, so instead of watching Aston Villa v Liverpool we dug the lawn up. I say lawn but it was really a collection of moss so it won't be missed.

I can't say we've fully decided what comes next but the hardest bit (hopefully) is done and for the meantime the birds are having a lovely time!

At the other end of the success spectrum I starting to think my birthday present won't arrive in one piece, my parents have cancelled their delivery today because the panels won't fit in without having to have them on an angle (which is not acceptable to me) because they want to bring my niece to visit too. I think I may look into a courier today, it turns out this is one time saving money was not such a good idea.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Some Of The Fun Of The Circus

Yesterday we went to the very beautiful Blackpool Tower Circus (if you haven't been and get the chance, go! It's a wonderful building). February half term sees the return of Showzam, a festival of the circus. The show, Klaxon was just brilliant, although I am a fan of the circus so I am biased - clown haters fear not, there is no scary make up!

We also visited Showzam Central in The Winter Gardens, anyone who follows Mum's blog will have seen her splendid pictures of this building already. Here we saw some of the free sideshows, we were there for the ensemble performance which included a strongwoman, hula-hooping, a man with a balloon on his head and a stuntpig - I only narrowly avoided a collision with that!

We had planned to stay to see the grand finale to Saturday which was a 90 minute stomp through the town centre, and having seen some of the photographs the ending did look amazing with fireworks, flames and a blue man standing atop the Grand Theatre (another gorgeous building) but as we were following the performance it was just too busy for me and I started to have a panic attack so we had to leave. I don't like crowds, but I can cope with a big city because everyone knows what they're doing and things flow. Here it did not and running the assault course of people stopping to take pictures, pushchairs, street furniture and cigarette smoke was too much. 

To avoid the temptation of takeaways, restaurants and chips I prepared the veg for tea before we went out. Another something out of not very much

The noodles and sauce were half price as part of a Chinese New Year promotion, our sprouted seeds, roasted sunflower seeds - now all used up, and some bits of veg.

It was nicer than it looked, like most things. 

Friday, 12 February 2016

The End, Again.

I have to apologise and clarify something about yesterday. Due to my just writing and not editing style I was unclear and lead some of you to think that I was telling you we'd become debt free. We haven't. Well, we are but it didn't happen this decade. But thank you for all your kind words anyway, even if I didn't deserve them.

The debt freeness was just an example of the slow burn of an ending. What has actually happened to me recently is the other thing I mentioned, the bad kind of end where it's the end of a nice thing. It doesn't make the thing less nice though, in time.

The book I'm currently reading has really helped with this, the author is talking about happiness and how Marcus Aurelius saw it as a wrestle and not a dance standing "prepared and unshaken to meet what comes and what we did not forsee". A friend helped too, with a photograph of the sky, it made me get out into the garden to do some tidying, enjoy all the new life poking through and not to worry about all my vegetable growing failures last year. There's no point in learning a hard lesson if I'm not going to do anything with it.

Thursday, 11 February 2016


It's an odd sensation when you know you're doing something for the final time. When it's a thing you like it's painful and immediate. When it something you don't like it seems to take time to realise the benefit.

We talked about being debt free for a long time before the date arrived. But when the date did arrive nothing happened. No cake or fireworks, just normality. It was only in the following weeks and months that it had an impact. I'm not saying it's good or bad, it's just how these things feel to me. 

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Use It Up - Back Of The Cupboard

A couple of budget stretchers today. I am running very low on laundry liquid and for some reason have promised myself that I'm not buying more this month. So I was very happy to dig out this part bag of powder, right from the back of the under sink cupboard. I seem to remember I wasn't in love with this product last time round, but it's just what I need at the minute, and I'm sure I'll discover I was just being daft when I decided I didn't like it anyway.

I've also been using the seed sprouter again. We had a few failures with a certain type of seed going fluffy. It was part of a seed mix, the rest sprouted normally but for some reason one type of seeds just wouldn't play ball. I've started again with a different type and so far, so good. We have a stirfry on the not menu plan this Friday so hopefully they'll be ready in time for that. You can probably just tell they've started to sprout already. 

Two small things, two things brought back into use, saving a few bob. 

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Fridge Recovery

We didn't buy much for when Dan's friend came to visit, but we still had a few things left over. We are also trying to recover a slight hole in the budget so we are on grocery stretching duty again this week.

On Monday night we ate spicy rice using some frozen peas, sweetcorn and soybeans, wilting spring onions, a couple of squishy tomatoes, a flat mushroom and an ancient carrot. The spicy aspect came from some leftover salsa and a few chilli flakes. To top it off we had some falafel and some roasted sunflower seeds. 

It was a bit of a light meal for a chilly night so for pudding we used up some other things 

Bananas and custard with a few smashed up chocolate chip Hobnobs. 

Other than some pastes, ketchup, milks and bunny greens the fridge is pretty much empty and we'll be eating from the freezer and pantry until we really need to shop.   

Monday, 8 February 2016

All Dressed Up

After a busy week I spent most of Sunday reading blogs, especially on the topic of zero waste or buy nothing projects. which lead to me setting the task of remembering everything in my wardrobe. I knew I wouldn't remember everything but I was surprised at what I forgot. 

I found it easier to remember the things I don't wear very often than the things I wear all the time. I don't know what I'm going to do with the thoughts I had after this little experiment, but I do know that I don't really need to even think about buying clothes for quite a while. It's not that I have lots of things, I have 56 things in total (not including shoes, coats, nightwear and accessories), but I could even out the wear somewhat. 

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Totes Awks

Yesterday we went to collect the Shirley Craven panels. As it turned out they were far bigger than we expected and we could fit them in the car. 

When we arrived at the house to collect them Dan went in on his own then came back to call me in. As soon as I walked into the house I knew something odd was about to happen. As I looked around it dawned on me where we were. 

The fabric sellers are two of my old art college tutors. 

I was 18 at the time and in all honesty a bit a lot of a prat. So seeing them all these years later was very odd, especially when one of them kept turning away saying "I can't look at you, it's so weird, you look the same!". Was there a compliment hidden in there somewhere?

It was also quite funny that they'd hung one of the panels on their own wall and decided they quite liked it there. In the end I had to phone Father to come to collect the panels and take them to his house. So we had to hang around for another 45 minutes until he showed up, rolling his eyes and giggling at me. Can you imagine being 41 years old, sitting in the home of your teacher and having to have your dad come round to bail you out?

Dan thought my discomfort was hilarious. 

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Freebie and Bargain of the Week

No free things this week but we are attending two free events, one we had to travel to and the other in a place we were going to be anyway, so you may think they're not really free, up to you. The fist was last night, we went to Edge Hill University again to hear a talk as part of the Festival of Ideas. We listened to Prof. Kate Oakley, and Eddie Berg of FACT talk about New Labour and the impact it had on culture, especially in relation to access and inequality. I had never thought about any of the issues before but found it to be really interesting, especially the discussion surrounding instrumentalism and the switch from things being for the social good and being more about the financial good. Some of the themes touch on areas of Dan's job so he found it really useful, and joined in a little bit. 

The second freebie is a preview of the newest exhibition at Harris gallery in Preston, Nothing Happens Twice, it's an exploration of absurdity which sounds exciting and is based in the city of Preston and of course the very beautiful bus station (and have I mentioned several times that Keith Ingham designed my house?) We're going to be in Preston anyway as Dan's friend is coming to visit and the bus station is on his must-see list.

The bargain was something on the grocery list. We were in Lancaster on Saturday and nipped into Oxfam as Dan needed some face cream. We had a little look on the reduced shelf and Dan pointed out some spices. 

I used the last of the our turmeric last week and have about half a teaspoon of garam masala. The set was originally £9.99, I paid £2.90. all the jars have a best before date of 2018 so I'm well pleased and looking forward to our next curry night. 

Wednesday, 3 February 2016



where am I? at home, in the kitchen

what's the sky like? grey

what am I wearing? black jumper, grey yoga pants, sandals

what's motivating me? tea, vegetable seeds, laundry


where am I? at the charity shop

what's the sky like? blue/grey, looks like rain

what am I wearing? amazing dress, black leggings, green shoes

what's motivating me? cleaning the bric a brac shelves, Status Quo


where am I? sat next to the radiator in the dining area

what's the sky like? not visible

what am I wearing? as 2pm but without shoes

what's motivating me? curry, cleaning, a nice sit down