Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Hungry Girl, Lazy Girl

Dan was in London yesterday, and he was very fortunate to get on a train home amid massive disruption at rush hour. I was frozen by the time I got home from the charity shop (yes, I'm still there, I just don't mention it as much as I used to), the only heating in the shop comes from one of those annoying over the door heaters, and it's broken! So we have a few warm air blowers that heat about 6 inches of air and that's it!

I was also hungry, and tired, ooooh woe is me! So I made the easiest thing I could think of at the time. 

I mixed the last couple of mushrooms, frozen sweet potato and onion, some grilled peppers from a jar, passata and some herbs and spices into the oven for about half an hour, maybe a bit longer. After I took this picture I decided to add a carton of black beans too. For the last few minutes I put some nut roast and a pitta into the oven too. 

Cheap and cheerful, it worked surprisingly well and there's some left for lunch tomorrow. At Dan's suggestion I had also splashed out on a sweet treat, a mince pie from Caffe Nero, I don't like mince pies, but he said I'd like this one and he was right! It wasn't cheap but I enjoyed it very much. I now have to make sure I take a different route to the shop so I'm not tempted to nip in every time!

Tonight will be  quick something or other from the freezer as we're off to Edge Hill University again for a talk by Darren Henley, Chief Exec of The Arts Council about The Arts Dividend, the seven key benefits arts and culture bring to our lives, to society and for the nation on the world stage. I'm looking forward to it. 

Tuesday, 29 November 2016


My festive joy is over. I decided to really try this year, but you know what I just can't face it. I'm not religious, although I love the religious aspects of Christmas, but everything else I just can't be bothered.

We had to delve under the stairs for something the other day so we took out the decorations and all I could see was more junk cluttering up the house. So it's all been put away again until we decide whether to let it go or put ourselves through this charade again next year. 

I'll continue to do the things I need to do out of duty - the family things, but other than that i's just another month. Sounds amazing. I will still be making a trifle. 

Monday, 28 November 2016

The Monday After Black Friday

Dan was supposed to be having an overnight stay in London tonight, but he managed to wriggle out of it so he's only there tomorrow. As there was nothing in his work diary he took today off and went went gift buying for the December festival. It's a bit early but at least we're not using any of our free time up.

What a great time to shop! Not many people around, but Black Friday prices still in evidence. We had our budget and a list of things the children might like from their Mum, there are four smalls to buy for plus one of them has a birthday next month. Some clothes we wanted for the girls were on a 3 for 2 offer, two books I had on my shortlist were half price, as were some colouring pencils. My SIL had suggested a doll for The Wild Thing and the one I chose was 30% off when we got to the till. 

I have also started a wreath for our house and had looked online for embellishments, when I got to the shop they were 25% off and the hanger for the wreath (nothing sticky goes on my doors!) was half price too, so I only paid a pound for it. With all the bits and bobs of savings it means the birthday gift was free compared to the budget so that money can go into savings.

I still wouldn't have got into a fight over any of it though!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Pantry Check In

Like a lot of people, we spend a lot of time out and about in December so we really need to keep the budget as tight as possible. We've been through the pantry and freezer hoping to find lots of goodies. What we found was very promising so the menu plan and shopping list are done for the month. Edited to add should anyone wish to see my menu plans they are available via the menu plans 2016 tab at the top of the page. 

I've already crossed a couple of things off the master shopping list (before I break it down week by week) as I bought one or two things last night as we really only needed almond milk and flour to see us to the end of November. 

The main ingredients for our meals on December 25th and 26th are safely stashed in the pantry too, no stressing for us hopefully. Dan wants to make some brownies for pudding so we need a few things for that, but chocolate, walnuts, flour, bananas - they're all things we'll use up. Plus I've written absolutely everything needed to make everything we want to make, obviously a fair bit of that will be crossed off when we do our final check before we hit the supermarket.

Dan's domain
We've well and truly changed the look of the pantry after switching supermarkets at the start of this year too, we have the shop own brand products everywhere! It's been good though as we also buy lots more from the health food shop, that's generally more expensive but between switching supermarket, buying certain things from Home Bargains and making more of our own things like bread and houmous our average food budget has gone down by over £20 a month. Not bad considering we didn't scrimp at all. Hopefully that means we'll be able to adapt well if and when the anticipated price rises kick in next year. Damn you Brexit. 

Friday, 25 November 2016

Give Me My Stuff!

At the start of the month we cleared away most of our trinkets and decorative stuff and lived for a while with a bit of breathing space. On Sunday evening Dan revealed he couldn't cope with it anymore and he wanted things back in their place. 

So that's what happened. The pile of books is back.

The bird picture and friends are back, I think Dan missed the picture most of all.

The quilting stuff on the arm of the sofa never went away. Much better. 

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Summer Days

I needed to go to the library today, so I went via the beach., it was just like summer.

It was frosty on the dunes

The sun was bright, it shone in my eyes the whole way. Although I was able to see the team of Nordic walkers, and many people with dogs. I think I was the only person on my own. 

See what I mean? Right in my eyes! I walked out the the remains of the old pier, I had to take off my coat, cardi and scarf by this time, I was boiling!

And I love how tall I looked

The town was gearing up for the festive lights switch on this weekend, the gardens were being primped, decorations were going up in the square and it looks like we're getting a new bit of street art. Very much a work in progress but I'll nip back next week to see the design. We're getting a nice selection of art in the back streets now, a nice change from our traditional feel. 

Monday, 21 November 2016

Reflections On My Glamorous Life

For the past few years we've been making do with a pretty rubbish selection of mirrors at home, in fact I most often use the oven door or my phone screen instead - that probably explains a lot. 

This is my reflection in the bathroom mirror

Dan uses this in his dressing room

And this is the closest to full length we get (but rarely full width)

It doesn't get much lighter than this even when the sun's out, not ideal for make up when you're a very short sighted girl. Impressive I'm sure you'll agree.

Last night I was tasked with finding a new mirror, we've looked at dozens but none have been quite right. I found one on ebay. I have bought two things from that site before and they were both take it or leave it prices, so I'm not very good at the whole bidding thing, nor am I patient when I finally see something I would like. So I clicked Buy It Now (yes, you should all try to sell me things as I'll just pay the suggested price). I did get a bit flustered at checkout as the seller said they wanted cash, I had no idea how to do that so they had PayPal instead (she wasn't best pleased). Anyway, she lived very nearby and wanted us to take it away that night. So we did. 

And now it is pride of place, reflecting the glamour of my bedroom blinds on top of my chest of drawers. Have I spoken about how much I dislike the G Plan stuff we bought earlier this year? It's totally unsuitable for my needs, but Dan loves it and it does look nice in the room, I'll never know how I drew the short straw and got the tiny set of drawers when he has the other, lovely one. Maybe because he paid for it? Who knows. 

There's no mark or branding on the mirror so I know nothing about it, other than I can now see my big daft face whenever I like!

Saturday, 19 November 2016


I tend to plan leftovers, as what's better than curry or stew that's been left in the fridge overnight and reheated to fill a jacket potato? This week I had some genuinely left over food. I'd made a big pan of spicy rice the other evening but there was too much veg mixture so I put some to one side before adding the rice, and there it sat in the fridge. It needed to be used, as did the two flat mushrooms that I didn't stuff on Thursday, so I started to cobble something together. As well as the veg mixture I took a few cubes of roast sweet potato out of the freezer and half a sheet of puff pastry - I just cut the sheets in half when I buy them and shove them back in the box to freeze.

The bean mixture was heated up along with mashed sweet potato then I wrapped it with the pastry. There was still more left over amazingly so I stuffed the mushrooms with it. Into the oven it went. 

I've never bought ready to eat rice before, but this was reduced to clear at Booths so we thought it was worth a try. I occasionally buy things like this to get ideas for new things to make myself. This was a winner, nice and spicy, I'll work on my own version. 

No, I'm not a low carb person!

Friday, 18 November 2016

In A Stew

I love chestnuts, whether it's a bag from a stall at the festive market or little sweet ones from a jar they're just one of my favourite thing about this time of year. It was wet and gloomy yesterday so I decided it was time to make something chestnutty - good old stew. 

This is a variation of an old Waitrose Christmas recipes from years ago, see here. Until I looked again at the original recipe I'd forgotten about the walnut pastry, I'll make that again sometime, it's very nice. I don't have any beer so made a savoury stock. 

I also pad the stew/pie filling out with some green lentils, the carrots and parsnips are from the basics range. The chestnuts are from Home Bargain and cost £1.19, that's more than last year when they were only 99p.  I also roughly chop the chestnuts to stretch them too. 

Roughly chop the veg, I have to chop the root veg fairly small otherwise Dan wouldn't be able to digest it easily, cook for a few minutes then add everything else, and a tbsp of flour to thicken (I used gram flour as it's all I had). 

Cover with stock, I used about 1 1/2 tsp of yeast extract, I'd probably leave this out if I used beer. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and cook for as long as it takes the lentils and veg to soften nicely.

I use this in a number of different ways - to make pie, either shortcrust or puff pastry, as a stew just with some mash and veg, with a herby cobbler topping, dumplings or with layered potatoes on top. I've never made it into a crumble, but I'm sure it would be good! This made enough for two meals for the two of us. 

The mushrooms remain unstuffed. 

I've decided to start including more food posts as I look at the vegan recipes on lots of other blogs and they're far more aspirational, expensive, raw, light, contain "cheese", or ingredients that I just wouldn't buy. I'm sure there must be other people that feel the same so I'm just throwing in some cheaper and less fancy ideas. 

Thursday, 17 November 2016

It's Not Cloth, It's Textiles

It turns out that we were legitimate guests at the gallery last night after all. The Art Fund had helped to fund some new acquisitions at the gallery so as members we were invited, along with Friends of the Harris. Everyone else seemed to know each other so I think we were maybe the only Art Fund people on this occasion. 

The first part of the talk was about Alastair Morton and Edinburgh Weavers, as the gallery has obtained some of his drawings, which we were able to handle in their plastic wallets as the collection hasn't yet been framed, very exciting. There were also examples of his fabrics as he also designed for local Preston fashion company Horrockses, including this sunsuit. I didn't know much about the subject so it was really interesting to learn more and of course to see the things so close up. 

The second part of the talk covered textiles with a link to the local area more generally, again with a couple of examples for us to see but not touch. I knew a fair bit more about this, but it was still interesting as I think we were in the minority. I took a sneaky photograph as one of the new acquisitions looked quite familiar...

In the background behind the amazing Painted Desert - Althea McNish (1959) which is also a Hull Traders design is our old friend Kaplan by Shirley Craven (1961). How exciting!

Here it is a little closer to home, still looking bright on a grey, hazy morning. 

I first mentioned it here, some of you may recall that I ended up at my former lecturer's house waiting for Father to bail me out the day we collected it. 

Today is a quick dash round the house putting things straight, lots of putting away of laundry, and then maybe some time to work on my quilt. Stuffed mushrooms for tea and that's about it.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Freebie and Bargain of the Week

A few things this week so far. 

The bargain was getting 3 for 2 on something I was going to buy three of anyway. I don't wear much make up and hardly ever in the summer, but I decided to shake things up a bit. With the discount I paid less than £7 for my three items. I also received a free fluffy furry pom pom, not really my kind of thing so I gave it to a friend at the charity shop.

Second freebie was also something I didn't keep. I bought some chocolates for our advent calendar from Holland and Barrett and the very lovely lady in there, who I always have a nice chat with gave me some freebies, as I was leaving and told me they were worth about £10. When I got outside I noticed they were for snail gel! So I went back and forth about it thinking I could pass them to someone or something but instead I decided to be brave and take them back saying thanks but no thanks. I wouldn't normally bother, but snail gel! She pulled a sad face at me as I left the shop, she's so funny. 

Third freebie of the week is tonight, Dan has booked for us to hear a talk about Edinburgh Weavers at a local gallery. I feel a bit weird about going as when we checked the start time online we couldn't find any mention of the event. So Dan contacted the gallery to be told it's not online as it's a private event. She was happy for us still to attend so we're going! I'll just have to make sure I'm on my best behaviour!

Shopping for this week has come in at £2.85, for almond milk, chickpeas and bunny greens, I am more than happy with that!

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Just Add Treats

To say I'm not a huge fan of Christmas is an understatement. However, I do like making things that might hang around the house for short periods of time, especially if they hold chocolates. So I decided to make something to use up some scraps and pieces of fabric I had hanging around. 

Firstly using some fusible webbing stuff I added some assorted squares onto some backing fabric. Then using my finest drawing surface, which in my case was the programme from Burnley v Crystal Palace, draw on an envelope shape. I used an envelope from a mini birthday card as a template.  

Then I cut out and pressed the envelope shapes, added some embellishments and sewed up the edges. After a week of fiddling with that all I had to do was wrap a couple of sticks with some string to hang the envelopes on. 

And there we have it, an advent calendar

Ready to be stuffed full of nice things

Now all I have to do is find things to fill it. 

Monday, 14 November 2016

Red Things

Our break wasn't all gadding about looking at art, there was a lot of domestic bliss too. Dan was a bread making machine, the freezer is now very full of dough. I dug out the slow cooker to make some chilli, I have no idea how long it is since I last used it, but I get the impression it had been a while.

It was a bit on the dusty side. 

We bought a red cabbage weeks ago but hadn't used it, we tend to make coleslaw or use it in salads, but for some reason it had been ignored. So I decided to make braised cabbage. I looked at lots of recipes until I found one that used only things I already had in the house, so balsamic braised red cabbage it was. I also made hash

It was very simple, just slice the cabbage, cook it in some melted butter, oil, or whatever you prefer for about 5 minutes until it starts to wilt, add some sugar - I used 6 tsp for a full cabbage, the original recipe suggested 6 tsp for half a cabbage. Pour over the vinegar, I used just over half a cup as that's what was in the bottle, stir to coat, stick a lid on the pan and cook it for about half an hour. My pan was a bit too small for the amount of cabbage so it took a bit longer than that. Season very well with salt and pepper then serve alongside a massive bowl of hash.

There is now a massive amount of red cabbage in the freezer for us to work through, and I've used up the balsamic vinegar just in time for my mum to buy me another one for Christmas! This simple stuff gave me more time to concentrate on my sewing project, which I hope to finish today, I just need to find the saw. Nothing can go wrong now!

Sunday, 13 November 2016

We Saw Walsall

To round off our break, before a busy week we decided to go to another exhibition, setting off we thought we were probably going to end up at MIMA, however we instead ended up at The New Art Gallery Walsall. I confess to knowing not very much about this place, other than the football team play at the Bescot Stadium (although I think it has a sponsorship name now) and that the town is famous for leather, I know that because the football team are known as The Saddlers. Please forgive me my ignorance in all other matters relating to the town. 

We also didn't really know anything about the gallery, other than the two temporary exhibitions we went to see. So we were blown away with what we discovered,

gallery exterior
We went for a curator talk about the Eva Rothschild to see DivineOliver Jones, what I was ignorant of was the huuuge amount of Jacob Epstein works on display *squeeeeeak*. The Garman-Ryan collection was formed by Jacob Epstein's widow, Kathleen Garman and their friend Sally Ryan and donated to the people of Walsall as Kathleen was from Wednesbury. Tate are currently in partnership with the collection and 16 works from Tate are currently featured in with the permanent collection. So if you like Picasso, Gainsborough, Degas, Modigliani, Lucian Freud, Bernard Leach or John Constable there will certainly be something there for you!

As you might know by now, I don't like taking pictures of the artworks, but look how amazing the gallery is! It is a fabulous use of space, not too much is revealed as you move between rooms, it's a tall but fairly compact building, lots of stairs but you can hear Noddy Holder* speaking to you if you choose to take the lift.

And as if all this wasn't enough, there were lots of Diwali celebrations taking place, we missed a fair bit of it due to hearing the talk but we did get to see some dancing in the foyer.

Anyone fortunate to live closer to this place than we do (it's ust over two hours in the car from here) should thank their lucky stars to have such a fantastic, free resource available to them. We'll be back next year. 

Should you be so inclined, here's a video from Bob and Roberta Smith in and around the gallery 

*sorry, couldn't resist

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Thank You To My Niece

Dan's off work this week, so we've had a few days out. Yesterday we went to Kendal, mainly to visit Abbot Hall Art Gallery (admission £3.50 with Art Pass), there are currently two very good exhibitions one People On Paper has works from some great modern artists - David Hockney, Elisabeth Frink (I didn't know that so it was a wonderful surprise), Frank Auerbach and Stanley Spencer to name but a few, and also an exhibition by US artist Paul Jenkins. Well worth a visit, both exhibitions run until 17th December 2016.

After visiting the gallery we decided to have a peep into some of the charity shops to see what they had to offer. We noted a couple of shops on our way for a coffee at Brew Brothers - a place with nice coffee and three non-dairy milks on offer (soya, almond and rice). We almost didn't go back to the charity shop we'd passed, then remembered and quickly doubled back. Our first stop was RSPCA where I was delighted to pick up a Charley Harper block puzzle for my niece for a pound. There's a small tear to the box but the puzzle is in perfect condition. 

As we queued up pay my eyes wandered around then I did about a quadruple take on an item under the cash desk next to a food mixer. 

A Festival Of Britain official guide! At that point I think I just started to emit a high pitched sound and repeatedly tapped on the glass until Dan noticed what I was pointing at. The lady behind the counter looked very concerned that we would want to spend £10 on such a thing and suggested we might want to examine it first, "no thanks" we replied. 

How exciting! 

It's full of lovely adverts, and information about the various festival sites and things to see

And it looks at home next to the Royal Festival Hall guide Dan gave to me for my birthday. Happy happy happy day!

A refund for the shoes is on the way, the owner of the company replied t Dan informing him that they should never have been sent out in that condition. So that's that, the customer service has been as good as I had expected and have no complaints in that regard. Onwards and upwards. 

Today Dan is making bread and I'll be making some stew, maybe a nice pot of chilli, and working on my festive craft project - more of that soon. 

Friday, 4 November 2016

A Small Grumble About A Very Minor Inconvenience

I don't like to whinge, but I'm going to have a bit of a whinge today. My new shoes arrived yesterday and I was so disappointed with them, they've only been out of the box long enough for me to take these pictures - 

Before I'd even touched them I saw this small bit of damage and told Dan they were going back. Then I noticed another bit

ok, maybe you can't see that one, but it's there!
And another

And another

Seriously, who is going to wear these and pay over £70 for the honour of doing so? I had such high hopes as Dan bought his work shoes from this company, he usually goes through shoes like a crazy shoe person but he's had these for well over a year (that's a long time for him). His new shoes are great, I was just unlucky.

I'm not being rude about the company as they have a great reputation, the delivery time was fantastic and the customer service has been good. I'm just so disappointed on this occasion that the quality control wasn't there before the order was despatched. Off to New Look for me this afternoon. 

Thursday, 3 November 2016

I'll Look Like A Squash

Dan's going away for a few days so I have to be prepared, otherwise there is the danger I'll survive on a diet of dry granola and Pom Bear. 

Early this morning I was roasting yet another squash (this one had a disappointingly small amount of seeds) to make a batch of curry and coconut soup, some for my lunches, to take to the football on Saturday, and for Dan to take today - he's off to Norwich, which is a fair old drive. Leftovers are my friend for my other meals, I've been cooking extra for the past couple of days so I have ready meals waiting for me in the fridge - the easy option is the option I take when I'm on my own.

Yesterday I used some roast veg from the freezer to make a tagine type thing.

 No recipe as such, just chuck the veg, chickpeas, spices, a splash of passata and a little water into a pan (I also added a very small amount of red lentils and 1/2 tsp smoked garlic powder). Cook for a good long time. 

We had ours with brown rice. I usually make my own spice mixes but I treated myself to an order from Seasoned Pioneers last month, they're convenience food in spice form!

I can't claim to be frugaller of the week this week as we've both ordered some new shoes, more of that when they arrive, but I have been saving in other areas - save where it doesn't matter so you can spend where it does and all that.

I remembered to have a poke around the house for birthday cards before buying the two I needed - found two that fit the bill. I also established we don't need to buy any Christmas cards, we don't send many but we do need a few. Oh, I cancelled a magazine subscription - we're taking a break from veg growing next year so I don't need successful growers taunting me!

Happily we saw one of the vets we like when taking Big Grey for a check on her face, she gave another injection but said we didn't need to go back for a third, saving us more than £30. Speaking of rabbits, I "earned" an extra 50p worth of Nectar points from Sainsbury's, I needed bunny veg anyway so made sense to shop there. 

Agreed to do another shift at the charity shop this week as we're short handed, a good way to pass some time, I was bribed with Lotus biscuits, they know me so well. 

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

One Thing Leads To Another

Monday started with me looking at some little applique motifs I bought from the charity shop the other week, I had no clue what to do with them, until I went to put them in my sewing bag and noticed how shabby it looked due to being attacked by Big Grey Bunny. A small amount of pressing later and I have this rather odd looking thing

Maybe least said the better, but I've used the motifs and the bag has fewer visible holes! This of course lead to sorting out the sewing bag, I chucked away/recycled some bits, then everything that's not either for my seaside embroidery panel or the Twin Peaks quilt was put away. 

Hardly anything in there at all!

As November is World Vegan Month I decided to let that spur me on to make a few things I've never made before, and started off with something simple that helped me to use up some contents of the pantry - Granola.

I know I'm probably the only person never to have made this before! 

When it cooled I added the fruit and found an airtight container. Mine's not very clumpy, but I don't mind that at all, every spoonful will be like those lovely little bits that live at the bottom of shop bought cereals.

I don't want to shop for anything other than rabbit greens until Tuesday of next week at the earliest, so it's a nice, not too sweet, ready-to-go addition.