Friday, 31 March 2017

Top Ten - In The Kitchen

I know these things are my top ten favourite kitchen items as they're hardly ever in the cupboard. In no particular order of popularity - 


Food processor/blender. A cheap and cheerful model, struggles bravely with Nakd-style bars but is still a champ. I've had it for about 10 years I think and it cost not very much, under £50. Here it is blending some soup. 


Ikea cup and saucer. We have two of these and they are rarely out of use, there is always one or both of them in the fridge storing chopped up something or other, leftovers, half a tin of tomatoes or beans, the saucer acts as a very good lid. We also use it as a soup bowl and sometimes to drink from. These were some of the first things we bought when we moved in together so they've been working hard since 2001.


Le Creuset pan. One of the things we bought when we spent ridiculous amounts of money on all manner of things, it just turns out we bought some good things occasionally. I use this pan virtually every day, it's ideal for the kind of cooking I do, even on our not very good hob. Another thing we've had for ages, we bought it from Allders in York the day Dan found out he had his first "proper" job when he finished his Masters, so it must have been summer 2001. 


These are the real hard workers and do the twin duties of making sure we don't waste anything and that we don't over eat. The ladle and slotted spoon (we call it "slotted pig") are ideal portion size measures - two for a light meal, three for a main meal sized portion. Slotted pig is also a handy draining device for smaller amounts of food. The scales and measuring cup are for pasta, rice, grains, noodles etc. I can still remember the day I first measured a proper portion of pasta, it made me very sad! The little spatula thing is brilliant for getting that last little bit out of jars and bottles, and for nudging things from the back of the pantry when I can't quite reach.


When I said in no particular order I was of course lying, the most popular items in the kitchen are the coffee and tea pots. I would have thought there was no explanation needed for these. The teapot came from the charity shop last year and was a couple of quid. I think we bought the coffee thing from Lytham, but I can't remember where or how much - priceless. 

Does anyone else have favourite kitchen items that you wouldn't choose to be without?

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Like A Rabbit Hunting For Broccoli

That's how I am with tracking, it means very keen to find it but not always effective. The delightful Tracey asked me yesterday if I use a spreadsheet, let's add spreadsheetery to the list of things for which I do not have the skills. I use a series of books to keep track of things, I enjoy the misery of having to do the work myself, much like Mrs Doyle making cups of tea. 

Video contains throwing of cups and rude language. Down with that sort of thing! Careful now!

The big red book contains the story of my spending life, the small book is the grocery spend (the nail file is an excellent bookmark), the piece of paper is a kind of shopping list. 

Things are divided up into assorted sections, I made them up as they suited me at the time. I keep a tally chart to remind me of quantities

Then I keep a note of how much I spent on each item 

At the end of each month I add it all up!

My categories are -

eating out
cleaning/household basics (includes pet food)
toiletries/make up
books, magazines etc
clothes (me)
clothes (Dan)
car (not including fuel)
misc (inc parking)

And that's it. 

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Six Month Review

Amazingly, we have been tracking our spending for six months now. 

I've learned that we spend far more on groceries than I thought, but I haven't put much effort into reducing the amount we spend. We may not be spending less but we are eating better. I am far more likely to eat both breakfast and lunch than ever before, we buy a few more luxury items like pesto, and we're making a larger variety of food - Dan makes virtually all of our bread, I make more of our snacks, we have ditched teabags and buy the loose leaf tea and coffee beans we really like, and generally we are just enjoying mealtimes more. We still enjoy going out for a coffee/ brunch, but that spend has shown a general downward trend and we're being far more choosy about when we do and don't enjoy a treat and are aware of the potential to spend when we're tired/ stressed/ disorganised.

The lowest spend category so far is laundry, since the last week of September we have spent £1.75 on detergent. Last summer I bought a lot of soapnuts and used them all summer, but I found that if I couldn't dry laundry outside then certain items didn't always smell quite fresh so I bought a bottle of regular liquid to see us through the winter. Which leads me to ask, does anyone use soapnuts? I still have plenty left but I'm not fully convinced, although towels are amazingly soft when washed with them. 

The biggest surprise has been how often we buy gifts and cards, we spend quite a lot on both, which is a very nice thing, but something I hadn't noticed before.

Not directly related to tracking but I've found the more we're doing the easier it is to keep the house clean and tidy. I am naturally messy but things in the main look not too bad - if you ignore the hay, we've been decluttering and not bringing as much stuff into the house so it makes sense that order would follow eventually.

We've not spent much on home improvement, which I suppose makes sense as it's been wintertime. Furniture has cost £334.99, for that we bought a chair, mirror and the Ladderax. Fingers crossed this will change later in the year with the work on the bathroom.  We haven't spent much on the garden yet, other than the new fence panels and some bird food. I kept hold of £50 gift money for the garden. I think that's going to go on trellis as the fence at the back of the garden is totally rotten, but it's not in our garden so not for us to deal with. We have plenty of seeds and I hope to sow most of them over the next couple of months.  

Spending on books, magazines and clothes has virtually disappeared, we bought a few things with our birthday money but other than that there has been no spending in those areas at all. I still have a ton of books to read so that's not a problem at all, Dan is making very good use of the library. Craft spending should reduce to nothing too as I have plenty of everything, and the manager gave me the hot glue gun she had bought for the shop (with her own money, not petty cash), she won't need it in her new office job. 

Nothing earth shattering there, but it's interesting to observe the difference between our perception of spending and the reality. My goals for the next few months are to keep a months worth of grocery budget in the household account, finish saving for the bathroom and have enough cash for the work needed on the car.  

Also, massive congratulations to Burnley's Michael Keane who made his England debut this month. 

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

The Doodle

It must be something about this time of year. I mentioned it this time last year here. It was based on something I did years ago, before I started making quilts. Now I've decided to have a quilting break I've picked it up again. It's not for anything, it's just a doodle so I can work on it as much or as little as I like, it doesn't need to be anything, or even look good, it's just a nice way to pass the time. 

I still have the original one but it was just hanging around so I decided to chop it up and use it on the new one. As Dale Cooper may have put it - I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange*.

*although nowhere near as good as Twin Peaks obviously - less than two months to wait now!

Monday, 27 March 2017

Freebie and Bargain of the Week

I forgot to take a picture of the outfit I wore on Saturday, I was too excited beforehand, and too covered in what I can only hope was beer by the time it ended. I wore a mustard top (which, it turns out, I had on backwards) and a gold skirt, it was a good choice, I was easy to spot in the crowd according to Dan - there was a lot of black in evidence. Also according to Dan I am a cheap date as I didn't want to go anywhere beforehand and resisted merchandise. We also parked right next to the venue - £2 for the whole evening!

I spent yesterday with my family, which involved being on my own with the small people for a bit - why people choose to do that and how they put up with it I have no idea, it's no surprise parents get a day, they need all the gifts. I don't think there's a weird, awkward Aunt day, although I did try to say it was next week and that everyone should make me a card. I don't think I'll get one from the 9 year old, I nutmegged him when we were playing football and he was very unimpressed. 

Which brings me to the freebies and bargains. Father gave me some fresh rhubarb and some onion sets, Mother passed on two magazines, and some clothes for the charity shop. We were talking about the bathroom re-do as they're having a new shower too and they have offered to flex their old person discount card at B&Q if we buy our tiles from there as it's a 10% discount. Very kind, it will save us a nice amount. 

I found another peony lying next to the compost bin, Father confirmed he had "shoved some in a box" but forgot to tell me, so I put them into the former veg bed, along with a lavender and threw some wildflower seeds around, hopefully that will do the trick. It certainly felt good to spend Saturday morning out there drinking tea and doing a bit of weeding. Fun times.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Charity Shop Conversations

My charity shop buddy often starts a conversation with "don't you think.." and I have to be honest most of the time I don't think that thing, but we talk about it anyway. 

The conversation could be about anything she'd read in the local paper but yesterday it was about someone bringing up their child as a vegetarian. "But don't you think she should have personal choice, she's only two". So I thought about it, had a sip of the beyond awful instant coffee we have at the moment, and said that I didn't think as a two year old she really had much personal choice about anything, that we're a brought up and live our lives believing and doing all manner of things, none of them are based on facts, they're just based on tradition, convention, belief system, location, money and all manner of other things. Things that seem normal and right to me might seem incredibly odd to someone else - something I learned every day when I went out with a lad from London, he thought I was very strange indeed!

"Well, I grew up on a farm, killing and eating animals was normal" she replied, "you illustrate my point beautifully then" said I. "Oh yes, I see what you mean, shall we have another biscuit, I'll tell you what I think about the nonsense that is so called free-range eggs". Go on then, you've twisted my arm.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

March Week Three

I was amazed at how much some food items had gone up this week! Thankfully vegetables were still reasonably priced but other bits and bobs, 10p here, 20p there, not fun at all. Has anyone else noticed that?

Last week was really quiet, Dan attended a leaving lunch for a work colleague and we went to Preston to see the Martin Creed exhibition again, but other than that we only visited the supermarket. We had planned to have a weekend in the garden, but as the weather took a turn for the worse on Thursday evening and didn't pick up again plans went out of the window a bit. 

Some of the more glamorous tasks we did to bring things forward this weekend were to declutter some less than gorgeous undergarments and dozen pairs of socks (no I didn't keep them for dusting). Dan examined the bathroom light as it had stopped working, a quick tighten of the bulb and it works! For the first time in weeks, since my splurge shop in February, I felt the urge to eat a stew, Dan had requested more soup so I made both at the same time as they shared ingredients. It's non-stop excitement some days here. 

It got steamy! Some things we ate this week 

baked butterbeans* with v-pud/ pepper stuffed with puy lentils and v-pud/ nut roast (of course there was gravy)

* this was not a success, even though it's a recipe I've made dozens of times. I bought some cheap tomatoes and even after being in the oven for 45 minutes they were still watery and acidic. 

puy lentil and red pepper pie (delicious)/ chips! (delicious)/ squash and butterbean stew (extra delicious)

This weekend will be a little more expensive, we're going to eat cake with my family on Sunday which seems inexpensive but I should imagine the small people will extract some money from me. On Saturday evening we're going to Manchester to see The Jesus And Mary Chain, they were my favourite band when I was in my late teens so I'll have to find something black to wear and shuffle around being grumpy and sarcastic.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Just Add Sun

On my picnic I spotted hedgehogs

something that I think is a pheasant


lots of rabbits 

and a very hungry caterpillar!

Amazingly the picnic blanket is finished. 

I did put it away but it came as a surprise to no-one that I just couldn't leave it and I cracked on with the binding yesterday. The finish is terrible, the binding is embarrassingly bad, somehow it's wonky, but it is finished and we have all enjoyed sitting on it. It's getting that scrumpled, worn in look already!

Might be indoor picnics for a while yet though. 

Monday, 20 March 2017


I spent some of the weekend making the picnic blanket. I'm about a quarter of the way through the binding, and I've learned a lot. Machine quilting is like ordering a takeaway, at first it seems like a good idea, but after a short while the joy has worn off and you're left thinking that you could have made something more satisfying yourself. 

The main thing I've learned is that I do not enjoy using the sewing machine at all. The project became something to do, it felt like it was all about getting it finished rather than creating something. I can't deny how exciting is was to see strips coming together so quickly, but that soon subsided and it was just about getting it done. For me it has been like making bread using a bread maker, yes, technically you've made something yourself, but you've not really been involved in the process, machines have done the heavy lifting. 

I also made the massive error of deciding to use the back as the binding, never ever again. I love a wonky quilt, but just no. Next time I have binding money I'll be nipping to the fabric shop to buy something nice to finish it off. 

The final thing I've learned is that I don't really like making things, I love putting things together and making things look nice but the actual construction of things I don't enjoy, so I'll get the picnic blanket, the Twin Peaks runner and Dan's SFA quilt done then that's it for quilting, time for something else. 

Friday, 17 March 2017

Freebie and Bargain of the Week

Hmmmmm. Nothing. 

We were given some cake. A work colleague generously gave Dan a container of cake that her daughter had made. She's a young teenager and has just taken up baking, her mum thought we would appreciate a sweet treat, it was beautiful!

We were drinking flavoured green tea at the shop this week, so we shared a teabag as the manager likes her tea quite weak.

*scraping the bottom of the barrel* I was going to buy some crisps on Tuesday, by the time I actually bought them yesterday they were on offer, saving me 70p.

No, that's it, there's nothing else.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Happy Mundane Again

I forgot to add a link for the buffalo cauliflower. There are dozens of recipes available but I chose this recipe from PopSugar as it was really simple.

Massive error of the week was to branch out and speak to people who are not my usual bunch of people, blimey, remind me to not be so rash next time. 

There's another orange thing in my house, it's something I use every day, obviously taking it for granted. 

The door curtain, well it's a sheet but it does a good job and didn't involve any sewing. 

Speaking of which, the sewing machine is out again. As we're going to be based close to home for much of the time this year we decided that picnics and time at the beach are going to feature heavily. So I am making a beach/ picnic blanket. I've never made a quilt using the sewing machine before, but as I would like to use the blanket this summer rather than in 2019 I threw caution to the wind. I will need to buy some wadding, but everything else is a stash buster. 

I made the back yesterday before I went to the shop, which reminds me, another orange thing, the seat pads for our garden chairs, I spoke about them here.

I've made a start on the top today, it's animal heavy, which seems appropriate for picnics. 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

March Week Two

A very quiet week, we had a few errands to run but we stayed at home most of the time, which was great. After a bit too much faff the washing machine turned up, so there was a little expense there. The new fence panels are in place, our neighbour came round on Saturday to help Dan. It turns out they're not really bothered about gardening at all and rather than being bothered about our ivy growing over their side of the fence they quite like it! 

I made a couple of cushion covers for the dining chairs, using some fabric I bought at the start of the year for £3 (I think) from Stockport Vintage Village. 

Very comfy, with a tiny stripe of orange.

Nothing else to report, a very quiet week financially.

A few things we ate this week 

cauliflower chickpea curry (recipe here)/ chocolate cake/ parsnip and leek soup

chilli hotpot based on this recipe that popped up on Facebook as I was trying to decide what to eat on Sunday/ bit of salad/ kale pesto - I wasn't a fan, Dan doesn't mind it

I lost the third picture! scones/ buffalo cauliflower bites

I had never eaten buffalo chicken wings so had no idea of the flavour, however Dan had eaten them before and said they had the right taste and texture, very spicy, very tasty. 

We're hoping to get out into the garden this weekend so fingers crossed for a no spend period, I don't think we'll be going shopping, I'll just pick up some chickpeas when I'm in the town. That's about it. 

Monday, 13 March 2017

Calling The Gardeners!

I would love it if someone could identify this plant for me. I found a shrivelled looking bulb type thing in the garden ages ago, I was going to chuck it in the compost bin but I noticed that it had a bud, so I shoved in the empty bed (it's not empty now, it's full of weeds) and it is growing.

Apologies that the pictures are not amazing, it's really bright sunshine today, plus I've hurt my leg and bending is not too much fun at the moment!

Please let me know if you have any ideas - especially if it is a triffid and I need to take urgent steps. 

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Convenience Shopping

The new to us washing machine is coming this afternoon so we needed to nip the cashpoint. The person delivering the machine is from a charity (it's a long story) so we said we'd give a donation and pay for their fuel, it's still easier and less expensive than hiring the van ourselves. The new fence panels were fitted yesterday by Dan and our neighbour, their landlord is going to pay half the bill which is a very good thing. 

So we decided to walk to town via the beach as it was such gorgeous weather, I'm so glad we did. 

There were so many people there, most walking dogs a few horses and lots of noisy birds!

It was still before 10am when we decided to head home, but I've been conscious of how much brown food we've been eating recently so we decided to go to the convenience shop in the town to buy some vegetables (and biscuits) as it was the only shop open. 

We paid a little for the convenience - £7.10, but I wasn't disappointed by how much we got for our money either, there's enough for a bit of salad with the red pepper, carrot and tomatoes, greens for rabbits, and for evening meals for the week so I'm pleased. Dan saw cauliflower couscous for the first time so I think that may be in our plans for the future too. 

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Just One More Thing

Of course there are extra points for reading that in Columbo voice. 

I forgot one last orange thing that decorates my house!

A carrot sent to me by the one and only Mum!

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

March Week One

Right at the start of the month Dan has saved us £70+ a year on insurance. 

The largest expense other than the shelving unit was having the buns vaccinated, there's a new strain of one of the diseases so we're going back in two weeks for that vaccination too, we were given the option but there's no point taking the risk. The two new fence panels arrived, we already had some stain so didn't need to buy that, and our neighbour offered to pay half even though we explained that the fence was our responsibility. I also had a night out celebrating a 40th birthday, I even had a little dance! I only spent £11 on that which was surprising, and I was so tired the following day we stayed in and watched winter sports.

We are now sorted out for houseplants too, we went to the local garden centre but there was only a small selection so ended up at B&Q where we bought a Mother In Law's Tongue and a fern, Dan loves ferns so there we go. We thought as we were there we'd look for a lamp, not really expecting to find anything suitable. What do I know, there was one perfect size and shape and even had a concrete base, win win win. 

I can't believe I forgot to take a picture of the pizza Dan made on Wednesday, it was delicious, with enough left over to take a slice each out with us to stop us feeling tempted to eat out when we went to Lancaster the following day. Speaking of which I am really cross with myself wasting £2.40, I bought some pesto but when we got it home it had cheese in. I don't know if it had been put back in the wrong place or if I was just absent minded and didn't check. Dan will take it to work as we had opened it before noticing, someone will take it I'm sure.

A few things we ate this week

A kind of veggieball marinara sub/ yellow curry with cashews and brown rice/ veggie rolls. 

bread/ bulgur salad with roast veg and pumpkin seeds/ roast sweet potato.

Not much else to report,

Tuesday, 7 March 2017


I've said it many times, I love the colour orange, so this morning I snapped the orange bits and bobs around the place. 

Cushions and blankets


Lamps (the first one has silver glitter and belonged to my Grandma)



Useful things (the clock needs a new battery)

and Shirley Craven! 
left Phoenix (1961), right Kaplan (1961)

I wonder what colour I'll wear today?

Saturday, 4 March 2017

In The Kitchen

Delivery for my new dining chair was between 7am and 2pm yesterday, I think it's already obvious what happened. With no exaggeration whatsoever, at 10 seconds to 2pm a man ran up the drive and rang the doorbell! I don't break into so much as a light jog for any reason so I was impressed. 

I can never have too much orange!

Perfect fit, and now you can all come round for tea! Three at a time obviously. 

Dan phoned a washing machine repair man who said he could come out but asked a few questions first, he heard my description of what was wrong and said "does it sound like there's a load of bricks in it?" I replied that it did. Then there was the sharp intake of breath, you know the one "it's your something-or-other bearings, I could fix it but it would be £200, you'd be better off with a new one. Ring me when you have something cheaper to repair!" he laughed. 

Oh dear.

So we went to see my MIL with a couple of loads of laundry, we came away with clean clothes and the offer of a second hand washing machine. Excellent! So all we need is a van to collect it (nothing fits in our car). The only slight downside is that Dan has had to send his ID off to a solicitor for something totally different. It'll work out, it may just take a while! There's a lot of not all that good stuff going on at the moment, but this is something that is good for us and helps someone out too.