Monday, 31 December 2012

A windy night and day

A very blustery but dry night last night and had to shut the bedroom window as the neighbour over the back has installed a bamboo wind chime which keeps us awake. Hate sleeping with the window shut but we seem to be the only ones around here who have it open.

Still windy this morning so went for a quick walk to try and sort our backs out, both stiff for some reason. Finally managed to rinse our walking waterproofs as they got filthy from walks when DS. FDiL. and the dogs were here. Hope to walk this week with our chums.

I'm busy playing ancestral detective at the moment. Will post about it tomorrow as I'm rapidly running into a brick wall.

Have a good evening, in or out, with or without friends/family.

See you in 2013!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

It's official ...

DB and I are the very proud owners of dumbphones. Who would have thought such a word existed. We certainly didn't until we watched the news this morning about new words going into The Oxford English Dictionary.

Back to the phones. Ours are always switched OFF. Yes folks, they do indeed have off buttons!

They are for emergency use only. We top them up probably once or twice a year with £10. We phone each other briefly once every few months to make sure we keep our phone numbers intact (or some such nonsense).

When either of us goes out in the car alone, we take them with us just in case. When we go out together, DB usually remembers to take his, just in case. They are not switched on even then.

We can phone and receive phone calls, likewise with texts but that is as far as they go. Maybe one day, DB will change his so it has a camera on it, just in case.

Anyway, today the sun is shining and the sky is partially blue with the rest turning grey. Washing for the first time in days is actually blowing in the breeze outside.

We started taking our decorations down yesterday and have now finished. Hooray! I do love them but can't wait to get the house back to normal.

I'm still trying to get back into the swing of cooking as all meals over Christmas were mainly pre-cooked. I have beef curry planned for tonight so we are looking forward to that immensely.

Weighed ourselves this morning. The previous Sunday we had both lost a pound, this weigh day was not so good. Up 2lb for me and 4lb for DB. Won't take long to shift though. Any sweets still around will shortly be in the freezer. Two more slices of cake will finish the quarter we kept out. The rest is in the freezer.

Onward and upward!

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Checking bills for the best deals

Welcome to my new follower never too old.

Well, we have just come back from doing what I hope is our last top up for 2012 (and hopefully, most of January). Taking away what was not normal groceries, it came to £15.36. That doesn't leave much change out of my planned £20 total spend for January, so might have to up it a little bit.

Anyway, my plan is to use up what is in our 2 upright freezers, plus the fridge and store cupboards. That way, I can begin batch cooking items such as soups, stews, curries, faggots, cauliflower cheese etc.

The wind has been gradually building up here throughout the night and morning although the temperature is quite mild at 11C. Might even be able to get away with not lighting our fire at all or until the evening.

We have been searching on line for a better electricity deal due to our provider (Eon), introducing standing charges from January. We don't have gas in our area so get a £20 annual discount from them for that. We also get a 6% annual discount off our bills for online management. Although there were one or two better deals as far as standing charges go, we need Economy 7 and not all providers offer that.

Our usage splits into 1/6th day time units and 5/6th night time ones. Due to using very little during the day, we never qualify for the cheaper day time units. We have our 40 minutes of morning hot water and central heating before the cheap rate switches off. Plus when we tumble dry, we do so overnight on the cheap rate. Everything else is dried on the clothes horse in front of the log burner or on the line.

Anyway, in the end, we decided to stay with Eon for now but changed tariff to the Age UK one which will save us £50 in this coming year. After that, we'll think again.

Other heating expenses are oil (central heating/hot water). It is hard to quantify costs as we need to top it up every now and then and it is difficult to estimate how much gets used in a year. We had 900 litres delivered late Autumn at 50p a litre (it is now around 78p per litre). Our tank holds 1000 litres and is currently 3/4 full.

The other heating expense is the wood burner. We paid £140 for just over 2 cubic metres of dry hardwood logs. They should last us most if not all of the Winter and Spring as we had some left over from last year. I suppose that means on average, we should need to buy another 2-3 cubic metres in Summer ready for next year. We use pallets, old wood from fence panels and twigs for kindling, so most of it is usually free.

Got to keep your eye on the ball haven't you?

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Returning to normal mode ...

Hello Everyone

Hope you all had a good Christmas and managed to relax a little. Ours was a good one, spending time with DS. & FDiL. (who both needed to de-stress and did so), plus S. and M., their two lovely working Springer Spaniels.

We managed not to over-indulge on the food line, all gave and received some wonderful presents (the best of all was having time with them), and got in some great if wet walks. I don't think the dogs have done such sustained daily walks. Overall, we must have done around 15 miles and they were 'plum-tuckered' out (for a few hours!).

The house is slowly returning to its normal mode but we hope to go up to see them in the next couple of weeks or so.

They went back earlier than planned as DS. has to do 2 days work in the holidays (for which he will be paid well no doubt), then they will be travelling down to see FDiL.'s parents and family for the New Year celebrations.

We all decided we need (and want) to cut back on present buying plus food (even though the food side was already cut back we still haven't used up the few extra's we baked) so more trimming can definitely be done there. DB and I, for a change, indulged them more than usual with things they needed as we had a small money raffle prize before Christmas. We are going to do a freezer and cupboard stock check and see if we can live off them until next pay day (apart from the odd fresh food buy). I am aiming to spend no more than £20 in that time:0)

All in all, a good time. Hope yours was as well.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Walking at the sea....

We all went off to the beach this morning to introduce M. to the sea. Both dogs enjoyed playing in the sea and having a swim whenever they came to deep water inlets. It was M.'s first swim and she did well.

Although it had stopped raining, the temperature was 9 Celsius but it was blowing a gale, at times being difficult to keep on our feet.

We went off for a bacon/sausage butty (or various combinations of one), then came home. Both dogs were hosed off and put into the conservatory to dry off and have a sleep. S. carried on sleeping even when she came back into the house.

Yesterday saw the icing of the cake. I normally don't bother with either marzipan or icing but fancied a change this year. I decided to make royal icing (which I haven't done since school) and despite having to make some of my own icing sugar (a little gritty but okay), all went well.

I took a tip from tv about placing little sheets of non stick paper under the cake before icing and that worked really well at keeping the icing from going everywhere.

It just needs to dry off a bit more before I put the decorations on. I made S. a carrot cake and iced it with cream cheese and mandarin as she doesn't like Christmas cake.

Finally, I would like to wish all my family, friends and followers, a Happy Christmas. M. would like to help with this...

Just a few coins sir, just a few coins!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Unwelcome visitors...

For some reason or the other, we have an unwelcome guest visiting our compost bins. We have lived here 26 years and never had a rat go near them. We tried home made bait to begin with that is supposed to see them off in a gentler way. Not sure it did anything.

Now we are on proper rat stuff and it doesn't seem to be working, although I gather it can take a week or more. 

Clever little beggars aren't they. First one hole appeared then another but we think it might be the same rat. We are disturbing the inside to make sure they don't take up residence and reckon they are visiting for food (only waste from the garden and fruit and vegetable peelings from the kitchen, go in there).

So, we put the bait down both holes and as we don't want to kill birds or hedgehogs, stuffed cut leek roots into each hole. Each morning, the leeks have been thrown off to one side (guess they are not eating those then) and it is clear the holes have been used.

We also have some bait sitting inside a large plant pot in the heap as I don't want the bait to go everywhere in the compost itself otherwise I might have to chuck it away – mind you, not too keen on using rat visited compost either!

Been about 4 days now of using the bait, will give it until after Christmas then might have to use something else. Failing that, the bins will have to be moved onto flagstones rather than soil or else we will have to invest in one of those off the ground turning affairs.

Checked again this morning, leeks removed as per usual but unless the bait got washed away in the rain overnight, it looks like it might have been eaten.

Anyway, this morning, hubby moved all the fresh peelings etc into our other compost bin which has at least a foot of finished compost in it and which it/they haven't visited yet. We then made up some Jeyes fluid and poured it all over the outside of that bin hoping the smell will deter it/them from entering that one. The left bin was replaced (now empty) and bait put in a plant pot and half buried on its side. Time will tell if this will work.

I hate doing this as I know rats are intelligent beings but also know that wild rats carry all manner of disease so it has to be done.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Marzipan, rain and plodding on...

Welcome to my new followers Frugaldom, Jossie and Plumes.

What a damp, dark and depressing sort of day. We are now sitting in the front of the wood burner, already lit some 2 hours as it is so cold. I am busy knitting (such a slow knitter) trying to finish off a final Christmas present. Made the mistake of ironing the first one and it not only flattened it but made it too big. I am trying to finish the second one before re-knitting the first.

The cake has had its marzipan put on yesterday and will only have 2 days to dry out as I want to ice it Saturday. Don't normally bother with either but felt like being different this year. I was though just about to brush it with sieved and melted marmalade when I remembered Dan saying about turning it over. I covered the top first with a disc measured to the correct size, then rolled out a long thin oblong for the sides and lightly pinched them together. As I am going to make some royal icing, it will be fine.

Got to face the dentist tomorrow for a filling. The only problem is, the X-Ray is showing a hole in one tooth and the pain is 2 teeth away. I know pain can track but that seems a little too far. Will get him to double check before he freezes me. Hope he does the right one, don't fancy being a pain over Christmas. It is super sensitive at the moment, so anything, hot cold or sweet plays merry havoc with it.

I have a list for each day so I can get done what needs doing but as soon as one thing is crossed off, another one gets added. Ah well, will get there in the end.

Looking forward to DS. and FDiL. coming, who both sound a little stressed. Hope a few days away will help them both relax and chill out. This will be our first Christmas with two dogs in the house, should be interesting! 


Tuesday, 18 December 2012

What to do for the best ask I...

Well, there is no season of goodwill from ye old electricity people. Yes, we had used slightly more electricity this quarter compared to last year (I reckon the ultra cold November had something to do with that), but overall, they owed us some money, due to too high a monthly direct debit (which has now been sorted out).

Although our provider didn't up their prices last year (as promised), in January next year, they are more than going to make up for it. Not only are they raising the unit price (both day and night) they are now starting a standing charge.

This means we will have to pay just under £100 per annum for the privilege of having electricity coming into the house, regardless of how much we use. This standing charge plus the raised unit price will apparently see us being charged another £69 per annum. Can't quite fathom that out as the standing charge alone is more than that, so we reckon it will be more like an extra £8 - £10 per month.

Other than a wood burner which we use mid to late afternoon on cold days, we only have our heating/hot water on for 40 minutes every day (cheap rate). This helps air the house and give us warm but not hot water. We only have a bath so have to heat our water anyway. We share bath water 3 times a week to keep this cost down but do we stop heating the water on the days we don't need it. If so, our electricity prices will go up as we would need to boil a kettle to wash pots, hands, shave etc. Which is better value for money?

We do have a little camping kettle which feasibly could sit on top of the wood burner to boil. But that would only do us one hot drink in the evening as the burner does not get used until it has to be.

Quandary, quandary, quandary.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Some thoughts by Mary Angelou

A friend recently sent me this as an email. As a rule, I don't pass these type of things on. This though was a little different and had a kind message in it. I liked the jist of what was being said, so I thought I would post it here. If you like it, feel free to pass it on. The full interview can be found here Maya Angelou.

In April, Maya Angelou was interviewed by Oprah on her 70+ birthday. Oprah asked her what she thought of growing older. She said it was 'exciting...' Regarding body changes, she said there were many, occurring every her breasts. They seem to be in a race to see which will reach her waist, first.

Maya Angelou went on to say:

'I've learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.'

'I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.'

'I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life.'

'I've learned that making a 'living' is not the same thing as 'making a life..'

'I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.'

'I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back...'

'I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.'

'I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one.'

'I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back...'

'I've learned that I still have a lot to learn...'

'I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.'

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Baubles and lights

Thought I would show you some of the vintage baubles we inherited. Some are post war leading through the 1960's and into the 1970's.

Have a look inside here. I think these may be from the 1960's at the latest.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Thank you...

Welcome to my new follower/followers Suzie Dyball and Kerrie M. Sorry if I have either missed you or already welcomed you, my mind has been elsewhere for the past couple of days!

Thank you for all your good wishes for a speedy recovery. Luckily, it was nothing too nasty. My innards are recovering nicely and today is the first day without painful cramps!

Speaking to the other people who ate at the same place, there was only one thing myself and T. ate and that was the apple sauce. Neither DB nor B. had it so maybe that was it. T. said she had terrible cramps all night but no speedy tiger deliveries.

Anyway, managed to go out for our Christmas meal last night. E, one of our walking companions nearly didn't come due to her hacking cough but she did and that was good although we are a little worried we might catch that now. Blimey, there are some viruses going around aren't there?

It was very nice but not as tasty as normal. We put it down to the chef who was recovering from the same chest virus and probably her taste buds weren't fully up and running. Anyway, the evening was lovely and convivial.  

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Escaping animals...

Mid afternoon yesterday I felt slightly unwell and had a 'tiger' in my stomach and guts that was fighting to get out. It succeeded in exiting at high speed about 30 minutes later, 1/2 an hour before we were due to go out to a quiz. I was really worried I wouldn't make it and even if I did, was not sure if I would be able to stay in the room for the whole quiz.

I was fine until the half way break when another quick dash was needed, and the tiger's mate was also delivered at high speed. Managed to get to the end of the quiz, then we came home and I was tucked up in bed shortly after that.

Didn't have a good night as I felt sick but didn't bring anything up thank goodness. This morning has found me slightly off colour but okay. My stomach area though is tender and I keep burping so something is not quite well in there. We are due out for our 'school' Christmas meal tonight – hopefully.

It was -5/6 here this morning, with a heavy frost in the village and a hoar frost in the surrounding countryside. Had to do a food shopping top up where the car temperature (in the sun) went up to 8. As we drove home however, it promptly dropped and was 1 Celsius as home.

Going to have some light soup for lunch and hope it progresses normally!

See you on the other side.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Anonymous commercial comments

First of all, I must apologise to anyone who normally likes to post a comment anonymously. I have had to stop this as nearly all comments are now 'rogue' ones trying to sell something or lead to a commercial site 'lending' items/offering jobs etc.

I've changed who can leave comments so hope you can still do so. If not I may have to revert to my old comment security and add word verification which I absolutely loathe.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Advent and pesky commercial idiots...

Thankfully, the dreaded severe weather bypassed our country, for that, we can be thankful. Christmas present buying/making has finally been completed, just done my lovely animated e-cards, local cards to deliver then that is also complete. Gave the Christmas cake its final feed and will decorate it next week.

The Sunday just gone was the 2nd in Advent and I forgot to post our picture so here it is.

On a less convivial note, has anyone else noticed an increase in unsolicited anonymous comments from idiots selling 'work from home', or 'get a loan' style of comment, from commercial twits who think they stand a chance of getting published on my blog?

Comment moderation is always on, so they just get deleted, although I do notice quite a few of them on blog's of those who don't use comment moderation.

No free rides here.

If it continues I'll have to stop anonymous comments from being allowed to be posted, which seems a shame, but let's face it, they have no shame.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

'Make it up as you go' baking kind of day!

Welcome to my new follower Carol.

Today has been predominantly sunny with a blue sky. The wind is blowing hard and outside in it, it is cold despite a temperature of 7-8 Celsius!

We've had a quick walk round the block, fed some pets of a friend whilst she is away, and both done some ironing though DB more than me. He has hopefully fixed the leak in the bath (will check it out tomorrow) and is currently sat doing family history on his laptop.

I've been busy in the kitchen. Made us some leek and potato soup for lunch. Then after it had digested and we had rested, off I went back in their again. This time making enough pastry to make 6 individual savoury pies (in one of those deep extra large muffin tins).

DS. & FDiL. gave us some game breasts last winter and we have defrosted them, plus a chicken breast, and other things to make these mini pies.

First of all the tins were greased, floured and lined with pastry.

Then some diced, floured and seasoned chicken breast went in the bottom of each one.

Followed by a layer of sage and onion stuffing.


It was followed by the diced, floured, seasoned pheasant breast (at least I think it was pheasant, the package had P on it, but didn't look big enough for partridge or dark enough for pigeon).

It was followed by some sliced cooking apple and more seasoning.

Then one of my sausage rounds (honey and mustard). 

Finally, the pastry crust.

I've taken the risk of not adding any extra fluid, sauce or gravy (didn't have any anyway), as I'm hoping the sausage and apple will leach out some tasty fluids of their own which should seep down to the other meat. Time will tell!

There was enough pastry left over to use the other sausage round, divided up into 8 small pie ties, a slice of apple and pastry star was added.

The other 4 had mince-meat filling plus a star. Hopefully, the sausage ones won't overflow as they cook otherwise these 4 could end up savoury mince pies!

Here they are fresh from the oven - oops... some one has eaten 2 mince pies!

We had one each of the mini game pies for tea with vegetables and onion grave. The other 4 will be frozen. 

 We finished off the last 2 mince pies with some custard. Yum Yum!

Friday, 7 December 2012

Awful weather and possibly worse to come!

Welcome to my two new followers, dreamer and connie.

DB informed me this morning that according to Radio 4 weather forecast for next week, we are in for a Siberian chill down to as low as -15 plus snow! Whether that happens or not is yet to be discovered, best get inside things that you may need just in case, such as kindling, logs and coal. Always make sure you have emergency food rations in stock - things to make bread/scones or cake, hot drinks and dried or UHT milk. If you have a mini gas stove, make sure you have gas canisters for it. You never know but hopefully it won't happen.

It is currently 1:15 in the afternoon as I sit to write this, the wind is howling, rain has been beating down almost non-stop since around 7pm last night and the temperature is barely 3 Celsius!

Some of our £126 savings from the sealed pot have now been spent. We treated ourselves to a drink and pub lunch (just got back) and spent £15.99 on a frying/saute pan with lid (reduced from £25) from Mr. Sainsbury.

The rest is in the bank earmarked for Christmas presents, most of which have already been bought in cash and this will bring our money back up to normal.

DB has been into the freezing cold attic to fetch me some wool to have a go at knitting some fingerless gloves from Frugal Mummy's blog, although I think I will take longer than a couple of evenings! The wood stove was lit around 11 this morning and we are fed, watered and relaxed.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Make do and mend...

Welcome to my new reader Jackie, glad to have you aboard.

DB started to deal with a leak under our bath. He had previously fixed it but we noticed the grout in the floors tiles was wet for no apparent reason. After taking the side of the bath off, the tray we leave under the drain was full and had also overflowed, so we though we had a leak at that source. Turned out it was the overflow itself, which for some reason hadn't been screwed back properly after we fixed the previous leak.

It is done now and hopefully won't return. We were really worried our main pipe under the concrete floor had sprung a leak!  

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Opening my sealed pot...

Yesterday saw us open our first Sealed Pot challenge. We were late starters, beginning somewhere around mid/late summer. We chose to only save £2 coins in it as we rarely get them in change. Anyhow, it contained a grand total of £126!

We also emptied another pot that contains 5p pieces and managed to bag up £5 from that as well.

No doubt with so many people in the country doing a similar thing (not just this challenge), no doubt the banks will be pleased to receive all these coins back.

The weather yesterday began cold and wet, then a blue sky appeared briefly before the sun took its hat off. Managed to get a line of clothes half day and again, they were finished off in the front room. DB is currently ironing them (he is the ironer in our household, knew the Forces were good training for something!). They will then have another night to air before being packed away.

I had previously mentioned we bought a half price joint of shoulder pork for £5.99 and roasted it to give us two dinners each. It did have a line of gristle running through it, so I hacked that out, whizzed the rest in the food processor with some softened onion, sage, salt and pepper to make some filling.

A small amount of pastry was made and I managed to get 6 pasties out of it.

We had two on their own for tea last night, another two will be had for tea tonight with some vegetables and gravy and the final two have gone in the freezer.

So, the £5.99 gave us a total of 5 meals each at 59.9p per portion for the meat side of things, not bad methinks.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Life keeps moving on!

Welcome to my two new followers, Chars and Karen.

Yesterday, despite it being -2 Celsius with quite a strong wind, we donned double coats, hats and gloves and went for a long walk. We walked for an hour and 5 minutes and probably around 4 miles. Didn't take too many photographs as I couldn't feel the camera through 2 layers of gloves and was most reluctant to take them off.

In the distance we saw these marvellous trees, all in a row.

DB stepped under them and took this – their branches twisted in all directions with a beautiful blue sky as a background.

We came home, had a hot cup of tea and a couple of those biscuits made on Saturday. Washing had been put on the line and gathered back in after a few cold but sunny hours, almost half dry. They finished off in the front room overnight.

Our 2nd plates of roast dinner were re-warmed and enjoyed in the relative warmth of the front room. The wood burner was not yet lit, but soon would be, as the temperature was falling quickly outside and was around 12 C in the room.

Yesterday was also the first Sunday in Advent. We 'inherited' this lovely German Advent roundabout from a German friend called Martin, who was a prisoner of war over here and married a local girl.

He also had loads of mistletoe growing in his garden and used to give big sprigs to everyone (now I have my own and always think of them when I look at it). They are both dead now but we admired this one Christmas and he boxed it up and gave it to us. What a lovely gesture.

Having lived in one place for so long now, we are slowing losing the friends we made when we first arrived (mainly because they were in their 60's when we met them). Having 'worked' in our local school for many years (DB more than me), we have seen a lot of the children we helped, now with their own children and others we only see every now and then as they too have moved on from this area.

Sunday, 2 December 2012


Welcome to my new followers Sara at sl.tudor, Donna Perry and Kerri M. Hope you enjoy reading my ramblings.

According to the Daily Telegraph yesterday, we are in for an Arctic blast until the end of December, apart from tomorrow which will we wet and slightly warmer.Don't know if their prediction will pan out as we have found in the past that long range weather forecasts can be unpredictable. Just thought I'd let you know!

Yesterday found us in the kitchen keeping warm. We had found a nice looking recipe for crisp cookies with a slightly chewy centre and thought we'd give them a whirl.They certainly live up to their hype and are very nice. The recipe can be found here

We cut the sugar down to 200g as we don't like things too sweet, changed the raisins for sultanas as that was all we had. 

The recipe recommends you make them golf ball size (we did two to try and they were too hard to bite through at that size). Instead, we made them into 1 inch balls (don't flatten as they go down by themselves) and this gave us around 48 biscuits between 1 1/2 inches and 2 inches in size.

Here is a close up.

I didn't have a tube of condensed milk (whatever next) but had some left in a can from some other biscuits I had tried.

As the oven was on for these, we decided to cook Sunday lunch a day early and served up 4 portions onto plates. Two we had for tea, the rest will keep for either tonight or tomorrow. There was enough meat left over for me to chavel up and make some small pork and onion pies later today.

Have a grand day folks!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

A timely reminder...

Pinch, punch, first of the month. Also, welcome to my new follower Annette Webb.

Last night in bed, it was positively cold, and sleep came in bouts, occasionally disturbed by the worry of frozen pipes. Not in the house I might add as all are protected.

No, it is the two outside taps. Now we are on a water meter, I was concerned about them freezing and bursting. So, after walking to the shop (in the cold and rain) to buy the RT and a few other things, we sorted them out. Luckily we have previously put inside taps onto them and a quick turn and drain found no water coming out.

Were they already frozen? The temperature was -2 last night so we turned them back on and ran some water to check, no, they were both fine. Off the taps went again, they dribbled to a halt and hopefully that is that.

I'm never sure about the pipe coming from the oil tank. Our new oil tank sits on the floor, and only around 6” is exposed to the elements. We piled a couple of bricks over it, plus some gravel and hopefully that will be okay as well.

Today is the first day to open up my chocolate advent calender, haven't done it yet (as of 11.50 am). Think I might do so with my afternoon cup of tea!