Friday, 20 October 2017

Communicating...

DB thanks you for your lovely comments on the Advent tree project.

When DB and I first married, there was no internet, barely any video game machines, no mobile phones and not all homes had their own phones, we did luckily. When stationed overseas, we often only had pen and paper to communicate back home as phones in quarters were rarer than hen's teeth!

DB and I often communicated by letter and I really regret getting rid of them, when we married, ah well!

Being an only child, I didn't want DB's parents to feel left out. We phoned them every other Sunday, they phoned us inbetween. No such thing as free weekend phone calls then and Sunday was a day when we all knew we would be at home. DB would speak to his dad, then briefly to his mum before handing over to me. In the end, he spoke to his dad to find out what they had been up to, and I spoke to his mum. It was not easy at first and often the calls were short but it got better the more we all persevered and eventually, the calls became more natural.

We also made sure we visited them, to stay for several days when possible, about every 10 weeks, they did the same. That way, we saw them around 5 or 6 times a year. One Christmas they came to us, the next we went up to them. We sometimes did the same for Easter but not always. This was especially important once DS arrived on the scene.

Was it easier to communicate 'back then' when communication was harder? It seems that if you are not on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or do FaceTime or Skype, you don't get to know what is going on with friends and family members. My cousins all seem to know far more about their cousins lives than we do, that's for sure. I shall have to stop being such a luddite and get on something so I can find out what everyone is up to.

Girls, more than boys, seem to communicate more readily with their parents from what I can gather in conservation with friends. If organising needs doing, the boys usually get their parents to communicate with the girls as 'they don't really know' what is going on! Instead of using a calender that has everything on it, individual's phones and computers are used, making it more difficult to know what the other is doing, wires get crossed. Give me a calender that has everything on it anyday!

DB was lucky in that I didn't have any parents to worry about leaving us just his to fit in around what we were doing. Two sets of parents seems to make life far more complicated. Add older children and animals and it gets more complicated too. Some I know don't like pets and won't allow them to visit which can cause logistical problems and ill feelings. There are often step parents with their own children to fit in as well and several sets of grandparents!

Children nowadays appear to have far busier lives than we did, yet, in our day, we felt just as busy, working, catching up with housework etc.

There seems to me, from what I can gather talking to people and reading blogs, that there is a lot of mis-communication, lack of communication, general feeling of being ignored or no communication going on at all and that is very sad.

In a world where there is so much social media available to everyone, how sad that people still feel ignored. As we all age, communication becomes more important, because one day, we may all be in the unenviable postion that some elderly find themselves in, of spending hours, days and weeks - alone:(

Our families, children, grandchildren and other relations, need to be in touch more, because one day, we will no longer be around and then it is too late. You can't get that time back and will seriously regret it, as I and other family members found out the hard way.

Have a great weekend.


Thursday, 19 October 2017

Advent tree finished...

This time 6 years ago, I started my blog.

DB spent most of a day, finishing off the tree, inbetween others tasks he had set himself to do. Here it is:
It can either hang or be free standing. We wanted to use Christmas colours so it would fit into any room. We are still looking for the right thing to top it off but that can wait.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Sorting out your pension and when you can retire

Phil, over at Mr Home Maker, makes a very valid point to a work colleague, for those living in Australia, in this post.

Here in the UK and other countries, things will/may be a little different. In the UK you are currently still entitled to a full 'old age pension' providing you work and pay into it for the relevant number of years, currently 35! You can get a greatly reduced pension after 10 years of full payments.

Myself and numerous others, got caught in the gap and instead of getting our expected pensions at 60, having paid in the then 30 years worth of contributions, now have to pay another 5 years worth of contributions and also wait another 5 or 6 years to get said pension:(

So annoying when you retired because you had made the full contributions, expecting to get your pension then have that bombshell dropped on you. You may not consider it worthwhile to pay those extra 5 years of contributions (around the £650 - £750 per annum mark) but for me, because we have saved hard (and continue to do so), it is worth it, providing I live long enough to collect it. Those payments will give me an extra £80 or so, every month and that is a huge difference.

Women on average, live longer than men and if widowed, that extra money might make a huge difference to merely existing rather than living. Things are vastly different for a lot of women due to part time contributions, being divorced and not having access to their partners pensions, or partners dying before being able to build up much of a pension pot etc. It really does pay to think about it and get it sorted whilst you are still able to do so.

I know people who won't top up their contributions as 'everyone they know', has died before receiving their pension - a perceived reality not a truth in their case, as we know who they are referring to. Others, who are so superstitious that although they have pensions in place, won't make a will because they believe they will die if they do - I kid you not!

Even if the figures Phil quotes, might not apply to you in the country where you live, it is an excellent read and well worth considering your own circumstances and starting to think seriously about it.

Now is the time to sort out your expences, your bills, your debt. Get rid of the debt as soon as possible if you are able to and don't add to it unless you really have to. Reduce your living expences where possible, and your bills. Overpay your mortgage if possible as every year you no longer have to pay, is money in your pocket, not theirs!


Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Next Stage of Advent Tree

Welcome to Alison Murphy via Bloglovin.

The tree is now the green colour that we want and the boxes have had 2 coats of red. We decided to spray it with satin varnish rather than gloss. The red on the boxes is gloss but when we put the final decorations on the front, it will tone them down nicely:
We have bought, from Hobbycraft, some wooden numbers and snowflakes, these are the snowflakes we have decided to put on the boxes:
They have now been sprayed gold ready for putting on. DB is busy making a template so they and the numbers all sit in the same place on each box front.

Chocolates have already been purchased and one will go into each box and we shall each open a box every other day. DB will probably get the odd numbers and me the even ones so I can open the last box:)


Monday, 16 October 2017

Faggots for winter...

In this country, a faggot is a meat based ball. Using the recipe from the link on my recipe tab Faggots (2) adapted, I decided now was the time to get started on a batch of them for the freezer as well as one meal.

This time I used 1lb minced pork shoulder steaks, you could use bought pork mince or mince your own belly pork. 1lb of bacon from those big value bacon packs, 1/2 lb pork liver minced - I prefer chicken livers as they are milder but couldn't find any, 1/2 an apple minced (tip from local butcher) a whole one could be used and one whole dry packet of sage and onion stuffing (170g). No salt but 30 grinds of ground black pepper. No water or egg or other moisture were needed. Once combined well, I left the mixture for about 30 minutes then fried a teaspoonful to test the taste. 

I used a 2" wide ice cream scoop for these. DB squirted oil spray onto my hands every now and then and gave me one scoop at a time for me to form into balls. Note to self, base line the tins!



First batch out, dry into their containers, ready for the gravy:
3 ladles of gravy per container usually gives enough for potatoes and vegetables to be kept moist. I normally put some gravy into the roasting pan once the faggots have been lifted but the pan had burnt slightly and I didn't want the taste to transfer to the meat:
We don't eat too much meat so shall have one tray between us - 1 1/2 faggots each. The last four went into a dish with some gravy to be microwaved for said meal.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Bindweed and Bins

On the 3rd October, I mentioned about my raised beds which are starting to get their own compost bins installed in them. I re-filled the one in bed 1 and just 7 days later, it looks like this:

The worms are working well. Lid back on then:
Every time I put garden and food waste into the two full sized bins at the back of the garden, there are always loads of worms sitting around the lid, so I knock them out and divide them between both these new bins.

Early in Spring, I found a bindweed plant in my front gravel garden, near the hedge. Using a tip from the late, great Geoff Hamilton, I inserted a cane close to the plant and tied it onto it.

Donning plastic gloves, I rubbed the plant throughly with glyphosate based weedkiller stick, then removing gloves. I carefully wrapped plastic around it to protect any plants that might touch it as they grew.

Now, it appears well and truly dead after sweating all summer long inside it plastic tent  and should be fine to remove:
Have a nice weekend folks!

Thursday, 12 October 2017

A lovely smell

A delicious smell filled the house earlier in the week. Date and walnut loaf mingled with our weekly loaf of fresh baked bread:
The recipe for the date and walnut loaf is from the Centenery Bero baking book but as you can see, isn't quite enough to fill the silicon loaf pan I used. Sounds like an excuse to double the recipe!

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Extreme couponing...

Drifting through the free tv channels, waiting for my programme to begin, I came across Extreme Couponing on a channel I don't normally view. I was both fascinated and appalled at the same time.

The lady in question, who doesn't work but does couponing as a full time job (she needed to), proudly showed the tv crew all the rooms in her house that were, basically, like a shop.

Her house contained $20,000 worth of food that she had paid just $2000 for. I was fascinated at that and continued to watch as she prepared to do her usual $600 monthly shop. She spent hours/days cutting out coupons from everywhere, stuffing them into her folder, working out dates, 3 for 2 etc, then broke the list down in order to maximise the coupons and special store offers. The wonders of the internet eh!

Her and hubby went shopping, using two trollies (plus small child in one of them). I have no idea how long their shop took and would have been very glad not to behind them at the checkout:(

Eventually they arrived back home, having spent their full $600 dollars and bought around $6000 worth of food.

Back home to her three, slightly plump boys, they unloaded all the food and helped put it away. Yes, she uses a menu plan, yes she budgets and obviously feeds her family good food but a large part of me couldn't help wondering if she was just a tad obsessed/addicted.

There was enough food in her house to have fed them for years and I again wondered, despite food rotation, whether anything ever got past its sell by date. Couldn't she have shopped from her house rather than go spend another $600 every month topping it up?

I didn't finish watching as my15 minutes was up and quite frankly, I was beginning to get rankled. Hey ho!

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Semi cloud pruning

I decided earlier this year to begin to semi cloud prune our bay bush. It was growing leaves all the way to the ground and just looked a mess. Now, after two prunes, it looks like this:
I shall continue to lift its canopy of leaves until I get it into the shape I like. I have just started with this photinia:
And also this plant, whose name for now, I can't remember:
I shall continue to prune them until they get to the size and shape I want them to be!


Monday, 9 October 2017

Dressing gowns...

It took a total of 4 washes to dye these two dressing gowns - wash, dye, wash, wash machine out! The long one was already purple but very faded and looks so much better:
The short one was a pale turquoise one, but in a different material so came out lighter but still lovely:
Although the machine has been cleaned, I think the next wash in it will have to be a dark one just in case. Also, the first few times I wear these, I might sit on a towel just in case!

It may have been 'expensive' from a washing machine point of view but overall, I think it cost about £10 including the dye, and they are the colour I wanted, so a win win change!

Friday, 6 October 2017

£10 ...

Just had my flu jab - a £3 increase on last year. The pharmacist explained it was nothing to do with them as the drug companies set their price each year. So greedy! Think how much extra that will be costing the NHS this year!

Our first two shops for this month have both been less than expected so I hope to have some more money left after the next couple of shops. My menu/budget wrangle seems to be paying off:)

Glorious day here again today. I have a couple of dressing gowns in the washer at the moment and when finished, I shall dye them.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

The sun is shining....

Despite it being breezy and a little on the chilly side, the sun is shining brightly. Washing is billowing on the line and little chores are getting done.

DB has done the ironing from the other day and is now busy sorting out a huge box of old receipts, instruction books etc. Lots of shredding is taking place and those shreddings have already been added to the two mini compost bins in the raised beds.

A parcel I have been waiting for has been delivered and contents admired!


Wednesday, 4 October 2017

A few months ago

We purchased, quite cheaply, a wooden tree Advent calender:
DB is busy preparing it ready for decoupage:
I shall post more as and when it progresses!

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

So far, I'm impressed...

You may remember these posts here and here,  about our new trial of worm compost towers embedded in our raised beds.

I needed to empty the inside compost bin and thought on the way to the big bins, I would check out both towers. The one in Bed 1 has now been on the go now for about 11 weeks and had hardly anything for the worms to eat so half the indoor bin, along with a good few handfuls of shredded paper, were added and stirred up well:

You may wonder why the beans have gone in there, I didn't harvest them in time so they were stringy! Not wasted though as they will compost down well.

Next stop, the bin in Bed 3, not so far down as it has only been going a few weeks but again, was getting composed well and full of worms. The rest of the indoor bin went into it along with more shredded paper:

I think the secret to keeping them healthy and aerobic rather than anaerobic, will be plenty of shredded paper throughout the winter months. It will also help insulate them.

Bed 2 is full of leeks, sown from seed:
so as soon as they are harvested, it too has a pot waiting to go in. We need to look out for a slightly slimmer bin for the smaller Bed 4 and get one started in there as well.

From what I can gather, they can go anywhere in the garden, to help feed vegetables, flowers, shrubs etc.

Our aim is to completely get rid of our two compost bins as it drives us mad emptying them out every year, usually giving us backache or a pulled back in the process. We ain't spring chickens anymore!

Monday, 2 October 2017

Multi tasking in the kitchen

For a change, I managed to organise myself enough to cook/bake several things to take advantage of the oven, it doesn't happen often but there you go.

On the hob I cooked a vegetable and chickpea curry:
We ate one bit for Saturday tea and froze the rest in 2 x 2 person servings.

Once the oven was on, I made a half batch of granola:
A joint of ham followed, we had some with mashed potato and the last of our dwarf green beans, alongside some 'wartime lobscouse sauce' for Sunday lunch:
No photo but the ham was followed by some plum crumble. Yum!

Wartime lobscouse sauce is easy to make and very tasty despite its looks:)

A small knob of butter is put into a saucepan*. Then 1oz of grated cheese per person is added, along with 1 tablespoon of milk per person and either 1 finely chopped fresh tomato (previously cooked in the butter until soft*) per person or 1 tinned tomato (chopped) per person.

Everything is gently simmered until the cheese is melted and poured over whatever you are eating.



Friday, 29 September 2017

Changing a lightbulb - conversion chart

Do you stand in front of the lightbulb counter in shops, totally confused as to what size you need and saying to yourself "I just want a light bulb"

Here is a chart that might help you. It came from here:

DB carries a version of the above in his wallet all the time. It comes in very useful.

Obviously, you also need to know whether you need a bayonet or screw fixing. The bayonet has a push and twist action to it, with a locating pin on either side of said base. The most common size being a 22mm diameter - a BC or B22d. The more unusual slimline base, is a SBC or B15d which is 15mm in diameter.

Screw based bulbs also come in two sizes, again from the same site as found here: 
The site is a mine of useful information! Hope this is of use to you and have a lovely weekend folks. 

Thursday, 28 September 2017

New Laundry Liquid

I have been trialling a new adapted laundry liquid for a few months now and can recommend it. The full recipe for it came from here.

Take 1/4 cup (50g) of washing soda crystals and dissolve in 1/2 litre recently boiled water:
Pour into a 2 litre clean and dry milk container or something similar and top up with 1 1/2 litres cool water:
Add 1/4 cup of your chosen laundry liquid. I used to use non-bio but find I am now getting a better wash with bio, even though I don't like using it. The choice is yours:
Put the cap on and gently rotate to mix everything together. Remove cap and leave to cool:
This milk bottle has a purple cap so once cool, I shall add 15 to 20 drops of lavender essential oil. My other bottle has a green cap and gets Lemongrass essential oil added to it.

Before use, gently shake to distribute contents and oil, then use 1/4 to 1/3 cup per wash. Current cost per 1/4 cup is 5.9p per wash or 1/3 cup 7.9p per wash. Pretty economical!

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Are you ready...

I saw a post on an Australian blog about preparing for a possible flu epidemic over there and they mentioned about checking their first aid kit/box.

We only remember to do this, probably once a year sometimes less:(

Out came said box and no end of everyday items were out of  date. You know the kind of thing that only gets used infrequently such as Savlon, gel for mouth ulcers, indigestion medicine, insect bite reliever etc.

However, there were also a few prescription creams and gels, long out of date. You seem to get such a huge amount for a short treatment, then it gets thrown in the box for possible future use. Even if it does get used again, it will be out of date eventually.

Prescription medicines should be returned to your pharmacy for safe disposal, especially the powerful steriods/antibiotic type items that might damage the environment. Other items, I disposed of myself, remembering to remove my id labels and putting the paper instructions and boxes into the recycling bin.

I can't yet get a free flu jab but last year, I paid £7 in Sainsburys to have one for the first time. I think that is a good price considering how flu knocks you for six should you be unlucky to get it. There are often 3, sometimes 4 different types of flu virus in the one vaccine, so over the years, your body should build up a good resistance to quite a few of them and hopefully help.

Young people, especially those with asthma or those who work with children, the elderly or in an environment where there are a lot of people, should get one. If you work where there is air conditioning that may spread the germs around, you may be more vulnerable, so should seriously think about get a jab. If they start young enough, they should build up good resistance to future threats.

If only they would listen!

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Using the leftovers

I kept back 3 ladles of lamb casserole from the previous day, as a base for soup for lunch the next day.

The remainder was mashed and some peas, sweetcorn, extra stock and a little mince sauce were added. I had previously boiled some chicken thighs and used that stock for soup. The meat was removed from the bones and open frozen before being bagged. One handful of that chicken also went in to create a nice soup for our lunch yesterday:
We served it with a small bag of mini poppadums, divided between us which helps reduce the calories.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Lamb Casserole via my thermal cooker bag...

Thought it about time I started using this again, although in reality, it could have been in use for a lot of this 'summer' should we have wished!

A thermal cooking bag (how to make one is on my tutorial tab), is similar to a slow cooker but once your food has been started on the cooker top, it is tucked up inside and doesn't use anymore electricity unless you want to reheat the contents.

I fried a diced onion, followed by two lamb leg steaks. Diced carrot, swede and pearl barley were added, along with boiling water. Once the pot had been brought up to a boil, it was cooked for 10 minutes before being transferred into the bag:

We find it better to use two people for that stage as holding the lid in place whilst the drawstrings are pulled tight is a bit of a fiddle but one person could do it. It was left wrapped up for 5 hours then opened and the contents tested. It was 3/4 done:

I forgot to add the diced potato at the beginning for some reason, so they were then added, pan back on stove and brought back to the boil for another 10 minutes.

If I hadn't have forgotten them, the saucepan would have been left tucked up for 8 hours before being inspected. By then, it should be done (providing you have cut everything up into small enough chunks) and all it will need is a final heat up to thicken.

Once thickened and a stock cube added, we served up all but 3 ladles of it, along with some home grown runner beans:
Yes, we could have used it all but I wanted those 3 ladles for another day!

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Friday, 22 September 2017

Food money....

Either prices have dropped slightly or I have been canny with my shopping this month. Either way, having £35 leftover is a pleasant surprise. I shall put it to one side for stocking up, or using throughout the rest of the year as and when needed!

It was very misty this morning but hopefully the sun will soon burn it away. I want to get the winter quilt aired ready for changing over at the end of the month. We are now officially in Autumn in all definitions and this morning reflected it.

Our heating has been on for quick bursts, but so far, we have got away with no morning heat. Every little helps.

Have a lovely weekend folks!

Thursday, 21 September 2017

GF Toad in the hole

I chose to do this in the silicon square pan to see how it would go. Herewith fresh from the oven:
It rose well and lifted out easily. Here is the 'pan' after the toad was removed:
So easy to clean and nothing stuck at all. I had already used my muffin pan for GF Yorkshires as they have a tendency to stick. They also rose well in that and lifted out cleanly.

The link for GF Yorkshire puddings is under my Gluten Free tab.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

What, if anything...

Is on your fridge?

The front of ours looks like this:
Notepad, smoothie recipes with calories, calendar, 5 week menu and associated shopping list and freezer checklists.
Around the side and facing where I work the most are these:
A picture from DB, photo of DS and DDiL (quite old now), grand dogs when they were small, flu reminder for DB and another reminder for us both!


Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Rainbows

In our dining room, we have a little used, hand-painted oil lamp. On certain days, when the sun is in the right place, it strikes it to create rainbows on one of the doors:
Closer:
And if we open that door, it lands on our store cupboard:
Just lovely!



Monday, 18 September 2017

Harvesting...

Despite using a codling moth trap, the little blighters got to our apples and there were few that were unscathed. However, bad bits cut out, we have been eating our own apples for 6 weeks now. The red pears have all been eaten during that same time period.

Saturday, I picked the rest of the Egremont Russet apples - our favourites - but they have been badly affected. Here they are, steeping in cold water and vinegar to get some of the bugs out and drowned:
I  used some of the worst affected this weekend in an apple and blackberry crumble. They just have the most amazing taste.

Our Comice pears are starting to fall so guess they are ready. We found these 4 on the ground this morning. Only slightly bruised:
There are another 21 left on our little trained tree, our best year ever! We reckon they will take us a few weeks to use so shouldn't need to begin buying fruit again maybe until mid October.


Friday, 15 September 2017

Upcycling finished

First of all, welcome to Charlotte Musha via Bloglovin.

DB has taken less than a week, to upcycle our old style Singer machine table and metal/wooden bench, see this post. Herewith the new version of the table:
It will be used for potted plants throughout the warmer months. Although we forgot to photograph it, the Singer insignia on both sides of the legs has also been highlighted in red.

Herewith finished chair:

As you can see, he has also highlighted the decorations down the side of the chair in red. Although they are now in two different places as opposed to next to each other like before, they are just lovely and a real addition to both the front garden and back patio.

Have a lovely weekend everyone!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Tea...

How do you drink your tea?

We use loose leaf tea as we find in our hard water, tea bags leave a scum on the top! We use Yorkshire tea leaves as they are the strongest we can find. Builders tea is stronger but not generally on sale to the public.

We have a metal tea pot that pours without dripping all over the place. Two scoops of tea leaves go in, following by still boiling water. Lid down, tea cozy on and the alarm set for 11 minutes. I am sure this is far too long for most people but we were both brought up, up north, and in our lives, that meant very strong tea.

We both have milk and I have a sweetner. Yes, it does alter the taste slightly but not as much as sugar. I used to have 2 sugars in it when growing up, changed to 2 sweetners, now just 1. I have tried to give up the sweetner several times, but after a week of not enjoying a single mug of tea, usually give up!

DS when two, was given milky tea in his mug but to my shame, and for whatever reason, didn't keep it up:( Now, like many of his generation, he is not a tea drinker as such. Ah well, can't win them all!

Although Yorkshire Tea do a blend specifically for hard water, we find it too tame. Oddly enough, on holiday in Yorkshire this year, we could not find their loose leaf. We resorted tp P G Tips and Typhoo, again, too weak for us. Plus, the house was in a soft water area so the tea tasted odd to us.

Easch to their own I guess. Needless to say, my hygienist isn't too impressed with the staining on the back of a few of my teeth but she gets them clean. If I go to the stand in dentist when mine is on holiday, they usually ask how many cigarettes I smoke.






Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Silicon roasting pan

I was asking the question, to myself and others, how silicon would behave when roasting meats. This weekend, I did a small ham joint. It was cooked at 180C with a foil lid for one hour. Another 30 minutes without the foil. After the ham was removed, this was what remained in the container:
Just a few brown roast marks which cleaned off beautifully. This weekend, I shall be roasting sausages in it, probably making them into a 'toad in the hole'. Wonder how it will cope with that?

I have used the muffin pan to cook GF yorkshire puddings and they came out very well, without sticking. I always use a metal tray to stand the silicon dishes on otherwise they would be dangerous, with them being floppy!

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Next stage of upcycling treadle table and bench

DB has been very busy painting the treadle sewing machine base with black hammerite:
and highlighting the pattern on the side of the table and the singer logo in red.

The bench is in its first trial of being a single chair:
He hasn't yet painted the metal work with hammerite. All the rotten wood has been removed and being sanded back to its original state. It is hardwood so once repainted, should last quite a while.

We have bought new bolts to attach the wood but will leave them shiny for now as a form of decoration.

Final stages are underway!

Monday, 11 September 2017

Make new from old...

In the corner of the hedge of our front gravel garden, has sat a metal and wooden bench, in front of which, was our converted singer sewing machine table.

The bench seat has been mended numerous times but has gotten gradually more and more rotten and we no longer feel safe sitting on it (or even sitting in that area any more).

DB has taken both apart:

The sewing machine will have the long metal grill from the back rest of the bench attached as a top. We can then use it for plants or whatever, in the front garden.

The bench has enough short pieces of wood to change it from a bench into a single chair. We will make use of this in the back garden. More to follow as it developes!