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Friday, 26 August 2016

Crazy WEEK and Epic Fail

Sorry for my absence. I knew that last week and this week would be crazy with all the 'grandchildren' minding, travelling to pick them up and dropping them off, and of course going to work. The time has flown and I've  just about managed to keep the garden watered and us fed but nothing else.  I'm still using the hose as there hasn't been enough rain to do any good what so ever. I dare say my bill is going to be higher than normal so I'll need to invest in more water butts over the autumn and winter.  

The water won't get wasted it will be used on the garden
Hubby filled a  paddling pool for the grandchildren to play in as its been so hot and  dry,  they thoroughly enjoyed it and the water won't be wasted but used on the garden and greenhouse over the next few days. I must say I've enjoyed putting my feet in it after a long day at work wearing steel toe capped boots.

This is the third lot of tomatoes, chillies, beans,
 courgettes and cucumber
The tomatoes have gone a little mad and so has the cucumber and courgette. I have been preserving like mad, more on that another day.   The runner beans are slowly starting to produce but nothing like last years crop (very disappointing).  They are mainly hidden under the foliage which I'm having to check daily.
Two more large courgettes have been sliced and frozen together with  2 bags of dwarf beans and my first small bag of  blackberries, picked at the park in Ipswich while the children played on the swings! You have to cease these opportunities.  

The £13.71 left in the budget disappeared. This week I have spent all of it an more. My brother in law and partner are visiting from Wales at the weekend and I've had to go and get a few bits and pieces.  I still need a few more things which will probably take my overspend to £30 (£10 haircut). Its frustrating as the freezer is till full of food and the cupboards are far from bare.  But I needed a number of things for some of the relishes and jams I've made as well as extra cordial, beer, potatoes, biscuits, fruit, ice cream  and cereal. Furthermore, grandchildren aren't cheap! I've paid for skating, ice cream, and  drinks.


I mentioned in my last post that I bought myself a magazine for £5.99 a little extravagant but the free pattern made it worth while. I thought it was quite versatile as it can be pajamas, gym clothes as well as a formal blouse, trousers and jacket. My friend has just bought a Pfaff machine and loves it.  I'm torn between Pfaff and Janome now but I'm entering a competition in the hope of winning one! After Marlene at Simple Living won one I at least know someone does win!!

I'm not looking forward to work this evening. I'm only doing a few hours as I'm owed so much time.  There will be quite a few short shifts over the next few weeks.  2 WEEK'S 3 DAYS to be precise , UNTIL RETIREMENT.
Bye for now. Tx

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Manic Monday

Yesterday was absolutely manic and the week is set to get a lot crazier.  Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday hubby, myself and our daughters are taking on the role of a tag team to look after the 4 grandchildren and still go to work.  For example, last night hubby brought the children from Colchester back with him when he came home from work.  They will sleep the night  and I will have them until 4:30 today when I drive then  home and then travel to work to complete half a shift. Wednesday I will go to Ipswich first and have the children till 4:30 when I will travel to work for another half shift.  Thursday hubby has the 2 from Colchester all day, he will travel to Ipswich late afternoon to pick up the other 2 and we will have them all over night. Friday I am at work at 4:30 in the morning  then home mid morning to help hubby with the four lovelies, taking them home at tea time.  I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

Pots, small carrots, lettuce and spring onion.

I went back for bigger carrots and onions
As I'm not going to get much opportunity to cook over the next few days I have did a batch cook. I used a large mince beef (675g) from the freezer £3.33 instead of £4 (as I bought 3 products for £10).  I made a Bolognese and 2 cottage pies, using carrots, potatoes and onions from the garden, last years peppers from the freezer,  One cottage pie was made up completely with mash on the top, the other portion was frozen. The Bolognese used a third of the mince and utilised the tomato sauce hubby made a short while ago. I made a coleslaw salad with lettuce, onion, kale, and carrots from the garden. I also got some cauliflower from the freezer and laid it in a dish.  I sautéed some courgette and spring onions from the  garden, this will be topped with the low fat cauliflower sauce I made a while ago and stashed in the freezer. Parmesan, again from the freezer was sprinkled to this and the top of the cottage pie and cauliflower cheese.  There is also a pot of blanched green beans which will be served with the cottage pie and gravy.

2 x Cottage pie, cauliflower cheese/breadcrumbs and sauce for the top,
leftover mash, boiled eggs.
I picked 12 plants but some had no beets on the end

Various sizes

Grilled Halloumi Salad

Baking, Cottage and icing ready for the sponge cakes
Last nights meal was salad and beetroot from the garden, coleslaw, grilled Halloumi and a boiled egg. Delicious. I did a little bit of baking while the meals were in the oven so that my budget went further,  having all those extra mouths to feed here and there. 

The budget left £19.70 less £5.99 on a magazine while I was away.  More on that tomorrow.  £13.71. Off to the beach now. Tx

Monday, 15 August 2016

4 weeks to Retirement and THE WEEKEND

4 weeks to retirement and I can't wait. I have a very busy week ahead of me as I have the grandchildren and work on the same day(Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday)!


We headed off with friends  to Leicester on Friday morning ready for a weekend away.  One of Hubby's presents for his 60th birthday in March from them was a 5 car driving experience. The circuit he chose was in Prestwold just outside Loughborough.  Our friends in car sat nav took us the M25/M1 way which was a mystery to me as I usually avoid the M25 at all costs. It also said we would arrive at 14:30 but thanks to horrendous traffic on the M25 and M1 we arrived at the hotel 17:00. Two nights at a Travelodge who's reception was full of 'help yourself' baskets of bottled water, coffee, tea, milk, sugar and squash for £64  plus 5% cash back,  an absolute bargain.

The track was 11 miles from the hotel and we set off at 9 the next day stopping in a Morrison's for breakfast  and to buy sandwiches for lunch time. Hubby had already chosen his 5 cars: Aston Martin, Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini and Audi R8. He was due on track at 12:30 but had to check-in an hour earlier to  undergo a safety briefing and track acclimatisation.  During the  acclimatisation you are driven around the track and shown what lines to take are and were you should brake and accelerate in order to get the best from your experience etc.

Bentley, Aston Martin, Audi R8
(solar farm behind)
It was a long day with both of them on the track at different times.  They both thoroughly enjoyed their experience. After hubby's 5 car experience he was entitled to a free lap of the track in a high speed Vauxhall VXR8 driven by an expert. He paid £10 for me to go along too.  It was scary to say the least, taking a hairpin bend at 80+ mpg was incredible. The days experiences is captured on cameras around the track and the in car recording. A USB dongle was purchased for £30 as it records you driving the cars and the speedometer (Very clever)
Image result for everyman prestwold circuit
Taken form Everyman website
 When the dongle was checked one of the recordings wasn't visible so they gave us some free prints.  However when we played it on TV last evening they were all there but the Porsche didn't record the speed. 
Fast cars......Solar farm to the right
Hubby getting ready to drive the Ferrari

Excited !
I took photos as the place was shutting at 18:00 as there were far too many people around to get any good shots.  I won't bore you with them all. The weather was kind despite the heavy cloud  and we had sunshine for a few hours in the afternoon.  The circuit itself was surrounded by solar farms in every direction.  You can see the rows of panels on the photo above to the right of the cars.

On the way home we stopped at Huntingdon  a very pretty small town for a late breakfast and mooch around. 

I'll be catching up on the garden, washing, ironing and cooking today.  I did buy a magazine out of the food budget while we were away and I'll need some things today so there will be a budget update today.   I hope you all had a great weekend. Bye for now. Tx.


Thursday, 11 August 2016

THANK YOU JO (through the Keyhole)

I haven't read a book in a long time, I have no idea why as I was always known for having a book in my bag and reading it at every opportunity.  I also have quite a varied taste when it comes to books, everything from Maeve Binchy to Dan Brown. A friend bought me Headhunter by Jo Nesbo a couple of years ago and I couldn't put the book down once I started it.  But since them I've rarely had the inclination to read.
Jo Through the Keyhole recently (30/07/2016) did precise of the books she had read through July and one books description  of a single mother struggling against adversity caught my eye. One Plus One by Jojo Moyes. 
Loved this book
I promptly dug out my library card and went to town to see if the local library had it. And they did but only in large print but I got it anyway.  I also ordered the audio version as it may help me sleep as I'm going through a really rough patch at the moment. I devoured the book, loving her humorous true to life style of writing whereby I laughed out loud on more than one occasion and have subsequently ordered 3 more by her. I will be attending the local library an absolute fantastic resource more often now my reading mojo is back.
A library card,
worth its weight in gold
I thought the book may give me some insight into the feelings and attitude of a single mother whos husband had walked out on her, as this is precisely what happened to my daughter at the beginning of this year. To say she and we were shocked would be an understatement. Its taken me four months to talk about it with friends and family because I was filled with both hatred loathing (for him) and sadness for her and the children who adored their father and couldn't work out what they'd done wrong. She is over the worst now and coping admirably.  We are so proud of how she has held her head high and everything together while still working full time. Love her so much.

I've got a tickly cough that's keeping me up at night so it doesn't take much to make me emotional at the moment, so I'll say bye for now. Tx


Tuesday, 9 August 2016


Welcome Thrifty Hippie Homestead,  do you have a blog? I will be following more blogs once I retire, it will give me something to peruse over while I drink my coffee in the mornings.

Thank you all for your comments  yesterday.  I will be returning to the subject of Pension decisions in a few weeks time.  Once hubby has received his forecast and I have mine we can make a more informed decision. 

When I returned home from work Sunday night at 10:30 hubby asked me if we had any teabags hidden any where as the stock tub was low and the top-up box was missing from the shelf.  I went outside to the workshop to look in my stash cupboard and SHOCK HORROR No STASH.
I date the packet and write on the inside how
 much its cost to give me a bench mark price
I used 'mysupermarket' to find the cheapest supplier for my brand (240's).  I've been paying £3 on offer and they last approx. 2 months according to the date I write o the box.  I do take my own tea bags to work rather than pay £5 tea club money! Tesco was the cheapest at £2.99 a whole £2 per box cheaper than most of the other leading supermarkets. Hubby works next door to a massive Tesco so yesterday he brought home 2 boxes. He took the coupon, cash and club card as they won't let you use the coupon without the card now for security reasons. The lady on the checkout was very impressed with a man using coupons and said she wished her other half would instead of wasting money! Hubby spend the £3.50 coupon and £1.48 cash leaving me with £22.97 cash. I shouldn't be stock piling when I've got so little money left but at that price I'd be a fool not to. I bought 6pt milk, plums and Halloumi cheese £3.27 at Lidl leaving £19.70.  The Halloumi is ideal to serve griddled with salad which we have plenty of and I love it.

Spring onion and kale picked this morning.
 One large courgette donation from a colleague

This morning I set about making tomorrows vegetable curry, it tastes so much better when allowed to rest for a day, all those lovely spices spread themselves through the ingredients and there is enough to freeze for another day. I used the large courgette but I had to cut the middle away as it was just starting to rot. I used onions, spring onions and kale from the garden, together with a tin of mixed beans and  tomatoes, curry paste and lots of garlic.
Veg curry tomorrows dinner

While I'm at work this afternoon, Hubby is off to help rescue a £800 fishing rod from the bottom of a very murky lake.  The owner wants it back and he is helping a friend who will dive the lake for it while hubby is tied to him as he is a qualified rescue diver.  

We have just taken delivery of the new garage doors from  B&Q, with hubbies over 60's discount, £5 welcome coupon, we saved £35 and free delivery! Now all he has to do is paint and fit them ;0) Updates to follow.

Must dash got to get ready for work shortly.  Bye for now. Tx


Monday, 8 August 2016

The Weekend

Thank you for all your comments over the weekend.  A big welcome to Jane thanks for following me.
I did my normal walk around the garden Sunday morning bringing back the produce I had picked or dug up.  Defrosting on the side was 2 chicken breasts and 2 quarter  pounder rich chilli beef burgers retrieved from the freezer when I first woke at 5.

Kale, carrots, peas, courgettes.
Being on late (2-10) for the next 3 shifts (Sun, Mon, Tues)  dictates the types of meals we have. I peeled the last of the potatoes in the cupboard and carrots from the garden.  I  washed and sliced the beans from yesterdays pick, shredded the kale and podded the few peas.  The carrots were cooked and a small bag of swede from the freezer was added to them 5 minutes before the finish cooking time. Hubby mashed the potatoes, then the carrot and swede, seasoning to taste.  The beans, peas and kale were boiled separately and drained using the cooking water for gravy.  Two chicken breasts were 'spatch cocked' and cooked. Sundays dinner was chicken, mash, carrot/swede mash, kale, beans, peas and gravy. Delicious and loads of veg left for today.
This morning I cooked the two chilli quarter pounders having sliced them in two to cook quicker.  I plated up the veg from yesterday and made an onion gravy.  Lots of veg left for tomorrow!! I have made another bowl of fruit salad using half a melon, the last of the grapes, a nectarine and apple. A tin of mandarins and 5 strawberries from the garden. The two small bowls are the last of Saturdays fruit salad with a fomage frais topping.  

We do love gravy  ;0)

Posh bubble and squeak me thinks, as hubby is home Tuesday, he's only working one day this week.  Tomorrow I'll sauté some finely chopped onion and garlic before adding it to the left over mash, carrot/swede and kale. It will be gently fried to give it some crispy colour. This will be served with griddled Scottish black pudding and poached egg. Photos to follow tomorrow.

The giant courgette was given to me by a colleague yesterday, they had 3. I have one normal size one and a tiny one in the fridge to use up to.  I think I'll make a vegetable curry with it tomorrow.  We can have some Wednesday and the rest will be frozen.  Thursday's meal will be  lucky dip from the freezer.  I don't have to worry about Friday or Saturday as we are out and I'll think about Sunday when it gets here. There is plenty of food in the cupboards and freezer.
I will find a use for most  things before I resort to putting them in the bin.  Tendring council do not take food packaging, so I try to save most of the fruit containers for sowing as well as the small yoghurt pots which are ideal plug plant size containers. The compost caddy is an old coffee container from the USA last year, it has a snap on plastic lid and is just the right size to sit on the work top. It is filled with all the peelings from home grown and bought produce ready to make lovely rich compost for next years growing season.  How brilliant is that? What do you use old packaging for?

Back soon, budget update tomorrow.  Bye for now Tx



5 weeks  to retirement WOW!  I'm sitting listening to Smooth radio which I love because it plays lots of stuff from the 70's & 80's. Barry White is on, the sun is shinning, life is great and it won't be long before I don't have to 'clock watch' before having to get ready for work.  However, the closer I get the more decisions I am going to have to make.  I have quite a bit of leave before my actual official retirement date in October and my 60th Birthday.  The Civil Service Pensions will write to me approximately 6 weeks (mid Sept) before retirement with details of my proposed pension and the packages available to me. I will then have to instruct them how I want my pension paid so everything is done and dusted by my birthday. As I haven't had an up to date pension statement in 18 months and the last one was wrong, I'm not sure what is in the fund.I have the additional complication that I am buying added years to enhance the final payment, so none of the online calculators can help me. 
Great website but no use to me as they
 don't have a calculator for added years!
 The choice offered is: Taking the entire fund as a pension which for obvious reason gives you a much higher annual pension OR a cash lump sum and a lower annual pension. WHAT WOULD YOU DO & WHY, if you had the choice of £10250 a year pension (no lump sum) or £45000 lump sum and £6950 pension a year? I've had lots of peoples opinions at work for both types of pension and reasons why. But I do value yours.
After taking some professional advice Hubby has also decided to take his private pension early, we have been told he will be entitled to an enhanced annuity due to his medical history.  We are awaiting the facts and figures regarding his fund and options available by the 19th August. SO MORE DECISIONS to make.  

Interest rates cut to 0.25% first reduction since 2009

Hubby treated me to a newspaper at the weekend, it was full of doom and gloom. The recent interest rate drop to bolster the economy before we head into a period of change or  recession depending on which ever political slant  you want to put it. The rate change will be good for mortgage payers but bad for savers (what's new!).  Imports will cost more due to the pound  being weak against other currencies, meaning almost everything will start to rise in price, food, electricals and household goods. Apparently Employers are getting jittery about taking on staff. Without getting into any heavy politics, perhaps this is the kick up the backside the UK needs to start producing more ourselves! Our industry used to be based around manufacturing but now we are a service industry nation. Gyms, nail salons, home cleaners, car valets, shops are all service industries just to name a few. You can't supply a service if people don't have the money to buy it. But people will always find the money for that washing machine or TV which was made in Europe! NUFF SAID!
Image result for Nail Salon Cartoon
Nail Salons
A typical service industry
 that has expanded massively
Hope you had a lovely weekend.  I'll be back shortly with a weekend catchup. Bye for now. Tx.