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Monday, 16 October 2017

Are You Ready?

You probably already know that today is the 30th anniversary of the 1987 GREAT STORM you know the one the famous weatherman Michael Fish said wasn't going to happen.  Unfortunately it wasn't his fault but he certainly became the brunt of lots of jokes and media attention. Ireland are bracing themselves for 90mph winds this morning and we are due to get a much lessor form with torrential rain on the east coast later today. From what I've read Ophelia could potentially be the worst storm in 57 years. So stay safe folks. Do you remember the storm?

I have to say when I woke early this morning it was grey, wet and dismal, in such contrast to the last 3 days weather of a balmy sunny 20+ degrees. But as I sit typing the sun is coming through so I will be able to get the washing done.  We went around the garden last night putting things inside the shed, weighting bits down and moving the patio furniture Are you ready for the storm? 

The Cretans, natives  of Crete told us that it had been an extremely windy year on the island, apparently August had real blustery weather.  Hubby booked a couple of dives for Monday 2nd October at a local dive centre and they said it would go ahead as long as the weather was good. He managed to get both dives in despite a strong breeze. I went on board the boat to watch the dives but decided to stay on land for the second as the swaying about got a bit too much.  
Getting ready to go in
We always visit local places when we are away and none better than the local market which is 80% fresh food.  Just look at that fruit and veg piled high and so cheap when you consider its by the kilo.  We bought local honey, tomatoes and some figs.  
Orange and Thyme Honey

Delicious fruit and veg.  Tomatoes the size of apples.

I only wish the  photo of the bags of potatoes had come out, they were huge and cost 50 cents (44p) a kilo. Lots of this produce would be classed as wonky veg here in the UK but after tasting  the figs and tomatoes I wish we had more of it here.  We seem to have uniform produce with no flavour, which was the added impetus for me to grow as much as I could myself.  

The garden is still dictating what we eat, we've had lots of salads because there was lettuce, cucumbers, beetroot and tomatoes to use up.  The beetroot are huge and yesterday I picked some more. We had some roasted, today they have been diced with onion, seasoned and balsamic vinegar drizzled over. Delicious.  Tomorrow they with be served griddled with sausages, swede and carrot mash and onion gravy. I've also made some soup from bits I had in the fridge for lunch times. I've run out of potatoes now so it will be rice or pasta until pay day on the 22nd. I will get hubby to dig over the area again to check for any spare ones. I'm still getting raspberries albeit small and I've been making trifles with them, one punnet has gone into the freezer for Christmas.  I am compiling a shopping list at the moment so that I can continue to utilise the bits in the freezer and cupboards.  Bye for now. Tx

Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Budget and The Holiday

My pension payday was also the same day we went on holiday the 22nd September. So on our return from holiday I only had two weeks before I get paid again which is great for my Christmas savings.  I already had 2 x £5 Morrisons money off vouchers in my purse and then these arrived in the post while we were away.

I tried to work out the best way to use the vouchers to get the very most out of them while keeping spending to a minimum  so I continue to use up what I have in the freezer and cupboards. I compiled a shopping list on Mysupermarket making sure I had broccoli, bread and milk so that I earned the extra 1650 points which equates to £1.65 towards the next £5. I spent £40.38 and used the £5 off voucher  £35.38. I also went into Lidl for their weekend offers.  I got 2 mature crunchy cheese @£1.14 320g as these were better value than the Vintage 250g for the same price. I picked up 1 luxury muesli and 2 apricots costing £4.45 (TOTAL £39.83) All I need over the next 12 days is milk, bread and some fruit/veg is its on offer and can be stored. I decided not to  use the £10 vouchers. I will earn another £5 when I use the 5000 points coupon for spending £40.  The last date I can use this is the 29th Oct which means it will fall into next months budget. I'd like to hold on to the vouchers for the Nov/Dec period. Furthermore,  I hope to keep the Sept/Oct, Oct/Nov food budget to £50 each.  I'm giving the triple points coupon to hubby and asked if he'll use it to purchase the Christmas booze which is his responsibility. 

This seems a good time to mention why I continue to budget, well it allows me to spend more money on the things I love like holidays. Crete is a beautiful Greek Island not cheap like Spain which came as a bit of a shock but as our meals were included it didn't matter too much.  There was a super yatch in our bay (Agios Nikolias) owned by  billionaire Roman Abramovich the owner of Chelsea. It was huge, with helicopters, speed boats and amazing lighting. If you want to know how the other half live Google the super yatch ECLIPSE it cost $500 million to build in 2010.  Although he wasn't on board the yatch has been there a while  as he is looking to invest in an undeveloped part of the island nearby. 

Back soon. Tx
I went to the market Friday and bought a few bits costing £2.50, 6 PTS of milk from Iceland £1.48 so total so far: £43.81. £6-19 left and 7 days till payday.  How is your low- spend October going? 

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Sad Good-byes.

I said goodbye to a dear friend and colleague yesterday. After being given a year to live she slipped away peacefully after 4 short weeks.  This was read by her sibling and I loved every word.

The Dash
by Linda Ellis
I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning to the end
He noted that first came her date of her birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years
For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not how much we own;
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left,
That can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger,
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect,
And more often wear a smile
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy is being read
With your life’s actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?
© 1996 All Rights Reserved,

It makes you think.........Back soon. Tx

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

A Little White Lie

Hello, I have a confession to make, I told a little fib about my holiday.  I actually went on holiday earlier than I posted.  The reason I did this was, you just never know who is monitoring what you say.  We probably all know people who gladly post on social media that they are travelling to some far flung country. Yet with a little careful searching you can find out their mobile phone number, where they live,  work and socialise. 
I still find this absolute  madness and it wouldn't surprise me if in the future Insurance Companies look for a 'get out clause' if you are found guilty of telling hundreds of people you are away on holiday and that your house is probably empty.

We actually flew to Crete on Friday 22nd September and returned early hours of Saturday morning after two weeks of warm sunshine, delicious food and complete rest. Thanks to Wi-Fi being so readily available (and much better than parts of the UK) I was able to publish some posts I'd already written while I was away. Since returning we have been catching up with family over the last three days as it was our youngest daughters 33rd Birthday Sunday. And of course the garden has needed tending.
Chillies and cucumbers

Still more cucumbers to come

There doesn't appear to have been much rain while I've been away the water butt is low but the greenhouse has carried on producing much to my surprise as nothing was being watered.  I picked 4 cucumbers on Saturday and 3lb of tomatoes. The chillies in the dehydrator have dried out ready to be ground in to flakes for soups and stews.
I've rotating the tomatoes and these are next to be used

The ripe  tray of tomatoes will go in the fridge 
Today I have picked another 3-4lb of tomatoes. The tomatoes I left in the bathroom while I was away are slowly continuing to ripen which is just what I wanted, this way they'll last. The pears I put away in the garage didn't fair too well, I had to throw some of them away so I'm pleased I made some into pie filling. I have pulled out the last courgette plant as its finally stopped producing. The last green bean plants have been harvested, the pods will be dried for next years seeds and rest of the plant composted. 
Back soon with some holiday photos and my budget as we speed towards Christmas. Bye for now. Tx

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Up Against It

We go on holiday 3-4 times a year. Its normally 2 trips abroad, one in spring and one in Autumn.  The UK hols vary from long weekends to 7-10days.  We choose spring and autumn as the garden has less going on and I don't have to rely on others to take responsibility for it. In addition places are normally cooler and quieter! Although  I have gradually been putting the garden to bed there has been lots of produce to sort out before we go. I can't abide waste and going on holiday for two weeks means I have to think about what would keep in its fresh state while and what  will need to be preserved in some form or another. I've really been up against it getting everything done. 

The 2 very large butternut squash were removed from the plant and put in the workshop with the bought ones.  I'm not worried about them as they keep for ages. The pears and the very last of the damsons were put in the workshop were it is cool and dark. The pears were all checked, any that had serious blemishes on them or were soft were sliced and made into a pie filling with blackberries and cinnamon.
I'm down to one bowl of damsons and after doing everything humanly possible to them over the last week or so, they will be left. If they are OK on our return...BONUS!

The tomatoes from the garden were still very green and having seen  there is the possibility of storms while we are away I decided to pick them. (I always wash all produce and dry them thoroughly before storing) I put them on a tray and left them in the bathroom which is a bright room but not as hot as the conservatory. I want to stall their ripening as much as possible. 
The solid red tomatoes went on a plate in the fridge. I left some tomatoes in the greenhouse on the plants and the cucumber which still have cucumbers forming were trimmed right back to let a much light/heat as possible in now the days are shorter. 
The majority of chillies which are small but mighty powerful have been picked and placed in the dehydrator for the time we are away, once completely dried they will be chopped in the processor ready to give some va-va-voom to soups and stews!

The last 5 cucumbers were made into relish (3 jars), while the odd soft red toms and  a few green tomatoes  were made into  a single  jar of sweet and sour chutney. All the 20 capsicum peppers were picked as the majority had turned yellow. They were diced and laid out to open freeze before being bagged up! Dinner is bottom of the fridge stew with chicken at least  all the last bits got used up including half a cucumber!

There is still lots of beetroot in the garden, garlic, carrots, a few courgettes and some very thin leeks.  After all this preparation I'm looking forward to my holiday. My shopping bills on return should be relatively low as the freezer is full and the cupboards are laden with goodies. Now I know how those homesteaders of yesteryear felt when they settled down for winter knowing there was plenty of food stashed away. Tx

Friday, 29 September 2017

Help with Spring Plans Needed

We inherited the 8x10 greenhouse when we brought the house.  I've loved growing in it and I've learnt so much over the last 4 years.  Speaking with hubby the other night I suggested we get rid of the old greenhouse and use the opportunity to reposition a new smaller one.  The glass on the old one is getting brittle and everytime I open a vent I worry it's going to shatter and fall in on me.  Plus despite hubby building a fence around it I have concerns when the grandchildren play in the garden.
Has anyone got a polycarbonate greenhouse? Their claim to fame is that they are safer, don't require shading and are warmer in the winter.

A smaller greenhouse would free up an area for some more beds closer to the house. I don't want too big an area as I know I can grow plenty in the area I have. The additional space will be for fruit. Any help gratefully received.  Bye for now. Tx

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

The Preserving Continues

I've mentioned before that I do a tour of the garden and greenhouse every morning to check what is available to pick.  The choice is getting less and less as we hurtle into  Autumn but the warm sunshine we are having in Essex is still managing to ripen  things that have managed to survive the wind of late.  The cucumbers are still coming thick and fast.  (Note to oneself only have 2 plants next year or maybe 3 just in case) This was the pile of goodies from yesterdays walkabout.  10 cucumbers and still another 4 getting bigger by the day. 

I still had enough ingredients to make another batch of sweet cucumber relish so I was able to use 7 of the cucumbers. It made two large jars and 1 smaller jar. 
Then thanks to the sun the tray of green tomatoes that I left in the conservatory were now juicy and red, just right for tomato chilli jam.  I'm still using frozen 2015 chillies. I've run out of the sheets of labels that I use in my printer and I will be ordering more as I use them for lots of different things.  Next came the kale,  I had been putting this job off as its fiddly. After picking the rest of the kale, it was washed, shredded roughly and blanched in boiling water for 2 minutes. It was then dunked in ice water, towel dried and laid out to open freeze, then bagged up. 

Plums next.  I've been champing at the bit to have a go at making fruit leather. The damson plums were cut in half and stoned, then placed on a baking tray in an oven for 15 minutes at 140c. They were whizzed up with some sugar and the mixture  spread thinly  over a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.  The weather forecast was good and the sunshine did its job in the solar dehydrator. After slicing which isn't easy it was rolled up and placed in a Kilner jar. Its lovely, chewy and full of fruity flavour a great sweetish fix instead of chocolate. I hope to make some apple leather and some more plum.  

Its not a great photo of the dehydrator but the sky/sun reflects on acrylic sheet. After slicing and dicing for hours  on end there was just one thing left to do, I made celery soup. I slipped one of the cucumbers in the mix, hehe!  One less cucumber and 2 x 2 portions of delicious fresh soup. 

It was an exhausting busy day but lots of goodies made and I enjoyed myself. I've run out of jars now so its time to text family and friends to source some more.              RANT WARNING 
JARS are so expensive to buy new which is quite frankly  REDICULOUS! Its cheaper for me to go into Asda and buy their value range mint sauce or jam, empty the contents into the bin then buy jars on line.  RANT OVER.  Bye for now. Tx 

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Monthly Finances

Well its pension day tomorrow  (22nd) and up until the 14th I'd managed to keep my spending to £44.48 well on target being under £75. But then I bumped into a friend while out walking who said Morrison's had all their Christmas chocolates on offer in store. As we only use Morrisons for petrol and the occasional bits its takes and absolute age to get a £5 voucher these days.  In April I had my points transferred to hubbies card and we just use the one. On Thursday the points stood at 4795 which meant I needed to spend £40+ to earn a voucher.  As luck would have it hubby had an email regarding earning an additional 5000 (£5) if you spent £40 between 14th -17th September. So Thursday evening  I headed to Morrisons armed with a shopping list that consisted 2 larger tubs of chocs £8, 5 x smaller choc packs £10, 3 packs of other chocs £3, Jar of coffee on offer £4, winter tights £4, cheddar on offer £3. (£32).  The remaining money went on things that can be stored like 3 butternut squash for £2, 6pts milk, etc.

Amount spent £45.94 and yesterday hubby was given vouchers when he filled up with petrol.  2 x £5 vouchers which will give me an excellent start next month.

So total spend for Aug/Sept £88.94, not bad when I've still got so much stored. we're still eating meals from the freezer because there is more than enough
in there. However as fast as I'm making space its being filled with produce from the garden.  I know it will be useful throughout the coming months but I really wanted space for Christmas bits.  I always feel that once the clocks go back in October which is a tad over 5 weeks away  Christmas comes along very fast.   Do you buy bits in advance of Christmas? Back soon. Tx

Monday, 18 September 2017

An Unusual Post

Us Brits have a worldwide reputation for making conversation about the weather and I think it's probably true. Unlike lots of other countries  of the world our little island can experience a wealth of different weather fronts all in the space of 24 hours. Our weather is so changeable it must be one of the most over used words in the meteorological dictionary.

When we went to Leicester last month we arrived in beautiful sunshine and promptly opened the windows and put the fan on inside the hotel room as it was so warm.  Less than 12 hours later it was 9 degrees cooler with  thick cloud that eventually turned to heavy rain with hailstones the size of marbles.  Then the sun came out dried up all the rain and incy wincy spider climbed the spout again......sorry I digress.
Last Sunday I found myself thinking hurricane Irma had crossed the Atlantic at break neck speed and reached the UK as it was so windy, the sky was full of angry dark clouds and the rain when it arrived was heavy and almost horizontal! During the week  we went from one extreme to the other with weather warnings about flash flooding and gale force winds. 

In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.  Well that's the official explanation.
Most people say 'small causes can have longer effects'. 

So to my question: 
Is all the bomb testing in North Korea having an effect on 
our weather systems of late? I believe you can't go firing bombs into the
atmosphere without it causing  something! What happens to all those
displaced molecules? I do hope there is some scientist bloggers who can explain. 

The USA have experienced dreadful disasters of late. 
Hurricane Harvey and the flooding in Texas, followed 
swiftly by hurricane Irma that had a magnitude not witnessed before. 
There has been flooding across India, Nepal and Bangladesh. An earthquake of 8.1
in Mexico. Yesterday my friend in Denmark posted a picture on Facebook of the Copenhagen half marathon which was abruptly cancelled half way through due to a snow storm. I know we have natural disasters every year but its seems they have been in quick succession of each other and of degrees not heard of before. Some would believe Global Warming is alive and well and living amongst us. Either way they are 'man made'.  Do you have any thoughts about this? 

PS: Thank you for all the lovely comments regarding the tea cosy.  I am going to attempt to adapt the pattern for a coffee cafetiere.......for me. 

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

At Long Last

Its been an absolute age but I've only gone and done it........I've finished my friends tea cosy! Yeeha! I bought the pattern when I was visiting her in April this year, we were standing outside a wool shop when she said look at those lovely knitted cosies.  They were beautiful so I went in the shop and bought the pattern.  Once home I purchased the wool and started. I chose the moss rib stitch cosy as its very stretchy and not knowing the exact size of the tea pot it will adorn I thought it was the safest option.  I lost track how many times I pulled it apart and restarted it.  Over time I became familiar with the pattern which helped when it came to the shaping.  Every line of the pattern was different and once again I confess it was pulled clean off the needles numerous times.  

I used to knit  quite a bit when the children where younger and money was tight.  My mum would knit the children's stuff and I would knit mine.  I used to go each month and buy a ball of Sidar something or another for my latest chunky cardigan. Thank goodness they had a lay by scheme or I wouldn't have been able to afford it. Working full time and shift work put and end to lots of crafty things I used to do so now I'm retired I thought it would be easy to just pick up again.

Unfortunately I will not be seeing my friend on her birthday but another friend is going up to Tyneside to see her next  week and has offered to take the present with her.  Knowing her Birthday was looming meant I had to knuckle down and finish it. I don't have a tea pot so I put it over a plastic jug in order to take the photo. I wanted to learn to crochet flowers as I feel they always look so much better than knitted flowers. The crochet flowers have been a disaster, I'm all fingers and thumbs when trying to watch the YouTube tutorial and do it at the same time, so I did a couple of the flowers from the pattern instead. 

As you can see I wrote a little card to put with it which reads:

This tea cosy was made with extra stitches, dropped stitches and a few too many swear words. But most of all it was made with love. 
I hope it ruddy fits. 

I simply had to buy the little porcelain pastry forks when I saw them as she loves any thing like that and they were in the sale. My friend doesn't know I blog so my secret is safe.  I just need a small bar of chocolate to go in the bag and its good to go.  Small as I know she's on Weight Watchers but everyone knows that chocolate doesn't contain Smart Points or Calories when eaten on your Birthday! I hope she likes it and  I hope it fits.

Many thanks for all your seasonal comments. We have high winds today but lots of sunshine too.  I hope you haven't suffered to badly from the effects of Storm Aileen.  Bye for now. Tx 

Monday, 11 September 2017

Tired Oh So Tired

Last Monday was my final grandchildren minding session of the holidays and if I'm completely honest a little voice inside my head was saying 'Thank the Lord for that'. I love them to bits but my time wasn't my own anymore.  So knowing I could do what I wanted for the rest of the week  I went a little crazy on Tuesday and Wednesday tidying more areas of the garden preparing them for winter. Then I had more preserving to do as my freezer diving had freed up more space. Every minute has been filled with something and now I feel tired, oh so tired.

I do this every time, you'd think I would have learnt by now,  after all I'm getting older and Rome wasn't built in a day.  But then you have to make hay while the sun shines  don't you? We've  had some lovely sunshine on the Essex coast but there is a chill in the air too, especially the mornings and evenings. Out of the four seasons of the year I would rank my least favourite as winter. Number one has to be spring because its the first signs of life, the start of new beginnings.  Summer comes next on my list and  then autumn.  What's your favourite season? 
What's your favourite season? 

My spending has remained on track, I used the Iceland £5 and Asda £5.28 for  essentials milk, bread, sugar, squash, fruit and a 39p pointed cabbage from Lidl. I spent  £1.09 bringing my total so far to £43. I pretty much have this weeks meals sorted and the only thing I need is 6 pints of milk which will take me through to Friday. 

Would you believe that tomorrow (12th September) I celebrate being retired for one whole year, boy oh boy its gone quickly. I have learnt so much during the last twelve months. Firstly, the free-time you believed retirement would bring doesn't exist! In addition,  when I worked I always hankered after having  more outside space to grow stuff and have chickens etc My current garden is approximately 36ft x 90ft and we have a 10ft x 8ft greenhouse. I've learnt this is more than enough space for our needs and lifestyle. Furthermore,  I can cope with this without it taking over my/our life. I've been better at successional sowing and hope to build on this by getting a few more spring crops sown. My preserving skills have  gone from strength to strength and I've contacted with my card making. The only area I've failed abysmally on is my sewing. I really thought I'd have more time to get my sewing machine out and make stuff, the material is ready and waiting but the time just runs away from me. Perhaps autumn will be different but I doubt it as we really need to get some decorating done before winter.  At least hubby will be around more to help, he's been covering holiday shortages and worked full time for the last 6 weeks. Our house was completely painted over 4 years ago and some walls are looking a little shabby, and most of the skirting could do with a  good gloss. So that's next on the agenda. Bye for now. Tx

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Freezer Fortnight (AKA Freezer diving)

Monday was  not only the first day of my freezer fortnight it was also the first time since April I have had to put my housecoat on when I got up as the house felt chilly. In reality it was 19 degrees but it was so miserable and grey outside it made it  seem colder. I shall be having this 'freezer fortnight'  every month from now until Christmas in order to use up lots of the bits lurking at the bottom of the freezer.  I have been concentrating my efforts on the chest freezer and there is some space in there now. I'm hoping by the end of this fortnight I can have a big batch cook that will provide the majority of meals for the rest of the month.

I have spent £41.91 since the 22nd August and thanks to my Iceland Summer Bonus I have £5 to spend with them.  We popped in Asda on Saturday evening so hubby could get some razors and whisky for himself, I put some bits in the basket too and the bill came to £29.47. Later that evening I did the price guarantee thing and got a coupon for £5.28 wow! So that's £10.28 I can spend in Iceland and Asda without it costing me a penny! This will keep me on track to keep my spending under £75 this month, there is after all only 16 days left till pay day so its doable.  

More preserving took place over the weekend. I lifted the rest of the beetroot from one bed and they filled the pressure cooker.  Once cooled some were layered  in a tub between cereal packet waxy paper as nothing sticks to this and frozen. I left two large ones out to serve with out dinner and the rest were pickled in a balsamic recipe from the internet. 

Frozen beetroot, pickled beetroot & damson jam

Hubby checked the damsons and picked those that were ready and he made some damson jam.  Next was another batch of sweet cucumber relish as I had  4 ripe cucumbers. The weather forecast of sunshine this week seems to have disappeared but I did manage to dehydrate another batch of fruit.  The fruit leather will go on hold until I can guarantee a couple of days of drying weather.  
Peeled and seeded ready for dicing

Monday's evening meal was mushroom and vegetable risotto with a sprinkling of cheese.  I am trying to increase our meat free days to at least 7 a month.  Instead of meat I will use lentils, chickpeas, eggs. cheese, nuts, fish and other forms of protein which are healthier. 
Risotto is a  comfort food

I had the grandchildren for the last time on Monday and they will all be back at school by Wednesday so I have some time to myself at last.  I  am on a mission this week to get more of the garden tidied and get some decorating done. The house was completely painted four years ago  after it was newly plastered but it is staring to look tired in places.  We need some new bits and pieces  and I know its going to be a headache choosing things. More on that subject another day. Back soon, bye for now Tx

Thanks as always for all your lovely comments.