Saturday, 30 November 2013

Ups and downs

Good things to report in that we had a successful shopping trip to Aldi with our vouchers, and I called in at Morrison's for the turkey legs that everyone has been raving about - we had one ages ago and it yielded a load of meat, so I bought two today and stashed them in the freezer.  That will be our turkey ration for the holiday season, although I think a three-bird roast may be on the menu for the day itself.

We also went into the supermarket and picked up a big parcel holding the clothes we had ordered with our clubcard boost vouchers, and we were pleased with it all.

The downside of the day is that the FH feels that he has been left too long, even though the EFG was here with him all the time that the YFG and I were out at gym and shopping.  The girls both report that he constantly asks whoever is here with him how long it is until I will be home again, so I am becoming more and more conscious of leaving him for any length of time.  Today was a longer than usual Saturday for us, too, since we were out to gym at 9.30am and it was shortly before 4pm when we returned.

The second slight problem is that after a little trouble with the front loading USB ports on my desktop, it now resolutely refuses to even turn on!  It seems to have died completely, so I shall have to see if my computer guru can resurrect it!  I'm not holding out a lot of hope, but I will ask him.  The Iconia tablet that the YFG had for her birthday as well as the chapel music one are both being dodgy scrolling down pages on the internet tonight, so I am beginning to think that the computer world and I have fallen out.......I am on the EFG's laptop now and got everything crossed that we get to the end of this post before it conks out on me!

If I need to replace that desktop, it will put a serious hole in the budget, but as we have seen, these things are sent to try us, and we will find ways to manage it all in the end!  At least I haven't bought anything huge like a car this year, so I suppose I can afford a basic computer if the need arises.

I am sitting here tonight, rebooting the washing machine at intervals and watching The Bible on Channel 5, the first in a series of dramatisations of the Bible.  It has already stimulated a couple of questions from the YFG that I was challenged to answer at this time of night and this level of tiredness.

Hoping for a more cheerful day tomorrow somehow - there is a Christmas carol concert at one of the circuit churches tomorrow evening at which a brass band is playing and if the FH feels up to it, I am hoping to attend.

Friday, 29 November 2013

'Tis the week...

for turning on the town's Christmas lights!  One town tonight, one tomorrow and hey presto, half the gym class didn't turn up tonight, so two guesses where they all were?  Made for a quiet and strangely good session in which the children who were there all worked even harder than usual because there were 6 coaches and only 13 children, so they all got tonnes of attention!

A ding dinner tonight as we had two pork chops leftover from yesterday, with assorted veg and some boiled potatoes.  It was a matter of a few minutes to slice and saute the potatoes, open a tin of beans to stretch the veg and spoon some more warmed apple sauce over the chops.  Two large chops were divided between the FH, EFG and I [and he definitely got more veg than meat!] and the YFG had a portion of lasagne from the freezer.  We will now be having a couple of vegetarian days as we have had meat two days running.  Tomorrow is the last day on the planner....shall have to get December sorted tomorrow before I go shopping so that I only buy what I Need.

I went to see the nurse practitioner at the surgery this morning about the FH's pills and all the conflicting advice that we are getting, and she reminded me that actually the FH is in charge, and if he doesn't want to risk the gout medication he tried this time last year again, then he doesn't have to.  We are looking at perhaps trying to focus on managing the pain, rather than trying to manage the gout, as that might be a better approach, and one less fraught with dangerous medications!  A referral to a pain management clinic could be sought, but has to be done by a consultant, so it is likely that we will ask the rheumatologist to do that next time we see him.  One thing we have definitely decided, as a result of the discussions we have had today after I came home, is that he is starting nothing new until after Christmas, as hospital at Christmas is not what we want!  His wrist is definitely improving, and we are still looking into alternative therapies.

Hope you all have a great weekend with your friends and families xxx

Lidl's doing it too!

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For those of you who don't have an Aldi within striking distance, it would be worth knowing that Lidl have a printable voucher on their Facebook page for fans to download.  This one is worth £5 off your shopping when you spend £35.  Hope that helps someone....

Thursday, 28 November 2013

All spent out!

I have had a clear out of those vouchers from that supermarket, and told the girls they could choose £50 worth of clothes each.  With the Boost offer that is on at the moment, it meant that £50 of vouchers would actually buy me £100 of clothes.  The girls have both been in need of various items for a while and this was a way to enable them to choose what they wanted without costing me too much!  After all, those vouchers were given to me in the first place and hadn't cost me anything.

They both put the items in the shopping bag earlier in the week but I didn't quite realise how to boost the vouchers, so I didn't get to do it until tonight - what a result that was!  There is a 25% off promotion going on over the weekend, so their £100 of clothes cost me £75 of vouchers and enabled me to add a pair of jeans, a cardigan and two pairs of welly socks to the list for little old me!  All in all, we have ordered £132 worth of clothes, and I have actually paid out £1.25.  They are being delivered free of charge to our local store and we will be able to pick them up on Saturday, when we are in town for gym anyway.  I call that a bargain!

I have also picked up my two copies of the Daily Mirror for the Aldi £5 vouchers, and noticed that the extra little coupons are also for some useful items this time, so I shall be adding a few of those things to the list, especially the icing sugar!

The girls have been busy this evening - they decided that they wanted to put some of the best photos from the Norway trip onto a calendar for Grandad for his Christmas gift, so they have been sorting through the snaps and choosing their favourites.  Hope he likes it!!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Heads up - Aldi voucher tomorrow

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Just checked on the Facebook page and there WILL be a voucher for £5 off a £40 spend in the Daily Mirror [England and Wales] and the Daily Record [Scotland] tomorrow!  Don't forget to get the paper, and you will usually have a week to use the voucher.

Seventeen years

They have flown past and we have done so much growing in so many ways since then!  Seventeen years ago today we were married in Cupar registry office, with a small band of friends, and a 12 week old baby in attendance as the only family representative.

I wore a £10 cream two piece outfit from the Save the Children shop in St Andrews, and the FH wore his suit.  We had a shared buffet back at the house after the wedding, and then another small gathering of friends in the evening - I think the baby and I had a nap in between!  I made a wheat-and-dairy-free cake and a neighbour iced and decorated it with tartan ribbons for me.

All the money in the world spent on that wedding wouldn't have made the marriage any different over the past seventeen years, I am convinced, and so we celebrate the intervening years more than the day we said we did.  We still "do" all the promises, and we have thought about having the marriage blessed, and in our typical fashion, we still haven't got around to it.

Looking back at the photos, I can see that things have changed: all bar the marriage and the rings and the child have gone by the wayside.  Some of the witnesses are not together themselves any longer, the FH can't fit in to the suit these days, my outfit went back to the charity shop as I had lost weight and it didn't fit, and we have moved so far from that time and place.  We are older and perhaps a little wiser; if not wiser, certainly more experienced as we have learned new things.

Marriage is a day-in, day-out commitment which is something of a rarity in this day and age, when things change so often, and the trend seems to be for people to have a short attention span.  It needs to be flexible enough to bend when times change, strong enough to support us when times are tough, and precious enough to cherish all the day long.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Only just today

About 20 minutes before it becomes tomorrow, and I am sitting up waiting for the washing machine to finish a spin cycle so that I can hang the laundry on the airers in the sitting room where the wood stove is keeping it all warm and toasty!  The crisis is that the EFG got something on her gym trousers tonight, and so I had to wash them for her to wear again tomorrow.  Trouble is that she didn't tell me until past 10pm, but the good news is that there was a whole load of dark stuff to go in with them, so it wasn't a wasted wash.

A good trip to Papworth this morning and the cardiologist was able to confirm that the FH's heart is beating well.  He's been well tested, with an X-ray, echocardiogram, blood tests and ECG, so they should have found any problems if there were any.  We did have a lot of waiting around to do, and my thoughts were rather uncharitable towards a gentleman in the waiting room with a quite grating voice who just did not give it a rest - he talked incessantly to anyone who would listen - and he hardly drew breath.  His poor wife was lovely but hardly said a word - perhaps she was used to not being able to get a word in edgeways.  We sat in companionable silence....  More pills have been prescribed for the gout.

The YFG has had the cleaning bug overcome her whilst I have been at gym this evening, and I have come home to a couple of cleaned-out cupboards - hope it gets her again one day!

UJ has gone to bed for another night, and he will take the FH to the lunch club tomorrow.  He may even stay and attend the village history group talk tomorrow evening: he is becoming well-known at several village groups, and we feel that he is fitting in well and enjoying himself here.  He is always welcome!
He did have one minor catastophe this morning when he melted the bottom out of a plastic bucket when he thought he would clean out the grate, but what is a bucket between mates?!  We had a very relaxing evening at his house, and were fast asleep by 10.30pm last night.  The views from the bedroom window were stunning this morning, and we saw the sunlight reflecting off the vapour trails of some aircraft early, which was a lovely sight.  The drive to Papworth was similarly beautiful, with the bright sunshine reflecting the full glory of the changing leaves.

I can hear the washing machine in take-off mode, so the spinning is nearly finished.  I shall just have time to turn the computer off and then it will be done.  I hope you all have a peaceful night, and I shall "see" you tomorrow xxx

Monday, 25 November 2013

Monday's musing

I've checked the bank balances, read the meters, checked over the menu for the week, and I'm all set up for the week ahead.......I've just got to make more leek and potato soup [I could live on that stuff!] and get our bags packed, as the FH and I are off to UJ's house, ready for Papworth at 0830 tomorrow.....

UJ has arrived and we have been out to get straw for the chook runs, which I am about to go and spread out.  UJ has wisely brought his wellies.  The girls will be home at 3.50, and UJ will take the YFG to her extra piano lesson tonight.  He's a star - worth his weight in gold for the support he extends to us all.  We really appreciate him, and look forward to him coming to stay each time - he's here now until after the lunch club on Wednesday.

I did promise to report on the success of the savings strategy: November is going a whole heap better than October did, that is for sure!  We have increased our tallies by about £700 so far this month, and I still have hopes of making it to the round thousand.  If I can do the same next month, we will hit our revised target of £7.5K for the year.  Slightly down on the ambitious £9K I started out aiming for, but always better to aim high, I think!

I have read rumours on the interweb that there might be another Aldi £5 voucher in the Mirror this Thursday, so I will keep my eyes and ears open to more information about that.  If it does happen, I shall probably be buying two papers again, so that I could do two shops in the week, although I shall have to seriously consider our December menu before I go mad in the shops because I also have a £5 off a £40 spend from that other supermarket.  I am not going to spend 3 lots of £40 in a week, so I need to think carefully about what needs to be restocked and where I can get the best prices on the items, before I go shopping.  It pays to think before you shop!

The other tip I can share this week is that when you let teenagers know that you have only got £10 in your budget for this weekend's top-up-on-fruit-and-veg shop, they are much much less likely to want to tag along.......the EFG has realised that I love saving my money and will really only spend £10!

Better go and spread that straw and make the soup!  I'll be back after gymnastics tomorrow evening, God willing xxx

Sunday, 24 November 2013


The service went well this morning, since a friend sent me a service outline and her sermon!  She is a probationary minister in Lincolnshire now but she was a Local Preacher in our circuit once, many moons ago.  She is a lovely friend and very keen to help out.

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I had to sort out the prayers but most of the rest of the service was there for me - how kind she was!  Her text for the day was Jonah, chapter 1, the tale of God telling Jonah to get himself off to Nineveh, but Jonah being afraid and rushing in the opposite direction.  The point of the sermon was to remind us that God's message of good news is for ALL, and that we are only the messengers: it is not for us to choose who we give the message to, not for us to judge whether they are worthy recipients.  God is the only judge, and we should not presume to touch on that.  

My friend spent time on placement in a men's prison, where she met men locked up for all kinds of sexual and predatory crimes, as well as murderers and she says that she knows God is at work in such places.  God is at work everywhere, thank goodness.

I hope you have a good week.  Life in the Fens continues and we have another busy week ahead, but we are now on the home straight towards the end of term - just three more weeks to go.  I have to admit to being excited about "time off"!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Change of plan

I was going to spend some extra time on the blog tonight and had thought about revamping it a little....I think it could do with a bit of an update.

But there has been a misunderstanding at church and the preacher for the morning is not coming as she is on long-term sick leave until January, but no one told us.  So my time this evening is going to be spent revamping an already-used service from elsewhere to use in the morning, instead of revamping the blog.  I know my priorities!

The YFG is half asleep on the sofa with the EFG, watching the 50th anniversary Dr Who programme, and the FH has gone to bed to watch something else, and to rest.  The YFG is Very tired because she went to the cinema last night, and a sleepover, and by the sounds of it, had about 3 hours sleep!

Meal plan going well for the week, and savings plan going quite well for the month, so shall report back on both of those on Monday.  Have a good evening, and I shall catch up on your blogs and my blogging tomorrow.  Night night x

Friday, 22 November 2013

That Friday feeling again!

Another week nearly over, and a bit of relaxation due tonight, I hope.  I am about to go off to bed with a book, but today has generally been a good day:

  • A morning at the Craft Club at the chapel, sewing up teddies that various members have knitted for Elaine's appeal over at MortgageFreeInThree.  We have about 8 in the process.
  • Came home for lunch, and made the FH his too.  He was sitting by the fire, where he had been all morning.  So pleased that we have an appointment at Papworth on Tuesday so that they can see how he is.  He's pretty depressed at the moment, and much as I love him, if I am honest, a wee bit depressing as well.  His glass is empty at the moment, not even half full, if you see what I mean.
  • Got two loads of washing hung on the airers this afternoon, made leek and potato soup for supper, and nipped off to pick up the EFG for gymnastics.
  • The YFG has gone to the cinema with her friends, and thence to a sleepover, so I have to pick her up in the morning on the way to gym again.
  • Gutted that I totally forgot to deliver a small bag of items I had got for the request Frantic made for items for the troops in Afghanistan at Christmas - totally slipped my mind - will try to rectify that over the weekend - so sorry, Frantic!
  • Home to the fire, the soup and an electric blanket!
See you all tomorrow x

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Fab little gift

The EFG modelling the scarflette I made this week

Elaine over at MortgageFreeInThree posted this pattern the other week and I liked the look of it for using up some of my own stash, so I had a go!

I altered the pattern ever so slightly around the keyhole, but it worked ok, and I am pleased with the outcome - I think I may even keep it for myself now, as I already have a hat in this yarn that I made last year.  I have plenty of time to knock out a couple more if I decided to give them as gifts as they don't take much time at all.  

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

A time for lists

Advent Sunday is not far away as we head towards the end of November, and the time is marching onward towards Christmas.  Here, it feels like a time for list making - who do I need to send a Christmas card to?  Have I bought or made all the gifts for others that I had planned to give?  Who is coming to visit on which day, and what food shall I prepare?  

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All these things are extra to the real meaning of Christmas, and so I want to get them sorted out and done so that I can concentrate on Jesus.  He is what it is all about for me.  I have a service to prepare for the chapel where we are going to have an impromptu Nativity, so I want to organise some very basic costumes [wish I lived in Leicester, Ang ;) but I will improvise!] and I am really looking forward to taking the time for all of that.  

Advent starts soon, so I have a couple of Advent cards that I want to send out, and I am keeping one for myself this year.  I want to enjoy the experience of the waiting, the expectation, without being bowled over with 101 things to do.  Lists seem to be the way to overcome it all.

Truth is, there aren't a lot of people I need to send cards to: perhaps my old Kindergarten teacher who is well into her 90s and not on the internet, and she always appreciates a note and some photos as well. Local friends will get hand-delivered cards, and more technologically-savvy but far-flung friends are going to get warmest wishes for a Happy Christmas sent on the interweb this year.  Who thought that a second class stamp would ever cost 50p?  

And the gifts - well, the list is a wee bitty shorter this year.  Those young people I have been sending gifts to for years, but who we haven't seen in all that time - I really don't know what they want and whether they really like what I am sending, so now that they are all in their late teens, the gifts will have to stop.  I have picked up various gifts for people over the year, and particularly the last 6 weeks when I turned my attention to the gaps on my list, so I don't have a lot of worrying to do on that front.  

I know who is coming, and they are all coming on Boxing Day in the afternoon.  There will be 14 of us to have tea that day, but all the branches of the family will contribute something to the table, and I shall co-ordinate to make sure we don't end up with 40 bread rolls and no pork pie....It will be a buffet, and quite relaxed - and they are all coming on the same day - yay!  I do like to see them, but I want some peaceful family time too.

There are three Christmas puds in the cupboard, the cakes are waiting to be marzipaned and iced, and I shall probably buy a three-bird roast again, and perhaps one of those enormous turkey leg joints from Morrison's for me, and for sandwiches.  

And for spiritual preparation, I can't wait to watch Ann Voskamp and Liz Curtis Higgs tomorrow as they broadcast, "Christmas at the Farm" live on their websites at 5pm here.  I shall have to watch the recording later, but I am so looking forward to it.  They both have Christmas books out, and I have bought both of them, as they are going to be a valuable resource for the coming Christmas services I will be doing in the future - I get a year off this year - as well as wanting to read them myself.  Ann's book, The Greatest Gift, charts the genealogy of Jesus, through the Bible.  Liz's book, The Women of Christmas, shares the stories of Elizabeth, Mary and Anna and reminds us that the Almighty really does value women.  I'm also going to look for Delia Smith's book on Advent which is here on my shelf...just not quite sure which shelf....

I hope you can enjoy the season, whatever your beliefs, as a time of fellowship, friendship and renewal.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Making the right choices

I've had a kind of strange week for me, where I have been questioning choices, and looking twice at things that I do, and that I buy.  I was reading Froog's blog about the effective use of food, and portion sizes and things like that, and although there is a lot of sense in what she says, I don't agree with everything she writes. But it did spur me on to think more about making the most of every penny and how we spend our money.

We already live fairly frugal lives already, but there are always more strategies we could employ to go further, and I realise that.  I don't crochet dishcloths, I don't recycle bathwater, I don't shop exclusively at German supermarkets, I never go to the real market any more, I hardly ever have time to mooch around the charity shops.  It is a balance between time, energy, motivation and experience.  And I don't mean historical experience that we can learn from, I mean rather what I want to experience today, how I want to spend my time and consider it well spent and, sometimes, enjoyed.

I sat for thirty minutes this morning and listened to a radio interview on a website from America, that was actually broadcast yesterday, but in the middle of the night here, so not convenient at the time.  I made notes and I immersed myself in the experience.  I enjoyed it.  It didn't save me a penny but it enriched my life.  It didn't cost me a penny, either, though!

I've thought again about our menu, and how I could make our food bill less - we could buy less lunch meat and I could eat more soup.  I've reflected on the seasonal nature of our food, and remembered that actually, some foods taste far less appealing out of season - when you have had a warm tomato fresh from the vine in the greenhouse, supermarket varieties are insipid and uninspiring, so better to wait until the greenhouse produces plenty again before we eat tomatoes.  Considering portion sizes is an important way of making sure that we don't waste precious food pennies, as well as the food itself, and that smaller portions are a good way to reduce waist as well as waste!

And then there is stewardship.  Am I really being a good steward of all the resources at my disposal?  Am I caring for everything the way it should be cared for and maintained?  Could I do better?  Absolutely.

As 2013 draws to a close [I'm told that there are less than 6 weeks left of this year] my thoughts are turning to producing my calendar for next year as already dates are inscribed on bitty scraps of paper as my time in 2014 is becoming allocated to hospital trips, courses and meetings.  Thoughts of finding different ways of doing things are taking my time and filling my prayers as I realise my shortcomings this year.  I think back over the challenges and experiences that 2013 has brought to us as a family, and I would pray not to have to go through some of them again, as thoughts of death and pain haunted my dreams early in the year, and yet we have known happiness, joy and friendships beyond measure as people we love have united to support us and hold us up through the darker days.

This life is a good one, a blessed one, and finding grace in small things is a way of treasuring the experiences, piecing together the joys, and the realisation that we are rich beyond measure is humbling as I reflect that life is not all about the bank balance.  Truly, the more I have of anything, the more I can share, whether it is a box of chocolates for a raffle, sponsoring a child through Compassion or WorldVision, giving time to a friend or family member to listen to a story, spending time caring for the FH, or making a donation to the foodbank.
All that considered, I am going to have to buy myself some new clothes as I have lived in two pairs of jeans almost this whole year, and I am sure folk are fed up of seeing me in this uniform!  It's either going to be spending vouchers from that supermarket or hitting the charity shops on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Quite fond of Mondays!

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Mondays are usually good days round here, so I'm not one of those people who dread them!

I take the time to go through the finances and see how we are getting on, I read the meter for the electricity and submit the reading online, I sort out the meals for the week ahead usually.

I catch up on the washing, and perhaps even some ironing.  I do some cleaning and push the hoover around the sitting room.

Monday sets me up for the week!

I've told you already that I meal planned to the end of the month, but in the light of the FH's gout, I have adjusted it slightly.  I made some leek & potato soup for our lunch today, and we both loved it, as we do, so I think that that might be on the plan for lunches for some time, particularly as I have a veg bed full of them just outside the back door.

The meal plan now looks like this:

Monday - we had fish, wedges and peas.  Various kinds of fish made their way up from the depths of the freezer, so we didn't all have the same...

Tuesday - gymnastics gets in the way of too much cooking tomorrow evening, so it'll be a baked potato and various toppings.  I'll leave it all prepped and the FH can just pop the spuds in the oven.

Wednesday - the FH will have eaten at the lunch club so the girls and I will have a chicken casserole.

Thursday - piano lesson night so we need something quick - a cheap and easy pasta dish.  Cooking some veggies and pasta and slinging some sauce over the top!

Friday night is gymnastics again so I will make soup again and leave it ready to heat up when we get home.  I might make some kind of pudding if I have time.

Saturday - a vegetable stew with cheesy dumplings for the FH to keep his meat ration down, and steak for the ladies of the house.  I can't eat dumplings, the girls hate them and the FH adores them, so this seems like a good compromise.

Sunday - my Sainsbury's recipe for baked spaghetti with mozzarella will be a super speedy meal to ensure that Sunday is a day of rest all round.

I have had some sad news that a friend of mine has been bitten by her dog, and is in hospital needing to have an operation.  The dog is usually lovely, but I know that he has had an ear infection so I suspect that that is what triggered his behaviour.  My thoughts go out to her family tonight though, as she is separated from them.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Power in her words

I haven't got a lot of words to share tonight - the FH's birthday has been a good day in many ways, filled with love and some laughter, some fellowship around the table and some relaxing by the fire.  He is still in pain, though, and I have helped him through the day as best I could.  

Reading this last night brought me tears, as I remembered all the times he has cared for me through pregnancy and illness.  I think we have bored deep in one another's hearts, and we celebrate our anniversary this month, so this is a timely reminder of a simple way to honour one another in commitment and love.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Painful times

The FH has really been suffering with his gout in the wrist today and last night.  I hope we have a better night's sleep tonight.

We have a dilemma, and it isn't a particularly easy one, as all the professionals that he sees seem to have slightly different opinions!  We both think that it is better to cope with bursts of intense pain as he is experiencing now, whilst his overall health is kept on an even keel, rather than to add yet more long term medication to his arsenal of pills, and in doing so risk his long term health, as happened at the start of the year.

We are off to Papworth again at the end of the month, so I can see more discussions on the agenda there.  Until then, we have codeine, paracetamol, hot water bottles, slings, cold compresses, the works!

Off to bed now...

Friday, 15 November 2013

That Friday feeling

I am glad it is Friday...we've made it to the end of the week.  The YFG has been ill all week, and is only just beginning to perk up and think about going to gymnastics to help out in the morning.  I am not convinced but we'll see how she feels in the morning.

We had a successful coffee morning at chapel and raised £165, so we all agreed to send £65 off to the Methodist Disaster Relief Fund, for the Philippines appeal.  It seemed like the right thing to do.  There was even a little leftover cake to bring home.

The EFG and I have been to gym tonight, and it has been a good night all round - busy and lots to do.  We are sort-of listening to Children In Need now, and I am thinking about the is the FH's birthday on Sunday, and UJ is coming over to lunch.  The FH is in a lot of pain in his wrist tonight, and we are pretty sure that it is the gout.  He'll be having some codeine at bedtime.

Best part of the day was coming home to a cottage pie that I made this afternoon, and we could just ping it in the microwave for an instant tea.  And r-e-l-a-x!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Back to the plot

I am hugely aware that I haven't posted anything the least bit frugal or moneysaving this week, and for this I apologise....shall try to do better next week and manage a few frugal days!

Today I can report some frugal success, though, because yesterday, UJ brought us a "new-to-us" Christmas tree.  The YFG has been wittering on a little about the size of our wee tree, and saying that she really really wants a "new" one, by which term she actually just means "a bigger one".  Bigger I could organise easier than new.

UJ has got bits and pieces in his house from three households - his own which he shared with my grandmother, my mum and dad's stuff, and some of my other grandparents' belongings which my parents took with them when they moved in with him and my grandmother.  Confused?  Bear with me!

My mum and dad took with them to the house a large-ish green fake tree, which was put up in the conservatory at the appropriate time, because my grandmother's historic silver tree always stood in the front window.  Now that UJ is alone in the house, and rarely there over the festive period, he never decorates at all, so all the holiday decorations are surplus to his requirements.

I gently asked whether he might bear to be parted from the realistic evergreen which was languishing in the loft, because I knew it was bigger than ours and might satisfy the YFG's craving.  He agreed that we might become the new custodians of the said tree, and it arrived here yesterday, at which point the YFG thought that we should start decorating.  I think I have managed to put her off for about a month.  I shall share some photos when we do eventually get the tree up.

Not only, though, did UJ bring the tree, he brought every yuletide decoration which has ever graced any of the households, and I now have four large boxes of almost-antique [in some cases] decorations in the sitting room, and no idea where to store them all.  I have phoned my sister in desperation and let her know that some of her favourite childhood memorable items may now be here, and she is coming over next week to have a look through the boxes, as these items are as much hers as they are mine, and I really do not need them all!  My sitting room will rival Santa's best Grotto if I were to use them all.

Moral of the story - someone somewhere has got what you need, and they are possibly looking to rehome it free for the asking - if you ask, put out the message that you have a want, they may just supply what you are looking for!

On a side note, this festive holiday would have been my wee tree's 21st birthday, so I am reluctant to deprive it of the celebration - we may just have to have two trees this year!  And I hope you appreciate how hard I worked to avoid repeating the C word too many times in this post.......

Down on the Farm

There was a question  yesterday about Alex Langlands and what had happened to him......I wondered too!  A quick Google this morning revealed his Facebook page where he shares that he is not involved in the Tudor Monastery Farm because he has been away, researching and doing archaeology.  There was a link to a talk at Salisbury museum where he presented some of his findings.

The Lost Cities of Searobyrig: Re-thinking the Urban Topography of Anglo-Saxon Salisbury
(image from

I have to say that I enjoyed the programme last night, and the new chap seemed to fit in with the team well.  I don't think I would have got on with wearing a wimple all the time as Ruth was doing, and having my fire in the middle of the room, with all that smoke about the place, wouldn't have suited me either!  It was interesting to see the ploughing with the cattle, but I am not a fan of the early seed-broadcasting methods as there seemed to be quite few bare patches in the field of peas when they came through.  I would also have had my rubber gloves on when the bloke was making the pig house with the wattle-and-daub made from horse manure.....

My knitting grew a few inches and I was glad of a sit down after a busy day.......another one on the cards, so I had better get on.  The YFG has been off school this week with a hacking cough - she did try to go yesterday but I had to fetch her home again after a couple of hours as the heat in the building was just making her worse and she had had two teachers already telling her she didn't ought to be there!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Going back to Henry's time...

 A new Farm Series has arrived!

Tudor Monastery Farm (credit BBC/Lion Television/Laura Rawlinson)
(image from

The familiar face of Alex Langlands has been replaced with a chap called Tom Pinfold [on the right] but I am sure that the 6 episodes will still be very interesting.  The first one airs tonight at 9pm.  I shall have my knitting at the ready and watch it.

This one is called Tudor Monastery farm, and goes further back in time than any of the farm series that I have seen before although I am aware that they did a pretty ancient one before I started watching.  Wonder what they'll get up to this time?

Tuesday, 12 November 2013


Cybher 2013

I am still part of a group of bloggers who are supporting a number of children in Niger through WorldVision's sponsorship programme.  Unfortunately, the person who has been supporting Child 11 of our group of children cannot carry on.   I have made an extra, small one-off donation towards Child 11, but can anyone else help? 

Anything would help - a one-off donation would be a great blessing for this child, no matter how small.  Some of us are committing to support one-quarter of a child's sponsorship, so we are donating £6 a month  - could you or a group you belong to manage that?  
To support this sponsorship programme through the #ShareNiger bloggers, just click on the link in my sidebar to the right, and you will see the buttons at the bottom of the post it takes you to.  That link will be there for a long time, so if you can't donate today, but one day you have some funds to spare, you  know where the link is.  

I could apologise for "asking" for donations again, but I am not going to.  I look upon posts like this one as an opportunity to let people know where in the world others need our help.  I've blogged about toilet-twinning, the disaster in the Philippines, and I have told you about #ShareNiger before.  If a pound or two gets donated because I shared the information, so much the better.  

If you can't spare anything this month, could you say a prayer for these children?  Or light a candle, or just think good thoughts or whatever it is that you feel comfortable to do, please?

Monday, 11 November 2013

Just the right squidge

The YFG has been at home today, resting and watching tv mostly, as she has a horrible cough, like a bark, and her chest is just beginning to loosen, but she is coughing so much that she isn't getting a lot of rest.

She asked for a baked potato for her lunch, so I offered to bake a cake whilst the oven was on for the potatoes.  This chocolate brownie recipe was her choice - that link will take you to the recipe as I blogged about it in September.  Back then, I didn't post a photo, though, but I remembered to take one today.

Having recently bought some walnuts, I made it with those today instead of the chopped mixed nuts.  It has just the perfect level of squidginess today, with the top a light crisp sugar shell, the top layer of sponge quite light, and then a denser, moist and chewy layer.  I can't eat it, but it smells heavenly........

If you like chocolate brownie, do try this one xx

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Fades away

Flattened houses in coastal area of Tacloban - 10 November
(image from

Whatever I was going to say tonight pales into insignificance against the news tonight that over 10,000 people have lost their lives in the Tacloban region of the Philippines after the recent typhoon.  Stood watching the news with tears in my eyes at the devastation.  People standing at the airport waiting for evacuation with nothing more than the clothes they stand up in.  Pregnant woman saying that all she hopes to do is survive today and not worry about tomorrow yet.  Puts life into perspective.

If you are at all able, there is a Red Cross donation page here
We have so much to be thankful for here tonight.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

We remember, this weekend

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh arrive at the Royal Albert Hall for the Festival of Remembrance
(image from

The annual Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall in London has brought tears to our eyes tonight as we watched the parades of veterans alongside serving personnel, and the performance by the Poppy Girls was just beautiful, made all the more special when Megan's dad appeared at the end to surprise her.  Very moving.

I have been preparing the service for tomorrow morning as well.  It is a responsibility to get it right, and not one to be taken lightly.  As usual, it has been on my mind and in my prayers all week, and then I come to get it down on paper tonight.

We had a hairy moment at the gymnastics club this morning when the Head Coach didn't turn up for the first class at 10am.  The YFG and I arrived at 9.45am by which time he would usually have been there, but he wasn't.  He still hadn't turned up by 10 when I had 9 little boys keen to begin, and so I had to start without him, with just the YFG and another coach to help me.  He wandered in at 10.15 looking very apologetic!  We have changed the time this term from 10.30am to 10am and having had two weeks off for the half-term holiday, he had forgotten!!  He is not going to live that down for a few weeks....

The YFG has had an evening out at a firework display as the guest of a school friend who is celebrating her birthday, so she has had a lovely if chilly evening!

Friday, 8 November 2013

It has been one of " those" days, and I am worn out!

Starting off doing 40 minutes of Davina at 6.10am could have something to do with it, as well as all of the stuff between then and now, but I am going to head off to bed now, and read awhile, as I have to be bright eyed and bushy tailed in the morning - gym by 10am and then I have Remembrance Sunday service to prepare......I seem to get all the "big" days - it is a responsibility and a privilege, though.  I'm not going to stay up late doing it tonight, though, as I won't do it justice.

My achievement of the day today has been meal-planning to the end of the month using up stuff from the freezer, so I am pleased about that.

See you tomorrow xx

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Elaine's Sultana Bread

Just to share that I have got this rising near the fire this evening after making the dough in the bread machine.  It smells gorgeous already, so the aroma released when I actually cook it are going to be something else!  The FH loves this kind of bread, so he is looking forward to a taste later.  Shouldn't be too long....

Delicious Christmas cake

I have been looking online for the recipe I used yesterday from Delicious magazine, but I can't find it at all...It is Mary Berry's recipe [one of her Christmas cake recipes] so I shall share my version of it, on the basis that a list of ingredients is not copywritable, and anyway, I changed it slightly!

The amount in the magazine is supposed to fill a 23cm round cake tin, but I haven't got one of those - first challenge of the day!  Actually, though, it filled a 17cm one AND a 19cm one amply, so I managed to get two smaller round fruit cakes out of the amount.  Then I made it all again, and filled a 18.5cm square tin and a 2lb loaf tin from the second batch.  The aroma in my kitchen yesterday was amazing!

At the weekend, I soaked the fruit in the brandy.  The original intention was to soak it overnight, but it ended up being for about three days.  It certainly didn't come to any harm, and we stirred it often.

The soaking part is for this fruit - and these are the amounts I used, not the exact original recipe - 

500g currants [just used the whole packet!]
250g raisins
250g sultanas
150g dried apricots
200g glace cherries [these are expensive and 300g for each mixture seemed too many]
80g mixed peel

The dried apricots were of the "ready-to-eat" variety, and I used organic ones, which were all Sainsbury's had available, but it meant that they weren't too bright an orange colour and blended in well with the rest of the fruit.  I had to chop them up into small pieces.

The cherries were quartered and then rinsed and dried of all the gloopy sugary syrup.

All of that was set in a bowl and 4 generous tablespoons of brandy was mixed through it.  Lovely smell!

Yesterday, I double lined and greased the baking tins, including the 100+ year old one from my grandfather's bakery which is the smallest one, and got on with the baking.

I beat 300g of margerine [never buy real butter, sorry!] and 300g dark brown sugar [muscovado is the recommended, but hadn't got any of that...] together, and then slowly added 5 eggs beaten with a tablespoon of black treacle, alternating with the flour mixture [300g plain flour, 2 tsps mixed spice and half a tsp of nutmeg and the grated rind of a lemon] so that it all mixed together nicely.

Then I put all the fruit in.  Major arm exercise followed as I mixed the fruit into the batter!

I shared the mixture between the two round tins, then repeated the whole exercise to make the mixture for the square and loaf tins.  They all went in a low [120C] oven together.  The loaf cake was done in just under two hours, the round cakes took about three, and the square cake about 3 and a half.  I just kept checking them!

One tip I did find very handy was to cover the cake with a circle [or square as appropriate] of baking paper so that the top didn't brown too quickly.  I found that this also avoided the odd burnt pieces of fruit that I have had rise to the top before and sit there on top of the cake like Nanny MacPhee's wart!

The loaf cake has been used for taste testing already, and UJ and the FH have judged it most satisfactory, moist and full of flavour.  Success indeed.

Now the remaining three cakes are to be double wrapped and stored away until the week before Christmas when they will be covered in marzipan and iced.  Looking forward to that!  Photos at that stage.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

In the Navy

(image from

I've read the term "Navy showers" twice just lately, and on further investigation, I have found out what it means.

Apparently, a "Navy shower" is one in which the person having the shower turns the water on and gets wet, then turns the water off again whilst washing themselves and their hair perhaps, and then turns the water on again to rinse the soap off.

I had no idea!  I thought everyone showered like that - I always have.  Then I realised WHY I have always showered like that: growing up, we didn't have a shower in our house, only a bath, and the first time we started showering a lot was at a campsite, where you had to push a button and the water flowed for a while, and then it stopped, so you had to push the button again.  I automatically showered then like I was in the Navy, and always have done.  

I'm a little bit shocked that everyone doesn't shower like this, as any other way seems like an awful waste of water.  I am glad to read of people standing in boxes to collect the water for the flushing of the loo if they are having the water flowing constantly........

How do you do it in your house?

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

We're back online

Having been given a slot of 8am - 1pm to expect a BT engineer this morning, it was brilliant to see a van similar to this one [below] park outside the house at 8.05am!

(image from

The chap came in and started furtling around in the socket box in the corner of the sitting room, where the line enters the house...

which was only replaced in July after the lightning strike - you remember?

Then there was some muttering, and I gave him some black coffee......

and he disappeared up the street to a manhole....

more furtling in the corner - and then it was FIXED!

He was pleased I told him about the lightning, because that gave him a clue - and when he came back from the manhole, he explained that the lightning had caused damage to a cable, which had been slowly deteriorating since then, until it completely gave up last week.

I'm online, obviously, and I have made a phone call - life as we know it can resume.......

BUT I have enjoyed the downtime, I have to admit!  We have had a bit of breathing space - no phone calls from people doing surveys, no one asking us to do something or go somewhere, a bit more "together" time as the family sat together in the sitting room rather than three of us working on three separate computers!  We'll have to do more of it.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Monday madness

It's been one of those days!  This morning, I was conscious that I had to go out at 3pm this afternoon and so I wanted to get as much done on the list as I could, and beavered away quite steadily, as you do, working my way through stuff.  Loads of washing out in the verandah to bake in the sunshine, chicken food fetched, phone calls made, kitchen tidied, bathroom cleaned, stairs swept, the FH tended to [resting in bed with his sore shoulder], and so by lunchtime, it was definitely time for a break!

The sun was shining gloriously, so I took my cup of tea outside and found a sheltered spot near the back door, in full sun, and sat there absorbing the Vitamin D or whatever I get from sunshine, and relaxed for 15 minutes - it was bliss!

(image from screencrush .com)

Come 3pm, I was off - picked up the girls and delivered them to the cinema, with the Tesco tokens, and they were watching Thor 2 by 4pm!  I left them there, had a potter around Staples [that Martha Stewart stuff they advertise is horrendously expensive!] and then went to a huge Garden & leisure complex, where I browsed tonnes of stuff no one really needs, for about half an hour.  It was easy not to spend anything, because there were few useful items that were reasonably priced.

Until I came across a delightful little book of prayers.  Good collections of prayers are rare as hens' teeth round here, unless you know what you want and buy it from Amazon, of course, so I gave in to temptation and bought it.  The FH has flicked through it tonight and I have had a good delve into it, and I do think it is money well spent now.

I then popped over to my dad's for a quick half hour chat with a cup of tea, and then it was back to the cinema to collect the girls and homeward bound.  The FH had prepared the supper and all we had to do was eat it!  This evening has been rounded off with a heap of ironing.......

I am really looking forward to the BT engineer coming in the morning, and hoping that he [usually is a "he"] can fix the problem.  I had a text message from them today asking me to check all my equipment as their tests indicate that it is an internal fault...I have unplugged all our equipment but the phone doesn't even ring in the exchange but goes straight to the messaging service, so I can't see how it can be our equipment.....could be our wiring, though...£130 if Mr BT has to sort that out....oh, bother!