Monday, 20 October 2014

RIP Lynda Bellingham

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It has just been announced on BBC Breakfast that the lovely Lynda Bellingham died yesterday.

How sad that she didn't manage to have the last Christmas with her family that she had wanted.

In the kitchen this week

I have come across a good resource that you might like to have a look at.  A home cook shares 40 recipes for slow cooker food, but with a slight twist.  The meals are frozen in bags in their raw state, but with all the ingredients together in a bag, seasonings and all.  She removes one meal from the freezer the night before the family want to eat it, and in the morning, when it is thawed, it is all popped straight into the slow cooker, so that it is ready to eat when they are all home from school and work in the evening.  All they usually do is add cook fresh veggies to accompany the main meal at the last minute.  I like this idea - the thought of having all the prep work done is great!

This week we have to finish off some of the suggestions from last week which we didn't get around to eating - and the slow cooker beef stew was brilliant so I am looking forward to the leftovers one night.

Slow cooker beef stew leftovers
Corned beef hash/cold corned beef with mash
Baked potatoes with tuna/cheese/beans

And some things we haven't had for a while:

Sticky chicken, served with rice and veggies
Meatballs with spaghetti for the YFG and mash for me

And I am sure that there will be a night for raiding the freezer for easy meals - I know that there are leftovers in there:

Lasagne/mozzarella spaghetti/scampi and chips - for the YFG

On a night when she is having one of those, I am quite likely to opt for a quick veggie risotto!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Harvest Festival

(image from

Today is one of my favourite services at the chapel, when we have the village brass band in to play the hymns for us.  They usually have a little set in the middle of the service and bash out some tunes of their own choice as well as the hymns.  They are really good, and people come from all over the circuit for this service.  Ours is one of the last Harvest celebrations in the circuit, and so most of the other churches have already had theirs and people are keen to come and share in one last fling at Harvest!  

A baker from the north of the circuit has made a wheatsheaf out of bread, and it has been to several of the other harvest services - he has told me that he has given it to our minister in order that we can have it on display this afternoon - so I just hope he remembers to bring it along!

There will be a Harvest Supper and auction of donated produce on Tuesday which will involve plenty of preparation and perspiration, I am afraid, but it is a lovely tradition and I love it!!  Personally, I would prefer to encourage people to bring items suitable for donation to the local food bank, but it is hard to change traditions so I shall continue to work on that one.  

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Meter maid

Monitoring our meter is one sure way of being super conscious of our electricity usage.  We used to use up to 18 units a day, but just this week we have managed to halve that, and I am so pleased.  Making a regular date in the diary to read the meter and submit the reading online has made me very aware of our usage, and made me put in that little bit more effort to reduce our usage.  Our direct debit has been reduced to £50 a month, but we are actually not using that much electricity so I shall be able to claim a rebate from the power company at intervals, because that is as low as they are able to set their direct debits.

Walking around the house and turning off appliances on standby, not leaving the phone chargers on any longer than necessary, never leaving the tv on standby, making the laptop hibernate or turning it off properly when I am going to be leaving it for some time, using low-energy light bulbs, not using the oven much at all and making sure it is full when we do use it, and just washing full loads of laundry.  When we have a casserole or a joint of meat, it  has become simple to pop it in the slow cooker, and enjoy the aroma of the cooking all day!  Froogs has had plenty of slow cooker recipes on her blog this month, so do hop over to Frugal Queen and have a look.  I have my eye on a recipe for pulled pork which I think that the EFG will enjoy when she is home.

Sadly, the biggest difference is the people who are not here, and the greatest impact on the usage is actually the fact that there are just the two of us here now.  I do expect a spike in the electricity usage when the EFG is home at Christmas.  It will be worth it to have her home for nearly a month, though!

Friday, 17 October 2014

Warm hearts keep heads warm too

Whichever way

you look at it

a lovely reader has been a very busy bee!

Plain hats and 

stripey hats!

All these lovely hats arrived in the post yesterday from a super lady who has knitted them for the Operation Christmas Child boxes we are doing for the children abroad who are in need.  There are a baker's dozen hats there, plenty for nearly half the boxes I plan to do.  With my other dedicated  knitting ladies locally, we have plenty of hats to keep some little heads warm on chilly days and nights.

How kind!  Thank you very much xx

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Halfway there

We've just about made it half way through October and the Stoptober challenge.  The YFG has really risen to the challenge and we have been trying really hard to curb our spending on a weekly basis and just buy the things that we specifically need.  She and I have been meal planning and trying to use up some of the items that have been languishing in the cupboard and freezers for a while.

It was aspirational to hope that we could manage the month on £100 for everything, and I confess here and now that I think we have spent that already.  I wasn't going to deny the YFG slippers and new underwear when she needed them just for the sake of this.  We are thinking more carefully, though, which is always a good thing.

Helping out the lady that I posted about yesterday makes me realise how lucky we are, and how very blessed we are.  I read a post about real poverty on Frugaldom the other week and it really made the point that however hard up we feel, we are not!  There has also been an exhibition of photos of real poverty in this country in the sixties and seventies, and seeing those on the internet has made me think hard about what I want to do to help people more.

Real poverty is hard. Relative poverty is another thing, I think, and a lot of people think that they are "poor" because they cannot have the things that they see other people enjoying.

So we are considering purchases, we are using up some stuff, we are monitoring and metering, and generally being more thoughtful.  It has been a blessing to be able to use some of the savings and some of the stash to help someone else.  I shall try to carry on throughout the month to do more of the same.  We have some big bills coming up at the end of the month for the tv licence [that's a whole debate of its own!] and the house insurance....

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Just helping out

It is sad that this is necessary in this day and age, but it is rewarding to be able to help out another mum who finds herself in a bad situation.  The church is donating a small amount of food each week to a young mum in the village for a couple of weeks whilst her benefits get sorted out.  Through no fault of her own, she has found herself in dire need, and we have been glad to be able to provide her with a small amount of fresh food and necessary items.  This was last week's shopping for her.

We have also been able to direct her to a local food bank which is also helping her out for three weeks, but since their donation to her is largely tinned and dried foods, we are carrying on helping for another couple of weeks, providing fresh foods such as bread, ham and cheese, fruit, and dairy items, for example.  The school is also helping by arranging a school lunch for the mum each day so that we know she and her child have a good meal once a day.

This week, the church's donation is going to include a few books, a colouring book and some new colouring pencils, and a warm hat and matching scarf, from my stash, for the child.  

When all of the groups working together have one aim, we can do good things.  Our aim is simple, and we want that child to have a happy childhood, just as all children deserve.

It is another Esther 4.14 moment - "for such a time as this" we are in this place and position and able to help.