Friday, 31 October 2008

The £5 meal

Everywhere, it seems, we are being bombarded by the idea that we can "feed the family for a fiver" (I think that is Sainsbury's particular slogan but they are not the only ones!) but to be honest, can we all afford to spend a whole fiver on the main meal every day? That would take the grocery bill to £35 just for the one meal, never mind the puddings, snacks, breakfasts, lunches, and fruit. It seems to me that £5 is a figure for me not to exceed, and often I would like to come in under that, so that the week's cost is around £50 for all our food from the shops.

Tonight, I have served the family with cauliflower and pasta cheese bake - it served three of them with leftovers, and the total cost was just £1.84. They then had a slice of cake each for pudding, and a drink. Some meals do cost more, especially when we are eating meat, but tonight's meal is well under, and last night's pizza would not have cost more than £2 at a guess, so that is another night under the target. I reckon that as a family, we are aiming to have low cost meals at least three times a week, and more often sometimes! Pasta is a particularly good ingredient on which to base a low-cost meal, as I buy it for less than a £1/kg, and sauces can be made at very little cost.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Baking day!

This is the Remoska cooker that I posted about the other day. It consists of a lid containing the heating element, a non-stick deep pan, and a stainless steel stand. I have had a bit of an experiment with it today and successfully baked some bread in it (photo further down) so I am very pleased with it.

Here is the pizza which I made for tea for the family. Simple and quick and very cost effective (doesn't that sound so much better than "cheap"?!) to make. I have told you about this pizza recipe before, so I thought I would share a picture today.

And these are two little loaves of bread that cooked in the Remoska this afternoon. They have been sampled and deemed acceptable, so I shall be making that again!

And the Christmas cakes were made as well - the fruit soaked overnight; it was plump and juicy in the orange juice and brandy mixture this morning. I closed the oven door on them at about 10.20 this morning, so they were baked through by about 1.30 this afternoon. The house smelt wonderful whilst they were baking - cinnamon and all the spices came together to provide a really festive fragrance already.
The oil delivery came this afternoon, and the driver had an extra 70 litres on board that were spare, so we took those at the same price. That was a bargain as the price has already risen on the price I got on Monday. The FGs and I went to the scrapbooking/stamping studio this afternoon; we had a lovely chat with the lady who runs it, and made some beautiful creations. It is very relaxing to go there and switch off from other things and just create something under her guidance!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008


Just a quick note to say that I ordered oil on Monday - the price had begun to rise! I knew that the prices would rise as soon as I heard on the news at 10pm on Friday that the OPEC organisation had cut oil production to stimulate prices! The trouble was that at 10pm on a Friday, it was too late to order oil before the rises kicked in on Monday, so I was stuck paying 41.61p/l but that was much better than what the company I use wanted to charge - they tried 46.something, but I haggled a little and got it down. The delivery is due tomorrow. We haven't had the forecast snow, although it was cold this morning. Counties not too far away have had some, so we were blessed to miss out this time, especially as it has meant power cuts in Northamptonshire.

Nella Last

I have just finished reading the edited wartime diaries of Nella Last, who lived in Barrow-on-Furness in Cumbria. Her husband was a master carpenter, and she had two sons, Cliff and Arthur. She was a "housewife" until the outbreak of the war, when she joined the Womens' Voluntary Service and helped to run a canteen and a charity shop. She suffered from "nerves" and had had a breakdown the year before the diary begins. She kept the diary for the Mass Observation project, and apparently kept scribbling for over 30 years. The entries are fascinating as she talks about the food problems, the rationing, the bomb shelter, keeping chickens in the back garden and growing cabbages amongst the rose bushes. Arthur was in a reserved occupation as a tax inspector, but Cliff joined the army, initially as a PT instructor. It is a truly fascinating insight into one woman's experience of the war. I also bought the DVD of the film that Victoria Wood (fab UK actress and writer) wrote based on the diaries, and I sat and watched that this morning. It was very moving - as well as Nella's thoughts about the war, we also get a picture of a marriage that is teetering on the brink but one that seems to pull through - divorce was uncommon those days. I can recommend the book, and will be looking out for a copy of "Nella Last's Peace" which contains some of her post-war entries.

I found time to watch that this morning as I had taken the EFG to the sports centre for the day again, and the YFG had gone with the FH to an auction on the Norfolk/Suffolk border to sell some hens and rabbits. After watching that, and hanging out the washing, I managed to clean out a hen house - it was a lovely sunny day and it was a joy to be outside! Unfortunately, I got rather a lot of chicken poo on my trousers and straw everywhere, so I had to come in for a shower before lunch!

After picking the EFG up again at 3, we went to Lidl's for orange juice and cat food, Woolworths for two birthday presents, and the local book shop for a browse. By the time we got home, the others had just got back and were having a cup of tea. The FH had had instructions to buy some green veggies (success - he got a cabbage and a cauliflower) and some eggs (he got some, yes) but he bought 3 trays of eggs - that is 90 eggs!!!! They are free range eggs, and worked out at £1 a dozen, so I rang a few friends and sold 5 dozen. That leaves me with one tray - much more manageable.

After tea, I weighed out some dried fruit and have set it to soak overnight in the orange juice and some brandy so that I can make two Christmas cakes in the morning. I am looking forward to the smell of the cakes as they cook - it is just a most delicious smell!! I have been using a Good Housekeeping recipe since 2000 when I first found it and used it the week before Christmas! It worked well even with no time to mature, but it does get a little better with keeping, and so this year it will have about 7 weeks, I think. Plenty of time!

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Deliveries, visitors and kids playing happily

The day started early with a delivery of books by FedEx for the book party that the FH did for me last week. Ordinarily, that would have meant that the books could be bagged up and delivered to the party hostess today or tomorrow, but one of the jigsaw books has a piece missing so I have had to re-order and will now have to wait for that to arrive before we can deliver. I hate to send out imperfect books so we always check, check and double-check that they are all in perfect condition, clean and tidy so that the customers are happy.

I pootled around for much of the middle of the day, made some lunch (reheated leftovers so that was really hard work!!) and then moved up a gear when my dad called to say that he was coming over. We soon had the place looking tidier and then the FGs went out on their bikes with a neighbouring boy and he is still here playing with them now! My dad visited for about an hour and a half, inspected the garden and the chickens - he always has advice to offer - and then they left as he wanted to get home before dark.

It has been lovely to have the children playing together with Playmobil and Nintendos - instead of bickering, there has been laughter which has been very welcome! The FGs are not used to being together too much now that they are not home-educated; they used to play together very well, but now that they are both in school, they are not so comfortable together and bicker, and compete for attention more. Just one of the downsides of sending them to school, I think, and kind of a sad one, as they are not as close as they used to be.

Tonight I am cooking Toad in the Hole for supper but instead of baking it in the oven, I am cooking it in the Remoska and praying it turns out right. Remoskas are Polish inventions, and sold in the UK only by Lakeland which is a fantastic chain of shops/online store/mail-order outfit, which started in kitchenware and now sell a huge variety of things. Anyway, the Remoska is kind of like a big pan with a lid, and the heat comes from an element in the lid, but it only has one temperature which is about 180C, and works OK for most things. I have cooked casseroles and bolognaise, chops and fish in it, but this is the first time for this dish! It is great for economising as it uses so much less electricity than the oven so it is cheaper to run.

Snow is forecast for tonight, so we are wrapping up warm - hope you and your families are snug tonight!

Monday, 27 October 2008

Strange smells!

I am increasingly irritated (I know that I shouldn't let it get to me!) by some TV advertising for air freshener and laundry conditioner. There is a pair of adverts currently running for new fragrances in the Lenor range - one is White Diamond and something and the other is Black Diamond and Lotus Flower, I think. Now, today, I have seen an ad for a new room fragrance called "Glistening Snow". "Glistening Snow"???????? As far as I know, gemstones and snow don't actually smell of they? I'd love to know what these manufacturers think a diamond smells like.

I don't use artificial fragrances on our clothes very often - there is an old bottle of cheap store-brand fabric conditioner in the utility room cupboard which I use occasionally in the winter when I know that the FGs' shirts are going to have to be dried indoors, but most of the time our laundry is line-dried outside, sometimes under the verandah but that is still outside - and that gives us the freshest smell: the smell of fresh air! You just cannot beat it, and all the fabric conditioners in the world will never smell that good. Similarly, we don't use air fresheners in the house, prefering to open a window and let some fresh air in to take away any stale or unpleasant smells. I throw open our bedroom windows most mornings, even if it is just for five minutes, and the freshness of the morning air does wonders to wake me up!

The FGs are at home from school this week on their half-term holiday. The EFG has been to a sports centre for the day, playing cricket, benchball and basketball. She has had a good time with some old friends and made some new ones too - she loves going there and goes each holiday for a couple of days. The YFG used to go too but she doesn't like it now, so she stayed at home with me and made cookies. We picked the EFG up at 3 and went in to town to the bank, the Post Office and a clothes shop as the YFG had no jumpers (sweaters) at all for this winter - we were very lucky and got two in her size made of the softest fleece and she is SO happy with them!

On the way home, we did some more rural shopping - we stopped at a farm and bought two bales of straw for the rabbits and hens bedding. Straw has been difficult to buy this autumn but this farm has lots so I will be going back there to buy more but I could only fit two bales into the car today. A mile or two further along, another smallholder is selling bags of carrots and parsnips, and we picked up two of carrots and one of parsnips. These are BIG bags, about 15kg or so, I would guess, and the man gets them by the trailerload from local packing houses where carrots and other veg are processed and packed. These are the ones which don't make it through the quality control and are sold off cheaply. There is nothing wrong with them: there are a lot of odd-shaped ones and a wide variety of sizes, but they all taste great! Last year I made lots of soup with them and we had beautiful roasted parsnips all winter........I am looking forward to them on Sunday with a roasted chicken already.

I wonder whether The Mom who posts comments occasionally would like to share her recipe for pumpkin loaf cake as I have lost it and now is a great time of year to make it...please?

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Getting there

Yesterday I paced myself and got up enough energy to take the YFG back to gymnastics. We didn't go early to help with the set-up of the equipment as we usually do - we got there about twenty minutes before the class was due to start so we could have a chat with the other coaches! It was OK and I managed to keep going for the evening, and actually felt well enough after the class to nip into the new Tesco for some fresh fruit and veggies.

Yes, I am back on the Tesco topic! Sorry, but I have to! The new Tesco has been opened in the nearby town, and it is Huge. It is also now open 24 hours, six days a week. The old shop was big enough for a small market town, and there are larger stores in three directions, all about 20 minutes away, where the occasional "big shop" at Christmas might get done. This new store is almost as big as these others, and it now sells clothes, household goods, electrical stuff, has a pharmacy, and has required an extra 150 staff. The visit last night was interesting, as I can now say that I have been and had a look - but I won't be rushing back. The size of the shop and all the "fantastic" displays are designed to part us from our money, and I am resisting giving them more of ours! It will also take longer to shop there as there is too much to look at and too far to walk, to start with...

How do I plan to shop now, then? I am going to continue to have my shopping delivered by the supermarket, visit Lidl once a month, and pop into the small Sainsbury's in the town when I need to pick up fruit or veg. Shopping online means that I can easily keep to a budget, check the cupboards as I am doing the order, and alter it right up to the last hours before the delivery. I have been using Tesco, but this week I was emailed a special voucher code from Sainsbury's so I am giving them a go next week. Having the delivery saves me time and also saves me from temptation in the shops!

Tonight, the YFG is having her first sleepover at her friend's house around the corner. I am pleased that she is only a two minute walk away but I am also quite confident that she will be fine. The FH, EFG and I are sitting here watching "Strictly Come Dancing" and marvelling at the progress that some of the celebrities are making from one week to another. When I have finished this post, I am quite excited to have a couple of new books to explore - "Better Off" by Eric Brende, and "Housewife, 49: the Second World War Diaries of Nella Last". Both are books about a really different kind of life and both are books which I really hope to learn from. I'll tell you more once I have read them.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Fantastic ginger cake

This is a lovely recipe for ginger cake - and it even makes two at once, so it is time and energy efficient as well. If you have wheat intolerance as I do, you can substitute barley flour, and dairy intolerant people can sub dairy-free margerine, and it even works if you do both, as I do if I want to eat it myself! It is a very accommodating recipe.

I call it "Beth's Nanna's Ginger Cake" as it was given to me by Beth's mum when I was childminding Beth, but that was years ago, and I do not remember Beth's surname, and never knew her Nanna at all, so I cannot give any credit for it beyond that - and I have no idea where Beth's Nanna got the recipe - but all credit to her, it is a great cake. If you can bear to leave it a day or two, wrapped up in foil in a tin, it will develop a slightly sticky top. I generally make two and freeze one for another week.

So - melt together 12oz golden syrup and 8oz margerine in a saucepan and then leave to cool. In a bowl, sieve together 1lb self-raising flour, 2 tsp salt, 4 tsp ground ginger, 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1 tsp ground mixed spice and 6 oz caster sugar. In a smaller bowl or a jug, beat together 2 eggs and 2 cups (I use an American cup measuring set) of milk.

Once the melted margerine mixture is cool, pour it over the dry ingredients and add the beaten egg and milk, and then mix it all very thoroughly - ideally with a hand-held electric mixer. If you do not mix it well enough, you will find little bubbles of flour in the cooked cake, so it is well worth a few minutes extra beating.

The mixture will be quite fluid at this point and not perhaps what you expect cake batter to look like - don't panic - this is OK. Grease and line two 2lb loaf tins and pour half of the mixture into each one. Set both tins onto a baking tray and slide into the oven - I use the bottom shelf and cook at 160 C for about 45 minutes to an hour. When you check it with a metal skewer or knife, the skewer/knife should come out clean if it is done. Let them cool in the tins, and then wrap one in greaseproof paper and foil to eat soon, and put the other into a large freezer bag and pop in the freezer, or give as a gift to a friend!

I am still not feeling right, so I am staying at home and resting a lot of the time. The weather today has not been encouraging at all: yesterday's sunshine was replaced by cloudy skies and strong winds. The FH has been a taxi driver all day, and isn't finished yet. He started off by taking the EFG to her school early to catch her bus for the school trip to Hampton Court Palace today (they have been studying the Tudors), then he came home, ate his breakfast and took the YFG up the road to her school. It was soon time to repeat that trip at 3 to fetch her home and he had to go back again at 4 for her parent-teacher consultation - and he still has to go back to town tonight to fetch the EFG. She will be later than she expected as she has texted to say that the bus she was on broke down and they have had to wait over an hour for a replacement vehicle. Luckily, this is her last school day before the half-term holiday so she can sleep in tomorrow morning.

Oil prices are still sliding downwards, so I got one company down to £212 today for 500 litres - that was 40.5p/litre - I think that when it gets to a flat 40p, I will order!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Beautiful day

I said yesterday how few of these clear autumnal days we have had, and lo and behold, we are enjoying one today! So I went outside with the camera and took some pictures:
These are the strawberry plants which the FH was given on Sunday by my uncle. The ground has had to be prepared to put them in but they are all safely tucked into the raised bed here this morning.

This grey and white rabbit is one of the latest to be born and had never been out of the hutch onto the grass before today so he/she (not sure which yet) was very keen!

Mum and sibling came too - you will see that the shadows look long and you would think that perhaps I had taken these photos in the evening but this is our low autumn/winter sun!

"Can't we come too?" these bunnies are asking! Well, no, you can't as we don't mix bunnies now as sometimes they fight when they are not used to being together so only hutch-mates get put out in the run at the same time - maybe these will get a turn later!

And here is a final picture of the cat who lives with us; she is not our cat, but she has chosen to live under our verandah. She was luxuriating in the sunshine this morning and just got up to pose when she saw me with the camera.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Re-organising the house for the winter

In the UK, we will be altering the clocks on Saturday and the darkness will come upon the days more quickly - it will feel more and more like winter. It feels like we have had a short autumn as the beautifully crisp, clear and sunny days that I think of as typically autumnal have been few this year. There have been a few, and I have relished them all. But the cosy days of winter are almost here, and today I have stayed home and moved things around!

I am still not feeling well, so I have not been out at all - the FH has been to a school today for me to collect some paperwork, and took his friend with him for a ride. He has also taken the YFG to school and collected her again. We have not been to gymnastics tonight as there was just no way that I had the energy for setting out the equipment, supporting gymnasts physically and then putting all the apparatus away again. I guess I have been hibernating a little, and feel that I will probably continue through this week and maybe into next week.

So, today I supervised the moving of the dining table into the living room and got that all sorted out and the room looking cosy and warm for the winter. I wanted us to have one room that we could eat in, watch tv, read, chat and play in and not have to heat the whole house! We have throws on the sofa - about 6 or 7 of them now, so there are plenty to snuggle under, and thermally lined curtains which we are now drawing as soon as it begins to get dark.

The price of home heating oil is falling here - I could have got 500l for £220 today but I didn't actually place the order as we still have some and I think that the price will drop a little more before too long. Checking prices is one of my daily chores at the moment - I am waiting to find the best time but I must be careful not to leave it so long that the price starts to rise again, so I will never get the absolute lowest price as I will always chicken out and order some as soon as I think it is low enough. Considering that earlier in the year, I paid over £300 for 500l, today's price was very good. I know that I won't leave it much longer!

Monday, 20 October 2008

Sunday surprise

Church was different yesterday morning as it had be held in the back room of the village hall since the floor of the church is having to be replaced, at major expense, due to some serious damp problems. It says in the Bible that whenever a few people meet in God's name, He is there, so it really doesn't matter where we meet. It will be good to get back to the familiar surroundings of the church when the work is done, though.

After church, we came home for a quick cup of tea and then I took the girls to town. We dropped the YFG off at the leisure centre for the pool party she had been invited to and then we hit the shops for some bargain hunting. I don't generally approve of shopping on Sundays, but when we have to go to town anyway and there is not a lot else to do in a quiet rural market town at lunchtime on a Sunday, it seemed the best thing to do! It was not going to be cost effective to come home and then return to fetch her. We picked up a few things from Lidl, which is a shop I don't often get time to hit, and then went to Tesco as it was the last day of trading for that particular store (a HUGE new one is opening next-door today) so I was hoping for some bargains/reduced items - and I got some! We then headed off to Sainsbury's as well to round off the shopping trip - and I found some lovely Christmas presents in there: a present for the FH and some stocking fillers for the girls.

The party seems to have gone well, and everyone came out of the party room in high spirits, although the mother of the party child looked rather stressed! We came home to find that we had unexpected visitors - my cousin and her husband. We don't see them very often, but it was a lovely surprise! They had arrived about an hour earlier, chatting with the FH, and stayed after we got home for some time, catching up on one another's news. My uncle (my cousin's father's brother) arrived for the evening, and so they also had a quick opportunity to exchange their news albeit briefly. My mother was the brothers' sister.

My uncle settled in the for evening, and I popped the chicken into the oven. The FH had already prepared the veggies for me during the afternoon, and I had picked up a cherry pie in my shopping as I know that it is his favourite so my work was minimal for the meal. A quick session with the ironing board and the uniforms for the girls, and my work was done. After my uncle left, the girls were in bed for an early night and the FH and I sat down to watch "A Touch of Frost" as it is a new series and we do like Jack Frost! The FH spent some time in the police as a Special constable, and he finds Jack the most realistic copper on the TV these days.

I am resting in bed this morning as I have been unwell during the night, so the FH has gone out to do a book delivery on my behalf, and I am hoping to be recovered enough to get back to work tomorrow. There is nothing major spoiling anywhere, and I need a rest! Thank goodness for the EFG's laptop so I can stay in touch with the world.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Harvest and cooking show

Goodness, no posts since Thursday! Where have I been?! Busy. That is the simple answer but it isn't a good excuse, as we are all busy.

Friday saw the YFG's Harvest Festival assembly at school at 9am. In previous years, there has been a Harvest Festival in the local Methodist church that we attend, but it had to be in two parts as the size of the church doesn't accommodate 140 odd children, staff and all their parents. Unfortunately, school growth has pushed even that idea out of the window, and this year, the school have had to institute a new idea - class by class assemblies all through one week. This has meant that parents with more than one child may have attended on several days to see them all. The YFG's came at the end of the week, as the Y4/5 class which she is in did their assembly in conjunction with the Y6 class. They recited some lovely autumn poems, and sang worship songs, which was fantastic. Their singing has improved, and they were brilliant - I was so proud! After the assembly, we were taken into the classrooms to look at some of their work, and that was interesting too. All in all, it was a very impressive morning, and it was wonderful to see real worship incorporated into the assembly.

After that, we came home and got started on all the routine chores for the day. The rest of the day was pretty usual, with washing, gymnastics, supper and Wire in the Blood, which the FGs and I watched together, all snuggled up in fleece blankets on the sofa.

Saturday - well, what a day! I had to do some banking early on so we did that first, and then went to the gym. We were there until about 1.20pm and then we came home and had some lunch. The YFG then had her friend round to play for the rest of the day, including tea, which was lovely as they do play together really well. After tea, I had to get ready to go out: my sister is a Pampered Chef consultant and she and her recruit, J, had organised a Fundraiser for Breast Cancer, as PC make October their Breast Cancer month and produce some fab pink items for sale only in October. She had phoned me on Thursday and asked me to come along and do part of the cooking, as they were running a "Ready, Steady, Cook!" style competition - me cooking Chocolate Fudge Brownies, against my sister's mother-in-law making Mediterranean Vegetable Tartlets. I didn't want to face a roomful of people on my own, so I took along the mother of the little friend who comes to play, and another friend and her mother. I invited another lady from the town, who I see regularly at gym, and she brought along her friend too. So there were six of us in my support group. The trouble was, despite all their promotion efforts, the six of us consisted the whole audience. It was such a shame for them as they had put so much effort into it all and worked so hard to organise it. However, we all won a raffle prize, and the Chocolate Brownies won me the cooking prize, which is the bunch of pink roses!
Today promises to be fun too, as we have church at 9.30am then the YFG has a pool party in town for the little friend's birthday. My uncle is then coming to tea tonight, so I have some tidying up and cooking to do later. I also have to get the YFG to do her homework, and then iron the school uniforms. Hope you are all having a good day.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Laughs over a disaster

A quick story to chuckle over: the FH always cooks on Tuesdays as I and the YFG don't get home from gym until about 8.30pm. This week, I asked him to make an apple crumble for pudding, but was disappointed to get home to find that he hadn't. He had made the crumble topping with the flour, sugar and Vitalite, but had stopped at that stage in the proceedings because he couldn't find the oats and thought he couldn't make crumble topping without them. He had then put the mixture in the fridge and left it there. I went to it last night, added the oats, popped it onto the defrosted apple puree and it went into the oven to cook for 25 minutes. After we had eaten our main course last night, I went to the kitchen and jokingly said, "I hope you didn't put salt in this!" as he had accidentally put salt on his Shredded Wheat yesterday morning, so I took a small mouthful - and had to go and spit it out in the bin - he HAD used salt instead of sugar and that was one ruined crumble!!

Moral for me is to make sure that I put salt and sugar in different containers - I had had them in identical IKEA glass jars with lids, but kept in completely different places. The salt was kept with the breadmaking flour and yeast, as that is its point of use in the kitchen - and probably the only use it has on a day to day basis, although I do use it for scouring the drains now and then! The sugar was kept with the other flours, and the vanilla essence and general baking bits and pieces; to me they were obvious which was which, but not to the FH!

I have left the salt in the IKEA jar but the sugar has been moved to a blue canister which already had SUGAR on the side of it! Now it really is used for sugar, and we have had a successful crumble tonight - I just couldn't wait another night - I had been looking forward to crumble since Tuesday!!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

The bread of life

Bread - most people in this country would count it as a staple part of their diet. It makes sense, then, to eat a good quality loaf, with plenty of nutrients. Unfortunately, society has been brainwashed to some extent, by the masters of "convenience" and "luxury" - advertising executives have told us that bought, sliced bread represents the epitome of modern life - who would want to go back to the drudgery of the past, where baking bread was a regular part of daily life, and who wants to be up to their elbows in flour for hours making the bread? Well, those misconceptions have turned us into somewhat of a nation of cheap, sliced, white bread eating people - and that is not a good development.

The last time I was in Tesco, it was possible to buy "value" white, medium sliced bread for 30p a loaf. A more upscale branded white loaf was costing anything between 90p and £1.50 depending on the brand. How have we been brought to this?

The Chorleywood Bread Process was developed in 1961 by the Flour Milling and Baking Research Association, at a place called Chorleywood. UK grown wheat does not have a high protein content, and therefore did not make good bread - apparently, Canadian wheat was the most popular for good bread baking. However, the new process allowed UK wheat to be used, although it means that the nutrients in the bread are of reduced value. But this process also uses bread improvers and a special ingredient that we are totally unable to replicate at home - very high-energy mixing. It is this combination of reduced quality wheat, the addition of chemicals and the faster processing times which makes this bread inadequate. But it gets worse because this bread has added fat, which makes it spongy and light, but is really there to act as a preservative - "real" bread goes stale quite quickly. There is no need for fat in real bread.

"Give us this day our daily bread" - even the Lord's Prayer recognises the importance of fresh bread, made daily. Home-made bread is so much better in so many ways than Chorleywood bread, which makes up about 80% of the bread eaten in the UK today. We don't have to actually make it by hand these days, with the advent of the breadmaker, but there is a very therapeutic feeling about being responsible for the daily loaf. If it is made by hand, the baker has an even bigger input into the loaf, and probably more fun!

A fresh loaf, enough for the family to enjoy on a day to day basis, can easily be made in the breadmaker or by hand. When making bread by hand, I find it time-efficient to make several loaves and freeze the surplus for busy days.

1961 brought this mass-produced, quickly made bread to the shelves, and it co-incided with so many other things in the sixties - they were a time of change, and the bought, ready-sliced and wrapped loaf fitted in with those developments - more women in the workforce and not at home during the day, needing "fast" food to feed hungry families. It is no wonder that we as a nation easily fell into the trap of buying this stuff. I cannot remember my mother ever making a loaf of bread at all, although she was an excellent cook and made cakes and pastries as well as traditional meals every night. My father's family were bakers - three generations of them, and there is still a professional baker in my generation although he works for a big bakery nowadays. My grandfather had an old-fashioned bakery, rising early to bake that day's bread, and then (so he tells me) my father and his brothers helped to deliver the bread around the village on bicycles. Unfortunately that bakery business had to close down and although I don't know exactly when, I would have to say that it is probable that the rise of the Chorleywood loaf would have contributed to the closure of numerous such small bakeries in countless small villages.

I have one of my grandfather's very old cake tins which he would have used to bake round fruit cakes in, and whenever I use it, I think of him and the traditions that we are losing - we can stop that loss if we recognise it, and try to appreciate that not everything modern and new is necessarily a good thing! There is never a better time than right now to reclaim our history and our heritage and take control for ourselves of things which we have within our ability to change. Go and make a loaf of bread today and make a start on that change!

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Harvesting gold

This is today's harvest from the garden - this is probably the last of the runner beans, but this is just the first of the baby carrots. I am very excited about these as they are the first variety I have ever managed to grow successfully, and I think it is because they are small and round, instead of being long and thin! They are a little small and could have done with a little longer growing but I was impatient to see what they were like, so I have pulled some, and left a lot to grow for a little longer. I think that these will be wonderful for lunch with some salad of cress, apple and tomatoes, and perhaps some lettuce if we have any ready. Raw will be the best way to eat them, as they will be fresh and sweet, I hope!

Monday, 13 October 2008

Photos from the show

This is a lovely bunch of chrysanthemums which I got from the local horticultural society's stall as they were packing up. They were selling off their displays of fruits, vegetables and flowers. As well as these, I also brought home cabbages, a cauliflower, broccoli, russet apples (my favourite!) and some cyclamen which are further down this post.

The FGs are on the horses on the left - one in jeans and one in black - going away from me to protect their privacy. They love this carousel and always want to ride it.

This photo (above) shows the huge new building. Almost in the middle of the shot you can see a shorter white pole and just to the right of it is a set of blue doors. We were just inside those doors and benefitted from a good flow of potential customers streaming in that way.

These are the cyclamen - now on the kitchen window sill to brighten my washing-up chores. They are beautiful!

Show successes!

We were pleased with the display of books that we were able to provide - this is the front of the stand and it was 4 metres long. That's quite a lot of books!

This is the other side of the stand - we had a depth of three metres AND we had a corner pitch so we made the most of it and allowed the customers to come into the stand area by using more tables placed back to back with those in the picture above, and then using these wooden racks at the back of the stall. The FH made all these racks and they are wonderful for displaying all my books!

As the customers approached the stall from this direction, I think that they had a pretty impressive sight, and I was pleased with it!

The Showground has a new building called "exec" and that is where we were located. It is Huge, and we were able to drive the car and trailer into the building for the unloading and reloading, which saved an enormous amount of effort! Usually in the past, we have had to put all the boxes of books onto trolleys and haul them out to the car park.

We were in an area of general shopping, and also in the building were the rabbit show, rat/mice shows, and the pigeon show! It did get a little noisy, but at least the chickens were in another building or I think it would have got too loud!

Sales in this economic market were expected to have been down, as people are supposed to be keeping a lid on their spending. However, our sales for the day were almost exactly the same as last year, give or take £10, so we were very happy with that. I was talking with the FH last night and we wondered whether some people have bought books from us this year who perhaps might have bought more expensive gifts in the past - but books are excellent gifts in any economic climate, and we have some regular customers who keep coming back, and it was great to recognise them and ask how the gifts they bought last year were recieved!

The layout of the show was not great, but it was the first year that this new building has been in use for this show, and the craft fair was not put in with us; this led to a massive slump in sales for some of the traders and craftspeople who were in that area - my friend took a 50% drop in her sales, just because the footfall through the area was so reduced.

The FGs had a tiring day, but full of ups and downs - they did some shopping, had some "watching the world go by" moments, read a bit, played on DSs a little, signed up for the Record attempt at the World's Largest Roast Dinner, and generally wore themselves out walking, walking, walking! I wore myself out standing in one place all day! They were very good, as always, and I treated them to a ride on the carousel - it is a bit of a tradition at the show, and they love riding the horses and try to find their favourites each time! I'll put that photo in the next post as this one doesn't want to let me put it down here!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Should be "Exhausted in the Fens"!

We have done the show - we are shattered and have very sore feet! Will be back tomorrow to share photos and tell you all about it. The weather has been fantastic and the sales went well, so I can sleep easy tonight!

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Quick photo call

I didn't get these uploaded yesterday, so here are the rabbits enjoying the sunshine and yes, that is my shadow - I am not renowned for my photography and I think that that is probably quite a common mistake! The two rabbits on the left are female Dutch rabbits, born earlier in the year. The hutch next to them has the three white rabbits - who are nameless as we can't tell the difference between them. They were very skinny when we got them and are only now, months later, beginning to put weight on. They are also female. They are put into a big run on the grass when the weather is nice.

Here we have a closer shot of one of the white ones enjoying the sun. She sat like this for some while, obviously very contented.

And finally - the latest on the chicks! They are growing well, beginning to get wing feathers now, and very keen to be using them - they keep flying up to perch on the rim of the pen they are in, so we have had to put a wire lid over them!

We have had a long day! The YFG and I went to gymnastics this morning from 9.30 until 1pm, and then raced home to get changed and go with the FH and EFG to the showground to set the stall out for the Autumn show tomorrow. It took ages! We unloaded everything and then had to construct the racks, organise where to put everything - which can get very fraught at times, when I want to put something in one place and the FH thinks it should go elsewhere - but we managed. We then came home and I cooked a quick tea of sausages and mashed potatoes, followed by ginger cake (I'll post the recipe for that sometime soon - it is Good!) and now I have finished the kitchen cleanup and just need to make some posters for tomorrow. I will try to remember to take the camera so that I can take some pictures around the show and of the stall.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Friday again - they keep coming!

The days are passing by so quickly! We spent this morning packing the books into boxes and loading the trailer up. It was heavy work, lifting the book boxes and sorting things out. We were very glad of a rest and a cup of tea sitting under the verandah in the sun. The weather was lovely here today - fresh and clear with beautiful blue skies. The washing was blowing in the wind and was dry in no time at all and I Love the smell of line-dried laundry.

As the days are growing shorter now and the sun doesn't manage to rise as high in the sky, the shadows are lengthening and some areas of the garden don't get into the sun at all. This has meant that the time had come today to reposition the rabbit hutches for the winter. The winter position would be far too hot for them in the summer, and similarly, they would freeze if left in the summer position for the winter. Where we have them now, in the winter position, is in the best place for the maximum amount of sunshine and warmth for them during the shorter days. It faces south, so if the sun comes out at all, they will benefit. Once we had moved them, they positively basked in the sun - they had probably fogotten what it had felt like. I hope that they have a few nice days this weekend to enjoy it before it starts to rain again!

Gymnastics tonight, then we nipped off to Tesco before coming home to home-made fish and chips. We watched "Wire in the Blood" but I confess to not entirely understanding the storyline tonight, and now the FH is watching his all-time favourite programme, "Have I Got News for You". It is on the BBC, so you can probably get it in the US. Paul Merton is exceptionally witty in the FH's opinion, although I prefer Stephen Fry on QI.

So, I was going to mention stockpiling yesterday and didn't get around to it, so I am going to write my thoughts on it tonight. I keep a good store of things in the house for a number of reasons. The first is that we live about 10 miles from a supermarket and so I can't keep running to the shops every time I use something up. The second is that I am not that keen on shopping, so it makes sense to me to buy stuff in bulk and then have to do it less often. Between those two reasons, I generally do a "big" shop for the bulk of the stuff about once every two or three weeks when I will buy all the basics. More often than that, perhaps twice a week, I will stop by the supermarket and buy fresh fruit and some veggies. We do eat a lot of fruit, and so I need to keep that topped up.

Proper stockpiling is more than that - it would really involve having a few months' worth of provisions in stock, and I am aiming towards this in the long term. I do buy a lot of some things like loo roll when they go on sale - loo roll is a case in point, as we have about 10 packets of 4. There was a great sale on them a couple of weeks ago and so I bought them - we are always going to need loo roll!!!! However, that would also work for tinned and packet goods, flour, yeast and things that we need to use all the time in our cooking and baking, as well as paper goods in the house, female sanitary provisions, toiletries, etc. I do have two freezers and so I have a good supply there of stone fruits, apples, pears, berries, beans, peas - things we have grown ourselves or have been given by friends or relatives who have grown them. There is not actually very much in the freezers that I have bought. The danger with freezers is what to do in the event of a power cut! The answer is to keep them very tightly closed, and cover them with heavy blankets in a prolonged power cut in the hope of insulating them as long as possible - ours are outside under the verandah so they will be pretty chilly at this time of year! We don't have a lot of major power cuts where we live, so we get by.

So, why would I recommend stockpiling to any extent? First and foremost, it is a security blanket for me - I know that if money is scarce, I can still feed the family. Living what is called "hand to mouth" is a very precarious existence, where the wage earner is literally going out that week (or even that day) to earn the cash to feed the family. I would hate to live like that - and I probably have a month's supplies in the house - OK, I am sure that some of the combinations for meals towards the end of the month might get a little strange, but we would be fed! I know that if I want to set some extra money aside for something in particular, I can shop from home for a week instead of going to the supermarket, and save a lump sum quite quickly. The stores should always be rotated, so you are eating from the stock all the time and then replacing the food later. In the event of a disaster, emergency or fuel strike, I know that my family will be fed, and that makes me feel better!

My stockpile as it is at the moment has been built up over years, buying a few extra bits now and then. I have tinned fish, tinned fruit, corned beef, tinned beans, etc - I will do a complete list in the weeks to come. And I will get to the Chorley-Wood bread process soon too.

I will be busy over the weekend with the show and preparations for it, so I may not post again until Monday - have a good weekend, everyone!

Thursday, 9 October 2008

More thoughts!

Wow - we had five girls in the house this afternoon! I know a couple of my friends have four or even five kids of their own, but I guess you get used to the way of life one child at a time. My two are quiet in comparison to having five around, and these were well-behaved additions, I am pleased to be able to say. They are a family from church - one is the same year at school as the EFG, one is a Y6, so one year ahead of the YFG, and the little one is Y2 and very cute; the YFG dotes on her. They slotted into the family here very well and they all get on together. They all spent time outside on the trampoline and then the smaller three snuggled up together and watched part of a DVD whilst the older two were upstairs doing what 12/13 year olds do best - chatting! They stayed for tea and were so effusive with their praise of my cooking that I told them they could come back anytime - the middle one loved the chocolate slab cake and advised that I could open a bakery! It is so nice to be appreciated.

This morning I went out and sold some books at a playgroup. This has become a tradition at this particular group as I have been there in October every year since I began selling Usborne. They hold a coffee morning and the mums (and dads, sometimes) gather to chat and buy bits and pieces - I was there with the books, there was a Chocoholics lady, and a Body Shop person. I know who sold most and it wasn't either of them! Yes, I sold just over £250 of books in just under an hour and a half, and I was very pleased with that. I have been worried with the "global financial crisis" as the BBC like to call it, that people would be careful this Christmas and sales would be down, but not this morning - mums were handing over £20 notes and flashing credit and debit cards like nobody's business! The playgroup were pleased as I was able to give them £50 worth of books for free. I do love that bit of this business as groups which are always short of cash but trying to do their best for children benefit from the sales that I do in that way - and the leader was a bit overwhelmed at the thought of getting to choose so many books for the children.

Today is a day in the middle of two birthdays - my late grandmother would have been 105 yesterday but she died in September 2002 days short of her 99th birthday. My dad turns 79 tomorrow, so I have sent him a birthday card and phoned him for a chat tonight as I know that he and I both have busy days tomorrow. He lives about 15 - 20 miles away, near Huntingdon and we see him about once a fortnight or so. He is in generally good health but has some problems with his heart which are long-term but under control.

Well, I was going to tell you about Chorley-Wood bread and stockpiling tonight, but I have run out of time so I'll leave that for another day. If you get a minute, Google (funny how we all recognise that as a verb these days!) Chorley wood and you will begin to understand why home-made bread is best!

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Growing well

There are still some things growing in the Fen garden in October - we are still harvesting runner beans and will be enjoying these tonight (although the FH says I should have left some of these on the plants to become seeds for next year).

Here are some lettuces which are growing away in the greenhouse - the temperature in there today in the sun was over 100C, so we have put it in the right place to capture the warmth.

These tomatoes were taken off the vines last weekend and are ripening in the greenhouse. The taste is magnified when you eat a home-grown tomato - a supermarket tomato pales in comparison!

And here we have some cress, again enjoying the warmth of the greenhouse!

And finally, the quail basking in the sun. We have put a blanket over the top of the cage and they have stopped trying to jump up - they were hitting their heads, and it looked painful. They will be better when they are in a proper aviary, but as a temporary home, they seem content to sit in the warmth and relax. The front of the cage is wired, so they are still getting plenty of light and air, and they are not directly in the sun.

Having spoken yesterday to another quail-keeper, the FH has found out that these quail may indeed all be female although their markings differ as it may just be that they are different kinds of quail. We are still waiting for that first egg to be laid, but since we don't know exactly how old they are, we will have to be patient; quail are apparently able to lay eggs from 50 days of age, so they should be approaching that soon, we hope.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Waves to Goosey!

A new reader has joined us - hope you have a great holiday!

Today has been one of those days for the FH - he had his flu jab yesterday and has felt rotten all day today. He is always like this and declares each year that he would rather take his chances getting the flu than feel like this after the injection - but he still goes and has it! He had a headache last night and didn't sleep well, so when he woke up this morning and still had the bad head, he decided to sleep it off. He got up at around 11, and mooched around the garden, inspecting the rabbits and chickens, and then went into the shed where the chicks are living. He thought that we should increase the area of the pen that they are in because they have grown (must take another photo for you) and went to move the heatlamp - Big Mistake - he accidentally hit it against something and broke it! And he had only bought that one on Sunday (forgot to tell you that one broke then, perhaps?) so he had to go out this afternoon and get another one! I (being a wise woman!) had told him on the two previous occasions that he should buy two to save special trips but he resisted and just got one each time - guess what, though? He bought two today!

I have made biscuits for the girls today - a similar recipe to the last one, indeed a bit of a variation on it, but made with peanut butter instead of chocolate chips. Since I don't fancy trying to melt peanut butter, I mix the peanut butter with the sugar in a creamed mix, then add the rest of the ingredients, but this makes quite a dry, crumby mixture that won't hold together - so I add two eggs for the binding. I then take small handfuls, roll them in my hands before putting them on the baking trays, and then flatten them gently with a fork. They are quite solid biscuits and much less prone to spreading out than the choc chip variety. These are not for taking to school in case there is anyone about with an allergy to peanuts, so the girls and FH enjoy them at home.

This afternoon, the YFG and I were at gymnastics again, which was fun although hard work. We are preparing for a competition in November, and so 15 of the gymnasts are learning floor routines with the choreographer, K, as well as trying to perfect their vaults. It is just a two-piece competition, so that is all they have to do. There will be one in March next year which will be four pieces, so they will have more to learn. K had a car crash recently and is without a car, so we took her home afterwards, popped into a school PTA meeting to tell them about the books I sell, and then came home for tea - the YFG is completey pooped, poor girl, and was at the crotchety stage of tiredness.

The FGs are loving their "winter" beds - I have bought them each a set of old-fashioned flannelette sheets: I got them hugely reduced from Roseby's in Cambridge in August as obviously no-one else wanted that sort of thing in August and they were desperate to get rid! So they are snuggling down between the sheets, with a duvet over the top and then, on cold nights, a blanket or fleece over that. The EFG has now taken to asking to be "tucked in", which she hadn't bothered about for years, and is now 12! It is lovely to tuck them in, though, so I don't mind. I haven't come up with a washing plan yet, though; I only got one pair each, and I don't have a tumble drier so they will have to be off the beds for a day or three when they are washed so I think that they will have to go back to normal sheets - unless I can find some more reasonably priced ones somewhere this week.....

It has been striking today how warm the wind has become overnight - we have gone from very chilly weather to mild but blustery winds. The thick winter coats weren't needed today and I was walking around the garden in a polo shirt without a jumper. The vagarities of the English weather are a mystery, but a pleasant surprise at times. There were certainly no worries about putting the heating on today.

The YFG is going to a friend's house after school tomorrow, and I have to take the EFG to her exercise class, so I will get an hour to myself in town - unheard of!! A trip to the library and a few shops will be in order, and I need to collect some change from the bank for the show at the weekend, so that will be top of the list.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Musical Mondays

We have a big Book show coming up when we will be selling at the East of England showground's annual Autumn Show, being held this coming Sunday. This meant that we needed to go through the stock and see where the gaps were, and then file an order to remedy the gaps, if you see what I mean. This took up most of the morning, but it has been done and then there will be a lot of sorting out to do when all the boxes arrive later in the week. The FH and I were busily scanning the bookshelves when all of a sudden I noticed the time, and had to send the FH scurrying to the car as he had an appointment for a flu jab, and only had 10 minutes to travel 8 rural miles to the surgery! My trans-atlantic reader will know that a "rural" mile around here can take longer to travel than normal!! He arrived in time, and came home with a sore arm.

I cycled to school and back today with the YFG, so I travelled 4 miles to her 2, but I hope it was worth the exercise - it has been the first fine day for a week today and I really wanted to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Sunshine - yes! The temperature in the greenhouse was in the 90s this morning by 9 am so I had to open the rooflight to ventilate it for the quail - I don't want the eggs baked before they are laid, not that any have actually started to lay yet. The chickens are not happy in this current cold snap that we are having and have dropped production to one a day between them - which is not good! I have had to buy eggs tonight to be able to bake tomorrow.

This evening we have all been to band practice - my euphonium skills are improving, I am told! It is lovely to be doing something as a family, although I think that it may be next Christmas before we can play carols together. I managed to play half the C-scale tonight, so that was an improvement on last week. Our teacher is in his early seventies and has been playing for 64 years, so I have a long way to go. He plays a tuba, but seems to know how to teach us all these different things so I guess his experience is wide ranging.

I have ordered myself a book by Cath Kidston from the the discount internet BookPeople website, and I am hoping that it will have some simple things in it that I can have a go at. I have downloaded some instructions from the net for the sewing machine and will be setting aside some time at the weekend (no, the show is on this weekend, so maybe the next!) to get the machine out and see if I can sort it out. There are some really great tutorials on the internet that I looked at one day last week, and I want to have a go at some of these things too - pencil cases, shoe bags, basket linings, etc, but my trouble is TIME - there just isn't enough of it. I could sleep less, I guess, but I'd feel so bad that it wouldn't be worth it.

The chicken feed was delivered this afternoon so that took about 45 minutes to move it from where it was unloaded on the driveway to the shed for storage. There were 22 bags to move, each weighing in at 20kg, so they were Heavy. I took three at a time in the wheelbarrow, but had to take a circuitous route around the garden to get round the raised beds, whereas the FH took 2 at a time on a trolley but was able to take a straighter route because the trolley was narrower and could get through the gaps more easily. Between us, we got them all put away safely. I don't know how long they will last because we have bought layers' mash, growers' pellets, chick crumbs and mixed corn, and they are all used at different rates for the various birds; I think that the chick crumbs will be enough for the baby chicks until they are ready to go onto growers' pellets, so we may be OK for about three months, I hope! There is enough mash for longer than that - we had to order 25 bags (a friend took 3 bags of corn) to get it delivered, so it was a bit of guesswork this time. The prices are excellent though - Bearts of Stowbridge, if anyone needs animal feed!

Have to go and do some ironing before I head to the bath, so will send hugs to those I know and good wishes to everyone else!

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Two days pass in a blur!

Yesterday and today have passed in a blur, quite literally! Friday morning was taken up with general chores and then a school meeting that went on until lunchtime. I came home, ate some lunch, watched the news (something I do more often at the moment whilst all this financial/economic stuff is happening!), cleaned out a couple of the chicken houses, had to have a shower and then went to gym. After gym, we ate, and watched Wire in the Blood, then I had to do a bit of work on the computer with a couple of DVDs from gym. Watching other coaches is really helpful to get ideas for teaching, but I really need to sit down with a pen and paper and make notes, which I didn't, so I'll need to watch again more carefully!

This morning was a rerun of most Saturday mornings - get up, fling a load of school clothes in the washing machine, get everyone up, sort the poultry, hang the washing, pack a snack and get going! We picked up a little friend from town to come and play for the afternoon, who is now staying the night, and came home. She was fascinated with all the birds, and wanted to hold a rabbit, which she has done, and been chuffed with herself.

You will have noticed the prevalence of visiting children lately! As I said the other day, I don't mind and I would much rather that these children feel welcome and happy to come here than my children disappear off to play in the streets. There is a bit of a protective mother in there, but there is also the fact that there are limited opportunities in a small, rural village for children to get together other than on the street, so I would prefer that they played at home. The weather hasn't been great today so although they did go out on the trampoline for a while, they have been plaiting hair, drawing, watching "Ballet Shoes", playing on the computer, looking after the hamster, chatting and generally just having fun together.

I have been reading other people's views on the huge influence that Tesco exerts on us all in myriad different ways. We have currently got a fairly small supermarket on the outskirts of the nearest town which is a Tesco, but they are preparing to open a huge one there on the 20th of this month; it will be a 24 hour opening one, and is about 3 times the size of the current one. I realise that the current one is small compared to most these days, but it is a good size and carries most of what people generally want to buy, but it seems that perhaps Mr Tesco, or the powers that be, think that a bigger shop might make more money because it has the space to sell a wider range of products. I would like to move away from shopping at Tesco, but the unfortunate reality of the local shops is that I would find it hard to buy basic goods such as flour, sugar, teabags, etc. I could go (I do, but not regularly) to a butcher for meat, and to a veg shop for greengrocery, although we are growing more ourselves, and I can get toiletries from chemists, but where do I go for the basics? The only place I can think of is a wholefood co-op in Cambridge which neither sells exactly what I want to buy nor is conveniently placed - it is over 30 miles away and charges "wholefood" prices, rather than "normal" prices - I do accept that I am not going to get things at prices comparable to Tesco "Value" prices outside of that store.

In the present situation, I feel trapped in the shadow of Tesco. It is cost-effective to shop there because I can get most of the shopping there and that reduces the car journeys I need to make - it would be a completely different scenario if I lived in the small town in Scotland where I lived for about 8 years. There was a butcher, a greengrocer, several chemists, a "pound" shop for bits and pieces, a small Co-op, and a Lidl. I walked from shop to shop, putting the purchases under my pram and often picking up fresh fruit and meat or fish daily. We often remark upon the time we used only one tank of diesel in a three month period because we hardly used the car - we could walk to the doctor, the dentist, the shops, playgroup, etc and it was great. I get the feeling that I am stuck in the rural village we have chosen to live in, and because we have to be economical with fuel and time these days, I cannot practically manage to live in all the ways we would if things were different. We also run two cars now whereas then we got on fine with just the one.

So, living in the Fens has its bad points, but we chose to live here for the space and the generous sized house that we enjoy - so the good points of this include benefits such as the room to grow produce, to have the poultry, to stockpile and to enjoy the wide, open skies. I'll keep thinking about the Tesco issue, and maybe (Maybe?) challenge myself to stay away for a while and see how I get on - but should I avoid all supermarkets or just that one? Will think about that and report back. Another cockerel on the menu for tomorrow, so I will have to take the plucker a cup of tea!

I got my car back yesterday, but the chap from the garage had to come and get it on Thursday afternoon. I had arranged to drop it off to him on Thursday morning, so I dropped the YFG off to school in the FH's car, and then came home to take mine to the garage - and it didn't even have a flicker of life in the battery - not a glimmer! So the mechanic had to come and tow it into the garage, but he worked his magic on it and it is back in fine form today, thank goodness. The FH needed his car today so I am very relieved that I got mine back.

I have had a word with my sister about the sewing machine this evening but she doesn't really kow much about it but I have found a website which has downloadable Singer instruction booklets. I have taken down three of them and so when I can work out which machine I have, I may be able to make it work. I would really like to, because I found some beautiful things that I would love to have a go at making. I don't want to buy a new machine - in fact, I won't because I am not sufficiently good at it to make it worthwhile - but there are several machines in the family so I should be able to make one of them work for me!

I failed in the attempt to keep the heating off until November. The YFG went to bed last night wearing her pyjamas and her school fleece and her slippers to bed, so I guessed she was feeling chilly. This afternoon, when we brought her friend home to play, the house was like an icebox and whilst it is fine for us to wrap up like Eskimos, it is a bit much to expect your guests to keep their coats on, so I had to put the heat on for a while in her honour.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Quiet day

It's good to have quiet days now and again! Housework, cooking, reading, ironing, the animal care, baking bread, cuddling the kids whilst watching The Bill. The YFG had a friend to play after school - yes, that little girl yet again, but I don't mind as I am pleased that kids like coming here to play: it means that I can easily keep in touch with who they are playing with and keep a check on their behaviour! She stayed for tea, which was sausage plait and baked beans, a family favourite.

The weather here has been very fresh today - I am trying to stay positive and evoke a thought of fresh, bright autumnal days, rather than cold, damp days - I know that those days are coming and that they are probably not that far away. We are not putting the heating on until the 1st November, I am determined! We have to make a date to go by, or we would just put it on anyway, but whilst the EFG is walking around in just a Tshirt and trousers, we don't need it on. She did ask me tonight when we would be putting it on, and I pointed out that she could put on a jumper (sweater) if she was cold - she wasn't cold enough to go and fetch one, though!

I spent a while looking at some tutorials on the net this morning for home-made gifts, which inspired me to dig out the old sewing machine, and some fabric. The sewing machine is a hand-operated Singer and it is OLD! It has some problems with tension in the stitches, so I need to talk to my sister about it, or see if I can find any info on the net about it.

We brought the quail outside into the greenhouse as we were worried that they weren't getting enough light where they were in the shed - they were with the little chicks. Hopefully they will soon start to lay some eggs!

Go to go to bed soon - early meeting at school tomorrow, so need to be in gear and ready to go!

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

All go here

There was a spot of bother this morning when I went to sort out the poultry this morning - the heat lamp over the chicks had stopped working for one reason or another. That necessitated a frantic ring round of all the local possible suppliers to find a stockist, and then a trip off to fetch one. I don't know how long they were without heat but they all seem fine so far.

I have had a bit of a tidy up this morning and then I cooked a hot meal for lunch for a change. It meant that tonight, when I cooked macaroni cheese (except it wasn't macaroni but fusili) for the family, I wasn't really hungry and just had some hot pudding - it was one of my favourites - pear crumble and custard.

The FGs had some friends round after school - three sisters from church - for chatting and playing, which was fun. Their mum came too as she is interested in the chickens so we had a tour of the various chicken runs whilst the girls were playing. It was lovely to connect with someone else who shares some of our values. We ended up chatting until about 5.30pm when they had to leave to go home to look after their dogs and cook tea.

The economic times we are living in now are hard, and people are encountering all sorts of problems. We are blessed to have no mortgage to worry about, and no debts hanging over us. We live on pensions and so our incomes are relatively secure at the moment, and my earnings from bookselling never amount to a fortune, a couple of thousand a year at the most - and that gets swallowed up in the "treats" that we have (like a new computer or a short holiday), or it gets saved, but it is never counted as a part of our regular income because it isn't! I am not old enough to have experienced the deprivations of life during the war, but my father and uncle are, and the FH remembers some of the time after the war when rationing was still in force. It was a time of making do, of re-use, and of reducing one's needs, and I think that that sort of scenario is one that we are returning to here. A friend let me know today that the shop she works in has started its "sale" and it is a clothing shop that I use when I need new clothes, but I am not going to rush over there this week as there is nothing that I need. A few years ago, I would have gone and probably snapped up a few bargains, as I would have thought of them, and then they would have languished in the bottom of the wardrobe!

Rhonda has an excellent list of 20 ways to survive tough times, and I am relieved to find that I am doing at least half of these things, and working on the rest! Have a look at where you will be able to see how you are getting on compared to her suggestions - and I reckon that they are all excellent ideas!

PS The car is going into the garage to have the new alternator fitted tomorrow morning, so I am hoping to have it back in full working order by Friday afternoon. Thank goodness for friendly, honest and reliable local mechanics.