Thursday, 30 December 2010

Frugaldom

I've been too busy reading on this wonderful forum to make a post tonight - and I have had a busy day so I am off to bed now - good night, all!!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Bring back the snow!

The fog is worse!!!

The trip north to Lincolnshire went Ok on the way up there, but it was horrible coming home in really dense fog - straining my eyes to see the road and concentrating so hard really made my eyes and head ache.

Anyway, the meal and the chat was great, and the YFG got to go for a walk with one of the dogs, so she was happy. The EFG helped my cousin's husband to get some CDs of music downloaded onto his MP3 player and he was amazed at how quickly she was able to do it for him on our laptop. My aunt and uncle were there, so there was much reminiscing of the good old days of my grandmother and her family - it was all good fun, and we really enjoyed seeing them all again.

The YFG wanted to go to Asda to see if they had Just Dance 2 for the Wii, as she had earmarked some of her Christmas money for that. Sure enough, although Tesco and Sainsbury's had failed to provide it for us yesterday, Asda came through today and she scored one! Once we got home tonight, she and the EFG played on it for a good hour, entertaining the FH - and then had a rest and watched a DVD before having another go - they are having more exercise today than they have had all week.......

Thanks to silversewer, I have found a new website all about saving money and having a good life: it is called Frugaldom - and it is fab!! Check it out - and I have also found a couple more blogs to add to my blog roll so I am sure you would be very welcome to have a browse there too.

Taking stock

Yesterday I did take the girls out. We were all getting a bit of cabin fever, and wanted to see the world again, if only for an hour or two! I didn't, however, take them to the cinema, as they weren't up early enough. I was busying myself around the house, washing and tidying things, and was quite happy to carry on, so since they couldn't get themselves up on time, we didn't go. We will go one day, though! We went out at 2.30 and were home by 5pm - we only went to the town, with the primary ambition on having a scout for some shoes for the EFG. Several shops didn't have any she liked, so we had a look in Tesco - and came out with my purse considerably lighter.

I bought them a pair of trousers each, several pairs of socks, a belt for the YFG, and then I stocked up on toiletries on offer, and some washing liquid I like. With the VAT rise coming in January, I know that these things are going to go up a little, so since I had the money available, I bought them now to save a few pennies. I am not daft - I know that I have only saved the pennies but it is as they say - "Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves" - and so those things are now stashed around the house, and we won't have to think about buying them for about six months!! Thinking ahead, I did as I always do and bought next year's Christmas crackers from the reduced stand as well as several packets of half-price Christmas cards - I had run out this year and had to buy a couple of packets at full price, and that hurt! I am prepared for 2011 now! I also bought a very nice mug for a friend's present next year - she loves blue and white crockery and it is from a range from the Victoria & Albert Museum - she will love it!!

So, today. We are heading out at about 11am to go up to Lincolnshire to my cousin's for lunch. My aunt and uncle will be there too, so it will be lovely to spend some time with them and catch up on all their news. I haven't seen my aunt and uncle since August Bank Holiday, so it has been a couple of months, although my cousin did pop down to see us a month or so back. My cousin is starting a new business venture this year, which is quite exciting, so there will be lots to talk about, and the YFG is very interested in her dogs, so there will probably be a walk on the agenda too. The YFG is hoping to call in at an Asda on the way to see if they have a Wii game that she wants to spend some of her Christmas money on - Just Dance 2 - so time for that will have to be factored into the day as well.

Monday, 27 December 2010

A lighter day

After all the rich foods over the past couple of days, the FH and I shared a tin of grapefruit for breakfast this morning, and then we had some home-made leek and potato soup for lunch. Tonight I have had a jacket potato with some salmon and the rest of the gang have had tuna pasta bake - an excellent storecupboard day of cooking and eating.

The girls are straining at the leash to get to the shops and were almost begging us to take them out this afternoon - so we sent them out for a walk for half an hour. Fresh air and exercise were good for them, but they came home very cold!!

The FH has been doing the Christmas puzzle a lot today, and has just got a few more pieces to drop in - he has made good progress today! The picture is really coming together at last. He says it feels like there aren't enough pieces left, but it should turn out OK in the end....

My sister is feeling a little better today, but still feels very rough. Hopefully she will be able to rest and recuperate for the rest of the week; if I am in the town, I will pop in to see her.

Tomorrow, we may go to see the latest Harry Potter film as I have some Tesco Cineworld vouchers. The trouble is that there have been several new films advertised on the tv this week, and now we want to see them all - some will just have to wait until they come on the tv. The other trip this week will be for some new school shoes for the EFG. We might go to Downham Market for those, as there is an excellent shop there for wide-fitting shoes. That means I can pop into Morrison's for some of their lovely meat!

Hope that your Christmas has brought you lots of fun, and festive cheer!

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Peace reigns tonight

The FH is watching the news, the EFG is reading, the YFG is playing her new Professor Leyton game on her Nintendo DS, UJ is doing the Christmas puzzle - so I have slipped away for a moment or two!

My sister rang me this morning at 9am; the first thing I said was, "Happy Christmas!" and then, "You alright?" Well, no, she wasn't OK - she's come down with the flu and had woken at 6am absolutely drenched, and with a temperature. UJ was planning to go to her house today and then stay the night and come to us for the day tomorrow, so we had to ring him and get him to come here for the whole weekend instead - good job there was plenty of food! He is always very welcome here, but it meant a little tidying and bedmaking in the spare room this afternoon. The girls helped out so we got it done quickly.

We started off the day's festivities at chapel, which was a fun service - all the children got a present, and we played pass the parcel as part of the sermon as well. We are a small congregation, and we sit around on chairs in a horseshoe shape so it is a very informal situation. It was a lovely service, and some of the children had written their own version of the Christmas story, interspersed with appropriate songs - it was great!

UJ arrived after that, and the smells from the kitchen were beginning to be tempting!! The lunch was ready at about 1.30pm - leek and potato soup, the turkey course and then the pudding. We were all relaxing afterwards - the FH and UJ had to have a snooze!

It has been a lovely day which we have enjoyed. We rang our friend George, in his eighties, whom we spent a lot of time with when we lived in Scotland, and I called my sister for an update on her health (same as this morning, although she has spent most of the day asleep). The girls are thinking about heading for bed now - and I don't think I will be far behind them!

Friday, 24 December 2010

We're tracking Santa

We're following Santa's progress around the world on the NORAD website again this year - as Christmas steals around the globe, it is like a countdown to the Big Day here!

The FH worked hard this morning and all the veg are ready, I have made pork sausagemeat stuffing balls, and the brandy butter. I have also been out delivering a couple of gifts in the village, and to friends here on the estate, where I stopped for a cup of tea as well.

Now I am going to give the chooks their afternoon feed before I ice the cake and do some baking. Hope you all have everything under control where you are!!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Mince pies and more

The pastry I made last night from the Delia recipe worked well - except that the FH didn't know I could make puff pastry and ridiculed it as "bought" stuff, saying that it was not as good as my home made pastry - I think that was a back-handed compliment. Anyway, once he had been educated, he thought it was nice! I have put some more butter in the freezer tonight to make some more puff pastry tomorrow for sausage rolls and coconut tarts - my dad loves coconut tarts and he will be here on Boxing Day so they are for him.

Today's mince pies have been delivered to various destinations - most are in a tin in the kitchen, ready for the family and visitors to enjoy; some were delivered today to the Head Coach from gym, who loves a good mince pie - and for the man who has everything, something for his stomach is a safe bet when you can't think what to get him for Christmas! We also took a small parcel with us when we went to stock up on chicken food - the chaps at the shop are very kind about loading the car up for me, so that was a little treat for them - they also got a little box of home-made fudge. Two bags of pies are also tucked away in the freezer for later on in the festive season!

The YFG returned home from a sleepover at lunchtime, and then she accompanied me around and about as I finished up all the last minute pick ups and deliveries. We visited my sister to drop off her gifts and pick up her gifts for the girls, and we had to go to the shop as the FH complained because I hadn't bought any lemonade...a man of simple pleasures!!

So, what will tomorrow bring? Probably no more snow at the moment - but some more baking is on the agenda as well as some last minute cleaning chores like washing the kitchen floor as there is no point doing that until the baking is finished. The turkey came out of the freezer this morning, and I will be preparing as much as I can tomorrow - the veg, the brandy butter, the stuffing balls - and putting the icing on the cake! The presents are all wrapped, the cards posted and delivered........tomorrow evening I will be looking forward to putting my feet up!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Finally....

I got the marzipan on the cake at last!

I am now waiting for some butter to freeze so I can make some of this pastry a la Delia. I'm then going to put it in the fridge and make the mince pies in the morning. Today has been a busy one - cleaning more chook houses out, moving some GPOs to a new pen in the big shed, taking the YFG to her sleepover at a friend's house in the village, cooking tea with the FH and watching a little TV.

Hoping all your Christmas preparations are underway, that you are all keeping warm, and sending everyone best wishes for a peaceful Christmas.

In the spirit of Christmas.......


The tree is in the sitting room, in the bay window. The girls got it decorated on Saturday and it looks very festive - especially as I try to keep it to red, green and gold, although I notice that a few other colours have begun to sneak in!!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Ups and downs today

Today's been good, but it has been a bit thoughtful and reflective as well. The FH took the girls to Cambridge this morning so that the YFG could have her orthodontic braces put on. Given that the roads were bad, and the weather looking dicey, they allowed two hours for a journey which could be done in 45 minutes in good weather and light traffic.

Whilst they were gone, I pottered around in the house for a while, and the post arrived. In the post came a card from a family we know in Scotland. The mum in the family is a girl I knew from university at St Andrews - we had rooms on the same corridor for our first year in a Hall of Residence, and she is Catholic, and so is my best friend from those days, so they spent time together as well. When we sold our first house to move along the road, she and her husband bought it - it was a huge surprise when they came to look around. We knew each other, but we weren't really friends - we didn't have a lot in common back then as I was studying theology and she was doing maths or science. So we lived in the same street for a couple of years, and I had the EFG and then the YFG and she had two boys over time. We have kept in touch, via Christmas cards and letters - and it was her card and letter which touched me so much today. Her fourth child was born in April - a little sister for the three boys - and she has Down's Syndrome, and had to undergo some quite traumatic surgery early on in her life to close a hole in her heart. Little BT sounds like quite a fighter, and the photo included in the letter shows three adoring older brothers holding her for the post, so she is very well loved. I can't be there for them because I am so far away, but I can remember BT and her family in my prayers. If you are of a praying mind, I'd be glad if you would think of them too.

I had a bath, and then wrapped up in many layers and stepped outside. I quite honestly have not been outside a door in two weeks, so I just mooched around the garden for a while, and then had a look at the chooks. The FH has done his best to look after them, but they were in sore need of cleaning out, so I did that for an hour and a half, and they were very grateful! I also gave them some hot mash to warm them up. I found a couple of dead chickens as well, which was sad - one very freshly dead in the run which must have just died in the past couple of hours since the FH let them out and fed them in the morning. It is likely to have died because of the cold weather. I also found our beloved Lana - she was a beautiful little bantam, who must have been quite an age - about 5 or 6 we think. She probably died last night, as I found her body in the shed where she had gone in to roost. She and her sister Leah had free run of the garden so Leah is looking a bit lonely today. We were all a bit sad about Lana as she had been a very favourite chook for years, and we will miss her mooching about the garden, but she had had a very happy life, raised a good number of foster-chicks, and been a good mum. RIP Lana.

The girls and the FH arrived home at about 2.30pm and within an hour the FH was off again to help a friend with a leaking sink! The girls and I enjoyed a visit from a friend and her daughter whilst he was out - I hadn't had a chance for a good chat with B for nearly two months, so we all sat round the fire with a cup of tea each and caught up on the news.

This evening, my delivery from Sainsbury's has arrived, and I have scored a free turkey! I ordered a turkey crown, which would serve 8-10 people, and some packs of chicken thighs on offer at 3 for £5. These items didn't quite make it here - although the rest of the delivery was great. I phoned up to complain about the chicken thighs as I got substitutions which cost me £11.08 - I don't mind some subs but that was taking the p! And the turkey crown had become a full turkey but one which only served 4-6 people. I phoned - and had to wait 35 minutes to speak to someone so I was pleased that it was a free phone number - to complain about the way the subs are done; surely they would be able to see that I needed a bigger turkey if the one I had actually ordered would feed that many people, and as for the chicken, well! If something is on offer at £5, you don't expect to have to pay more than twice that for the sub, do you?!? So the lady very kindly offered me a full refund for the turkey, and refunded the difference between the offer price and what I paid for the chicken. It does pay to moan occasionally, although I wouldn't make a habit of it. Perhaps they will sub more thoughtfully in future.....

The YFG is now having some pain in her teeth, so she has had some Calpol, and some rice pudding - her back teeth can't meet, she says, so she can't chew at all. That could be tricky, so I am going to phone up for advice in the morning. If anyone has advice from their own experience, I'd be glad to read it!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Getting there...

The girls and I have been sorting out the sitting room today, rearranging the furniture and putting up the decorations. The tree is up - at last - and the girls are satisfied with our efforts. We have to move things around to accommodate the tree, and an extra table for the Christmas jigsaw - it is usually a 1000 piece job, so it demands a table of its own, ideal for pottering over it and popping the odd piece in now and again when you have a spare moment to sit down. We actually have two to do this year, as it got overlooked last year!

The most gorgeous smell is emanating from the kitchen tonight as I have a chicken in the slow cooker, along with some onion, celery and parsnip - it might make tomorrow's lunch as a pie once it is cooked.

Now that the tree is up, cards are posted and we are in the mood, I am beginning to get into the swing of this - the marzipanning of the cake is on the plan for tomorrow.

The FH is feeling fragile tonight as he fell over this morning - well, he fell off a ladder in the garage when he was putting some books back on the shelves. He had a little wooden stepladder, which broke, so now it just consists of the ladder part without the supporting leg and rather than mending it, he has been leaning it against the shelves. Today it slipped and he ended up on his back on the floor, and he has scraped his leg and his elbow, and feels a little shaken up! He is now in the bath and having an early night.

We were delighted to watch the final of Strictly Come Dancing tonight - we voted for Matt Baker, but Kara was a deserving winner. I wouldn't have been surprised if Pamela Stephenson had won as she was also excellent and her show dance was the best - the other two were really a lot of posturing and not a lot of dancing!!

A very generous friend of the FH has given us LOADS of DVDs this weekend - probably nearly 200 of them!! This friend's father has had to go into a residential home and can't take them all along, so the friend has been tasked with getting rid of them - and the FH was in seventh heaven looking through them all as there are a lot of action films which he loves. They are all in excellent condition - he was delighted to find a DVD of Andre Rieu and his Johann Strauss orchestra playing in Australia, so that kept him amused for over two hours last night as he was completely taken with the music. There are more Steven Seagal films, Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, Bruce Willis, the Bourne Trilogy, Delta Force, etc - lots for him to enjoy!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

I'm not ready........

Nearly a week has past since I have last blogged here - sorry! I've been doing a lot of thinking (uh, oh!) and realised that my illness has largely been down to stress rather than a bug. I've had time to think, time to relax and let my mind wander - all that knitting is really rather meditative. So, on Tuesday, I got up and decided to attack the thing which has caused me the most stress - the school governor situation.

I made some phone calls, I am sure I have made a little stir, and things are happening. Most importantly, I am getting the professional support I need from various agencies in order to help the school to progress. And I feel better - I have spread the load. I have a mentor assigned to me as a new Chair, so I bent her ear as well, and she reassures me that I am doing OK, and reminded me that actually, we do this job as volunteers, for nothing, and should be treated with some respect, not as dogsbodies! So that helped, too.

I have also been plodding around the house - not in a despondent kind of mood, but in terms of doing one thing at a time and not thinking of the next 10 things I need to do!! Taking my time, sitting and reading a book near the fire for an hour if I feel like it, knitting a spell, hanging the washing up and then doing something I enjoy for a while. So if People have rung to ask how I am, I have said, "Plodding along!" and felt quite happy about it.

But, I am not ready for Christmas - the cake has not been draped in marzipan, the tree is not up, the lounge is not cleaned, the parcels have yet to be posted.......but so what? I still have a week!! I'll keep at it a little at a time and it will be done, eventually. I have done some things - ordered oil for the heating, the ironing, sent the Christmas cards to the post, sent some messages to friends. We are warm, dry and well fed - and together - and that is what matters!

Friday, 10 December 2010

Bugs and burst pipes!

I have been suffering with a stomach bug now for just over a week, so I am not doing much at all. I am very pleased with how independent and mature the girls have proved to be, as they are managing to get themselves out of the house in the morning to go to school with no input from me - they are making their lunches and their breakfast. They go out of the house looking smart and shout out, "Love you!" as they go.

The FH has had to take over the care of the chooks, which has been challenging for him, but they are all doing OK. They will get cleaned out next week when I am better.

The burst pipe seems to have happened last night - in the workshop this morning the FH found about an inch of water all over the floor. The pipe to the water heater over the hand basin is the one which burst, so that is a lesson learned. For now, he has turned the water off at the stopcock in there and will sort it out when it is a little warmer.

So, this episode of illness has taught me that I am not indispensible, and that things go on - we have had to put plans in place for the YFG to lead the preschool session at gym tomorrow morning, and a Songs of Praise tomorrow evening at chapel will go ahead anyway, of course - I have planned the service, put it together, arranged the readings and the participants, but the FH and the girls will actually lead the service for me.

It has also meant that I have had a bit of time for rest and recuperation! I have read a few books, watched some tv, done some knitting etc and generally had a rest - although I have been a little bored at times - I am definitely looking forward to getting better and being able to take part in the preparations for Christmas. I have done an internet shop at Sainsbury's to be delivered on the 20th, so I hope that the weather doesn't deteriorate and prevent that happening!

Hope everyone else is OK!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Do we really need this?

I have just received my latest Tesco vouchers through, just in time for Christmas, they say! I was really surprised that over the whole Christmas and New Year period, the local Tesco will only actually be closed on Christmas Day....it will be open Boxing Day and New Year's Day, albeit on a slightly reduced opening hour system, but it is still open for business. Is it that the supermarkets are so desperate for our business, or is it consumer-driven? Who will really be wanting to trawl the aisles on Boxing Day? Not me.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

It has begun.......

The flashing lights are up in the cul-de-sac we live in - the neighbours have started to decorate their houses for Christmas. I always think of Advent as a little but like Lent - a time of waiting before the big festival that is Christmas or Easter. My thoughts on the period are that we should be a little bit austere in our tastes at this time so that we can more fully appreciate the celebrations. Our Christmas tree goes up the Saturday before Christmas, so that'll be on the 18th this year, but there are already Christmas trees aplenty adorning front windows everywhere. It seems to me that "Christmas" has become a season, much like Autumn, and has to be stretched out over a huge period - a little of November, all of December and some of January!

I much prefer to think of the Twelve Days of Christmas, beginning on the day itself and ending a few days after New Year in January. That is enough for me - and I am not being miserable, but more realistic! Children get so excited these days about things that it seems silly to keep them hyped up for weeks on end, building up their expectations. At the other end of the spectrum, a friend of mine let her children believe for years that Father Christmas brought all their decorations on Christmas Eve, so she and her husband decorated the house after they had gone to bed that night - inspired woman!

In the middle of all the decorations and gift giving, the matter of the babe in the manger often gets overlooked. That is really what it is all about, and we, as a Christian family, will be doing all we can to keep that at the centre of our celebrations.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Big skies

We get an awful lot of these swans going over at this time of year; they come to the wetland reserve in the Fens for the winter. Each day they fly out onto the fields to feed, and then return to the reserve in the late afternoon for their evening feeding session, honking like mad as they fly! I wish I had been able to take a photo like this one, but this came off the internet - I never have my camera with me when they fly over, and more often than not, the light wouldn't be good enough for me to take a picture anyway.

I had heard people talk about the big skies out here in the Fens but it had passed me by. I hadn't really noticed as I suppose I had got used to them, and then we went on holiday to Scotland and all of a sudden there was Less sky, because the ground rises up to meet the sky so dramatically up there. When we got back, it hit me quite suddenly one afternoon when I was driving home with the family - the FH was driving and I was gazing around me like a loon - I could see sky in every direction for miles and there seemed to be absolute acres of it!! And I realised then what people had been talking about...


Friday, 3 December 2010

Getting used to it now

We've had a week and a half of this weather now, and the forecasters today have mentioned that it may be the New Year before this cold snap passes, so if we aren't used to it, we may as well get used to it soon!! I have adapted my habits with the chickens - I soon got fed up of breaking ice in the waterers each morning, so when I shut the hens up at 4pm now, I empty all the waterers and load them up into the wheelbarrow to bring them up near the house, ready to fill in the utility room each morning. The chooks are loving the hot mash, so I will continue with that, too.

It has been the end of an era here today: my beloved Vauxhall Astra estate car (1.7TD) (red) (N reg) has been replaced. We got it as a family car back in 1997, I believe; we certainly had it in January 1998, but the details get blurred so far back. We had just the one car back then, but on moving to England and the FH going to work for a year, we had to get a second car; we got a really old banger that I just couldn't get on with, so the Astra became "mine" then. It has never let me down - never broken down when I have been out and about - and been a lovely car to drive all these years. It was second hand when we bought it through the Network Q programme, and we got just £5 change from £8,000. We bought it outright, and it has served us well. I am not sure what I am going to do with it now - the windscreen wipers only work on full, the headlights come on when you indicate, the steering is getting a little shaky - so it was time to retire it. RIP Red. It is on the driveway now that the insurance has been transferred to the new Vectra, but I know that there will be a little tear in my eye when it finally leaves us. Soppy, I know!

I had a big baking session last night as the lunchbox supplies were getting low, there were no biscuits, and the natives were feeling hungry because there was nothing to snack on! So I made some iced finger buns, some cupcakes, some peanut butter biscuits and some Viennese biscuits which still need to be sandwiched together but I hope they will eat the finger buns first as they are a dough recipe and will dry out before anything else........

Speaking of dough, the charming Paul Hollywood who appeared on the Great British Bake-off, wrote a book back in 2004 called "100 Great Breads". I thought I'd like a copy so I started looking around the internet for one. Well, talk about rare as hen's teeth - there is one on eBay for sale at £55 (and it has a bid!!!!!!!), sellers on Amazon are offering them for anything from about £75, and there are a few on abebooks.com but they are ridiculously priced as well. I have put in a request at the local library for one, but there are none in the county and so it will have to be brought in from elsewhere, if there is one to be had in the country! The £5 I will have to pay if they find one will be well worth it........and there will be a lot of recipes copied out of it if it turns up, I can tell you!! Obviously high time Mr Hollywood turned his attention back to writing books.

The stock cupboard is looking a bit bare in places, but nothing too bad. We bought some eggs in the village yesterday for the baking, and some leeks which I soon turned into leek and potato soup. The FH bought some bread from the Co-op in town when he went to pick the girls up from art club at 5pm, and there isn't really any need to worry about anything else until next week sometime. Snow is very good for the bank balance in terms of grocery shopping, in my case. I have been tempted to look into an online order from a supermarket, but I don't want enough at the moment to justify the delivery charge, so I am not indulging.

The YFG is supposed to be going on a trip to Warwick Castle next week so I will have to contact the school early next week to see what they think about the likelihood of that going ahead.

I must take some snow scene photos one of these days!!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Minus temperatures continue

I am just gearing up to go outside to do the chicken chores for the morning - it is about -1 or -2 out there, and it is COLD! Still. And there is no sign of a let-up in the temperatures. However, we don't have snow up to the windowsills, we do have plenty of wood for the fire, food to feed the family and the animals, oil for the boiler, gas for the cooker, and electricity - at the moment. I must admit that the electricity flickered on and off about three times yesterday, so that is always a bit flaky out here in the sticks in this weather, but that is why I insisted on a gas hob when I moved out here! One of the neighbours commented only yesterday that we were probably the best prepared people she knew, what with the gas hob and the woodburner. She lives in an all-electric house, so she will be bringing her family round here in an extended power cut - she knows that they are very welcome!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Winter wonderland

The snow is still the big topic of the day - it snowed a tiny bit overnight here, but nothing much. The wind this morning was icy cold, though, and the girls wrapped up warm for their journey to school. I bundled myself up in many, many layers to go outside to deal with the chooks - it is taking me about an hour now in the mornings, so I need to be warm! I had 6 layers on my top half, a pair of leggings and a pair of tights on the bottom half under the tracksuit bottoms, and two pairs of socks. Then there were two scarves and a woolly hat to finish off the ensemble. I did look rather Michelin-man like!

When I came in from that expedition, I spent a couple of hours wrapping Christmas presents! It was fun, and a great relief to get the bulk of it done. There are a few things that haven't arrived yet, but they are mostly for the girls. Now the next development will be organising the posting of some parcels - mostly to the children of the girls' godparents in Scotland, and to a few other children around the countryside. I generally don't give presents to adults, but I make exceptions for my sister, my uncle and my dad, amongst others. If there are children in the family, they get the presents.

After lunch, I moved the chooks around and spent some time cleaning up out there. Then I got a little surprise as the new-to-me car I have bought from a local garage in the village was brought round, just to tell me that it has passed its MOT, had new brake pipes fitted and it is ready to go. I wasn't expecting it so quickly, so I told N that I would have to sort out the money for him and arrange the insurance, and let him know when I would be ready for the car! One quick phone call to Direct Line and the insurance was set for Friday, and then organising the money was another thing done. When the girls got home from school, I walked down to the garage with the YFG and we gave N the cheque for the car and let him know about the insurance, so we'll be going back to get it on Friday. It is a Vauxhall Vectra, 1.8l petrol engine, and it is an 02 plate. I am happy to be sticking with Vauxhall although I am moving from an Astra to a Vectra, and from diesel to petrol.

I made a vegetable stew with cheese dumplings for the family's tea, and then I did some batch cooking to make use of the oven - two Herman fruit cakes and a Herman lemon loaf, a chocolate brownie that I can eat and a lovely apple crumble. The girls and the FH have tasted the lemon Herman and say it is gorgeous, so that is a relief. The fruit versions will be going into the freezer when they are cold.

We have just watched the tv programme called "Turn Back Time" about the high street shops in Shepton Mallet - it is a fascinating programme and I can't wait to see next week's as it will be set in the 1970s - just when I was born.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Snow and more to come

The girls were eager to look out the windows this morning to see if there was enough snow to warrant a school closure - there wasn't, so they had to go off to the bus stop in the snow, well wrapped up in winter coats, hats, scarves and gloves. It wasn't good that the bus was late because of the weather and they had to stand at the bus stop for about 20 minutes but in this weather, these things just can't be helped.

I dragged the FH to the doctor's this morning about his awful foot problems and it turns out that he probably has gout! The doctor took some blood to try to get the diagnosis confirmed but also sent us home to make an appointment at the local cottage hospital for an x-ray to rule out any serious damage he might have done. We went to that appointment this afternoon at 3pm, and were in and out in minutes. We will have to look at some medication for that, I think, if it is confirmed, in conjunction with the boss at Papworth as some of the medications for gout are contra-indicated for use with his heart meds. One of the heart anti-rejection drugs could actually be part of the cause of the gout as well, unfortunately.

One of the cockerels has been moved tonight into the pen with the basic Heinz varieties laying hens. I need his pen in the shed for some growers who haven't had the chance to go outside yet, and it is high time they did, so clearing out his pen and moving them over will be on the list for tomorrow. I will put a piece of glass in the pophole so that they can see out but not actually get out for a day or two, before letting them out properly maybe on Wednesday or Thursday.

I do hope everyone is staying warm in this weather. We have lots of wood for the stove to keep us warm in the lounge, and the cupboards are well stocked too!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Fudge recipe and more

This fudge recipe has come from the Australian Simple Savings website, where a member posted it, saying that she got it from the Family Circle Christmas Special, 2008. Conscious of copyright issues, I am posting my version of the recipe here, which is ever so slightly different!!

So, here goes:
1. Grease and line an 8" square cake tin, making sure that there is a small overhang of greaseproof paper all the way round the tin.
2. Put the contents of a 395g tin of sweetened condensed milk in a microwaveable 2 litre Pyrex bowl with 1 cup of soft brown sugar, 125g butter and 2 tbsp liquid glucose (Tesco sell it). Heat uncovered at Medium-High/70% for 6-8 minutes. Stir it every two minutes with a balloon whisk. It will start to boil. When it does, heat for a further 3-4 minutes, stirring every minute with a wooden spoon. It will thicken, go golden and boil rapidly!
3. Remove from the microwave and put on a heatproof surface - leave for a couple of minutes until the bubbles calm down.
4. Now add 200g good quality dark chocolate, which has been finely chopped. Stir it in until it has all melted and been incorporated into the fudge. Make sure that the mixture is smooth.
5. Pour the mixture into the tin, smoothing it out and levelling it off. Leave for 3-4 hours until it has set; it can be put in the fridge when it is cooler.
6. To store, it can be wrapped in greaseproof paper and stored in an airtight container in the fridge - it won't need to be stored long! Cut into small pieces when you are ready to give it as a gift, or to serve it.

Suggestions for flavourings - you could add 3/4 cup chopped pistachio nuts and 30ml Bailey's Irish cream liqueur OR use white chocolate and flavour with Cointreau, perhaps. Next on my list to try is rum flavouring with raisins. You can also do this basic recipe here with milk chocolate instead of plain - just make up your own variations.

I think a small selection of this would make ideal teacher gifts for Christmas, or for those relatives who have everything, need nothing and are a challenge to satisfy at Christmas!!

So, back to other things - the weather, for a start........the earliest laying snow for 17 years, extremely cold weather in November, the cold snap predicted to last for two weeks, temperatures falling to minus 17 in Powys last night, more heavy snow predicted........have you checked out ukweathergeek's site which I linked to in a post last week? He's definitely onto something, and this weather is already bearing out some of his predictions, and it is not even December yet!!

The YFG and I travelled to Ipswich yesterday for her gymnastics competition. UJ, the EFG and my sister also came to watch, and my sister took us all in her car, which was a huge relief to me, not having to drive all that way home after the competition. The comp itself was eye-opening! The gymnasts are all supposed to be "recreational" which means that they train for no more than 4 hours a week. All I can say is that I need lessons on how to achieve those kinds of results on that much training - the standard was higher than we had ever competed at before, and we did OK. There were 24 competitors on each piece, so the YFG coming in the top half at 9th and 10th on some pieces was an achievement. She worked really hard, gave of her best, competed in the right spirit, and had an enjoyable day. Our other gymnast in her age group did OK too. In the other age group, the 12+ group, we had another two girls, and they did extremely well - one got Gold on the Vault and the other managed Silver on the Bars, so we have produced some regional award winners!! I am so proud of all of them for all the work and effort they put in to training for the original county competition, and then to keep it up and do it all again yesterday - magnificent!

The other coach who was there with me from our club was pleased, as I was, to be exposed to that level of competition, and we both felt we had learned a lot. The even better thing was the chap who tutored me on both my coaching courses was there with some gymnasts from his club, and he was kind enough to come over in the YFG's session when he was in the same group for us on the rotations and could watch our girls, and give me coaching points for helping them to correct some of the things that they didn't do as well as they could have done. It was invaluable help, and the sort of guidance I could do with more of!

After that exciting day yesterday, I was not keen to get out of bed this morning, but I dragged myself up at 7.30am and had some breakfast and hot tea, before I went out to the chickens. The morning feeding and watering took me an hour and a half today because I fed hot mash, had to unfreeze all the waterers, and carry the water to the chicken sheds from the house. We didn't leave here for church until 9.40am (service starts at 9.30am!!) and I nearly thought twice about going as we were going to have to walk in late, but my luck was in and the service hadn't started at 9.45am!! I was so glad that we went as the preacher was amazing - he was an elderly gentleman of 83, bent over with osteoarthritis, walking only with two sticks, but he was a true man of faith and his belief and faith was so strong, it was a real privilege to meet him and to listen to what he had to say. He has been a Local Preacher since 1956; he told us that he almost died 17 years ago. He told us of his experience - getting to the "white light" and the voice telling him that he had to go back as he still had a lot of work to do on Earth. He was incredibly inspiring, and I do hope he comes back to preach to us again.

I thought of Froog's batch cooking methods this afternoon. I had to take the YFG to town to look for a pair of plain black tracksuit trousers for school tomorrow, so I popped into Tesco to look in the reduced section - and I struck lucky - lamb shanks, and stewing steak. So when I got home, I put the lamb shanks in gravy in one casserole and the stewing steak with some onion and mushrooms and gravy into the other casserole and all of it went into the oven together for a couple of hours. We have had the lamb for tea, and the beef casserole may well come out later in the week.


Friday, 26 November 2010

Here now but only for a moment

Just to say sorry - fudge recipe is coming! YFG off to regional finals tomorrow in Ipswich so we have got to have an early night........wish us luck!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Changing my mind

Tonight driving home from gym, I had a post forming in my mind about the skies in the Fens, inspired by the bright moonlight nights we are having and the clear days when the sun is shining beautifully.

However, things change. I have been incensed instead by the waste I see around me. My children are tucked up in bed tonight (as they should be at 11.30pm!) with blankets, duvets and the odd hot water bottle. We haven't put the heating on yet as the woodburner is blasting heat around the downstairs and when we go upstairs, we leap into bed pretty quickly, and with the blankets and hot water bottles, get warm and toasty pretty quickly too! Another family in the street has two bedroom windows flung wide open tonight because their heating is on too high so they need to let the heat escape. Whilst the more traditional among us wear jumpers in this weather, they like to sit around half-naked - the male members of the family are often seen walking around the house topless. What makes me even more cross is that this is a family in which both adults went bankrupt a while back, and now the whole family lives on various benefits. How is it right that they have enough spare cash to sit on their bums all day and heat a house to such epic proportions on taxpayers' money, whilst other people I know who go out to work and pay their taxes can't afford to do such stupid things - some can't even afford new shoes for their children. The government needs to work hard to redress the balance, and I applaud anything that makes people contribute to society in a positive way, through working and paying their own way, through paying fair taxes, through voluntary work (my personal way of contributing) or just by being more responsible with resources. I work, but don't earn enough to pay tax on my income, but the FH pays tax each month on his pension, and we pay the council tax too, so we are making our contribution, however small.

Rant over.

The fudge has been deemed successful by an independent judge. I took the plunge and gave a little of it away today to a teacher at the school, and to a friend. I will share the recipe tomorrow, and I think that I will have to make more!! I need to find a pretty but cheap way to package it as well....... I am inspired to get on with my eBay plans as my friend has sold a second-hand dolls house on there for £120 and is very pleased. I will be looking into that more after the weekend.

Monday, 22 November 2010

There's talk of snow

Already we are hearing that the snow is on its way - rather early, I thought! However, the temperatures here are well below average for the time of year, and I think that ukweathergeek hasn't got it all far wrong! I think that I have said before that I think he is talking a lot of sense, so I am taking notice of what he thinks about the coming winter - that it will probably be as bad as last winter, if not worse - and that he believes that the winter of 2011/12 may be even worse still. His blog makes interesting reading, so I check back there now and again to see if he has posted updates.

Today I have given the chooks some straw in their runs and they have had a grand time, scratching through it to look for tasty tidbits. It helps to keep their feet a little drier for a time, at least until they have pushed it all down into the mud.

The kitchen has also been in production today again - I found a recipe for chocolate fudge on an Australian savings website that I visit occasionally. I thought that it would be an excellent choice to make for gifts, but never having attempted anything quite like it before, I decided that it would be wise to try it out first. It was easy enough to make, but since I can't eat it, I will have to canvass opinions on it - the YFG thinks it tastes like thick icing but the EFG and the FH both said that they liked it. I may have to look for more independent opinions before I go into production. I will share it if the general thoughts are positive!!

The lunchbox tins also needed refilling, so I made some Weetabix Brownies and some cheese scones too. Several of the cheese scones mysteriously disappeared rather quickly, and I was only out of the room for a moment.........can't imagine where they went!

Tonight the EFG and the YFG have had trouble at their respective band practises. The YFG had ear-ache and said she couldn't play, but had to go along with the FH anyway. The teacher seems to have been a little disappointed that she couldn't take part, so she gave her a pencil and taught her to conduct a little!! The EFG has a huge "thing" on the inside of her lip where she has bitten it whilst she has been asleep, and it was too painful for her to play her cornet so we abandoned her band and went to the supermarket. In true stockpiling spirit in that I looked for all the bargains, the 3 for 2s and suchlike, I parted with rather a lot of dosh and filled the cupboards in anticipation of the snow and bad weather coming. The bargain hunting knocked nearly £18 off the final bill!! There is no point in the supermarkets being stocked if I can't get there to buy what I need, so I thought it was an opportune moment to stock up a little. I know that I have a little leeway in the budget this month as the FH's credit card has gone astray so he hasn't spent anything, so I know there will be no bill coming from that direction this month (hurray!), not that he spends a lot on it, mostly just for his petrol!

Lakeland received an order from me this morning in an attempt to get some of my Christmas shopping done! I managed to find an obscure little site to order a couple of "Gorjuss" items that the EFG had asked for, but the YFG's list has had to be revised as she had gone drastically over budget. When she gets round to finalising exactly what she wants, Amazon will be getting some business as well, as I spent sometime investigating best prices on the internet for the items on their lists, and Amazon consistently comes out the cheapest, and with free delivery and Nectar points too, it's hard to beat!

Tonight I have been assessing our income and wondering. I want to kill two birds with one stone and do some decluttering so it seems like a plan to sort out the "good" stuff and try to sell it on eBay or Amazon (sold a book on there last week!) at a time of year when people will be looking for bargains. I will have to have a good look at what I want to discard and see if any of it is fit to sell. Half of me would like to sell the Playmobil we have, but the other half thinks that it may still have a home here for a while yet. Someone still likes to play with it now and again.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Kitchen report again

I made the Herman mixture into two fruitcakes, and they have turned out well. When I took the two loaves out of the oven, I brushed them with a hot mixture of dissolved caster sugar with some orange essence/oil, so they smell gorgeous. One has been sliced and sampled, now residing in a tin, and the other is heading for the freezer.

Delia's mincemeat has sat in the oven for the requisite three hours, has come out "swimming in fat" as she puts it, and will now have to be stirred at very regular intervals for a couple of hours so that the fat coats the fruit and doesn't coagulate in to large lumps! Once it is cool, probably in the morning, I will add the brandy and pot it up. Smells lovely!

Friday, 19 November 2010

Kitchen work today

The Fen Kitchen is a busy place this morning - another batch of Delia's mincemeat is doing its 12 hour soaking, the Herman cake has just been fed and will be shared out today and then our portion cooked tomorrow - and there is a second batch of Leek and Potato soup bubbling away in the Remoska on the side. We had some earlier in the week and the family liked it, so I thought I would use up the last remaining four leeks to make another pot of it. They may not want to eat it immediately but it will be fine in the freezer until they do!!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Shhhhhhh! Don't mention it....

but I have to get some presents wrapped up tonight - it is the FH's birthday tomorrow! The YFG helped to choose one gift when we went to the shops at the weekend, and the EFG is giving him a regular birthday favourite of his - Maltesers! He will be going to his lunch club, but he will get a free lunch this week for his birthday. When the folks there have a birthday, the birthday boy/girl provides everyone with some sweets, so I got a tub of Celebrations for him to take to share. He has also asked for a lemon sponge at tea time, so I will be making that tomorrow too.

Today has been interesting - I got a bit of a panicked phone call from the school this morning asking if I could go along this afternoon on the regular swimming trip to the local town. One of the TAs was off so they were a person short. Luckily, it was the last session so the children were having a fun splash session, so I didn't actually have to do much at all except be there and a bit of supervision. It was lovely to watch them all having so much fun in the water!

Tonight we have been to gym, and then came home to a lovely stew that the FH had made. He didn't quite get as far as making the dumplings, which was a disappointment for the YFG but it was a good meal nevertheless.

The YFG is excited as she is going on a trip to London tomorrow to the Natural History museum. Her bag is packed and she is tucked up in bed, having booked her wake-up call for the morning. It is a big thing, going to London, so she is looking forward to it all.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

What is happiness?

I've been asked tonight if I am happy.......told that I don't sound very happy.....it's a bit of a blow, to be honest. I don't know what the right answer to the question is, and I don't even know if there is a right answer. So I decided to think about what makes me happy, and here are some random thoughts about it, in no particular order:
  • Sunshine
  • My family
  • Being tucked up in bed with a hot water bottle!
  • Listening to Classic FM
  • Reading
  • Being up to date with things and organised
  • A tidy house
  • Having time to listen to people and to God
  • A long hot bath
  • My chooks having a dust bath...........
I could go on, and on. The world is conspiring against me right now to stop a lot of those things happening, and I need to work out how to make them happen again. Let's look at them slowly:

  • The sunshine - well, it has rained a lot lately...can't do much about that - can't afford to move to California!
  • My family - yep, that one is doing OK, they are all here, well and healthy (or as healthy as they are likely to get in the FH's case - foot is still swollen, cough is improving)
  • Bed with the hot bottle - I get that one some nights if I remember. The trouble with that one is that I am so tired when I get to go to bed that I have no time to lay there and enjoy the feeling before I fall asleep!!
  • Classic FM - must sort the radio out in my car so it works again. In the house, I get to listen to the radio more during the day when the girls are at school, so I should get a decent fix tomorrow.
  • Reading - mmmmm, time constraints. Reading is done in snatches, sometimes only in the smallest room!!!
  • Up to date and organised - last week was manic so I am hoping to get somewhere with this one this week.
  • A tidy house........a little boy commented to me yesterday that I should go and look at his room because he had tidied up and so it might give me some ideas. Apparently I am now notorious for my untidiness, so bad that I need to take lessons from an 8 year old. ;-) I don't think it is that bad, really, but I will try harder this week!
  • Time to listen to people and to God - must try harder. The FH said he would take a photo of me the other day as it has been so busy this week that he had forgotten what I looked like.
  • Long hot baths - I have had a couple this week - bliss!
  • The chooks haven't a hope of a dust bath for months as they have just got mud, mud and more mud BUT I gave them lovely shavings and cut straw in their houses and they bathed in that instead and absolutely LOVED it. They are due for clean bedding again tomorrow so I will be able to watch them again.
There are things which are pre-occupying me at the moment - the amount of stuff I have to get my head around for the Chair of Governors role is mind-blowing, there seem to be medical appointments each week for someone (not me, thank goodness) to taxi people around to, gym needs some organising as we are currently putting together the arrangements for the Christmas party and thinking about how to get everyone who needs to go to Ipswich on the 27th, and I was in Bedford today for a 5 hour course on the role and responsibilities of the Welfare Officer in the club, and then there are a couple of girls here who just don't seem to want to go to bed!!!!

I am happy with my lot, with my plans, with my situation in life right now. I am not a bundle of laughs right now, I admit, but I never have been. I feel positive about life, positive about the future, and not unduly worried about anything - so it's all good, as the EFG would say!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

The weekend is here - already

I can't believe how quickly the weeks are ticking along! Someone said to me today that it is only 6 weeks until Christmas - and it seems like only a few weeks ago it was January and we were wondering what 2010 would have in store.....once Christmas is here, 2011 will be just around the corner.

I have had to fetch the dehumidifiers from the shed - they have been stashed away for about 8 years, but I have been reading that some people are finding that they can get their washing dry more quickly by running a dehumidifier. I am quite desperate this weekend to get the school uniforms dry so I thought that I would give it a go. The verandah dries the washing well, but really only when the sun is shining, otherwise it takes a couple of days, which doesn't help at weekends when I need to get the things dry! Hence I have a couple of airers full of washing around a dehumidifier in the office.

Yesterday I went to Peterborough to the Christmas Festival at the showground. I took a friend and we had a mooch around for about 90 minutes, both buying some presents. I was a little disappointed at the stalls that weren't there - and had a good time catching up with several old friends who were there! Having had a stall at the show for about 5 or 6 years, we know a lot of the stall holders so there were a few catch ups to be had! I bought some more bags from the bag lady who was there in October, but she had a wider selection this time. I also got a couple of presents for the girls so they will have to remain hush hush for now.

Two weeks today the YFG will be reprising her gym routines for the regional final of her last competition - we have to go to Ipswich for that. It means that the five girls are still working hard at gym on those routines, as we know that the regional competition will be considerably stiffer than the county one was. It will be a valuable experience for them to compete on a bigger scale.

The Christmas cake was made yesterday morning before I went out - it was in the oven at 6am! The house smelled gorgeous. Now it has been poked with a skewer, enriched with a little more brandy, wrapped in greaseproof paper and tinfoil and put up in a tin in the cool of the utility room. The other cake in the house at the moment is Herman! We have been given some starter for the famous Herman cake - the YFG was quite disgusted at the thought of how old some of it may be, especially when I told her that my mum had a Herman cake about 25 years ago. It is sitting in a bowl, covered with a cloth, on the counter - the instructions seem to have changed a little as I think my mum kept hers in the fridge. The debate will be what to flavour him with - the FH is in favour of fruit, other opinion is in favour of cocoa, and it is possible that it would be lovely with a hint of lemon. Maybe we will be making more than the one.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Round up of the week

I've been mindful of not spending too much time in cyberspace, hence the lack of posts this week. I took the FH to the hospital on Monday about the prostate diagnosis; it was a very hit and miss affair. The consultant is a lovely chap, who did a scan and an examination (ouch!) and declared that yes, the prostate gland is slightly enlarged but that in a man of almost 73, that is sort of to be expected. Apparently, about 40% of men his age would be walking the streets with prostate cancer and never know. He said that in most cases, it is a condition that one dies with, rather than from. He is reluctant to do any more at the moment, because even if it was diagnosed as cancer, there is little that he could offer the FH because of his heart health and medication scenario. A biopsy is the only way to actually diagnose it properly, and that would introduce an infection risk, and given that there is no treatment on offer, it seems a pointless risk to take. So, for now, we wait. The doctor at the local surgery is to repeat the blood test in January and the consultant will see the FH again in February to reassess the situation.

Monday afternoon saw me at the optician with the EFG who now needs a new pair of glasses. At this practice, I have to pay for the frames, so she chose wisely and is only costing me £40. She's rather fed up with the current pair as she has had them for two years, so it is time for a change!

Tuesday afternoon I floated around the school for a couple of hours, being available to any parents who might want to talk to me whilst they were there for Parents' Evening. I shepherded them around the extension, and generally made myself useful, before taking the girls and going to gym for the second session.

Yesterday I went back to school to go and help out in the Y3/4 class for the afternoon - we did experiments with magnets and Newtonmeters for science and then some art work on William Morris. I really enjoyed that!

Got to go now as lunch is ready - back later!

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Reflecting

We really are back from Scotland, but you would be forgiven for thinking that we had gone away again, because I haven't posted here all week. In some ways, there has been so much to say that I haven't known where to begin, so I just didn't; in other ways, life has been too busy this week to allow me time to sit here and cogitate my thoughts about the week; and a leftover from the week's holiday has been a slight reluctance to lose the relaxation we enjoyed at the cottage - I just haven't wanted to get back into the same routines of reading forums and blogs. I am trying to be more selective about the things I give my time.

I kept a diary at the cottage, but I am not going to put it here because it will interrupt the flow of this blog. I think that I will have a holiday blog and put the days and photos on there - when we got on another holiday, it can be updated. The photos have made it from the camera onto the computer, but they still need to be edited and named, and some must be deleted because they are out of focus!!

So, back in the Fens, what's to do? The garden has been tidied up a little whilst we were away as UJ kindly dug over two of the veg beds. He also made a trough to feed one of the runs of chickens, and the chicks seem to have doubled in size! I needed to clean out the pens when we got home but I was unable to find any small bales of straw locally so in the end I bought a bale of horse bedding from the feed shop - it is chopped straw and woodshavings - and it is very good stuff. It may even be better than the straw as I think it will break down for the composting bin more easily. I have now found a source of straw and hope to get some next week, and then I will decide which is best. We definitely need some straw to put down in the runs as there has been so much rain that they are very muddy indeed. There are too many chickens here now and some will have to be dispatched soon - some to the freezer and some to the auction!

The house has had a bit of an autumn clean - I was inspired by the cottage as there was no clutter there and it felt so much easier to tidy up! I will be joining Wannabe Sybil on her clutterbusting missions this week and really making an effort to get rid of some "stuff".......

And Christmas is on the horizon - plans to be made, cakes to be baked! I have a favourite Christmas cake recipe from the old Family Circle magazine which I have been making for years, and will be doing so again this year - I usually do it at half term, so I had better get on with it this week. The mincemeat I made the other week has developed nicely! The FH came home from Scotland with a craving for a mincemeat pie, so I made some pastry last Sunday and made a big pie for here and one for UJ to take home as well as some small coconut tarts for the lunchboxes. Each of the pies took a whole jar of mincemeat, but they all said how much they liked it, so I will be making a little more!!

The FH and the EFG are both on Amoxicillin for their chest infections, the YFG has pulled a ligament in her hip and I have a sore throat tonight, so we are a right lot here. The FH's ankle and foot are still swollen too. AND he has to go to the hospital on Monday for investigations into his prostate gland. He has absolutely no symptoms of any trouble, but a routine blood test has picked up some marker in his blood so we have to go and have it checked out. Better to be safe than sorry.

I'm going to spend some time organising those holiday photos now, so I'll be back!

Sunday, 31 October 2010

We're back!

Yes, we have come home again from Scotland......we collapsed into our beds last night, glad to be home in a way - it's nice to go away, but it's better to come home again, as the FH says! The train journeys yesterday were a bit challenging - some of them were OK but some were a nightmare! Lots to tell, but tonight is time to get the girls organised for school again, so I've got ironing to do. I'll be back with photos and the notes I made during the week.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Quick round up

Yesterday was a busy one so here is just a quick round up!

9am Harvest Assembly #2 with KS1 children - fabulous! Lots of signed songs as well as some lovely action rhymes from Reception - and a wonderful Harvest Rock and Roll song which the kids loved to sing.
10am Church Council meeting - all is well there too and lots of events in the pipeline for the year ahead.
2.30pm Book fair at a school in the north of the county - sold off a load of books at slightly discounted prices to make some space in the garage - good take up of interest and sold about £130.
7pm Cooking competition in the chapel - hilarious fun - truly enjoyable evening and people said that they really loved the idea (thank goodness) so we raised £120 to split between Macmillan and the chapel and hopefully the Pampered Chef lady got some publicity out of it too.
11pm went to bed quite tired!!

Today is going to be all hustle and bustle as well. We will be going to a chapel coffee morning shortly, then we have to get the house ready for the off tomorrow, pack the bags too, and still go to gym this afternoon. Unfortunately, the FH has got one of his terrible foot problems come on overnight and can't put his foot to the floor this morning and is in a lot of pain. Quite how we are going to manage the journey tomorrow with him on crutches, I don't know, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it!

Off to get on. Will be back tonight or early tomorrow morning and then there will be silence in the Fens for a week........

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Harvest home

I attended the KS2 Harvest assembly at the village school this morning and it was lovely. The children sang songs and Christian worship songs, read out prayers and made up a little quiz describing fruits and vegetables so we could guess what they were talking about. Our minister from the chapel was there as well, to conclude with some prayers and thanks. All in all it lasted about half an hour and it was followed by an invitation to the parents to go through to the class rooms so that they could look at the children's work. I really enjoyed it, and it sort of made up for missing the Harvest celebration at chapel which was the same day as the Autumn show. The KS1 Harvest assembly is on Thursday, so I may pop into that if I have time to see what they have been doing, too.

The FH is outside, planting broad bean seeds. I have completed the cleaning out of the hen houses this morning so that they are all in good order for UJ to oversee next week. I have washed everything in sight and there is just one more load of ironing to do and then that might be it. (I still have to unearth UJ's bedroom, but just whisper that bit.....I'm going to do some of that now....)

Monday, 18 October 2010

Distractions

The preacher yesterday talked about keeping focussed and avoiding distractions, and in that spirit, I have today been editing! I have thinned out the list of blogs in my sidebar and just kept those I really admire, those whose authors I love, and those I find really interesting. The others have gone for now. I have also been through my "friends" on Facebook - so many of them were not really friends but acquaintances, and people whose incessant chatter was beginning to annoy me. They are gone too. It does feel good - liberating - so less really can be more. Wish I had done it before now.....

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Moving on...

The girls are packing their cases already in anticipation of the holiday - we are off next Saturday! I am worrying about everything I have to do Before We Go, and trying to get the washing up to date. What with having to buy a new washing machine last Monday and then all the wet weather we had, and me feeling unwell, there is rather a heap to get washed...the girls are being thoughtful, though, and keeping the clothes that they want for the holiday to one side.

We have been to gym today, and then this afternoon, I sat and read the paper for a while before I began to do some work outside. I made a lovely beef stew for tea, and there is plenty left for tomorrow so I am pleased about that - it was very tasty, and less work for tomorrow. I have a list for tomorrow to begin when we get home from church, so I am looking forward to ploughing through that!

We bought a couple of cheap (£3) DVDs today so that we can take them on holiday. I really don't care what we get up to as long as we have a change from the usual and have a rest! It is not that I want to get away from life, but I would really like a week off and that is what I hope I am getting!! A week away from chickens, neighbours, gym, school, computers, phones, etc - in a way, I feel like I want to retreat from the world!! Just to be the four of us, having some fun and relaxation - the EFG's biggest fear is how she will charge up her Ipod without a computer as it uses the USB port to charge - so I told her to have a week off, but no, she said she will download music onto her phone and use that instead as that has a normal charger. "They DO have electricity up there, don't they?" was one question earlier this week (sorry, Susan!!) which I laughed at - I think that the girls think we are going to the back of beyond - they should know better as where we live now is almost there already!! My biggest temptation will be to stay away from the estate agent's/solicitor's windows whilst we are up there - very tempting indeed.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Knocked sideways

I've been feeling a little bit queer these past few days - odd things like my jaw being stiff and then my throat got sore and my nose has been bunged - cue the first cold of the season.....then it didn't help Tuesday morning when I hit my head on a wooden box in the garage - I felt very strange indeed!! I didn't do an awful lot for the rest of the day, but I went to gym to help set up the equipment; that was really too much for me and I came home before the first class began, having arranged for someone else to bring the girls home. I slept for a couple of hours then, then several more hours during the day yesterday - and I am just beginning to feel more normal. I still don't feel right, but I feel less wrong! I'm going to tidy up the kitchen now and then I am off to bed with a good book, and hopefully a little extra sleep will help some more.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Photos from the Autumn Show


If I had had spare cash and enough room here, these are the little beauties I would have brought home - Partridge Wyandottes - their markings are beautiful and so clear!


Here's a better picture of the cockerel - just gorgeous!


There were some absolutely wonderful displays of autumn flowers and I just fell in love with this picture of cyclamen - just had to take the photo to preserve the image!


Lots of other autumn colours in the chrysanthemums as well.


A very interesting stand at the show, manned by people from a Self-sufficiency group - all about making your own/growing your own - they had bread, cakes, jams, pickles, sheep, goats, veg, beehives, homemade this, that and the other - we were very interested in this! They had displays like this one for alternative ways to grow veg and there were even cabbage plants growing in a tonne bag from a builders' merchants!


The majestic Shire Horses were there as well - we watched one class being judged.


We loved this stall in the shopping area - BAGS!

These jute duffel bags are just gorgeous! I looked, went away and thought hard, then came back and bought 6!! They are just perfect for all the girls we want to give Christmas gifts to, and at just £3.50 each, an absolute bargain! And they look so much more expensive too! The lady doesn't have a website yet, but I have her email address, so anyone who is interested in these fab bags can email me or contact me through the comments and I will be glad to share it.


One of the girls took this picture as they both loved this display of hand-painted canvas shoes - they were fantastic and must have taken hours of work. Not entirely practical to wear, I would have thought, but very beautiful to look at!


Peterborough Horticultural Society put on an amazing display each year, so we were delighted to be able to get a picture of just a small segment of it. It was impossible to take a shot of the whole thing as there were just too many people standing in front of it all the time!


A little sign that gave us a big chuckle!


Quite a few stews' worth of onions here!! The Giant Vegetable show is amazing.


The sign says it all!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Glorious Autumn

Today has been the kind of day I love - bright sunshine but fresh with gorgeous blue skies! We made it to the showground by 8am, and then had to find out what to do next, it being our first time at this show. A helpful steward was very patient explaining what to do and we penned all the birds successfully.

We wandered around the show together, nipping back to the car periodically for refreshments, and occasionally checking the pens to see if any of the birds had been sold. By lunchtime, both pens of young Gold Partridge Orpingtons had been sold, but the Sebrights had to be knocked down to sell right at the end (but I really didn't want to bring them home!) and the Silver-laced Wyandotte did have to come home, even though I also discounted them.

We took loads of photos (which I will share when I can get them off the camera) and enjoyed a brief cup of tea at the FH's cousin's house before coming home. Luckily, I had prepared some mince for shepherd's pie last night, so I was able to make a quick meal when we got home! The girls are finishing some homework now, and I have to iron the uniforms for tomorrow - and then my feet need a rest!!

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Gym success

Just popping in to say that the gymnastics competition was a success - the YFG has brought home four medals - golds for floor and vault, silver on beam and bronze on bars, which qualify her to go to the regional final next month! All our girls are through on at least two pieces of apparatus, and three of them are through on all four pieces - so we have to keep practising the moves for a while longer!!

It's been a long day, and tomorrow will be as long as we need to leave here by 7am, in order to have the chickens penned at the show by a decent time. I'm off to have a bath now - hope everyone is having a good weekend - it isn't raining, so it should be good!

Friday, 8 October 2010

Whirlwind weekend coming up

Tomorrow morning we have to go to gym as normal, then dash off to Huntingdon Olympic Gym Club to take part in a competition there with 5 of our girls, including the YFG. Sunday we have to be in Peterborough for the Autumn Show where we are selling some chickens - and the secretary of the sale wants the birds penned by 9am - the earlier the better after 7am were his instructions! I can't even have a sleep-in on Monday as I have a school meeting at 9.45am.....Wish us luck with the competition and with the sale, please!!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Still here

Yes, I'm still here, if a little quiet - planning the work and working the plan. It's quite a busy week for me, and I am trying to do some deep cleaning (far too late in the year to dare to call it spring cleaning, but it is the same idea!!) as we are going away at the end of the month and UJ is coming to move in to look after everything - so I don't want to leave him a lot of dust and muddle in which to live. I also have to unearth his bedroom - confession time - I put a lot of stuff up there last Christmas when the lounge was decorated, and it has been breeding since so it is not actually possible to see any floor at all.........the shame........I have two weeks - you may not hear much from me.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Moving forward

I have asked the Superintendent of our Methodist circuit here for information about becoming a Local Preacher. I am already a Worship Leader in our chapel but this is going a step further. Well, I got a surprise this morning because I received an email with an attachment which is my Note to Preach - my permission to begin helping another LP take services in the circuit. I have to go to a meeting in December to be paired up with a suitable LP, so there is no great rush with it all, but I am very excited to have got this whole thing moving - it has only taken about 14 years.........

My great-grandfather was a LP in a different circuit, so I think that my dad will be quite pleased to hear this when he gets home from his latest cruise (ports towards Yalta and Odessa) at the end of the month.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

The worst feeling...

or the worst thing to feel?

A slug in the bottom of the welly boot, right up by the toe. Exactly what I felt this morning at 8am, seconds before I shrieked like a banshee - it was Disgusting!!

Chickens!


I have wanted to be able to make samplers like the lovely Sue at The Quince Tree - but couldn't work out how the heck to do it. The EFG has helped me to make this one, and then we struggled to get it onto blogger - but she did it for me tonight - hurray!!! Thanks!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Sunny but soggy

Today has been a fine day, until about 7pm, so I can't complain, but the ground underfoot is seriously soggy. My chickens have very muddy feet, however much straw I put down in their yards, and I squelch from one yard to another to clean their water pots out and put their food in.

Tonight the FH and the YFG have taken three ladies from chapel to a brass band concert in a nearby town - it is free, but I suspect that they will be buying tea and biccies at half time. The ladies were all pleased to be asked to go yesterday when I saw them - it was rather short notice as I didn't see the advert until yesterday. I hope that they are having a good evening. There is a solo trombonist from the Royal Opera House and a trombone quartet from Trinity Music College, so I hoped that it would inspire the FH who is trying to master the trombone himself!!

Yesterday's trip to Cambridge was frustrating, as I explained in a comment yesterday to Susan - there were just three minutes spent with the dentist, to approve the YFG's suitability for treatment. We have to return on 5/11 for "records" to be taken, and then go back again on 20/12 to have the braces fitted. I so wish that they could have allowed time to take the records yesterday once he had checked her over.

The EFG and I have moved some chickens around tonight: the Light Sussex and GPO hens are sharing a nunnery to give them a break from their husbands for a month or two - until January - and I have freed up some space for the chicks hatched this year to have a couple of pens in the shed. The chicks are all growing well now and I am pleased with them. The empty pens can be cleaned out tomorrow and then the chicks can be moved tomorrow evening - it's always best to move chickens at night so that a) they can't see so they are more easily handled and b) they recognise the new house as their home and return to it at night.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Fangs at the ready

The YFG and I are off to Cambridge this morning. It will take us just over an hour to get there for the orthodontist appointment at 10.30am so the YFG has had a little lie-in and is just getting up now. She won't be going to school until after the appointment. The YFG has a "fang" - one of her teeth hasn't got room to come down properly and has emerged above the other teeth in her gum, at the side of her mouth. Our dentist says that her mouth isn't big enough!! Enough noise comes out of it.......

Today is also Jeans for Genes day so that is a £2 charge for me to pay so that the girls can wear jeans to school.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Juggle like mad or run and hide?

I knew last night was going to be interesting at the Governors' meeting at the school, but I was elected Chair of Governors. And that was being chucked in at the deep end, up the creek without the paddle and all the other sayings that mean in over my head!

The existing Chair decided he needed a break from it after about 4 years of doing the job, but there is really only me to do the job in his stead - we are short of Governors by three; of those that are there, five are excluded from the job by virtue of being employed at the school; one is going to live abroad any day; three more are brand new and were attending their first meeting, and the other one was just attending for the second time. I did manage to get the outgoing Chair to be the Vice-Chair, so that I can call upon him for help and support, but I will be spending sometime over the weekend doing an online "Taking the Chair" course on the local government portal, and reading, reading, reading all the papers I have now acquired.

I'm also helping a lovely lady on the estate with a community blog, running an afterschool gym club once a week, helping to run the big gym club, doing stuff at church, and slowly giving up on housework. The poor chickens have been shortchanged this week as I usually go up there and sit and natter at them now and again whilst I am looking them over, but there hasn't been the time this week for too long sat looking, and the rain has been atrocious too. More forecast for tomorrow!

I am SO looking forward to our holiday at the end of the month. No computers, emails, phone calls, housework beyond the bare minimum to keep the place tidy, little washing, no ironing, no school uniforms to wash, no chickens to feed and clean out for a week - gosh, what will I do!?!
We are looking forward to walking, sightseeing, and long, cosy evenings watching DVDs and reading!! And two eight-hour train rides will be bliss! We are going here whilst my uncle is in residence here to look after everything for us.

Happy Birthday, Adam

There was a boy back in primary school that I sat next to for a year when we were about 8, I think, although we had been in classes together since we were four. Adam's birthday is two days after mine, so it is today. I have no idea what he has done with his life or where he is now, although I did see his mother once a few years ago - but I always remember his birthday!!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Disappointed

I was very disappointed to read in the Daily Mail that the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England is encouraging the country to Spend and Not Save. Someone with an interest in economics may argue his point, but he hasn't convinced me, and I will continue to try to stash some cash away each month - and I won't be going out spending for his benefit!!

38 and counting.........

It was my birthday yesterday and one of my friends helpfully pointed out that I would soon be 40. I think not, my dear - that's a whole two years away and there's lots to do before then!! On the other hand, at least once I am 40, people will stop saying, "Oh, you're nearly 40!" Perhaps it will be a badge of honour to have made it!

Yesterday was a lovely birthday: the girls brought me a birthday candle stuck into a cupcake at 7am and sang Happy Birthday to me, and they gave me their presents - some nail varnish and a big selection of smellies for the bath. The FH doesn't "do" presents but told me to get myself something, so I did - Nigel Slater's Tender Vol II - all about fruit. (I saw it at half price in Tesco and thought it would be lovely - and it is!!) More cards arrived in the post. A friend came around for a chat with a present - a beautiful glass worktop saver with a huge picture of veg on it - she knows me well!! Later on, the FH cooked me a lovely lunch of steak, mushrooms, carrots, cabbage and potatoes. I went to gym later still, where I got another card. When we got home from gym, I made some pudding and the FH and I had a glass of wine and sat together to watch "Keeping Mum" - hilarious film with Maggie Smith, Rowan Atkinson and Kristin Scott-Thomas. I was thoroughly tired when I went to bed, but happy!!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Mincemeat musings

I made the mincemeat according to Froog's instructions, and then, after I had it all jarred up, I looked in my Delia's Happy Christmas book to see how the methods compared. Froog uses Delia's recipe with some adaptations.

Delia puts all the ingredients (she also adds some whole almonds) apart from the brandy, into a large bowl and leaves it to soak for at least 12 hours. She doesn't jar it whilst it is hot, but advocates stirring it occasionally as it cools so that the hot fat is distributed through the mincemeat and coats the other ingredients. She still hasn't added the brandy.........that doesn't go in until the mincemeat is "quite cold" which I take to mean - COLD - not "nearly cold". I suppose that means that none of the brandy is evaporated off during the cooking and could result in a more boozy mincemeat. Then she puts it into the jars.

I have more brandy now so I am thinking of looking for more jars and making a second batch using the Delia method to see if my chief taster can find a difference. I will need more as I always make loads of mince pies, so I may as well experiment a little. I am also thinking that the slow-cooker may have been a little too hot for this - I put it on the Auto setting - and I will try the second batch in the low oven. I may also treat myself to a proper zester so that I don't have to just grate the lemon and orange peel.

It may take a while to accumulate the jars, so I'll post the results in a week or two.

Garage sale gleanings - and mincemeat

Four and a half jars of mincemeat - just been put in the jars and smelling wonderful!


I made it in the slow-cooker - looking divine...


The rug we picked up at the garage sale for just £2. It was destined for the conservatory but then we thought we would try it out in the lounge and it looks fine. We had been wanting something in here for a while, and the colours go well with our pink walls and green curtains.


Just to see the detail on the corner


This is a lamp which hold a tea-light. I thought it would be nice to have on the table in the conservatory, but I took the photo in the lounge as it was dark outside. I haven't seen a lamp like this before, and for 50p, I couldn't resist.