Sunday, 28 February 2010

Food in the week ahead on the challenge

Thinking about the week ahead, I am going to be out of time nearly everyday. It is World Book Day on Thursday and I have three book events to do for schools as well as organising the FH in his drops round the preschools and nurseries. Add to that the gym sessions for the week, Women's World Day of Prayer service on Friday lunchtime and picking up the girls from after school activities and it all gets a bit fuzzy!

The menu looks like this so far:
Monday: Macaroni cheese and broccoli bake
Tuesday: Pasta and sauce
Wednesday: Chicken casserole
Thursday: Vegetable rissotto
Friday: Corned Beef Hash
Saturday: HM Pizzas

Two pasta days consecutively is unusual, but this week there is hardly time to eat let alone cook on occasional evenings, so we just have to go for things which are quick to prepare and filling without being fancy! The only thing that I can see being bought for that menu is mozzarella cheese for the pizzas, and that costs about 47p. We'll need fruit later in the week, but we are OK this end. It is the lunchbox fruit and veg which is the hardest for the YFG - she hates oranges, loves grapes, will only take a couple of bites out of a whole apple but won't allow me to cut one up for her. She will take a carrot though, so it looks like she may be taking more carrots at the moment, as the budget would be severely stretched if I tried to give her grapes every day. The EFG on the other hand, loves oranges, clementines, etc and happily takes two each day.

I have made a sponge cake for tea, but now I need to go and make some carrot cake for the snacks and lunchboxes. I am also going to see if I can find a packet of digestive biscuits lurking anywhere - if I can, then refrigerator cake could be on the plan this week as well.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Spending update

All this economising means that I am baking a little more so since the girls in the garden are not yet in full production, I had to buy some eggs today - and I also managed to find a couple of loaves of bread at very reduced prices. Today's shopping basket at Tesco:
Wholemeal loaf 19p
Malted brown loaf 15p
Cinammon bun for YFG 89p
Value eggs 2.98 (Yes, I have some guilt over this, but I am being very kind to my chickens, so I can't have it both ways - and 30 eggs for this price makes a big difference to the budget!)
So that lot came to £4.21, and then I bought a big bag each of carrots and parsnips on the way home from the stall at the roadside, at £1 a bag, so another £2 to add to the total.

So £6.21 spent and thus a remaining balance of £80.76.

And how has the menu plan been progressing? Quite well, really! The YFG was out for tea on Thursday, so the remaining three of us all had chicken curry, meaning that there was none left for me to have as leftovers on Friday. I had cold corned beef instead, with potatoes and veggies, so that was OK. Today, the Toad in the Hole has been eagerly awaited and all eaten, and we have a chicken out of the freezer for tomorrow. I'll have a root around in the freezers and start to think about next week's plan tomorrow.

Other happenings this week have included our neighbour's mum, J, returning to Cyprus after an extended holiday here since the beginning of December. We will miss her, as I am sure that they will, and we hope that she gets safely home tonight.

Dad has been having various tests at the doctor's since his return home, and to add to his problems, the starter motor on his car died this morning, so he is not happy! I bought some vegetables for him at the stall today, so I may have to take them over to him later in the week.

The chickens are rather muddy again - frosty weather has its merits as it freezes the ground and makes life easier for them. Heavy rain has made the hen run rather muddy and I fear that tomorrow's forecast downpours will not help matters. I'm really hoping for a drier month in March!!

The preacher booked to come to take our service in the morning has been taken ill so the steward spoke to me last night and asked me to take the service. At short notice, I have prepared a service in the last hour and a half, and I am hoping that it will run OK. The YFG has declared that the last one I took was "boring" so I hope that this one is more interesting for her. Perhaps I work better under pressure!

We are all working hard at gymnastics to prepare the children for the competition they are entering on 14 March. We are taking about 28 or 29 children this year, so we are pressed for time for practising; to that end, we had an extra hour at gym today, so we were training until 2pm, and we will do that for the next two Saturdays. It doesn't sound like much, but an hour makes all the difference to how much we get done in the session.

Off to bed now - goodnight all!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

First shop and the menu planning

Today I did a menu plan for the coming week, based mainly on what I know is in the freezers and cupboards.

Today: Lasagne for the gang and a shepherd's pie variation for me
Wed: Fish pie/fish and veg for me
Thursday: HM Chicken nuggets and wedges/Chicken curry and rice
Friday: Pie and veg/Leftover curry for me
Saturday: Toad in the Hole/Sausages with veg
Sunday: Roast Chicken
Monday: Macaroni cheese/Leftovers

You can see from that that we are all basically eating the same thing with some slight modifications for me, to accommodate the dietary restrictions I have. Puddings are occasional and usually crumbles or quick microwave sponge puds. The EFG made Angel Delight again for a treat tonight, but that is that and there won't be any more for a while!

Breakfast - we are not a cereal family:
The EFG usually has toast, the FH has porridge or fruit, I usually have fruit or occasionally porridge, and the YFG is a challenge to get to eat much - it varies between toasted cheese sandwiches, eggy bread, bacon sandwiches (when there is any bacon), toast, and sometimes scrambled egg or a boiled egg. I do sometimes make pancakes for everyone, too.

Lunches - the packed lunches are basic - sandwich, HM cake or biscuit, fruit, and a drink. Sometimes they want a carrot, or some popcorn as an alternative or as an extra if they are feeling hungry! At home, we eat soup, leftovers or baked potatoes usually.

We were running out of fresh fruit and veg so I have had to go shopping tonight when we came out of gym. I bought:

2 Savoy cabbages @ 50p each
2.4kg carrots for £1.50
2 large heads of broccoli for £1.50 (670g altogether)
2 bags clementines for £3
1kg of parsnips for 70p (reduced)
Bag of apples £1.54
Mushrooms 79p
Rashers of back bacon £2
Pkt Rocky bars £1
Total spent £13.03 - total remaining £86.97

Monday, 22 February 2010

Still going strong!

We have come through the weekend without spending anything from the £100 budget so I am pleased. I have spent both days watching a gymnastic training course for coaches in Peterborough, so my opportunities for spending were limited anyway!!

There is a "spend" happening tonight but I'm not making it and it is not coming out of my £100.....yesterday the FH made Toad in the Hole whilst I was out, and although I specifically said not to use my wheat-free flour, that is exactly what he did use, and I was fuming when I found out, for two reasons - I had only half a bag left and wanted to make it last as long as I could AND it costs so much more than the normal flour I buy: compare Dove's Farm wheat free flour at £1.88 a kilo, to Sainsbury's or Tesco Value at 43p for 1.5kg and you see that it is horrendously expensive compared to the usual wheat flour. SO I have asked him to replace the Dove's Farm flour for me.

I got up at 5am to make the scones for the dance on Saturday, so I managed to complete on that promise. I split and buttered them when I got home in the evening. Putting a chicken in the slow cooker meant that the FH just had to do some veggies and we had a hot meal almost ready when the YFG and I got home at 5.30pm. The dance was great, but the girls and I left at 9.30pm as we had another early start yesterday. The FH and UJ stayed until about 11pm and came home with three raffle prizes between them - a basket of fruit, chocolates and some bath items.

Sunday was fine until we got into town to pick up the people we were taking to Peterborough with us and it started to snow heavily - and continued all the way there, getting heavier and the roads seeming to be untreated, especially in Peterborough; I breathed a huge sigh of relief when we parked at the gym eventually! The relief was all the more when we came out at 4pm and found all the snow melted away and bright sunshine everywhere.

Today has been good so far as I have done some catching up on the housework and laundry, been to a church meeting this afternoon to the Worship Leaders course - the last meeting for that, so we were told we had passed and given a certificate! The FH has now taken the EFG off to band practice, the YFG has her friend here and they are watching a DVD upstairs, so I am thinking of cooking the tea soon. I just have an 8pm Education Foundation meeting tonight and that will be that. Just got a little ironing to do now whilst I watch the news and then I'll start on the tea.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Day three

We were relieved and disappointed (adults then children in that order) to see that the temperature had risen overnight and so there was no snow at all this morning - even that which fell last night had disappeared....

A bit of a slow start to the day, but then we exploded into action, baked a cake, took the old Volvo to the scrapyard and got £45 for it, came home and ate a quick jacket potato and then the YFG and I trundled off to town, to pick up rabbit/chicken feed, pop a couple of cheques into the bank and go to gymnastics. The EFG and the FH have gone to Ely Cathedral to a SSAFA concert - the Royal Marines (Collingwood) band are giving a concert so they have gone to that. Tickets were bought prior to the challenge, so that is OK!

Tonight I am supposed to be making about 100 cheese scones for the dance we are holding for the church tomorrow, but I am also thinking about the fact I need to get up at about 5am in the morning and wondering whether my brain and body really need to go to bed NOW and maybe make the scones in the morning. I need to leave the house at 7.30am so perhaps there is time to make them fresh in the morning IF I get all the ingredients ready and the trays laid out tonight.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Snow's back

That says it all - it snowed heavily on the way home from Peterborough and continued for some hours after we had arrived home. Heavy snow is forecast for tonight, so we will open the curtains with bated breath in the morning!!

Another good day

It was good overall although it had its ups and downs.

The YFG wanted to go ice skating in Peterborough this week, so since I could combine the trip with a work-related pickup there, I took her today. The biggest down of the day was that on arrival at Planet Ice, the car park was absolutely fit to burst (it HAD burst - all over the double yellows out front, into the neighbouring car parks, etc) and there was a very long queue snaking out the door. We gave it a miss. I did the work pickup and then we headed off to Hampton as she had some money she wanted to spend on a new purse.

The EFG spent the afternoon at home, although she invited a friend round and they played on the Wii and watched a DVD. I was glad to get home to the fire at 4.30pm.

This evening's meal has been chicken curry and then a concoction made from slightly stale ginger cake, a banana and some banana-flavoured Angel Delight. Another No Spend Day for me and the household budget, so I was pleased.

This challenge is also going to teach us some patience: the girls are keen for me to pre-order the New Moon DVD in the Twilight series which will come out on March 22nd, but I am holding out until after the end of the challenge. I had to pass over two books I would have loved to have bought in WHSmith today, so it is not all a breeze!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

First day - we managed it!

A successful "No Spend Day" today, and no one has been hungry!

I have been following a thread on in which a lady called weezl and her followers are trying to put together a subsistence meal plan for a month, spending only £100, for a family of four and eating a lot of vegetarian foods. I tried their carrot cake recipe tonight for the FH and girls, and here is my version as I modified it a little:

200g sugar
300ml veg oil
4 eggs, beaten
320g grated carrot
200g mixed dried fruit
grated zest and juice of one large orange
350g SR flour
1tsp bicarb
2 tsp mixed spice

I zested and juiced the orange and then put the resulting zest and juice into a bowl with the dried fruit and left it to sit for about 10 minutes, before stirring it up really well.

I turned the oven on to 180C, and prepared two Swiss roll tins, greased and lined with baking parchment. One of my tins is only about 3/4 the size of a normal Swiss roll tin, so bear that in mind.

Then I put all the ingredients into a bowl and mixed them well. The resulting mixture was spread over the two tins, and baked for about 20-25 minutes. It went a lovely golden brown and I stuck a knife in to check that it was cooked, but it sprang back when I touched it too.

The FH managed to leave it to cool, although I could tell that the smell was really tempting him!! They have all tried a piece, and the FH and EFG loved it as it was, but the YFG had to pick out all the fruit and then had another piece! Maybe I will try a non-fruited version with a little more carrot sometime.

It smells delicious, and has absolutely no need of any icing - it is light and well risen, too. A success. Thanks, Weezl and friends!

Today's evening meal was jacket potatoes with beans (for me) and with beans and cheese for the girls. The FH had been out to his lunch club and had lasagne, so he just had a cheese and lettuce sandwich.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Lent Challenge

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, so I have decided to make myself and the family a challenge. I have plenty of stores in the cupboards and we have £100 in an envelope. That £100 will be our money for the next 6 and a half weeks until Easter Sunday on April 4th. Whatever is left will be given to church or charity. I will be ashamed if there is nothing left to give!

To explain a little more, the £100 must cover food, toiletries, incidental expenses, etc but will not include fuel, bills, poultry and rabbit food (no chance!) and the FH's activities (art and lunch club - I couldn't do it with those included) and the EFG's band sub is excluded too - those things are non-negotiable and things that we cannot do without. Living where we do, we can't cut back our diesel/petrol bill any more than we have, and the other things are just "must-pay-for" items - the FH's activities are his small extravagances and cost relatively little - and I'm not stopping those. They come to about £5.50 a week and the band sub brings the total to £7, so if I included them in the challenge, too much of the money would go on these things alone.

We CAN be more inventive with our menu plans, we can cut out convenience foods and snacks bought when we are out and about, we can carry water-bottles, we must not buy books and magazines, shoes and clothes. The YFG will wait for a new leotard!

This boils down to just over £14 a week over the time so we will have to keep a strict eye on what has been spent. This will have to be spent mostly on fruit and vegetables, and replenishing items we run out of, and for which we are unable to find an inventive alternative! I think we may lose some weight!!

I'll be keeping a record on here of how we are doing.

A "holiday" day

It's half-term here in the Fens, so we are enjoying a week away from the normal school routine. Yesterday we didn't do anything in particular, apart from the girls having various people here to play and friends dropping in, but today we went to the cinema in Huntingdon to see a film called "Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief" which was refreshingly different. The only major stars it had in it were Sean Bean and Pierce Brosnan, and they weren't huge parts, so the bulk of the film was the younger, to us, unknown cast. It was refreshingly different, and slightly educational in that it involved lots of Greek gods and goddesses and associated mythical creatures - how many can I remember? Zeus, Poseidon and Hades, to start with, then Hermes, Medusa and her snake-head, a many-headed beast called a Hydra, I think, a goddess of battle strategy and wisdom whose name escapes me but began with an A, and then there were the Lotus eaters. It was a good film, and we enjoyed it. As a pleasant surprise, some friends were there in the cinema when we arrived there, so we sat with them.

Pancake Day today, so although I fell asleep, the FH has made pancakes for pudding after the dinner tonight - good on him and thanks!!

Monday, 15 February 2010

Weekend catchup

Friday was a washout - I came down with a head cold and just got up for about 45 minutes to make breakfasts and lunch boxes, and then I went back to bed and to sleep until I woke up again at 1.30pm. I showered, ate some lunch, checked some emails and then had to head out to gymnastics. Thanks to the sleep I had had, I coped OK with the evening at gym.

Friday night, however, was a different matter: I got to sleep around midnight, and then was woken about an hour later by the FH pummeling me with 8 or 9 fierce punches to my upper back. I sat up and swore very rudely, but he was dreaming!! We had watched "Silent Witness" on tv in the evening, which had been a story based around the trials and tribulations of two rival gangs in London's inner city tower blocks. Consequently, the FH had a dream about being attacked by one of these gangs and was attempting to punch his way out of a fight. Unfortunately, I was the one who took the brunt of it - I have never been hit so hard in all my life. Thank goodness that I usually sleep with my back to him - he could have punched my face/nose if I had been facing him.

All that meant that I have been very sore over the weekend. I was due to go out with the coaches and some of the parents from gym on Saturday night for a meal, but what with the cold and the pummeling, I gave that a miss. By Sunday morning, I was doing a little better but it was still sore to sit for too long, so I went to the wedding at our church but had to pass on the meal afterwards - and I was glad I did as the FH and girls didn't get home until after 4pm and that would have been agony having to sit for that long.

Yesterday evening, I nipped over to see my dad. He looks well now, which is a relief, and I was pleased to see him looking that well. He does have some bruises where the lines went into the back of his hands, but overall, he looks tired but OK. With some rest, I think he's going to be fine. The GP came out to see him on Friday and said that there is no trace of the chest infection left - hurray!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Happenings here

Goodness me, I had a fright this morning when the Medical Assistance company called at 7.30am to say that their driver hadn't yet found Dad and MB at the airport - two hours after the plane landed! I was on tenterhooks for ten minutes, wondering who to call, when he then rang back to say that the driver had them safely found and they were on their way home - whew, the relief!! To have come all this way and then got lost in the airport would have been too much...

Other news is that I spoke to the poultry man, Steph, last night and he has many more breeds this year than he had last time I visited him. He has been improving his bloodlines and is hoping to produce some excellent birds this year. He is also reporting good fertility already in some breeds, so I have my fingers crossed for my own hatchings from his eggs. Last year I got most of the eggs we hatched from sellers on ebay, but that meant that a lot of the eggs had to come through the postal system, which isn't a great idea. This year we have decided to purchase only from people from whom we can actually go and pick the eggs up, in the hope of greater success rates. We are probably going to start with Barnevelder and Silver-laced Wyandotte bantams from Steph, and maybe he'll have some Gold-laced Orpington eggs later in the year - Coco was one of those, so I am hoping that I'll be able to raise some more of that beautiful breed this year.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

They are coming home - at last!

It seems such a long time since all this illness catastrophe kicked off in the Caribbean, but the weary travellers should start their journey home tonight! The plane is due to leave Antigua at 5.30pm their time tonight, and should arrive at Gatwick at 5.30GMT tomorrow morning. Then a car arranged for them will bring them back to their home. I am sure that they will be very relieved to get home after all this, as I know I will be tremendously glad to see them again and know that they are back here with us. I know that they have been on the other side of the world, and it has felt so FAR!

Goodness knows how they will feel about the weather - they are coming from balmy Caribbean heat back to snow and ice, so I am sure that they will feel quite a difference. Here this morning, the sun is shining but there are large flakes of snow falling from the sky and there is a keen wind at times so it feels frrrrrrreeeeeeeezing!

The time has come to start investigating getting some eggs in the incubators - we are going to phone a man in the Wisbech area from whom we bought some birds last year and ask if he will sell us some eggs. I know last year he had silver-laced Wyandottes, Light sussex and Rhode Island Red as well as a couple of other breeds, so I am hoping he will have some eggs to spare soon.

I forgot to say - we finally got the new Volvo last Friday. The YFG was over the moon to see it at last and we had to go to gym in it Friday night and Saturday morning. Friday she sat in the front, but Saturday she tried all the other seats out - the back and the two in the boot! She has declared it lovely, and wants to go everywhere in it now, passing over my poor old Astra at every opportunity!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Weekend update

I spoke with Dad last night, just before I went to bed, so it was about 6.30 in the evening for him; MB had gone back to her hotel for the evening meal, and he was resting and watching some TV. He sounds as if he is getting back to normal, and I was pleased to hear him sounding cheerful.

Saturday was a busy day, with gym in the morning, shopping and then getting everything ready for the Songs of Praise service at church in the evening. There was a bit to do for that, so the girls cooked a couple of frozen pizzas for tea before we went out. The evening was a success with everyone enjoying themselves, but it would have been louder in the singing if more people had come. We raised £95 to add to the £180 we raised at the coffee morning, so all in all, it was a good weekend for the funds!

This morning I left the YFG and the FH in bed and just took the EFG to church. We had a really lovely service with a preacher we hadn't had before, and we were very pleased to meet her - and hope she'll come again! This afternoon, the neighbour's little boy, A, has been here to play on the Wii with the YFG, bringing with him his Clone Wars helmet - so he scared me half to death with the voices which emerged from it. I retreated to the kitchen and made a cake for tea and a traybake for the lunchboxes as well as cooking up two batches of mince - we had shepherds' pie tonight and the second batch is in the fridge ready to be made into spag bol for tomorrow night.

This evening, my sister rang so I had a chat with her, did the school uniform ironing, put another load of washing through the machine and hung it on the airers by the fire, watched "Wild at heart" and now I'm heading for bed.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Hospitals in Antigua

There are apparently only two of them (hospitals in Antigua) and the one that has got Dad is the smaller, private one, with 18 beds. He is in a single, en-suite room, with all mod cons, I hear. The telephone reception is good and I have spoken with him and MB each day. The doctors are treating him well, and he is hoping to be coming home in 2 or 3 more days.

I have been in touch with the medical assistance company which the insurance company instructs, and they are dealing most efficiently with the claim, liaising with the hospital, the GP in this country and P&O too. There is some question over just how much of the care and expenses that they are prepared to pay for now as it seems that one of the conditions which is causing the problems was a pre-existing one. Having asked Dad about it, he says that his doctor didn't tell him that it was a different condition or that it was anything to worry about. That could be an expensive time for him, or us as it transpires now that his cards are in his wallet, in his trouser pocket, packed into a suitcase which P&O are delivering back to the UK ie it is still on the blinking boat and not available for use!!!

I'll be having a day off from ringing them tomorrow as we are organising another Songs of Praise at church for tomorrow evening. This weekend is the Chapel Anniversary, so we had a coffee morning today and raised £180 towards some damp-proofing work.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Morning news from the Oriana

Dad and MB were going to be "landed" in Antigua this morning and taken to a Medical Centre, where Dad will see a cardiologist. I have spoken with the Care Team at P&O, been assured of their assistance for Dad and MB, tracked down the insurance company who are going to be dealing with their case and repatriation and left my name and number with them, and been given the number of the Medical Centre, so I think that all possible lines of communication are open!

I am expecting the Care Team to let me have an update this afternoon.

More from the Oriana

The latest news on the patient last night was that he had been out of bed, the wires are all removed so he is free from drips and stuff like that, although he is still using a heart monitor most of the time. Temperature and BP are normal, and he had had fish and chips for his lunch, probably a low-fat version, and had been watching TV. The doctor on board seems to want him and MB to get off today in Antigua to go to the hospital there so that Dad can see a cardiologist.

MB sounded a lot calmer last night about the whole idea of staying in Antigua as she has been reassured that P&O will arrange everything and they will not be left to make their own arrangements. I am supposing that P&O must have plans in place for such eventualities so there must be people in the ports who help people in these situations. Anyway, we will know today what is going to happen. Apparently, if Dad insists on staying on board and coming home that way, he will have to sign a disclaimer to the effect that he undertakes this next part of the journey at his own risk, having had the dangers explained to him.

Apart from the dramas at sea, life goes on here: gym last night for the YFG and I whilst the EFG and the FH went to the EFG's Options Evening at school to find out more about the choices available to her for her GCSEs. Today she has orchestra after school, and the YFG has art club, so I have more time to do things before picking them up at 4.15 and 4.30pm.

I had better go and get ready to take the YFG to school now - cold and frosty start here this morning, so the car will need defrosting!!

Monday, 1 February 2010

Health on board ship

The latest word from the ship tonight is that Dad's cough is resolved but he is still in the medical centre, in bed and wired up, because his heart rate is up and down like a yo-yo and the doctors are trying a different drug this afternoon (on board it is still afternoon as they are 4 hours behind us) to try to get that under control. MB sounds worried still, as the powers that be onboard have asked for Dad's passport and are considering what to do with him; when they leave Antigua tomorrow, they are at sea until they reach Madeira and that will be five or six days' sailing to get there. To cap it all, MB has now been confined to the cabin with diarrhoea! I really feel for her - she must be so worried. I think that the diarrhoea will be more likely down to stress than the norovirus but nevertheless, I should think that that is what they suspect she has got. I am just hoping that they take good care of her as well. We have arranged to speak again tomorrow, although she has said she will phone me earlier if there are any developments.

Personally, I think that he is in better hands on the ship, heading for home and "in hospital" than he would be moved to a land-based hospital in Antigua, as he would then have to be certified fit to fly - and I know my Dad - and 8 hours on a plane would send his heart into palpitations for sure - he has always avoided flying if at all possible. The furthest he has flown in recent memory (but that's more than 15 years ago!) was the hour from Cambridge airport to Jersey!