Friday, 31 August 2012

Ups and downs again

I feel quite tired tonight as I got up extra early for me, to be in school by 8.15am as we were interviewing for a new member of the support staff, and we had four candidates to get through this morning.  I haven't been feeling great lately, and the hustle and bustle of the school has knocked me a little today.  But we did appoint someone successfully, so I am pleased about that.

This afternoon, after I grabbed some lunch at 1.30pm, I pottered very quietly, on the computer, and chatting with the FH.  I haven't done a lot at all, until I cooked the supper, and then I went straight to have a bath.  It isn't 9pm yet, but I could quite easily go to bed now!  I won't though, just yet, as I don't think I would sleep through the night - I'd be waking up at 4am....

I am going to leave the Giveaway in yesterday's post open until Sunday evening, so do post a quick hello in those comments to have a chance to win.  I would have made that into a hyperlink but the YFG has swiped my mouse and left me with the one that can't "right-click" so I can't do a link today.  Just scroll back to yesterday!

Tomorrow will be the 1st September so I'll be looking at the budget to see how we are getting on with that - I'm not sure that it is going to be great news as we seem to have had more spending than I would have liked.

Thursday, 30 August 2012


I have had an interesting afternoon sorting out those bookshelves some more!  The children's titles, like Brambly Hedge, Winnie the Pooh, Wind in the Willows, Famous Five, Anne of GG, etc have been boxed up and put in the cupboard in the garage.  They are too precious to pass on, I'm afraid, but I don't need immediate access to them, so they are being stored.

In the process, we moved some shelves up and down and rearranged some of the books, and I came upon this little stash of mini recipe books - they are frequently free gifts with magazines.  Quite a few are BBC ones, and there are some lovely recipes in them - I have done a little photocopying this afternoon of favourites, and the rest are for you!

Comment on this post for a chance to win the bundle, and then share as you please. 

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Half a room

Half of the room is pretty much finished - just the far end where the piano stands to do and that is not ready to be revealed quite yet!  I haven't really been here to do it today, so we have lapsed behind schedule a little.

I was getting fed up of people traipsing through here, so I decided to block off the patio doors again, which also makes better use of the space.  So, against the patio door is the "writing" desk, which the YFG has taken over this evening to do her art homework - all about Andy Goldsworthy, apparently.  She has been happily working there for over an hour this evening, so that part of the room is a success.  

The large cupboard in the corner holds files, boxes, craft stuff, stationery, etc - it is MY cupboard!  It isn't quite finished though - the FH made it quite a few years ago and I am still waiting for handles on the middle pair of doors and for the top doors to be glazed yet.  Mmmm...  He also made the computer trolley next to it, based on a design pinched from a catalogue - recycled from an old TV stand that someone gave him.  And the end panel of that desk you can see - where my mug of tea is sitting - he made that desk as well. Originally designed for the YFG's bedroom, but quite ok in here now, and useful to have at the side on the computer trolley for resting folders and books on.  I have squeezed the filing cabinet under the knee hole of this desk, as I don't sit at it in that direction.

The random dress hanging from the curtain rail is there because it doesn't fit anyone any longer and is hanging there to remind me to find it a new home.  I washed the curtains so they will be rehung when they are ironed.

This shows the "library" shelving which the FH made (he's pretty handy, eh?!) and the little chair which belongs to the YFG.  These bookshelves hold cook books, children's books, health titles, home ed stuff, novels, religious books, and magazines in magazine holders filed according to titles.  There are four sections to this shelving system here, although you can only just see the fourth.

I am very pleased with the achievement here.  It perhaps says something on a feng shui level (I know very little) but the two junk/most cluttered rooms in the house are one on top of the other in this back corner of the house.  Hoping that once I finish sorting this one out, I can move on to the other.  Slowly does it, though. I have the complete works of Dickens up there though, in individual books - quite a collection - and no idea of where to re home them.

This has been frugal home making at its best, because I haven't spent a penny to transform this room; any furniture or items new to this room are just transplanted here from other areas of the house, and that rug has been rolled up in the garage for quite some time since we decided not to use it in the kitchen.  

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Hopefully tomorrow...

I am very hopeful that by tomorrow the office/dining room will be finished!  It has been a long slog, and hard work, but I am very pleased with the results so far - and I shall take some photos tomorrow when it is done!

I have created the "quiet room" which I have been craving.  Now there are two desks in here - one for the desktop pc and one for writing at - and more space around them.  There is also a rug on the floor which the YFG has already sprawled all over this morning doing her French homework, so she obviously feels relaxed in here.  We have brought in a small chair, and I have tidied up the bookshelves so that this part of the library is a little more organised - the other half of it is under the stairs and is a project for another time!

I have discovered that I have enough notebooks to supply a small school, and enough pens for them as well - we will not run out of black biros this side of Christmas, and I have all the Christmas cards I need this year!

My organisation challenge is that I have paperwork for so many different areas of my life, and they all have to be stored somewhere - stuff for gymnastics, papers for school, work for the church course I am doing and of course, I am keeping all the sermons I have written.  I have brought in a small, two-drawer filing cabinet from the garage, in the hope of putting "school" in the bottom drawer and "church" in the top drawer.  Some of it has been filed tonight, but there is a lot still to be sorted.

The shredder gave up the ghost after nearly filling a huge clear recycling bag which the council give us.  To be fair, it was working very hard, and perhaps it just over heated, but I will give it another go tomorrow when it will be cold, and see if it has any spark of life left in it.  The recycling lorry will come next week, and I am not sure that they will be impressed with three extra sacks as well as the bin!!

It is very therapeutic though, and it has cleared no end of space.  Just a few more little bits to finish tomorrow.  It feels like a new room, and it hasn't cost me a penny - it has saved me a few with all the stuff I have "found"!

Monday, 27 August 2012

Maybe tomorrow

I might manage a post, but today I have been rediscovering the floor in the office - there is some light beech laminate in there, you never would have guessed......the shame!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

I can't wait!

I've just found out this weekend that these wonderful people are coming back with another "Farm" series!  And this time, it is the Wartime Farm - I am really looking forward to this one.  I loved the Victorian Farm, although I have to admit that I didn't have time to watch the Edwardian version.  I will be watching the trailers for dates and times as keenly as the YFG has been waiting for Dr Who to resume!!

Abundance in the garden

The garden is producing at last, after rather a slow start.  It has been delightful tonight to pop outside and pick just enough French beans for my supper, and it was very nice this afternoon to be able to gather together a bundle of goodies to drop round to a friend's house: she got a couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes, a cucumber, two wee courgettes, a handful of runner beans and two red peppers from the greenhouse, as well as half a dozen eggs.  She was delighted, and very appreciative.

Last night, the rain here was torrential, as it was across large swathes of the countryside - I watched as the raindrops bounced off my car and wondered whether it would ever stop!  And the thunderstorms which accompanied the rain went on for several hours.  But today has been quite different, thank goodness - dry and bright most of the day.  A little chilly in the evening, and we are really noticing that the nights are drawing in now - autumn is in the air, I think.

Who knows what tomorrow will hold?  The YFG is supposed to be swinging through the trees at Thetford Forest's Go Ape experience, with my cousin's husband, but unfortunately, the cousin's husband's father has been in hospital today, and so we are waiting to see whether the outing will go ahead.  I am also a little concerned that even if he is fit to be left for a few hours, the weather may not be terribly kind to the apes in the trees, and those of us walking in the woods underneath may get drenched.  You can tell my spirit of adventure is sadly lacking, I know!

I hope you are able to enjoy the extra day if you are not at work tomorrow, and spend time with family and friends, as we are hoping to be able to do.

Saturday, 25 August 2012


I do get a little "homesick" for the hills and valleys of Scotland occasionally, and am able to indulge myself by watching one of the DVDs of some of the great Scottish series we have enjoyed over the last 15 or so years!  

title screencap

Hamish MacBeth first aired in 1995, and I remember watching it when I was pregnant in 1996 as well.  We made a trip to the west coast to stay in a caravan at the end of the world, it seemed, in a tiny hamlet called Corran, along the road from Glenelg.  We had to go over a high pass to get there, and we didn't go out too often!  We did make a trip to Plockton one day though, where Hamish MacBeth was filmed, Plockton becoming Lochdubh for the storyline.  We even came across the McCrae's old Landrover in the village car park, and couldn't resist taking a few photos - not able to share though, because that was in the days before digital!  There were three series of this, and the romantic tension between Hamish and the local reporter, Isobel Sutherland, was very entertaining - Isobel was played by Shirley Henderson, who the girls know as Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter.  Hamish is played by the talented Robert Carlyle, although I think that the acting of this character way back then is far better than some of the other "interesting" ones he has done since!

Monarch of the Glen (UK) tv show photo

Monarch of the Glen ran for seven series between 2000 and 2005, and it was really my favourite - and it just seemed to get better!  The cast changed immensely over the five years, but it never lost its appeal, and I have it all on videos and DVDs.  The storyline develops over the years, as the relationships between the characters play out, and people move on. At the beginning, you would never have imagined the ghillie ending up with the second laird's mother, and the third laird appearing and marrying the shepherd(ess).  

Two Thousand Acres of Sky featured Michelle Collins as a single mum who had to persuade her best (male) friend to pretend to be her husband so that they could begin a new life on an island which needed more people - she was given the opportunity to run the island B&B, and I have fond memories of this one as quite funny as well as fantastic scenery.  This one ran from 2001 to 2003 for three series.  I don't have this series on DVD (yet!) but am keeping a keen eye out for it at charity shops and car boot sales as it is horrendously expensive from retailers as it seems to be quite rare.

Hope springs title.JPEG

Hope Springs ran for one summer in 2009, and it was great for the scenery, but the storyline and acting weren't that great.  I haven't got it on DVD, and include it only for completeness when thinking about the Scotland-based series I have watched in these last 15 or so years.  The storyline revolved around a group of  ex-prisoners who stole some money from one of their ex-husbands and planned to escape to Barbados and live the high life!  It all went horribly wrong and they ended up in a tiny and remote village in the Highlands called Hope Springs.  It wasn't one of Alex Kingston's best moments at all...

Case Histories

Jason Isaacs is brilliant as the Edinburgh-based policeman-turned-private detective in Case Histories.  Again, like Shirley Henderson, the girls know this actor from his Harry Potter persona of Lucius Malfoy, but I think he is excellent in this, and much better without all the makeup!  We have hopes of more of this coming to the BBC perhaps this year, but who knows?  Although this is the only one of the programmes not set in the Highlands and Islands, it is still great to see the historic streets of Edinburgh as the backdrop. One of my favourite DVDs to watch whilst ironing!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Exam results

The EFG finally received her GCSE exam results yesterday morning.  We went over to the school, where she was given her big brown envelope, and she opened it up there and then....
The news is good! 

7 at A grade: Maths, English Language and English Literature, Physics, Statistics, Art, Religious Education; 2 at A* grade: Biology and Chemistry; and a B in French.  Then she also achieved three Distinctions in her ICT.

She is now planning to go on and do AS levels in Biology, Chemistry, Maths and English Literature, with a view to doing the second year exams at A level in the first three.  Science is definitely on the cards.

So, I am a very proud mum - she worked incredibly hard and deserved good results, as every student who works hard does - they can only do their best, and whatever their best gets them is something to be proud of.  [I don't think that is terribly good English, but you know what I mean!]

Thursday, 23 August 2012

French stick recipe

The ingredients needed for this are:

300ml water [I use cold]
1.5 tsp salt
2tbsp milk powder
2tbsp oil
1tbsp sugar
1lb 2oz bread flour [strong flour]
2 tsp yeast [I use Dove's Farm quick yeast]

This is the water in the bottom and then all the other ingredients added in the order they are listed above.  Then I put the bread machine on for the "Dough" cycle and leave it to do its thing for 90 minutes.

After 90 minutes, it has risen and looks like this.

I try to get every scrap of dough out of the pan with a spatula, and then I knead it on a floured surface, before dividing it into two equal pieces.

Each piece is then kneaded a tiny bit more and rolled out to about 10" by 3" or as near as I can get it!

I fold the top third down to the middle, then the bottom third up over it, and then turn it over so that the seam is at the bottom of the dough.

Each piece is carefully laid in the baking tin with the right side uppermost, and at this point it has to rise again.  Sometimes I leave it out on the counter, covered with a tea towel, and it rises over about 45 minutes to an hour.  Other times, I pop it in the fridge overnight [about 7 or 8 hours] and it rises more slowly.

This is what this batch looked like after a chilly night in the fridge!

I then baked it at 200C for about 20 minutes, but check your own oven as it may cook more quickly or slower than mine.  Just for the last few minutes, I turn the sticks upside down so that the bobbly part is uppermost.

When it comes out of the oven, I wrap each stick separately in a tea towel and then cover both with another one [this one IS clean, just tea-stained, sorry!!].  This makes the bread reabsorb some of the steam so that the crust is softened a little.

And that is my French stick tutorial - I hope you try it out.

The French stick baking tin came from Amazon but it has more than doubled in price since I bought mine in November 2007 for £3.30!! 

I first used this recipe when it was shared on the Old Style Forum at MSE, by a poster called D&DD, I think.  I have her to thank for many years of using this recipe for my family and friends to enjoy!

L'Oreal Generation

I have had an interesting chat with the EFG over the washing up tonight so I thought I would share our musings whilst all the photos load for the French stick post on the laptop.

The EFG has noticed that we have acquaintances who drink, sometimes quite a lot.  She can't understand why they feel the need!  Neither can I, but then I was talking to her about some of the other things that they do, and whilst this might seem like we were having a bitching session, we weren't.  The outcome of the conversation was education for her, and helped me to realise what a mature young lady she has become.

People whose lives aren't perfect [whose is?] perhaps feel the need to escape from everyday life, and I hear that in the comments that one lady makes about needing "a night off" or to "let her hair down".  The EFG asked me why I didn't go to an evening with these ladies when I was invited several months ago, and I told her that I didn't want to go to get drunk, and that it would be uncomfortable to spend the evening with them when they were drinking beer and cider, when I would be drinking tea or lemonade.  I am not happy in that sort of environment at all, not when the sole purpose of the evening is to get drunk, it seems.

Several of the ladies leave their small children with other people, which I can totally understand on one level.  When I needed to go to the doctor's, for example, or the dentist, perhaps, I would also take advantage of a friend's offer to watch my young children when it would be awkward to take them along with me.  I looked after my friend's youngsters in those years when she needed to go somewhere too - it was a reciprocal arrangement which suited both of us.  But these ladies are doing it all the time, to get a break from their own children, and that I don't understand.  At my end of the childrearing timeline, I am realising that my time with my children is all too short, and I regret any time spent apart from them!!

One of the EFG's friends has been left at home for the weekend with his father, who works shifts locally. His mother has gone away for a few days, and the friend himself doesn't seem too bothered about his mother's absence, but he does seem lacking in company, whilst his father is either asleep or at work.  This has bothered the EFG badly tonight, probably more than it bothers the lad himself, and she has said to me, "You wouldn't do that to us, would you?" Perhaps it is because she has been used to a near constant presence.  I'm not saying that this is wrong, but it is different from what our family is used to, and it has revealed to me how the EFG feels about me being available to her at home.  She obviously appreciates that.

These days, it seems that people's expectations in life are different, and not altogether realistic, I believe.  We seem to have raised a generation of people who need rewarding for getting through everyday life, for managing the ups and downs of daily activities, and who need to escape from the reality which is life.  The L'Oreal catchphrase from the adverts, "Because you're worth it" seems to have become a mantra in today's straightened times for justifying expenses which are not necessary.  

And herein appears to me to lay a way into debt.  Families who need constant treats to get through daily life are not, in my mind, being realistic about life.  Temptations to pay for these treats and rewards on credit must be huge!

Staying out of debt, or getting out of debt, does require a strong mind, and a determined one.  Ilona at Life after Money and Frugal Queen are both fine examples of this - and we could all take leaves out of their books.  I think that they are up there with Amy Dacyzycyn in the black belt of frugality, and I am a long way behind them, but I am heading in the right direction most of the time....

Amy D shares a story about treats in one of her books: she takes her children to the mall because they have to pick up one gift for someone's birthday [yard sale season hasn't got going yet and she needs to buy one gift for one of her six children] so to distract the six children whilst her husband sneaks off to the car with the gift, she takes them into an ice cream shop and buys them all what she calls "junior cones" which sound pretty basic.  The children are thrilled with them and sit and eat them in silence, really appreciating them.  She believes that most parents would notice how much the children enjoy the cones and buy them more often, thereby reducing the impact on the children, and then the parents would have to buy more and more elaborate ice creams to keep the kids satisfied.  Amy recommends keeping plenty of "space" around treats so that they are recognisable as treats and not everyday events.  I think she has wise words to share there.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Absolutely done in!

And can't share the photos I took of French bread for Angela.....been a long and busy day, so will tell all tomorrow!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Guest post

Hello! My mum is the owner of this blog, Morgan! She has given me the opportunity to write on her page. Such a privilege! I have been stuck for what to write...the first thing that came to mind, as it's my sister's 16th birthday today, I thought "Ah, I'll write about us". 
My sister and I don't always get along, as you would expect of two siblings, however, when, and I mean WHEN we do get along, we really do get along!!! I love her to pieces and miss her every time she goes for a sleepover, goes out, or even when she's in her room doing what she does best...watching YouTube or is on a social networking site. When we both get something new, the same, (recently we got a Nintendo 3Ds each) we can't help but play on them together. We share the games that we own and play two player on some of them. As we are in the summer holidays, most days we have been stuck for things to do. Most of the time one of us has said "Do you want to watch a film?". And then we end up watching one upstairs. But now we are running out of films to watch! 
When my sister is way to busy to be with me if she is doing her homework or anything else she may be busy doing, there are times when I think to myself "I REALLY WANT A DOG". Dogs can be great company. I've always wanted a dog, however I have always been afraid of other peoples dogs. Some are okay as I have got use to them. Me getting a dog will never happen as my dad can't stand dogs around the house. This really upsets me. My mum really wants a greyhound. If we were to get one, then I'd much prefer a Border Collie or a Labrador. When I sit alone dreaming of a dog to have as my own, but then realise that it will never happen, it just makes me want to cry as that is a dream of mine that can't come true at the moment. When my sister is busy, I could be busy too, taking it for walks with my best friend down the road who has a gorgeous Border Collie. Or even playing with him/her in the garden. We only have a cat. She isn't much company as she isn't the cuddly type! She can get quite vicious! You really don't want to get on the wrong side of her when she's in a hissy!!!! 
My sister most definitely tops a dog or the cat! (Although I really DO want a doggy). 
There has been days where I have done something to upset her and she has been in a mood all day long. I really don't know how she does it. When she upsets me, I try to be in a mood to show her that I can do it too, but I end up forgiving her and then I feel as if I have failed at trying to show her that she isn't the only one who can get a little grumpy.   
What I am trying to say is I really really love my sister and I want her to know that...I know she already knows, but I wanted to show her in a way that meant something!!! 
When my family read this, I want my dad to realise what a dog would mean to me, I want my mum to see how much my sister means to me, and I want my sister to realise that she is a really big part of my life! :) 
Love YFG xxxx

Monday, 20 August 2012

Fond memories

I cannot believe that my beautiful EFG will be 16 years old tomorrow...and getting GCSE results on Thursday.  Where have the years gone?  It feels like just a week or so ago that she was a little tot and learning so many new things, as she still is, but I have to start letting go now.  Quite scary for me!  But she is growing into herself now, and is becoming a very beautiful young woman, and I am so proud of her and all that she has achieved in the last couple of years.

She has made herself a gorgeous birthday cake today - they have both made their own for the last few years, and really enjoyed making individual cakes of their own design.  The EFG enjoys playing a card game called Sopio, so she made herself a rectangular cake, which I helped her to cover with white fondant icing so that it looked like a card, and she has used chocolate writing icing to decorate it - I was impressed.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Cooling down at last

Today has been hot again here - very hot.  In the region of 31C again.  Heat like this is very tiring - the YFG had a four hour nap on the sofa yesterday afternoon, fuelled, I think, by the busy week she had had at the gym holiday club, but also by yesterday's heat.

Today was a more active day for both of us - I was taking the chapel service several miles north of here to start with, and then I took the YFG and a little friend to a different gym to train on some better equipment than we have at our home gym club.  We are going to be doing a competition at this other gym in September so we took a group of the competitors over to have a go on the equipment there and to familiarise themselves with the environment.

The service went well, judging by the comments from the congregation as they were leaving.  They were all very kind and supportive, but it is a much larger building than I am used to and I had to wear a clip-on microphone - I was very glad of the co-operation of the sound person who very sympathetically turned it off each time we sang a hymn as the congregation really did not need to be subjected to my singing!!  By the end of the service, I could feel the perspiration on my forehead, and felt as if I was wilting a little.

The training at the gym was similarly hot and hard work as well - we had to train for 30 minutes and then rest for 15 as it was so warm and the children were becoming fatigued quickly, which can be dangerous.  It was a good training session in many ways, though, and I am glad we gave the children the opportunity.

The EFG had a day in London yesterday at "Summer in the City" which was a "gathering" of fans who watch Youtube videos of Vloggers - people who keep video diaries on Youtube, I believe.  The EFG follows several in particular, and was hoping that they would be there - and apparently a couple of them were, so she was very pleased and also enjoyed the interactions with fellow fans.  The FH was concerned about where she was going and asked if the police would be there, to which she replied that it wasn't a rave or a riot, but he still seemed to think that the police should attend....after I explained that her friend's mother was taking them and would scout the venue before she left them there for a couple of hours, he seemed to accept it.  She will be 16 this week, and it is beyond the time she needs to become a little more independent, but his age and lack of up to date experience of teenagers means that he worries more than perhaps is necessary, although I can't say I blame him.  She has just announced that she is hoping to go to a Harry Potter convention in London next year - she had better start saving some pennies towards all this gadding around.

And so tonight I have had a shower, had a rest and a chat with a neighbour, eaten some easily prepared supper and now I am just longing for a cup of tea and maybe I will do a couple of rows of my knitting.  Tomorrow is another day...

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Friday, 17 August 2012

Thinking ahead

I am not sure whether I have done this before with French sticks, although I know I have done it with refrigerator dough, but last night I made up a batch of French stick dough in the bread machine, and it was nearly 11pm before it was done, so I didn't want to wait around for it to rise again and then bake - I wanted to go to bed!  So I shaped it and laid it in the French stick mould, then covered it with a tea towel and left it in the bottom of the fridge overnight to rise - and it did - quite well!  This morning, all I had to do was to bake the bread, which was the easy part!

The ladies at the craft club at the chapel are doing a knitting marathon today, beginning at 10am and going through until 10am tomorrow morning, so I wanted to provide a couple of my French sticks for lunch and for snacking, as I know that several of the ladies like them.  I will be going along later on this afternoon for a shift  on the rota, after we have been to the gym holiday club.

The holiday club at gym has been going well, although it is rather full-on to be doing 4 hours a day every day!  The YFG is training for a competition, so she is working hard - she comes home every afternoon and flops out to watch a film!  The EFG is helping to coach and is doing really well with a group of little girls - she is making a plan each day and following through, so I am proud of her.  She wants to go on and do the first level of coaching courses, so now that she is about to tun 16 next week, I can book her on to one.

The weather is forecast to get hot this weekend, so we will have to be prepared - unfortunately, the gazebo blew down and destroyed itself into a heap of mangled aluminium in the heavy wind we had here on Wednesday, so we don't have anywhere to sit outside in the shade now.  Plan B will be to sit close to the workshop in its shade while we can, and then retreat to the north facing sitting room, I think!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Do people have time?

Being frugal, or careful, with money and resources takes time.  It takes time to do the things we do, but it also takes time to learn how to do them, and which practices are worth taking up regularly.

The friend I posted about yesterday would be better off if she could take some frugal practices on board and  "cut her cloth" as my granny would have said.  I have been thinking about her long and hard today, and whilst I accept and understand that she is terribly worried about the situation she is in, and what will happen next, there has to be a point at which one decides to survive and get through this.  I don't think she has got there yet as she still seems to be desperately looking for a solution to her problems, or a person to remove her from the situation.  As some wise person said, we have to accept the "now" before we can move on to the future.

I can think of a few strategies I would be employing in her situation:

  • Cooking from scratch - making everything myself and buying absolutely nothing rubbishy at all.  The food money needs to be spent on good quality nutrition, not junk.  Make and take sandwiches when going out, take a drink in a bottle, be prepared.  
  • Learn to bake.
  • Make the most of the resources on the internet.
  • Record every penny which is spent to track spending and help to cut out unnecessary spending.
  • Buy non-branded foods at the shops, and experiment with new ways of cooking and preparing foods - less meat and veg meals, more casseroles, stir fries etc where portion sizes are more fluid.
  • Menu planning and thinking ahead.
  • Complete moratorium on non-essential spending.  Complete.  No questions.
  • Checking household utilities for cheaper options.  Cancelling subscriptions to services like Sky etc if at all possible.  Making the house or the place you live as energy efficient as possible.
  • Walk everywhere that you can - no taxis.  Get the bus if you must.  Living in a town, unless it is chucking down the rain, it is usually possible to walk most places if you give yourself enough time.
  • Restrict water use - more showers than baths, only using the washing machine when full, etc.
  • Making sure that all the benefits I might be entitled to are claimed.
  • Finding out about all the things I can do which are free - the library, for books to read, for example; any free kids activities in the holidays.  Organise a kids get together at home with home made food to minimise expenses when they socialise.
  • Get the children on board if they are old enough to understand.  Key point to avoid problems if the children have a tendency to whine for things.  
That's just the start, but I think that the people who are prepared and who live this way in the long term have a bigger cushion for when tragedy or disaster strike - a cushion of savings, of knowledge or of experience - they are all very valuable.  It is easier to keep life on an even keel for the children if the way of life does not swing up and down with the family's economic situation - there is no point giving the children a huge hike in pocket money because Mum got a promotion if pocket money has to be scrapped altogether when Dad gets made redundant, for example.

Enough for one day - we have had a good day at the gym, and the girls have both had haircuts and are thrilled with their new looks!  The mirrors will be worn out by the end of the week...

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

To give a little

I have a dear friend who is in a bad place personally, and she hasn't a lot of anything.  If I had been the person lucky enough to have won the Euromillions last weekend, she would be top of my list to help.  She has faced her husband leaving her, and now it looks like her house is going to be repossessed at the end of the month because she has no way of paying the mortgage and her husband has let it go into arrears in addition to not supporting their child.

I am lost as to what I can do to help her.  She is ill with worry, pale, drawn and not sleeping or eating properly.  I wish I could put a roof over her head but I can't because I can't home her dog, and I live in the countryside whereas she needs to live in the town as she has no transport and would be stranded out here.

She has an appointment later in the week with an advisor to find out what she can expect when the house is repossessed, and whilst she is grateful for the advice, I can tell that she is scared stiff as to what he is going to tell her.

I've been able to supplement her food by giving her some eggs this week, and I can share the lettuce and tomatoes from the garden; I have put together a little parcel of bits for her child from my stash today, as we were talking about the child moving up to secondary school in September, and she hadn't realised that she would have to provide pens, pencils, etc - and it seemed that one of these days is going to be the straw that breaks the camel's back!  She has claimed a £50 voucher towards school uniform, but I hoped that giving her a few bits to put in a pencil case would be one less thing to worry about.

I guess I can pray, but all other suggestions are very welcome tonight, as I feel quite helpless too.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Teenager alert!

The YFG had her thirteenth birthday today - two teenagers in the house now!  

She has had a busy day, what with the gymnastics holiday club from 10 till 2, then home for the afternoon, where she has had a steady stream of local visitors and friends bringing her cards and little presents!  She has been well spoiled by her friends, wishing her Happy Birthday.

Late afternoon one of her best friends came round for tea, and they went off for a bike ride together whilst I made her favourite lasagne followed by chocolate self-saucing pudding.  After they had eaten that, they went outside again, and played board games and Nintendos under the gazebo until 9.30pm when we walked her friend home.

She says she has had a lovely day, and she is also looking forward to the left over lasagne for her lunch tomorrow!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Sunday siesta

After a lovely meal eaten outside under the gazebo, we spent most of the afternoon out there, drinking tea and chatting!  It has been a relaxing day, and we are rounding it off watching the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.  Tomorrow the gym club holiday camp starts, so we are doing gym every day for a week, and will not know what has hit us when we get going after having been "off" for three weeks!

Hope you have all had a good weekend xx

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Saturday busy-ness

We've had quite a day today!

  • Meeting up with the Head Coach at the gym and setting it all out ready for the holiday club on Monday - it took just over an hour, and involved a lot of lugging, so it was quite hard work!
  • Going to Lidl and doing the shopping for the week, as well as re-stocking the pantry.  More on that another day.
  • This afternoon, preparing the service for the chapel in the morning.
  • Four loads of washing out on the line in the lovely sunshine we have enjoyed today.
  • A surprise visit from another of the FH's cousins - on his mother's side this time - J who died yesterday was the last of the cousins on his dad's side of the family.  We heard that J's memorial service will take place in two weeks' time.
  • We have watched history in the making - Mo Farrah becoming a double Olympic champion tonight!  What an amazing athlete he is.  We also had one eye on the diving this evening whilst the visitors were here - delighted to see Tom Daley come through and take the bronze medal.
  • And, news of the hedgehogs!  No sightings of them, but fresh poo in the garden so they are still around - the best news.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Feeling sad

Death is nothing at all,
I have only slipped away into the next room.
I am I, and you are you,
Whatever we were to each other, that we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name,
Speak to me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference in your tone,
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was, 
Let it be spoken without effect,
Without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant
It is the same as it ever was.
There is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you,
For an interval,
Somewhere very near,
Just around the corner
All is Well

Henry Scott Holland (1847-1918)

We got a phone call this morning at about 10am to say that the FH's cousin was dying, and the FH left immediately to go to his home to be with him in his last hours.  J has been a bit like an older brother to the FH all his life; he was about 10 or 12 years older than the FH, and has had an interesting life.  In his later years, his health deteriorated badly - he has had a leg amputated because of long term diabetes complications, he has had heart problems, and when I went to see him a month or so ago, he was blind and almost deaf, confined to a wheelchair, and had had a couple of strokes.  The FH saw him more recently than that, but the news this morning was that he had pneumonia, had had a heart attack last week and was heavily sedated with morphine.  He has been cared for at home through all of this by his long term partner, B, who has been amazing to be able to cope with all that she has had to manage.  She has had some carers in latterly to help her, but she has always been the main carer for him.  

I rang them at lunchtime to find out how they were doing, and the FH was just going to go off to the surgery to get some more morphine, and the doctor had been out and indicated that J's life would come to its end within the next 24 hours.  

This afternoon, the FH rang me at 6pm to say that J had passed away within the last half an hour, and that they were waiting for a doctor to come to certify death.  The FH will stay with B for a while, as she has relatives coming from Norfolk to be with her, and he will wait for them to arrive before he leaves.

I am very sad that J has left us, but I cannot be sad that his pain and suffering has come to an end.  

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Grocery and spending

Delighted to report that the grocery spending has had a number of No Spend Days this week, and we are still at about £110 for the month, which was the beginning of the month stock-up on basic items last Friday.  We are running out of fresh items now that we are approaching the weekend again, and a list is being generated.  We are going to town on Saturday to set up the gymnastics equipment for next week's holiday club, so we will combine our trips to do the shopping at the same time - and we are heading straight to Lidl's this week!

Looking back over the week, we have spent a good bit of time at home, amusing ourselves, and doing some reading, cleaning and tidying, dealing with the garden and the bees, and generally looking after the FH, who has had his acupuncture session today and is feeling OK.

I am pleased to have these weeks where there is less pressure to go places and do things, but I am still under some pressure to work - I have to prepare the service for Sunday at the chapel, and I have to find a way to generate more interest in a job at the school because I am sadly lacking applicants and need the post filled for September, but I have to do it without spending much cash.....will sleep on it and think more tomorrow!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

A good day!

Lots of good things today:

  • the FH and his cronies had a lovely get together over lunch.  Roast chicken, new potatoes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, mini Yorkies, stuffing balls, and gravy, followed by strawberry tart and ice cream, and then After Eights.  I think they were stuffed!  
  • the Drop-in at the chapel this week went well, with more people bringing their children for an afternoon of play and fun together.
  • the troublesome bees have just been removed to a new site in the village, by our friend A.  He's just taken them off, and is driving through the village wearing his bee suit in case any escape in the car - as he said, if there are reports of a space man driving a green car in the area, it's him!
  • the FH's feet are on the mend, it seems, and he has been hobbling around a little better today.  He has an appointment for acupuncture in the morning.
  • the EFG has been on a bike ride, so that is a big tick in the exercise box for her.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Tuesday tootlings

Well, tootling makes a change from plodding, doesn't it?  I have been doing housework and trying to catch up a little on yesterday - one fridge gave up the ghost yesterday so I had to clean out an old one which we had set aside to be disposed of because it was so old, and surplus to requirements - thank goodness we hadn't actually got round to moving it on!  It is now spruced up and in position in the utility room, humming away nicely and keeping lots of things cold.

I took the FH to the village doctor today for a check on his ear infections, which are improving.

This afternoon, the Head Coach came over with a lot of vegetables for us - a cauliflower and a cabbage, some potatoes, runner beans, beetroot, and  some rhubarb.  It was very kind, and we shall use them all - we had the beans for tea tonight and they were lovely.

So, I am off to wash up and sort the kitchen out - a big meal to cook for the FH and his five gentlemen (including UJ) tomorrow so I want things shipshape before I start!

Monday, 6 August 2012


Unfortunately, we didn't come across this chap (the tv programme hasn't been the same since he left!) but after spending the best part of 5 hours at the hospital, we did come away with some positive news.  The staff were lovely, too, even if they aren't famous!

It has been a long day, and it was a longer night for the FH, battling with the pain in his ankle, so he woke me at 6am with demands to be taken somewhere where someone could do something to help him!  I knew that the village doctor wasn't going to be a lot of help, so I rang the heart hospital for advice - I know that sounds weird, but they are exceptionally good there, and very pleased to give advice whenever we have a problem. I explained that although the cardiac consultant had told the GP to refer the FH for his foot to a rheumatologist, the GP had refused to do so on two occasions, and now what should we do?  The sister told me to take the FH to the local A&E, where they would be able to give him stronger pain relief, and would have access to specialist departments, and could call them for advice if necessary over his medication.

So I did.  The FH made noises about the amount of time we had to wait to be seen initially (60 minutes), the length of time we waited for an x-ray (90 minutes) and the wait for the doctor again after the x-ray (about another 60 minutes), and then for the codeine to be dispensed (30 minutes)  BUT we had success overall - codeine for the pain, fluid aspirated from the ankle, which has relieved a little of the pain, and the fluid is going to be analysed - AND the consultant has promised to refer the FH to the rheumatologist because the GP won't.  Hallelujah!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Quietly on a Sunday

The FH has had a day in bed, resting his feet and being waited upon all day!  He has been watching the tv on and off, dozing and generally getting his rest.......let's hope he is not wide awake all night, watching tv some more!

I crept around this morning and did the chores outside, woke the YFG and we tottered off to chapel for the 9.30 am start to the service.  It was quiet there this morning, with a big family away at a wedding and a couple of others missing for one reason or another - so we had a contemplative time with the minister, reflecting on some changes he wants to make in the circuit.  There were enough of us to make a noise, singing the hymns, anyway.

I baked a cake when I got home, and gave the FH some lunch.  After that, I sort of conked out, and watched Louis Smith and Max Whitlock win medals on the pommel horse, and a few other bits and pieces, whilst sorting through a big pile of books and magazines.  Tonight, the girls cooked the supper, and I am looking forward to watching the 100m final to see if Usain Bolt lives up to all the hype!

We have had some terrific thunderstorms and torrents of rain here this afternoon, and I saw on the news that there is a lot of flooding in the Borders, so my thoughts are with those families who are suffering in any way in this uncertain weather.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Health issues = sleepless nights

Oh my, what a night we had last night!  The FH has three major problems at this moment in time - he was stung earlier in the week, so he has a hand which looks like a bunch of fat sausages; he has ear infections in both ears, so he is slightly deaf, and speaking loud; and then yesterday morning when he woke up, his feet have "gone bad" again, so he is struggling to walk, even with the crutches.......

Last night, he wanted a bandage putting on at 1.20am, so I did that, and got him settled back into bed, swapping sides so he had less distance to cover to the toilet, if the need arose.  He sleeps facing me when he is on that side, so I get the draught from the sleeping mask over me, resulting in me having to sleep lower down the bed to avoid it, or having to put up a barrier!  Sometime later in the night, he decided to have a shower, I thought, as I heard the shower screens crashing and the water running....I dozed through that - we have an ensuite so all the noise was happening about 6 feet away from where I was trying to sleep.  And then there seemed to be another bout of showering sometime just before dawn, and I dozed through that as well. I managed to sleep through the alarm after all that waking and dozing in the night, and woke up at 10.45am this morning!  Not good, and the poor chooks were quite ready for their breakfast when I dashed out there to give it to them minutes after leaping out of bed.

Apparently, he wasn't showering in the middle of the night, but spraying cold water onto his foot as he said it had swollen up under the bandage and become very hot.  Then he did have a shower early this morning, but also ran the cold water on the feet again.

He got up shortly after I did, and he has had some cold massage gel rubbed onto the worst area of his worst foot, and he is resting them both whilst watching more sport.  Have to say that the spare mattress on the EFG's floor is looking more and more attractive!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Fishing around

I went to that shop I'm not keen on, and did the business with the vouchers.  This is the little haul I chose to use the Frozen Food £10voucher which cost me a £5 Clubcard voucher.

I knew that our freezer had no fish left in it, so that was my priority.  The two boxes of Cod in batter at the back should have been £3 each, but then there was an offer to get two boxes for £5, so that seemed to be a good place to start.  But I can't eat that, with the batter, so I also chose some plain white fish, which is cheap and cheerful at £1.75 a bag.

Two bags of mixed veggies are always useful to have in the freezer - carrots/cauliflower/broccoli.  I can throw them in the steamer over a pan of rice or potatoes and have alongside the protein part of the meal, or I can add them to a risotto, or use in a pasta dish for a quick supper, so I was pleased to find these.

And then there was the ice cream.......and that is where the £10 budget got blown!  I got 50p worth of this included and paid for the rest, I guess - it is the summer holidays and the YFG in particular is partial to an ice cream now and would the EFG be but she is being good about her healthy eating.  As a treat, £3.50 for two small tubs of ice cream isn't going to break my bank this week, so I let them find their way into the trolley!

So all that came to a grand total of £14, which cost me £4 in cold hard cash.  Not too bad.

As for the pet food voucher, I stocked up on tinned cat food, getting three 6-packs of chunks in gravy (her favourite) at £2.79 each, and then making up the difference with four individual cans at 47p each to reach the £10 total - we went over by 25p in order to use the whole £10.  I didn't buy dry cat food there as I know I can get it in Lidl's for 99p/kg and I couldn't find anything in this shop to better that price, so I bought the tinned stuff.  She is OK with dry cat food, but she does love the chunks in gravy too, so that little stash will last a while.

Having avoided this particular shop quite well last month, I wasn't very impressed with their fruit and veg prices - the mushrooms are 12p more expensive than Lidl's, the kids reckon that the cherries aren't as nice, and the apples are more expensive too.  Walking round the shop, I noticed several things that were on offer at really good deals, and thought I would stock up, but the shelves were empty.  I was also peeved to find two shelf stacking ladies chatting on their mobile phones whilst they were stacking, so I felt that I was interrupting their conversations to ask them where something was!

We'll be back in Lidl's next week, and avoiding this one for another month, until we need another major shop.  If I can manage to only go there once a month, I think I will feel better - I could feel myself getting cross with things in there, and the trolley was rather a pain to push...I can even see me going back to a once a month delivery if I can find some cheap delivery codes on the internet, rather than have to go to the shop.

Rant over!  Hope you are having a pleasant evening - we have been watching the cycling and rowing today and heartily congratulate Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins on their double skulls Gold, and Victoria Pendleton on her Gold in the Keiren today. The men's team also brought home some medals, too!  Rebecca Adlington made Bronze in the 800m freestyle in the pool, and she did a cracking job to manage that against the 15 year old American Katie Ledecky who just flew through the water!   Michael Phelps added to his medal haul, and he is such a great sport in it all, so generous - I'm sure the USA is really proud of him.  Jessica Ennis is doing a great job in the first day of the Heptathlon so we hope she continues the work tomorrow.  Team GB has risen to about 4th in the medal table today, and although that is great, the athletes are showing great sportsmanship, team spirit and friendliness towards other competitors, and I am so pleased to see a world united in sport in this way.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

A bit of a buzz

Tunney web
(photo from

One kind of buzz first - the kind of buzzing high that I am sure some of the athletes at the Games are getting!

I am so impressed with the level of the competitions I have been watching.  I know I am biased, but the British guys and gals are doing really well - the double trap shooting today was won by a young chap from Dorset, I think, who must have immense concentration skills to keep his cool through shooting 100 pairs of shots and only dropping a handful.  He was so focussed.  The cyclists have won gold (the men) but also been disqualified (the women), so thank goodness there are more events to come in the velodrome - the atmosphere in there must be electric.  The gymnastics was amazing this afternoon - the American Gabrielle Douglas did a super job to win the gold, and the two Russians were second and third, but I was so impressed with our little 15 year old Rebecca Tunney, who made 13th.  To just be in the top 24 all around gymnasts in the world is SOME achievement, and they all deserve recognition for that.  And then there are the rowers, the swimmers, the whole shebang!  It is great, and we are loving it.

Another kind of buzz is the bees in the garden....not so good!  They swarmed again today, twice, and the neighbour who has been very patient finally told the FH that they really need to be moved, and I agreed with her!  The FH is a little miffed, but she is right, and he has reluctantly agreed to move them to a friend's place where there is the opportunity to amalgamate what he has left in this hive with another hive.

And the final buzz is the one I am getting from realising today that I have kept out of the shops for a whole working week.  I haven't been shopping (haven't needed to!) since last weekend, or even before that!  I have spent a little money, when the girls decided that they were desperate for tinned Heinz ravioli for lunch and I gave them some money and told them to bike to the village shop!  I have ordered something from Silversewer this week, and I have donated a small amount to the chapel, at the service on Sunday, but apart from that, my purse is no lighter - hurray!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Freezers dipping

(Photo from

July's minimal spending month has freed up some space in the freezers, which has pleased me a little.  It gives me some wiggle room and means that I can move things around more easily.  It won't last long, though!  I am going to invest in £10 of frozen food sometime soon, as the next Clubcard Double up coupon exchange has just started, today, I believe.

Frozen food is included on this occasion, for the first time, and I am going to have a good rummage through the freezers next time I am in the shop, and investigate just what I could get for my vouchers.  I don't buy ready meals, nor chicken nuggets/burgers, etc, but I do buy frozen veggies sometimes, especially things like frozen sliced peppers which are so expensive to purchase fresh at the moment.  I occasionally buy frozen desserts, and ice cream, so if all of that is included, I think I could probably spend £10, which would be only a £5 voucher.

Pet food is also included this time.  This will mean that I can stock up on the cat's canned food, which is already one of the cheaper brands, but I will be getting it at half price, so to speak, and not for real cash!