Thursday, 31 January 2013

Thursday meal

No photo today because the EFG and her laptop are not here to get the photo off the camera - the desktop pcs that we have are too old to have the right slots to pop the memory card into, so we have to rely on the laptop.  We have had sweet and sour chicken with rice tonight, after I got back from depositing the EFG and her friend at UJ's house.  I have arranged a lovely chap to bring them home again tomorrow in the late afternoon, so that saves me another round trip down there.  He works in the area and will pick them up for me after work and bring them back.  

I have made the Mars bar cake from Lesley's blog here for the chapel coffee morning tomorrow.  It was incredibly easy and I just scaled it up to fit into a Swiss roll tin, so my chocolate is not quite as thick as Lesley's but it still tastes good, according to the testers here who declared that I couldn't let the general public eat it until they had made sure it was OK - so noble of them, don't you think?!

And the FH has had a day in bed.  He has caught up on his sleep....and I am longing to do the same.  I may sleep in the EFG's bed tonight, since it will be empty, in an attempt to get a little more rest than I had last night.  

I hope you are all keeping well xx

Wednesday meal

You will have to use your imagination, as I did, because I wasn't there, and I didn't actually get any dinner last night at all...

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I did the afterschool gym club and took the other coach home to the town afterwards, picked up some more veg and fruit at the shop, and came home, where I issued instructions to UJ to make himself a sandwich and help himself to some cake, and to the girls to make themselves a jacket potato and beans.

Then I went off to a governors' meeting which lasted till 8pm.  When I got home, a dear friend with a lot on her mind popped in, and stayed, chatting till 11.50pm, by which time I was done for the day and just went to bed.  

That wasn't even terribly successful as the FH has got a chest infection and can't breathe, is coughing up phlegm and feeling generally rotten and very sorry for himself, so he was tossing and turning, coughing, and watching tv all night.  He eventually muttered something about trying to get some sleep, turned the tv off, and hey presto, my alarm went off and here I am!

You may not see much posting here for the next few days as we have church cleaning on the agenda today, the YFG has a piano lesson this afternoon, and then I have to take the EFG to UJ's house with her friend so that he can take them into Cambridge in the morning for a school visit to the big teaching hospital there.  The school can't do the transport so we have to get them there on public transport, they suggested, but it would mean leaving well before dawn for the trip, so they are having a night closer to the city and UJ will do the last leg with them in the morning.  I will have to fetch them tomorrow evening sometime...we have a coffee morning and worship lunch on tomorrow, and gym, and in between all that, I am trying to organise a cooking show for Saturday afternoon, and I will have to look after the FH's old chap for a couple of days whilst he is out of action........any small miracles you can send my way would be appreciated.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Tuesday meal

Whoops!  I nearly forgot...

We came rushing home from gym tonight and put a pan of pasta on to cook, then all I had to do was open a jar of pasta sauce and warm it up for the fastest meal in our repertoire.  

The gannets then descended and started to eat it, so I just managed to snap the last spoonful before someone came back for seconds and it was gone!

Lidl offer

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A quick post to share that if you use Facebook, you can "like" the Lidl UK page where you will be able to download and print a voucher to enable you to save £5 when you spend £35.  It is only valid between Thursday and Sunday this week, so if you shop in Lidl, I hope that helps.

Monday's meals

Instead of telling you what we plan to eat this week, I thought I would have a little fun and take photos of our evening meals instead.  They are not going to be special meals, just as it comes!

Last night, we had a vegetable risotto [arborio rice, beans, carrots, mushrooms, peppers, stock] to begin the meal which was one of our vegetarian meals this week as we are trying to cut back on the amount of meat we eat.

For pudding, I tried out Angela's Hot Swiss Trifle.  We don't often have a pudding but I wanted to have a go at making this.

I used a cheap Basic swiss roll, some raspberries I had in jars and some raspberry jam, a packet of quick mix custard [sorry, Angela!], and then the meringue over the top.  The EFG and the FH loved it, but the YFG wasn't keen.  I may do it again with some different flavours, but it was simple to make.

You can see that the oven I have is hotter on one side!

And that was yesterday's menu.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Day off

Having a night off from blogging today as I am not feeling terribly robust!  

Back tomorrow, and hoping to have some photos of the pud I made tonight for you.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Holocaust Memorial Day

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The minister who came to take the service this morning spoke very movingly about Holocaust Memorial Day, and we lit candles and we "remembered".  I put that in inverted commas, because few of us at the chapel these days are actually old enough to have heard about it at the time, but the rest of us know about it from our school history lessons, from films like Schindler's List, and the book, Schindler's Ark, and from the stories of those we know who are old enough to have known.  Some of the younger members have read the stories through the Anne Frank diaries.

We have a very old friend, who was in the Russian army at the time the camps were liberated, and he was there when one in particular was freed.  He told the FH all about it, in some of their quiet chats together over the years.  The FH has also been to Germany, and to the camps, and told us about it this morning at the chapel.

It is very very important that these events ARE remembered, by those who were there, and by those who have told their stories so that the rest of the world can know, and by knowing, prevent such things happening again, if we can.  We can honour the dead, and give thanks for their lives, their struggles and their faith.  We must learn, all of us, that we are all equal, and that no one has the right to set themselves above anyone else.  God loves every one of us in the same way, and we are all created equal, as Paul reminds us in his letters.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Tiffin recipe

The bread may have been a disaster that even the chickens turned their noses up at, but the Tiffin was rather good, and the ladies at the chapel loved it on Thursday and Friday this week, so I feel confident to share the recipe, even though I can't taste it myself....

The ingredients:

8oz margerine or butter
4tbsp sugar
4tbsp golden syrup
3tbsp cocoa
1 lb digestive biscuits, smashed up into small pieces
3oz raisins and/or cherries
1 lb chocolate, [mixture of dark and milk] melted

It is very easy.  First, I took a large saucepan and melted the butter with the sugar, syrup and cocoa on the stove.  Whilst that was melting, I bashed the biscuits up, and then when the melting was all done, I added the biscuits and the raisins to the saucepan and gave it a jolly good stir up.  All of this was turned out into a greaseproof lined Swiss roll tin and pressed down hard with a fork.  I put this in the fridge for about 45 minutes to firm up, and then I melted some Lidl's chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water, and poured it all over the base mixture, smoothing it out with a knife dipped in hot water.  That went back in the fridge for another hour, and then I cut it up into quite small pieces, as it is very rich.  

No baking involved, simple to make and really quite basic ingredients that are usually in the store cupboard, and if one uses value or Lidl versions of the product, very cheap to make.  I must take a photo when we make it again!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Pins and needles

I went to Pinterest and found the recipe I was looking for, and I will share it if it works!  Pinterest is a lovely idea, as it means I can save a library of recipes and ideas for things to make in a virtual library on the internet, and it takes up no storage on my shelves.  Best of all, it is indexed my way, according to my "boards" and so I can find things according to the way I think.  And the things I have pinned to my boards are stored so that I can retrieve them by their pictures.....I love it!

I follow a couple of people whose tastes I admire but I wish I had their ability with the needles - I have a board full of felted items, and another of patchwork and quilted things, but that board is more just things to look at and admire, because I haven't a hope of getting my hands to make them at the moment.  Maybe I will develop more patience in my old age...

Edit at 10.55pm: It didn't work, so I will have to try again before I share it.  On the other hand, a recipe for Tiffin worked wonderfully, so I can share that tomorrow!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Shopping update

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In need of some fruit and veg, I went to the Co-op after a school meeting last night.

On the receipt are:

Frozen broccoli £1.59
Frozen cauliflower £1.50
Frozen green beans £1.29
Fresh broccoli £1.15
Carrots £0.50
Fairtrade Bananas £1.60
1kg box of clementines £3.00

That makes a total spend of £10.72 on those items.

I do find that the Co-op is more expensive than the other supermarkets - the fresh broccoli would have been quite a bit less in Tesco although not a lot less in Sainsbury's, and the bananas would have been £1 in Tesco. The frozen beans are cheaper though, by about 20p, and I also had the convenience of driving right past this store twice last night, so it was absolutely free in terms of fuel costs, as I was passing anyway.  The other supermarkets would have wiped out any savings I could have made on the purchases with the extra fuel it would have taken to get to them.

We haven't bought any cheese this month as we are still eating the blocks we bought from Rosspa before Christmas.  I was disappointed to hear of the closing down of the Rosspa website, although I understand that the Farm shop from which it operated is still trading.  They provided good quality products at reasonable prices, so it is a shame.  Approved Foods continues to flourish, I believe, although I know that Big Brands For Less has ceased to trade and their website now redirects to Approved Foods.

I'm off to Pinterest now to find a bread recipe I pinned ages ago, as I want to make some bread to go with the Leek & Potato soup I have just made for supper.

Flowing our way

News this morning from the chap who has been helping with the laptop issues - he has put it on eBay and had an offer on it!  Whosoever buys a laptop carcass with no hard drive and no working power, I don't know, but after expenses [for the chap rebuilding the hard drive into an external hard drive for us to use, and the eBay fees], we will get £30+ back!  

This month is being extremely tight and I was beginning to be concerned about failing in my target to save £750 a month with the extra costs I have had this month - like the £292 car insurance payment - and I sat down yesterday and worked out the remaining commitments to pay this month, against the remaining income, and it didn't look nice - we had about £40 left over to do food and petrol with if we were still to achieve the savings [do-able but challenging, as the FH's car hasn't had any petrol since before Christmas and Needs some!].  The promise of this little boost means that we have a little more wiggle room, although I don't anticipate spending all of it, don't worry!

So, we will achieve our target of £750 by the end of the month but we won't manage any more than that this month, which is a little disappointing, but I have to be thankful on two counts - one, that we have the income to make this saving possible at all, as I know a lot of people don't, and two, that it has been possible to save even that amount, and still pay the car insurance bill!

On the subject of insurance, I always pay the full amount at the time of renewal as so many companies charge you extra for the convenience of paying monthly, so we try to make sure we can pay the whole amount. to avoid credit charges.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Meals for the week ahead

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Inspired by recollections of dumplings at Angela's blog, I thought I had better make some plans for the rest of the week.

Gymnastics is cancelled tonight, and actually, if I had my way, I would cancel everything extra-curricular this week and just stay at home.  I hate driving in these conditions, and dread going out on icy roads.

Anyway, here's the plan for the next few days:

Tuesday - Corned beef hash - nice and warming on a cold day!
Wednesday - Leek & potato soup - Yes, again!  Still got a couple of leeks left and this is about the only way I can get people to eat them, and I love this soup.  The folks will get HM bread with it too.
Thursday - Chicken casserole
Friday - Veggie stew with cheesy dumplings
Saturday - Mixed bean soup from last week's menu - and then a home made pudding, perhaps a crumble.

That is all pretty cheap and cheerful, based around what we have in the house/freezer/storecupboard.  I do need more fruit and veg already but that may have to wait until I go out tomorrow afternoon - we have frozen veg and tinned fruit, so we won't get scurvy yet.

Just need to remember to buy the beans this week!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Following the path

I set out on a path yesterday morning to preach a sermon about gratitude.  I had a small congregation of 8 along with the YFG, sitting in a not-that-hot rural chapel in the north of the Fens.

One lady came up to me at the end of the service and told me that she had been very touched by the message I had brought, and that was all my dreams come true.  To have worked on that service and the sermon, and touched one heart, was pure joy.  And I gave thanks.

Today I have been wrestling with the broken laptop conundrum...and it has come to me tonight that all I had to do is listen to myself yesterday and I would have the answer.

We might have a broken one of these:

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BUT we have one of these that works well:

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and we have another one, one of these, with all the bits and pieces to go with it, and it also works well [it actually works a little faster than the Acer!]   
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and, if that wasn't enough, the EFG has one of these:

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So we are more than well enough equipped to deal with all the computing needs we have.  

All I had to do was to move the Compaq machine downstairs to the office from the YFG's bedroom so that she still feels part of the family, and she is happy to use it to do her homework, watch DVDs, and research whatever she needs to know.

No laptop on the shopping list this month.  Money heading straight for the savings account where it was planned to go, and no unnecessary purchases happening here.

A family day

The girls' school is closed today due to the snowfall we have had over the weekend and overnight, and so we have them at home today.  We were up at 6.30am and making the usual preparations for the day when the status changed on the local authority website, and then we checked the school website too, and the girls were thrilled at the thought of a longer weekend!   We have had quite a bit of snow, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Head wanted to close the village school today as well.

Older people are constantly telling us that the schools never closed "in their day" and the FH is one of them.  What I can't get him to grasp is that back then, 65 or 70 years ago, the teachers usually lived in the village or town where they taught, or possibly just a few miles away, and they could walk to school in bad weather, as they probably did all year round.  Today's teachers generally live further from their work - we have just one teacher here who lives in the village at present, although I know another will be moving to the village soon.  The others live between 10 and 30 miles away and travel each day.  At the girls' school, I know of teachers who live even further away.  We have contingency plans for how much of the school we can open depending on how many teachers can get in..........just had the call and we are waiting on hearing from one teacher as to whether she can get here as her presence would tip the balance towards opening.......

So, a day at home, in front of the fire, is on the cards.  I still need to plough on with my studies as normal on a Monday, so I'll be doing that.  The EFG has taken advantage of the day off to go back to bed for a while, and the YFG is watching tv at the moment, although I know it won't be long before she has her head in a book!  There is a slight pink glow to the sky, which looks quite ominous, so I wonder what the day will bring?  Probably more of the white stuff.

I hope that you are all safe and warm if you are in snowy areas of the world - but if you are in somewhere hot and sunny, give us a wave!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Gratitude and abundance

There's one of my favourite songs for you this morning as I am thinking about and preparing for the service I am taking this morning.  It is based on the story of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana in John's Gospel.

My theme is one of giving thanks for God's abundance, and remembering to be grateful.  Counting our blessings helps us to be content where we are, not to look around in our lives and be miserable because we perceive that there is a lack.  

Saturday, 19 January 2013

My Knight

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He came not on a dazzling steed bearing a pennant, but rather through driving snow in a Ford Fiesta, bearing a new fuse!

The windscreen wipers blew their fuse yesterday afternoon as I was driving between the girls' school and the gym, and we were stranded on the side of the road with no means of clearing the snow off the windscreen.  It was too dangerous to go on, and I knew exactly what had happened so I called on the FH.

We got to gym, he got home safely again.

In future, the fuse will have Tippex  on it in the dashboard so I know which one to pull, and I will carry spares!  

The snow fell pretty constantly here yesterday from about lunchtime, but it was fine and powdery so although it did accumulate, there wasn't a lot in total, and the local gritters are doing a magnificent job keeping the roads clear.  We are off to gym again this morning, and the estate road is probably the worst we will have to encounter.  I hope everyone is staying safe and warm, and not having too many dramas.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Shopping again

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Yesterday afternoon, the EFG and I dropped the YFG and her friend off for their piano lesson and we nipped off to the supermarket to get some fresh stuff.

We bought:

Broccoli [value] 2 stalks £1.89
Red grapes £2.25
Clementines - 2 bags £2
Mushrooms £1
Braeburn apples - 2 bags £2
Bananas £1
Carrots - 2 bags £2
Bag mixed peppers £1.65
Bag frozen green beans £1.40
Sausages [12] £2
Squash - 2 bottles £2.98
Babybel cheeses [EFG lunchbox] £3.50

Total spend this week: £23.67

An improvement on the last week, even with the sausages which I had to get for the supper because I had forgotten to get ours out of the freezer BUT I bought a larger pack of Riverway pork ones which had 12 in it, so they had 2 each last night, and still have 2 each to have tonight.  I cooked them all, and so the second batch are ready to go when we get home from gym tonight.  Slight mishap in that I forgot the beans for the bean soup, but the extra sausage night can shunt the curry night along one and we can have the bean soup another week.   If the girls would agree to drink the same flavour of squash, I would only have needed one bottle!

Anyway, with all this snow forecast, I do not intend to be mucking around in town going to any more shops this weekend, so that is that for the week.  We will be coming straight home after gym tonight and tomorrow.  I have no option but to go tonight, because the Head Coach has a hospital appointment and I am in charge, at least for the setting up and the first class.  He may arrive in time for the second class, weather permitting.

Off to make the hot mash for the chooks' breakfast now!  Hope you all have a good day - stay safe and warm xx

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Blogger in the news

Froogs over at Frugal In Cornwall is becoming quite a celebrity - not only is she a radio star, but she has this week been featured in Woman's Own magazine!

She is an inspiring lady, who writes well and with a very generous spirit, sharing all her tips, tricks and ideas to help all of us to live lives free of debt.  She'll help anyone with their problems, leads workshops to share her sewing and cooking skills, and she deserves our support.  If you are not already a fan, I'd urge you to pop over there and say Hello!

A day to celebrate

BBC Breakfast is 30 years old today - celebrating with reminiscences of past presenters and a lovely cake with all the current presenters modelled on the top of it!  A fun programme, but how times have changed!

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I am sure that there are lots of children hoping to celebrate with more snow, as there is plenty in the forecast for tonight, tomorrow and the weekend.  I'm happy enough today but a little apprehensive about how much might fall tomorrow as I have to get to gym and home again, and will be coming home in the dark.  I might be crawling home at 20mph, but I don't care as long as we get home safely!

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At the moment, our skies in the Fens are bright and clear, like this.  The temperature a little while ago when I had to nip out was -6C so pretty chilly, but the trees and bushes look absolutely beautiful as they are covered in white rime and snow, and stand out in magnificent clarification.  It is a beautiful winter's day here this morning.

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And other things are looking hopeful - several people are giving me good advice about the laptop issues: it will cost over £150 to repair it, so I am thinking about whether we need another one right now, and if we do, what exactly we need.  The cooker is still in the thinking and researching stage at the moment, too. I can live without a grill for a while... I'm all for making do, don't you know!

Prayers today please for the FH's friend, A, who has collapsed this morning; thankfully the FH was with him at his home, and was able to pick him up and get him into bed.  I believe that the FH is waiting for the doctor to call round now.