Friday, 31 May 2013

End of the month musings

I can't believe that May has slipped from us this quickly in a sea of rain and drizzle just lately.  We have had the odd brilliant day amongst the wet ones, but the good days seem to have been on the mean side.  We could definitely do with more!

Achievements for May include getting the vegetable garden planted and finding the floor in the spare room as well.  These may not sound like big things, but they are major for me!  I have also completed the 10th knitted hat for the Operation Christmas Child project, and this week I have knitted one for my sister following her head shaving episode last week.

The "No-Tesco" challenge has been done, and on reflection, I don't think I feel that I have failed. Yes, I have been in there twice this month - but twice in a month is nothing compared to the two or three times a week I had been going shopping there.

The spending record is slightly down, which is good, overall.  The cupboards have been a little bare at times, though, as I have not been able to find the same level of deals that we usually get in Tesco.  My stocks have depleted somewhat, and I have changed the way I have shopped this month, from what Amy Daczyzyn calls the Pantry Principle to more of a meal plan method.  I consistently think that the PP is a more economical way of eating - you buy what is cheaper or on offer and then make up your plan from what you have in the cupboards.

We have paid the bills for the month and hit the savings target quite hard, although, as I said, we didn't achieve it quite....we gave it a jolly good shot though!

June's savings target is going to be reduced to £500 for several reasons:
 - to take into consideration the fact that I know there is going to be a garage bill for the MOT repairs on the Fiesta
 - I know I need to get the sewage treatment plant pit emptied, and I need to buy a new gas bottle for the cooker
 - I personally need a little wiggle room this month so that the target is not my raison d'etre for the month and I can live a little without constantly thinking about money.  Just for one month!
- the EFG's weight loss has hit a plateau or a brick wall and we need to do something different to kick start that.  This may need some funding in one way or another - attending a club, getting the bike fixed again, organising some kind of activity with her......I don't know yet.
 - I'm going to achieve the target, and feel good about that......

I have also decided to sponsor a child through Compassion.  Various things have been pointing me to that cause, and yesterday I came across their UK website through another blogger, and on there I found a teenager in South America who is the same age as the YFG and has one of her middle names so I feel that there is a connection.  I will be arranging this tomorrow, and feel very settled about the idea.  This post made me think about it in a particular way and spurred me on to make a decision.

And June's challenge?  You'll just have to wait till morning for that one!

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Family times

We have had a lovely evening with the young friends who have been to tea.

They started off playing on the Wii until the supper was ready, and then they all came to the table for sausage, mash and beans, followed by slices of this yummy lemon sponge.

And after that, they stayed at the table - they have had games of cards, of chess, of Trivial Pursuits, and much hilarity over a card game called Slam! which I remember being rather addicted to when I was about 12 and at school - we played tournaments every lunchtime.  The visitors have gone home but the girls are still playing...

Books, books, more books...

I'm just not a minimalist.  At all.  Can't even contemplate the concept.  I read on Laura's blog here that she has only 57 books.  57?  That can't be enough ;)

I must have ten or twenty times that many books......

There are four sections like this in the office...[above] This is the bottom of the last two sections closest to the patio doors.

And this [above] is the top half of the same two sections.

And then there are the other two sections.

And the shelves under the stairs.

The heap by the bed.

The little bookshelf in the sitting room.

The big bookshelf in the EFG's room.

The unit in the spare bedroom.

And it brought to mind an infographic about clutter which Ann V shared one day this week, and I remembered one of the kinds of clutter - "Aspirational" clutter and I realised that that is what a lot of these books are. They represent things I would like to cook, things I would like to make, emotions I'd like to feel, places I might like to go, and perhaps even the person I might like to be.

And it came to me that there is only one book I will ever really need.

(image from

It takes me a long time to realise these things, Lord, but I am slowly getting there!

The President's Garden

UJ is not a man to blow his own trumpet at all, and so when I saw a photo of him on his sideboard this morning, I was intrigued.  It showed him in the centre, flanked by two others, all three of them cutting a cake with a 50th anniversary celebration design on it.......I had to ask what that was all about, didn't I!  Turns out that the local stockmen's club has just celebrated its 50th anniversary, and he was involved in the cutting ceremony because they have just elected him the president of the club.  It is an honorary lifelong title, it seems - the term being for the rest of your life, since most die in office.  I wished him a very very long presidency!

We popped in to see him on our way home from the hospital this morning, and I took the chance to have a nosey around his garden again - there is always a lot to look at.

Some of the plants actually have a connection with me, so I thought I would share a few of them.

These arum lilies [above and below] came from our first garden in Fenland when we moved south from Cupar.  My grandmother and mother were particularly fond of these lilies, and so when we moved from that house, we split up several clumps of them and brought them to UJ's house where they are thriving.

This bush [below] came from the garden of the first Scottish house we had - my mum nabbed a cutting when she came to stay and it grew rather well.  Now it is a large bush at the back of UJ's fishpond and it looks gorgeous covered in light pink flowers.

This honeysuckle is a long established plant in UJ's garden that I remember from my childhood.  It used to have a climbing rose entwined within it, but I think that the honeysuckle has engulfed the rose and it has been overcome!  The honeysuckle smells so sweet on summer evenings.

A closer view of the honeysuckle.

And a peony.  This has nothing to do with me, and is a more recent addition to UJ's collection.  It was a tree peony, but when he cut down a nearby eucalyptus tree, the top of it got damaged and now it has all these bushy shoots which come from lower down the stem, and these produce flowers rather than the original tree stem, although that is still growing.

I am looking forward to seeing this peony in full bloom in a week or so's time when we go to stay at UJ's house for the FH's trip to Papworth for the cardioversion.  

A day of appointments

A warm welcome to my new follower - do say Hello one of these days!

Today the FH has to go to Papworth for an appointment at the Sleep Centre for his sleep apnoea, so we are heading out at about 8.15am, and taking his old friend along for the ride.  When we have had the appointment, we will call in at UJ's house nearby for a cup of tea, and then pootle home.  We estimate that we will be home by lunchtime.  It is raining this morning, so there is not going to be a lot to hang around anywhere for, so I think that we will come straight home from UJ's house.

This afternoon, the FH has to take the Fiesta back to the MOT station to see if the mechanic has got it right and fixed the problem which caused it to fail last week.  When he has done that, I can tax it tomorrow, when we have the MOT certificate.  I will be popping to the chapel this afternoon for an hour or so, and then we have visitors coming for tea.  T&G are a brother and sister pair which live nearby and who are dear friends of ours.  She is a year behind the YFG at school, and the boy will be going up to secondary school in September, but he has been coming to gymnastics for years and I am very fond of him - he is a lovely little boy and he gets on well with the FH too as they both love watching action films.  If I had had a son, this little chap would have been just the ticket!  They are coming to tea so we have got sausage and mash on the menu, one of their favourites, and then I will make a cake for pudding.  I imagine that they may play on the Wii with the girls, watch some tv or just chat together for some time.  The YFG may get a board game out as they like to do that too [I hate board games - my guilty secret!].

UJ inspected my garden work when he was here yesterday and I seem to have passed muster, which pleased me!  He also brought some more asparagus, a couple of lettuces and half a sack of potatoes.  I am finding that leek and potato soup is a more economical lunch for me, so I am going to make more of that, and bought some leeks yesterday in Lidl, when I went to pick the girls up from the station on their return from Cambridge.  They had been to the Grand Arcade, mooched across to the Grafton Centre, raided Primark, got lost in Mill Road and eventually got back to the station in time to catch the 3pm train, so we were back here by 4pm, inspecting the YFG's blisters and admiring their purchases.  Today, the YFG has to sort out her room - she wanted a piece of furniture from the spare room which meant me having to clear that out yesterday to extricate the piece, so now she has to put her room back together today....

I suspect that when we leave, they will still be sleeping though!

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Aren't we cute?

The chicks today, in their day time run in the verandah, since it is such a wet day.

Cute blonde chap in the middle of the shot just moved at the wrong moment and blurred the picture, but I think you can see how much smaller he is than the others....and no, I don't really know that it is a "he"!

There will be war

on these little blighters!  Helix aspersa.

(image from

Having lovingly pricked out 120 lettuce plants over the weekend, Monday, I think, I was devastated and livid this morning to find that 4 snails had munched their way through about half of the lettuces overnight.  There was not a snail in sight when I shut up the greenhouse last night, and the lettuces were intact.  Not now.  And the chickens enjoyed their extra tasty breakfast, too.

So, luckily there are a few lettuce seedlings left which I can use to fill the spaces, and I have moved the trays back to the verandah in my mini-greenhouse.  The big greenhouse has had slug pellets strewn around where my cucumber, tomato and pepper plants are - I know that the snails are partial to cucumber as well.  I don't like killing things like this, but I am not growing food for snails, unfortunately; if only they could restrict themselves to their fair share, we wouldn't have this problem - they seem to think they can eat the lot...

Almost tomorrow

but I have just finished a big heap of ironing, and I was determined to get it done tonight!

Today has been damp and dreich here, and whilst I am sure that the persistent drizzle has been good for the garden, it hasn't been particularly uplifting for the rest of us!  I have spent some time knitting my sister's hat, cooked the supper, talked with the girls for some time, watched some tv tonight whilst ironing, and pootled about on the internet.  I also took the YFG to town, where we bought some food, some diesel and some chick food....

Just one more thing tonight - I came across a blog recently called The Frugal Girl which I like, in particular because she posts some great recipes, and one section of her blog is all about baking with her daughter - and she posts recipes that they have made together with excellent step-by-step photos - I already have a few that I want to try - like this one!

The girls are off to Cambridge on the train tomorrow, the FH will be borrowing my car to go out to lunch because his is still in the garage being fixed, and I will be spending some time home alone - can't wait!!  I do like my own space sometimes....

(image from

Edit - came back to say that if you "Like" Lidl on FB, there is a £5 off when you spend £30 voucher there to be spent between Thursday and Sunday.  Worth having if you are going shopping anyway.

See you later xxx

Monday, 27 May 2013

Monday monitorings and more gardening

The lamp has not been on so much for the chicks, so we were able to reduce our electricity usage this week, thank goodness.  It has usually run quite smoothly and only varied within a pound or so, so I am relieved that it was what I thought that was taking it up!  Chicks obviously don't come free....

The savings for the month have been achieved at just below the target - £730 - which is a good attempt, I think.  The end of the month is almost upon us, and no more is going to be added to that pot now.  This is about average for the five months of this year that I have been doing this, and so I am pleased with our achievement.  Unfortunately, the family are getting a little peeved at the perception that we have no money!  Because I am saving first and then spending what is left, there can often be the feeling that there is no money left, which isn't true - there IS money, but it is allocated to savings instead of frittering away.  Money is being more carefully allocated nowadays; within the last few years, I would happily walk into a bookshop and let the girls choose a couple of books, get one or two myself perhaps, and spend over £40 in a blink.  I would only do that maybe twice a year, but I haven't done it at all this year.  They are noticing the difference and perhaps we all need to sit down and share the vision more clearly, and come to a clearer conclusion about the targets as a family so that we are all on board - and perhaps the target needs to be revised.

The menu plan for the week has been done together, which I hoped would give the girls more of an insight into the plans and how the plans and the budget have to work of them said, "So why do we have to eat meat out of the freezer?" which enabled me to explain that a) I don't want to have to buy any this week, b) I want to empty the freezer out so that c) in a week or two, I can bulk-buy some meat from a good butcher who does deals on bigger amounts.  They both understood that, and were happy to sort meals out from what we had in stock.

We have had a "Prison Break" marathon tonight, whilst I have been knitting and then doing some ironing.  After another day in the garden, I think I will have to get some housework done tomorrow!  I have potted up tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers in the greenhouse, and then prepared another area of ground and sown some more runner beans.  I then weeded some of the rows of peas.  I washed our bedroom curtains and ironed them tonight, but I will be getting ready for bed in the dark because I can't make myself put them back up at this time of night......

Sunday, 26 May 2013

How does the garden grow?

We have enjoyed another very fine day here in the Fens, and the garden is looking much better for it.  I had a cuppa when I got back from chapel, and then I got stuck in to the gardening again, and have been at it just about all day.

The beetroot rows look better for some weeding.

The chicks enjoyed another day in the sunshine and leapt about in the run, stretching their little wings!

Six courgette plants have been planted out, and marshalling the edges of the bed are some Little Gem lettuces in a nice straight line...

This empty looking bed represents hours of work!  It was a mass of grass this time last year and I abandoned it last summer as I just didn't have time to deal with it.  UJ sprayed it with weedkiller for me, and the grass has died off, and I have spent hours today digging out all the roots of twitch grass from half of this bed.  I have now sown three more rows of beetroot and three rows of dwarf beans.

The peas need staking, but that will be a job for tomorrow.

Some runner beans planted up in a small bed.  I'm not good with wigwams, but the EFG helped me with this one and we think it should hold up!

And this was the EFG's experiment of the day.  She wanted to dye the shoes but thought she would tie-dye an old white polo shirt as well, and I told her to bung this tea towel in as well - it was rather stained so it is now looking much better in a fetching shade of Harrod's green.  

I realised I had done enough by 6pm, so I stopped and cooked the supper.  Then I had a shower and have spent the last couple of hours watching tv and finishing off another woolly hat.  Just got to sew the seam up and it will be in the bag with all the others.

And the best bit?  The weather forecast promises some sun again tomorrow - so I can get a little more gardening done, and the housework and ironing will just have to wait for rain!

Saturday, 25 May 2013

First day of the holiday - and the sun shone!

I didn't make a very early start, rolling out of bed around 8.30am and having to go straight out to give the hens their breakfast, but it has been a good day - the sun has shone, and I have got lots done, but I have also had plenty of breaks as well.

The dwarf beans have been put out in the troughs I have prepared for them, the front lawn has been cut and the edges strimmed, more troughs have been weeded and prepared for other plantings, seedlings have been watered, a roast dinner enjoyed, a neighbour visited and some knitting done whilst we watched several episodes of Prison Break on Netflix.  In between all of that, I have done and hung four loads of washing - and it has dried in the sun - hooray!  The chicks have been outside for the first time, and they loved the sunshine as they spread their wings and hopped around the little pen I put them in on the patio.

Tomorrow promises more of the same........

Let's not spoil it by admitting that I went shopping and overspent slightly on this week's budget, so next week's will have to be cut back a little.  We'll talk about shopping on Monday, perhaps....

Friday, 24 May 2013

Looking forward

The school closed today for 9 whole days, and the gym doesn't re-open for 10 days, so I have some down-time, for me to do things for me and for the family, without the thought that I will need to be going to school or to the gymnastics club.

I have sat down tonight and made some rough notes about things I want to do:

I have a stack of library books to read, and a couple of new-to-me books that I still haven't read

(image from

The vegetable garden needs some attention - courgettes, dwarf and runner beans and lettuces all need planting out, and more lettuce seedlings need pricking out, and pepper and tomato plants need potting up!

The chicken houses need cleaning out

and the latest batch of chicks need moving on to a bigger establishment - they are growing so fast.

and then there is the sister has had all her hair shaved off in a fundraising stunt for Cancer Research UK, and she needs a woolly hat!  I think one like these would do the trick...

and lastly, I want my kitchen to look like this again!

so some spring cleaning is on the agenda - and not just the kitchen!

The girls both have plenty of revision to do for their upcoming exams, so they will be busy, although they are planning a day out to Cambridge one day, I think.  A mooch around the shops and a visit to the cinema are on the cards for them.  I am planning a quiet week, generally at home, and not getting up too early...

I also want to write a couple of letters to older people who have not embraced technology and to whom I still actually write with pen and paper occasionally.  I shall print off some photos of the girls to send to one of them too; I am looking forward to spending some reflective time writing these letters and I shall enjoy it.

And the car?  I misunderstood.  It failed on something to do with hoses to the brakes, and they will be fixed on Tuesday.  The rust is also a problem, but was not the cause of the failure this time - but would be next year.  The mechanic will have a look at this now and advise us what he can do about it.