Saturday, 31 August 2013

They're home!

We heard from them at about 1.45pm and soon scuttled off to Cambridge to meet the bus from Southampton for 3.20pm; it was just about on schedule and we didn't have long to wait.  They had had a good journey, and were pleased to see us!

These are some of the photos that the EFG has taken; the YFG has also got a camera full of pictures, but she turned her computer off before I could ask for a few.  Maybe we'll get some of hers tomorrow.

It seems amazing how close the ship got to the land in places, but their ship was one of the smaller ones on the circuit this time - the Royal Caribbean's "Vision of the Seas" kept cropping up in the same ports and totally dwarfed their vessel. 

The whole country looks immaculate - so clean and green!  The EFG remarked on the lack of litter bins, but said that there was no rubbish anywhere at all.

This is possibly the EFG's best shot of the holiday and I absolutely love it!  

Lakeland vouchers

I have two Lakeland vouchers which I am happy to pass on, as they have been in magazines I have had as treats this week!

Each one is for £5 when you spend £30, and they are both valid until 14th October.

If anyone would like one, please leave me a comment saying, "Yes please" and send your address in a separate comment which won't be published, and they will be winging their way to you early next week.

Hope this helps someone, as Lakeland do sell an amazing array of useful stuff in amongst all the items that are perhaps less essential!

A week to ourselves

We have thought about the week, reflected upon it separately and together and come to some interesting conclusions.  Some of them did not become absolutely clear to me until last night, when the girls rang us, as their mobile phones had begun to work again as they were close to the UK coastline.

We have missed their physical presence, their chatter and their liveliness about the house; we miss their news, being part of their lives and being with them in the day-to-day.  On the other hand, we have enjoyed the rare time to ourselves.  It has been a change, but not one I would like to continue for longer than a week! We are going to be able to wean ourselves off their presence gradually over time, and that is as it should be.  As they become more independent, and move more fully into their own lives, we will be forced to re-think our own to some extent.

However, I have had a revelation about my stress levels and it has indeed come as something of a shock to me: when I am here with only someone who has physical difficulties [the FH], I don't mind doing everything and I am glad of whatever he feels able to do to help*.  When the girls are here, and I am trying to get 101 things done, I feel frustrated that they don't see that I could do with some help, and that raises my stress levels somewhat.  I get cross with the arguing and the reluctance to help and to contribute that I see in them, and that makes me angry with myself that I haven't trained them better!

Our eyes have been opened this week, and I see that we could have a more relaxed way of life if more hands were lifted to contribute, and it seems that September brings a new beginning, and one that we should take advantage of in more ways than one.

*[The way that the FH helps is sometimes a blessing and other times a challenge.  Yesterday he offered to help with the chutney making, and said he would skin the tomatoes and peel the onions.  The tomatoes were fine but when he peeled the onions, he did 2.5kg instead of 2.5lbs, which is quite a difference, so I have frozen the excess in two-onion portions.]

Friday, 30 August 2013

The end is nigh

The end is nigh on so many levels.  It is dark here and so the end of the day is upon us, it is Friday and we have made it to the end of the week.  The end of the cruise is coming for the girls, and the end of our week without them, which has been a steep learning curve and somewhat of a time of discovery and thought.  It is also the end of the month, and with that, we head into September on Sunday, and the final third of the year. How time flies!

Tonight I am making more courgette chutney and preparing the service for Sunday.  Multi-tasking a little as the chutney has to simmer for two hours, with just the occasional stir.  See you tomorrow xx

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Use it up banana flapjack

The bandwagon must be pretty full at the moment, with all those who have jumped on it to declare that we should use up our leftovers, prepare budget recipes, not waste food......don't they realise that some of that is just not new any more and that hundreds of thousands of people have been doing just that for generations? As for Jamie Oliver's new book, from what he said on The One Show tonight, it sounds just like a rehash of Economy Gastronomy which Allegra McEvedy and Paul Merrill did a few years ago now.  He said that most of his recipes cost no more than £1.30 per portion.  Compare that with the pennies that Jack Monroe costs out her recipes, or Frugaldom's blog, where she aims to feed herself and her house mates for about £1 a day or just slightly more, and you can see why the celebrity chefs have a way to go to get into their league.

We had a lovely supper tonight with only the sausages not produced here.  Roast potatoes, fresh runner beans and fried courgettes with sausages.  Just perfect for the two of us.  No leftovers either!

Our time is taken up with preserving our bounty at the moment - we have been gifted a large quantity of plums today and so we had to stone them, and then I stewed them before preparing them for the freezer.  The other option would have been to jam them, but we have years' worth of jam in the cupboard and no need to make more right now.  The FH loves stewed fruit with custard, so that will keep him happy through the winter.  We bought some tomatoes from a roadside stall today - nearly 5lbs of them for just £1.50, and so I can make more courgette chutney this weekend.  We have everything else that we need in the garden or store cupboard.  There is a lovely lady at the Craft Club at chapel who told me that she loves marrows so whenever I find an overgrown courgette in the patch which is masquerading as a marrow, it ends up on her doorstep.  She keeps wanting to pay me for the blinking things, and I just have to keep repeating that she is doing me a favour in taking them off my hands!

My own use-it-up recipe for the day was a banana flapjack which was posted on MSE forum today.  I had two bananas which were ready to flow out of their skins, so ripe were they, and so it seemed a useful alternative to the usual banana cake!  The recipe is here, and it worked really well, the FH declaring it "rather good!"  I will be adding that to my repertoire of cakes and bakes for sure.

Newspaper coupons today

Apparently there are some good money saving coupons available in newspapers today.  The Mirror has one for £5 off when you spent £40 in Aldi, which is valid until Thursday 5th September.

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  The Sun has one for £10 off when you spend £60 in Morrisons, which is only valid from today until Sunday 1st September, so less of a window of opportunity.

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Even with the costs of the papers, you can still be quids in if you have the opportunity and desire to shop at the right supermarkets in the time frame.  We had to postpone our trip today but we plan to go next Thursday, when the Aldi one will just still be usable, so I will be grabbing a copy of the Mirror later.  Hope that helps someone.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Super secrets and links

I read this today, a truly heartwarming tale.  Nine Nanas on a mission.  No wonder that their websites seem to have crashed, but how amazing to read such lovely and positive news.

There is also something rather wonderful brewing over at A Holy Experience - a very exciting secret about to be revealed!  The only thing is that Amazon have already listed it and I have pre-ordered - it is due out on the 1st September and I can't wait.  It will be my birthday present to myself...

Aches and pains

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The FH has had back pain for a couple of days, so now that we are home again from Papworth, I tried to make an appointment at the doctor's for some acupuncture this morning, but the appointments for today had all gone; he'll have the needles stuck in him tomorrow instead.  I think it is a muscular thing, rather than discs, but we'll see what the nurse practitioner says in the morning.

I've also been for my appointment about my eyes, and have come away with appointments for next Thursday to have blood taken and then the following week to see the doctor again to discuss the results and what next.  
We had the FH's mates here for lunch along with UJ, who stayed over another night.  I cooked them roast chook, lots of veggies and roast potatoes, followed by rhubarb pie and ice cream.  That kept them busy for well over an hour, and then they sat in the garden chatting for most of the rest of the afternoon!  UJ had to go home at about 3pm, and one of the chaps was picked up by his wife about the same time, and then the FH hobbled along the street and walked the oldest one of the gang home, not too far, thank goodness.  I think the exercise is good for him.

I have realised that life without the girls will be interesting in the future.  Whilst we are missing them, we are also appreciating the peace and quiet, the empty laundry hamper, the lack of possessions and especially shoes lying around everywhere, and the reduction in the need to be doing things for other people most of the time.  With the FH and his back pain, we are able to do just what we want to do, and if we don't/he doesn't feel like going anywhere, we have the choice not to!  Life seems a little slower....We were going to go to a car boot sale/village market tomorrow just over the border in Norfolk, but we may leave that this week now.

I shall look upon this week as one in which my eyes were opened to the possibilities of the future.  We are in a stage of our lives right now where the girls need our support and encouragement as well as our care, but the time will come when they will fledge and fly from the nest, I hope with confidence, and we need to consider our lives in the future, which will be somewhat different.  That's for sure!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Saving money on the tv

The dongle didn't work last night, quite frustratingly, but I had a chat with our IT chap today and got some advice, so it is now working on the EFG's laptop, and will be fine for when we go away next weekend, I hope.  I do realise that there might not be a lot of signal in the trees at Kelling Heath, but it will be worth a try.

I've saved £30 today, and I am "well chuffed" as the girls might say.  I took the faulty tv/dvd combo back to Argos, and they refunded me.  I picked up a bigger one from Tesco today, and spent £30 less - and it works [so far!]  We still have to watch a DVD on it to check that part, but so far so good.  Much rather have £30 in our pocket than theirs...UJ and the FH are now watching New Tricks, and I have enjoyed the Great British Bake-off, all the better because I was so disappointed I missed the first one last week.  I know how to make a good bread stick now, anyway.

I have also started to build up another loo roll mountain - our chosen brand, Nouvelle, is usually £5 for a 9 roll pack, and it isn't always available.  It comes on sale occasionally at £3, and that is when I stock up.  I currently have about 8 packs, although I would like to get to 12, as that is about the number that will get us through to the next sale, probably some time in December or January.  I do tend to stock up on things like this - I bought six boxes of washing powder when the 50 wash boxes were on offer for £6, and at current usage patterns, I have a year's supply there, if not a little longer.  I have the room to store things like this, so why not?  My money wouldn't make the returns if I put it in the bank, and the price of the product is not going to be consistent, so I may as well stock up like this where I can.  At least washing powder and loo roll won't go out of date!

Today we went to Papworth, and the FH is very pleased to have been taken off the Warfarin, as well as one of his other heart pills, following the successful cardioversion in June.  We have to go back in November to make sure that the heart has stayed in sinus rhythm.  We had a peaceful evening at UJ's house, eating our supper, knitting and watching tv.  We had a minor drama when the trip switch objected to the extension lead that the FH was using for his CPAP machine, but since UJ is so organised and methodical, I was able to go straight for the torch and sort out the trip switch.  It was a bit dodgy getting down the stairs in the pitch black, but I managed on my bum for safety!

UJ is staying another night so that he is here for the lunch meeting tomorrow which is the regular Wednesday date for the chaps.  They are not going out this week and so I am cooking roast chook, Yorkshire puds, stuffing and loads of veg, followed by rhubarb pie and ice cream, for five.  They will eat at lunchtime, and then I will have time in the afternoon to clear up and get organised again, before I go to the doctor to see about my eye problems.....slightly concerned about that, but hopefully all will be well.

The most exciting event of the day - we had a phone call from the girls this evening!  They are in Olden, about to sail for Geiranger, I think, and they are having a great time, as we knew that they would.  The phone cut out in the middle of the YFG's turn at talking, so that was a little tricky, but it was great to hear from them.  Thanks for all your good wishes, and encouragement, folks!

Monday, 26 August 2013

Night away

We are off to UJ's house tonight ready for Papworth in the morning, so I am taking the EFG's laptop and the dongle to experiment with the signal there - I may post again later....

Hot news is that we have had a text message from the girls on my dad's mobile - they had just left Stavanger and we can expect a postcard!  The FH is very happy to have heard from them.

Hope you are all enjoying the Bank Holiday weekend, and that you have some sunshine as we do here xxx

Sunday, 25 August 2013

My Simple Sunday

Chapel went OK this morning, as we had a visiting preacher who was really good and got everyone involved.  The tensions are still there, but they didn't surface much today, for which I was thankful.  They still need addressing but not by me, and not today.

I was spoiled today in that the FH cooked the lunch for us, and he was hungry after chapel so we were eating by 12.15pm, but that meant I had time to relax and read a book until 2pm, when I put on my old clothes and spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning out the chooks.  It is a big job, and I just managed to get showered afterwards in time for Songs of Praise at 5pm.  We watched a lovely wildlife programme after that, called Britain's Wildlife Revival, I think, and then I made us some tea.  This evening, we have been watching Vera, which I love, although I do find their portrayal of the Northumberland countryside rather bleak - they must film in the autumn or winter, I reckon, as Vera is always well clad in her winter coat and scarf, and it looks very uninviting.  They also seem to choose a lot of remote houses for the suspects to inhabit.  Whilst I have been relaxing watching the tv, my hands have not been idle and I have finished another hat, but this one's for ME!  I wanted to make one in the same yarn as the scarf I made myself, which is what I have done. Now I will match in the winter.

And the girls.  Well, I am sure that they are having a fab-u-lous [Strictly is back soon!] time on the ship, but the FH is driving me mad asking if there is anything on the computer from them - have they sent any emails, have they been on Facebook?  No, they are too busy enjoying themselves, as it should be!  But it is nice to know he is thinking about them, as am I, but I will be glad, for his sake, if they do email at least once later in the week.  They should dock in Stavanger in the morning, and have some time there.

The Bank Holiday is beckoning tomorrow - I am visiting a friend in the morning, the FH is going to the bees in the afternoon, and then we are off to UJ's house in the evening in preparation for an early appointment at Papworth on Tuesday morning.  I will be sorting out a bed for UJ here and doing some general tidying up before we go, including a heap of ironing!  What's the betting it will rain at some point?  Wouldn't be a British bank holiday if it didn't, although I think the forecast is generally fine for the week ahead.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Tomorrow is another day

We have had a long day today, up since 5am, but it has been good.  We have heard from the girls this afternoon, to say that they are on the ship and it has sailed.  The YFG posted a photo of their cabin on Facebook so we can see their home-from-home for the rest of the week, and all seems to be going well.

I have been to Lidl's this afternoon [there's a £5 off when you spend £30 voucher on their Facebook page - valid until Monday] and bought some fruit and veg for us for the week.  I have also saved some money on the TV scenario: I have cancelled the one I ordered from Argos when I took the faulty one back, and I have bought a 32" one, so slightly bigger, still with a dvd player, but for £30 less - bargain!  It is from Tesco and I can pick it up from our local store on Tuesday.

And so now it is time to go to bed - the FH is already relaxing in the bath as his legs ache, and I am just about to finish some knitting and head off with a book for half an hour.  All is not entirely well at the chapel at the moment, and I can't say I am really looking forward to the service in the morning, so for those of you inclined to pray, I would welcome your prayers for harmony and fellowship to be restored.  Thank you xx

They've gone!

We have waved them off this morning on the bus towards Southampton.  It was rather dreary and damp in Cambridge at 9am, but they have already sent a message from the service station near the M25 to say that they have stopped for hot chocolate and sandwiches.  They are with my Dad: they will be fine.

Friday, 23 August 2013

The 16p scarf

I bought some IKEA fleeces the other year to line curtains for winter warmth.  Me being me, I ordered a couple more than I needed...well, they were £1.60 each, so it wasn't a fortune.  This seems to be the current version, but they were pale blue the year I bought them.  I think I may have bought six or seven, and used several for the curtains, then I used two more to tie together in a special way to make a thicker blanket for a child last Christmas, and I have a few left, as I said.

Today I took one to the chapel - we are still gathering our bits together for the Operation Christmas Child boxes, and we have started to knit scarves now for the 25 children who will receive our boxes.  One of the ladies and I cut my £1.60 blanket into strips, cut tassles in the ends, and made 10 scarves!  Just 16p a scarf - definitely money well spent.  They fold up nice and small to fit into the shoeboxes, blue is a useful colour for girls as well as boys and we made ten in less than an hour - what could be better?!

Please excuse the shadows on the scarves - the light wasn't the best in the sitting room tonight!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Just two sleeps to go

The excitement is building, the cases are getting packed, the ironing is being done, the new items are being lovingly folded, and we have just two sleeps to go until the girls are off.  The time seems to have flown past since the day my Dad asked me if I would let him take them, and I do realise that the week will skip past whilst they are away too, and all too soon they will be home again with lots to tell us, and photos to share.  Can't wait for that!

Have got to take the tv back to Argos tomorrow, I think - we watched a dvd tonight and the sound and vision don't synch together properly when watching a dvd so the words people say don't fit with the movement of their mouths - it gets really annoying.  The tv section is fine, but I can't watch more dvds like this, so we will have to get another one!  Pain in the you-know-where, too, just when I have a lot on.....never mind!

Better get to sleep - early appointment tomorrow x

Beetroot pickle for Kim

Kim asked for the link to the beetroot pickle recipe - it is HERE.  Hope you like it!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Courgette chutney recipe

At the moment, the whole house smells of vinegar, which is the only downside of making this chutney.  The recipe is here and these are pictures from the last time I made it in 2011, so I am hoping that today's batch is just as successful.

Courgette chutney from 2011

I hadn't got anywhere near enough tomatoes and thought I would have to wait until mine ripened in the greenhouse, but then UJ came over for lunch today and brought me a basket full of them.  I hardly dared to weigh them, but when I did, I found that there was exactly the right amount.  Thanks, UJ!

The Head Coach came over this afternoon, and brought me some more cooking apples, so I may make some more beetroot pickle as well, since that is so well liked too.  But that will be a job for another day....

Happy Birthday!

Not only does the EFG turn 17 today, but this blog has its FIFTH birthday - so Happy Birthday, Growing In the Fens.

Have a cup of tea and some cake on us!

Thank you to all the Followers, commenters and readers who have made it such a privilege to share our lives with you.  I have no clear idea of where the next five years will lead us, but I do hope that we will continue with the blogging, whatever happens.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Happy chaps

I finally got around to buying the new tv with integral DVD player this afternoon, so the family are pleased with me for that.  I hummed and hawed about it for some time, not sure what to get, nor how big or how much to spend, but in the end, after careful consideration, I spent £199.99 at Argos, and got them one ever so slightly bigger than the one we had in the sitting room previously - I think there is about an inch in it!  Anyway, peace will be restored to those wanting to watch tv now.  And they can stop hassling me......

Hassles abound at the moment, I am afraid - I was hoping to be able to get some work done in school over the holidays but the person who was supposed to facilitate that for me [ie give me the information I needed to do the job] went on holiday without giving me it, and has now come back but we have only this week with access to school before the caretaker is on holiday next week and we can't get in, so I am not going to get the job done and the system will not be ready for the children to start to use in September - I am feeling quite frustrated about this, unfortunately.

The days are running out before the girls' holiday, and things are needing to get washed and ironed and packed in the cases - and they keep wearing things and then saying, "You can wash this before Friday, can't you!" so I have had to have strict words with them in a way and say NO!  If you want things washing, tomorrow is the last day, and just keep the stuff clean that you want to take away so just wear old stuff for now!  Because we are all going away to the coast as soon as they get back, we need to have all their school items ready as well before they go to Norway.  Anyway, I have taken them for the last shop today and we have got tights and oddments, and I have ordered them some Norwegian currency from the Post Office in the village which I need to pick up tomorrow.  Not a lot, mind you, just enough for an ice cream, perhaps, or a drink and a sandwich, and a postcard or a souvenir of some small variety when they visit the various stops on the way.

I think we are all feeling a little bit nervous this week as Saturday approaches.  The EFG seems fine about it all but the YFG is definitely a bit edgy, just as she was years ago when it was me going away for four nights! Apart from the FH being in hospital, we have never been apart like this for a week before, and it is slightly unnerving.  I am confident that my Dad will take good care of them and that they will be safe with him, but I am still unsettled by the fact of not seeing them for a whole week, and only being in touch probably by email.  I know I am being a bit daft, and I have to get used to the idea with the EFG looking at universities, for goodness' sake, but there is always a first time, and this is it!  By 9am on Saturday morning when I wave them off in Cambridge, I may be a nervous wreck.......

Monday, 19 August 2013

Glam on the cheap

We have had a fabulous afternoon at my sister's house, trying on posh frocks!  The girls are very different sizes in that the YFG is a 10/12 whereas the EFG is closer to an 18, but amazingly enough, my sister has clothes to fit them both, courtesy of her own yo-yoing weightloss journey.  She raided her wardrobe, and brought clothes down from the loft, so they both had a good selection to choose from, all laid out on her spare bed.  There were High Street designers like Laura Ashley, and others I had never heard of, and many items still as new with the tags on them.  

The EFG has brought home three lovely dresses which she plans to wear on the cruise, two evening styles and one day time outfit; the YFG had slightly more to choose from but found less of it her to her taste, which is understandable when you consider that she is 14 and my sister is nearly 40!  But many classic styles did look gorgeous on her and she particularly liked a silk dress that was over £100 new - my sister wore it in Goa years ago and had a copy made there too, which we have also borrowed.  I have told them to eat "clean" food when they are at the dinner table - no tomato sauces down these frocks, please!

I am conscious that I shall be relying on the girls to take photos whilst they are away, so I am very tempted to take some photos of them in the dresses before they go - there is a beautiful one that the EFG has borrowed in a teal/blue colour which suits her particularly well and she never wears dresses usually so I want photographic evidence of how good she can look in a frock!

We are very grateful to my sister for her generosity in offering to lend the girls these outfits, it goes without saying.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Looking ahead

This week looks interesting!

  • YFG has another filling due tomorrow afternoon, then we need to go to my sister's house to check out the clothes she has which may fit the girls for their holiday - she has been a variety of sizes in her adult lifetime, and may have stuff from size 10 up to the EFG's size and beyond.  We are looking for some nice "smart" pieces for them to borrow for their trip.  
  • Tuesday the EFG is going geocaching with her friends locally, and then one of them may be coming back here for a night-before-her-birthday sleepover.
  • Wednesday is the EFG's birthday and she is going out to lunch with the FH and his mates to the carvery they went to last week.  She will keep them on the straight and narrow and hopefully they will be home before 7pm [they were very late last week!!].  UJ will be here for the day with them as well.  I know that there is a DVD in her gift heap so I am sure that there will be a cinema session here too.
  • Not sure about Thursday except that there will be an afternoon club at the chapel.
  • Friday will be the Craft Club and the EFG has an early appointment at the dietitian at the local cottage hospital.  She has been working hard at losing weight, and the cycling has definitely been helping so we are hoping the lady will be pleased with her progress.
  • We need to buy another small padlock for one of the suitcases......

So the menu for the week is going to be fairly simple......we all had a roasted chicken leg portion yesterday with lots of veggies, so today has been a very simple vegetarian spaghetti bake, which I made last week, but sneaked more veg into today.  Each time I have frozen the leftovers and now I have four portions tucked away for instant dinners on busy days.

Monday - salmon portions, cooked in parcels with lemon juice, runner beans and other veg, potatoes
Tuesday - EFG's choice with her friend here for supper.....there may be cake!
Wednesday - Bacon and vegetable risotto
Thursday - Tuna pasta bake
Friday - Toad in the Hole, with vegetables and gravy

And the expenses for the week?  I need to get the new TV sorted out from the lightning damage this week.  We have decided to put the tv from the sitting room upstairs in the bedroom, without a DVD player for now, and to choose a new-but-similar tv to have in the sitting room so that we have a working DVD player downstairs.  I think this is going to cost me in the region of £150.  On a financial basis, I also have to chase up one of the YFG's birthday gifts which was ordered on the 1st of the month and still hasn't arrived.  I have emailed once, and had only an automated reply [in French] so it is time to up the ante and start shouting a little louder, I think.  The parent company might be more helpful, and failing that, I will be getting in touch with the credit card company which I used to pay for the order.  

Off to bed now so that I have some energy for all this.  Hope you have had a good weekend, and enjoy a blessed and productive week ahead.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

R & R today

Being back at the chapel for just after 8 this morning meant quite an early start.  The night shift ladies had mostly gone home for a shower and change of clothes before they gathered again at 10am for breakfast at the cafe so the 8-10am shift was quiet, and the EFG came along with me and did some knitting on a hat she is trying out.  Some were doing the jigsaw, others chatted and we all sat companionably together.  Peace.

I must just tell you about E, who is an amazing lady of 80.  She was at the chapel from 9.30am yesterday morning, until 9.15am this morning, without a break!  She did go home for a quick bath before breakfast, but then she shared with me that she would just have time for a short nap this afternoon as she was going out this evening to a show!  I have no idea what vitamins or pills she might be on, but I think I need some of what she has....

At the earliest count, we seem to have raised around £200 so far, but it may come to more as people hand in their donations.  We definitely have the £75 for the sending of the boxes, and we have plenty left over to buy the bits and pieces, and probably will be able to make a decent donation of the leftover cash to the chapel as we did last year.

Once home from the chapel at about 10.45am, I had a sit down and a chat with the FH, and then I went to the town as the girls had birthday cheques to put in the bank, I had to pick up the tiles for the fireplace that we ordered last week, and I needed a few bits of shopping.

After lunch, I settled down with the FH to watch the athletics from Moscow this afternoon, and actually watched some of it, before I had quite a snooze!  I managed to wake up long enough to cook the supper, but this evening has been another restful one, with me just adding more rows to my scarf knitting for the boxes.  I haven't been terribly active at all today, but I think a quieter day and a more restful one was on the cards.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Marathon day

Our chapel craft club are doing a crafting marathon today; we started at 10am this morning, and there will be people doing shifts in the chapel for 24 hours until 10am in the morning.  I have done three two-hour stints, and have come home for the night but there are some stalwarts just arriving for the long night shift, complete with blow-up beds, and all their paraphenalia for the night.  I will go back for the last shift in the morning from 8 - 10am, following which some of the folks are off to the local cafe for breakfast - they will be well deserving of it!

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We are doing this to raise money through donations and sponsorship to fill and send our Operation Christmas Child boxes away in November.  We need £75 just for the sending-away money for 25 boxes and then we need some bits and bobs to put in them.  We have most of what we need in terms of hygiene items, and a hat for every child, but we will be buying a little game or toy/pack of snap cards etc for each box as well.  I did very well in Tesco yesterday buying jotters for 20p each and value toothpaste for 14p a tube, as well as sharpeners for 12p each.

I spent my shifts knitting a scarf to put in a child's box: it isn't finished yet, but I am quite pleased with it as it is a scaled down version of the one I knitted for myself and for my Dad last Christmas time.  I have also found a use for the left over IKEA fleece blankets which I bought the other year for curtain linings - one of the ladies and I are going to cut them up with pinking shears and make more children's scarves from them.  They only cost £1.60 each and we reckon we might get 5 or 6 scarves from each one - bargain!  They will also fold up small for the boxes too.

Haven't spent much time at home today at all, as you can guess, so full marks to the girls for doing their chores and helping out.  Each has also spent one shift at the chapel with me, so I was grateful for their company and support there too.  I wouldn't have been able to get out in the garden anyway today as we have had so much rain - it has really bucketed it down here today!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Results are in!

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That may not be the EFG up there, but the looks on the faces are representational - she's chuffed!

The EFG has done us proud today with an A in Maths, Bs in Biology and Chemistry and a C in English Literature.  Now she will go on to do A level courses in the first three in September.  She works incredibly hard, and has already been looking over her work in preparation for the year ahead!

Giving It Forward Today

If you haven't read Ann Voskamp yet, even though I feel that I harp on about her quite often, you do need to read her website.  In particular, read about how she shared her 40th birthday with her whole town. Made me cry.  Beautiful.  Brought back a few memories for me of my 40th!  Heading for 41 this autumn.....days are flying past too quickly - I need to sit and knit more, I think, and s l o w down some.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Appreciating the garden

It is lovely to go shopping and NOT have to buy the veg!  It is much nicer to wander round the garden, picking some courgettes, some beetroot, and some runner beans and then deciding what to do with them for tea.  The fresh smell of runner beans, just sliced, is my smell of August - it is such a clean, refreshing smell that I wonder the powers that be don't make more of it - but then, if they haven't grown their own, they wouldn't know about it.  I am finding that my runner beans are at their best brought straight in, sliced and popped in the fridge in ice cold water until they are needed for supper.  I could go on and on about runner beans - sorry....

The courgettes are pretty good too; it is just a shame that more of the family don't appreciate them the way I do.  I am keeping them under control, and I have nearly all the ingredients I need now to make the courgette pickle that the FH loves so much - I just need some fresh ginger and some tomatoes.

And tomorrow?  Tomorrow is Results Day for the EFG.  What will she have achieved in her AS levels? Whatever she has achieved, we will be very proud of her for all the hard work she has put in, and I am sure that she will go on and work just as hard this coming year.  I'll let you know tomorrow.....I am slightly nervous on her behalf - I just hope for her sake that the marks reflect how hard she has worked.  I've been told I have to wait in the car whilst she goes in for the envelope.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Parcel from Australia

The most interesting parcel arrived this morning addressed to me, from Australia.  On closer examination, it is from Judy, who won a giveaway here some months ago, and she has so kindly sent me some items.

I am unable to email Judy or comment on a blog as she doesn't write one, so I hope you won't mind, Judy, if I make my thanks a little bit public.


As you can see, there is a lovely card from Judy, a postcard of her area, a wee cross stitch kit, some fat quarters, some lacy coasters, and there was also a quilt hanger which I seem to have forgotten to include in the picture...sorry!

I am overwhelmed at Judy having the time and energy to think of sending me such thoughtful items in the midst of her own challenges, and I am very grateful for the time and trouble.  

Thanks, from our side of the world to yours, Judy, and I will be thinking of you often xxx

A quick run round Wimpole Hall

Not taking a lot of photos until we got up to the Home Farm in the afternoon, we sat down under the verandah of the cafe to let the younger ones eat an ice cream.  Turning behind me, I was amazed to find this huge heap of drying firewood!  Quite what they are going to do with it all, I don't know, but it is an impressive heap and I wished I had a heap that big back home!

We went into the dairy and the girls had some fun dressing up the youngest member of our group, a boy, as a milk maid!  He was a terribly good sport and let them put a mob cap and shawl on him, and then they posed him with the butter churner!  Then he dressed up in the more appropriate lad's waistcoat and cap and posed with a milkmaid's yoke.  

We had a wander around the hall before lunch and came out of the garden door, to find ourselves in this beautiful formal garden.

There is so much to look at there that we could easily have spent much longer there, but we had a cake to buy on the way home and a birthday tea to cook and share, so we left after a short tractor ride back from the Farm to the Stable Block at about 4.15pm having been there about five hours.  

It has been a good day, and the YFG, EFG and their friends have enjoyed their day out - I also enjoyed taking them as they were excellent company, got along well and had a good time together.  

A birthday to celebrate

A few memories too.  The YFG is 14 today, and I so clearly remember the day of her birth those 14 years agio.

The FH was in hospital miles away in Glasgow, my brother-in-law had been up from the Fens to stay with the EFG and I for a few days, and he had just left, and we had a neighbour and her dog sleeping in the house with us "last" night.  I had to let the dog out in the night, and I woke again in the early hours, about 5am, I think, and started going to the loo quite a lot.  The pains began, and I woke the neighbour to say that we would have to get the EFG up, and get her over to her godfather's house, as he was taking her with his daughter to their childminder when I went to the hospital.  His wife, her godmother, would be taking me to the hospital, except she had been on a nightshift in another hospital and wasn't home yet!  We called her, and she came home, took a bracing shower to keep herself going, and we left for the maternity hospital.

I do remember calling the FH in his hospital and telling him that the YFG was on the way and that we were off, so when I rang him back just after 1pm, there were cheers in the background as he came to the phone to hear that he had another daughter.  He was very pleased!

The YFG was born on a Friday, and my sister came up on the train to be with us on the Saturday, and then the Glasgow hospital decided to release the FH on the Monday, so we didn't have a lot of time to get over the birth, before I had an invalid to care for as well as a newborn.  I remember one of my friends telling me that I would be able to get a home help for a few weeks, given the situation, so I rang the health visitor to see how I went about arranging it.  "What makes you think that you would get a home help?" she said, in a rather dour Scottish voice, so I replied, rather meekly, "Well, my husband is coming out of hospital today after having a heart transplant and I just delivered a baby on Friday...." to which she gushed, "Oh, my dear, of course you must have one!" which was quite a relief, and we had the amazing Nora for 6 weeks then.

And here we are 14 years later.  The FH is still going strong albeit with his ups and downs, and the YFG and EFG are such lovely young women that we are so proud of.

They are all still asleep so I had better waken them as we are going for a day out today at 10, and they have showers to get, lunches to pack and the sitting room to repair after the sleepover last night - there are sleeping bags and quilts all over!!  Hope to be back later with some photos.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Another day in the Fens

and it has been a busy one!

  • Marmalade making 
  • Church meeting, list making 
  • Washing on the line
  • Chores all done between us
  • Chasing chickens round the yard, again - got to find the hole she escapes through!
  • Girls on a long bike ride, time for the FH and I to relax and chat
  • Cooking tea - roast beef in onion gravy, home grown veg....lovely
  • Friend round to stay for the night with the YFG
  • Baking for a picnic on our day out to Wimpole Hall tomorrow
Hope you all had a good day xx

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Thanks, folks

Thank you for your kind words about Lancelot.  I am sad that he is gone, but I am very thankful for the times we shared with him, the lovely hours I spent watching him and his wives, and the chicks I reared from him. He has lived and been loved, and what more could one ask?

It's been a bit of a day, with one thing and another.  We found him this morning and then had to go to church for an hour, after which we popped him in the boot of my car and went to UJ's house, where we buried him at the top of the garden, near the rhubarb, to the left of one of the big compost heaps, in a quiet space where he won't be disturbed.

Having done that, we picked the EFG up from her friend's house, where she had stayed overnight, and came home via my sister's as she had asked me to pop in for the girls' birthday cards.  This afternoon, we have had some visitors, and popped round to see a neighbour who had visited Cupar on her holidays - she had taken some photos of the old houses in Cupar where we used to live, so we had to look at those.  Bit disappointing on both counts as neither of the houses can now be seen clearly from the road!

I left it too late to cook the beef for supper, so I cooked it anyway and it will now be tomorrow's supper.  Tonight they had a vegetarian spaghetti bake from the free Sainsbug's leaflet about Eating Well for Less which I picked up when we were in there recently.  I had all the ingredients in the house, so it was a matter of a few minutes to get it ready and pop it in the oven [which was already on for the beef].  All of the family said it was nice, so that is another meal to add to the repertoire, although I think I would add more veggies to it in future.

The FH's cousin and his wife appeared at the door just as I was about to serve it, so they came in and had a cup of tea with us; they had come over from Peterborough to bring the girls' birthday cards.  Having the birthdays just 8 days apart makes it quite convenient for everyone to remember!

Tonight we have watched the penultimate "The White Queen" and I am about to go to bed with a good book.

RIP Lancelot

[approx 2007/8 - 2013]

Our favourite cockerel, Lancelot, died this morning.  He had become the rather stately older gentleman of the flock in the latter months of his life, and was attacked by another cockerel which he had been quite happily living with in the flock with the hens.  This left him quite traumatised, so he and a couple of his wives moved house.  He seemed to recover, but we noticed some weakness developing lately, and sure enough, he passed on today.  He will be much missed, as he was such a character, and very well loved.  He came to us in the prime of his life, aged about 2 or 3, so I hope he enjoyed his "twilight" years with us and his ladies.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Back to the pantry

Time to share my pantry shopping methods again, I think, as I can see as clearly as the next person, that prices in the shops are rising stupidly.  90p for a can of tuna, £1.50 for a litre of cooking oil?  These are only two examples of things that I have recently NOT bought in a supermarket, although they have been on my list, because of the price.  Hearing that Froogs has bought sugar at 88p a bag or thereabouts made me quake at paying over a £1 for a bag.

And so, this week, I have been doing it with more thought, and continuing in our normal practice, which is a different approach from what "most" people do.  The general population, I believe, seems to go to the shop and buy what they think the family needs for the forthcoming week.  They may have planned their menu for the week ahead, they may not have done.  Those who have some kind of plan may be slightly in front of those without.

Some of us are different.  

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We buy things in bulk from Approved Food because we know a bargain when we see one, and we know that we can find a use, and save some money, by buying an item there.  I never go to the AF website with a list of what I want - because they won't have it in stock.  'Tis always best to browse through the site, see what they have, what we use, and then edit the basket quite aggressively before checking out, I find!

We also buy more than one of something when we see it at a good price.  Oil at £1.25/litre?  I'll take three.  Tuna at less than 70p a can?  I'll stock up with four, please.  Sugar at 89p a bag? I'll pick up four this week and come back for more another week if there is still some in stock.

After posting earlier in the month about feeling the need to begin to get the stocks in again for the winter, I went through my cupboards with a notepad and pen, and made a list of stuff that I knew we needed, and it is all stuff we use regularly.  Then, as I have been out and about with the girls, passing that shop here and this one there, I have popped in to see what the prices are like.  Oil in the major supermarkets is too expensive, but I passed an Aldi this afternoon, and found it cheaper there.  Tuna has risen to giddy heights in some supermarkets, but Morrison's had a good deal on it last week, and Aldi has also got it at a good price today, so I have about 8 tins in the cupboards now.  

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It is also about knowing your prices, knowing a figure in your head of what you are prepared to pay for that item, and sticking to it.  It is also a matter of not making specific trips to buy particular items, but buying a little stash when you are passing somewhere that has a good deal on that item.  I probably won't get back to the sugar shop for a week or ten days, until I go back to that area - I have had to order in tiles for the fireplace for the repairs of the lightning damage, so when I go back to pick them up, I may take the opportunity to check the sugar situation again.  We use sugar for preserving and baking, and it doesn't go out of date, so it is no ill store, as my mother would have said.

And so meal planning is different.  We don't plan according to what we see in the shops this week, or even what we fancy from the shops, but according to what we have in the pantry, which has been bought at the best possible prices, and saves us the most pennies on our food bill.  I'm using the word "pantry" here in the widest sense, because at this time of the year, it would mean food in the cupboards, the stores, the freezers, growing in the garden, and what I have also been given!  

Shopping is a matter of keeping the stores replenished, storage is about rotating the stores and making sure that the oldest items are used up first, and it all stretches the food budget.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Counting my blessings today

My blessings, God's gifts to us, being thankful, whatever you want to call it - things I have noticed today and they have made me happy!

  • The blue-green of the fields of leeks contrasting against the yellow-green of the fields of sugarbeet.
  • A nice little tax refund falling into my account this morning :)
  • A postcard from a friend who is on holiday in Scotland near Cupar.
  • The delicate taste of plaice, steamed in a parcel with lemon juice - delicious!
  • The glistening jars of beetroot chutney on the shelf in the pantry.
  • A cleaner home, because my girls are helping me.
  • Fresh smelling, clean laundry, dried in the breeze today.
  • A new book for whiling away the resting hours.
  • Finishing a woolly hat at the chapel this morning.
  • Sharing talk at the table tonight.
  • Meeting a new neighbour this morning.
  • Eating runner beans fresh from the garden.
  • Remembering to count my blessings and smile :)

Beetroot chutney recipe

I last made this is in August 2011, and we have one jar of that batch left, so when the FH and I were harvesting the beetroot last night, we thought we should make some more!  It is a really lovely, sweet and ever so slightly gingery recipe - I do urge you to have a go if you like beetroot and chutneys.

This recipe comes from an old copy of the Sainsbury's magazine, presumably from around August in 2011!

We put all these ingredients into my large stainless steel preserving pan:

900g raw, peeled and grated beetroot [wear rubber gloves or you will look like a mass murderer afterwards!]
3 medium to large red onions, peeled and chopped
700g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and chopped
500g seedless raisins {from my AF stash!}
1.1 litres malt vinegar - the recipe called for pickling vinegar, but malt is all I had.
900g granulated sugar
2tsp ground ginger

I washed and sterilised 9 jars [in the hot oven] in preparation.  The huge panful was put on the heat very gently to start with, and the whole lot mixed together.  Once the sugar had dissolved, I increased the heat a little, and it came to a rolling simmer, where I left it for about 90 minutes, until it looked glorious!  It is still very moist but all the onion and beetroot is cooked through and the flavours have come together beautifully, and you can smell the faint gingery aroma in the kitchen - I wish I could bottle it for you!

The FH gave up and went to bed at this point, so I was left to bottle it, at about midnight!

I always put the hot chutney into hot jars and seal it with screw on pop-top lids, so that as it cools, the lids contract and seal tight with a vacuum.  This morning, all the lids had gone down nicely!

There was a little left over, and no clean and sterilised jar for it, so it is in the fridge in a container and will be eaten this week - it is rather delicious even without having had time to mature.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Days out and glasses

We have sat round the supper table tonight and planned the rest of the holiday - and there isn't a lot left, if I am honest - once the girls have their birthdays, it will quickly be time for them to be off on their trip with Grandad, and the day after they return, we will all be off to the Norfolk coast for two nights, and then they are back to school - and the summer holiday will have passed by in a whirlwind yet again.

We have places to go, appointments to keep, friends to see, and things to do - so we are going to keep busy.  I am spreading the housework load whilst they are at home by letting them choose three chores each morning to do before we go out or start the day's activities.  They are doing them as well as they can, with minimal interference from me, and I am feeling very blessed to have their help.

The glasses part of the title refers to the fact that I am going to have to contact my optician in the morning as my eyesight is changing and my glasses are not doing me a lot of good all of the time.  I had to take them off tonight when we were eating as my supper was easier to see without them!

Tonight, rather late, I am making some beetroot chutney.  It should be finished about midnight....the FH helped me by grating the beetroot, peeling and chopping the carrots, and doing the onions, which made him cry!  All I have to do is cook and bottle it.  It is a very rich ruby red tonight, and hopefully I will be able to share some pictures of it for you tomorrow - and the recipe.

I'm off to do some ironing now until the chutney is cooked...

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

In and out

Quick post tonight as I am so tired!  

Just to say that Frugal Queen's sweet and sour recipe here is gorgeous - I had it tonight and it is really good and extremely simple to make.  

Hope you are all enjoying this slightly fresher weather - I certainly am.  See you tomorrow xxx

A day out with my girls

The girls and I went to Oxburgh Hall today, just over the border in Norfolk, and a grand day out we had too.  It wasn't too hot, but warm enough, and the rain held off all day even though there were some clouds about the sky.  We arrived just before lunchtime, and had a tour of the house before retiring to the garden to eat lunch on a bench by the side of the moat.

Above - the gatehouse from near the ornate gates.  Several deliveries were made to the tearooms whilst we were eating our lunch, and the YFG was interested to know whether the resident family, the Bedingfields, who occupy one range of the house, would get Tesco to deliver!  I thought Waitrose was probably more likely!

Above - the gatehouse from a closer vantage point.  We have been watching "The White Queen" on tv and were interested to read that her daughter, "The White Princess", Elizabeth of York, and her husband King Henry VII, stayed here for a few days one August - the big window in the middle of the gatehouse is where "The King's Room" is, and "The Queen's Room" is directly above it, linked by a stone spiral staircase, which also took us up onto the roof.  By the time we had come safely back down to ground level, my legs were shaking!

Above - the central bed in the beautiful parterre off to one side of the Hall.

Above - this tower is in the area of the house which the family live - they gave it to the National Trust in the 1950s, I think - and we could see an older gentleman sitting in that large window which projects out in to the moat, and the YFG is fairly sure he was doing some Sudoku in the newspaper - she's got better eyesight than I have!

Above - we played a couple of games of croquet on the lawn!

Above - the sun came out and I was pleased to get the opportunity to take a photo with the sun shining on the warm red bricks.  It is incredibly peaceful at Oxburgh, even when there are quite a few people around.  I sat near this point for about 45 minutes with my jelly legs whilst the girls went on a woodland walk.  

Above - this is the picture of the rear aspect of the Hall, where the Great Hall once stood.  The little boat is rather endearingly called "The Bateau for the Chateau", painted in white on the side.  We have had discussions today about keeping the house watertight, and how they might have addressed damp in the olden days....

A lovely day all round.  Now that they are back in the swing of these property visits, the girls are keen to visit other NT properties - it is just a case of fitting it all in!  I would love to go to Felbrigg Hall and Blickling Hall.  We may get to Felbrigg in September as we have booked my sister's caravan near Sheringham for two nights before the girls go back to school, and Felbrigg isn't too far from there.  Fingers crossed it is open the days we are there...