Monday, 30 September 2013

Very tangled webs

The FH's son let me know who the key social worker for the baby is, so I spoke with her today.  It was a very revealing conversation, which confirmed our suspicions about the child's mother and really painted a very clear picture of how poorly the little one is.  He has Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, which is like withdrawal symptoms, because his mother is a "chronic user of substances" as the social worker put it.  The SW explained how little seems to be known about how these children develop and how successful their outcomes may be in the long run.  She also told us that they already have "concurrent foster parents" in place for the child, and these foster parents are spending time with the baby at the hospital.

The huge disappointment is that the FH's son was not able to tell us the truth these past few days when we have been speaking with him, and has been hiding the true depth of the child's problems from us.  The SW expressed some concern at the FH's age, although she did say that she would send us some literature and pass on our details to her manager, whilst she recommended that we research NAS on the internet, and talk together about the implications this has for our family.

The time frame is very stringent, it seems, and we are already three weeks into a 26 week framework, and we will need a rigorous 12 week assessment procedure if we decide to carry on.  I am calling in every favour I can in order to find out more about NAS and to speak with old friends who have adopted.

I have had time to think this morning whilst I was moving and stacking another cubic metre of wood for the fire, and then I went to the girls' school this afternoon to speak with the director of learning about how the school sets targets for the children - that was very interesting.  Their school is closed to pupils tomorrow as there is a teachers' strike, so they will be at home with me.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Feeling strange

We spoke with the FH's son tonight and let him know that we are prepared to enter the arena on the discussion about custody of his son.  I felt that I had to talk to him about not wanting to take his son away from him, but that if we wanted to keep the child cared for by family members, we had to act soon, as I was told yesterday by a contact I know who is a social worker, that if they do not consider that either of the parents will be suitable carers in the long run, they may begin to look for adoptive parents.  He cried when I spoke with him, and said that he was very grateful that we would do that for his son.

It is a strange feeling here tonight for me; it is strangely reminiscent of those days all those years ago when I was wanting to get pregnant, taking the test, and then not daring to look, knowing that if it was a positive line, then my life would change for ever.  It is that sense of uncertainty tonight - like I might be [metaphorically] pregnant, but not quite sure!  We are perched on the edge of something big now.  I am going to speak with the social worker assigned to the baby tomorrow, I hope.  I have hardly ever had any dealings with social services before, so I am not really sure what to expect.  We did have a pretty major cleaning session today, though!  When I was a childminder 14 years ago, I cared for a child for social services who helped a dad look after his 7 children when their mother was in hospital with PND after the birth of number eight.  I had the youngest one, who was not at school, during the day, and the dad managed overnight.  That's the limit of my knowledge.....

If you are so inclined, please pray for the right outcome for this.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Macmillan success today

(image from

The Macmillan coffee morning at the chapel went very well today - there was a lot of hustle and bustle and people were happy to be parted from their cash for a good cause.  Between the donations for the refreshments, the raffle, and the "Guess how many beans" sweepstake which Macmillan provided, we raised £185 there, and I have scrounged another £5 out of a friend to whom I sold some leftover cakes tonight!

One of the ladies made me a lovely hand-crafted birthday card, and they all sang Happy Birthday for tomorrow - it was really kind of them!

Hope that you have all had a good day whatever you have been up to - the weather has been great here, and I am hoping for a couple more fine and dry days to get some garden work done.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Plans coming right

It has been a long day in the kitchen, but I have successfully made gingercake, chocolate brownies, a lemon sponge, Twinks hobnob biscuits, and lemon crunch muffins.  The EFG is currently creating cupcakes in various varieties as her contribution.

I have also picked half a bucketful of crab apples today too!

Tonight I am on a training course for school from 7-9pm so I reckon I'll be ready for my bed shortly after I get home.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Gone awry

I had plans for today, quite simple ones, but plans nevertheless.  Might as well not have bothered as today has had to be a day when I reacted to what needed to be done, rather than following my plans.  These days come along sometimes.

My plan was to spend the day baking once I had dropped the car into the garage for its service and new tyres [let's not go there - it is going to hurt the wallet rather, but it needed to be done and the money is in the bank - and it is better to be safe than sorry!].

However, once I had been down the village to drop off more Macmillan posters and to collect jam jars that two people had offered me, and pick up some free green tomatoes, I came home so that the FH could have his car to go to the Wednesday lunch club.

When I arrived home, he was waiting for me at the door, telling me that the EFG had been taken ill at school and I needed to get over there.  "On my bike?" I believe I said.... We worked out a bit of a complicated way of getting everyone where they needed to be with the limitations of the vehicles available, and I toddled off to get her and brought her home.

It is now 12.30pm and I haven't made a thing.

I had to take the car back to the FH at 1pm, so I had a cuppa and a sit down for a minute or three.  Once he was home again, we started chopping tomatoes, apples and onions for the pickle.  It looked like this before it was cooked:

I had to leave it cooking in the care of the FH and UJ whilst I went off down the village on my bike to meet a lady at chapel and get the room all set up for the Macmillan coffee morning on Friday - the lady is off to Skegness on a bus trip tomorrow so today was the only opportunity we had to get together.

They managed not to burn it and I came home to a lovely pan of this:

This is now in four huge jars, labelled and resting in a dark place to mature, whilst we are still eating some from 2011.

Once the pickle was pickled, I was then able to deal with a request from FGS's dad to get him some info about parenting courses....that was interesting.  One lady at a children's centre launched into telling me about a course dealing with behaviour, sanctions, consequences and rewards, and I had to tell her that the child would need to grow a bit before we needed to worry about that.  Eating, sleeping and nappy changes are the only things on his agenda at the moment.  

Tonight, after supper, the FH decided to cook down some apples that UJ had brought me, and I remembered Sue's post about making apple sauce in jars, and so I nabbed enough and made 7 jars of apple sauce - I wonder if Sue realises that there are people all over the blogsphere making apple sauce this week because of her inspiring post!  It does look good, and I might make more.

I have now had an hour on the phone with the FGS's dad, talking with him about his plans and the courses I have found, and I still have not made a single cake today!

I have plans for tomorrow.....

Monday, 23 September 2013

You just never know

It is true - you just never know what is around the corner.  Today we have heard about a new grandson for the FH, but the poor wee lad is the centre of a custody battle and is presently a ward of court, so lots of prayers and support are needed there.  He doesn't even have a name yet but I feel like I should give him a nickname of some kind for now, so I am going to call him FGS for FenGrandSon like we have the EFG/YFG for the girls.  We are hoping to see him soon - he's in hospital but not too far away.  The girls have done me proud today with their expressions of support for their half-brother, and I am so pleased with their reactions, especially as the path in front of everyone involved is going to be a rocky one for a while.

I'm still recovering from the end of last week, and have had a kind of slow day, with just a few things achieved, but I have got to get into gear as I am hosting a Macmillan Coffee Morning on Friday so I have lots of baking to get done before then...I think I know what I am going to make, and Twinks Hobnobs are high on the list, with ginger cake and a lemon sponge.  I think that the new recipe Chocolate Brownies should also feature.  Anyone else having a coffee morning?  What are you baking?

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Super Sunday

The sun has shone most gloriously here today and it has been really lovely to see it again after the cold and gloomy days we have been experiencing - we ate outside this evening and it was a treat!

The morning service went well - all about good stewardship and money - right up my street.  I took along several of my "thrifty" themed books as part of a display to illustrate my talk: I was very surprised that not one of those books was picked up and investigated after the service!  If it had been me at the service and someone was showing me books like that, I would have been straight in there to see what I could learn.

This afternoon was relaxed, and pottering about. UJ arrived and we had some lunch, and then just did a bit of this and that.  The YFG went off to start a job trimming a neighbour's lavender bushes and the EFG has been working on an experiment for biology with bread.  I made some chocolate brownies for lunchboxes whilst she had the oven on, and then I popped the chicken in for supper when she had finished.

The roast chicken was succulent and just right with the home made crab apple jelly.  The girls made a  cake whilst I was at chapel this morning, and then iced it this afternoon, so we have sent UJ home tonight with a good chunk of it.  He will be back on Wednesday.

Tonight I am going to do the minimal amount of ironing before settling down to watch Downton Abbey with my knitting.  Hope you are having a peaceful Sunday wherever you are xx

Saturday, 21 September 2013

I'm off

Service is all ready for the morning and I am off to my bed!  See you tomorrow x

Friday, 20 September 2013

Collapse into a heap!

I wish I could!  The final meeting with Ofsted finished just after 5pm tonight and I was in gymnastics by 6pm, where I shall be again in the morning, and then I shall have tomorrow later in the afternoon and the evening to prepare a service for Sunday.  I have a feeling that we shall be worshipping with a lot of hymns this week, perhaps one or two more than usual....

The FH has been fab today and cooked a lovely pork chop tea for me for when we got in tonight after gym, and the girls have been great, helping me with the shopping tonight and putting it all away when we got home.

Thank you for all your supportive comments and thoughts.  It is really appreciated.  I'll be back soon - have a great weekend and I hope you all get some of this sunny weather which is supposed to be coming our way xx

Keeping at it

Yesterday was a very hard day, in school for just over 11 hours, and feeling on the edge all the time, not knowing when the inspectors were going to catch me in the corridor and ask a question, off the cuff - would I have the right answers for them?  Having them ask for documents at random times, and not always knowing where they were kept in school, and people who would know not being available to get them....I came home last night with a banging headache and a very empty tum, as I had not really been able to eat all day!

We had a meeting between the lead inspector and a selection of governors late yesterday afternoon, and we did impress her with the number of us who went to the meeting, and we had a very valuable meeting with her.  I have reflected on it overnight and realised that she has come with the children at the core of her interests, and she wants to make jolly sure that we are doing the best for them that we can, and actually she was talking with us, and advising us of ways we could do things better.  Last time Ofsted came to the school, I felt very differently about the inspector, but this time, I get it!

For relaxation (!), I made some crab apple jelly last night - well, I had to!  The juice had been straining since Monday night and I was worried about leaving it a minute longer as that was far, far longer than it should have been left.  It was worth the effort, though, as this morning I have five jars of glistening, ruby red jelly and it looks lovely...I can't wait to roast a chicken on Sunday for UJ's birthday and then we can try some.

I hope you are all having a good week.  This inspection has wiped out my plans for two days, but I am going to get some washing on the line now, at least, and I'll just have to do the shopping tomorrow - Ofsted is great for No Spend Days, at least :)

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

One day and then another

And tomorrow we have Ofsted coming........I'll see you on Friday night!!

Thanks for all your supportive comments - it is really kind of you all and much appreciated.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

And for our next challenge...

You've read about the kind of year the FH has been having.  You know how many times he has been admitted to hospital, and the upheavals we have been through.  You have supported and encouraged, uplifted and upheld us through it all.  Thank you.
In conjunction with the local surgery, we have been monitoring the PSA marker in his blood; this is all about prostate cancer now.  The marker was high a year or more ago, and we saw a specialist, and decided to go for watchful waiting as a pathway.  This has involved regular monitoring of the PSA through blood tests.  The PSA has been rising, slowly, and the latest has risen quite drastically.
It doesn't mean that he HAS prostate cancer. 
We have to think and pray carefully now, and be very sure of what WE want before we allow the doctors to force him into a pathway that he may not want to take.  We have talked with our GP about the outcomes in the past, and the specialist was realistic with the FH's medical history, saying that he would be reluctant to treat it if it was cancer because of the impact the treatment might have on his health.  He has no symptoms at all - the marker in the blood is the only indication, so there is no impact on his lifestyle whatsoever at the present time.
I am clear in my own mind about what I do not want:  I do not want him mucked about with, poked, prodded and cut.  I don't want a load of medication prescribed to treat something that may not be life threatening if those medications impact on the medications which keep him alive.  I do not want his quality of life as it is now to deteriorate, for something that might not be a real threat to life.  As the specialist said last year, plenty of old men die WITH prostate cancer, without actually dying FROM it.  He has to think about the biopsy, as that carries a significant risk for someone like him.  Does he really want to know, if there is no treatment available anyway?
The FH needs to consider what he wants now, and we all need to respect that.  That is what is important, and I will be right behind him, whatever path he chooses.  I need you guys behind me.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Crab apples and stuff

The crab apples are cooked and the juice is dripping from the pulp in the jelly straining bag on the counter.  The last time I looked, the stream had slowed and we had just over a litre of juice.  I'll leave it overnight and boil it up with sugar to make the jelly in the morning.  I love crab apple jelly so I am quite excited about it!  The only downside is that you can have a huge heap of apples, and it doesn't make that much jelly...

I didn't get the apple chutney made as I was busy with other things.  I had a once-in-a-decade cleaning of my shower - yes, that is disgusting, I know, as it means that I have never cleaned it quite this thoroughly before!  Sorry - this was extremely thorough and involved taking the doors off, and bringing them downstairs to really attack them.  I cleaned the soap and limescale off the doors and screens with a very frugal cleaning stuff - malt vinegar!  It did a really grand job.  The shower looks very clean now, but it did take me the best part of two hours.......

In the middle of it all, I dashed off to pick up the girls because their bus broke down.  Not helpful but not to worry - it is a good service and gets them there and home again 99% of the school days each year.

I have also done more washing today, but I hung it out under the verandah as we have had huge black clouds looming here more than once today.  Most of it is dry now.  The washing I have done today, and at the weekend, has been done with a new Ariel liquitab that I was sent by the BzzAgent people.  It is fine, and smells great, but I wouldn't actually buy it myself.  They gave us enough for 11 washes, but I checked it out in the supermarkets.  A box of 19 was £3.50 in Sainsbury's but £4.50 in Tesco.  Strangely, a box of 38 in Sainsbury's leaps up to £12+ which is very strange and not at all sensible.  I'll stick with my big blue boxes of Persil - I am monitoring it and I do have about a year's supply stashed away at £6 a box - and that does me more than 50 washes.  I shall be mentioning the price when I give them feedback.

Chocolate brownies

The cocoa-based recipe I have used for a while came from The Stone Soup blog here and you will find the recipe further down her post through that link.

The YFG wanted to try a different recipe this week, and we did use one which involved melting real chocolate, but since it called for only 50g, I gave it a go - twice!  They came out really well the first time, but got slightly overcooked the second time, last night, because I popped the pan in the oven after I cooked the lamb for our tea, and then I went to eat, and slightly [totally!] forgot about them!  They are still very edible, but they rose and then sank again, so they are quite squishy.  It hasn't been a problem for the YFG who is still enjoying them...The recipe came from a handy little recipe magazine called My Favourite Recipes, which is a reader-recipe collection which comes out monthly and costs just £1 so I do buy it occasionally.

This is how we did it:

I lined a 23cm square tin, and preheated the oven to 160C as it is a fan oven.

Then we melted 50g dark chocolate, broken into squares, with 120g baking margerine, in a Pyrex dish over a pan of simmering water, stirring it occasionally.  We used Lidl's chocolate, at about 30p or less for a bar, so this cost about 15p for the chocolate.  Not bad!

Once that had melted properly, we stirred it into the dry ingredients: 225g granulated sugar, 50g plain flour, and 1tsp baking powder.  We also added two beaten eggs at this stage.  The recipe now calls for 120g chopped almonds, but these are rather pricey and I almost never buy them, so we didn't have any in the cupboard.  What we did have are the more affordable Chopped Mixed Nuts, which have a high proportion of peanuts, but there are still almonds in the mix.  So we added about 100g of chopped mixed nuts, and they distributed themselves throughout the cake.

Poured into the square tin, this took about 20 minutes to cook, but we wanted it to be only just cooked for that magical brownie consistency, so the first batch was better than the second because it was cooked more precisely!

If we have no chocolate in the house, the Stone Soup recipe is fabulous, but if there is just 50g of dark chocolate to be had, the YFG says that the second recipe is her favourite.  It could, of course, be made without the nuts, and with other additions.

I used to use this recipe for Weetabix brownies a lot, but I buy a lot less Weetabix these days as the family seem to have gone off them!  It is definitely one way of getting healthier cakes into people without a big taste difference.

So that is my collection of tried-and-trusted Brownie recipes.  Good luck if you try any of them x

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Sunday blessings

Welcome to my new readers, especially Bonnie!  Good to have you here.

Today has been good all round: chapel this morning, a lovely roast lamb dinner tonight, my dad visiting, for whom we lit the woodburner for the first time this season, and catching up with one of our favourite tv detectives, Vera, tonight for the last time this series.  Downton Abbey will be back next Sunday, and autumn will really be here!

No crocheting done, unfortunately, but I did get the ironing basket up to date, which is very stress-relieving...and had a good chat when my dad was here.

The girls have geared themselves up for the week ahead, and I made some chocolate brownies for the YFG's lunchbox, but she seems to have had a few samples already!

I hope you all have a good week, and we'll catch up tomorrow with the September frugalling challenge - it's Monday monitoring tomorrow.  See you then.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

We made it through

T'will be brief tonight, as it is late, but we made it through the day and all has gone well:

Gym was fine this morning in the new format of starting at extra half hour wasn't so bad, and working with the little boys was good fun, even if one of mine had a limited understanding of English!

The concert at the chapel wasn't as well attended as it could have been, but those who didn't come missed a treat - some lovely uplifting and thoughtful musical pieces, a great buffet tea, good raffle prizes and £120 in the kitty.  All good there!

The FH went to the school reunion tonight and had a lovely catch-up with folk he hadn't seen for years, and was telling stories the whole way home.  He will sleep well tonight as he is shattered with all that he has done today.  The YFG went to a Twister-and-pizza party at a friend's house and got a lift there and back, so she has had a good afternoon and evening with some friends.  The EFG came with me to visit UJ after we dropped the FH off, and UJ got out some old photos which brought back memories!  There was a whole-school photo from 1985 when my sister and I were at an independent school in Cambridge.  Sister is a tiny tot in the front row and I am in senior uniform further back.  He also had a Y11 photo of me with my year group at a different school, and the YFG was rather surprised at late Eighties teenage fashions, I think!  I also came home with a big bag of Monarch plums and the jelly stand so that I can make the crab apple jelly with the crab apples the FH brought home yesterday.

We are all home again together, and I am off to bed.  Long day, but good fun all round.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Weekends here

Sometimes weekends are a time for kicking back, relaxing and enjoying oneself in the company of friends and family.  Not so here, it seems!

Tomorrow looks like a day from the worst schedule I could have imagined - a morning at gym from 10am to 1pm, dashing home to get ready to go to chapel at 2 to help prepare for a concert at 3pm, leaving that by 6pm whether it is finished or not to go to take the FH to a school reunion an hour away, visiting UJ whilst the FH is in the reunion and then driving home, aiming to get back here by 10pm.......Am I mad?

Add to that that the YFG is not happy with me because I wouldn't buy her a pair of jeans in Tesco tonight when I went to do the shopping for the buffet at the concert, and she is now in a mood, and I am just about ready for my bed.  The EFG is "sad" she says, because she has found out that someone she knows who regularly goes to parties, cycles for miles at a time, plays the piano rather well, and does a lot of sports, also managed to get 4 A grades in the AS levels, and she feels that life is unfair.  Oh, bless her!  That's life as we all know it!

I've Davina'd this morning, knitted and nattered, coached at gym, cooked and cleaned and washed, made a cake, and washed up again.  This kind of tiredness is at least the good kind where I know I have worn myself out.

Crochet on Sunday, I think - and perhaps a film.  I have earned it.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Counting the blessings today

Lots of them too!

  • The FH was given a load of plums, 8lbs of them, which I have been able to make into jam because I had enough sugar in the storecupboard.  Totally unexpected today, and a lovely surprise.  He also brought home eating apples and pears - all from a back garden orchard in the village.
  • I found some reduced-to-clear pork in the Co-op this morning and have just used it to make a huge batch of Sweet and Sour pork using Froog's recipe, and will be stashing it in the freezer shortly, adding to my bank of home-made ready-meals.
  • Today agreed to do some after school gym sessions at the school, so that is more income in the future.
  • Sold five GPOs today which were this year's hatching, so that is a little cash in the pot for savings this month.  Just got the hen who has fits left, and a couple of cockerels.  They may get fattened for the pot, and the hen will go in with the main flock when she is a bit older.  
  • I left a couple of boxes of bargain books at the village toddler group this morning and sold some! Another little boost to the savings and more books off the shelves in the garage - I am determined to get rid of them all this year!
  • I have done the Davina DVD for four days in a row, and can't hardly get up from sitting down from all the squats, but I have survived - one more day and then two days off - can't wait!
Hope you have all had a blessed day one way or the other.  See you tomorrow, and thank you for all the comments lately: it is lovely to hear from you when you have got time to say Hello xx

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The lives we touch

I can't begin to tell you how proud I am to know this woman, and she has made history - and I am quite gobsmacked by it all, if I am honest.  The first woman ordained in the Church of England to become a Bishop, although she has had to go to the other side of the world to do it.  Quite a wow!  She and I studied at St Mary's College at the University of St Andrews together, even doing exactly the same degree in Old and New Testaments.  Then our lives went in very different directions, and my path of ministry as a Local Preacher is only just beginning, whereas she has had a life of academia alongside her ministry, although I have children and she has none, yet.  I have emailed her tonight with my congratulations.

Sometimes it is good to sit back and look at what we are doing, and the lives we are touching, and I can reflect that I may not have the flock she has, but I am still being useful and having an impact on lives - the children at the school and at the gym, the congregations I speak with and preach for, and the organisations I support in other ways.  We all have a ministry of some kind, whether it is formally recognised as such, and even though it may not be a religious one.  

Plenty of people in the world need someone to inspire them, someone to help them and advise them, or just someone to walk alongside them on the way when the going gets rough.  I have my own list of people who help me, and without whom my life would not be as rich - and I wouldn't be without any of you!  They range from bloggers who inspire me to people like UJ who offer me support and encouragement through just quietly being there for me when I need them, to public figures and writers like Ann Voskamp who just totally amaze me!  

Whose lives touch you, and whom do you reach out to?  

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Nodding off...

(image from

If I am going to keep getting up at 6am with the EFG to leap around with Davina, I have got to get to bed does mean that once I am up, I am up, and I took advantage this morning and had a lasagne in the oven, shortly followed by an AF-mix ginger cake, and they were both done before 8am.  Then I sat and finished off a scarf in my knitting, and organised my contact details for all our gymnasts, ready for tonight.

(image from

My dentist visit this afternoon was painless, until I got the quote for the work - it is £146!  I paid £18 of it today, and £50 of it is a price for a bite-plate to wear at night, to protect my teeth from my biting down and grinding whilst I am asleep.  The trouble is that if I don't have one of those in the near future, the chomping down is going to damage one of my front teeth and loosen it to the stage where I may be in need of a gum-transplant!! Shock, horror - really don't like the sound of that, so I think I may have to have the bite-plate.  Apparently it is like a gum shield that hockey players wear, but fitted specifically to my mouth after they take impressions.

I have a while to organise the finances for that as the next appointment for a filling is not until the 10th October.  

Hope you are all having a good week so far xx

Silver Sewer

I have been in touch with Silver Sewer today and she is fine. 

Unfortunately the trolls are back in her comment box, and she is going to enjoy her holiday before she decides what to do.  I know she will be missed, but she and her husband are fine and that is what matters.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Monday morning moving

We tried, we really tried!  

The EFG's bike has yet another puncture, so she asked me to get up with her this morning to do a workout DVD.  We managed the warm-up of a Davina but then the guys really cranked up the gears and we got left behind - WAY behind!  I have a favourite Davina disc but it isn't in the box so I am going to have to spend some time looking for it, as well as getting to grips with some of the other ones that we have on the shelf here.  We'll have another go tomorrow.......

I think that the FH's medications are affecting him as he has not been well for a couple of days now and has stayed in bed.  The changes in the meds often take a couple of weeks to settle down, and he has recently been taken off two kinds, so it will be a few days before everything stops churning, I fear.  If it takes longer than that, I will be calling Papworth for advice.

I've been occupied today with laundry and ironing, hoovering, cleaning bathrooms, fetching chook food from the local delivery point, some governor work, and preparing a short, very short, service for the Women's Section of the RBL in the village.  I did it last year for their Harvest Festival, and was invited back again this year.  The pianist who supported me last year wasn't available tonight so I took the EFG along with her laptop, and the organ music went down very well with the ladies.  It is just a 15 minute celebration - two hymns, two prayers, a Bible reading and a short talk.  It went well and we were presented with two chrysanthemum plants, which was very kind of the ladies.

(image from

We are looking forward to Doc Martin tonight, and I will be finishing off some knitting whilst it is on, then straight to my bed, because we have a date with Davina at 6am again!

On my September challenge front, I am pleased to report not a penny has left my purse today.  Eating has been from the freezer or stores, and it has been a good day.  Dentist tomorrow, which can't be avoided as I have a hole in a tooth, so I am going to have to spend some money there - aargh on both fronts

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Sharing on Sunday

Mrs Mac shared a website in her comment on yesterday's post, and it is amazing!  I have been popping in and out of there all day today, whenever I have had time to sit down for 5 minutes with a cup of tea.  Mavis Butterfield seems like Superwoman - check out her garden!  But there are also loads and loads of recipes, frugal tips, talk about chooks, all sorts.  I'll be adding this one to the blogroll as soon as I get a minute.

I went to a neighbouring village and took the service at their chapel this morning, then came home to lunch. This afternoon I have been busy in the garden, cutting back and trimming the triffids which my tomato plants had become, so that with the stalks a little more bare, the sun can get to the tomatoes, and hopefully they will ripen more quickly.  I picked those that were ripe and they are delicious.  Today's the day I harvested our first tomatoes of the season here.  I also cut the back lawn which was a job in itself as it had got rather overgrown, but the chooks certainly enjoyed scratching in the cuttings, which I shared amongst the yards.

This evening I have used the last of yesterday's turkey dinner to make an Asian Turkey Noodle soup for the folks for their supper.  It was a good recipe which could be adapted to make the most of what I had available.  Leftover turkey, AF soft noodles, a carrot, a red pepper from the greenhouse, half an onion, and a piece of ginger left from chutney making, all boiled up together in some vegetable stock.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

108 days

108 days to You Know What.....I mentioned it yesterday, but today I have been through our finances again more closely and worked out what needs to be achieved by the end of the year - and it isn't a pretty sight!  Our savings plan has had some serious hurdles to cover this year and it is beginning to look like one or two of the fences might just be too much for it.  

Christmas could be a seriously expensive time, for all and sundry, if we don't take control and make some decisions, probably very soon!  Frugal Queen has had a post this weekend with some brilliant ideas, so do hop over there and have a look at her strategies for success and sanity.

What will we do here in the Fens?  

I've had a little while to think about some of our areas of expense, and how to deal with them sensibly.

Christmas Cards

I still have a serious stash of cards from past years, and so there will be no spending on actual cards.  Many modern and technologically-savvy friends won't mind a wave on Facebook or an email, but I will be hand-delivering cards to older friends in the village and the local towns when we are out and about.  Getting the cards written early enough means that we can deliver them without making a special trip.  One or two special people will get letters instead of cards and perhaps a few photos as well.  These are people who live further afield and whom we don't see in person from one year to the next, unfortunately.

Christmas Pudding

(image from

I made two of these last year, so this is covered already.  It will be very well matured!  I may not make brandy butter this year, as some people [!!] seemed to use the pudding merely as a vehicle to get the brandy butter into their mouths in rather large portions, so perhaps a nice orange-zest/juice flavoured butter would go down nicely with the pud this year.

Christmas Cake

It is only the FH and UJ who will eat this, so it will be a small, home made one.  This will get made in October half-term to give it time to develop the flavours.  I have been using the same recipe since 2000, so it is a good one, which the FH and UJ both love.

Christmas Dinner

(image from

The Aldi Three-Bird Roast went down very well last year, so that will probably be on the menu again this year.  It cost £9.99, and it would be handy if they kept the price the same!  The vegetables will be fresh or frozen, the Yorkshire pud will be home made, and the stuffing, courtesy of AF, is already in the store cupboard.  I always buy the crackers in the sales in January so they are tucked away in the garage.

Home made treats

I do make mince pies in rather large quantities, but they always get eaten by the family and the guests who pop in, and the congregation at the chapel when I take them along there.  The ingredients are not terribly expensive, and I have dried fruit in stock for the making of the mincemeat.  A good sponge will keep those who hate dried fruit happy, and a couple of tubes of own-brand "Pringle"-type crisps with a home made dip will be great for evening munchies over the festive period.  We have lots of pickles in stock, and with the addition of the normal cheese ration, the FH will have a good supper now and again.


(image from

We have collectively decided that there will be fewer gifts given outside the family as the children we have been giving them to are growing up and are more and more difficult to buy things for because we never actually see them!  There are about 6 local children who will receive gifts, and a couple of cyber-friends to whom I love to send small items.  The older local children might receive hat and scarf sets as I have lots of wool in stock!  I do like to show my appreciation to the teachers at the village school, and last year made them the mock Ferrero-Rocheresque sweets, so they may well get those again. They are very economical to make, too.  I also have several tins of condensed milk ready for the fudge making.

The girls

I have already begun to stash away small items for their stockings, and I will be waiting for their suggestion lists to come forward in about six weeks' time.  The lovely thing is that they know that the season is about more than gifts, and know not to be greedy in their list-making.  The YFG has had a tablet for her birthday and understands that she will not get anything as valuable as that in December.  The EFG also realises that she will be needing items like a new laptop when she goes away to uni next autumn, so it would be daft to be spending out on things like that now - her laptop is getting on now, but I am hoping it has another year in it!

The tree

Our tree will make it through another year!  

Remembering that Christmas for us is about Christ is one thing, but knowing that it doesn't hold that meaning for everyone, it should still be more about relationships, spending time with friends and relatives and taking time to recharge the batteries than it is about spending money.  We can have a good time without bankrupting ourselves for the rest of the year. 

You will be spared further posts on this until December as you now know our plans!  Anyone wanting any of the recipes I have mentioned, just ask and I will link you up with them - they are all here in previous year's posts.

40 tips for September over here at Frugaldom - fabulous post - some of these will also help with the Christmas spending.