Friday, 31 October 2014


Since some of you have been kind enough to support my endeavours with the Operation Christmas Child boxes, I thought you might like to see the almost-finished results!

We have got the official boxes this year - they arrived flat and the YFG had a merry hour one night whilst I was working, and she folded and slotted 25 of them together for me. 

I've had a lot of the bits and bobs that we are putting in them sitting around for a while, and it has been a relief to start getting the boxes packed tonight!

So, if we open the lid, we have a fairly typical assortment of things in this box for a 5-9 year old girl.

There's a hat and scarf which the FH's cousin's wife knitted with some wool that UJ brought me. He found it in his loft, which means that it must date from my mum's crocheting days - and she died in 1998, so it is time it was used!

There is a wee packet of sweets, a couple of hair clips, a stuffed toy, a card game, a notepad, and a sealed bag with 2 biros, 2 pencils, a rubber and a sharpener and a packet of pencil crayons.  We can't run to pencil cases but I thought that the children might appreciate a grip lock bag to keep their bits together in. 

All that will be added tomorrow will be the toiletry pack - a flannel, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste.  I am waiting for a friend to bring the flannels in the morning!

We are so very nearly there, and then they can be delivered to the local church in town which is organising the collection this year.

Going around again.....

Today is the end of October, and perhaps would have been the end of the focused money saving challenge, but then I had to go to the optician's yesterday afternoon.

Are you sitting down?  You need to be.  

I'm having to get older-lady glasses this time - my first pair of varifocals.  Who knew how much they would be? I certainly hadn't a clue.  Good lenses? Over £250.  Then there's the sight test, and the frames.  No change out of £400.

I can see fine at this kind of distance:

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but it is starting to get a bit tricky when I am about here:

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and when I am looking closely at this level, well, it's better to just take the flipping glasses off at the moment:

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There is no doubt in my mind that I need the new glasses.

So, our money saving challenge will have to roll onwards into November.  We'll keep a close eye on the spending,  and we'll be putting the £400 back into the savings pot as fast as we can.  The amount I had hoped to increase the savings by in this month will probably have to whistle!  It's going to be a challenge to break even.

But let's count our blessings: I have the money to buy the glasses, and I have the ways and means to replace it.  I don't have to put it on a credit card or take out a payday loan to finance the purchase.  It's all good, really.  And isn't life a bit boring without a challenge or two to keep us on our toes?!

Thursday, 30 October 2014


As we move towards November, I'm reflecting on the success of my challenge to spend less and use up some of the stocks in the house in an attempt to save a little money this month.

The freezers are still pretty full, but I would attribute that to the influx of cooked pears which has been put into them this month - when UJ brings trays of Conference pears, one can't eat them all at once and it is necessary to peel, core and cook them, and then freeze them in a little juice in small 500g margerine tubs.  I think that there are about 15 such tubs now out there!  I love pears so they will not be wasted this winter.

The store cupboards are not too empty yet, although there are some stocks which are running down and I am not going to replace them.  The stash of pickles is slowing being given away to friends and neighbours now that the FH is not here to enjoy them.  I shan't be buying any further HP or Worcestershire sauces either, and gave the last bottle of each to the Harvest auction at the chapel.

So have I saved any money?  Yes, but I have spent it!  I have had a handyman from the village here this month and he has transformed my block paved driveway back to how it was 10 years ago when we moved in!  It was littered with weeds in the cracks between the paviers, and at the side were some hugely overgrown lavender bushes.   Some of the blocks had dropped and were uneven in places.  And it is a large area - there is room to park about 6 cars out there, so we are not talking about a small area.  He has cleaned it all up, pressure washed it and removed all the weeks, taken the lavender bushes out, laid weed membrane down on that area and put down gravel.  The dropped blocks have all been levelled out as well.  It looks great and is a huge weight off my mind now.   I am so pleased with it that every time I drive the car in or out,  I have a little look at it all!  Money very well spent.

The EFG spent the evening with the gang at the flat last night, and had a good time by all accounts, catching up with the YFG and chatting.  I started my new knitting project and I am quite pleased with my progress last night - I knitted solidly for 2 hours whilst I watched an Inspector Lynley mystery on one of the Freeview channels.  I shall reveal what it is when it is finished, as right now it doesn't look much like what it is destined to become!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Weary travellers

Although the travellers were in the flat in Peterculter by 5.30pm last night, they are pretty worn out this morning, by all accounts!  My sister drove all the way so it was no surprise to hear from the YFG that Sis woke up at about 9.30am this morning.....If I had driven that distance, I don't think they'd have seen me until lunchtime.

They went out for a meal with the EFG last night, and plan to meet up with her again today after her lecture, and hit the shops this afternoon.  Good job I have given the YFG a little pocket money!

I spent some time yesterday evening with my friend whose son died on Saturday.  She is ever so slightly sedated, and not herself at all, as you might imagine, after a trauma of this magnitude. I just sat with her, hugged her, and listened to her.  There wasn't a lot more I could do, although I did leave our funeral director's number with her partner, as they were so brilliant for us in the summer and I know that they would deal with this sensitively and with the greatest level of care.  Lots of prayers will be going her way, and I know that most of the village has been thinking of her - the lawn in the front of her house was a little sea of flowers and candles last night.

Here, my time is quite peaceful.  I have been awake since just before 8am and been busy getting things crossed off the housework list, before I start work in a few minutes. I have two services to prepare for Sunday, although I am recycling one in a sort of variation for the evening service I am taking in the north of the circuit.  It still needs work on it though, and I hope to get some work done on those this afternoon.

Today will be a no spend day, like yesterday - the village shop and post office is shut for refurbishment and I have no plans to leave the village today at all, so a quiet, home-based day is on the cards.  Might even start a new knitting project later!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014


They're over the Border....

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and over the Bridge...

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and still heading north!

Hoping to be in Peterculter by about 5.30pm.  They are currently 27 miles from Aberdeen itself.

Fingers crossed!

Away she goes

The YFG and UJ have set off from here this morning on their travels.  They are heading over to my sister's house, where they will transfer all their stuff into my sister's car, and then they will be off, up the A1 to Aberdeen.

(photo I took on our visit earlier this year)

They are well provisioned with sandwiches and snacks for the journey, and my sister was in charge of making a flask of coffee for the adults, as the YFG has some squash.  All that they will need at the service stations will be the loos!

I have sent parcels for the EFG too - washing powder bought on offer, a knitting book [with wool and needles], a chemistry book and some revision charts from her bedroom wall, and some goodies - she asked for home made cheese scones and flapjack, so they are carefully packed in there too - just hope that they don't get raided en-route!

They are going to be staying in an apartment in Peterculter which is just outside Aberdeen.  It was tricky to find anything self-catering in Aberdeen with parking, so they are just a little way outside.  They are hoping to arrive by 7pm and take the EFG out for a meal tonight.

And me?  I am working this week, and already this morning I have had a tidy round, sorted the chooks and rabbit, and got a load of washing in that the YFG had left in the basket.  I have an optician's appointment on Thursday, but don't really expect to leave the village apart from that.  I need to get my head down and tackle Faith & Worship in some of the time I have, and the OCC boxes need to be packed this week too!

It is a lovely sunny morning here today, so I shall enjoy sitting outside under the verandah in the sun when I have a tea break later xxx

Monday, 27 October 2014

In the kitchen this week

This weekly post must be getting quite repetitive for the reader, but I find it useful to be able to look back and see what we have been eating!  We are also eating our way through the freezers, so there is a certain amount of repetition of favourite meals too.

This week, the YFG is off to Aberdeen for five days, and so I shall be choosing meals just for myself after today.

The meals I have in mind:

Spaghetti bolognese for her tonight.  Leftover mince will be meals for me later in the week, or frozen for another week.
Baked potatoes with various toppings
Stove top chicken casserole [my current favourite!]
Perhaps sweet and sour chicken, because the YFG isn't that keen on it
Vegetable risotto
Leftover night!

Our food spend this month is much reduced, along the lines of the Stoptober challenge, so I am pleased!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Praying for a friend this morning

I heard the terrible news yesterday that a friend's son had just been killed that afternoon.

How quickly one's life can change - my friend had shared on FB that she was watching a Bette Midler film and then she must have had the news soon after she made that post.

We believe that it was in a traffic accident but although I have popped a note round to her, I have not spoken with her yet.  I just know that a family is now in the worst place, and I've been praying for them, and will continue to do so.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Free money

I had a sort out and a filing session in the office last night. It was therapeutic, and whilst I did it, I  chatted with my dad for half an hour, and with the EFG.  She was telling me about lecturers and fun at uni!

The sorting has prompted me to have a look at the vouchers and points I have been accumulating over the year.  

I have already cashed out £60 in Amazon vouchers from Shop'n'Scan but I have got another £20 in there ready to be pulled out when I want it.

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I have been sent a voucher code for £9 from the old Amazon card that I had which has been converted into a MBNA card.  

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I have about £17 on my Nectar card too.  That other supermarket is also about to send out some more vouchers, but I still have £26.50 unspent in older vouchers.  


All in all, I reckon I have got just over £70 in free money which I have acquired through my shopping, scanning the shopping, and buying what we need.  This will come in very handy for that big "expensive" event we have coming up in December.  I have begun to nag the girls for some clues as to what they would like........

Friday, 24 October 2014

Mystery solved

My stepson's whereabouts have come to light!  His girlfriend went to his flat last night to feed his animals, and found his phone there, so that explains why he wasn't answering it.

She managed to get hold of the solicitor at lunch time, and found out that my stepson was sent to prison yesterday for a two year sentence.  Why on earth the solicitor didn't let her know that yesterday, we don't know.  That was very frustrating and she said that he didn't seem very interested.  She is going to call the prison and find out what the visiting arrangements are.  We think he is in a local prison, so not far to travel, as long as they keep him there.

She understands that he may have to serve half of this sentence.  But she has a lot of things to sort out with the flat, and all his possessions may have to be moved out of the flat, as it is a housing association property and the rent will not get paid whilst he is in the prison.  I will help her as much as I can.

Day out yesterday

Yesterday, after doing some work in the morning, I set off on a spree!  And what a good day it was too, in that respect.  I travelled from the flat prairie-like land of the Fens, to the altogether more attractive Stamford, town of the famous "George Inn" and beautiful stone houses - almost something from a television historical drama.  It is a lovely town.

I met up with Sweet Blondie Blue Eyes and her husband at Morrison's for a cup of tea, and had a wonderful hour with them.  I have been in touch with SBBE for a few years now and purchased some of her sewing before, as well as asking her to custom-make me some bean bags for gymnastics.  It was the first time we had met in person, though.

We had been planning to meet in June when the FH had an appointment at Stamford hospital for the palliative care doctor, but we had to cancel that as it was one of the days he was admitted to the hospital in a hurry.  It was good to meet at last, albeit a bit sad because the FH didn't make it to meet them too.  I did take them an order of service from the funeral as they had been planning to come to the funeral when SBBE's husband was taken ill himself that day.

Chatting, munching, reminiscing, the hour or so soon passed and we were on our separate paths home again - but I do hope to do it again one day!  I was glad that I had some photos of the girls on my phone that I could share with them, and of course, they didn't know what I looked like - but SBBE helpfully told me she would be wearing a red hat and coat and would wait by the front door so I recognised her immediately.

It was brilliant to have a bit of an away-day from everything and just to be me!  I enjoy driving so the 40 mile trip was a pleasure and the weather today made the scenery over that way all the more attractive.  I am ashamed to say that there is one less pheasant on the roads today, though, as it just didn't move and I couldn't swerve as there was a car coming the other way.

Back to the grindstone when I got home again last night, spending another 90 minutes on the phone making the calls that are my new job.

Thursday, 23 October 2014


No news might not be good news tonight.  We don't know where my stepson is........please keep praying.  

His girlfriend has not heard from him, nor from his solicitor.

His phone rings out, but no one answers it.  Texts get no response either.

The list of cases dealt with in the court today does not include his.

There seem to be so many scenarios tonight, and we just have to pray and leave it in God's hands for tonight.  I hope in a way that he IS in custody because then he will be "safe" but I also know that there is a chance that the case may have been postponed because other cases may have over run - and he may be sleeping rough somewhere tonight because leaving his girlfriend was so upsetting for him this morning that I doubt he could face going through it again tomorrow if he went home tonight.

Not knowing is the worst thing.  His girlfriend and I both now wish we had gone to the court with him, but he didn't want us to, so we didn't.  I think she will try to contact the solicitor tomorrow and I shall be watching the court page on the internet like a hawk.  

Body Shop Sale

Vee has just left a comment to say that the Body Shop website has a sale on, and that you can get a FURTHER 40% off with the voucher code "EXTRA" at the checkout.  

As she says, might be worth a look if you like their products, or need to buy Christmas presents for those who do.  However, this sale ENDS TONIGHT - so head over there now!!

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Thank you very much, Vee!

Aldi voucher today

This web page suggests that there might be a voucher in the Daily Mirror [or the Record in Scotland] for £5 off when you spend £40 in Aldi.  It is also on their Facebook page, underneath a pinned post at the top of the page, so not easily noticeable!  I shall be getting a newspaper today.

Tough day ahead

A few prayers wouldn't go amiss.  

My stepson may be in prison by bedtime.  He may not.  Hard to wait for news. 

I am also off out later on a trip which has long been postponed, so I am hoping that goes well too! 

Not too much to say this morning, but I will be back later with news, I hope.  

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Conker crazy

We have gone just a little conker crazy here this past couple of weeks!  A neighbour told us that conkers keep spiders at bay, and UJ has a couple of suitable trees in his garden, so he turned up two Wednesdays ago with a basket of conkers for us.

I distributed them amongst a selection of small glass bowls, and now almost every windowsill in the house is adorned by a small but decorative bowl of conkers.  We didn't just go for the one bowl that the neighbour has in his conservatory - oh, no!  Every room here!

But, do you know, we haven't had the YFG screaming at me to "get" a spider in all that time?!  I am sufficiently convinced that the conkers are doing the trick that they now have a permanent place here.  I dare say that we might see the occasional arachnid visiting, but if the number remains much reduced, I shan't mind the odd one!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014


Finding 5 minutes to sit down and relax sometimes means that I look around and feel bad about all the things which are still to be done.

Tina over at The Quiet Home posted a link to a fantastic article in her post yesterday, and I was pleased to read that sitting with my knitting is actually good for my health!  Saying that we should choose "needles over Netflix" the article explains how crafts are good for the brain, the joints and the spirits too!

Just lately, since I have started the new job, I have had to find something different to do for twenty minutes or half an hour whilst I have a cup of tea in between sessions on the computer, and sometimes I do things like pushing the hoover around or hanging out the washing, but other times, I take the time to just sit and knit.....and it is great!

Some time ago, I remember reading on Rhonda's blog at Down To Earth that she and Hanno take time each morning to stop for morning tea together, and just take some time to relax for a few minutes, and I think that that is a great idea.

I have just started, in the last two weeks, to make a weekly list of jobs I need to do - things like the cleaning chores, cleaning out the chooks and the rabbit, paperwork and bills that need attention - and making sure that I try to get most of them crossed off by the end of the week.  Today I have cleaned the bathrooms, completed the ironing and put it away in the airing cupboard, changed the beds and cut the front lawn, for example, so I feel satisfied that I have done some of the jobs on the list, even though there are plenty of things left for the rest of the week!

I think pacing oneself is the name of the game!  Knitting keeps me out of mischief and away from the shops too.....

Monday, 20 October 2014

RIP Lynda Bellingham

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It has just been announced on BBC Breakfast that the lovely Lynda Bellingham died yesterday.

How sad that she didn't manage to have the last Christmas with her family that she had wanted.

In the kitchen this week

I have come across a good resource that you might like to have a look at.  A home cook shares 40 recipes for slow cooker food, but with a slight twist.  The meals are frozen in bags in their raw state, but with all the ingredients together in a bag, seasonings and all.  She removes one meal from the freezer the night before the family want to eat it, and in the morning, when it is thawed, it is all popped straight into the slow cooker, so that it is ready to eat when they are all home from school and work in the evening.  All they usually do is add cook fresh veggies to accompany the main meal at the last minute.  I like this idea - the thought of having all the prep work done is great!

This week we have to finish off some of the suggestions from last week which we didn't get around to eating - and the slow cooker beef stew was brilliant so I am looking forward to the leftovers one night.

Slow cooker beef stew leftovers
Corned beef hash/cold corned beef with mash
Baked potatoes with tuna/cheese/beans

And some things we haven't had for a while:

Sticky chicken, served with rice and veggies
Meatballs with spaghetti for the YFG and mash for me

And I am sure that there will be a night for raiding the freezer for easy meals - I know that there are leftovers in there:

Lasagne/mozzarella spaghetti/scampi and chips - for the YFG

On a night when she is having one of those, I am quite likely to opt for a quick veggie risotto!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Harvest Festival

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Today is one of my favourite services at the chapel, when we have the village brass band in to play the hymns for us.  They usually have a little set in the middle of the service and bash out some tunes of their own choice as well as the hymns.  They are really good, and people come from all over the circuit for this service.  Ours is one of the last Harvest celebrations in the circuit, and so most of the other churches have already had theirs and people are keen to come and share in one last fling at Harvest!  

A baker from the north of the circuit has made a wheatsheaf out of bread, and it has been to several of the other harvest services - he has told me that he has given it to our minister in order that we can have it on display this afternoon - so I just hope he remembers to bring it along!

There will be a Harvest Supper and auction of donated produce on Tuesday which will involve plenty of preparation and perspiration, I am afraid, but it is a lovely tradition and I love it!!  Personally, I would prefer to encourage people to bring items suitable for donation to the local food bank, but it is hard to change traditions so I shall continue to work on that one.