Sunday, 30 November 2014

A Wonderful Surprise

I was really lucky to be pulled out of the hat for a gift swap on Simple Living's blog.  Look what arrived yesterday!  It all came in a lovely Christmas red gift bag.  Thank you Simple Living :)
I am going to be really good and keep everything wrapped until the big day because we don't get many gifts nowadays and these will make the day really special...
This morning started off quite sunny but the light soon vanished so I have been struggling to try and finish my Christmas cards.  It's so difficult to match colours in artificial light so I had to stick with the ones that I already knew worked together.  I'll get there in the end.  Tomorrow I will tell you about my participation in the Streetbank Advent.  If you want to see what it's all about do check out Frugal Queen's blog.  That's where I found it.
Thanks ever so for popping in x

Saturday, 29 November 2014

FREE Fruit & Veg And My Wheels Are Back

Whoop whoop! I have my car back!  It has cost an eye watering £312.62 but it was returned to me at 7pm last night, just in time to save DH from going to work on the bus this morning (it wouldn't have hurt him now, would it ;)  Fingers crossed when I say this but it seems OK, no damage to the engine, thankfully.
Yesterday, my lovely Father in Law gave me 2 Sun newspaper vouchers for Morrisons fruit & veg.  By spending £10 it gave me £5 off so this lot here cost me just £5.82 I am really pleased with that as I want to ramp up our intake of fruit & veg now that the weather is turning colder.  I have some sausages in the freezer so Sunday lunch is sorted....sausages (veggie ones for me)  lots of veg and gravy.  That will leave plenty of veg for a veggie stew, peppers for omelettes, cauliflower cheese etc and baked apples with custard. Yum!
I tried to give away my spare voucher in the store but nobody wanted it. One gentleman carefully adding up his items with a calculator already had a voucher and other people didn't want to spend even £5 on fruit & veg. Astonishing really when they were filling their trolleys with alcohol, ready meals and expensive nibbles.
I wanted to pop into M & S to look at the reductions and remembered that I had a voucher for the coffee shop.  A reviving medium filter coffee cost £2 and I got 3 slices of brown toast, butter and marmalade FREE.  Although small slices of bread, I could only eat 2 so I buttered the third, wrapped it in my serviette and popped it into my bag for later.  Does anyone else feel guilty slipping perfectly good uneaten food into a bag for later?  I hate waste but hope that people don't think I am penniless :)
I hope you are all having a good day and surviving the crowds if you have to shop today.
Thanks ever so for popping in x

Friday, 28 November 2014

Black Friday Mayhem

I have just been watching news footage on the mayhem of so-called Black Friday shopping.  What the ....??  Grown men and women fighting over a TV or some such, sleeping outside shops to be the first over the threshold then battering each other to get their hands on a prized item.  One poor woman was hit on the head with a TV.  How can it be worth all the hassle.  It's yet another tradition that has come from the US along with Trick or Treat and school proms and which I heartily wish had stayed Stateside.  Look at the proms, parents nagged or on a guilt trip to buy their daughters a dress costing, in many cases, a couple of hundred pounds and which will only be worn for one night.  It's total insanity.

It got me thinking about my own schooldays and Christmases past.  I was the middle one of 3 children, my sister being 10 years older and having left home by the time I was 6. We each had a pillowcase hung on the bottom of the bed on Christmas Eve.  When we woke and excitedly unwrapped our presents we had things like an annual, some chocolate (one year I had a chocolate shaped like a record wrapped in gold! ), a scarf, gloves and one good toy like a doll for me & a Meccano set for little brother.  The other gifts in the pillowcase were given by family members but made to look as if Santa brought them (crafty eh?)  One year our paternal Nan had knitted me a yellow cardigan with two pockets in and in one she had tucked a little bottle of scent in a bear shaped bottle.  I really thought I was the bees knees then!  I never felt deprived but I always felt that something was missing because the family spent Christmas day alone.  No other family members visiting and no telephone so no calls either.  As I reached around age 10 or 11 my maternal grandparents had moved to a bungalow around the corner from our house.  They were getting on a bit so mum would cook some extra Christmas dinner and I would get the task of carrying four plates (one plate plus one inverted on top to keep the dinner warm times two)  Many a time I carried those precious dinners through the snow, never once dropping anything :)  Nan & granddad were always pleased to see me and made a lovely fuss, then I would trudge back through the snow to eat my own dinner.  By then, of course, the rest of the family had eaten but mine had been kept warm in the oven.  Boy, did it taste good after being out in the cold!

The first thing I did when we got married was to invite family members to celebrate Christmas with us in our new (to us) home.  This was often on Christmas Eve or sometimes Boxing Day and my Sister and her family, Brother and his family plus both sets of parents would come.  Food would be simple, usually a buffet and we would have games like bingo with cheap prizes.  It was lovely.  We didn't have much money and no car for the first year of our marriage but it created some happy memories.

Does anyone else have happy memories of simpler Christmases past? Or do you wish you had done something different?  I would love to hear about it.

Thanks ever so for popping in x

Thursday, 27 November 2014

An Expensive Day

photo courtesy of Google
I'm afraid it is not good news regarding my little car.  The light of dawn showed a puddle of oil beneath my car and a hole the size of a 50p piece in the sump :(   It has been towed away for repair and I know that the recovery costs alone will be £60 to £70.  Heaven knows what the total bill will amount to.  I'm just so glad I was sufficiently organised this year to have bought all the Christmas gifts well ahead of time. What a blow. Still there are people having to cope with far worse things than that and no-one was hurt...that's the main thing.  At the moment we are car-less so it should be good for the waistline having to walk everywhere...

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Life Can Be Mean

Another quick post today, I'm afraid, and it's a moan :(

Today we decided to have a day out. A one off. Something we don't normally do. So we took a trip to Worcester. Not for anything special, you understand, just a look around the shops and treat ourselves to a bit of lunch out.  It was lovely. Four whole hours of mooching and a lovely bowl of soup in Debenhams. At 4pm we set off home, a few miles to go, DH about to overtake another vehicle and clatter!  For a split second I saw Something in the middle of the road...a piece of wood...a piece of metal...I don't know...but we clipped it and with an almighty clatter it hit the underside of the vehicle.  Of course, DH pulled over as soon as possible  and all appeared well but as soon as we got home the oil light appeared on the dashboard.  I had only had it checked and the car MOT'd yesterday so I am gutted.

I have to be grateful that no-one was hurt but it's my little car, not posh, not expensive but mine and less than 4 years old. Damn and blast it (sorry for my profanity but I feel justified) We will have to look at it tomorrow as it's impossible to see anything in the dark. In the scheme of things it is a minor blip but booger it...grrr...

Do you sometimes feel that life has a go at you? That it will not let you sail along gently? 

Hope today has been kind to you dear reader.

Thanks ever so for popping in x

Monday, 24 November 2014

More Bargainacious Spuds

Hello to my new follower, Twiggypeasticks, I love your name :)

Just a quick post today.  Do you remember these...

They are on offer once again in Morrisons at £2 for a 12.5kg bag. This time the variety is Sante so I don't know how they perform but for the price they are well worth a try. They should store well in a cool dry place.  My last bag is still in the shed and they are fine, I just fetch a few indoors every few days. More mash tonight on veggie shepherd's pie. Yes, I know it's a contradiction in terms but quorn mince instead of lamb is a winner in my book :)

Thanks ever so for popping in x

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Childish Pleasures

During the half term break I offered to look after the two GC while their mum was at work.  I always try to plan activities to keep us all occupied and to nip squabbles firmly in the bud and this time it was 'baking' well, actually, no bake cornflake cakes.  The eldest has an innate sense of fairness so the chocolate was divided very carefully into two equal portions and they were absorbed in melting, mixing and popping portions into paper cases for quite some time.  Result! No squabbles!  It took me back to when my two were small...happy days...
The next activity was crafting, which they both love.  After a quick beans on toast for lunch (the kids had to show me how to work the microwave (well it's different to mine!) some simple felt shapes were stitched and decorated with immense concentration and again....NO squabbles.  They each produced a penguin, a couple of stockings to hang on the tree and some quilled pictures. 

In no time at all, mum was back and I was amazed how quickly six and a half hours had gone.  It got me thinking that Nan has a much better time of it than working mum.  I can remember being far too busy to spend so much time with my own.  There were jobs to be done even in the holidays, washing, cooking, shopping.  How lucky am I now to be able to give the children all my attention.  THAT is my Small Treasure for today.

Thanks ever so for popping in x

Friday, 21 November 2014

Slow Cooker Bargain and A Swollen Finger

I have been reading all the recipes & tips regarding slow cookers and decided that one might be a money saver for us too.  The prices vary wildly and I'm reluctant to spend too much in case it doesn't get used enough.  After much research I bought this yesterday.  It cost £16.99 but Sainsbury's have the 'double up' offer on the Nectar points.  I swapped 1000 points for a £10 voucher so, in effect, this only cost me £6.99 cash....well worth a try, I think.

It has a proper crockpot (not aluminium), 2 heat settings plus a keep warm feature and a 'power on' light and should make 4 good servings of whatever I decide to make.  Now for another recipe search!

A couple of months ago I injured my ring finger. I was (insert an embarrassed face) playing a game with my Grandson and bent my finger back sharply causing it to throb and swell.  Luckily, I removed my rings before they got stuck and waited for the swelling to go down.  I waited...and waited...with no luck.  Now I have been married for 43 years and it felt really weird not wearing rings so I decided that I needed my ring re-sizing.  It has come up beautifully! Polished and looking like new but 3, yes 3 sizes bigger.  Bearing in mind that my ring cost £6 new and £25.99 to stretch it (no extra gold added) it was an expensive game of rough and tumble...

Now I need to save up to get my engagement ring re-sized too....That'll teach me to think I am still a kid :)

Thanks ever so for popping in x

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Sunday Chuckle

A friend has emailed this to me this morning and I thought I might share...

photo courtesy of Google

Now that I'm older, here's what I've discovered

1. I started out with nothing, and I still have most of it.

2. My wild oats are mostly enjoyed with prunes and all-bran.

4. Funny, I don't remember being absent-minded

5. Funny, I don't remember being absent-minded.

6. If all is not lost, then where the heck is it?

7. It was a whole lot easier to get older than it was to get wiser.

8. Some days, you're the top dog, some days you're the tree.

9. I wish the buck really did stop here, I sure could use a few of them.

10. Kids in the back seat cause accidents.

11. Accidents in the back seat cause kids.

12. It's hard to make a comeback when you haven't been anywhere.

13. The world only beats a path to your door when you're in the bathroom.

14. If God wanted me to touch my toes, he'd have put them on my knees.

15. When I'm finally holding all the right cards, everyone wants to play chess

16. It's not hard to meet expenses . . . They're everywhere.

17. The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.

18. These days, I spend a lot of time thinking about the hereafter . . .I go somewhere to get something, and then wonder what I'm "here after".

19. Funny, I don't remember being absent-minded.

20. Have I sent this message to you before...or did I get it from you?

Have a lovely day everyone and thanks ever so for popping in x

Saturday, 15 November 2014

A Roman Villa & A Shimmer

Hello Joanne, welcome! Thanks for clicking and becoming a follower :)

At the hotel we stayed at there was the remains of an amazing Roman villa in the grounds (AD 360?)The Orpheus mosaic was discovered in 1728 and re-buried in 1730, probably in order to preserve it, then re-discovered in 1977.  Almost half of it had been destroyed by the elements but it was painstakingly restored using modern terracotta so that now we can imagine how beautiful and vibrant it must have been during Roman times. The circle (probably) depicts the Four Seasons:

  • Kore/Persephone
  • Aphrodite/Venus
  • Nemesis/Leda
  • Demeter

 It is so beautiful and I felt quite in awe of the workmanship.

As you can see, although a cover has been built over it and railings put up to prevent people damaging it further, birds and the elements are still able to get onto the mosaic.  Maybe it needs to have a glass cover....

Actually it's quite exciting to still be able to walk inside the villa walls and imagine how it must have felt to live there all those centuries ago.  It was built quite close to the river, just a matter of yards in fact, so would there have been flooding, I wonder?  How much deeper would the water have been?  Who lived there?  Soldiers or a whole community?  Apparently, hotel guests and staff have heard feet tramping through the dark as if soldiers were on the march....

Inside the hotel are several cabinets containing many artefacts which have been found in the vicinity, and which are now on loan from the museum. Wow....

Whilst exploring we found this......I would NOT like to sleep in this one!

This next photo was taken in the Long Gallery next to the Haunted Bedroom and this is where I struggled to take certain photos.  At first, I couldn't get a shot of this at all, it just shimmered, then suddenly I was allowed to take one.  Behind the yellow flag is a small gap in the wood panelling which exposes some of the original flint wall.  I couldn't snap this at all but I did get a shot of DH trying with his own camera.  He just got a shimmer too....

I was way too wary to touch the exposed bit of wall.  I am such a wuss!

Does anyone else love historical sites?  I so wish I had paid more attention to history lessons at school but there is no substitute for actually * feeling * the history.  Is anyone out there into archaeology?

Thanks ever so for popping in x

Friday, 14 November 2014

How The Other Half Live & A Real Treat

We have spent the last few days having a combined treat for my special birthday and our wedding anniversary.  The place was Littlecote House Hotel in Berkshire, a Warner's hotel... the photo shows the old part at the rear of the hotel.  We have been a few times before over the years and I absolutely love the place because there is just so much history to investigate.  Parts of it pre-date Tudor times and it is the third most haunted house in Britain!

I couldn't believe our luck when we were able to book 4 nights in the brand new stable block conversion for LESS than half price! The room was sumptuous, there was no other word to describe it :)  In front of the comfy blue sofa was a large Smart TV too, not that we had much spare time to watch it as there was so much to do .....

The bathroom contained a lovely roll top bath with a very convenient table to put your glass of bubbly on (only kidding ;)

As well as a shower cubicle big enough for two! The photo doesn't do it justice.

I adored the exposed beams in the bedroom, not for everyone I know, but they were right up my street...

We were given some new towelling slippers to wear (not very glamorous with warm socks though! ) but although we were supposed to have complimentary bathrobes there were none.  Apparently the tumble dryer broke down...hmmm....a hotel in a large chain with 150 staff and NO bathrobes?  I would not have been best pleased had we paid full price but it really didn't matter a jot as things stood.

Anyway, I began to wonder if we might feel the presence of any of the ghostly beings but we encountered only three strange things:

1) the light bulbs kept popping.  Three of them failed and had to be replaced and one of the replacements started going on and off almost immediately.  Bear in mind that they were halogen bulbs with a 5 year guarantee and the rooms had only been converted 3 months previously....

2) on returning in the car from an afternoon out, I was about to lock the car up when the car radio switched itself on!  Now this has never happened in the 4 years I have owned it.  There was no-one in the car and a button has to be pressed on the radio to activate it....

3) in certain parts of the hotel (the oldest parts) my camera wouldn't lock on certain items, I just got a shimmer of light.  DH tried with his camera and got the same effect...oooh er...

Has anyone else encountered strange happenings in hotels?  Do tell!

I will post more tomorrow but for now,

thanks ever so for popping in x

PS We paid for our holiday and this review is totally unsolicited by the hotel group.  Opinions are solely my own and posted for my own amusement and, hopefully, the enjoyment of any readers.  Thanks.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Wrap Up Well

I will probably be unable to post for the next few days as we are taking a few days away on holiday.  The hotel does have internet access but these connections are notoriously slow so I might be able to read other blogs but not respond to them either.  Fear not, I will return at the weekend!  Meanwhile take care and wrap up warm :)

photo courtesy of Google

Thanks ever so for popping in x

Sunday, 9 November 2014

On Remembrance Sunday

First, a big welcome to Starnitesky, my new follower.  What a lovely name :)

photo courtesy of Google

Today is Remembrance Sunday and I couldn't let it pass without adding my own heartfelt thanks to all those men and women who have lost their lives protecting others.  I have closely watched the news relating to the current conflict, cried when the young bodies were brought home and sighed with despair that nothing changes and the world will not become peaceful.  I never really understood the horror of the first world war until now.  We MUST never forget the ones who have given their lives.  The young widows (or widowers in some cases) struggling to bring up their children alone, the men and women who suffer physical and mental ill health after being involved in conflict, they all  need our help.  Each year I have bought a poppy but over the last two or three years I have donated to Help for Heroes, Forces Support and other such charities.  I will re-double my efforts.  It's the least I can do....

Thanks ever so for popping in x

Friday, 7 November 2014

Winter Draws On!

Today is wet, cold and miserable . I know we have been spoiled somewhat with the mild Autumn we have been having but today I opened the curtains and saw this ....

The windows were running with condensation so that signals the end of drying washing indoors on the airer.  The tumble dryer will need to be utilised from now on.  Although I have been trying to reduce our electricity consumption, it seems counterproductive to allow damp into our home.
 So tumble dryer it is.

I am getting into the mood for Christmas albeit early so I cleaned the windows and put out my new light cone.

I feel cosier already :-)

Are you in the mood for Christmas and cosying up yet?

Thanks so much for popping in x

Monday, 3 November 2014

Bargainacious Spuds & a Hotpot

Today I went to do my weekly shop at Morrisons and found these, a 12.5kg bag of British grown Estima potatoes on offer at £3.49    £2.00   Well, as they worked out at just 16p per kilo it was a 'no brainer' as they say.  I've used Estima many times and they are a good all-rounder.

I half expected smallish potatoes but they range from a good baking potato size to a decent peeler for roasties or boiling too. So...if you have a Mr M store locally, I would grab yourself a bag pronto.  They keep pretty well if you leave them in the brown sack in a cool dark place (ours goes in the shed) so I feel lots of winter mash coming on!

Tonight I made a veggie hotpot.  I don't eat meat so I use cheese for my protein fix. I just sautéed the onion and leek in a splash of oil to soften, added chopped carrot and broccoli, then a tablespoon of flour to thicken.  1.25pints of veg stock went in next, a bit of ground black pepper & a teaspoon of dried sage.  The whole lot went into the big dish....

I topped it with sliced potato (par-boiled for 10 minutes) and about 100g of cheese and popped it in the oven at 180 degrees for 45 mins.

Sorry about the photo quality but it was getting dark by then :(

As you can see there is quite a bit of sauce so we eat ours out of a big pasta-type dish and have a slice of crusty bread for mopping.  It will serve 4 people easily, especially with crusty bread for the hearty appetites.

I did a rough costing:

Splash of oil                              10p
3 onions (from a 50p bag)         20p
1 leek (bendy from fridge)        25p
Head of broccoli                       49p
4 carrots (from a 50p bag)        20p
Veg stock from cubes               5p   (free if you make your own)
Tbsp flour  (guess-timate)         1p   (value range)
Dash of sage                              5p
3 large potatoes (750g)           12p
100g cheddar                           50p
(from bargain pack)                  

TOTAL                              £1.97

This works out at around 50p a portion plus any bread.

The beauty of this recipe is that you can use whatever veg you have in whatever proportions you like.  Swede, cauliflower, sweetcorn etc all work well in it too and if I'm feeling flush I substitute 1/4 pint of dry cider for 1/4 pint of stock.  It just makes for a sweeter sauce :)

I hope someone has found this helpful but if I've made an error in my cost calculations do tell me.  I'm not very good at writing things down!

Thanks for popping in x

Saturday, 1 November 2014

A Secret and a Treat

Phew!  Back in blogland! Who would think you could miss the internet so much?  I will really have to keep an eye on our broadband usage in future and eke out our allowance over the whole month.  I really don't want to pay to upgrade.

Now I will tell you a secret.  Today is my birthday...a milestone one... a biggie.  Come closer and I will whisper it... today I am (shh...65 years old :-/) I really don't know where all my youth has gone.  In my mind I am still thirty something but my body tells a different story.  Anyway, I have been saving up and a couple of weeks ago I treated myself to this...

Of course, I had to try it out straight away and I have discovered that I still find it hard to sew a straight line! lol... but below is my first attempt...

Not too bad so I my first make was an obligatory pin cushion so that I don't drop pins and needles all over the floor.

I have some great pieces of fabric which I bought really cheaply on the internet so my next make was a little bag to keep my thread and scissors in.  I set the handles wide so that I can sling it across the back of a dining chair while I work.  It's not perfect and I wouldn't like to show a close up of my stitching! but it is lined with the same dotty fabric I made the handles with. It will come in handy...

I had a go at making pinwheels thanks to Cornish Chickpea's excellent tutorial.  I did manage it, as her instructions are brilliant but I need a bit more practice before I make some good enough to quilt with.

I fancied a bit more felt work too and made these to hang on the Christmas tree.  The heart shaped one is stuffed with real Norfolk lavender as well as a bit of wadding, and it smells gorgeous.

I might make more of these in pastel colours and fill them with lavender as they will make acceptable stocking fillers and they are such a pleasure to make.

We will soon be on countdown to the big day, folks.  Is anyone having a big get-together?  How many do you cater for?  We will number just 7 and DD is doing the cooking, bless her.  The most I ever catered for was 11, I think, and I remember it being very hard work getting the timing right!

Thanks ever so for popping in x

30 a Week Challenge Day 7

Saturday meals: Breakfast: Porridge oats with cinnamon (1/4 point) Lunch : Lunch was a bit of a cheat.  I saw this little pot of Red Thai st...