Monday, 30 April 2012

Dogs and Flowers



We arrived back home last night with Sophie, who had been up in Scotland with Lovely Hubby helping his sister get Mum's house ready to go on the market.  A sad weekend for them.  I had a girly weekend with my Mum, a spot of shopping, a lot of coffee and a lot of memories.  We came back home with a truck full of bits and pieces from both houses, bits and pieces full of memories.



First thing this morning it was time to get my two little hooligans out of kennels, to say they were pleased to see me would be an understatement.



After a mad half hour running round the paddocks they settled down to lie in the sun.  Its been a calming day after a busy weekend.

Lovely flowers like the ones in the picture at the top are all around the house.  We finished this evening off with a walk through the woods trying in vain not to stand on too many Bluebells, it's looking gorgeous.

Sue xx

Sunday, 29 April 2012

I'll be back......


I'll be back at my desk tomorrow.




Drinking from the cup that says it all.




Looking at the lovely pictures on some of my favourite Blogs.

See you soon.


Sue xx

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Panic Peanut Chomping



Can you count how many little birds are queuing for the last of the peanuts?

(if you need to make the picture bigger, simply click on it)



Clue - there's one less in the second picture!!


(That's if I've got it right....Lol.)

Don't worry I've been out and got them some more, supplies will soon be back to normal in all the feeders and fatball holders, no more panic peanut chomping for our little feathered friends.

Sue xx

Friday, 27 April 2012

A Hard Life!!



Gosh.......it's a hard life!!



Suky xx

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Preparations


Well it's that time of year on my calender, time to start preparing for the Live Below the Line Challenge, see HERE for the official page.

The foods above were purchased when I played my last Joker in Asda the other week in preparation.  I just wouldn't have been able to afford them in individual high street shops, it's a shame, but I think that highlights the power of the Big Supermarkets (pulls sad face and carries on).  I'm being good this year and giving myself lots of time to plan and shop around.  I used mysupermarket to compare prices and found that Asda was the best for what I needed.

In total they came to £1.98, so I still have £3.02 to shop with.  I have been reading back over the Blog posts I did last year when I did this Challenge for the first time. 

You can have a peek at them by clicking on the top 'Live Below the Line' picture on my sidebar.  As you click on the picture it will take you to the first Post, when you have read that simply click on 'Newer Posts' at the end of the comments section and you will be able to read them all in order.




It's a good job I did, I found I missed veggies and fruit the most, which is why at the end of the growing season last year I managed to squirrel away lots of homegrown goodies in my freezer ready for this year.  Blanched carrots, celery, white cabbage and a tiny bit of brocolli and then last week I froze the last of the Leeks that grew over Winter.  All I have coming up fresh for this year is a tray of Mixed Leaves and a 15 Radishes and a pot of Cress.  I am nurturing these little babies carefully I need them to be of an edible size by the 7th May, fingers crossed.  These veggies have cost me so little to grow, it shows the power of the home grower versus the supermarket.  I sat with my calculator working out the costs for all my crops and I was pleasantly surprised at how little it costs to 'grow your own'.

Supermarket Celery (the cheapest I could find) 68p a head  -  Homegrown 0.3p !!


Looking at last years posts, I read that I discovered some potatoes in the soil the week after doing the challenge, I wonder if there will be any left back at our old place that I could go and dig up, I'll have to have a think about that, it wouldn't be worth the petrol to go and just do that, but if we are picking up a trailer load of rotted manure it would be worth a peek!!

A shock discovery, although I should have guessed, was how much the price of those cheap supermarket lines has risen on some items.

Pasta - last year 9p  -  this year 30p
Curry Sauce - last year 5p  -  this year 23p

However the rice has come down in price from 49p last year to 40p this year.  I really don't know how that can be, it would appear that some prices are just plucked out of thin air to compete with other shops and bare no relation whatsoever to the actual cost of producing these foods.

Last year I ate my own hens eggs and they cost me 7p each, I was worried about our lack of egg supply for this year, so I priced up instead our Pekin eggs and they cost me just 3p each to produce (I  included the price of the hens, their foods, bedding and treats in my calculations), so as you need 2 Pekin eggs in place of one large egg I am actually saving a few pennies here.  Good result!!

I will Blog about my food costs and daily menus over the course of the week of 7th - 11th May, I hope you will follow my progress and even join in.  Take my advice though if you are thinking about doing it PLAN AHEAD!!

Once again I am trying to raise a little bit of money while I do this, if you would like to sponsor me, even if only 50p or a Pound I would be thrilled.  You can get to my personal sponsor page HERE, you'll know you're on the right page you'll see me and my pet cabbage!!

Thank you.

*** *** *** *** ***

I'm off to Manchester for a girly weekend with my Mum, we have coffee to drink, lunch to partake of and shopping to do, it's hard work but someone has to do it  ( big cheesy grin) !!

I'll leave you a couple of lovely little photos that will flash up each day on the Blog while I'm away.

Bye for now.

Sue xx

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Eggs and Chickens


We get one 'big' egg a day at the moment, it's off Lofty, our Light Sussex, she's the white one in the video below.  Our other girls, our five remaining Hylines are now in retirement, they've laid their last eggs and are now enjoying their days in the sun, well they would if it would come back, at the moment they seem to spend most of their time in the Eglu 'bus shelter' (we've taken the house off the end and left them with the covered run area) or under one of the houses sheltering from this persistent rain.


Our Hylines are rescued free-rangers, hens that lived their lives with an average of 3,000 other birds in an artificially lit shed with access to the outside.  The shyer girls tend not to get outside much and live out their days pecking around the shed, with food that tumbles down conveyors regularly and other conveyors that take away their eggs as soon as they are laid.  It's a sad little life but not as sad at the battery system or the enriched cage system or even the barn system, they at least get the chance of fresh air everyday and access to the great outdoors if they want it.


The only trouble is after around 16 months, when they go into a big moult and when their little bodies can no longer guarantee an egg every single day they are taken away and slaughtered for pet food usually.  Some lucky little hens like mine are re-homed and get to live their lives as real free rangers, giving their lucky new owners the occasional egg, usually for another year or so, and the pleasure of their company.



Well I've had my girls for over a year now which makes them over 3 years old, if they were pure bred birds, not hybrids  they would probably have longer lives, but these birds are bred to be in good health for only that first 16 months, their little bodies are designed for minimum food intake and maximum egg output.

  If they had been free rangers all their lives with normal lighting levels to allow their little bodies to rest more over Winter, they would most likely still be laying a couple of eggs a week and would not be in retirement until at least next year.  I'm glad I helped these little birds have a taste of real free ranging, but this now means that I am experiencing on a regular basis the downside to this.  Yesterday I lost another.  A simple sad death, she quietened and wound herself down, like a little clockwork chicken over the course of a couple of days and died comfortably in her nest box with the little laying Pekins by her side.

A sad day for me, a little No-Namer gone forever.  But I knew her, she knew me, I cuddled her, she knew freedom and sunshine and the close companionship of our little flock.


video

This little film was taken the other day, on her last day out playing in the sun, she's the one that starts off in front of the log and moves over to the plastic bowl.  The little Pekin making all the noise is Little Lucy, she is now Head Girl of the chickens, and calls constantly to the others and especially her daughters Poppy and Daisy, our other Pekin is called Alice.

The happy days in Chicken World far outweigh the sad ones.

Sue xx

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

My Little Remoska


Well my Remoska is actually the Standard version, you can also get the Grand Remoska which is obviously larger and suitable for bigger families,  The Standard is suitable for 2 - 4 people and I think the Grand for 4 - 6 people.  There used to be a 'Baby Remoska' too but that is unavailable, shame I bet it was a little cutie!!

I bought mine from Lakeland just after Christmas when I had a money off voucher and decided to treat myself to something useful.  After three years with an Aga and the joy of permanently having a heat source I was determined not to go mad wasting electricity by the overuse of the electric oven in this new place. Since I mentioned it on a Blog post the other day I've had a few comments and emails asking me to explain what it is and how I use it.  Well if you pop over to Lakeland using the link in the first paragraph they will explain what it is better than me.  But I will tell you what I have used it for up to now.  Starting with last nights tea, which was a 'make it up as you go along' type of tea!!


It was Veggie Sausage Casserole (of a ricey type).


A jar of homemade Garlic and Tomato sauce was emptied in then 6 veggie sausages, two for me, four for Lovely Hubby (yes, he guessed they were veggie but ate them anyway).


I added half a cup of rice... decided it looked too orange...



...so I added some broccoli thatwas lurking in the bottom of the fridge.




Then I popped the lid on and turned it on, this is the easy bit, there are no temperatures to choose from you just turn it on and you're off.



I packed away all the bits that I had got out to photograph to show you...



... they live here directly over the cooker, handy and ready for use.  The main Remoska sits happily on the cooker top always ready for action and to remind me to actually use it when I'm planning a meal.

I didn't take a picture of the actual casserole when it was ready, LH came home from work late and it was slightly too cooked, but it was still tasty. I had added some frozen peas after the rest of the casserole was almost cooked and then dropped in some pre-cooked stuffing balls to warm up in the sauce for the last five minutes (or what I thought was the last five minutes!!).




This is what I actually have -

The Standard Remoska £109.99

Standard Remoska Pan Separator £18.99

Standard Remoska Rack £7.99

Shallow Pan £31.99 (it comes with the deep pan)

Remoska Cooking Book £9.99

So you can see it was quite a major investment for me, but it's one that should last me and providing I use it often will repay me quickly with saved electricity.  It simply plugs in to a normal socket and is portable and lightweight enough to use if you go on holiday, either in caravans or self catering cottages etc.  There is minimal washing up as the lid just needs a wipe once it has cooled down (that is where the heat source is) and the cooking pan can be popped in the sink with the rest of your pots.  I cut myself two bits of teflon cooking sheet to pop in the bottom when I am baking so I don't have to grease it.

I bought the Pan Separator so I could do both veggie and non-veggie dishes simultaneously, I usually put Lh's meaty bit in it and leave the veggie casserole or sauce underneath.

I have also used it to cook

Jacket Potatoes
Scones
Bread Rolls
Vegetables
Meat Stew
Curry

I will keep on trying it out for other things and I may even use one of the recipes from the book when I get round to reading it!!  I think I will try a cake recipe next,  Frugal Queen had some brilliant ones on her Blog the other day, I'm very tempted.

(I must point out that this IS NOT a sponsored post or an advert for Lakeland or Remoska, merely in answer to lots of your questions, a pleasure to do, thanks for asking them.)

Sue xx


Monday, 23 April 2012

My Sunshine Award



I've been given a lovely award by Mrs Thrifty from New Beginnings, thank you!! 

And here are my responses to the questions.

1. Favourite Colour - that would have to be green, that lovely shade of retro green that adorns so many houses in Oxfordshire and has followed us on our furniture and fixtures and fittings to Berkshire.

2.  Favourite Animal - that would be cat, I have always had cats.  Ranging in number from one when I was little (I got Bluey for my first birthday) to four now.  The numbers go up and down and but there is always room in my house for one more cat.  My internet nickname is 'sue15cat', but I don't think I will ever get that many!!

3.  Favourite Number - that would have to be 13, it's a number that has cropped up time and time again in our family.  My Mum was born on the 13th, married on the13th.  Both my parents, and me and my first husband were married after 13 months of 'courting'.  Dad died 13 days after Mum's birthday and since his death it's cropped up even more.  We were sat eating a meal together in a restaurant to celebrate my birthday when we suddenly realised that our table was number 13, Dad was with us!!  We're never spooked it's always comforting.

4.  Favourite Non-Alcoholic Drink - Coffee   (Fave Alcoholic drink - Cider)

5.  Facebook or Twitter - I do both, but I would have to say Facebook is the favourite, as that's how I can keep in touch with our families who are spread out all over the UK.

6.  What's my Passion - That would be a triple one - Reading, Planting and fresh air.  When I've finished planting and gardening and I can sit outside with a good book or magazine and drink coffee I am in heaven!

7.  Giving or Receiving -  I like to give, I don't need anything at the moment and I hate surprises, so giving me something is slightly dangerous!!

8.  Favourite Pattern - Paisley, I love it.  A close second would be spots.

9.  Favourite Day - Sunday, it's a day for relaxing , for doing what you want and what you need to do.  When people that do work and people that don't work are usually all off and can visit each other or phone each other and reconnect.  I hate that it seems to have morphed into a National Shopping Day.  With folks pouring into shops and malls to spend their hard earned cash on things they don't really need and making shops need employees working and not having time with their families.

10. Favourite Flower - Primrose.  I was born on Primrose Day in 1960 and the little friendly flower has popped up over and over again in my life and my family's.  Where we live at the moment there are so many wild and cultivated little Primrose plants it's as though this place was waiting for me. 

Mum was hunting for some Primroses to accompany Dad's coffin, to be a little sea of simplicity in amongst all the big sprays of lemon and white flowers we had chosen, and though she searched far and wide through the florists of Manchester she couldn't get hold of any.  Then she went to water the Primulas I bought her for her birthday and in amongst them was a little Primrose in the tenderest shade of lemon.  It was quickly potted up in a lovely white pot and took centre stage in the church.

*** *** ***
Thank you again Mrs Thrifty for passing this Award to me.  Although this is officially an Award and Tag Free Blog I have loved joining in and would like to pass it to anyone who would like to have a go.

Sue xx

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Strawberries



Time to plant the strawberries in their new bed I think!!  This wonderful little picture reminded me that they are lying abandoned in their temporary troughs since the move.

They look healthy though after all this rain.

Hey ho hey ho it's off to work I go.

Sue xx

Saturday, 21 April 2012

It's the Happiness Revolution


Lots of folk have been doing this and who am I to stand in the way of a revolution!!

Ten Thing That Are Making Me Happy at the Moment

1.  It's the growing season again and I've got the first of my veggie seeds planted in the greenhouse at last.

2.  There are flowers popping their heads up all over this new place of ours, we were told to watch out for bursts of colour and to be slow with the weeding (I'm very good at being slow with the weeding!!).

3.  Suky is snoring under the desk as I type this, she has brightened my days recently with her funny little ways.

4.  Lovely Hubby.

5.  My family, all healthy and well at the moment.  We should never take this for granted.

6.  Blogging Buddies, that have helped me through tough times.   You make me very happy when you pop by and even more so when you leave a comment to show you've been.

7.  Sunshine, she keeps popping out from behind the clouds, I wish she wasn't so shy at the moment, she keeps scurrying away again.

8.  De-cluttering this new place.  With everything that gets popped in the box ready for car-booting I have a little more space, a little more surface, a little more room to breathe.

9.  Blogging, both writing and reading, I really am in a good Blogging place at the moment.  I have found some wonderful like-minded souls out there, all over the world.

10.  My books, I have lots, I am just starting to regain my joy of reading again, I do find I have too many on the go, but I love them all.

Pick up and run with the Happiness Revolution if you haven't already, and even if you have, do you have ten more things that are brightening and lightening your day?

Sue xx


Friday, 20 April 2012

Because I'm Worth It..........



A while ago, I think it was at the beginning of last year (or maybe even the one before) I was asked to be an Aveeno tester, I have to admit it I said yes mainly for the free products they were about to throw at me.  I duly tested them for three or four weeks, fillled in the little online questionnaire each week and then gave my final findings.

I found the products brilliant, my skin improved, indeed it glowed for the first time in years, the only downside I found in the products was the excess packaging, so when they asked as the final question on the last questionnaire if I would buy the products again I said a firm NO.  I would have loved them to follow this up and find out why I had said no after my glowing reports (and skin) on the previous questionnaires, but they didn't.



Immersing myself in my frugal ways I started using supermarkets own version of my regular products, they were good, almost as good as the regular products I had previously used, and massively cheaper, but they were not a patch on Aveeno.

After all the trauma and stress of the last year, my skin care regime was regular but perfunctuary, doing the basics but not really caring for it if you know what I mean.  Well it's all caught up with me and last weekend I realised just how tired, dreary and drab I looked.  Maybe it's not all me and my lack of care, maybe some of it is the lack of sun, the desperate need for warmer weather and sunshine to lift all of our spirits and give us that push to care for ourselves a bit more.

Well last week I bit the bullet went to Boots the Chemist and treated myself to the full range of Aveeno skincare products I started using them just two days ago and already I'm feeling brighter and smoother of face.  Yes, it all came to around the £50 mark (I bought some handcreams as they were on special offer and two of the Day Creams), but as another advert on the tele says.....


its......Because I'm Worth It !! 

What do you splash out on in spite of being frugal in other ways?

I must point out that this is not a sponsored post in any way, it's merely a recommendation of a good product that I am going to continue using.  But if Aveeno want to send me anything else to test............!!  Lol.

Sue xx

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Spoilt Girl



My Lovely Mum sent me these ...



... Lovely Hubby paid for this ...




.....  and my brother sent me this .....




... Cheeky Bu**er!!

I think he knows me too well !!

Sue xx

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

My Goodness a Treat!!


A bit of a play on words in the title today!!

Last time Lovely Hubby went back to Jointers Farm to pick up another load of our homemade compost (we have permission to keep going back to get it) he pulled up the last of my home grown leeks.  Wow...there were a lot, (the ones in the picture above are what's left after making the soup) they had over-wintered very happily in the raised bed near the lavender plants, but now they needed pulling up and using.




He wasted no time at all when he got back in making two vast pans of soup, one Leek and Potato pan and the other using some of  the leeks with a few cups of basic soup mix.


 It's still for sale here at 25p a bag!! 



 We used about half a bag of mix to get a HUGE pan of soup, two meals for three of us (Jason's staying here at the moment) and the four icecream tubs in the photos to pop in the freezer.



I still have some of the leeks left over so I am deciding what to make next, maybe a couple of pies or quiches that can also be put in the freezer, it's a shame not to use them all up while they are so fresh.  I will make something and freeze it for my 'Live Below the Line Week', after all you can use your own homegrown ingredients as long as you cost them in properly.  I think one of my bags of soup mix will be included in my purchases too, you can't go wrong for 25p can you!!




Well that was the 'goodness' part of the title and this is the 'treat'.  I sent in a little order to Approved Foods last week and somehow I 'accidently' ordered some little Chocolate Bunnies...... well....all my Chocolate Santas have gone now......I wonder where they went.....she walks away looking skyward and whistling inncocently.......lol !!

The 'Eat Natural' bars are a brilliant buy at the moment from Approved Foods, I seem to have 'accidently' ordered 4 boxes of them too!!  Oh well they are good to pop into LH's lunchbox, and better for him than Mars bars.



While it's raining outside today I am going to read through my Remoska booklet and recipe book, I really need to start using this lovely little kitchen tool,.  Everytime I go to cook a meal I put the oven on without thinking.... and I need to think ....... all this electricity usage is going to be mounting up, I need to get back on track with my frugal ways.

Sue xx

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Getting sorted with the shopping.....




 My main Challenge this year is the 'Saying No to Supermarkets Challenge', and with this in mind it was important to get things as sorted as possible immediately after the move, of course we've had so much going on it's not all been easy sailing.  We had an supermarket amnesty for the whole of March to make life simpler, but now we are back with a vengeance.

The first priority was finding ourselves a milkman, back at the old place we lived too far down a bumpy old track to make any visit from a milkman possible so I used to drive to the nearest village twice a week to pick up my ordered milk.  Now we live almost on a road, well it's a lane that runs between properties alongside the woods.  After a tip off from lots of you lovely followers I  discovered the 'Milk & More' system from Dairycrest, you simply go online, open an account and place your regular order and then update it with anything extra you need before 9pm the evening before delivery and you can have all you need on your doorstep. 

Well I've placed an order for a four pint bottle of skimmed milk three times a week, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays are the days Rick, our milkman visits the area, and also to test out the system and the quality, I ordered us a couple of extras for the weekend.

So Sundays breakfast was a very civilised affair, toasted muffins topped with two little fried Pekin eggs, totally yummy and a good start to the day.




Lunch was my favourite meal of the moment, I am trying out making lots of sandwich fillings, this one is Red Leicester grated cheese with chopped celery and mayo, all mixed together with a grinding of black pepper and served on seeded wholemeal bread with a leaf or two of lettuce, totally scrummy.

I've discovered most things chopped fine and mixed with mayo taste lovely in bread or on buns, to keep it a bit healthier when I use mayo I never use butter on the bread, you really don't need it as well.

*** *** *** *** ***

Why am I suddenly food obsessed, well it's coming to that time of the year again, the 'Live Below the Line Challenge' is happening in May and I've been reading through last years Blog posts when I did it, to see how I can do it differently and hopefully even better this time. 

I have my own fundraising page again, so if you want to donate to a very worthwhile charity you can pop over here and sponsor me, any amount is very gratefully received, from pennies to pounds and it's really easy to pay via Paypal.  This year I'm raising money for Restless Development, which enables young folk to learn about themselves and their communities, and to make positive steps for the future to help others in their own situation, both here and overseas.  After all if we don't invest in the young of today who will lead the world tomorrow?

For the week of Monday 7th May until Friday 11th May my Blog will once again be about the meals I make and the things I do whilst doing this Challenge.  Can I really live on £1 a day or less, will I do it any better than last year, I think I'll nip back and read through those posts again for inspiration and to help me compile a shopping list built around my own recommendations at the end of that week.

Find the posts starting here.

Sue xx

Monday, 16 April 2012

Seeds



Remember this, my lovely little 10p car boot sale buy seed box, full to bursting with my packets of seeds last year.  Well this year I have two sets of seeds to store, my seeds and my Dad's seeds.  When Dad gave up the allotment he handed over to my safekeeping (and growing and eating) all his seed collection.

Well looking at how full my box was already I knew I would have to find an alternative storage container.




And here she is, a bigger version, also bought at a carboot sale a couple of years ago, a lovely rustic handmade drawer.  It was under someones stall with a handful of old chisels and spanners in it, I asked the elderly gentleman if the drawer was for sale and he was amazed, 'why on earth would you want that' he said,' just because it's so nice' I replied.  It has lovingly carved out little dovetailed joints and a neat ancient handle which had all caught my eye.   He smiled and said 'she's yours for a pound', so she is, all mine and I used her on my stall to display lavender bunches, I used her under the bed to hide away little bits and pieces and now...




.. with the addition of a few of Lovely Hubby files ...




... a few freezer labels and a bit of cutting out.



She's my seed store. 

Taking care of my seeds and Dad's seeds.  Bringing a smile to my face when I sort through the packets, bringing happy memories of car booting, planting and talking veggies with my Dad.

Memories in a one pound drawer - priceless.

What bargain lights up your life when you use it?

Sue xx

Sunday, 15 April 2012

And so it starts......


And so it starts.... my growing season that is.

Yesterday I emptied the greenhouse of rubbish and old pots etc, and then weeded out everything I could reach and dig up, washed down the windows inside and out and generally made it a much happier place for working and growing in.


Before, this side was full of nettles and other weeds, we dug them out covered the ground with cardboard and then topped it with the dry used up old soil from the greenhouse beds.  Nutrients sucked out by years of use, it should come to life again in the future, but I needed fresh vibrant compost full of life for my little plants to thrive now.




Before - well after sorting out all the absolute rubbish, but I forgot to grab the camera at first!!


After - clean glass, washed down staging and the first couple of Lovely Hubbys barrows of compost, brought all the way from our old place in the trailer fresh this morning.  Made by his own fair hands, well with a bit of help from a couple of thousand worms, and full of well rotted manure.



Pots unpacked and ready for action.


The outside view of my domain, to the left my tumble down, rickety old shed and to the right the brand spanking new four bay oak framed garage frame, under construction over the Summer by our Landlord.

Todays task .... can you guess.... planting!  I'll be unpacking  the toilet roll inners and the seeds and we are off!!

What are you up to this fine Sunday?

Sue xx