Friday 31 May 2013

Making Do ......

Making do is something I've always been good at, thinking quickly and reassessing things something you learn when you're in retail management and luckily it translates well to my new 'career' that of smallholder and veggie grower.
When the greenhouse came down things were quickly relocated to their new temporary homes.  The tender seedlings spent their first few nights under plastic cloches getting used to the cooler utility room ... 

... now they've acclimatised they are without their plastic tops and sat next to the open door during the day.
They've all survived as far as I can see.

Outside the window on the patio is the new working area for planting and potting on, simply the long bench from the greenhouse, altered and strengthened by Lovely Hubby. Under the black plastic is my compost tray, I mix two types of compost for seed planting.  John Innes seed compost and multi purpose about one third of the former and two thirds of the latter is my preferred (and cheaper) way of doing things, mixed together and then left to dry out slightly before being trowelled into toilet roll tubes or plant pots and the seeds added.
Today is a day for catching up, I've been away all week looking at properties with my lovely Mum, who's also house hunting, she's found a beautiful modern flat that we're hoping will be her new home.  So it's all plants and properties for me at the moment.  But today I am taking a step back from both and having a good sort out ready for this weekends car boot sale, it's good to clear the clutter and we are almost there. The forecast (up to now), is good for Sunday so I want to have everything ready to load up the truck tomorrow.  Today will be sorting and stacking the boxes and then tomorrow will be baking more chocolate muffins.
I have even sorted through all the food stuffs we have and the things we have decided we do not want to eat are being sold to add some money back into the £2 House Keeping tin.
I've just updated the £2 HouseKeeping Challenge page as it's the last day of May, where has this year gone to it's whizzing by!!
Sue xx

Thursday 30 May 2013

Gone .... All Gone

My greenhouse is gone ..... all gone.
Our landlord turned up as arranged with his handyman to remove the old shed, (the one with the lovely original 1940's wallpaper on the inside) so that he could begin to make plans for his decking area which is to be adjacent to the oak framed garage, what he didn't tell us was that things were more imminent that first implied and that the greenhouse was going too.
I was surprised at how sad this made me, but I guess it was my space and I don't have any other that is truly all mine.  Yes it was draughty, it was rickety, the slugs and snails all found their way in to party like they do in the wee small hours, but I had spent many happy hours with the radio on, with one or two doggies sat in the doorway guarding me while I planted all the little seeds of goodness that turn into our food for the year ahead in there.
Oh well, hopefully by this time next year I will once again be the queen of my own polytunnel, now that will make me smile  :-)
In the meantime the contents have now been sorted and are sat around the place, seedlings in the utility room on a bench, all the big tomato plants in the sunniest spot I could find for them and all the pots and miscellanea in and around the Man Shed ..... yes, I've managed to claim a section of the Man Shed, I shall have to be on my best behaviour then :-)
Sue xx

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Cats, Dogs, Rabbits and Mice

It's not funny here at the moment, virtually every day I have to try and save the life of a baby bunny.  The two cats, Archie and Ginger once formerly two single boys doing their own thing, have joined forces and become a lean, mean murdering machine.  The mistake they were making was that they brought their victims back to the house to play with.
Now Ginger is a lovely puss cat and if I go up to him while he has the poor little defenceless baby rabbit in his mouth he drops it immediately for me to see, he's always willing to share his food with Mummy, and then I can distract the cats and return little baby to the great outdoors.  But if Rosy, the Jack Russell spots the cats with 'lunch' before I do the poor creature has no chance, one flick of that Jack Russell head and it's dead, which is better I suppose than being played with and tormented to death, but not good overall for the little creature.
Yesterday while hoovering the living room I spotted a furry thing on the floor, not knowing what it was I bent down to pick it up, and luckily for me stopped at the last minute, it was a little bunny rabbit tail.  So one of my murderous trio has had a snack in the living room - yuk, yuk, and treble YUK!!
Such an innocent little face!!
Sue xx

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Healthy Food

I just had to do the giant sized picture, doesn't it all look vibrant and healthy.
I'm on a real health food kick at the moment, hopefully the homegrown will kick in any day now and save me lots of money.  We have Chard, Rocket and Spinach ready for eating and any day now the Radishes in the Tin Bath will be big enough to pick.  At last we are off and running eating.
This was the shopping bought for the final week of May, I managed to spend a total of £23.05 on this little lot, luckily I had vouchers to the value of £9.50 so the total went down to £13.55 ...phew!!  Its safely tucked in the fridge and we'll see how long we can make it last us.  I'll be updating the £2 house Keeping Challenge page in a minute.
The reason for my health food kick, well last week the doctor gave me permission to stop taking my high blood pressure tablets on the condition that I do everything I can over the next five months to bring the levels down naturally.  It's something I've really wanted to do for a while, I hate taking any tablet on a regular basis and he finally agreed to let me go for it, I think he could tell from my determined attitude that even if he didn't say yes I would do it anyway!!
So I now have five months to bring my weight down by between one and two stone, get even healthier and  keep my blood pressure readings at normal or just slightly above.  It's a challenge but you know how much I like a good challenge!!
Some folk say it's expensive to eat healthily I say NO IT'S NOT!!
If you miss out all the aisles in the supermarkets that contain the crisps, biscuits, snacks, ready meals, and aim for the fruit and veg first and then selectively go into the tinned aisle for your tinned tomatoes and purees and then head over to the frozen veg section, skillfully sidestepping the icecream, pizza and ready meal freezers you can do it really easily.  What you save on junk food you can spend on real food.
And I may be sad but I am proud of my shopping trolley when it's full of lovely fresh and healthy foods like these, and I look at other folks trolleys piled high with pizza boxes, lots of small boxes of ready meals and sugar laden fizzy drinks and I want to say "are you really going to eat all that junk?" ...... but I don't.  I simply  pay for my goodies with my £2 coin stash and go on my way.
Somehow I have managed to claim back my normal email account and reset all my passwords and improve my security settings so I am now back on my normal email address, what a palaver over the Bank Holiday weekend.
Sue xx

Monday 27 May 2013

Computer Woes

I'm cross, I'm angry and I've had enough of trying to prove I am me.
Someone has accessed my email account and changed all my passwords, they've also somehow managed to change my security questions and my alternative email address.  So I have no way of doing anything to prove who I actaully am and at the moment my account is locked becase I tried so many times to get into it to sort this out, so I have just got to wait 24 hours before I can try and do anything else about it.
If you normally hear from me via email and you get an email today it will  not be from me.  Do not be tempted to buy any Viagra from me as it will not be me selling it.  If I do ever go into business selling viagra I can assure you all you will be the first to know :-)
Sue xx

Sunday 26 May 2013

Remember this......

Remember this sad little girl, she came to us on the 18th April and we named her Angel. 
An ex-battery hen that had been rescued from slaughter and then dumped by her 'rescuers' over the fence in the dead of night at our local poultry selling folk's house Mother Hen's Poultry.  They put out an appeal on Facebook and I jumped at the chance to give her a home.
She had bald and sore bits where no girl should ever have bald and sore bits.  She had absolutely no meat on her poor little bones and if it wasn't for a mischievous glint in her eye and a healthy comb I would have expected the worst.
Well here she is just over a month later.

She's had no real special treatment, just good food, freedom to roam safely and the companionship of our other girls.  She's learnt to avoid the geese when they're in 'bossy mode' and keep out of the cockerels way when he's feeling over amorous.  She's learnt that "chook, chook, chook", means Mum's here with the corn ration or with tasty goodies from the Veggie Patch, and she's learnt that it's nice to cuddle up with your friends in the Eglu at night, safe and secure in the knowledge that the good life will still be there in the morning.

She's also learnt that if you keep running, pesky folk with cameras can't get a good shot of you ....

... and if someone steps in the way to try and slow you down .... niftily swerve around them .....

... and make your way back to your friends.
Life's so much better for this lovely little girl now, I'm so pleased she's settled in with us, and she even rewards us with an egg or two each week, something we totally did not expect.  I wanted to finish with a photo of her face but no chance, she was too quick for me!!
The sun is shining here and us, and the chickens are looking forward to another day of tidying this place up, and trying to keep under control some of the weeds that are loving this topsy turvy weather.
I hope you're all enjoying the weekend.
Sue xx

Saturday 25 May 2013

Blogging Buddies and Giveaways

Over the years I have read hundreds of Blogs and some just keep you going back over and over, they're totally addictive.  We don't necessarily all do the same things or even agree with everything other Bloggers say and do, but we form a little band of folk that dip into each others life and wonder at the brilliant ideas and achievements we all make in our lives.  One of my favourite reads is Ilona's Blog 'Life After Money', in her own words -
Hi there, my name is Ilona,I am 64, and I'm having a wonderfull retirement I live a simple life, I downshifted and went onto part time working ten years ago. I was sick of slaving away and wanted a better quality of life, I was also concerned about what consumerism was doing to the planet. I reduced my income and reduced my spending. By cutting back I have managed to pay an extra £10,000 off my mortgage capital. This blog is a record of how I spend my time. I walk a lot, I grow vegetables, I do crafts making things out of rubbish, I have three cats, I walk dogs, and I keep my village tidy by picking litter. I am an expert on managing on very little money, proof that you can have a good life on a pension.
So I was thrilled last week when I found out I had won one of Ilona's lovely handmade bags in her Blogging giveaway and after reading her post about making her own packaging (see HERE) I immediately recognised the parcel left at the end of our drive.

And yes the packaging works really well, although the rain was pouring and the postman had only just tucked it into the box next to our wheelie bin, the contents were as dry as anything and all the stickers and labels were fully intact.  Her other parcel from that days giveaway will be winging it's way over to Canada, I think with packaging this sturdy it will arrive in perfect condition, although the sniffer dogs at the airport might be slightly interested in it (although there was no scent of Bakers for me).
I'm absolutely thrilled with my bag, many many thanks Ilona, I love it. :-)
Sue xx

Friday 24 May 2013

When the Boot's on the Other Foot

Lovely Hubby has been the butt of many jokes this week, all related to his fashion purchase at the weekend.

We were in M&S for the food shopping and he espied these rather snazzy socks, one pair for every day of the week and with the day emblazoned on the underneath matching the brightly coloured toe and heel.  I though nothing of it until I came to peg out the washing ...

... and then I realised it would always take me slightly longer than usual as I have a bit of OCD about things being hung in pairs.  Which is not so bad when all the socks are just black, as mine are.  In fact I had just got him onto all matching socks and pants which is also very frugal as when one sock is unrepairable it can go in the bin and the leftover one will soon be paired with another loner.
So I've been teasing him about being forgetful and needing the days of the week on his feet so he can whip his shoe off and check at any time, the  final tease ....... the left and right stickers on his wellies in the picture at the top, he spotted them last night when he went out to shut the birds up for the night.  After all if he doesn't know what day of the week it is it won't be long before he doesn't know which foot is which!!
Good job he's got a sense of humour my lovely man. :-)
Sue xx

Thursday 23 May 2013

The £2 House Keeping Challenge - Top Up Shop

Yesterday I called into to Sain*burys for a couple of watering cans and I spotted these Meringues on offer for just £1 a pack and knowing that I had bought the Strawberries at the end of last week and that there was a tub of cream in the fridge my mind instantly thought Eton Mess, well actually it said "Oooooh Eton Mess".... Lol.
So I splurged and I also got some more peppers for a choppy salad and some more tomatoes (Oh how I wish my plants were further along, they would save me soooooo much money!!  So yesterday I spent £5 on food, five pounds on four things, that feels so extravagant in my now frugal shopping mindset.  Roll on the home grown stuff is all I can say!
Now the £2 House Keeping tin is starting to look very forlorn, I daren't stack the coins anymore it looks so sparse if I do. Each time I update the stand alone page it brings it back how little cash we have for the rest of the year and I wonder how long we will be able to keep going with this Challenge.  Hopefully for a while if the home grown salad stuff kicks in soon because that seems to be where I am spending the bulk of the money at the moment.  We don't use much milk, about two to three pints a week at most and I have two more two pint bottles in the freezer.  Virtually all our bread is homemade using the flour and yeast I bulk bought at the end of last year.  There's lots of jam and spreads in the larder so we could exist on bread and jam if necessary but I don't think we will will come to that (so don't panic Mum).  The good thing about nipping into Sain*burys was that I got my Nectar points total on my receipt and I have about £23 available.  So I am going to see how much I have in vouchers, coupons and points and see if we would be able to live purely on these for the month of June and even in July and then we will be over half way through the year.
 My new running total for the £2 House Keeping Challenge is -
What can I say ....... only as so many other Bloggers say - EEK!!
Being extremely frugally minded I rummaged in the freezer to see what we could have for a quick tea (I was cutting Lovely Hubby's hair last night so it needed to be something easy) and pulled out these.  Two small sized Value pizzas (£1.55 for 4) , a tub of Mediterranean Veg  (approx 40p) and a tub of grated Cheshire Cheese (about 50p worth left) ...
... and we had pizzas for tea, costed out at around 84p each.

Followed by Eton Mess , using a quarter of one of the packs of meringue at 25p, half of the Strawberries at £1 and half the little tub of cream at 28p, with a sprinkle of crushed Flake on top (25p each from AF).   I've worked out this dessert cost us 89p each, not bad at all compared to restaurant prices and there's the same again for after tea tonight - yummy.
So total cost of our filling and delicious two course quick tea is £1.73 each.  Sets my mind at rest a bit that we can do this Challenge and still eat well for a quite a while yet.
I haven't been taking any photos of the cupboards or freezers yet as there is little difference in them to my eye and because as we eat things I have been consolidating all the foods from other places into the two main food cupboards, the big larder one and the wall cupboard.  Soon all our food will be in these two cupboards and then I will start taking weekly photos as they go from full to empty.
Because eating our way through these is the only way we will make this money last as long as we possibly can.
Sue xx

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Posh Shopping, Pineapples and Friendship

I used to shop at good old M&S a lot for my foods back in the day. 
 Now with no store nearby thankfully I have no temptation to carry on with this.  But when my M&S vouchers arrived last week and knowing that we were going into Reading for Lovely Hubby's eye check up appointment and realising that the reason I had soooo much to spend in vouchers was because we paid for his eye laser treatment on our M&S card purely to get a huge chunk of points and thus vouchers to spend, it all fell into place so sweetly.
(By the way the card was paid off in full at the end of the month, this is the only way we use credit cards now.)
And this is what we bought, the fresh stuff we needed for the week ahead and a few treats for the weekend.  The total came to £20.46p, so I used £20 of my vouchers and 46p from the £2 House Keeping fund.  So I still have £11 in vouchers left, a good result.  And who remembered that good old M&S did such good offers, two boxes of two cream cakes for £2 and they were larger and more filled than anything we have had for a while ..... yes they have all gone!!
So house keeping money spent from the tin 46p, which means 54p for the Sealed Pot if I haven't spent it by the end of the week.
Not a bad weeks spending then :-)
Looking at my 'posh shopping' reminded me that I had a post lined up to do last week and somehow didn't fit it in, it was all about Pineapples.  When my lovely Mum sent me this bunch of flowers and a fruit hamper from M&S for my birthday in amongst all the luscious fruits was a Pineapple.

Now it sat on the worktop looking magnificent until it was lovely and ripe and then I cut it into chunks ....
... being the canny shopper that I am I decided to weigh it to see how much edible pineapple I had got. 
 Usually at this time of year they are on special offer in the supermarkets, and yes, I just checked on and you can get one for £1 at either Sain*bury's or T*sco, in fact at T*sco you can get a 'Value' one for 80p, an average sized one for 95p and on special offer a large one for £1.
As you can see I got 476g of pineapple chunks for what would have cost me £1, if I had cut a little more accurately I think I could have got this up to 500g, because it was so ripe it was extremely easy to cut as well.
Which goes to prove that unless you are buying whilst out and about and needing to eat it immediately these packs of ready cut chunks are a total waste of money,  Currently priced at £1.40 for 200g.
Time and convenience or money in your pocket - you choose.
Don't you just love it when you can see so clearly where money can be saved and how easily too, and all this as a result of me getting a lovely gift.  And talking of gifts I had a lovely visit off a new Blogging Buddy yesterday who also came bearing gifts ... two gorgeous Rosemary plants to add to my collection, they smell divine and are currently sat with the other herbs in the old Belfast sink while I think where they will live to remind me of sunshine, food and friendship, all we really need in this world really.
Many thanks to Karan and it was lovely to meet you, see you again soon.
Sue xx

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Our Busy Weekend

Harry on the tree stump
We had a wonderfully busy weekend, three days including the Friday of tidying the place up and moving Chicken World further along the paddock so that they are on fresh grass and getting lots of planting done.
I'm cruel to Harry, I plonk him (yes, I'm beginning to have suspicions that she might be a he or at the very least have leanings in that direction) in the most strange places and he stands there patiently until I get him down.  The others run over to see what's going on.  But he just stands and waits.  Geese don't 'do' climbing, they either walk or fly.
While we move the electric fencing the birds all free range over the entire 4.5 acres, visiting the house, having a mooch around the shed and going everywhere they haven't been for a while.  It's a good day for them as they find all sorts of tasty titbits not normally available to them.
Of course some of them just stay close to home, and this time Caldwell took the opportunity to have a good dustbath in the hole that used to be under the henhouse.

A shuffle this way and that gets all that lovely dry soil through the feathers .....

... while everyone else completely ignores him and tootles around.

"Don't forget me" says Harry
(I did go back and lift him down....the big softy!!)

I got lots of turning over of the beds, weeding and planting done and now I have a bit of space in the greenhouse for the next wave of seed sowing.
Once the fence was back up around Chicken World and everything was back in place Lovely Hubby gave the henhouse roof a fresh coat of creosote, it keeps it more weatherproof and should make it last longer.  Then he set to with his strimmer and got lots of the undergrowth and edges under control.
And after all that hard work we sat down to a lovely alfresco tea, with a homemade loaf, lots of the bits and bobs from the fridge and a bottle of Bucks Fizz that had just gone out of date (well it was bought for Christmas).
Sometimes being frugal and using up what you have is so hard .... Lol  :-)
Sue xx

Monday 20 May 2013

Rosemary Oil

I promised I would take some photos of what I was up to next with my Rosemary at the end of yesterday's post, so here they are. 
I have this lovely oil bottle that sits next to the cooker for use in so many things, it came with posh oil in and cost me a pretty penny but I have refilled it over and over and now I feel I have had more than my moneys worth.  It holds half a litre, so half of a one litre bottle, which of course always leaves me with half a bottle tucked in the cupboard for the next refill, but this time I thought I would do something different with that leftover half litre.
Luckily I had an empty half litre bottle in the cupboard so I simply filled it with some Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I always buy it when it is on offer and get as many bottles as I can afford) and popped in a washed and dried sprig of fresh Rosemary straight from the garden.
It looks and smells lovely ...
... and looks even better in the natural daylight. 
But for now it is back in the cupboard sat in the dark while the lovely taste and scent of the Rosemary infuses with the oil.  Another way of doing this is to gently simmer a sprig of Rosemary in the oil for a few minutes and then cool and pour into the bottle, putting a fresh sprig in the oil for aesthetic purposes and to identify the oil.  Either way a really handy flavoured oil to use in cooking or for salad dressing or simply to dunk chunks of homemade bread into as a lovely starter.  
So next time I make Mediterranean Vegetables I will have my flavoured oil ready, now I'm wondering if I should make up some Chilli Oil to expand my repertoire even further, after all I have lots of Chilli Flakes in the storecupboard.
Sue xx


Sunday 19 May 2013

My Favourite, Our Favourite ......

My favourite herb of all time, for it's scent, for it's taste and for the look of it growing so majestically is Rosemary.  I love the stuff, in fact I find it very hard to visit a garden centre or nursery or any place that sells plants and not buy one.  I stroke them as I walk around and then enjoy the scent all the way home in the car, it's a good job I use so much of the stuff in my cooking :-)
And I use it most often in our favourite meal, Mediterranean Vegetables.
Start with a sprig or two of Rosemary in the bottom of your ovenproof dish, and in a jug mix couple of tablespoons of Olive Oil with some freshly ground Black Pepper, some Garlic Flakes or Paste (or add a couple of cloves of Garlic, chopped up if you have some fresh) a sprinkle of Chilli Flakes, stir these all together and then pour over the Rosemary.
Next get a selection of vegetables, these are what we usually use, it doesn't matter if they are a bit sad or out of date.  Chop them rouchly the same size, Cherry Tomatoes can go in whole, chop any big tomatoes into wedges, the onions are also lovely if you leave them in wedge shapes (cut in half and then into wedges).
Tip them all into the dish on top of the Rosemary and then give everything a really good stir so that the oil ends up coating everything.  Make sure the Rosemary is tucked deep amongst the veggies and then put it in the oven on a medium heat for about 40 minutes.  Halfway through give everything another good stir and, if you want to prepare it as a whole meal in one dish place either a salmon fillet, a chicken portion, or a Quorn fillet amongst the veggies and then pop back into the oven.
I always prepare much more than we need for one meal and then Lovely Hubby can take a good portion of it to work on top of a serving of Cous Cous the next day AND I have a tub or two to pop into the freezer ready to use for a miriad of other meals.
A spoonful or two makes for a brilliant topping on homemade pizzas, or cheat and use the little value ones from the supermarket as your base, add the Mediterranean Veggies and then a good sprinkle of cheese straight from the freezer.

It also makes a lovely lunch mixed with some cooked pasta, and is tasty either hot or cold, this time topped with some grated Parmesan style cheese.
So a really good dish to make up either at the start or the end of the week using all those leftovers that you can find lurking with intent at the bottom of the fridge.  I have enough veggies left in the fridge for one more batch of it and then I will have to dig deep in the chest freezer for all those little tubs of leftovers that I know are in there.
So in our opinion this is the best possible use for my favourite herb.
There's something else I'm just about to do with some of my Rosemary from the herb sink, I'll let you in on that one tomorrow, when I've taken some photos.
Sue xx