Wednesday 31 July 2013

Food Banks

There's a crisis looming here in the UK, Food Banks are appearing in lots of our towns, they shouldn't need to be there but they are.  They are picking up the pieces of a failing support system for people that would otherwise, mostly through no fault of their own go hungry.
Last night I read the latest post on Jack's Blog  What can you do to help? Buy someone #22mealsforacoffee (That’s 22 meals for the price of a £3 coffee…) and it resonated through my mind.  See HERE to read the entire post or follow the link to her Blog on my Blog List on the sidebar.  Could you donate the cost of your regular morning latte and spend the money instead on a carrier bag of supermarket basics to feed a family for up to 22 meals.
This morning I found the location for donations to my local Food Bank, their national page is HERE, do they have one near you?  I printed off their ideal shopping list which is above (and also now has added to it toilet rolls, shower gel and toothpaste) and then I checked out what items they are really short of this month.  Their drop off point is in the Sainsb*ry's that is a little bit further away from the one I usually use, but I have a full tank of fuel, so I am going to get my shopping there instead this week and while I'm at it shop for someone else too.
They are holding a huge nationwide collection at 200 branches of Asda on 3rd August, so if you have one near you it would be easy to get a bit of your shopping from there and take up Jack's £3 coffee for 22 meals challenge.  Here's a link to the participating stores
 You don't have to spend a whole £3, times are hard in different ways for all of us, but even an extra couple of tins of beans or a single packet of rich tea biscuits that you can donate could make all the difference to someone somewhere.  I've been in the position where a single extra packet of biscuits in my cupboard would have meant that I could have had some too, instead of rationing out what I did have for my boys' suppers, and then I too would have gone to bed, not with a full tummy but at least with a non-rumbling one.
We can all make a difference, it's good to help.
Sue xx

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Busy Buzzy Bees

There's a magical wildness about the lavender plants this year. 
They are now all four years old and I guess a little past their best due to being uprooted, moved and replanted at completely the wrong time of year, but they have flowered abundantly.
The scent as I brush past them to get to the washing line is amazing.
And it seems I am not the only one that can smell their inviting aroma ....
.... they are full of bees, and I mean FULL.
They flit from plant to plant, from stem to stem, busy little buzzing bees, it makes the garden feel alive and vibrant.  I have not picked any of the stems for the house this year, the bees need them much more than I do, so I'm getting my pleasure instead from crouching down and spending much more time than I should watching the furry insects that I love so much and that do us all so much good.
Lovely Hubby is being initiated in the art of bee keeping by a friend at work as he's keen to get our own hives in the future.  He's just given us a small piece of honeycomb, the sort you would normally buy from a Farmers Market in a jar so we can sample his delicious honey.   He's not taking much this year his colonies need it for Winter so we feel very lucky to have some of this liquid gold.
  Now Lovely Hubby has popped it in the fridge and I don't think it needs to be, as honey lasts for years and years due to its antibacterial qualities.  Am I right or is he - it's bugging me - HELP!!
Sue xx

Monday 29 July 2013

Visiting Maenan

We're back from a wonderful weekend away, staying with family and having a lovely meal together on Friday and then the next day going back to Maenan and another viewing of our new home.  We measured up to see whether the couple of pieces of furniture that we are taking with us will fit and we think we will get away with it - just!!
We walked the boundaries of what will be our land ...
.... peered down through the lush woodland to see the views and road beyond.

We spotted our nearest neighbour, up through the woods and then nestled down in a dip across the field that she owns.

We spied our house through the trees as we walked the fence to check it out, it's all in good condition and should be fine without renewing for now, although it may need to be strengthened before we let pigs loose in the woods in the future.  We had a good few hours chatting to the current owner and asking questions about the house, land and area.
Picture from Google Images
And then we drove into Llanrwst, the nearest village, to sit, chat and plan just what we want to do to the house and the land over a cup of coffee in this wonderful tearooms. 
Have you ever seen a house so covered by nature.  All sorts of climbing plants give this wonderful tea rooms a shaggy coat of green, it will be wonderful to photograph over the seasons as it changes colour.  Called Tu Hwnt i’r Bont (Beyond the Bridge) it was built in 1480 and is absolutely gorgeous.    You can see a bit more about it HERE, I just love the feel of such old buildings.
Now we are back home and even more fired up for our impending move.  There's lots to do this week as hopefully, weather permitting, over the weekend we will be doing our final car boot sale of this year.   We will have to leave our weekends free for all the other things we need to do with the purchase of our new house now progressing so well.
So I have decided to join in with Elaine's '100 Things in Ten Days Challenge' over at Mortgage Free in Three and try and find another 100 items to jettison ready for the move, only I only have 6 days to do mine :-)
But you know me .... I like a Challenge.
Sue xx

Thursday 25 July 2013

Our New Juicing Journey

Well I decided I would be brave and let you all in on my up to now private Blog, Our New Juicing Journey.
I only started it this week with the intention of it being a personal record of how we get on, but even typing out a Blog for myself I tended to talk as though other folk were reading so I thought what the heck if a few of you were interested why not let you have a peek.
This LINK will take you to the first days entry and then you can have a read through, there is also a Blog Link at the very top of the sidebar on this Blog that will remain in place for a while.
I hope you find it interesting, and I hope now I've gone 'public' that we can indeed stick to our new way of eating and show some seriously good results.
Have a good weekend folks,  we're really looking forward to ours, tomorrow we're off to Manchester and then on to Wales on Saturday to have a good look round and a measure up of our hopefully soon to be home.
Sue xx

Everything's Food .....

Everything seems food related at the moment .....  mmmmm biscuits!!

I haven't had an alcoholic drink in over a week ......

This is soooooo true!!
It used to, but I had my first cup of coffee since the weekend last night, and do you know what it wasn't that good!!
Don't throw the apple ..... pass it to me ....chomp, chomp, chomp.

Mmmm ......Lovely :-)
 So true!!
I've not been in or to a MacDonald's for years, I cannot honestly remember the last time I crossed their threshold.  We used to take the boys for birthday 'treats' or once during school holidays.  Now it seems to be normal to go weekly or even more, not good in my opinion.
I guess everything seems to be food related at the moment because nothing solid, except a couple of little celery sticks that I use for stirring my juices, has crossed my lips since Sunday night.  But we're doing well, really well, Lovely Hubby caved in again last night and had another banana, but I've been amazingly good and feel on top form.  Tonight will be the first time we eat anything solid as we are just starting to move to juices during the day and an evening meal or at least one meal a day and the rest of the time juices.
The meals will be focused around vegetables with a small amount of light protein, fish, chicken and eggs for me ... and do you know now I've typed this I'm really looking forward to it tonight. 
I have started a Blog about our Juicing but it's not public at the moment, I really didn't know if anyone would be interested .... or if we would even last a full week, but we have almost and I'm so pleased.  So if you are interested and would like to have a peek let me know and I'll 'bite the bullet' and open it up to public viewing.
Sue xx

Wednesday 24 July 2013

It all ended with a Jar of Fish Paste and A Girl Called Jack

I've been trying to re-create a meal I love and have on a regular basis at Pr*zzo, our favourite Italian eating house, for quite a while now.  I object somewhere at the back of my mind paying for pasta when I'm out even though they do vouchers which mean that usually when we eat there it's Two for One or Buy One get One for £2.50, but still when you know you can get a great big bag of pasta for less than a pound it seems extravagant to have this too often.  Being able to make this luscious meal at home has been my one aim for months now.
The meal is Penne Con Salmone, this is how it's listed on their menu -


Salmon fillet, broccoli and red chilli in a red pesto and cream sauce'
and it costs £10.95 for the 'Classic' version.   So even at half price if we use a voucher it is still £5.50, I guess if I class it as the £2.50 meal on that particular offer it's not too bad, but still I wondered was it possible to get that cost even lower at home and have the same delicious flavours and thus be able to eat it more often.
Then I saw  this recipe on Jack's Blog - A Girl Called Jack.

I printed it out and had a go the other night (before we started Juicing).  It took us a while to even find the pastes in Sainsb*ry's, I've not used them for years and have never thought of incorporating them into other recipes and not simply smearing them onto sandwiches.  Absolutely inspired.

Well who knew!!
That's it, the exact same flavours as the 'posh' restaurant dish, and using Jacks recipe exactly comes in at 27p a head, yes that's right 27p.
Now I had to change it slightly as I had no yoghurt made up but did have some slightly out of date double cream, so that went in instead, I also had no fresh chilli, but I did have a jar of just dried chillies off my plant so I used one of those instead.
If I was making it again I would add some frozen broccoli to the pan of pasta as it was cooking and recreate even more exactly the restaurants version.  But this time I kept to the recipe as much as I could,. and just added some of our home grown tomatoes to the plate and it was delicious.  Just what we like nice simple straightforward, cheap and tasty food.  One we'll definitely be turning to again and again.
So it all ended with a 32p jar of fish paste.
And just think of what you could do with all the other flavours available, we have to stop thinking of them as simply sandwich spreads and start thinking of them as 'mushed up ingredients' !!
Thanks Jack :-)
Sue xx
To read the recipe more easily just click on the picture.

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Useful and Pretty

Last week after having my hair cut I had a little mooch about the village, and in the charity shop I spotted this.  Immediately I thought of it's many potential uses.  Freezing small quantities of all sorts of things, or as it was such a hot, hot day my initial reaction was 'wow GIANT ice cubes'.

Over the weekend I settled on this for it's first job.  A carton of smoothie juice on offer in Asda and fits in perfectly with our foray into juicing and all things healthy.

I just love daisy shaped things, and it being almost my favourite shade of green only goes towards helping me love it more.

So many pictures of my daisy shaped container - there you all knew I was mad!!

They turned out very well and are just large enough to cool you down and eat before they drip all over you.
Lovely find and it only cost me £1.
As my smoothie mix was just £1 too it meant that I had seven nice healthy ice lollies for about 70p (there was enough for a glassful left in the carton).  You can't beat a 10p ice lolly on a hot day.

Breakfast this morning is another juice, and I have just spotted it matches the bowl my plant is standing in, this is turning into a very 'green' post.
I'm really enjoying the juice drinking, and the break from cooking is a welcome one in this heat.  Although Lovely Hubby is struggling not eating any solid foods and yesterday caved in and ate a banana before he went to bed.
We have decided instead of our 'chuck it all in and see what it turns out like' approach, we will now adopt a 'following a juice recipe' one and see if we like some specific juices.  Carrot, Apple and Ginger has been recommended so that is one I am going to whizz up later.  The one we have in the jug today, and is this lovely green colour contains -
... and it tastes delicious.
As we have a lot of courgettes coming through at the moment I have a feeling that virtually every juice will contain at least one of the little beauties.
Sue xx

Monday 22 July 2013

The £2 House Keeping Challenge - Officially Over

We went shopping towards the end of last week and it officially ended the £2 House Keeping Challenge, we could not keep below the £26 that I had left in the house keeping tin and manage to afford all that we needed for our next Challenge.  This little lot came to just below £35.
This one is the first Challenge totally started by Lovely Hubby and one that I'm more than happy to join in with.
He watched a programme the other week called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, and was totally inspired especially by the lorry driver Phil's story.  He decided then and there to give this ago and asked me to order a Juicer that night.  I did, and what we are about to do may go down in our family folklore.
Here's a link to the programme if you would like to watch it, it is available for only TWO MORE DAYS, although you can buy it on Dvd on Amazon now.

His new toy arrived on Thursday and already it has made us litres and litres of vegetable and fruit juice.  In fact all that's left in the fridge from all those fruits and vegetables in the top picture are a few sad ends of things.  It's dangerous to stand still in this house at the moment in case you get grabbed and juiced.

Only joking of course. 
The juice that's being churned out by this magnificent machine is really good and I must say I'm really enjoying being the official taster.  Lovely Hubby doesn't like to stick to recipes and up to now he has just been pushing whatever comes to hand through the machine.  If the juice tastes a bit too 'leeky' he'll add an apple, if it tastes too fruity he'll add some cabbage leaves from the Veggie Patch.  He just keeps adding and adding until it tastes really good.  When all the flasks and jugs are filled I have to get him to stop.
I'm off to the shops again today to get more supplies, although I think I may have to hide them until all the current jugs and flasks are empty.
Sue xx

Saturday 20 July 2013

A Year Ago Today .......

A year ago today we lost Sophie our beautiful Border Collie, she died peacefully and suddenly while we were away from the farm.
I expressed it all in THIS post, and really I have nothing I can add to that.
Except to say we miss her as much today as we did when I wrote that post.  She left a huge space in our lives, but still I can see that big doggy grin whenever I call her to mind, and call her to mind is something I do everyday, she was so much a part of everything we did and everywhere we went.

As I placed the jug full of flowers gathered from around the farm, the chickens, Sophie's beloved chickens lined up at the fence.  I took them the grass that I had cut from the top of where she lies so the jug of flowers would stand flat ... she would have approved of that.
We miss you Sophie

June 1999 - 20th July 2012

Friday 19 July 2013

Water, and Pond Life

Everywhere is dry here at the moment, we have not had rain for a couple of weeks and with this intense heat things are drying out really quickly.  My biggest concern has been keeping us and our animals and birds as cool and watered as possible, tender plants get a drink when they need it, but most of my veggies I leave to their own devices.
I am a hard-hearted gardener, things get a good drink when they are planted and then they get another thorough soaking the week after, after that it's up to them to send roots down long and deep to find their own water.  If you give them a watering can full here and there you simply encourage the roots to come upwards towards the moisture and then they stand much more chance of drying out in any drought conditions.

I have saucers of water on the ground near my planters and the areas that I do water for little creatures to get a drink.

In amongst all the foliage and weeds there is a bird bath that gets filled each day when I water my herbs.
On the patio there are bowls of water left out in the shade for the cats and dogs, so they can quench their thirst whenever they feel the need, and  I'm sure these are visited during the night by many other little creatures too.  Over by Chicken World we have our hosepipe set up where we fill our buckets for carrying over to fill the chicken drinkers and I always make sure I leave a couple of buckets ready filled for us, knowing full well that deer and other larger animals from the woods will be able to get a drink if they so wish during these hot and stifling nights.
But the biggest source of water for all sorts of wildlife is in our pond.

I bit the bullet the other day and left the hosepipe running to add some much needed water to it, the level had dropped pretty low and it was looking still and dark.  Although our water is metered I decided that better a bigger water bill for us than lots of tiny little creatures meeting their maker for the sake of a couple of hundred gallons of fresh pure water.

There is a fountain in the middle which is slightly blocked but which churns the water up nicely adding much needed oxygen and movement to the water, it is a cooling sound on a hot summers day.

We've been rewarded for my extravagance with the hosepipe by the pond springing back to life in a magical way. 
Pond Skaters skim the surface, big fat tadpoles have appeared yet again and the fish are now swimming back and forth.  Dashes of bright blue signal the return of the mating Dragonflies and the air is thick with insects of all types

There is indeed magic in the pond ....

... and the sun rays catch the water in beautiful ways ....

... making me want to stand and stare, and drink in the beauty of a precious resource for nature.

I'm so glad I filled it. 
 If you have a pond and you can, top up it's level and watch it come to life.  If you haven't, try and make sure you fill up any bird baths you have in your garden, and if you have none of these put out a shallow saucer and a big bowl of water for any wildlife you have visiting your garden or yard, there will be lots of them whether you know it or not and they all need water.
The very least we can do is share what we are lucky enough to have.
Have a good weekend and enjoy the sun.
Sue xx

Thursday 18 July 2013

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

We were lucky enough to win a pair of tickets from Ecover to the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show and we decided to go last Saturday. 
The weather was wonderful, the hottest day of the year so far.
The gardens displays were amazing, especially the Ecover one itself.
It won both a Gold Medal and Best in Show. 
 The colours were just as I like a garden, soft beautiful and calming to the eye, and the plastic bottle tops and components simply added to the natural look of everything else.  Sheer genius. 
The other displays were good too.
Wilderness tamed.

Lovely Hubby's favourite, my man loves a splash of orange.

The £7,000 garden, LH could be heard muttering under his breath, "I could do better for that sort of money" for ages afterwards...Lol.
They shouldn't have told him how much it cost!!
This guy had the right idea on such a hot day, a lady jumped under the shower fully clothed a few minutes later .... she just couldn't resist.
What to do with your old fridges ....

... thought provoking ....

... but I don't think it will catch on.

Lots of folk found this one very strange, the guy was connected to his plants with tubing, them breathing his Co2 and him their oxygen, he must have been soooo hot with his mask on.

Not my cup of tea, but it stood out nicely amongst all the others.

It looks like driftwood, and indeed the original was, but this lovely horse was made of brass.

Wire ladies enjoying the sun.

I don't know where the breeze came from to blow her hair like that ....

.... but her friends was going in the opposite direction!

Simple and beautiful, I'd love a little corner like this at our new house.
Lots of lovely gardens, some inspiration, a little bit of purchasing and a rather large glass of Pimms, it was a wonderful day.   Thank you to the folks at Ecover for my complimentary tickets. 
We had a brilliant time.
Sue xx