Monday 31 March 2014

Where Were We ....?

We've just had a really good weekend off. 
No work except the very basics of cleaning out the chickens and gathering in eggs and wood for the fire.  Apart from that and a few doggie walks we took the weekend to ourselves.
We set out with a longed for destination in mind and the journey was wonderful.

Just us and the open roads ....

... and hundreds of mountain bikers whizzing down the hills.  There was a big event going on and it was amazing to see the bikers on the long trails.

We drove past slate quarries and heaps behind walls along the roadside.

And when we arrived it was to find a 'No Parking' sign being eaten by a tree.

The first glimpse of a vista beyond.

The sign told us exactly where we were .....

... and Lovely Hubby wasn't really as puzzled as he looked :-)
There was lots to see .....

... including many beautiful views.
And we had a lovely lunch before heading off to the shops in nearby Porthmadog for a coffee and a mooch around.
Do you know where we were?
We were HERE.
Sue xx

Thursday 27 March 2014

Dorset Cereals

Look what arrived by courier today :-)
In their own lovely packaging .....

... which carries the message that suits our lifestyle so well.

Lots of lovely cereals ...

... porridges ...

... mueslis ....

... and granolas.
Enough cereals to keep us happy and very well fed for a long, long time.
I have to say a BIG thank you to Dorset Cereals for sending me this lovely package full of their goodies and an even BIGGER thank you to each and every one of you who voted for me in the Little Blog of the Month Awards last month.
I'm so happy with my huge cereal stash, it'll help out with the '365 Days - £365 Challenge' magnificently, and thanks to that Challenge there is room in the cupboards to store this little lot.
Thank you again.
Sue xx

Wednesday 26 March 2014

It's Time to Begin

It's time to begin ....
... to begin the outside work that will tidy up our little bit of this Welsh hillside, to make it ours and make it start to look after us as we will look after it.
The first job is to claim back a little bit of overgrown space behind the small shed on the hill and turn it into our main wood store.  The shredder is in place and as I type this Lovely Hubby is on the hill with secateurs, machetes and loppers and is getting a head start on me.  Once shredded this will be our mulch to go round the fruit trees that we have just ordered that will be planted on the paddock next week finally separating the grassed area from our food production area.
Hopefully one thing will lead to another and gradually bit by bit I will be heading towards the day when the hillside will be alive with the plants that will feed us.
I need to be outside at this time of year, to feel the soil beneath my boots and running through my fingers, to see life bursting through a layer of soil and to know that we are nurturing ourselves as much as the land.
I sometimes feel eyes upon me as I work and I talk to my Dad, who died two years ago today.
 I apologise to him that I don't garden his way, that I occasionally uproot something that he would have held precious or plant something too close to it's neighbour that he would have given space to, and when it goes wrong I laugh as in my mind I can see 'that look', the look he gave me often when we worked outside together that said 'you're mad, you're too impetuous, too impatient, you infuriate me but it's okay I'll have a moan to your Mum later in private, it's a good job I love you'.
 The knowledge in my fingers and the calmness in my head is down to him and my Mum, when I plant and tend I do it instinctively and that's the way I enjoy it.  I read the books and make the plans and then once I'm outside actually doing I just do.
So we will set out today to start the slow and steady process that will change our hillside. 
at last and make it really ours.
And it will be done in memory of my Dad, who is forever in our hearts.
Sue xx

Tuesday 25 March 2014

I Did It ... Thanks to You

Well thanks to you lovely lot I DID IT .... won the February Little Blog of the Month Award over at Dorset Cereals.
Woop, woop ... does happy little jiggy dance all around the office
And this morning in the post this little treasure arrived.  They are handmade by Lara in the Dorset Cereals office and now added to the one I won back in December of 2012 we have a matching pair to keep mine and Lovely Hubby's eggs warm.
Soft boiled eggs for breakfast tomorrow then :-)
THANK YOU to each and everyone who took the time to vote for me and if I can return the favour just let me know.
Sue xx

Sunday 23 March 2014


I was watching this wonderful fat and fuzzy rainbow the other day, we have so many rainbows here on the hill and they are all individual, you wouldn't notice that if you didn't see them so often.  One day I could see the beginning and the end of the rainbow all from one window in the house it was amazing. 
My camera can never do them justice, but occasionally I like to try.

Just after I was watching the rainbow I caught Ginger watching the chickens.  He sat there for around fifteen minutes just watching ......

... and looking down at my feet there was Rosy watching Ginger watching chickens :-)
Sue xx

Friday 21 March 2014

Keeping Up Appearances

I had a lovely email last night from someone who wishes to remain anonymous, who was in a bit of a quandary.  She needs to start living more economically, indeed really frugally but does not want to advertise the fact to friends and family.... could I help?
Well of course there are all the basics, that I've no doubt you have read on here and many other Blogs before - stocktake your cupboards, menu plan, shop with a list and a non-hungry tummy, it's surprising the difference to your trolley if you don't fancy eating half the items on the shelves, and it's so much easier to resist temptation if you completely avoid the crisp and sweet aisles.
Buy just what you need and if you can pay in cash .... handing over your hard earned money is  a good way to stop the bank account dwindling at an alarming rate.  If it scares you the thought of doing this and potentially not having enough at the checkout then have your debit card tucked way down in the bottom of your bag but only use it if you really have to.  Don't shop for food with a credit card unless you can pay the full amount off each and every month.  It's no good shopping for value products and then paying whopping amounts of interest on your credit card every month.
A good start is to immediately switch to buying the own labels. the basic ranges and the value products that most supermarkets are now selling, ...and so that your family and friends don't know you have done this, a brilliant way to disguise the fact, is to display your cooking ingredients in glass jars.
Do you recognise the jar this dried milk powder has just gone into - yes it's a washed out coffee jar.  Start saving all your empty glass jars for this purpose.  You really don't have to go out and buy lots of expensive jars and also look in boxes at car boot sales you can get some lovely storage jars for not much money.

Don't forget to label under your jars, or on the front if you have some nice labels or you can cut out the wording from the pack the food came out of without giving the game away.  At first you may only have a few jars but eventually you may end up with lots of similar looking products and if anyone else cooks in your kitchen it could make for some confusion without the labels ;-)

You can either store your jars in the cupboard ...

... or on full display, as I do. 
Even I can't remember which jars have full price branded goods in them and which have bargain or value range products.

It works with even the tiniest things, this was a little sample coffee jar just begging to be re-used.

I decided to add in the dregs of my Parsley jar to the value Mixed Herbs ...

... and then I got a bit more carried away, well I mean in most cases Mixed Herbs can be any herbs and as I'm a pretty basic cook I very rarely use specifics and find that most things are interchangeable.  And to make it a win, win situation I now have one jar on the shelf instead of four ... I love simplicity :-)
Sometimes refilling your usual boxes with a value product can work well. Either buy the value ones and gradually add to the branded, giving the box a good shake to mix them up, this will get everyone in the family used to the new taste without them noticing too much ...

... or simply refill the empty box with the bag of value flakes and if anyone comments that they don't taste as nice, simply agree and say "yes, we must eat these up quickly so I can go and buy a new pack" ... you can guarantee that by the time the box is emptied and refilled with more Value flakes everyone will simply be used to the taste of the new flakes and won't complain anymore.  It also works with Rice Crispies and Frosties ....  my boys lived through this change with little complaint.
Once your box gets tatty surprise the family with lovely new plastic storage boxes, you can get them cheaply at shops like Home Bargains or B and M or again watch out for them at car boot sales.  Once you have these you can smuggle in the Value cereals and fill them up over and over.

And if you think the top picture looked pretty with the dried herbs in front of their fresh counterparts, this is what usually sits there and YES this too is not what it seems.  The hand-cream in the jar is not what is on the label.  It's actually full of lots of emptied out free hotel sachets and bottles picked up my Lovely Hubby when he has to stay away on business.

It's good too to start reading some of the Blogs on my sidebar in particular Elaine's over at 'Mortgage Free in Three', Jane over at Frugal Queen and Jack's at A Girl Called Jack  all have lots of recipes using good wholesome but cheap foods that you can find by typing your request into the 'Search' boxes and on Jacks you can actually type in the ingredient you have and specific recipes containing it will come up for you.
And Jack and Elaine both have books out that will really help you make every bit of your now reduced money go further and yet still fill up plates and hungry tummies.  Make sure you don't waste any food either, another brilliant book that I would recommend asking for as a birthday present is The Leftovers Handbook by Suzy Bowler of Sudden Lunch blog fame.  Even little tiny bits of left over food can be saved and turned into whole new meals and this book is full of brilliant ideas all listed alphabetically so they are easy to find.  You could always email Frugal Queen and ask for her Feed a Family of 4 for £40 meal planner too which is a brilliant tool for planning your months menu.
I hope these few ideas have helped a little and if you would like any more tips please let me know.
Sue xx

Thursday 20 March 2014

Sharing Food

I was filling up the big 'bread bin with dog food yesterday and the phone rang ....
... I don't know how much he managed to snaffle ....

... but he sure enjoyed his impromptu snack and this was almost immediately after he had eaten his breakfast!!

"You spotted me then!"

"Mum stop him .... he's pinching our food again."
All our animals and birds seem to have a complete disregard for who's food is who's, none of us mind we are all happy to share :-)
Although the most surprising ever was Rosy sharing a dish of chicken treats with Molly our 'Frozen Chicken' and yes I know dogs aren't supposed to eat raisins ... we did stop her!!
Sue xx

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Free Range Egg

As I mentioned last week Angel, the 'double rescue' Hyline hen has been escaping over the fence to lay her eggs.  I had thought she was only giving us one or two eggs a week, but now after a bit of monitoring, it turns out she's giving us five or six .... that's right five or six eggs a week and she's our oldest bird.  The weak shelled egg I though was hers is in fact Amber's.
And to think she came to us like THIS on my birthday last year.

I disturbed her yesterday, as you can see in the top picture she was snoozing in her pile of leaves, she sat there while I let the dogs out and was still there when I dashed back in for the camera and reappeared at the door.

" Well obviously you can't expect me to move mid lay!! "

And then she was off leaving in her wake the most perfect egg.
Not bad for an old girl .....
... especially when you compare it to yesterdays other eggs.  It's the third largest.
When we took her in last year we didn't expect to get any more than the odd egg every now and then, she looked so old and worn out but she's been absolutely wonderful and in fact is one of the real characters of the flock.
My special Angel :-)
Sue xx