Friday 27 February 2015

Damson Gin, Jellies and Jams

Lovely Hubby's eyes lit up when he came home from work last week, on the worktop were sat three containers containing his favourite (up to now) homemade concoction ....damsons soaking in sugar and gin.  Well actually the square ex-sweetie jar contains damsons soaking in whisky.  I had one litre sized bottle of gin and an almost full bottle of whisky so I used that too.

We get a lot of bottles of whisky bought us, something to do with my man being Scottish I guess, he also gets given rum, something to do with being in the Royal Navy for so long, but my man is a Port drinker through and through so we try to find alternative uses for the whiskys and rum or pass them on as gifts to people that would appreciate them more than us.  He even sold a very expensive bottle of whisky at a car boot sale once and got enough to be able to buy himself a very drinkable bottle of Port, the man that bought it was thrilled to get a £30 bottle of whiskey for £18.

So his two favourite drinks are Port and Damson Gin, and when he's not drinking the Damson Gin he's busy spreading the Damson Gin Jam on his toast .... we're not alcoholics .... really we're not ... hic!!

We have one bottle remaining of last years batch, it never goes off it just keeps getting better and better ... I wonder how long it will last   ;-)

If you would like the recipes here's the post from last year when I make Damson Gin and Damson Gin Jelly and here's one from way back in 2010 when I made this luscious drink for the first time and turned the soaked fruits into Damson Gin Jam. ... even the damson stones were eaten in this one, waste not want not has always been my motto!!

Sue xx

Thursday 26 February 2015

My Ten Top Tips

I had an email asking me for my ten top tips for saving money (thanks B), and asking me if I really write about things I do or do I write about things I think I should do .... you little unbeliever B!!

Firstly YES I do write about things I do,

 Everything I write about here on my blog happens, sometimes once, sometimes a few times and sometimes, well mostly in the case of saving money, filling the freezer, cooking and day to day living over and over and over again.

So make yourself a cup of coffee, settle comfortably in your chair and read on .....

My Ten Top Tips ... That I Use or Have Used

ONE  For example tubes of hand cream are ALWAYS cut open and the cut off bit used a lid until ALL of the product is on my hands.

Containers are upended and drained, every last little drop into our main bottles or into the new one just purchased.  I have just worked out that we have had this pump top action large bottle of shampoo since 2008, filled and re-filled over and over again, but it still works so it will continue to live in the bathroom in daily use.

We pay for the packaging and the product inside it so it makes sense to get our moneys worth out of everything we buy.

TWO  Potatoes are dealt with as and when I buy them.  If I buy a full bag, because sometimes a bag is cheaper than buying just a couple of baking potatoes, I will use them for the week they are at their freshest and then I will process the rest and put them into the freezer.

These wedges were frozen raw and were eaten quite quickly (place on a baking tray, sprinkle with salt, pepper or a bit of paprika and roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes or so turning once during cooking).  But if they are to live in the freezer for any length of time I prefer them blanched and then frozen if I have the time.  To do this put them in a pan, pour over boiling water, boil for just a few minutes, five does the trick if they are chunky) and then strain them, put into a bowl of chilled water, dry and then open freeze.  If you have blanched your spuds you can reduce the cooking time by about 10 minutes.

I freeze chunky homemade chips, wedges, potato croquets, roasts, mash and potato soup.

THREE  Rubber gloves, 

I'm right handed so my right hand rubber glove tends to wear out first, rather than throw away a perfectly good left hand glove, I save it and then when the next right hand glove is no longer fit for purpose I turn one of my pair of left hand gloves inside out ... et voila ... a right hand glove.

Of course you can recycle rubber gloves even further and cut up the redundant holey gloves into gardening ties or elastic bands of various sizes by chopping them up with scissors, you get small elastic bands from the fingers and thumb and larger ones from the wrist section.  

When I have two leaking right hand gloves that I don't need to cut into bands I simply use them as a slightly more waterproof layer over cotton gardening gloves on days when I have to weed but the mud would make my normal gardening gloves wet within minutes.  (I hate soil down my nails so I always garden with gloves on.)

As a final resort I use them as a good whoosh maker for a garden bonfire, a dry rubber glove placed in with some twigs and paper will act as a brilliant firelighter.

FOUR  Open freezing lemons , limes or oranges is a brilliant way to get your moneys worth from those bargain nets of fruit.  They nearly always contain more than you actually need and by doing this you have a tub of ready to drop in your drink lemons, limes or orange slices. They flavour and chill your drink at the same time, if you like to start the day with a lemon slice in hot water, they cool the water down just enough to be able to drink it straight away.  And they are obviously very handy in the summer when it's Pimms season :-)

FIVE  Bread crusts never get thrown away in this house.  Quickly whizzed in the food processor with a handful of herbs they are ready for action whenever we need a topping for a Macaroni Cheese or a coating for chicken portions, fish or a veggie alternative.  Simply whizz and tip into a freezer proof bag or box.  They are usable straight from the freezer and stay free flowing.

If you don't have any herbs a few young, washed Dandelion leaves will work just as well for a touch of green freshness.

SIX  Buying supermarket basic lines.

Sometimes you can save money buy finding which of the supermarket basics your family will like. We have found that not all are good for our tastes ..... the beans swim in too much juice for us, the jars of pasta or curry sauce are too sweet tasting for me, I have lost my sweet tooth completely, but we do like the bran-flakes, the pasta is as good as many that cost three times the price and as for the custard, those 15p packets of custard powder in Tesco are so very, very tasty and turn a piece of slightly stale chocolate cake into a pudding fit for my man any night of the week.

SEVEN  Grow your own.

If you have a garden, or a yard with tubs and troughs, you can pretty much keep yourself fed with salad stuff throughout the warmer months, if you have acres of space or polytunnels you can feed your family and then some.  You could do what I do and sell your surplus at car boot sales and then use the money you make to buy next years seeds when the garden centres reduce them to 50p a pack in September.  Once you've done it the first year you are literally eating for free the next :-)

But what if you have none of that ..... a balcony or a window sill (inside or out) can still save you money.  Just buying yourself a packet of cress seeds for a pound or so can save you from having to buy a tub a week from the supermarket and you can grown these pretty much all year round.  So 52 tubs of cress from Tesco (priced this morning) would cost you £12.48 over the course of a year.  Not a lot, but when you start to add to your window sill and buy yourself a Chilli plant for a couple of pounds and then save yourself 60p a week for fresh chillies  (£31,20 for the year) it all starts to add up.

If you do have a small space to grow one successional crop make it salad leaves.  For the price of a couple of packs of seeds you can have fresh mixed leaves all through the Summer and beyond.  At an average price of one pound a bag, and saying you usually buy two packs of ready washed leaves a week, over the course of the Summer you could save yourself at least £50.

Talking of car boot sales brings me to tip number EIGHT

Sell what you don't want.  Whether it is surplus veggies, old clothes, clothes the children have grown out of, books and magazines you have read, furniture you have no room for or things you have Marie Kondo'ed from your house.  Sell all the things you no longer use or want.

If you have never done a car boot sale before visit the one you think you might sell at.  Check that it has toilets if it is an all day affair, talk to stall holders to see how successful they are when they sell there, find out what time it is best to arrive and how much it is going to cost you for your pitch, and then plan when you will go and sell your stuff.

Pack everything into boxes or directly into the car boot if you have a small car.  Remembering to put your table (or ground sheet if you don't have a table) into the car last so it can come out first ready for setting up.  Get everything ready the night before, so come the ridiculously early setting off time, you can quickly make a flask and grab the packed lunch or wedges of cake from the fridge to stop you spending your newly earnt money on over priced refreshments and then simply get in the car and set off.  

If  you simply cannot resist the smell of the bacon butties wafting over from the hot food vendors and you have to have one, make that your breakfast and then eat your pack-up for lunch to save you cooking when you get home.

NINE  Save your pennies.  They add up they really do.

  Make it a habit when you get home to empty your purse or your pockets of any coins you don't want to be carrying around.  I put anything less than a 50p coin into our Sealed Pot and it's emptied once a year just before Christmas.  

But if you don't want to save your pennies spend them!!  Start paying with the right money sometimes rather than just handing over a note and accumulating yet more change.

But the thing is treat the pennies and small change as though it is real money ... because it is and it's your real money earned by you, so make it work for you in a way of your choosing!!

TEN  Don't spend!!

This follows on neatly from the last one.  A lot of people email and ask me what is the first way to get debt free and this is it,  STOP SPENDING YOUR MONEY !!

If you don't need something to survive ..... don't buy it.  

Start leaving money at home when you go out to walk the dogs or pick children up from school.  If you fancy a coffee after you've walked the dogs .... wait until you get home, sit down and enjoy it and put the £2.50 it would have cost you to buy one into your debt repayment pot.   If you know the children will want sweets after school, you can honestly say "sorry I've got no money on me, lets go home and see what we've got there".  Let them raid the fruit bowl or the biscuit tin instead and save yourself pounds each week, put £1 a day everyday that you do this into your debt repayment pot too.  They will soon get in the habit of doing this instead.  

At the end of a week put the money in the pot into the bank and pay it immediately off  the debt you are tackling first.

Use money you would have normally spent on unnecessary things to pay down your debts and start snowballing.  I did this and it worked for me.  One extra pound paid off a debt is one pound you will not be paying interest on for the next few months or years.

And remember .....

I had another email asking me about the lack of foodie/shopping  posts recently ... that is simply because I have not been shopping on a regular basis.  We have been eating our way through the freezers and cupboards since January and we still have lots to use up, I'm sure you would be totally fed up if you saw pictures of our purchases over the past few weeks.  Apart from last week, which was party week, the shopping has consisted of milk, bread, salad things and fruit and vegetables.

I am hoping that soon there will be posts about growing and eating our own foods, but in the meantime we will continue to plough our way through the chest freezer, one thing is sure that once we reach the bottom it will be unplugged and not restocked until we have enough of our own harvested crops to go in there.

Sue xx

Tuesday 24 February 2015

The KonMari Method

She's everywhere it seems, well everywhere in blogland anyway,  Marie Kondo and her brilliant book 'The Life Changing Magic of Tidying - a simple, effective way to banish clutter forever'.  It seems to be gripping our imaginations .... and for those of us that have been putting some of her ideas into practice she's changing our lives.

Take our chest of drawers for instance in the bedroom ....

... once filled with 'stacked in the normal way' clothes.

First the drawers were emptied and wiped out  one by one ....

... each item held, pondered over and then if it was staying ....

...folded into a neat rectangle ....

... then a smaller rectangle ....

... and finally into a rectangle that was the same height as the drawer.

Then replaced with the others that were in the drawer, and in this case with another six that now also fitted into the same space the others had taken up.  As you can see folding and storing in this way means that you can see at first glance where every one of your items is and get it out without having to move anything else out of the way.  So much easier. 

My neat knicker, sock and tights drawer ..... who would ever have thought I would show you this, but now it's tidy I will ;-)

Another thing that this has highlighted for me is that folding this way means that suitcases will be able to be packed so much easier, and instead of actually unpacking at a destination you could simply and very neatly live out of your suitcase all week for a holiday ... if you even need a suitcase, seeing how small things can be folded has made us both realise that perhaps for us the way forward will simply be a piece of carry on luggage if we ever fly again.

I'm currently working on my Summer clothes that have been stored in our large suitcase under the spare bed, now that things have been sorted everything I own is now fitting neatly into three of these drawers and my half of the wardrobe, so the suitcase will be filled with car boot items and sold while we are there.

To help with my tidying mission I purchased eight of these 'under the bed' storage boxes from Asda, at just £4 each they were a bargain.   I am using them as drawers on the shelves of our wardrobes, because before we had piles of 'in-use' and out of season bulky things stacked on the shelves.  It meant if we wanted something off the back stack we had to lift down the front stack, remove the things we wanted and then replace the stacks, all this for me whilst being stood on the end of the bed!!

Now the boxes slide onto the shelves like drawers and I can pull them out and lift down easily.

And I can see at a glance all the woolly jumpers and cardigans I own.

You can see from this picture where the 'drawers' will slide in on the shelves.  I was very lucky with the dimensions of the boxes .... it was as though it as meant to be!!

There's still some more sorting to do but once it's done that will be IT, no more tidying and a complete banishment of clutter.  How this fits in with my P333 I'm not sure yet, as I am simply putting all my clothes into the wardrobe for now regardless of counting what I have.

In Marie Kondo's words .... if it gives me joy it stays, if it doesn't it goes.

Oh well enough talking about it time to get back to actually doing it.

Sue xx

Monday 23 February 2015

What a Weekend!!

What a weekend we've had.

The driveway was filled with big trucks offloading huge drainage rings for most of Saturday morning.  It was a slow job unloading them as due to the huge weight they had to stabilise the trucks very carefully on our slope before being able to use the crane to lift them into place on the edge of the grass.

You can see the scale of the concrete rings better in this picture with Lovely Hubby in the background working on the next set of polytunnel raised beds.

In the next couple of weeks these will no longer be seen, so it's important to have this photographic evidence of them, as they will be sunk into the ground where the truck is parked in the picture above. There they will form part of our new soakaway.  We have to have these, and the pipework that will be connected to them as we are excavating part of the hillside for our open fronted garages, workshop and water harvesting tank.  The soakaway will be there to prevent any water from draining down onto the road and causing potential problems.

Meanwhile inside the house on Saturday was a flurry of tidying and cleaning and on Sunday filling the worktops with food and drink for our annual neighbourhood get-together, this year it was at our house as we wanted to combine it with a bit of a late housewarming party, so that all the neighbours could see just what we had been up to here, and of course so they could admire Steve and his building teams handiwork in putting the new roof on our conservatory.

With twelve guests and us it made for a happy, chatty affair with entertainment provided by three of our guests with their instruments and singing.  We were treated to a lovely musical interlude in the newly re-roofed conservatory .... which incidentally has brilliant acoustics.

The picture above is actually what was left over after the guests had departed, what with my usual over catering and all the lovely food and drink that was brought by the guests we had lots to feast on.  There were still a lots of left overs in the fridge after Lovely Hubby took a selection of salads, cheeses and cake back with him to his digs, so the dogs had a very luxurious tea last night of chicken drumsticks and then they breakfasted this morning on bits of the leftover ham sandwiches with their usual dry dog food, even Ginger the cat was in on the action with a saucer of salmon for his breakfast.

As for the scones, well I think with a mug or two of coffee I should be able to tackle these little beauties that came with their own jar of Firs Cottage homemade jam .... thanks Mary.

Sue xx

Saturday 21 February 2015

In the words of Britney .....

... Oops I did it again!!

But I didn't play with anyone's heart ... I bought some more books.

Clare Balding's and Vivienne Westwood's books were from the British Heart Foundation shop, and the other three came from a brilliant little discount book shop that we have in Llandudno, called 'Bookwise'.    They often have really good books in there that are across the road in Waterstones for full price, but they sell them for a fraction of the cost.

It would be so wrong of me not to support some of our local shops, so I did this for the sake of the local economy.  Although while saying this .... I did manage to get books with a  total cover price of a of £111.99 for just £18.97.

And I now own 624 books !!

Nope ... I don't feel guilty in the slightest   :-)

Sue xx

Friday 20 February 2015

It's That Time of the Year Again .....

It's that time of the year again ... when each warm day and spot of sunshine brings out a little bit more.  A little bit more hope, a little bit more growth and a little bit more wanting to get your hands into soil and just get on with things.  But I'm holding back, well I have to really until the polytunnel is covered and ready for use, but in the meantime I can potter about doing a bit of tidying here and there.  Pull early weeds out of beds and generally get things ready.

And in the meantime we can enjoy the first blooms of the season, we have snowdrops on the hillside, crocuses showing their lovely purple and yellow heads in the flower bed we planted up by the hedge last year, there are daffodils in pots by the house that are six inches tall now and just showing signs of budding up.

The ones in the jug are not home grown, they were a £1 cheat from M&S ... well you can't resist a bit of spring colour for that price can you, although I love the look I hate the smell of daffs in the house, they're just so musty aren't they  :-(

Also on the kitchen windowsill is the Gerbera that I bought from Tesco last year, it has been happily sat sitting there (remember Nellie Pledge anyone?) all Winter being watered and giving us a shot of green to look at while we wash the pots ....

... and now it's saying thank you for being looked after by giving us the promise of a new flower, I'm so glad I kept it and nursed it through the Winter.

Meanwhile outside at the back of the house at every opportunity I am making full use of my nice new washing line.  We ....  the royal 'we' that is .... dug holes, poured cement and put in two proper washing poles before the patio was tarmacked, so that once done it would look nice and neat.  And being so close to the house means at the first sign of rain I can dash out in my slippers and get things in quickly.  

It's working a treat, every time I've put washing out up to now I've had to run downstairs and bring it in after a couple of hours.  So washing half dry, me getting fit with all the jogging downstairs, it really is a win, win situation.  ;-)

Sue xx

Thursday 19 February 2015

We Have Progress .....

We have progress at last on the polytunnel !!

Can you see in the distance that improvements have taken place.

Creeping a little bit closer ...alright I admit it I stayed in exactly the same place and zoomed in with the camera  :-)

Zooming in a bit more and you can see for yourself exactly what has been going on.

The last couple of weekends have seen the weather being relatively kind to Lovely Hubby as he has manfully heaved wheelbarrowfuls of sand, paving stones and wood into place AND he has managed to make and fill one of the lengths of raised beds with sieved soil.

He soldiered on last weekend until he ran out of paving stones, we had commandeered some of the ones he had ordered for the polytunnel to make the area around the henhouse safer for us to walk on when we are cleaning out the henhouse, so we are about 10 short of finishing the polytunnel paths.

Once the inside is fully done he will get the polythene in place ..... I know it does seem like the wrong way round to me too ....  personally I would much rather be working in the dry but this is the way he has decided to do it this time.

Who am I to argue .... I almost have a polytunnel .... YAY  :-)

Sue xx

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Tidying for the Last Time?

Photographing all our books last week brought something to my attention .....

... the messiness inside the cupboard ...

... and the mix of DVDs and books on the low bookshelves.

Even though the mess in the cupboard can be hidden behind the closed door and the DVDs were lined up relatively neatly, once I had noticed this it played on my mind.  Not just played it danced, whizzed and did a full routine on my mind, something just had to be done.

Once I decide something has to be done, it has to be done NOW!!

So after half a day of absolute chaos in the living room with the dogs taking to their beds in disgust at the upheaval, we now have  all the DVDs in the cupboard, near the tele and DVD player ... which makes much more sense ...

.... and all the books on the shelves, tidied, sorted and arranged much neater than before.

Everything was thoroughly wiped down too, so that is a little bit of Spring cleaning out of the way as well.  :-)

And now my mind is calm ... well for now, because I am about to start on the kitchen cupboards, the ones that hold my plates, bowls jugs etc.  Because while I was doing all the above tidying I did it to Marie Kondo's method,  after reading and being inspired by her book 'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying- A simple effective way to banish clutter forever',  only keeping the things that gave me joy.

I love that all my books give me joy ... lets hope my bowls and plates do too ;-)

Sue xx

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Pancakes Anyone?

Image result for pancakes

Anybody else sick to death at the sight of pancakes .....

Image result for pancakes

... pictures of them in every magazine ...

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... every supermarket has vast displays of ready to mix pancake batters, lines of spatulas, displays of frying pans, lemons by the kilo.  I'm sick to death of  the sight of all of them.

I most definitely WILL NOT be eating any pancakes tonight.

Image result for pancakes

Nope ... not even a gorilla shaped pancake will tempt me.

I was almost tempted this morning when I read Dominic's blog post over at Belleau Kitchen, as I have the ingredients, they fit in well with me trying to avoid flour for a while and with my post on the NutriBullet yesterday... but NO ....

... not even if they smile at me!!

I'm all pancaked out ;-)

Sue xx