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Monday, 18 September 2017

An Unusual Post

Us Brits have a worldwide reputation for making conversation about the weather and I think it's probably true. Unlike lots of other countries  of the world our little island can experience a wealth of different weather fronts all in the space of 24 hours. Our weather is so changeable it must be one of the most over used words in the meteorological dictionary.

When we went to Leicester last month we arrived in beautiful sunshine and promptly opened the windows and put the fan on inside the hotel room as it was so warm.  Less than 12 hours later it was 9 degrees cooler with  thick cloud that eventually turned to heavy rain with hailstones the size of marbles.  Then the sun came out dried up all the rain and incy wincy spider climbed the spout again......sorry I digress.
Last Sunday I found myself thinking hurricane Irma had crossed the Atlantic at break neck speed and reached the UK as it was so windy, the sky was full of angry dark clouds and the rain when it arrived was heavy and almost horizontal! During the week  we went from one extreme to the other with weather warnings about flash flooding and gale force winds. 

In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.  Well that's the official explanation.
Most people say 'small causes can have longer effects'. 

So to my question: 
Is all the bomb testing in North Korea having an effect on 
our weather systems of late? I believe you can't go firing bombs into the
atmosphere without it causing  something! What happens to all those
displaced molecules? I do hope there is some scientist bloggers who can explain. 

The USA have experienced dreadful disasters of late. 
Hurricane Harvey and the flooding in Texas, followed 
swiftly by hurricane Irma that had a magnitude not witnessed before. 
There has been flooding across India, Nepal and Bangladesh. An earthquake of 8.1
in Mexico. Yesterday my friend in Denmark posted a picture on Facebook of the Copenhagen half marathon which was abruptly cancelled half way through due to a snow storm. I know we have natural disasters every year but its seems they have been in quick succession of each other and of degrees not heard of before. Some would believe Global Warming is alive and well and living amongst us. Either way they are 'man made'.  Do you have any thoughts about this? 

PS: Thank you for all the lovely comments regarding the tea cosy.  I am going to attempt to adapt the pattern for a coffee cafetiere.......for me. 

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

At Long Last

Its been an absolute age but I've only gone and done it........I've finished my friends tea cosy! Yeeha! I bought the pattern when I was visiting her in April this year, we were standing outside a wool shop when she said look at those lovely knitted cosies.  They were beautiful so I went in the shop and bought the pattern.  Once home I purchased the wool and started. I chose the moss rib stitch cosy as its very stretchy and not knowing the exact size of the tea pot it will adorn I thought it was the safest option.  I lost track how many times I pulled it apart and restarted it.  Over time I became familiar with the pattern which helped when it came to the shaping.  Every line of the pattern was different and once again I confess it was pulled clean off the needles numerous times.  

I used to knit  quite a bit when the children where younger and money was tight.  My mum would knit the children's stuff and I would knit mine.  I used to go each month and buy a ball of Sidar something or another for my latest chunky cardigan. Thank goodness they had a lay by scheme or I wouldn't have been able to afford it. Working full time and shift work put and end to lots of crafty things I used to do so now I'm retired I thought it would be easy to just pick up again.

Unfortunately I will not be seeing my friend on her birthday but another friend is going up to Tyneside to see her next  week and has offered to take the present with her.  Knowing her Birthday was looming meant I had to knuckle down and finish it. I don't have a tea pot so I put it over a plastic jug in order to take the photo. I wanted to learn to crochet flowers as I feel they always look so much better than knitted flowers. The crochet flowers have been a disaster, I'm all fingers and thumbs when trying to watch the YouTube tutorial and do it at the same time, so I did a couple of the flowers from the pattern instead. 

As you can see I wrote a little card to put with it which reads:

This tea cosy was made with extra stitches, dropped stitches and a few too many swear words. But most of all it was made with love. 
I hope it ruddy fits. 

I simply had to buy the little porcelain pastry forks when I saw them as she loves any thing like that and they were in the sale. My friend doesn't know I blog so my secret is safe.  I just need a small bar of chocolate to go in the bag and its good to go.  Small as I know she's on Weight Watchers but everyone knows that chocolate doesn't contain Smart Points or Calories when eaten on your Birthday! I hope she likes it and  I hope it fits.

Many thanks for all your seasonal comments. We have high winds today but lots of sunshine too.  I hope you haven't suffered to badly from the effects of Storm Aileen.  Bye for now. Tx 

Monday, 11 September 2017

Tired Oh So Tired

Last Monday was my final grandchildren minding session of the holidays and if I'm completely honest a little voice inside my head was saying 'Thank the Lord for that'. I love them to bits but my time wasn't my own anymore.  So knowing I could do what I wanted for the rest of the week  I went a little crazy on Tuesday and Wednesday tidying more areas of the garden preparing them for winter. Then I had more preserving to do as my freezer diving had freed up more space. Every minute has been filled with something and now I feel tired, oh so tired.

I do this every time, you'd think I would have learnt by now,  after all I'm getting older and Rome wasn't built in a day.  But then you have to make hay while the sun shines  don't you? We've  had some lovely sunshine on the Essex coast but there is a chill in the air too, especially the mornings and evenings. Out of the four seasons of the year I would rank my least favourite as winter. Number one has to be spring because its the first signs of life, the start of new beginnings.  Summer comes next on my list and  then autumn.  What's your favourite season? 
What's your favourite season? 

My spending has remained on track, I used the Iceland £5 and Asda £5.28 for  essentials milk, bread, sugar, squash, fruit and a 39p pointed cabbage from Lidl. I spent  £1.09 bringing my total so far to £43. I pretty much have this weeks meals sorted and the only thing I need is 6 pints of milk which will take me through to Friday. 

Would you believe that tomorrow (12th September) I celebrate being retired for one whole year, boy oh boy its gone quickly. I have learnt so much during the last twelve months. Firstly, the free-time you believed retirement would bring doesn't exist! In addition,  when I worked I always hankered after having  more outside space to grow stuff and have chickens etc My current garden is approximately 36ft x 90ft and we have a 10ft x 8ft greenhouse. I've learnt this is more than enough space for our needs and lifestyle. Furthermore,  I can cope with this without it taking over my/our life. I've been better at successional sowing and hope to build on this by getting a few more spring crops sown. My preserving skills have  gone from strength to strength and I've contacted with my card making. The only area I've failed abysmally on is my sewing. I really thought I'd have more time to get my sewing machine out and make stuff, the material is ready and waiting but the time just runs away from me. Perhaps autumn will be different but I doubt it as we really need to get some decorating done before winter.  At least hubby will be around more to help, he's been covering holiday shortages and worked full time for the last 6 weeks. Our house was completely painted over 4 years ago and some walls are looking a little shabby, and most of the skirting could do with a  good gloss. So that's next on the agenda. Bye for now. Tx

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Freezer Fortnight (AKA Freezer diving)

Monday was  not only the first day of my freezer fortnight it was also the first time since April I have had to put my housecoat on when I got up as the house felt chilly. In reality it was 19 degrees but it was so miserable and grey outside it made it  seem colder. I shall be having this 'freezer fortnight'  every month from now until Christmas in order to use up lots of the bits lurking at the bottom of the freezer.  I have been concentrating my efforts on the chest freezer and there is some space in there now. I'm hoping by the end of this fortnight I can have a big batch cook that will provide the majority of meals for the rest of the month.

I have spent £41.91 since the 22nd August and thanks to my Iceland Summer Bonus I have £5 to spend with them.  We popped in Asda on Saturday evening so hubby could get some razors and whisky for himself, I put some bits in the basket too and the bill came to £29.47. Later that evening I did the price guarantee thing and got a coupon for £5.28 wow! So that's £10.28 I can spend in Iceland and Asda without it costing me a penny! This will keep me on track to keep my spending under £75 this month, there is after all only 16 days left till pay day so its doable.  

More preserving took place over the weekend. I lifted the rest of the beetroot from one bed and they filled the pressure cooker.  Once cooled some were layered  in a tub between cereal packet waxy paper as nothing sticks to this and frozen. I left two large ones out to serve with out dinner and the rest were pickled in a balsamic recipe from the internet. 

Frozen beetroot, pickled beetroot & damson jam

Hubby checked the damsons and picked those that were ready and he made some damson jam.  Next was another batch of sweet cucumber relish as I had  4 ripe cucumbers. The weather forecast of sunshine this week seems to have disappeared but I did manage to dehydrate another batch of fruit.  The fruit leather will go on hold until I can guarantee a couple of days of drying weather.  
Peeled and seeded ready for dicing

Monday's evening meal was mushroom and vegetable risotto with a sprinkling of cheese.  I am trying to increase our meat free days to at least 7 a month.  Instead of meat I will use lentils, chickpeas, eggs. cheese, nuts, fish and other forms of protein which are healthier. 
Risotto is a  comfort food

I had the grandchildren for the last time on Monday and they will all be back at school by Wednesday so I have some time to myself at last.  I  am on a mission this week to get more of the garden tidied and get some decorating done. The house was completely painted four years ago  after it was newly plastered but it is staring to look tired in places.  We need some new bits and pieces  and I know its going to be a headache choosing things. More on that subject another day. Back soon, bye for now Tx

Thanks as always for all your lovely comments.  

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Making The Most The Bargains

Last month  I managed to pick up some yellow sticker meat. One large turkey drumstick for £1.22 and a packet of 5% steak mince for £2.41. So how many meals was I able to produce out of £3.63 of meat?

The turkey drumstick had the very end of the bone taken off by hubby so it would fit into the slow cooker. In with the turkey leg went a large onion, carrots, green beans and potatoes from the garden. A jar of Sainsbury's wine sauce bought on offer at 54p and a chicken stock cube. Once cooked I removed all the bones and we had it served with Yorkshire puddings, runner beans and kale from the garden. It provided us with a further two meals for two people. (I deleted the photos by accident and I can't get them back) 

Minced beef is such a versatile product but too much red meat isn't good for us so I always add another source of protein, 4oz of cooked green lentils. The  mince was browned with onion and garlic (lentils added) and divided up. One third of the mixture was placed in a separate pan with a stock cube, water, carrots and green beans. After simmering for 20 minutes the mix was thickened slightly with beef gravy granules before placing in a pyrex bowl. The rest of the mince had extra garlic added and our first greenhouse yellow pepper diced, homemade tomato sauce and mushrooms from the freezer, once cooked through,  a tablespoon of tomato puree was added to intensify the flavour. A butternut squash was peeled and sliced thinly on the mandolin to form lasagne sheets. I layered up a casserole dish with Sainsbury's dauphinoise sauce (44p) , squash, meat mixture, squash etc,  just as you would a lasagne. 
I only used half the meat mixture the rest was placed in a plastic container to be served as bolognaise with spaghetti or indeed make another lasagne in the future.  A cheese topping was added  and it was ready for the oven. I still had  half a jar of  dauphinoise sauce left so I cut more squash and made up two foil containers of butternut squash dauphinoise finishing the dish with some cheese. The leftover squash was boiled to make the topping for the cottage pie, so 3 x 2 meals were made from the mince. 

Indecently the DADx on the tub I used for the bolognaise was from daughter 2 who won the Suffolk Business Bake off last week and delivered hubby some of her winning lemon drizzle cake in.  I had already had some when I picked the children up. I digress, so £3.63 of meat with approximately £2.00 of extras(sauces, stock cubes, cheese, butternut squash) made us 6 meals for 2 people so less than 50p a head plus 2 squash dauphinoise side dishes that will be served with bacon chops and fresh kale. By the way the lasagne was so very, very good served with salad and  roasted beetroot. How do you stretch food and still make delicious dishes? Bye for now Tx. 

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

What A Difference A Day Makes

....24 little hours. And so the song goes but its so true.  Yesterday was a stifling 26 degrees with clear skies and brilliant sunshine. Today the temperature is struggling to reach 16 degrees with constant drizzle and wall to wall cloud. Everything in the garden and greenhouse is on its last spurts of growth so the slow and steady rain should do some good. The dehydrator was emptied last night and if the weather forecast for the next 10 days is to be believed it will be in constant use. 
New seals added to jars and filled with sundried goodness

Bank Holiday Monday was glorious and after a couple of jobs in the garden I was going to do some card making but hubby suggested we go out and we headed for Ardleigh car boot sale.  There was a lot of stalls there but it was so hot and no air lots of them were starting to pack up.  I saw a pyrex dish that I really should have bought  but didn't...stupid me! I could do with two more pyrex although I am considering buying the ones with the plastic lids so ready prepared dishes can be frozen. It will have to be a TK Max find as they are so expensive!
Handy for freezer to oven 

When we left Ardleigh hubby took off in the opposite direction to home and I asked him 'where are we going?' He replied 'Wait and see'. We arrived at Colchester Tollgate shopping centre a few minutes later. He headed for Boots the Chemist.  He then told me he had been after a present  for me and this was the only place that stocks it locally.  I suffer from hard skin on my heels and I have tried everything to keep it at bay.  Apparently dry skin is a result of having an underactive thyroid.  When he took the box down from the shelf I gulped at the price £59.99 but hubby said it was on offer for £39.98 so I whipped out my phone to check.
Love my present although I fear I may lose an inch in height over the next year!

At the till the assistant checked the price too and it was £39.98 hubby handed over his credit card but I asked him to wait a moment as I knew I had a coupon in my bag. I knew we would be awarded triple points but I had a double points coupon and a 150 extra points on foot care products.  The triple and double points went through although I'm not entirely sure but the 150 didn't and the assistant couldn't explain why but I will write to Boots and ask. I did get a whopping 633 points  £6.33 to spend on my Boots card in the future.
Points, double, triple I'm CONFUSED

We returned home late afternoon and I did manage to get some card making done, in between  preparing dinner. I still need to make some envelopes.
Cards for the boys

I hope you had a great weekend and bank holiday. Bye for now.  TX

Monday, 28 August 2017

Preserving all ways

Jo at Smallholderwannabe requested that I post my sweet cucumber relish recipe so here we are: 

  • 2 lbs cucumbers, peeled, center row of seeds removed, and finely diced
  • 1 medium onion finely diced ( I used red for extra colour)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, finely diced (I used half red, half yellow for colour)
  • 1 stalk of finely diced celery (or heaped teaspoon of celery salt)
  • 1oz salt
  • 6oz white granulated sugar
  • 400ml cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown mustard seed
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
Place the diced cucumbers, onion, and red bell pepper in a large mixing bowl. Combine with the salt and pour water over the mixture until just covered. Let sit for at least 6 hours or overnight.
  • Drain the cucumber mixture in a colander, rinse thoroughly with water, and drain well.
  • In a large stock pot, add the sugar, vinegar, and mustard seed and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the drained cucumber mixture and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
  • Ladle the hot relish into sterile jars, leaving ¼ inch of headspace. Wipe the rims of the jars clean and seal tightly with the lids.
  • Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. (The 3 jars I made fitted  into my deep pressure cooker pan. Boiling water was added to the start of the neck of the jar)
  • Sealed jars will store in a cool, dark place for a year. If the seal is broken, the relish will keep in the fridge for a month.
This is a basic recipe found all over the internet, I did notice that some people add a teaspoon of cornflour near the end of the cooking process to produce a syrupy sauce. I may try that next week when I do some more, as I felt there wasn't enough liquid and the cucumbers are still coming thick and fast!

The solar dehydrator has also been in action this week as we've had some lovely sunshine. I'm so chuffed its working a treat. We put pears, apples, plums, banana and tomatoes in there and they taste delicious especially the bananas so I've just filled it again.  Hubby wanted to try thicker slices so again we experiment to see what works and what doesn't. The weather forecast for this week is excellent so it will be filled with goodies every time its emptied. 
I bought some new kilner jar seals last year after finding the blackberry vodka was evaporating because the seal was as knackered. My jars are old but I want to use them for the dry produce so I'm hoping the new seals will do the trick. I will sterilise them this week and change the seals but in the mean time the dried produce is being kept in plastic containers. I'm also hoping that some of the  damson plums are ready midweek so I can make firstly jam but also try some fruit leather in the dehydrator. 

The 4 courgettes I picked yesterday were literally washed, dried, sliced, placed in a bag in the freezer ready to be added to casseroles, stews and soups. How is your preserving going? This month I have made relish, pickled, frozen and dehydrated produce so that it can be used throughout the winter. I have just found a Balsamic Vinegar Beetroot pickling recipe that I will definitely try as I find the  normal too harsh even with sugar added.  The front garden needs an hour spending on it, a few things need tidying and then I will be relaxing  making some cards. Enjoy the bank holiday. Bye for now. Tx