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Tuesday, 12 June 2018

This and That

What on earth is happening to our weather? One minute its sweltering,  yesterday being 23 degrees no breeze and the next minute that easterly wind is nipping at your heels and it feels like autumn.  We have had very little rain here on the Essex coast and my lawn is changing from green to a lovely shade of hay! We actually have a very fine drizzle at the moment and as long as it lasts a few hours it may actually do some good.  I've almost emptied one large water butt watering the garden  and I confess to watering the garden with the hose at the end of last week as everything was so dry.

I've been keeping busy as usual, batch cooking and making elderflower champagne.  I decided to experiment this year and use some of the bottles of cordial I made last year to start off the batch.  I added hot water to the cordial in a bucket, yeast, white wine vinegar, a small amount of sugar and lemon juice.
It was left a week and its been bottled and stored in a dark cool place. Its already got a fair amount of fizz to it. I actually think the older the batch the better it is, the sediment has settled and as long as you pour carefully you have a lovely glass of champagne. 

My budget has taken a bit of a hammering because of hubby! He has bought a third share in a Rhib, it was quite cheap but requires work. He and his two buddies have worked hard getting in sea worthy but because its parked on our front drive I have become the workshop canteen, supplying teas, coffees, rolls, scones, sandwiches and biscuits. He has offered to reimburse me but I said he can pay for a shop  that I want to do at the end of the week from Tesco.
Photo borrowed from Internet

We visited friends at the weekend and they took us to the local garden centre were I bagged a real bargain.  They had just put up a sign saying all bedding plants £1 for a tray of 10 plants. 
I bought 2 trays of Busy Lizzie which will brighten up the garden and hanging baskets, ready for us to put the house up for sale. Yes we've been thinking about it for a while and are having a valuation later this week.  Once they give us their opinion on the property and value,   we will decide whether to use an online or local estate agency. This all means living out of the freezers for the foreseeable, so shopping will just be pantry items and fresh fruit and vegetables.  Bye for now. Tx

Friday, 8 June 2018

Good News and Good News

Well I have to say congratulations to HMRC for the speed at which they have sorted out my Tax Return.  Since retiring in 2016 HMRC have continued to tax me despite me informing them I am retired.  They even took 20% of my private pension! Because I own a rental property I have to complete a tax return and they would not sort anything until I had completed 2 years returns. They stopped taxing my pension for the first time this tax year, so I knew they had looked at my tax. So I phoned then Tuesday and asked them how long my refund was going to take now I'd completed the 2017-1018 tax return. They said they hadn't received it so I resubmitted it that evening and kept the receipt number this time.  I have just had a refund for £900+. which included £1.49 interest.  YIPEE!  

As you are aware I am a retired Civil Servant (Immigration Service), 6 months before I retired I found out my NI contributions were SHORT despite having over 40years of contributions.  The reason and I get angry just thinking about it.....The Government, my employer  paid a reduced SERPS contribution! We knew nothing about it. It has since been rectified for serving officers but it was too late for me because of being so close to retirement. Furthermore, I didn't see why I should pay  £8K plus to rectify a problem they had caused. Its bad enough having to wait longer for the ruddy thing without them kicking me twice!!!! So I researched  the Grandparents NI.   As you know I look after my grandchildren at various times throughout the school year and therefore was entitled to claim. Luckily my youngest grandchild is 7 and I can claim until she is 12 which will take me to my State Pension Age 66 in 4 years time. I found the form on line, completed it and gave it to my daughter to add her bits and bobs before faxing it off to the relevant department.  Today I received a letter  saying they have given me NI credits for 2017-2018. RESULT. 

So if you're contributions are short and you undertake Childcare duties then you can claim for your credits. My pension has gone up from £138.85 to £143.95 a week. Each year I claim I will get another £5+ a week credit to eventually be on £164 a week approximately in 2022.  So Good News all round. Hope this helps someone out there. Bye for now Tx. 

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Garden Progress

Thank you all for you comments regarding the library/audio books post.  I love listening to the radio plays on YouTube especially while I'm gardening. My daughter bought me blue tooth headphones for my birthday and they are great, no wires to get caught up in things while I'm busy digging etc in the garden.  

Well we've had 5 weeks of glorious sunshine on the Essex coast and the temperatures for the most, have been wonderful. Now and again that easterly chilly breeze creeps  in as a reminder we have only just left May behind.  Where are the months going?

As usual I've been busy in the garden.  Firstly I potted the majority of the tomato and pepper plants on and they are much happier now. The second sowing of cucumber seeds having lost the first, are lovely healthy little plants now.  I've put the courgette plants out into the garden and the female flowers are forming.  I actually have a courgette but the first ones are never any good. 
The second sowing of dwarf green beans have been put in the bean bed and third successional sowing has taken place. 

The first sowing of beans are now just starting to bud and the flowers will appear by the end of the week.  

Hubby made me a solar dehydrator at the end of summer last year.  I did get a few weeks use out of it before the sun started to lose its power and it was made redundant over the winter. Well today I cleaned it all out and got the little solar fan out of the cupboard clipped it onto the shelf and it started up straight away. I retrieved some of the plum puree from the freezer, I had prepared this from the tonnes of fruit our neighbours didn't use on their trees at the end of last summer.

Some of the fruit was made into puree and some I just stoned and froze. Once the puree had defrosted I spread it onto some parchment and placed it in the dehydrator.  This will become fruit leather.  I've experimented with some frozen stoned plums slicing them thinly to dry out. I'm hoping the flavour will just intensify without the need for sugar.  

Banana was sliced and placed on the netting, this turns into the best ever banana chews when dehydrated.  I'll be making lots of things throughout the summer and experimenting with all sorts of things to.

How are things in your garden? Do you use a dehydrator? What do you dehydrate? Bye for now. Tx

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

The Library, Frugality at its Best.

I'm not an avid reader but I do read.  Sometimes when I go to the local library I'm not always in the mood for a full on novel so I pick up quick reads which I love.  They are what they say QUICK READS for when my attention span is limited.  The selection is quite vast from the Scifi like  Dr Who,  to thrillers written by Lynda le Plante and of course romance.
The Great Cornish Getaway by Fern Britton is all about Richard Gere's escape from a film set in the UK to the shores of Cornwall, which is a  fabulous little read. Until Proven Guilty by Nigel Hinton is a Murder Mystery were the finger of guilt is firmly pointed in one direction until a family member gathers evidence to prove otherwise. 

I love my Library card and its always on hand.  Borrowing is so simple and books can be ordered from the comfort of armchair, you can check your own library for copies and order from the surrounding area.  The library will send you a text message when they are in..... simple. I love listening to audio books especially when I'm gardening but these can prove expensive through the library so I have found an alternative.

I have a cheap smart phone and I love, love,  love  being able to listen to audio books free of charge using 'YouTube'.  The full unabridged Agatha Christie audio books are brilliant but so are the abridged radio play style ones with all the sound effects, you really feel part of the book.  There are hundreds to choose from, not just Agatha Christie and they don't cost a penny. As you can see from this screen shot of my YouTube search there is 17 Stephen King short stories. There is also 8 short 'Funny' stories 'taking the biscuit' and of course Sherlock Holmes. The list is endless. You just need to search by the topic that you love, give it a try. 

I often listen to a short story as a way of relaxing before I go to sleep and its helped me no end.  Do you use your local library?
Bye for now. Tx

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

The Budget

At last the gas and electric bill is coming down, obviously being  in Spain for a week  helped but so has the eagerly awaited warmer weather.  My combined fuel bill has gone from  £77 last month to £32 this month.  I would like to say the same for the food budget but I went a little off piste! Mainly because I managed to sell an old bathroom sink we've had hanging around for over a year. 

I cleaned it up and put it on Gumtree for £10 and it sold after 3 weeks.  So I used the money to buy extra bits and pieces this month. £10 doesn't sound a lot for a perfectly good sink but that's the price people will pay. Its normally landlords buy them as a cheap replacement for a property refurbishment.

I used the money wisely on a Lidl weekend offer. The extra mature cheese 830g was down to £2.39 from £3.99 so I got 2. The entire shop came to £8.71, the white bread is a treat now and again and a must for bacon sandwiches.

Sainsbury's have kindly sent me some more coupons. I will probably only use the  £8 off £40 so that's 20%off,  not bad as long as I choose wisely what I need.  The good thing with Sainsbury's is their own brand goods are quite good. I've also got a £1 Tesco voucher.

The first thing I added to my budget journal this month was my £5 overspend. Total spend this month was £111.85 - £10 from sink = £101.85 so an over spend of £1.85 which i'll carry forward to next month. My £5  Spring bonus from Iceland was put on my card on Saturday 19th so I went down and bought some yoghurt, fruit and cooked turkey which I love and its zero points on Weightwatchers.  
The lettuce is coming along in the garden so we are having salads and it's lovely.  

All in all a good month. My aim for the next month is to use up meat and fish in the freezer.  There's plenty in there, so after an initial big shop it will be basic buys only like milk, bread fruit & veg etc Then another bigger shop towards the end of my financial month to use the coupon. Bye for now. Tx

Monday, 21 May 2018

Worthwhile Freebie

Once again I would like to thank you for all your reassuring comments.  I know the decision is mine and I feel strong enough to make it regardless if I lose friends over it.  Renting abroad is an option and I would like to do this but short term. 

A few weeks ago I was at the library returning books when I happened to glance down at the open local newspaper on a table,  staring me in the face was this:

Yes free compost was being made available by the local council, all we had to do was turn up with our bags and fill them up.  And that's just what we did, we went to the local tip carpark and filled a large black dustbin with rich fibrous steaming compost. Its been used all around the garden. 
The beetroot, kale and cabbage seedlings have all been planted in the beds. The peas that I started in damp kitchen paper have been put in one half of the oil drum. The remainder of the beetroot seedlings have been put in the other.  I planted up the carrot seedlings I  also started  in damp kitchen paper as I find it radically reduces the need for thinning out. They are quite fiddly because
they're so small  but I now prefer to do it this way.  

I suppose I should be called the impatient gardener because I love to see things grow quickly. This form of sowing means I can crack on with successional sowings because I can see when things have failed.  The sunshine has been lovely but the breeze has been quite keen at times. The lawn is drying out very quickly and the edges are already turning hay coloured! Everything in the greenhouse is good, although I still think the tomatoes are small, I may have to buy a couple of more mature ones!  The courgettes are in flower but all male flowers as normal to begin with, so no courgettes forming just yet.  I kept the peppers in the conservatory because it has warmer overall temperatures. They will be put in the greenhouse before the end of the month.  

Everything in the garden is looking rosy and I'm hoping for bumper crops this year that will help my budget.  You can't beat garden to table in minutes!

How does your garden grow? I'll show you the peas and carrots in a couple of days time to see whether there is any progress. Plus the results of the successional sowings.  Bye for now Tx

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Back to Normal......whatever that is!

I have thrown myself into jobs around the house since returning from Spain in an attempt to take my mind off the fact that I know 'people' will think I'm spoiling their dream by not agreeing to it, or be prepared to organise it all! Anyway enough said, I'm going to concentrate on my future whatever happens I've put on 1.5lb because of stress and its got to stop, or I'll undo everything I've achieved over the last 18 months.
My brother looked after my plants while I was away, apparently the first five days were cold and my plants that I'd moved to the greenhouse suffered.  The cucumbers rotted off so I've planted more and the tomatoes just didn't do anything. I have a feeling that lots of the tomato plants are the bush variety.  You can see the difference between the 2 species. Everything else wasn't too bad.

The most important thing for me when I'm repotting is being comfortable so I grabbed a stool and table, clean pots and started thinning out and repotting. Hopefully the fresh compost and recent warmth will breed some new life into the plants.

Not everything was disappointingly stunted though, the strawberries had gone mad while I was away and they really look healthy.  The potatoes had shot up so mush I had to earth them up and they've already popped through again.

I think it will need redoing soon as they are already sprouting through.  The onions are through and I've constantly been picking lettuce and spinach leaves for our meals.

The beetroot is ready to go into the ground but hubby lent our staple gun out and we need it for the new netting on protective cover.  We should get it back by the end of the week and I can get them into the garden. The same with the cabbage and kale. 

This time of year always gives me such a thrill,  all that lovely food waiting to happen! Hows your garden growing? Off to sow more bits. Bye for now. Tx