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Thursday, 29 June 2017

Best Laid Plans

When I got up bright and early yesterday morning I had it in my head that I would get the sewing machine out from under the stairs ready to  begin some sewing.  I kept my promise to cut the free pattern out last week and retrieved the material that I bought last year  in Portugal from the under bed storage. I did a little bit of ironing that's been hanging around and used the opportunity to iron out all the creases in the material making it easier to lay the pattern out.  
Having made myself a cup of tea I did what I normally do every day, step outside and check over the garden and greenhouse. We'd had some rain but not as much as I expected.  I knew the  green beans needed picking and so did the some of the courgettes. Once they were picked I went over to the strawberry trough and picked the last of the strawberries even though they were tiny. There was another 10 raspberries ready and a I pulled up one of the many mature lettuces. Having brought all the produce into the kitchen I had to decide cooking or sewing.  When you have produce in the garden ready you have to deal with it so I found myself thinking out a meal plan to use it all making sure there is little or no waste. 
Corned beef and potatoes ready for mixing
First thing on the agenda was to make something to go with salad, so I set about making two dishes of corned beef hash. I only had enough potatoes for one but I did have a butter nut squash  that I could add. 
Wonky Veg

 When my oven is used it has to be full so I went on to make some quiche using up the bread that was getting stale. I only get 6 slices out of the freezer at a time now as bread goes mouldy  very quickly in this warm weather.  I rolled each slice  thin like pastry and lined a greased  tin as you would pastry.  All the leftovers were crumbed in the blender and frozen. The filling used some of the odd shaped courgettes that I'd  had to pick as there are so many coming, they were chopped and  fried off in a little oil with onions garlic and spices.  The courgettes are growing more uniform now but I don't really care if they're wonky they taste the same, everything gets used up. 
The over ripe  black banana was added to a half packet of leftover  sponge mix.  Raspberries were placed at the bottom of the individual cases and sponge mix poured over the top. There wasn't much but its better than wasting it.
The strawberries were washed and put in the nutri bullet to turn into a liquid as I thought I'd make a nice strawberry syrup that could be poured over ice cream or fruit. Sugar and drop of water was added before boiling it on the hob for 12 minutes.  It was poured in a sterilised jar and once cooled it will be kept in the fridge for the next few weeks (or days!). 

Some of the lettuce was made into a coleslaw and the rest left to be served with cucumber and tomatoes. My cucumbers are getting bigger, garden update at the end of the week. The dwarf beans were topped, tailed, chopped and blanched ready to be frozen as I need to use salad first.  If I manage to get to my peas before the meeces than I will serve them sprinkled raw on the top of the salad. I need to find the mince that I know is at the bottom of the freezer so I can make  Bolognese, that way the spaghetti can be have courgetti added to it  utilising the courgettes.  

The egg shells were whizzed with a little boiling water in the blender and will be used on the tomatoes in the greenhouse, providing a great natural feed full of potassium, calcium and nitrogen. Peelings  went in the composter, butternut squash seeds  in the conservatory to dry ready for next year, everything used up.
The best bit is that I have  meals ready for the next few days so I will be able to get on with some sewing hopefully, although I'm out with friends tomorrow.
The rest of the butternut squash was roasted and  it will be served with quiche, salad and green beans. As you can see the oven was filled to capacity in order to keep bills down. Do you have days were you start one thing and it goes completely off  in another direction? I really need to get on with my knitting as its too late to start sewing, that's the down side of not having a dedicated craft room. One day perhaps I will. 

All cooked and cooling down
Bye for now. Tx

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Still Planning my Shopping and using Coupons (MONDAY)

Last month Sainsbury's sent me an email asking me if I still wished to receive offers and other marketing data and I agreed, after all you can always press delete or unsubscribe at a later date.  Shortly after I received some coupons from them 3 x £4.50 off £30 and 1 x £6 off £30. (15% & 20%reductions or £19.50 off £120). I don't have a local Sainsbury's so I have to time my shopping with visits to the family or friends to make it viable.  I used last weeks coupon because I'd received a £30 Sainsbury's gift card from a friend for helping her do some things around her house.  I wasn't going to use this weeks coupon but my daughter asked me to pick the grandsons up from school yesterday as she would be working  in London until 6.
After consulting Mysupermarket as I always do I prepared a shopping list  to take advantage of any offers they had.  I'm stockpiling 'kiddie' bits at the moment as it will soon be summer holidays and we will be looking the grandchildren far more. Things like cordial, ice-cream, biscuits and various spreads for sandwiches are handy so we can pack up and go to the beach. 

eeing all these various bread products reduced was great, just the sort of ' at the ready' food for the freezer. I loved the mini assorted rolls but I wouldn't pay £1.40! (Sorry its blurred, most were 34p, finger-rolls 19p, pancakes 34p)
The boys had taken their bikes to school so nanny looked like a pack horse coming home with two lots of lunch/day bags and two lots of PE/football kit bags! I made them their tea and I  had to have the obligatory 15 minutes on the trampoline with them but I did visit the loo first!  I did trampoline classes when I was 14 and could do somersaults, hollow-backs and all sorts. Trying to convince  the children that at 60 things are more difficult is hard work!

My daughter phoned to say she was calling in at Aldi to do a bit of shopping but would be home soon. She came through the front door with these beautiful flowers, gave me a big kiss, followed by a hug and thanked me for always being there.  Arhhh they're beautiful and they smell just as good as they look! My favourite flowers, peony and stocks, I never realised the peony has a double centre. Nature never ceases to amaze me.

I presume the centre petals will also bloom, how beautiful are they? What's your favourite flower? Bye for now. Tx

Monday, 26 June 2017

Thank You

Thank you all for guessing what was so carefully opening and eating my peas! The consensus is MICE. I have never seen any mice in the garden or droppings in any of the out buildings (garage, shed, workshop) so they are obviously on holiday from the SAS bearing in mind all the netting and bits I've got protecting the peas and trying a bit of Pick Your Own! I'm just going to have to try to get there before them.
Its been a really warm weekend, not hot like last weekend but 20 degree warm. We had lots black clouds, swirling windy moments and  threats of rain but nothing more than a few spits of rain.  Tomorrow the chance of rain on the Essex coast goes up to 90% so fingers crossed it does.  The rain butts are dry and its getting tiresome watering with cans from the tap. This is when I wonder if I could really cope with a  small holding.

Once again the kayak had an outing, hubby wanted to take the youngest grandsons out on it as one is particularly frightened of boats despite being a strong swimmer. If the truth be told its why hubby bought the kayak to try to rationalise his fear as nothing as ever happened for the fear to manifest itself. We  choose to go to Alton Water which is about 11 miles away from home as the local tides were wrong. Alton Water is a manmade reservoir. It is the largest in Suffolk, with a perimeter of over 8 miles. Due to a shortage of water in the Ipswich area in the 1960s, a list of 20 potential sites for reservoirs was made, with Alton being the chosen site. The land was mainly farmland, but was also home to a mill and Alton Hall. The mill was dismantled and reconstructed at the Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket.
Smiles all round!
Daughter, hubby and youngest grandson.

Waiting to have another go!
Well as you can see it worked and a great time was had by all. Hope you had a great weekend. Back soon. Tx
PS: I hate those MEECES to PIECES!

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Guesses on a postcard please!

Anyone out in blogland got any ideas what is skillfully stealing my peas, splitting them open and eating them! The netting is over everything but the little b@ggers are still getting to them......grrrr

Oh how I wish I had a camera. Hope your weekend is going well. No rain yet, rain dance this evening as everything is do dry and water butts very low.   Tx

Friday, 23 June 2017

Where's my mum?

Well so much for the thunder storms they forecast for yesterday.  At 11am we had 3 claps of  thunder, a little after rumble and a few spit spots of rain. I'm seriously hoping that the rain forecast for much of next week actually materialises as the mugginess is getting to me.
There is a distinct lack of sea breeze that we are normally blessed with  on the coast. So last evening due to the lack of rain I have found myself having to water everything in the garden. It was when I was going to and from the water butt that I heard a continuous faint squawking.  I searched high and low and eventually found this little chap at the back of the water butt. By the time I got my phone to take a photo he had turned his back on me! 

I touched him and he shuffled along so I don't think he can fly.  I have left him some water and hope his mum hears his cries and comes to find him. He had two little tufty eye brows and looked very cute. Yesterday was another warm day and I actually managed to complete one side of the tea cosy and I've started the other side twice three times so far. But I'll get there.   The pattern is called moss rib so its nice and stretchy to go over a tea pot.  The yarn is a  wool mix  so it should keep the tea nice and hot.

The hard bit next decreasing every time is different. 
Hubby found 4 pea pods on the lawn, they had been opened and stripped of the peas inside. I can only presume its birds! I have to say there are lots of pods that I'm hoping will fatten up nicely over the next few weeks. So its another thing I've had to net. Oh how I would love to have a net tunnel.
Off to the market to see if there are any fruit bargains. Next time I see some cheap mangos  I would like to make mango chutney. Have a lovely weekend folks Back soon. Tx

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Tidying UP and Card Making

Although yesterday started a lot cooler than Monday which even I found uncomfortable and I can 'do' heat. I'd already tasked myself  with sorting my craft boxes. I literally tipped out the whole contents on the floor and sorted it into different piles, toppers, sentiments, embellishments, stickers, glues and ribbons. I had been given lots of used cards by friends and family and set about chopping them into bits I could utilise.
There were 3 cards amongst the many that I literally tore out the inside leaf and printed a new one.  I then set about making a new envelope to fit the card. I wouldn't normally do this but I know who they are from so I'll make sure they aren't sent back to them, that would be Deja vu! He-He!

These cards had an inner leaf that I simply
replaced and new envelopes made.

Inner leaf printed and the granddaughter one
was personalised with her name inside
The rest of the cards were cut into reusable sections and I still had some precut Christmas toppers that I needed to use up to make space in my craft box. Eventually had a pile that I could start making cards with. 

I found a pack of very small cards and envelopes.  When I purchased them they were described as  A5 but when they arrived it was A5 before they were folded, so they should have been advertised as A6! They were however good quality and just the right size for inserting a gift card or a £5/£10 inside to give to someone. Moreover, I managed to use up lots of the smaller toppers I had cut using my Big Shot ages ago and I'll have enough gift card/envelopes for a few years to come.
I always buy Lidl's book of card £1.99 but its great quality and larger than A4. Its comes with such an array of colours which is great as I always try to pick out the colour in the topper I'm reusing.  Lots of cards weren't standard sizes so again I had to make envelopes too.  But hey ho I'm time rich now!  

Colour coordinated.
The little orange badge will have a number
 inserted when I decide who its going to.

Colour coordinated insert too

I loved the greys and silver on this card. 
 I even found some beautiful Christmas silver ribbon

I do love card making but I have to be in the right mood and yesterday was just perfect. I have enough cards for a least a year although I could do with more male ones.   Today I will try and complete one side of the Tea cosy I am Knitting, I will not be defeated. Once its done, I aim to teach myself to crochet a flower to adorn the cosy.  I understand storms are on there way, stay safe and I'll be back soon. Tx

Thank you once again for all your lovely comments.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Phew! its been a scorcher

A few weeks ago Hubby bought himself a 2.5 person Kayak, the half gives space for a young child or 2 children 1 adult. He has wanted one for a long time and initially went down the second hand route looking on eBay, Shpock  and Gumtree every single day but nothing this side of the country was coming up. So hubby treated himself to a new one but within twenty four hours of delivery we had some of the heaviest rainfall I had seen in a long time. At one point I though he'd had a premonition and we needed our own personal ark!
Well the kayak completed its maiden voyage on Saturday and the family had a blast. We couldn't have asked for better weather or sea conditions. The tides at Holland on Sea were perfect and since the 36million pound upgrade so were the beaches. Gone are the old wooden groynes that break up the beach, instead they have built half circle defences out of rocks.  The upper beach area has been raised so there is always beach available to occupy even at high tide. The local council uses a tractor to comb  the sand keeping it lovely and clean. I'm only sorry I didn't take more photos but I couldn't see the screen as it was so sunny.
No groynes just wide stretches of beach,
 semi circle rock defences
A great time was had by all and we returned Sunday which was even warmer to do it all over again.  Our eldest daughter bought us Fathers day breakfast at the beach café, I took another pack-up and flask to keep the cost of the day out down. The evenings were spent watering the garden and greenhouse, as well as picking anything that was ready.  I collected two ice-cream size tubs of strawberries and two lots of dwarf green beans.  I sorted the best strawberries and we took them to the beach with us, everyone was asking where I'd bought them because of the taste.  The supermarket ones are so forced they taste of nothing. The rest of the strawberries were split into two piles, one lot were used for breakfast in yoghurt and the rest made into jam as the heat was making them turn quickly.  I made enough for 3.5 jars, the 2 smaller jars will go into 'C' hampers. If I manage to get my hands on some cheap market strawberries I'll make some more for the hampers.
Hubby collected enough raspberries to put at the bottom of the trifles I make each week.  The sugar free jelly will set with raspberries but not strawberries. I reuse yoghurt pots as its just the right portion size once the low fat custard is added to the top and a swirl of cream.
Raspberry trifles

Elderflower champagne
Yesterday I caught up with jobs around the house. Last night we strained the elderflower champagne and bottled it.  The lids will be released every evening for a week to free some of the initial gas that builds. Back soon, trying to do jobs indoors while its so hot outside. Today I really need to tackle my craft box its in a real state. Friends and family  keep giving me cards which I'm grateful for but I've been opening the lid and throwing them in!
Bye for now. Tx

Friday, 16 June 2017

Tastes of Summer

Thank you for all your comments regarding the Pension Post and doing Frugal things.
Well the frugality continues. Hubby had to work yesterday which is unusual so I went on the hunt early morning for the creamy white elderflower heads to make elderflower cordial and champagne.  While I was busy collecting them down a country lane away from traffic I heard a voice say 'What's she doing?' quickly followed by a couple of cold noses on my shins, I looked down to see two lovely bundles of fluff which were apparently shih-zue, yorkie cross dogs. A young man and his girlfriend were walking their dogs along the path, I turned just as the young lady said ' I think she is collecting elderflowers'.  All I can say is never judge a book by its cover, the male who was  a heavily  tattooed,  baseball capped loud young man was very intrigued.  He was asking me lots of questions about how I would make it.  How is it drunk? Was it alcoholic? He proved to be a great help reaching the elderflowers high up in the trees even risking being stung by stinging nettles. We parted company after getting a carrier bag full of flower heads.
What a glorious setting. The sea is less than a mile away
Once I got home I cracked on with making the cordial, but I didn't have enough heads to make champagne. Hubby loves getting involved in making things and was a little miffed that I made a batch without him. He did spend the evening making two small pots of jam ! (gooseberry & cherry) He got up very early this morning to collect  elderflowers for champagne and more cordial. The first batch of elderflower cordial has been bottled while the second lot is still soaking.  The champagne is in a large bucket covered with muslin, it will be checked regularly over the next two days to see if it starts to ferment naturally, if it doesn't start to bubble a small pinch of yeast will be added to trigger the process. I'll update you on that.
The weather has been super warm and the evenings are spent watering, feeding and trimming various plants around the garden.  The strawberries are coming thick and fast now, we are enjoying them with yoghurt and cream. The raspberries are fewer but just as delicious. The pea pods are starting to form on the plants and we should have more dwarf beans ready by the weekend and we continue to have lettuce with everything! 

Got to dash, off to watch two of the grandchildren take part in  the sports day. Back soon. Tx

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Keeping Busy doing Frugal Things

People who opt to live frugally all do it for different reasons.  Some people do it out of necessity, others do it because they are saving towards something or you simply may hate waste etc.  I have always looked after my money but there was a time when I first started working full time in the early 90's when things started to slip.  I would go to the supermarket and fill my trolley without any planning, duplicates were purchased, items we were desperate for forgotten and ultimately food wasted. When my shift patterns changed dramatically in 2003 which meant quick turn a-rounds whereby you finished one shift at 22:30 and had to be at work at 06:00 the next day. I had to start planning ahead a lot more and by the time I was starting to think about retirement I really stepped up a gear  by living on my proposed pension for 2 years prior to retiring in October 2016.
Skills learnt during that time have stayed with me I'm always thinking ahead so when I saw cheap apricots in Aldi on Sunday I bought two punnets @ 49p each and yesterday I made jam.  I've been collecting small jars (mustard /horseradish and salsa jars) so that I can give them as presents in Christmas hampers. I also stock piled 5Kg  bags of sugar last year when I had money off coupons.

Offers on at Lidl this week

609grms of Apricots made 4 180g mustard size jars
and one 250g Salsa size  jar
I always print my labels to make the product look a little more professional its just my little OCD thing! I will be making more jams and chutneys throughout the summer to add to the proposed hampers.
Whenever I see something reduced I think how can it be used before I purchase it.  Its only a bargain when you use it.  I bought two different sorts of Mackerel that were reduced Piri Piri and Black Pepper and put them in the freezer the minute I got home.  Today I will turn one of them into pate. The 93p Piri Piri Jalapeno mackerel will be flaked into a bowl, add finely chopped onions/spring onions together with low fat crème cheese and season. Mix together by hand for a rough pate or blend in food processor for a smooth pate. I have simplified this weight watchers recipe and its delicious. Its great to eat with the abundance of salad leaves we have ready at the moment.  I also picked a small bowl of dwarf green beans they will be steamed for a minute and served hot on the salad. More and more meals are being supplemented with produce from the garden. 
Being Frugal doesn't mean I don't treat myself to things, this weeks treat was a bunch of Sweet Williams @£1.50,  a little reminder of my late fathers favourite flower with whom he shared the name WILLIAM. He died in 2010 aged 86. Love you and miss you Dad.
Lots of buds still closed
Its going to be a warm day, so I've been out and watered everything early while it was in the shade.  I'll be picking more strawberries and raspberries for tea. I need to crack on with my knitting which is another present and works out a fraction of the cost of buying the item (if I ever get the pattern right). I also need to cut out the free pattern I got with a magazine I bought last year. Bye for now. Tx

Monday, 12 June 2017

Have you checked your state pension forecast?

Thank you for all your comments regarding the House Renovations. As I mentioned in the replies, we started doing renovations out of necessity and have learnt so much.  And I probably would do it again if the right property presented itself!

Now the dreaded subject of pensions, some of you may be years away from it  and  I know I've spoken about this before but its doesn't hurt to reiterate some things that are important. For those of us who saw the goal post moved from 60 to 66-67 years of age this is really important.  Furthermore I found out if you where born after April 1956 your pension will be paid as an individual and not as a married couple (if you are married). However hubby is before April 1956 and I am after so our forecasts are looking a little strange.  Apparently they will pay whatever is the better figure. Happy days!

The government have a website were you can register and look at all your National Insurance (NI) contributions paid throughout your life and see what your pension forecast stands at. Although not a definite, it is a great indicator.  Plus you know if you've ever worked for anyone who hasn't paid the correct contributions or indeed not paid them at all. This happened to a friend of mine, her employer was pocketing her NI contributions. She eventually had all those contributions honoured by the state. The site is very secure but its well worth the long winded registration.

Sorry its a little blurred but it says based on my NI record to date 5 April 2017 I will get on the **/10/2022 £134.79 out of the possible £157.58. I currently have 44 full year contributions and I will not be paying anymore in as its not worth it to  me. I am short by £23 a week (£100 a month) because I didn't know that my employer the HOME OFFICE were paying a reduced contribution but I do have my Civil Service Pension. I just wished I'd known as I would have paid the difference.  Have you checked yours? Is it correct? Are you out of pocket?

I hope you all had a good weekend, the weather was lovely here on the Essex coast and I managed to get lots of odd jobs in the garden sorted. We also helped our daughter and son in law with their decking.  More about that soon. Back soon. Bye for now. Tx

Friday, 9 June 2017

Renovating a House (Part 2)

Part 2 The nice bit, dressing the house.

We have renovated a number of properties over the years, all to varying degrees and we have lived in them all. 
We purchased this 3 bedroomed detached house in 2013 it was a cash purchase and took 11 weeks to complete. During the 11 weeks we started planning, arranging people to do some of the work.  I typed out the gas and electric specs and put them out for pricing.  I planned the bathroom and kitchen on graph paper and sought the best price for everything. Hubby wanted this house to be open plan and modern, so we had the additional complication of building regulations as walls needed to be demolished.  Luckily he has a friend who is a surveyor and he did the load calculations for the steels to replace the walls.  Hubby made the 2 RSJ's and the steel post which had to be sunk into the ground 2 feet on a concrete pad to take the weight of the upstairs. Another friend erected the steels with hubby helping, then we took over the work.

The photos of 'before' come from the Estate Agents particulars.
Dining Room


These 3 rooms, lounge, dining room and kitchen became open plan. The back door of the kitchen was bricked up.  The rear bay window to the lounge was  removed and large French door fitted to lead to a new conservatory. This really allowed light into the house.

The house faces south and the conservatory was an important addition as the heat it produces in the winter is fantastic. Its lovely to sit in 23 degrees in February.

Apart from the green very warped from door the hall way was kept virtually the same.  The larger under stairs cupboard became a cloakroom with the aid of a short profile toilet which in turn allowed us to knock down the wall between the toilet and bathroom allowing a large shower, bath, sink and toilet, a really good family bathroom. 
The two doorways were bricked up giving vital wall space to the kitchen and lounge areas.

Hubby lovingly replaced all the doors, I remember him cutting down a £100 door to make the weird shaped under stairs  cupboard door. He is very clever.
The laminate floor was laid throughout the entire lower floor, its so easy to clean and hardwearing. A cloakroom always adds value to a property so if you can add one. 

I love my bathroom a  far cry from what was here, no bath a simple wet room.

 There is a large shower, modern roll top bath and vanity unit. Large heated towel
 rail that I hate only because its shows every mark!
I'm sorry the photos don't do the house justice and I hope you can see the changes that have taken place.  Lastly the garden.

The bedrooms have had fitted wardrobes added as I'm a storage warrior, I believe its very important. (The Schreiber wardrobes were in yesterdays post)  Storage sells a house. That's why we transformed the workshop which was added to the garage by the previous owner into additional storage without compromising the garage.  

We don't know what the house is worth now all the renovations are almost complete. And we would have probably made some money not doing a thing to it but this is presently our home and we love it here...............that is until we see a renovation that's crying out to be done! Bye for now. Tx