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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

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Manic But Enjoyable Week

Firstly many thanks for all the great comment on my post TRUST ME, very interesting reading indeed. 

Well this week has been manic, three and a half days were spent looking after grandchildren. My daughter managed to join me on Thursday and we met at the Air Show in Clacton.  I haven't been for many years and it was something my children loved along with the Radio One summer visit to the Greensward each year.  

I took a pack-up to keep costs down as I knew they'd all want an ice cream at some point in the day which cost £14 because they didn't have any small 99's left! Don't you just hate it when they know it will be the top seller but don't cater for it forcing you to buy a dearer replacement! We found a space on the packed beach and the children played until the show began, no one was  allowed in the water when there are aircraft overhead. Once the tide went out we were able to spread ourselves out a bit more.  The show opened with six parachutists landed on the shore near us. The height from which they dropped was incredible.  Some carried huge flags and they were all very accurate hitting the target area. 

The show was fantastic and the grandchildren loved it especially the red arrows. The plumes of coloured smoke making patterns in the sky while they performed intricate rolls, twists and turns was unbelievable.  
Unfortunately the photos are from my phone and it doesn't do them justice. Furthermore it was so sunny (shouldn't complain) that I couldn't actually see the screen, I was literally pointing and shooting willy nilly! But after all the fun comes the hard work of sorting the garden which gets a little neglected when I'm out and about.  

So I spent 2 hours in the greenhouse yesterday sorting all plants, I got rid of all the pepper plants that hadn't produced any fruit.  I took down 3 tomato plants that had collapsed and due to the weight of the tomatoes.

All the green ones went on a tray to ripen in the conservatory. The butternut squash was thinned out to allow the 2 huge quashes to ripen and perhaps a couple of small ones to grow over the next few weeks. 

The cylinder beetroot is just great. If you've never tried it  Its been a far better producer than the normal round.  I have just pulled more and hubby cooked them ready for meals this week.  Some I may put in balsamic vinegar for a change.  

We have a row of potatoes left in the ground and I'm trying to chit some from a pack I bought cheap last week if they produce over the winter all well and good.  The greenhouse and garden were tidied, all the greenery was shredded and put in the compost bin to break down quicker.  The old compost put in a large bin,  this will have manure added to it this week and turned regularly to rot down over he winter. As soon as there is any 'greenery' compost ready this will be added to it. All pots and trays  were washed in diluted Jeyes fluid then dried thoroughly before being packed away for next year.

Doing a little bit here and there will pay dividends later when everything starts coming to an end and the garden goes to sleep for winter.  My thoughts are already turning to starting seeds off next year.  I think I'll invest in a heated propagator so I don't have the disaster of losing the first peppers like I did this year.  I think by the time the new one took it reduced the growing period.  I still have about 20 or so peppers so I shouldn't complain.  It all saves us money. Bye for now. Tx

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

TRUST ME (an off the wall post)

I want to tell you a story.....have you been watching TRUST ME on BBC One  9pm on a Tuesday night.  This four part series  centres around  Cath Hardacre, played by Jodie Whittaker the soon to be Dr Who.  Cath is a brilliant nurse who is later suspended from the NHS after whistleblowing about the neglect of patients in hospital. Suddenly without a means of income to support her daughter an opportunity presents itself when her best friend Ally who is a Doctor moves to New Zealand leaving behind all her  qualifications. Cath steels her friends identity and moves to Edinburgh to take up the position as a qualified doctor. 

Tonight is episode number 3 and I can't wait, I'm hooked and the reason I'm hooked is I once worked with a Registered General Nurse who practised as a nurse but didn't have a qualification to her name. Not even a first aid certificate. When the children started school I went to University as a mature student.  I worked every Friday night in a nursing home to earn some money towards running my car, books and general household bills. 

One Friday I arrived at work and as usual waited in the main office for our shift briefing.  This was a verbal report regarding new patients, care plans for terminal cases and 'to do list'. The regular sister arrived in the office very flustered and apologised for her lateness only she had been sorting out staff shortages.  We normally worked as a team of 5 on nights, 2 qualified and 3 auxiliary staff. This particular night we would work as 4 auxiliary and 1 qualified nurse from an agency who still hadn't arrived.  

At 10 we were introduced briefly to an RGN named Anne and we went about our rounds as normal. The briefing earlier had stated 2 patients needed new catheters and  during our rounds we presented Anne with the tray laid up ready to change the catheter.  One member of staff would stay with the nurse as a chaperone for the patient and staff witness. However when we reached the first room she said she wished to do it by herself and we were dismissed. 

Anne continued to work at the nursing home for a few months and the small anomalies continued.  Dressings that should have been  changed weren't. Stitches that should have been removed were left in place and there was always a reason why. Staff started to notice more and more things and reported it to management. One night she was told to change a catheter as the patient was having a problems urinating. Again we were not allowed to be present and she clearly reported in the patient notes that it had been done. The next day the patient was asked had it been changed and they said no.  Eventually after pressure from staff management contacted the Agency who in turn contacted the Police.

The police entered her property and found that not only did she have quite a selection of nurses uniforms including all the badges, she also had Police and a Traffic Warden uniform. She was arrested and a court date was set, then delayed while psychiatric reports were undertaken. She received a prison sentence suspended for 12 months. But was ordered to undertake psychiatric treatment. This situation had a profound effect on the staff many of whom stuck their necks out to complain but were made out to be trouble makers.  

The lesson I learnt from this was never be afraid to ask and be vocal.  If someone does something  you are uncomfortable with or indeed doesn't feel right.....say so. Have you ever witnessed anything like this? Only this week a man has been imprisoned for pretending to be a solicitor who  cheated some poor soles out of hundreds of thousands of pounds. His uniform was a pin stripped suit, crisp clean  shirts and shiny shoes.  He had a smattering of legal knowledge obtained when he was a temp at a law firm. 

Bye for now. Tx

Monday, 21 August 2017

Slowing Down & What I've Learned

The recent  cooler wet weather has certainly had an effect on the plants in the garden.  Does anyone else believe our summers have changed?  We seem to have our hottest weather from mid May,  June and July.  Not only have the daily temperatures dropped in August, the mornings and evenings are feeling quite autumnal. The runner beans and dwarf green  beans have slowed right down which has given us a bit of respite, we were on bean overload! Its been nice to have some salads the last few days for a change.  The greenhouse is still producing a lot of cucumbers and tomatoes.  I made some sweet cucumber relish which is lovely with cold meats. 
I've been busy making labels

The peppers are getting bigger but they're still green. I still have beetroot, potatoes, kale, carrots and courgettes growing outside.  By far the best producing potatoes are a pack of small eating potatoes  I bought from Lidl.  I cooked the bigger ones in the pack and allowed the other to chit in the conservatory.  They have produced far more than any seed potato I've bought so I will do the same next year.  I will also grow cylinder beetroot instead of the round as you get more per plant. I would also start almost all my seeds of in damp tissue as this method have proved so successful. Hubby helped me make marmalade, this time I used the Ma Made tin of Seville oranges.  One half of the can made the straightforward orange marmalade the other I added  ginger. I have used some small jars so they can be given as presents. 

We are waiting for our neighbours plums to ripen.  We have 3 branches in our garden and John has asked if we want them cut back......certainly not while they've got tons of fruit on them.  Hubby has made a cradle as they are so heavy.  Luckily our neighbours don't eat the fruit so we have a field day with plums and pears. Our own pear tree had lots of fruit on it as well as the strawberries and raspberries that are producing again.  

This 'rude vegetable' funny came up on my Facebook page this morning and it brought a smile to my face! I hope it does the same for you on this Monday morning
And while we are on the subject of rude vegetables....... an 'X' rated carrot. 

Bye for now.  Tx  

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Lists to save money

Firstly apologies for the lack of posts this week, the days have run away with me.  I have been very busy working in the garden and making stuff.  More on that next week. Now to the post I started at the beginning of the week!

Are you a list person? I hold my hands up I am.  I personally believe that writing lists has been the one thing that has helped me save the most money whether it be a meal plan, shopping list, budget plan or garden planting scheme. Since getting my new laptop I have been without the Microsoft OFFICE program and its been hard. After spending a couple of evenings looking for a copy that wasn't £50+ I got one from Amazon for £14.70. It was very simple to download and best of all an absolute BARGAIN. I use Microsoft Office for my card making, letter writing, label making, rental property expenses, tax returns and LISTS.

I have a spreadsheet of birthdays which includes ages for children or special birthdays for adults which I update each year.

I have a photo of the spreadsheet on  a my phone so when I'm out and about and I see a potential present I can refer to my list to see if it is suitable for anyone on there. When I called in at Asda for milk  Monday evening I saw they had put the 'Sale' clothes rails in foyer. Each month normally on the 20th I receive one of my pensions its only a small one of £33 (£42 before tax).  I walk the mile the mile to the local COOP and pay £33 into my share account. This is my birthday and Christmas present fund and as long as I can make savings like this along the way as well as making bits it is normally sufficient to cover everything. 

Thanks to the reductions I got 6  presents for £20 instead of £38. I remove any stickers on the clothes as the glue can damage the fabric during storage. I update my list accordingly and take a new photo. 

Hubby's company provide its workforce access to a REWARDS SCHEME which we have only dabbled with up until now. But I am seriously starting to think it would be advantageous to start using the reloadable card scheme. For example if I put £50 on a Boots card I will pay £44 because of the 12% discount.  It offers savings of 4% on Asda  and Sainsbury's which is good when you think you wouldn't get that on a savings account.  So I'm going to put £500 on an ASDA card in November, £100 on Sainsbury's, £50 on Boots.  You can also print instant vouchers for Argos which is great so we can  not only take advantage of the 7% discount but also the spend £100 and get £10 voucher or  £5 on £50 when they have it. 
When I receive notifications from Sainsbury's saying the 25% of TU is on, I'll check to see if there is anything worth having.  I love their underwear and it is definitely comparable with M&S which is now ridiculously expensive.  If I use the card and take advantage of the discount it could add up to 29% more in the case of Asda (54%). Boots have some fantastic stuff in their Christmas sales so again an optimum time to use the card.  

Do you belong to a reward scheme? Do you use it?  I think as prices rise continuously I have to get smarter with money. 

I promise to do better with regard to posts next week.  Have a lovely weekend.  Back soon. Tx 

Monday, 14 August 2017

Its getting harder!

Looking after the grandchildren is definitely getting harder as they get older and we get older. Our youngest daughters children are 12 and 6 and we  have just had them for 4 days, when we finally got home last evening we just about put everything away before we slumped on the sofa totally exhausted.  Unfortunately hubby has been providing holiday cover at work for the last 2 weeks and will be for the next 4 so he is  working  4 days each week instead of his normal 2. OUCH! 

The boredom threshold of children seems to be very low probably because of living in this technological era. Don't get me wrong they were very good when were out and we only saw them at the beach when they wanted a drink or food but the minute we would walk back in the house it was: Can I use your old iPad granddad ? Can I use your tablet nanny? I honestly think they can't sit and do nothing. I suppose every generation has gone through different things. When I was little young (as the grandchildren would still say I'm little) the only daytime television was a 30 minutes 'Watch with Mother' slot at lunchtime then you were back to the test card until teatime!

After rinsing all the wetsuits, lifejackets and kayak seats this morning I went around the garden as usual collecting anything that was ready.  The runner beans are slowing down and so are the dwarf beans.  I gave everything a good feed hoping that I get a few more harvests from the plants.  The large tomatoes are ripening now and I may try a few in the dehydrator. Each large tomato is almost 110g...YUM!

The first lot of sundried tomatoes has already been used on top of pizza and salads.  The small lot I did yesterday was made into sundried tomato paste. We are having kale bubble and squeak, runner beans, carrots  with lamb quarter pounders tonight. I'll prep the rhubarb ready for a crumble tomorrow when I can utilise the oven with some other dishes.  

I think I'm going to have to do what I used to see my grandparents doing this afternoon and have forty winks.

I can't stop yawning

Bye for now. Tx  

Friday, 11 August 2017

Shopping to save money


Shopping to save money sounds like a contradiction in terms.  But we all know that  with Brexit and the general state of the economy in the UK the only direction prices are going is up. But when this email dropped into my inbox it makes sense to spend to save.
Buy something in Iceland,  hand in my Bonus Card and I'll get a coupon for a free Ice cream worth £1.50. So that's what I did, knowing I've got the grandchildren for 4 days I bought some wraps (75p) and got the triple chocolate ice cream for FREE. 

Yesterday I mentioned that I had received  Tesco money off vouchers but you have to spend £50 to get the £7 off. Having played around with a shopping list on mysupermarket  Tesco is coming out far dearer than Asda, so its not worth using the coupon. I have just had a further refund from the tax man £39.80 so I'm going to use it sensibly to stock up on bits I need. Despite having a grocery embargo I think I this shop makes sense while some of the things I need are on offer. Luckily my shade hair dye was down to  half price £1.75 so I bought 4 which will last me about 9 months because I only use half at a time.  The coffee will take me through to February next year (5x£4)and so will the 2 large tubs of skimmed milk powder that I use for custard or cooking and in drinks when I run out of fresh. The MaMade and Jellies were free because of the £5 voucher. Some bargain bread and biscuits for the grandchildren. Ginger to make orange ginger marmalade for gifts and 1000mg Cod Liver Oil capsules for me. I swea by fish oil to keep the aches and pains at bay!

I did the ASDA price guarantee thingy too and have got a 65p coupon. 

Since 18th July I have spent £88.57 so I will have spent under £100 for the month even after buying milk and bread this week. There is approximately 8 weeks until I go on holiday and I believe there is enough food in the freezer and cupboards for that period.  I will continue on an even lower spend of £12 each week then reassess the situation.  The money I save will go into the Christmas fund because it will be here before we know it. 

Seedless blackberry cordial (No labels yet) The dehydrator has made some lovely sundried toms and I'm doing some more as we ate the first ones. I thought  I'd taken a photo but I couldn't find it.  I'm going to make some sundried tomato paste too when I have enough done.   
Thanks for all the comments on my last couple of posts. Have a wonderful weekend at least the weather is looking better.  

Problems with BLOGGER

I'm sorry if you found two posts that aren't there but I'm struggling to upload images to blogger.  The INSERT IMAGE icon is loading but I am unable to open anything whether it be from my phone or computer.  My phone is the same so I have emailed GOOGLE to tell them and inserted screen image.  In the mean time I will try other ways of getting my posts published.  

Anyone else having problems?????

Bye for now. Tx 

Wednesday, 9 August 2017


I often use sugar free jelly to make trifles as Hubby is an insulin dependant diabetic and I am always watching my weight! I used to be able to get Sugar Free Jelly from Aldi and it was much cheaper then the leading brand Hartley's or indeed the supermarket own brand. However, over the last year the supermarkets 'own'  has disappeared from the shelf and Aldi doesn't stock it anymore. So I've been buying Hartley's at 80p - £1 for a twin pack.  I fully understand the idiosyncrasies of sugar free jelly compared to normal jelly, for example you can't add certain fruit as it stops the setting process. But I add trifle sponge and it sets perfectly. 
Smashed Trifle Sponge

Cold custard added, spray cream on top just before serving 
YUM!!!! (I allow 100 calories for this)
Over the last 6 months I have had 3 sachets that have not set, despite following the instructions completely.  So I emailed Hartley's customer service to ask if any one else has had this problem as I'd also noticed it was the Raspberry flavour jelly that was failing,  my own personal favourite. They responded quickly wanting the batch number and sell by date from the packet used.  However this only appears on one side of the twin pack, so after digging through the bin to find the discarded packets I was able to provide them with the information requested. They replied with and an apology and said they had sent me a voucher by way of a goodwill gesture. A £5 voucher arrived last week  and its been in  my purse ever since. 
Hartley's Voucher
I have also received some Tesco vouchers but as you've got to spend £50 I don't think they will be used. The weather forecast for yesterday was light rain during the afternoon so I used the morning   to cut the lawn,  tidy the garden  and cut flowers.  Beautiful smelling sweet peas.
The colours are amazing and
one matches my little velvet bow.

Oh the perfume!TT

The afternoon was spent making seedless blackberry jam.  I won't bore you with the details but I will say seedless is time consuming because it takes ages to push it through the sieve, but its worth it. The kilo of fruit only made 3.5 jars but the fruit is free.  Today it started raining steadily at 12 so I have more blackberries to process but this time I'm making cordial.  This will be lovely with a cheap and cheerful prosecco, cava or sparkling water. I'll update you with the pictures tomorrow. 
Seedless jam

When I got my new laptop I signed up for a one month trial for Office 365 which I loved and used WORD to make all my produce labels  but to buy the package is £79, far too expensive and I'm looking for a cheaper version or alternative as my trial has ended. Hence my labels aren't up to the usual standard! Back soon. Tx

Monday, 7 August 2017

The Weekend

Thanks as always for your lovely comments. 

We went away for the weekend on Friday so hubby and friends could do some diving at Stoney Cove.    Our Premier Inn was 8 miles away at Fosse Park (Leicester), arriving at 3:40pm we had the good fortune to see a large Asian wedding party dressed in the most exquisite outfits in a rainbow of colours leaving to attend the wedding. The local weather forecast was dreadful but it wouldn't matter for the divers just us spectators and we were luck up until lunchtime on the Saturday when the biggest black cloud I've seen in a long time descended over the of quarry. It poured with rain and hail for over an hour leaving me soaked through to my underwear in a matter of seconds. 

As the wet weather forecast was fairly universal for the whole country I didn't bother watering the garden before I went but I did soak everything in the greenhouse rather than get my brother round to water.  Arriving home last night I was shocked to see the lack of rain in the water butts.  Our neighbour said there had been a couple of claps of thunder and a small downpour but that was it.  After unpacking I went around the garden and greenhouse  watering everything as well as harvesting. 

I'm putting 3 cucumbers outside for people to take. Cucumber in balsamic.
Courgetti in the steamer and sliced courgettes ready for the freezer. 
I have peeled and sliced one of the  cucumbers, seasoned it and added raspberry balsamic vinegar, YUM.
Runner beans, black & green French beans. 
Beans, beans and more beans.  The runner beans (and cucumbers) are going crazy.  I picked a load Friday and dropped them to my sister along with 3 cucumbers. Last nights harvest prepped, I have put them in water as I haven't made my mind up whether to use them fresh or freeze. The courgettes are slowing down as I'm down to one plant but they are still getting fat, just right for courgetti as we have bolognaise tonight. The tail ends of the courgette are sliced and frozen. 

And of course all the peelings go to the composter which will enrich the soil over winter so everyone is a winner.

Not sure there is enough sun today but I had to use these tomatoes up , the fan works well making sure there is no condensation. I have a thermometer somewhere I must find it, would love to see what sort of temperatures it can reach in there.  Despite ordering the sunshine this week the weather looks.  CHANGEABLE, so I'm not picking any more small toms until they can go in the dehydrator. How was your weekend? Bye for now. Tx