crafts, crEAting

crEAting…growing and repotting and a bit of crafting

On my kitchen windowsill at the moment I am trying to root these succulents; they were originally part of a Mother’s day gift from my daughter two years ago but eventually outgrew the moss filled glass bowl they came in.  Although the arrangement was very attractive I am not actually a succulent fan and have no idea what the plants are called other than I thought one of them might be a Wandering Jew (if I am allowed to say that) or a Money plant (though I haven’t noticed it growing any yet) but I am not sure and stand to be corrected.

It seemed a shame to let them die so we rescued and repotted the two main plants in fresh compost and new pots, trimming them back to encourage more growth from the base, and the straggly parts we snipped off have been plunged into a jam jar of water in the hope that they will root.  Succulents I think are fairly easy to root from any part of the stem – again correct me here someone if I am wrong.

I was hoping they might root in time to give to the plant stall at the Christmas charity coffee morning at my local church but realise now this is a bit optimistic.

So during the week so far I have managed to do a few of my intentions from the list.  I have sent out the Not so Secret Santa wish lists and had the big draw of names out of the hat so we all know who is buying for who.  I have started the advent calendars and cut round the doors ready to decorate. I am on with arranging our family get together and present swap event and have started editing the photos for mum’s book.

Well when I say ‘I’ …OH has given me a helping hand.

In the photo there is a glimpse of my back garden through the kitchen window – it is in dire need of a tidy up and this is on my list but it has either been very cold or very wet here so that is another day and another post.

I have been concentrating on the decorating and we are almost finished so very soon I will have the big ‘guest room’ reveal.  The wardrobes have been fitted but guess what – the doors are still to be delivered because there was a scratch on the mirror.  The bed is being delivered on Monday and hopefully the doors next Tuesday – mum will follow shortly after (not delivered though!).

I am pleased with the way it looks though it has been a struggle at times finding exactly what I wanted but I have managed to throw it all together using merchandise from many different sources.  We are trying to decide on a bedside table (one we can afford and at budget price) – so at the moment we are resorting to an Ikea stool.  We also bought curtains for this room – I can’t remember ever buying curtains before – I would normally make them myself but just do not have the time.

I did buy the quilted throw I had my eye on for ages in Sainsbury’s in the double up rewards scheme they run at this time of year –  I had to hide the last one at the back of a stack of cushions on the shelf until double up day began and then go in to work earlier via Sainsbury’s that morning to make sure I got it!

 

I packaged the fun sized chocolate bars, a mix of Mars, Maltesers, Milky Way etc left over from Trick or Treat night (with a few extra added) into these brown craft bags, then stuck a stamped Christmas label to the front and this will be my donation to our local church Christmas coffee morning the proceeds going to Crisis for the homeless at Christmas.

Last time I did these I made the bags myself from a roll of brown paper but being short of time I bought these from the Range a pack of 5 was £2 so not a big outlay.  I found they sold quite well as they make a nice little gift for children – they are a bit like the old selection boxes but in a bag.

I am looking forward to ticking off a few more tasks by the end of the week – how are your plans going?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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fEAsible, my goals

fEAsible…plans for November

I have a few goals for November, which I prefer to call my intentions, if and when I have the time.  Not everything on my list will get done, some will undoubtedly spill over into December but having a list helps to focus my thoughts.  There are tasks I must do and ideas for things I would like to do so I am planning on a good mix of both.  I am looking forward to the fun things.

November

Finish decorating the guest bedroom and furnish within budget

*

Design and make a Christmas card – using up some of the blank cards and envelopes

*

Make advent calendars and crackers

*

Make mini selection boxes for the charity coffee morning using up the trick or treat fun sized chocolate bars

*

Bake Christmas cake and Nut Roast

*

Have a day out and pack up a winter picnic – homemade soup, fresh rolls, hot chocolate and go somewhere ‘Christmassy’ like the market towns of Bakewell, Ashbourne or Howarth

*

Tidy up in the garden

*

Clean the outside paintwork and porch

*

Put the festive outdoor lights up

*

Make mum a Christmas ‘This is your life’ style book using old photos and slides

*

Send out the family ‘Not so Secret Santa’ wish lists and rule sheet

*

Organise the family pre-Christmas get together event

*

Make and send out the Neighbours pre-Christmas get together invites

*

Have a Christmas ‘looking’ day at John Lewis

*

Visit the Sheffield Millennium Galleries Christmas Crafts shop

*

Plan for mum’s late night shopping weekend visit and book to see a local drama group play

*

Plenty of cleaning

*

Leave some time for self – book in a hair appointment and facial treat and buy a new party dress / Christmas outfit

Quite a list and only 30 days in November, thirteen of which have already been and gone.  How are your plans for Christmas going – that is if you are already planning!

***

 

drEAming, random thoughts

drEAming…we shall remember

Most of the men in our family came back from the war but my granddad’s elder brother William Henry was not so lucky he died in the First World war at the battle of the Somme.  He joined up as a volunteer into the West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales own) and was sent to the front in France with many other young lads.  The battle of the Somme began on the 1st July 1916 and went on until 18th November of the same year.  By the end of the first day almost 20,000 young men had lost their lives after being mowed down by a barrage of machine gun and rifle fire.  Such a huge loss of life.

William was killed on the 10th day of the battle, only twelve days after his 20th birthday.  My granddad always kept a picture of William in full uniform on the wall above the fireplace – pride of place – and he would fix a fresh poppy to the frame every November like a sprig of holly at Christmas.  I wear my poppy in remembrance of William and on behalf of his mother Flo (my great gran) and his brother Ernest (my granddad) who are no longer here to put a poppy on his picture.

William Henry had a short life and a hard life.  He was born in 1896 and his younger brother, my granddad Ernest, followed nine years later in February 1905.  It is only recently through researching our family history that my brother discovered by accident that by the October of 1905 the family were seeking refuge in the local Workhouse in Sheffield.  We are not sure if it was having a second mouth to feed that led my great grandma and granddad and their two children into such extreme poverty and despair to the extent that they needed the help of the workhouse to avoid starvation.  By this date both my great grandma’s parents had died so she could not call on them for help and we do not know much about my great granddad and his family only that he died in 1926 at the age of 53.

The workhouse records only log their date of entry but obviously they got over their difficulties at some point but no one in our family ever mentioned the ordeal.

Intrigued by this discovery I wanted to know more about the conditions in the workhouse and so I did some research of my own and came across an account of a visit to the same Sheffield workhouse in 1896 by a professor of Surgery at Sheffield University when he was investigating the workhouse system.  They admitted casual paupers (as they were called) at the rate of a dozen a day – some came and went as they needed help.  The men were expected to break stones and pick oakum apart and the women had to do nine hours work washing, scrubbing and needlework.  I have the impression that even married couples did not lodge together unless they were over 60 and children were also separated from their parents and only allowed a Sunday visit.

My great gran was a wonderful person everyone loved her – she led a very contented life looking after the family and must have been devastated to end up in the workhouse and not be able to provide for her family as she would like.  I never knew my great granddad – he died a few days after my mum was born and my great gran went to live with her daughter (my grandma) and my granddad until she died at the ripe old age of 98.  Maybe the short time in the workhouse gave her the strength of character to survive to such an old age.

Thank goodness though that the workhouse is a thing of the past – it is hard to believe that members of my own family had to endure such hardship and how we perhaps do not appreciate everything we have today and more!

In memory of you William and my great gran Flo. xx

 

 

 

 

decluttering, rEArranging, simplifying

rEArranging…the magazines

 

When we had the flood at the cottage in Scotland (for any new readers click here) I was quite pleased to find that my collection of Coast magazines had survived undamaged.  I always looked forward to the walk along the beach to the village store to buy my copy and buying local helps keep the shop running as it is the only one left now (the Post Office closed down last year and is now part of the general store) and it is 15 miles into the nearest town.  As we have never had a TV there I would read and reread each copy on an evening whilst listening to the radio.

Since the flood it seemed a bit pointless buying the magazine any more and to be honest I haven’t really missed it as a lot of the features are just repeated like any other magazine so I thought long and hard about why I was hanging on to this great stack of old magazines going back to 2005 and I couldn’t really come up with a good enough answer to warrant keeping them.

I had already taken any useful coastal gardening features out a while ago, as these were the most interesting articles for me, the recipes were mainly for cooking fish (and as you know I am vegetarian), and I had also torn out any decorating ideas that might inspire me in the future.  I decided that if I needed any of the information in the future about the featured Seaside towns and walks or seabirds and animal life I could always find something in other places like the internet or local library so last night I sat and poured through each one, pulled out any remaining features that I might want to refer to…

 

Coast Magazine

and here they are all ready for the charity shop or recycle bin.

Down Your way

I kept half a dozen of the earliest copies together with a handful of local magazines called Down Your Way which have nostalgic contributions written by Yorkshire folk and my mum always likes to read these when she visits.

Coast Magazine

The old Lloyd Loom bedside cabinet now housed on the mezzanine of the newly decorated bedroom has a handy ledge to display my much reduced but more manageable collection.

I actually feel quite relieved that I do not have to find a space to store all those magazines now and it is another step on my way to a simplified life.

budgeting, financial focusing, trEAsury

trEAsury…October spending

October has not turned out to be a good reflection of our usual housekeeping budget where the food shopping is concerned.  I can’t report any real thriftiness on my part but we continue to eat well and plan what we eat which is one of the best ways to save money.

As always you have to factor in the out of the ordinary expenditure and from my records the average weekly spend has increased over this month due to a number of reasons:-

  • Brexit is certainly having an effect on the prices now and inflation is beginning to bite hard.  Many items are going up by 50p a time or shrinking in size to compensate.
  • This month in particular I have increased the amount of fruit I am eating – OH has been preparing some wonderful mixed fruit salads to go with my plain no fat yoghurt at breakfast.  As we all know fruit, especially the soft fruits like blueberries and raspberries, are expensive but so good health-wise. I always eat an apple a day for my morning break at work as well so I think my vitamin C quota is well covered each day and I shouldn’t need to take any supplements.
  • When we went to help my daughter move she had no means of cooking or chilling food so was managing buying one meal at a time for a few days.  We had just returned from holiday and had no food in our house either so I grabbed a basketful of ready-made lunch items on the way at Marks and Spencers at the Wetherby services – their selection of sandwiches being better than the local Co-op.  This cost me over £16 for the four of us with a chocolate eclair each and a bag of crisps.
  • I have been using this month to stock up on basic items like toilet rolls ready for Christmas.  I always plan ahead to get these now as I don’t want to be thinking about the basic necessities close to Christmas when I need to be thinking more about shopping for meals and entertaining.
  • I have been buying the ingredients for the cake, nut roast and food gifts – they are generally found in the baking goods aisle which is always a costly place to be.
  • My lunches which I used to buy at the local Bakehouse are now all made at home so I have to factor in the extra cost of this into the weekly shop but this is balanced by the saving to my weekly personal miscellaneous spending which is virtually at zero now.
  • Due to time constraints with our decorating program my weekly visits to the supermarket have not been on the same day and I noticed that sometimes my weekly shop has been done less than a week after the previous one.

I read online that for Yorkshire and Humberside a weekly shop is on average £47.30 for a family – we eat organic foods mostly so you can add a further 10% to that figure, however I do buy mostly Sainsbury’s own cheaper brands rather than other well-known ones.  although there are only two of us sometimes a weekly shop costs as much as buying for a family of four because you cannot buy smaller sizes or the smaller sizes are more expensive to buy.

I admit we have a few expensive items such as  unfiltered organic virgin olive oil and organic free range eggs, but we do not eat meat or fish so these are a good source of the Omega 3.  A packet of lentils or chick peas is quite low-cost at only 60p and a staple diet for us together with brown rice we then buy a heap of veg to go with these and usually meet the required 5 a day at any one meal.

I like to buy good quality unprocessed whole-foods in an attempt to keep us as healthy as possible and I think I do get value for the money I spend although I would like it to be more around £50 a week mark rather than the £70 average it has crept up to because of the reasons I explained above – so plenty of work still to be done in the coming months to bring this back down.

On the positive side – I spend very little on my mobile phone a £10 recent top-up making that £10 for the year to date as I had a free £10 when I switched to Vodaphone pay as you go.

I don’t pay for all day parking on a Thursday now as I am only working Monday to Wednesday –  a saving of £16 to £20 a month – and I don’t have the petrol cost on top either – however, I have lost a whole day’s pay which more than covered these but I will be using the extra time I have gained wisely to save money in other areas too.

October achievements

  • I have bought as many items as I can when on offer, reduced or I have a coupon.
  • I continue to plan out a menu to avoid food waste – we have very little food waste now – I stopped buying those cartons of chilled coleslaw and salad stuff as once opened they only last a couple of days and I found the last little bit never got used.
  • I have about £106 in Sainsbury’s reward points to spend at Christmas.
  • I tried some new recipes – one or two will make it into my tried and tested section of my binder
  • I managed to skip the magazines most weeks buying none in August and September and only two health and food related ones in October

November budgeting

  • Making my own Christmas cake and Nut roast
  • Adding basic items to my weekly shop to stock up for Christmas
  • Making a Christmas menu plan so I don’t over buy or over spend on food that will not be eaten
  • Using the Waitrose £12 off a £60 spend
  • Clean out the freezer – use this month to plan weekly menus to use up food in there.
  • Use the £106 reward points on the double up event for drink and Christmas requirements
  • Use remainder against food bill
  • Fill car up with petrol using 9p off litre voucher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

baking, fEAsting, recipes

fEAsting…baking cookies and comfort food

The aroma coming from my kitchen was gorgeous today after an afternoon of baking.  I wanted to try a new cookie recipe I cut out of a magazine and I wasn’t disappointed they are so yummy, just right with a cup of tea – if you like nuts and chocolate then I can certainly recommend them – the recipe is below.  I had to make a few slight changes to use ingredients I had in my cupboard in place of ones I didn’t have but I don’t think it has affected the taste or texture in any way.

 

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

75g (3oz) butter, softened

125g (4 1/2oz) plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

50g (2oz) light brown soft sugar  – (I used dark brown as it is all I had in the cupboard)

50g (2oz) caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract – (I only put 3 drops in)

1 large egg – (I used a medium egg and there was plenty of liquid)

50g (2oz) hazelnuts, chopped – (I used an organic chopped nut mix by Crazy Jack from Sainsbury’s – almonds, cashew and hazelnuts)

100g (31/2) plain chocolate, roughly chopped – (I used dark chocolate chips and a chopped up left over fun sized fudge bar)

 

Preheat the oven to 180C, gas mark 4

Lightly grease 2 baking sheets (I put a layer of greaseproof on mine brushed with a little oil)

Combine the butter, flour, bi-carb, sugar and vanilla extract in a food processor and blend for a few seconds.

Add the egg, blend briefly, and then stir in the nuts and chocolate.

Place 9 teaspoonfuls of cookie mixture on each baking sheet making sure they are well spaced.  Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes until golden brown then leave to cool on the baking sheets.

Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Comfort food

Whilst the oven was on I put in some jacket potatoes to be baking for supper and we had these with a mixed vegetable bake in a cheese sauce sprinkled with parmesan and breadcrumbs for a crispy topping, followed by an apple crumble.  This is one of my favourite suppers for this time of year – definitely comfort food and we can settle down to a bit of ‘telly’ afterwards.

 

 

baking, fEAsting, recipes

fEAsting…gathering ingredients

I am starting to feel a sense of urgency now October is over as if I am suddenly hurtling towards Christmas and I need to get a move on as I know in my head that I have far more to do than I will have time to do it in.

In the past I have always had a rule that we would never decorate beyond the end of October after finding ourselves once or twice still decorating on Christmas Eve to finish a room (ah we were young and foolish) but now we are just old and foolish and what are we doing – still decorating –  but I need to get the guest room done no matter what so that we can buy the bed and my mum can come to stay before Christmas.

Decorating aside, I thought it would be a good idea to start checking over the store cupboards and stock up on ingredients for THE cake (you know the one I am referring to), the Nut loaf and any other baking I might do for gifts.  So with list in hand I went to town on Saturday to my favourite little whole food shop that I buy from as it is the only place I can find organic short grain brown rice for puddings, organic lemon juice and organic currants, raisins and sultanas for the Christmas cake – I find each year that currants are so hard to get hold of, maybe some recipes don’t use them.  My recipe has equal amounts of currants, raisins and sultanas – I use the same recipe each year and it is totally organic and totally yummy (despite my attempts to burn it!).

I know for all you ‘frugaliers’ out there that organic is more expensive but I made this commitment years ago to support natural farming (otherwise known as environmentally sustainable way of growing food) and I am well prepared to pay the price and cut back in other ways.  Baking ingredients are not cheap even in the supermarkets, I noticed how much the dried apricots have risen in price, I always get the non-sulphured variety – the ones that look more like wrinkly dried brown prunes – I cut these up into small pieces to put in the cake in place of candied peel which we are none too keen on but even if we did like it I would still prefer to use the apricots as I think they keep the cake moist and add to the flavour.

I always look forward to making the cake and even more to eating it but at the moment I am just gathering ingredients so they will be ready when I am.  I don’t usually make it until the last weekend in November, it seems too early at the moment – I am holding off getting too involved in doing things just for Christmas as I do not want it to take over my life so much that I don’t even notice November – so to start with I have plans to do a bit of general baking to try out one or two new recipes I have torn from the stack of magazines I decluttered.

I found a recipe for Toffee Apple Flapjacks and also on my list is Chocolate Hazelnut cookies – I have stopped buying biscuits recently so OH will be pleased to see the biscuit jar with something inside it for a change.

As we have an overabundance of cooking apples again this year in the freezer I will be using some up in a well-tried and tested recipe for Apple Cake, that uses stewed apple rather than chunks, from my Good Housekeeping Basic Cookery book.  This was one of the best wedding presents we received when we married in 1976 and I still use many of the recipes today – as you can see from the title it was the revised version which included metric weights (I hate to say I still use the ounces!).  I’ll post the recipe and photos later this week, however, you will have to take my word that it tastes just heavenly.

Of course the book cover is anything but vegetarian but I love the old-fashioned basic recipes it is a bit like using an old much loved Bero book.

Have a great week x