Sunday 30 June 2013

A full can of beans

Good morning. Lack of post yesterday was due to not a sodding thing to write about, ha ha. Sometimes my head is like an empty can of baked beans, the lid is off and the contents are on their way down the hill to the sewage works. Not a bean left. However, as luck would have it, I wake up each morning with a fresh unopend can full of beans. I was out walking half an hour ago, just around the village, and something struck me. All kinds of thoughts flit in and out of my mind when I am bimbling, trying to make sense of life, emotions, feelings, and general well being, or not.

Suddenly I thought of the word 'lust', hmmm. that's interesting, don't know where it came from. When I put one foot in front of the other, striding along, I feel the urge coming over me to walk further. I can block out everything that is going on in my life when I walk. Walking gives me a legal high, who needs drugs, not I, ha ha. Walking is my drug of choice. I feel the surge of energy that walking gives me, I feel like I'm on top of the game. I actually lust after walking, the more steps I take, the stronger the lust.

Walking makes me feel in control, my mind and body are in sync, working together in perfect harmony. There is a saying about a healthy body is a healthy mind, my brain sure turns to mush if I sit around all day, but comes alive when I am out in the open air. I definately lust after walking. Anyway, I'm not going to bang on about the benefits of walking, it's just an example of how lust can shape your life.

I looked up the word lust, some interesting definitions. This is what Wikipedia says.
Lust is an intense desire or craving. Lust can take many forms such as the lust for knowledge, the lust for sex or the lust for power. It can take such mundane forms as the lust for food as distinct from the need for food. Lust is a powerful psychological feeling producing intense wanting for an object, or circumstance.

I've had a few lusts in my life, but most of them could be downgraded to passions rather than strong cravings. I definately lust after vegetables at the moment, but like most people I have lusted after chocolate and sweets. This possibly stems from childhood, when we didn't have much money for spending on sugary things, and mum wouldn't let us leave the table without eating our vegetables. I hated vegetables then, and as soon as I left school and started earning money, I made sure I bought sweets and chocolate. Funny how things change, I'm glad I've seen the light and now I've gone full circle. I'm back to eating my greens and having the occasional chocolate bar as a treat.

Hmm, 'intense desire or craving', Learning how to curb cravings is the best thing we can do for ourselves, for they can be our downfall. I don't feel the need to curb my lust for walking and vegetables just yet, as I feel they are doing me no harm. Maybe if I become doddery and fall, or I become so obsessed with vegetables that my diet is lacking in other nutrients, then that would be the time to put a halt to it.

This has got me thinking about how my other desires and cravings have changed throughout my life. When I was a teenager, my passion for keeping up with the fashion was hugely important to me, I craved to fit in with the gang. I spent all my money on fashion magazines, makeup, clothes, hairdo's and going out to all the right places. I craved to be the centre of attention at the Disco's. If I'd have carried on like that my life would have been quite shallow I think, where looks mattered before the substance of a person. I was guilty of chasing after the best looking boys. I was dead chuffed when I pulled Stan, as my friend Rita, far better looking than me, had been after him for ages. Funny how your mindest changes as you gain a wider perspective on life. Now, after years of craving confirmation that I was attractive to the opposite sex, I can now say, that I don't give a stuff any more about what people think of me, I don't have to play act. Spinster of the Parish, that's me, and proud of it.

There comes a time when lusting after something so intensley becomes destructive. One can surely become obsessed which in turn can lead to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Now I'm no psychologist or psychiatrist, but I guess this is not a good place to be. I am able to control my lusts, because I believe there are good lusts and bad lusts. My lust for walking and vegetables are doing me no harm at the moment, indeed they are beneficial to my well being. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my strength of  character will see me through, and I won't need the emotional crutch of chocolate or booze, or fags, or any other body rotting substances. Maybe I'll feel differently when I am on my deathbed, by then it's too late. Just give me loads of chocolate so I can stuff myself into oblivion, ha ha. 

Now tell me about your good lusts, and your bad lusts, c'mon, confession time.
Toodle pip

Friday 28 June 2013

Making sure I have enough money for what I need

It's looking like it might be next week when I go and do a proper shop, I will last over the weekend. I hate shopping on a Saturday or Sunday when the working population and their sproggs invade the supermarket, piling their trolleys high with cases of lager and gigantic bags of crisps. I'd rather not get into the scrum at the checkouts. 
So, what have I been eating. This is the mushroom omlette which I had yesterday lunchtime. No frills, no titivation needed, just a big omlette almost as big as the plate, stuffed with lots of mushrooms. Very filling.     
Last night I made this pasta thingy. The middle bit is onions and sweetcorn, with some spices thrown in, turmeric, garlic, a bit of this and that, very tasty. I made two portions and had the rest for my lunch today. By the way, the wholemeal pasta was three bags for £1, from the cash and carry, cheap because it's out of date. 
Debbie asked where I get tinned tomatoes from at 25p, and are the chick peas dried or tinned. The toms I get from Home Bargains or B & M, look for offers, four tins for £1. I use tinned chick peas, can't be bothered with the faff of soaking, and I don't like planning ahead. I like to open the cupboard and base a meal on what I see, and I want to be eating it within 15 minutes. The chick peas are also from Home Bargains or B & M. Failing that, you can get these items in Asian stores. If I see a good price I will buy a tray of 12 tins.

I did cheat a little yesterday, bought a few fresh items to top up what I have. I get withdrawal symptoms if I can't have my veg. I found a few reduced items in Asda. Two bags of spinach at 40p each. Half a cucumber at 15p. Punnet of cherries at 37p. Broccoli 60p normal price. Seeded bread at 53p reduced. From Aldi I got 1kg bananas for 68p and a large tub of natural yogurt for 55p. From B & M I got six eggs for 95p. That will keep me going for a while.

Tonight I had steamed potatoes, onions, broccoli, and spinach, topped with a tin of mushy peas. There's a lot of rumbling going on down below, I think it's going to get a bit windy later, ha ha.

It's looking like I might be spending more money next week, I'm having an eye test on Monday and new specs are on the cards. The week after I want to go away for a few days, oh gawd, it's never ending, always something to pay for. I'll be living on porridge for a while to catch up.
Toodle pip

Thursday 27 June 2013

Enough to tempt me?

A leaflet came through the door today, Postie delivered it with a couple of real letters. At one time junk mail used to be delivered with the free newspaper, but we don't get that any more, so now it comes with Royal Mail. Annoying that it is, I can see the logic of the work being taken on by a national company which delivers to every home in the UK. If it means that thousands get to keep their jobs, even though sending stuff by snail mail is in decline, then so be it. 
I always flick through the leaflets to see if there are any bargains that I should be taking advantage of, but nine times out of ten, there is nothing to tempt me to take a trip across town to stock up on one solitary item. I thought I would go through this Morrisons leaflet to see if I should be waiting at the door on the morning of July the 1st, ready to join the stampede at opening time. I was intending to mark each item with a tick or cross indicating a yes or a no, but the paper is so flimsy the first cross went through to the other side. For those interested in food shopping prices, and why I would or wouldn't buy these items, read on. By the way, this is not a sponsored advert for Morrisons, in fact I don't very often visit their store, it is the other side of town, and I am not impressed by the quality of their fresh fruit and veg. On the occasions that I have bought it, it starts to look tired a day or two after getting it home.
On the front cover, Pizza, I never buy pizzas. What are they, baked dough with a topping, usually cheese and tomato. Filling maybe, but not good for you, too much stodge. Coca cola, I never buy it, rots your teeth, good for cleaning toilets apparently, God knows what it does to your insides. Magnum ice cream, you all know I love Magnums, but I do not buy them in a box of three at the supermarket because I would get them home and scoff the lot. I like them as an occasional treat when I am out and about.

Free range eggs, yes I would buy them at 97p. White bread, I don't buy it, always has to be wholemeal, or wholegrain, or seeded. White is tasteless and like cotton wool. Tin of tomatoes, own brand for 31p. I have some tomatoes in my cupboard which cost me 25p, so this is not cheap enough for me. Tuna chunks, I have given up buying tinned fish, the price has gone through the roof. White French stick bread, 75p. No thanks, too expensive. and tasteless.
Bananas, yes, good price. Sausages, no meat in this house apart from cat food. 2 litres of milk, no, I don't buy plastic bottles of milk. I have soya milk on my cereals, and Coffee Mate powder in my coffee.
I wouldn't buy anything on this page. Mulitpacks encourages binge eating and drinking, and it's all crap. If I am going to indulge in chocolate I will get a small bar very occasionally as a treat. I never buy fizzy drinks. The price of crisps is ridiculous, I don't buy expensive brands, if I indulge it will be cheap supermarket label, and then only once in a while.  
The only alcohol I have in the house is a bottle of wine now and again for a treat, I buy one when I fancy it, never stockpile booze. I sometimes buy a fourpack of the cheapest cider. The Robinsons orange squash is a no, it's too dear. I can get it at the cash and carry for 50p.
I always buy mature cheddar cheese, the mild stuff is tasteless. This 350 gram Pilgrims is an ok price but you have to watch the pack sizes, they are reducing, but the price is increasing. I don't buy Philly sof cheese, I get Tesco own brand, a lot cheaper and just as good. Six pack Muller Corner, a definate no. I put my own tinned fruit in cheap plain yogurt. No to breaded ham, Rappor coffee, Uncle Bens rice, teabags, Uncle Bens sauce, Takeaway Feasts whatever they are, and Haagen Dazs ice cream. All too expensive, I don't drink tea, and like Nescafe.  
More sweet junk. Petits no thanks Munch Bunch puddings, no no no. Innocent juice a good price and nice juice, but still more expensive than the cartons I get. Utterly Butterly, I might buy this if it is cheaper than the  olive spreads that I buy. No to fish fingers, I've given up with them, hardly any fish, mostly breadcrumbs. No to McCains oven chips. I don't use the oven, and don't eat chips at home. Scampi bites, no, at £4 a packet.
Yes to fruit and veg, though I only buy British tomatoes when in season, foreign ones have hard skins and are tasteless. Cherries are generally out of my price range, but I will buy a treat if they are on offer. I don't buy baby new potatoes, I get the cheapest own label ordinary potatoes. Don't care if they are old or new. Look at the price of meat and fish, even if I wanted to eat it I couldn't afford it. Best without it.
Aha, toiletries, what have we here. Body spray, anti perspirent, Radox bath muscle soak, moisturising shower cream, shampoo conditioner, all good names, all big prices. Don't need them, cheaper toiletries do the job for me, Tesco Everyday Value. The Colgate toothpaste is expensive, supposed to whiten your teeth. I look for the offers, don't mind which brand, even the Value toothpaste is ok. Blimey isn't it expensive to shave, 5 Wilkinson Sword £4.49, don't think I will be taking that up.
So, maybe not Morrisons, though there is something which might tempt me. They have a £3 voucher off a £30 spend, I might look into it further when I need to go shopping.
Toodle pip

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Make your own crisps, it's cheaper than buying them

I fancied some crisps today, but I didn't want to spend any money. I am trying to keep out of shops at the moment, to give my battered bank balance time to recover. I'm eating what I already have, and tonight for dinner was the third portion of a three day veggie curry stew. So, I had three meals out of five potatoes, three small onions, a handfull of frozen peas, and sweetcorn, and a tin of red kidney beans. Lunch was two cheese rolls, the wholemeal bread was bought for 25p on a yellow sticker. Breakfast was cereals and a banana. I have to confess though I dip into the peanut butter and the ground brazil nuts when I open the fridge door. Just to fill a little hole and keep me going, ha ha. 
Anyway, I posted about how to make home made crisps in October 2010, it's worth another mention as people may not have seen it, and it will save you money. It's dead easy. Take one potato, the glass plate from the microwave, and a gadget to slice the potato very thinly.   
Put a few spots of oil on the plate and smear it all over with your fingers. Spread the sliced potato over the whole plate.
Microwave until brown and crispy. It takes about eight minutes. I do mine in short bursts, opening the door to check how they are doing. Once they start turning brown you need to be carefull not to leave them in too long, get them out quickly before they burn. Use a knife with a large flexible blade to scrape them off, I use the bread knife. You can sprinkle salt on them if you like, I don't because I never add salt to anything I cook. Easy peasy crisps.
It was a bit windy in the garden today, so I have rigged up a plastic cover for the sunflowers. I cut a clear plastic sheet the right size and clipped it to the edge of the garage roof at the top, and along the rims of the boxes at the bottom. They have their own greenhouse now. Other garden news, I am hopefull that I will have a good crop of broad beans, all the plants are in flower with some bean pods starting to appear. Some of the runner beans have flowers, but the courgettes are a little slow to grow. The potatoes look great, lots of greenery, so I am hoping there will be a lot growing underneath as well.

I'm not sure if I can hold off the food shopping until after the weekend, I am a bit limited to what I can make with what I have. I am not going to go to the extreme I did before when I ate everything I had. As long as I use up some of the tins and packets that will be enough. I have a few mushrooms left, so it will be mushroom omlette for lunch tomorrow I think. Then maybe pasta for dinner. We'll see. No meal planning here, I'll just have whatever.
Toodle pip.
PS, I've had some very nice emails from my lovely readers, thank you very much. I am chuffed that you like my blog, I like writing it. Love and kisses xxx

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Bring me sunflowers.......

Well would you Adam and Eve it, (rhyming slang). It's been hot hot hot today, such a contrast from yesterday when I was constantly having to wipe my dripping cold nose. Today it's been shorts and teeshirt weather. I thought I would give you an update on the sunflowers, my little babies are shooting up, the tallest being 15 inches high. The wind has dropped so it's time to get them outside. 
There are eighteen, one of them is a little sickly and has not grown as tall as the rest of them. This spot in the garden has the most sun, it comes up from behind the trees and makes it's way across the back and round the side of the house, then goes down at the front of the house. The plants are still in the sun now at 7.15pm as it shines through the gap between the two houses. 
I have used six plastic storage boxes and put three plants in each. I was going to use nine boxes with two in each, but I didn't have enough compost, and they wouldn't have fitted on the decking. I hope they have enough room to grow, they didn't appear to have very big roots when I took them out of the pots, so I'm hoping that they carry on growing and don't get too crowded.  I bought the boxes from Tesco for £1 each, when I started growing vegetables five years ago. I have grown tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots in them. The plastic hasn't crumbled, unlike the ones I bought from Poundland. These are not so brittle and should last a few more years. This is Bugsy's favourite place to take a snooze. The wood must get quite warm.   
And then I noticed he has stretched out so I took another photo.
Anyway, wish me luck, the babies are on their own now, I don't think I am going to sleep tonight worrying about them. I'll keep you updated, wouldn't it be lovely if I get eighteen big yellow flowers.
Toodle pip.

Monday 24 June 2013

Versatile chick peas

I'm slowly getting down my food reserve, no fresh veg left, except potatoes and onions, hardly anything left in the freezer, but still plenty to eat. Today I thought I would play around with a tin of chick peas, cost 29p. Rinse and put them in a glass bowl.
Then, using an ordinary hand masher, smash them to bits. I do have an electric food processor, but aren't they messy and fiddly to wash afterwards. I save on electricity, less washing up, and do it the old fashioned way using my hands. Nellie would be proud, ha ha. To the mix I added a splash of toasted sesame seed oil, five chopped raw mushrooms, a dollop of grain mustard, a splash of wine vinegar, a shake of lemon juice out of a bottle, and a knob of garlic puree. Give it a good bashing, I don't mind the lumpy bits in it.
Next I toasted a piece of bread and spread a good thick layer of the mix onto it. Then put it under the grill for a few minutes. It made a very nice snack at lunchtime. However, it was much better just eating it as it was, really tasty, so I ate what was left with a fork, straight out of the bowl. You could add anything you like to it and make a sandwich filler. Grated cheese would be nice, or soft cheese, or tuna fish, or chopped raw spinach, or chopped cucumber and salad leaves, or boiled eggs. Have a go, be experimental.
My dinner tonight was a pan of veggie curry stew, made with potatoes and onions, peas and sweetcorn from the freezer, and a tin of red kidney beans. There is plenty left for tomorrow, and probably enough for lunch the day after.

I picked up a form to enter some of my artwork into the Open Art Exhibition at the Visual Arts Centre. I need to get my entry in by the 12th of July. Not decided how many to send yet. I am trying to think of an idea to make another piece, or rather, I have the ideas, but I'm struggling to work out how to construct it. I did make a start on one, but decided it wasn't going to work, so I scrapped it. It's so frustrating, I can see what I want to achieve, but can't find a way forward. My arty mojo is stuck in a box at the moment. I am wandering around the house lost in a fuzz. Something will hit me soon, I hope. Bye the way if anyone is interested in art, there are a couple of programmes on the BBC iplayer called, 'What do artists do all day'. They are very interesting. Possibly only available in the UK. I haven't checked if they are on yootoob.

Oh wow, I've checked, there are a lot more programmes in this series on yootoob. Just type in 'What do artists do all day', into the search and they will come up. It looks like they might not be full programmes, but never mind. I'm going to watch them all, it might help me to get my mojo back.

The chuffin weather is cold here. I nearly had a mad  moment and put the heating on, but I managed to resist. I put some more layers on instead. Where is the chuffin summer :o( I hope tomorrow is better.
Toodle pip.

Sunday 23 June 2013

Midge, the best dog in the world.

Just want to tell you about this amazing dog. Some of you may remember when I wrote about Midge the Border Collie owned by Paul. I met them once on a Walking Forum meet up in Derbyshire on a camping weekend, in September 2011. Read about it here. Walking Stanage Edge.
I wrote this about him.........
Mitch the border collie came along with his owner Paul, (forum name mananddog), isn't he adorable. Midge was a star, everyone loved him. He came from a Rescue at a young age, and had been living in a totally unsuitable home with a small garden. He was never taken out for walks, so he was very nervous. This breed of dog has boundless energy, superior intelligence and needs to work, unfortumately some people do not understand this and think it's ok to heep them as a pet. Paul managed to build up his confidence, and train him to his own commands, similar to what a sheep dog would learn. It was a joy to watch the two of them work in perfect harmony, Midge desperate to please his master and enjoying every minute of it.

The sad news is that Midge has lost his sight, but wait a minute, it's not all bad. This dog is even more remarkable than he was before. At this moment in time, Paul and Midge are walking from John o Groats to Lands End, and Midge is getting on perfectly fine, his blindness hasn't made any difference. They started out at the end of April and Paul is posting on the Forum when he can. You can read it HERE.  They went through Barnstable on the 18th, and are going through Bude tomorrow, so they are not far from the finish.

Paul has a blog all about his travels with Midge, you can read about his other long walks if you like. Travels with Midge.     He has started another blog about this trip, but hasn't been able to put much detail on it just yet. I shall be looking forward to reading it when it is completed. Paul and Midge Blind Faith.

I think this is pretty amazing, I love doggy stories. Midge is a dog in a million, ten million in fact. As Paul says, he is the best dog in the world.

Saturday 22 June 2013

Nellie's money saving gems. Guest post

Hiya all you frugalers out there, it's Nellie Knowitall here back by great demand. I've been comissioned to write another post about living within your means. Once again I'm going to be stating the bleedin obvious, after all, saving money is not rocket science, it's just a large dollop of good old fashioned common sense. There will be no tarting it up with wishywashy faffing, I just tell it like it is. So, if you want to reap the benefits from my pearls of wisdom, read on, but if you are filthy rich this won't be for you, just pop out to the shops and buy another flat screen tv to add to the three you already have, and thank the lord that you don't have to scrimp and save every last penny.

Right, let's get on, for those who are with me, hold on to your hats.

1. How much washing up liquid do you get through? I hope you haven't got a dishwasher, gawd and heaven forbid, please don't tell me you are too idle to boil a kettle and wash up in a bowl of water? Think of all those chemicals that get washed into the drains, not to mention the amount of water they use. Chuck the monstrocity out if you have one, and get back to basics. A bowl of hot water, a teeny drop of washup liquid, and a pair of hands are all you need. Yes, but what if the pots are all gungy with left over food sticking to them, I hear you say. Simple answer to that is, lick 'em all clean before you wash them, then you won't get that greasey slime floating on the top of the water, and those lumpy bits stuck in the plug hole.

2. Get rid of all the unnecessary gadgets you have about the place which need electricity. What did we all do before they were invented, eh? Here are a few things that you can chuck. When you stop plugging them in, your leccy bill will be greatly reduced. Electric toothbrush. Don't need one of those, a bit more wrist action with a bog standard brush will do the job of keeping your pearly whites, erm, white. Bedside clock radio alarm. Chuck it and get an old fashioned wind up clock. Why do you need a flashing light by your bedside, it would drive me potty. Electric mixer. Why would you want to plug one in when you can get one of those rotary things that you wind with your hand. Better still, put your ingredients in a bowl and beat them to death with a table fork. Makes your wrist ache a bit but at least it does the job at no cost. Coffee machine. Good grief, what's wrong with a spoonfull of Nescafe in a mug topped up with hot water. Don't need that fancy thick black sludgy stuff. Deep fat fryer. NO NO NO. Don't fry food it is no good for your health, and it makes a mess and stinks the kitchen out. Only grill, steam, or microwave your food. Sandwich toaster. Oh my, so you like toasted sandwiches, well if you have to have them put your sarnie under the grill, better still don't bother at all, eat it in it's natural state. These are just a few of the gadgets you don't need, and don't get me started on hair straighteners, hair curlers, hair dryers, heated rollers, and crimpers. I reckon if you have any of these items of torture in your home you must be a bit kinky. Chuck 'em. Wash your hair on a fine day and walk outside, and let the sun and wind try it.

3. Now this will cause a few of you to rise up in indignant protest, are you ready. Stop eating dead animals. No one ever died through not eating meat, you don't need it, and your grocery bill will be pounds cheaper.

4. Hey, this is a good one for all us old wrinklies. Don't believe any of the blurb about face creams rejuvenating your skin. They want you to buy into dreams. There are no miracle creams that will turn back time. You are getting older, your skin will become thinner and lose it's elasticity, you will get wrinkles. Slap on any old cheap cream that you have in the cupboard, save yourself a fortune.

5. What is it with these wet wipes that you can buy? They make them for all kinds of jobs now, even for use in the bathroom. For goodness sake, I hope no one is buying them to wipe the toilet. Cut an old towel into squares, and make some cloths. There are so many things being invented to supposedly make housework easier, but they all cost money. Go down the old fashioned route, a bit of spit and polish and a lot of elbow grease, with an old rag, will save loads of money.

6. Here's a good one that is so obvious to me. Why do you think they put choccy bars on prominent display next to the checkout? To tempt all weak willed people into buying a treat for themselves. Toughen up for goodness sake. Ignore them, leave them on the shelf,  you didn't go into the shop to buy chocolate. If you are a bit on the lumpy bumpy side, chocolate will go straight to your hips and you will never get rid of that big lump called your arse.

7. I'm going to talk dirty now. Look away if easily offended. I'll say it once. 2 for a pee, 3 for a poo. You know what I'm talking about don't you, yep, loo roll. Are you getting through reams of it every day, well you shouldn't be. If you are constantly pebbledashing your toilet, there is something wrong with your diet. If you have a messy bum then you are eating the wrong food. I'll say no more.

8. How to use less petrol in your car. Are you the sort of person who is always in a rush, not leaving yourself enough time to get to your destination. I can see the steam coming out of your ears as you dash out of the house, jump into the car, and push your right foot through the floor as your tyres leave a slick of black rubber on the road. Then when you reach the first set of traffic lights it's brakes slammed on as you screech to a halt behind waiting traffic. I bet you can watch your petrol gauge go down. Just calm down a bit, get up ten minutes early and give yourself a bit more time. Easy on the pedals, read the road ahead and work out a plan of action as you drive. It ain't that difficult, and will save you pounds.

9. Always keep your eyes on the ground when you walk about. People drop money accidentally, and kids throw away small coins when they can't be bothered with them. They will learn eventually when the bank of mum and dad finally dries up. Even in remote areas where you think you would never find anything, the glint from a coin on the ground has caught my eye many a time, as the sun catches it. Of course you will have to look up sometimes, don't want you walking into a lamp post or getting a crick in the neck. Think money when out and about at all times, don't be too proud to stop and pick it up.  

10. Right, last one for today. Stop buying clothes which need ironing. In fact, stop ironing altogether. Biggest waste of time and money, I can't think of a more boring job, and what about all that electricity it uses. I still read about people who iron bed sheets, good grief, are they nuts! The sheets are going to get creased when you get into bed anyway, unless you lie flat on your back like a corpse all night, which I have to sometimes when all the cats decide to sleep with me.

Well that's all for now folks, think about my money saving tips, can you add some of them to your daily routines, let me know how much money you have saved. This is Nellie Knowitall from Stating the Bleedin Obvious signing off. I hope you have found my guest post helpfull. Till next time, your very best friend, Nellie.    

Friday 21 June 2013

Art at The National Centre for Craft & Design

You might need to put your sunglasses on for this post, it's a right bobby dazzler. Here are the photo's from my visit to The National Centre for Craft and Design, which I didn't have time to post with the other pictures of Sleaford. The NCCD is in the centre of the town, in the riverside setting of Navigation Wharf. It is the largest venue in England, dedicated to the exhibition and promotion of international and national contemporary craft and design. The Centre has four gallery spaces. The exhibition is called 'Beauty is the First Test'. It's all about how mathematical concepts underpin craft techniques and artistic developments.
This artwork is by Michael Brennand-Wood, he works mainly in textiles. Here is his web site if you want to read further. Michael Brennan-Wood.
He makes all the flowers individually on a machine.
There is also an interesting interview with him here. Ideas in the Making.

This is quite interesting, artwork made with a spirograph. From a distance the picture looks out of focus.
But when you get close up you can see each individual swirl. It's done with coloured biro pens, it must have taken ages to do.
The artist is Lesley Halliwell.
You can find her web site here. Lesley Halliwell.
Seeing the real thing is much better than photographs. If you see either of these artists names advertised anywhere, go along and see for yourself. You will be amazed.
Toodle pip.

Thursday 20 June 2013

Analysing the bills

It was a miserable start this morning, raining and dull, so I stayed indoors and got on with a bit of sewing. I haven't been very productive just lately, making the most of the sunshine, outdoors in the garden and gallivanting off out and about. I'm making some more bags, because they are easy to do, and I still have some strong fabric left which needs using up.
This afternoon it brightened up a bit so I went a walkabout around the village. We have a very nice caravan site here, and there are often people about that I haven't seen before. I came across two ladies walking their dogs and stopped to chat, they live not far from my home town, that was a coincidence. They asked me about the footpaths, so I was able to tell them where the nice walks are.
What's hapenning with the sunflowers? Here they are, the biggest one is 11inches tall. I have been keeping them indoors at night, if anyone spots them through the front window they will think I am growing illegal substances, ha ha. I take them outside in the sun in the mornings. It was a bit windy one day and they got a bit bendy, so I moved them to a sheltered spot. I am not sure at which point I should stick some canes in for support.
They are in quite big pots but the roots are not showing at the bottom yet. I have nowhere to plant them in the ground, so if they need a sunny spot I will have to put them in bigger pots on the decking against the side of the garage. I'll give them a few more days before I transplant them.
My lunch today was one chopped onion and five sliced mushrooms, cooked in a little oil, with a dollop of garlic puree and a splodge of wholegrain mustard. Added to that was some cream cheese, and just before serving I stired in two teaspoons of plain yogurt. Eaten on a bed of raw spinach.
My half yearly water bill has arrived from Anglian Water. I am pleased to say that my water saving has paid off. This bill is £32.66 compared to £38.70 for the same period last year. A saving of £6.04 yippeee. Every little helps. We get two bills, the other one is from Severn Trent Water, and that is for surface water drainage. The cost of that is £29 per half year, so not too bad at all. I will carry on flushing the toilet with the bath water.

Another bill I have recently paid is the quarterly gas and electric combined. There was a slight increase there due to the very cold weather we had earlier in the year. British Gas compare year on year, and include the figures for the same period a year ago. My gas consumption this time went up because I put the central heating on a few times, but my electricity went down. It pays to be careful, and the more they bump up the cost, the more careful I will have to be.

I had a phone call yesterday from Orange, I have my home phone and broadband from them. I am on quite a good package, because I limit my phone calls to off peak times, or should do. Sometimes I sneak in an odd one or two here and there in the daytime, and accept that I will be paying for them. Anyway, they have noticed that my monthly bill has crept up a bit and have offered me another package to include unlimited phone calls whatever time I make them. Of course they will charge me quite a bit more for that, which I thought was too much. The sales lady seemed a bit peeved when I said I didn't want it. She couldn't grasp the idea that if I wanted to keep my bills low, all I had to do was to stop phoning during the day. This is the exact same reason why I will not go onto an all inclusive package on my mobile phone, I prefer PAYG. I don't want to spend hours on the phone, landline or mobile, and I certainly don't want to pay more for the privilege.

Well that's about it, we've had a lot of rain tonight, bucketing it down, I hope it's all gone by tomorrow. If not, more sewing I think. Toodle pip.  

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Juggling money so everything fits

The car is back, but what a shocker of a bill. Although it wasn't far off the amount I estimated, it was still a shocker. Paid for with the Tesco credit card so at least I get the points. So, my bank balance is set to take a dive next month when it goes through, already my mind is working out how I can save money elsewhere to limit the pain. One of the easiest ways is to take stock of my food stores, how much have I got in, and how many meals can I cook out of the ingredients I already have without buying more. It's all a juggling act, drop a few balls, and gather a few up from somewhere else. Resist the temptation to scream and shout and shed a few tears, just bite the bullet and get on with it.
This is my stock situation at the moment, I've done an inventory. There are no hidden rusty tins at the back of the cupboard, no ancient packets of dry goods ten years out of date, and no rotting smelly gunge hidden away at the bottom of the freezer. Everything I have in my stores is edible. I keep on top of the situation by regularly checking what I have in, and use everything in date order. I don't care if tins and packets become out of date, they are used on the basis of oldest first. Here is my list.

4 Tomatoes
2 Red kidney beans
1 Macaroni cheese
4 Chick peas
4 Mushy peas
4 Spaghetti in tomato sauce
7 Baked beans
3 Rice pudding
2 mandarin segments
1 Peach slices
12 Grapefruit and orange
3pkts Sultanas
4pkts Wholemeal pasta
1.5 kilo Brown rice
.5 kilo Couscous
1 kilo Red lentils
1 Mug shot (pasta)
2 Instant noodles
250grm spaghetti
1.5kilo Porridge oats
Huge bag Bran flakes. 3.3kilo
8 Wholemeal bread rolls
1 Wholemeal loaf
500grm peas
100grm sweetcorn
1 Quorn quarter pounder
3 Quorn burgers
1 Vegetable burger
3 pots home made curry soup
225grm Brazil nuts
Block of cheese
Pkt Ravioli 250gr
Pickled onions
Pickled beetroot
Soft cheese spread
1 Ltr Soya mik
2 cartons Cranberry juice

I called in Tesco yesterday after I picked the car up, I was too early for the real bargains, but got a few pence off here and there. As I was looking around I was dismayed at how much prices have risen just lately, I almost felt like giving up eating altogether as a protest. In the past when the price of the food I normally buy goes up I look for a cheaper alternative, that is getting harder and harder to do. Even the cheaper alternatives are now too expensive. I only spent £7, just didn't feel like spending any more.
Maybe if people cut down on the amount they eat, reduce their meal sizes, stop eating snacks, stop buying fizzy drinks, then the supermarkets will be left with a lot of unsold stock on the shelves, and maybe that will lead to more yellow stickers as they fail to shift it within the sell by date. But alas, I can't see that happening, they will continue to stuff themselves silly as they watch their debt soar even higher. 
Anyway, looking at the above list, there are a lot of meals I can make with what I already have. It's time to tighten the belt for a couple of weeks or so, to recover the money I spent on the car. A lot of people will have different priorities to me, fair enough, their choice. Don't feel sorry for me, I am not in food poverty, I do not need to visit a food bank. I could splurge out on a massive online shop at M & S if I so wish, but I choose not to, that would be too easy. I prefer the challenge of creating simple meals out of very few ingredients. Here's one I made yesterday. Boil some wholegrain rice in a pan. Put half a tin of chopped tomatoes in a microwaveable dish. Add garlic puree and half a teaspoon of wholegrain mustard, and some frozen peas. Stir and microwave, and again, until piping hot. Add the cooked rice and hey presto, a cheap risotto. Eat out of the dish to save washing a plate.   
My elevenses today. A peach sliced, black and green grapes, all bought last week, still OK. Yesterday I bought a reduced punnet of strawberries, I went through the whole lot inspecting them carefully and washing them. Then I graded them. Some had to be eaten immediately, some will be eaten tomorrow, and some will last a few more days. The fruit and veg assistant was stocking the shelves and I saw he was putting out large boxes of strawberries for £3.50. There's no way I would pay that, sorting through my punnet was fine by me. There was only one mouldy one to discard.
I have one peach left so I'll have another bowl like this tomorrow. Then I will substitute a banana for the missing peach, the next day.

Be creative in your cooking to save money. Toodle pip.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Happy Birthday Uncle Stan

Picture a sunny Sunday afternoon in a typical English country garden. Friends and family sit around chatting over a glass of wine or a cup of tea. A three piece band entertains in the background. The garden looks pretty with lots of colour and fine greenery. Young and old alike, family, friends, and neighbours have come together to celebrate Stan's 90th birthday. We were lucky, the weather was just perfect.

Stan was in his element, this is the Stan we know, surrounded by some of his many friends. He loves entertaining with his cheeky sense of humour, I can see where I get it from, there's many a time we have a giggle together.

Right Stan, are you ready to cut the cake.
Everyone joins in the Happy Birthday song.
Stan goes back to entertaining his friends.
While the ladies finish cutting the cake and handing out the plates.
Where's my cake.

Here is a little video I made, it's just over five minutes long. Please excuse the background noise, the house is close to a busy dual carriageway.

It was a smashing party, the weather was perfect, the food was great, organised by Pat. She also put in extra effort to get the garden looking nice in the weeks before. Family came from London for the celebrations.  And most importantly Stan had a brilliant 90th party. 
And me? I loved it, and was glad to be a part of it. But what's all this then, an RAC truck with my car on the back of it. I set off at 6.30pm to come home, but very quickly realised that something was wrong with the car, so I returned to the house. An RAC man was on the scene within an hour and diagnosed a broken front road spring, the car could not be driven. Apparently sometime during the day while the car was sat on the drive, there was a massive bang, and someone said they saw my car shake. I couldn't see anything wrong so wondered if something had happened on the nearby dual carriageway which was just the other side of the garden fence. I have since found out that a spring usually breaks while the vehicle is stationary.

So, bad luck that it happened at all, but good luck that I was not stranded at the side of the road. It's in for repair and I am waiting for the call when it's ready. While it's in the front brakes will be getting done, I could tell they were getting a bit lumpy and that was the next job on the agenda. A hefty bill that I could have done without, but as my car is high up on my priority list I have saved enough cash to pay for it. My emergency fund will be a bit depleted, but with my money management skills honed to perfection, it won't be long before I have topped up the balance.
The scrimping continues. Toodle pip.