Monday, 30 September 2013

I'm winning :o)

Oh dear, my bank statement has arrived, the first one after me plundering the account to pay off the mortgage. It's taken a bit of a bashing and doesn't look pretty. It's sensible to have a little bit of a buffer in case of emergencies. I don't seem to have emergencies though, if something in the house breaks, I just carry on and manage without it if I can't afford to get it fixed, or buy a replacement. Back to basics that's me. My expectations are quite low when it comes down to day to day living. I don't fret, throw a wobbly, or stamp around and cry when things are not going right. I shrug my shoulders and carry on regardless. I look for a different way of doing things.

My attitude to money has changed the older I get. I used to be worried silly by those long numbers on my mortgage statement, how much, yikes, I'm never going to be able to pay that off. But I chipped away at it and now it's gone, so that's a big relief. I still have to be careful with my spending though, my nine grand a year has to be stretched till I can squeeze no more out of it.

Yesterday I popped into Tesco in Barton, as it's next door to The Ropewalk. It's a smaller branch than the one I usually use. I wanted a pot of Value plain yogurt, usually 45p, but I was shocked to see that the price was 59p. Now I don't know if this is a genuine price increase, or if the price varies anyway depending on the size of store. I walked out with nothing, I didn't want to pay that so I will see if I can get it cheaper elsewhere. I am becoming more choosy on which cheese I buy now, the cost of it is creeping up, and I ought to be cutting down anyway. If I buy a 350grm piece I eat it too quickly, so I am going for a smaller pack, and when it's gone it's gone. I've also switched to cottage cheese, and soft cheese.

I see all this ducking and diving as a game, I know I shall win, because I will not starve. The bottom line is that I will always have food to eat. When something becomes unaffordable, there are alternatives, it's up to me to find them. Substitution is the name of the game, you can't be set in your ways when it comes to shopping, that's why I don't make a shopping list. I go with an open mind, and look for the best I can find for the least amount of money. If I forget something I don't care, if I come back without something, then I haven't paid for it.

Food shopping is easy for me I am single, I only have myself to please. It's also easy for me because I am a small person, just over eight stone, I have a small stomach, I don't need to stuff it full to bursting. Yes, my dinner plates look full sometimes, but by eating a lot of vegetables it's all going to move through quickly, and not pile the weight on.

I've got some car expenses coming up soon, MOT and service, so I shall be asking around amongst my friends for their recommendations. I have enough money to pay for it, but from now on I must be extra vigilant and only spend on what is absolutely necessary for the next few months. It goes without saying that once again I will not be joining the Christmas shopping frenzy, no, I gave that lark up years ago. I make it known to people, that Miss Meanqueen Scrooge here does not do Christmas.

I might be able to squeeze in a cheap day out or two, getting out of my four walls and venturing further than the boundaries of my village, is a must to preserve my sanity. So I'll look through my brochures, weigh up all the pro's and cons cost wise, and maybe have a little trip out, or two.

Yes, while money, or lack of it, is a talking point at the moment, I like to keep things in perspective. I won't worry about not having very much, because I have enough. I will not worry about making more, because I don't need it. The bills are getting paid, and me and the cats have enough food. It wasn't always like this, but now it is and I can relax. I'm off out into the garden to dig up some spuds.
Toodle pip

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Adding to my collection of brochures

I had another trip to Barton today, to visit the artists that I missed yesterday. This time I only spent ten minutes talking to Michael, he was dead chuffed when I told him there were some nice comments about him. Jane, a killer smile indeed, in the flesh he is drop dead gorgeous, ha ha, he will blush if he reads this. Yes, Mum, the front view is amazing. He is such a nice guy as well, no airs and graces, down to earth with a cheeky sense of fun and lots of  humour. He doesn't put on a front, doesn't dress to impress, what you see is what you get. His wife is nice as well, she has long hair but not dreads.
Anyway, I moved along and stuck my head into a few of the other studios. Everyone had their work for sale. Although they were happy to talk, I always feel awkward as I know they would like to sell something. Michael doesn't sell anything bye the way, so I felt no pressure there. There was a lady demonstrating felting, she was friendly and didn't mind how many questions I asked her. Another lady had made a quilt so I got some tips from her. I got chatting to a couple of artists who paint on canvas, and to be honest I couldn't understand their pictures at all. But that's the nature of art I suppose.  
After I had finished at The Ropewalk I moved on to The Waters Edge Visitors Centre. There I found more artists showing their work. It's ages since I was last there, and I noticed that they had turned part of it into a Tourist Information office. I found a large selection of brochures covering all parts of the UK. Oooh lovely, I had a rummage through them and came away with a good pile.
Although it's great to be able to access information through web sites, I still enjoy going through the paper brochures. So I'm going to have a study of these, and see where I might like to visit next.
Toodle pip.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

An arty sort of day

Hiya, I've enjoyed my Saturday, I hope you have too. Another glorious day, lots of sunshine, aren't we lucky. I found out by chance the other day, that it is the Insight Open Studios this weekend, where artists open their doors and invite the general public to come on in and view them at work in their workshops. There are fifty two taking part, and they are scattered all over North Lincolnshire. Some work from home and some work from galleries. There are plenty of places to visit if you want to make a weekend of it, but I tend to stick to the Ropewallk, a gallery in Barton upon Humber.
I missed it last year because I was busy doing something else, I really ought to put it on my calendar at the beginning of the year. Maybe I will remember for 2014. Here is a link to The Ropewalk web site. And a link to The Insight web site.  
My first port of call was to see Michael Scrimshaw, I first met him two years ago, or was it three, not sure, anyway, he is my kind of artist because he creates his artworks from rubbish. He works mainly with metals, but incorporates any other media which is appropriate to the piece he is creating. He is also a very good artist as in painting, from transforming a large brick wall into a Victorian street scene, to customising the petrol tank of a Harley Davidson.
A fascinating person to talk to, he has plenty of stories to tell about his work. He has been commissioned to make a massive sculpture for the front of the Art Centre Church here in town, depicting two workers from the steel works. The small model which he will be working from looks amazing, it will be a great addition to Church Square.
Anyway, I'll cut the waffle, here is Michael. 
He is talking to some visitors. Don't you just love his amazing dreadlocks.

And a look around his studio, pieces of wire and drawings adorn the walls.

After an hour of so I had to come home. I must go back tomorrow because I didn't have time to visit the other artists, this little fella was waiting to go walkies. This is Bailey, his owner had gone out for the day and asked if I could call in and take him out. He is a lovely little chap, so cute, and very friendly with other dogs. He keeps stopping to look behind him, probably wondering where his mummy is, ha ha. He knows me anyway, and is happy to come with me.
I've dug this picture out of the archives, to show the before and after of the sunflowers. I put three plants in each plastic storage box, probably would have been better with two in each. This is the sunniest spot in the garden, and I don't have anywhere else with the same amount of sun where I could have planted them into the ground. All my borders are full with bushes. I was rather hoping that they would just reach the roof level, to make a nice covering of foliage for the tumbledown garage.  
But they have shot well above that and only the stalks are screening the garage wall.
Every time I look there seems to be more and more flowers. They are attracting a lot of bees, there is one on the big flower on the left, if you can squint to see it. I will be leaving the seeds for the birds, but not sure if they would be able to hang on to the heads to peck them out. Perhaps I should remove them with about a foot of stalk and lay them on the garage roof. I will watch and see what happens. Will have to watch that my cats don't scare them off as well. Easier said than done, they are naughty girls.

Enjoy your Sunday. Toodle pip

Friday, 27 September 2013

What's up Doc

Good evening. My sore ankle/heel has been slowly improving over the last two weeks. On Tuesday morning as it was still a bit red and sore I made an appointment to see a doctor, just to get it checked out, and to find out what was causing it to hurt. The first available appointment they had was for this morning. By the time this morning arrived it had greatly improved, but I decided to keep the appointment rather than cancel it, so I could get the correct diagnosis, rather than guess what it might be. Mystery solved, it's Achilles Tendonitis.
I've just been reading up about it here, and apparently it takes a few weeks for it to get better. Anyway, mine isn't too serious, it should continue to improve with resting, and putting a cold compress on it. I can walk about as normal on the flat, wearing the soft pink trainer type bootees. Think I might need to wait a bit longer before I can put my proper walking boots on. Onwards and upwards. 
Lunch today was a mushroom omelette. Very nice, I put some garlic puree and a knob of Danish Blue cheese in it, made it very tasty.    
I fancied some pasta tonight. The topping is one large chopped onion cooked in sesame seed oil, frozen broad beans from Tesco, sultanas, linseeds, fruit juice and water added, and what ever spices I have. I chuck anything in. I have made extra so that's dinner sorted for tomorrow.

Sunflower update. There seems to be more flowers appearing each day. Some of the earlier ones are dying off now, the petals are falling and they are looking a bit sad. This was a bloomin good buy for £1, though I don't think I will be growing them again next year. They need gallons of water, every day twice a day, three times if it is hot. They are quite high maintenance, what with erecting a framework to fasten them to, and lashing them to the garage wall. Also if I go away it is down to someone else to look after them. They are quite a topic of conversation round here, as they can be seen from the road at the front of the house. People are amazed at the height of them.

Toodle pip

Thursday, 26 September 2013

The hidden costs of food preparation.

A thought just occurred to me while making my lunch. If your ingredients aren't healthy in the first place, no amount of fafffing about in the kitchen is going to give you a healthy meal. All it does is make more pots to wash, and use more gas or electricity.

I have faffed a little, making a silly face with my salad :o)  Ingredients, salad leaves, cherry tomatoes, grated carrot, coleslaw, and raw mushrooms. Served with a slice of bread and cheese. A big plateful of healthy food and no cooking.
The last of the reduced strawberries, with plain yogurt. By the way, did you know that the basic plain yogurt is 10p more in Aldi than in Tesco. 55p / 45p.

The moral of this story is, making meals with just a plate and a knife cuts down on washing up, saves time in the kitchen, money on heating water and uses less wash up liquid. The non cooking method also reduces your utility bills, saves money on gas and electricity. Also raw food is good for you.
Think about the cost of fuel when you meal plan, think about how long you need to cook some foods for. Boiling food for an hour is something I never do. Using the oven is something I never do. If I make a stew from fresh ingredients I chop the veggies small so it doesn't take very long to cook on a gas ring. It's all very well making a cheap meal but if it needs to be baked, stewed, braised, or roasted, then it might not work out so cheap. Unless of course you are batch cooking and can spread the cost over a weeks worth of meals.
The only thing I make large portions of are soups and stews, and that's only when I have a glut of veggies, maybe bought a pile at a silly reduced price from Tesco, too good a bargain to pass by. If I make a three day stew, more often than not I eat it that same day, and for the next two days. Sometimes I stretch it to four days by adding a tin of beans or tomatoes. I save money by freezing and microwaving the extra portions.
So, put a smile on your face and plan your no cooking meals. To cut down on cost, steam veg rather than boil. Grill rather than bake or roast. Use your microwave or slow cooker rather than your gas or electric cooker. A few pennies saved per meal might not sound very much, but added up over a year it is quite substantial.
Toodle pip.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

A day in Lincoln part 2.

After my bimble around the Cathedral I took a stroll down a very steep hill. Boy is it steep. You have to step very carefully because if you trip you might find yourself going arse over tit all the way to the bottom, ha ha. It's a very narrow cobbled street lined with small independent specialist shops and cafe's, selling all manner of giftware, chocolates, old fashioned sweets, books, antiques, and vintage clothing.   

 A trendy pink boutique.

At the bottom of Steep Hill you reach the High Street, which widens out into a shopping street with larger traditional buildings, a lot of which are homes to coffee shops and eateries spilling out onto the pavement.

After sitting for a while, listening to the jazz band and eating my packed lunch, I strolled a bit further to The Collection, which is an art gallery and museum. It's a very modern building of an irregular shape, with plenty of light streaming in from the glass ceiling.
The Usher Gallery is next door, I didn't spend much time in there because I have seen it before, and there is hardly any modern or contemporary art to see. I'm not one for peering at old paintings for ages, even though they might be a valuable part of our history. It just doesn't appeal to me.

I wanted to see the River Witham which runs through the centre of the city. It was a lovely summers day and people were shopping and strolling about. This stainless steel sculpture looks quite impressive as it spans the river.

The swans know where a good place to be is when they are after something to eat. I popped into the nearby Wilko and spent 65p on a packet of biscuits and fed them to the frenzy of ducking and diving birds.

I took a short stroll up to the Broadgate Bridge and crossed over to the other side. The Green Dragon is another white half timbered building.  
I have to say there was quite a lot of litter strewn about, which sadly made the place look a tip in some parts. Outside the market was a particular blot on the landscape. With a very high student population who don't seem to care where they leave their drinks cans and bottles and fast food wrappers, it's a shame that Lincoln City Council don't do something about it. There was a few litter bins, but these were in a filthy state, not something you would like to put your hand into.

I followed the river until I came to Brayford Pool, and took a stroll along the wharf. New modern buildings now line the waters edge where the dock warehouses once stood. There's a couple of hotels, a cinema, and several big name coffee houses and restaurants.

 You can sit on a balcony over the water to take a drink.

Or you can get on a boat and eat your lunch or evening meal. Bookings now being taken for Christmas. 
I walked up the north side, on the left of this picture, and crossed over on the Brayford Way road bridge, to walk down the south side, on the right. I think most of the University is on the south side, it was buzzing with students. I had a nosey inside the university library, a huge massive place. It was interesting to sit for a few minutes, watching them go about their business. No books on the ground floor, just rows and rows of computers and printers. Apparently, so the nice young man who let me in told me, there are 11,000 students because most of the outlying campuses have closed, moving it all to Lincoln.

 Swans waddle about amongst the people. Mummy swan giving lessons to her brood on grooming.

There are a lot of narrow boats moored here. I can imagine that this would be a nice place to stopover while on holiday, or maybe even live on your boat if you should so wish.

I followed the river back to the High Street. This is where it goes underneath the road.
 Just to the right of the arch are some steps to get back up onto the street.

Then retrace my steps back up that chuffin Steep Hill, pretending to look in a shop window while getting my breath back, ha ha. Another pic of the Tourist Information office.

It was a lovely day out, I'm glad I made the effort. Too much time mooching at home is bad for the soul, it needs uplifting from time to time, and a day out is just the tonic.
Toodle pip

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

A day in Lincoln. Part 1

The weather didn't look too promising this morning, a bit misty and dull and overcast, I thought it might rain. which would have scuppered my plans for a day out. So I washed the pots and washed my hair, and it brightened up. Lincoln is not very far away, so I didn't need to get off early. It's been about four years since I last went, and there are parts of it that I missed, so worth another visit. I drove myself, there is a bus service but it takes about two hours each way, and I didn't fancy trundling around the countryside being shaken to bits for four hours. It's less than an hour in a car.
I parked in a side street just off Wragby Road, it's fifteen minutes to walk into town. It's handy for the Cathedral there, and the Tourist Information office is close by, where I picked up a free street map.
The sun came out and I had to take a layer off, I wish I had put my shorts on. It was lovely bimbling around like a tourist, not a care in the world, not needing to go anywhere fast, and stopping to look at the amazing architecture. Mr Tennyson is standing on his plinth in the garden behind the Cathedral.   
 These are some of the houses surrounding the Cathedral.

 I love the old stone front on this one, topped with red bricks on the upper floor.

This one looks really old, though I imagine some restoration work has taken place. It's great how they keep all the old features.

And this is the back view of the Cathedral. I think it is better than the front view. There is a lot of scaffolding all over one side of it, thank goodness it doesn't get in the way and spoil the photo's.
I spent a good hour walking around it to see it from all angles. This photo is taken from behind the Bishops Palace. I went through an archway and found a secret garden, the Palace wasn't open.  
 And this one was taken in front of the Bishops Palace.

The front entrance. I've chopped a bit off the bottom because I couldn't stand back from it and I didn't want to chop the top off. The way in is to the left of the big front door.

You can walk inside, and for a minute I thought it might be free entry because there was no sign stating otherwise. But then you see ropes going across and if you want to proceed any further you have to pay. I just took a couple of snaps and left. I wasn't bothered about going in.
 It's a beautiful ceiling, and the sun shining through the windows made it really bright.

 Back outside again, looking towards Chequer Gate. The black and white building on the left is Tourist Information.

 You can have a tour in a horse drawn carriage if you like. It was £7.50. The horse seemed quite content to wait while the driver was giving a commentary.

The Cathedral is at the top of the hill, from here I went down the hill to the town, but I'll do another post about that tomorrow. I'll split it into two as it's getting late. So, some more Lincoln pics tomorrow. Toodle pip.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Like a spider

Yesterday morning I opened my curtains to see this busy little spider weaving his web, going round and round in ever decreasing circles. Look how perfectly aligned the fine threads are, each section completed with meticulous accuracy. Aren't spiders wonderful industrious workers. Today he is sitting there in the centre waiting for his next meal, I walk around it so I don't destroy all his hard work.  
Just like the spider I am going round and round working on my patchwork, painstakingly stitching away, as it grows bigger and bigger. Unlike the spider, I started in the middle and work out towards the edge. He has created his web in a matter of a couple of hours, I think I will be stitching for a bit longer than that.

I made this video yesterday, and would you believe it took almost 24 hours to upload it to yootoob. It said I was in a queue, I had to leave it running all night. Anyway, it's ready now.

Barbara says she is thinking of having a go at this and asks a question. Barbara, I leave the paper inserts in while I am joining the squares to make the strip. Once the strip is the right length, I then remove the papers and pin it to the edge of the patchwork. If you wish you can iron it at every stage. I don't iron it at all while I am working on it. I will iron it once it is completed and ready for the backing to be sewn on, to make sure it is flat and no lumps and bumps. Have a go, you could start by making something smaller like a cushion cover.

I did my £30 Tesco shop yesterday, I went at 3pm, an hour before the store closes, so was able to snaffle a few reduced items as well. Most of my purchases were items for the store cupboard, long dates on them to be used over the next six months or so. Tesco keep sending the money off vouchers and I only ever use the £4 off, not needing the rest at £3 off. When I got home I noticed that the checkout lady gave me an extra voucher, as part of the Price Promise promotion, to be used against my next shop. Now I wonder what I should spend my £0.01 on. Whooopeeeee, can't wait, ha ha.

This morning was the Craft and Chat club. Two new faces came along so that was good. The more the merrier. Now I'm off to the mobile library. Think I might go out tomorrow if the weather is still warm and dry. The sore heel/ankle is a bit better, so I should be alright with soft footwear on.
Toodle pip.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Love your mum

I have very few regrets about how my life has panned out, things have almost gone how I expected them to. I've pretty much sailed through life compared to some people. Oh, there have been the occasional blips, a wrong decision here, a bit of a cockup there, but nothing that I haven't overcome, and no major disasters. Getting involved with the wrong person, more than once, funny how we can make the same mistake twice, or several times. I think we do learn, eventually.

I don't regret leaving home at 18 and moving away to start my independent life. I don't regret changing jobs so often, I get bored doing the same repetitive tasks over and over again. I don't regret not getting married, it would have been a constant battle between wanting to do my own thing, and being half of a partnership. I don't regret moving to this house, even though it was a relationship and a job which brought me here, both of which have since ended. A place is what you make it, and it's nice place to live.

I have never been one for harping on about the past, what's gone is gone, move on. I am not the shy child now, or the troubled teenager who was unhappy about her face. Oh, it was painful at the time, caused me no end of grief, especially the other kids calling me names. I have moved on, I still don't like my face but I'm stuck with it.  My only regret was looking in the mirror and crying so much, but I was too young to do anything about how I felt.

No, looking back, there are very few regrets, except one that comes into my mind now and again. You know what that is? That I didn't talk enough with my mother. She died unexpectedly 28 years ago, and I was too busy with my own life to make time for her. My regret is that I have missed out on the chance to learn more about her life, I was so damned selfish. She told me bits about growing up in Hamburg, about the war, and about my half brother. I know a little about some of her family members, but she told me these things when I was a child, and I wasn't paying attention, because I didn't think I needed to know.

You might have noticed that I wear two rings, these are the rings that she always wore and I inherited them. She didn't leave much to us, she died almost penniless, there was just enough to pay for the funeral. My poor mother had such a hard life, and I wish I could speak to her now. Looking at the rings on my hands reminds me of her. I have just made a short video, you will see the rings, that is what has triggered me to write this.

If you are lucky enough to still have your mother, please talk to her as often as you can. Ask her about her life, find about where she came from, ask her what it was like growing up all those years ago. Get her to pass down her stories to you, because one day she won't be there any longer.
Lots of love xxxxxxx     

Saturday, 21 September 2013

The 10 Secrets of 100% Healthy People by Patrick Holford. Book review.

We've had a lovely warm day up here in the sticks of North Lincolnshire. A good opportunity to tidy the garden, trim the hedges and mow the lawn. With a bit of luck that will be the last grass cutting I will have to do this year. I've been getting on with the patchwork again while watching catchup tv, I'm determined it's not going to take me forever to finish it. I did think about going to Tesco, I've got a £4 off voucher on a £30 spend, spose I could stock up on store cupboard essentials, seems daft to throw away £4. In the end I didn't go, the shop is too busy on a Saturday. Last chance tomorrow, I might go.
I haven't done a book review for ages, because I haven't been doing much reading. I still get books out of the library though, they lie around the house and I pick them up at random and read bits as and when I feel like it. Need to keep using the mobile library in case the council get the idea that we don't need it any more. We definitely do need it.
Anyway, I have read Patrick Holford before, he is a leading spokesman on nutrition and mental health issues, with a string of letters after his name. A lot of the book is about diet, it talks about a health road map, it explains what effects certain foods have on the body, and what happens if we get it wrong.
According to a survey of 55,000 people, only 6% were in the optimum health category, whereas 50% were in the moderate category, and 44% were in the poor or very poor category. He does offer a free health check on his web site, but due to site renovations it is temporarily not available. Patrick looked at the healthiest people in optimum health, and compared them with the unhealthiest people to see if there were any significant differences in their dietary habits.
He came up with these recommendations for achieving optimum health. Reduce wheat consumption to one serving a day. Stop eating sugar based snacks. Don't add salt to food, avoid salted snacks. Reduce intake of dairy to one serving a day. Reduce refined foods. Eat more fruit and veg, eight to ten servings a day. Limit tea and coffee to occasional use. Reduce red meat to two servings a week. Eat more oily fish. Eat more seeds and nuts. Drink eight glasses of water a day.
I think we have all heard about some or all of these recommendations, and I think we all probably fail to stick rigidly to it. But it's good to keep this guide in our minds.
Part three of the book is all about setting your health goals and targets. Refining your diet and taking control of your health. There is a lot in the book about supplements. I don't take any at all, so I am in two minds about that. The book advertises his web site, and of course he sells all the supplements he talks about.     
There are chapters about fitness and exercise, emotional health, and meditation. It deals with the mind as well as the body.

Overall a very informative book, useful to keep dipping into when you let your diet slip a bit and eat crap. I certainly need a reminder now and again. £12.99 to buy from a shop, free from the library.