Sunday, 29 June 2014

What do you see?

How do you oil the cogs of creativity? Mine start getting rusty if I don't use them for a while. I have a project waiting to be started but I couldn't picture how I should go about it. Where do I start. Watching arty videos on yoootooob helps. I always think of art as being neat and tidy, but it isn't, it can be messy. I like things to fit together in some kind of order, but they don't have to be perfect. I sometimes look at art and think, what does that mean, what's it all about? But often it only means something to the artist who created it. 
I've been experimenting today with bits of fabric and glue, and some new metalic thread I bought. I have nothing to show because it's difficult to explain an idea before it actually starts taking shape. I have a picture in my mind but I need to find the right coloured fabric. I can see the beginning and I need to get started. I will make a start soon. 
Take a look at these photo's, I took them yesterday, what do you think? Very arty aren't they. What do they look like? They remind me of  a moonscape perhaps. Or a mountain. I love the different shades of browns and blues. The rough texture of the surface, the holes and cracks. I can see stone age people coming out of their caves. I can see a dinosaur about to appear over the top, breathing fire and stamping it's feet. I can see mountaineers scaling the treacherous rock formations. I can see abseilers lowering themselves down the cliff face. I can see creatures from another planet with rough scaly skin. 
Now tell me what you see in these pictures. 

Goodnight. Catch you tomorrow. 

Saturday, 28 June 2014

One happy cat.

Evening all, I'll try and stay awake while I write this report. I've just finished a can of cider and it's making me feel drowsy. I would be a cheap date to take out, one drink and I would nod off, ha ha. 
I didn't make the Parkrun this morning, it was raining, and I'm not running in the rain. That's four weeks I have missed, the other three was because I was busy with other stuff. It's not something I feel I have to do every week, it's a hobby that I can do as and when I feel like it, like everything else in my life. I don't have a routine to stick to, I do what I want, when I want. 
Today I finished the second fleecy cat mat, used up the black and purple, made a change from random multicolours. I've used a piece of pink curtain lining for the back, which someone gave me a few years ago.   

It's almost the same size as the first one, that wasn't intentional, it's just how it happened. 
Mayze cat likes it. She likes sleeping on the back of the chair. It's just the right size to keep the upholstery clean. 
I've been watching more arts and crafts videos today. Fascinating stuff. I fancy doing some applique, the videos are great for ideas. Have a look at this mixed media tutorial. It's time lapsed so doesn't go on for ages, only 12 minutes. Bet you arty and crafty people will love it.

Think I'll hit the sack, goodnight.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Shop like a pauper, eat like a Queen

Thursday night was shopping night. I don't go every Thursday, it's two weeks since I last went to the supermarket. I only go when I am really low on food, when the fridge is bare and there is not much left in the cupboards and freezer. I don't have a designated shopping day, it could be any day, though I do avoid supermarkets at the weekends, can't stand playing dodgems with my trolley around the aisles. I don't stockpile food in case a war might break out, or we have the freakiest storms ever recorded in history, because the chances of that happening are minute. I keep enough in to feed me and the cats for 3 - 4 weeks, and even then with portion control, it could be stretched to 6. 
So, what did I get last night? Lots of yellow stickers. I timed it right, 7.30pm on the dot, everything that was about to go out of date had a 90% reduction. I was in heaven, ha ha. There was plenty for everyone, a few of us gathered around the trolley, people were sharing in a civilized manner. Here are a few of the items. 
Salad leaves x 2
Mushrooms whole, also sliced, also stuffed.

Butternut squash and sweet potato x 2

Brussel sprouts x 2


Melon x 2
I had to laugh, I got two bags of spinach for 10p each, and had two vouchers for 25p off a bag. So they paid me 30p to take the two bags away. I even found some reduced items in the freezer cabinet, which is most unusual, they must have over ordered the party food, I picked out two boxes of onion bhajis for 50p. I see Tesco are buying in Brussel sprouts from Morocco, why I do not know. Not that we need to eat them at this time of the year, but they were there so I had them. I exercised huge amounts of self control, the only sweet treat I picked up was a packet of five donuts for 30p. Other bargains were, cauliflower 10p, half a cucumber 3p, houmous 10p, stuffed mushrooms 25p.

Mind you, not everything is rosy at Tesco. They have put up the price of Value soya milk from 59p to 75p. A massive hike. I will have to be looking for an alternative for my breakfast cereal when I have finished the two cartons I have in the cupboard. Will probably start eating more porridge for breakfast. Also, they have changed the recipe of Value peanut butter, and now put it in a plastic jar instead of glass. The new version has palm oil in it, and a cheap one I tried once before from another store had this in, it was horrible. We shouldn't be buying food with palm oil in anyway, though I suspect that they try and sneak it in a lot of things hoping we won't notice. I'm going to look into the cost of making my own peanut butter.

While I am at it, another annoying trick is the way that pack sizes are getting smaller but the price is staying the same. I noticed it with cheese. It used to be 400grm, then it went to 380grm, then 350grm, and now it's 310grm, for the same price. I could not bring myself to buy it, even though I love cheese. I must try and cut down anyway. I opted for a pack of sliced Edam cheese for £1.30 and will use it sparingly. I'm afraid cheese is becoming a treat nowadays.

Pictured below is my lunch today. Two stuffed mushrooms 25p, and 5p for salad leaves and houmous. A meal fit for a Queen I would say, ha ha.

I gave away four cloth bags last night, to happy smiley ladies. My total shop was £21.71, after three vouchers for 25p each were taken off. I paid £3.10 for the yellow stickers, total real price of these items is £31, so a good saving there. My fridge is filled with green loveliness. It's salad and veg all the way now, oh and a few nuts, I splashed out on some nuts.

While I am here, I'll tell you about my new washing up system. As you know I am not a fan of housework, and my usual way of dealing with the dirty pots issue is to pile them up and do them all in one go, in a bowl of water, every three days or so. Well I am at the stage now of being utterly sick of seeing them, and sick of having to stand at the sink for an hour clearing them all away. So, what I do now is, every time I have used a pot, or a pan, or a plate, or a piece of cutlery, I scrub it under a dripping tap with a brush, and put it on the draining board rack to dry. Cutlery will be dried immediately with a tea towel and put back in the drawer.

My tap has a spray attachment on the end so I can reduce the flow to stop splashing, very useful. I use hardly any oil in my cooking, and now I have run out of toasted sesame seed oil it will be even less, so my plates do not get greasy. From time to time I will have to boil some water on the gas stove, (cheaper than boiling a kettle), and give the pans a good scrub. Now that it's summer I will be eating a lot of salads, so these leave very little residue on the plates, and no cooking required so no dirty pans. And I will have a kitchen that is free of clutter  :o)) This will be good for the planet also. Using less water, less washing up liquid, and less energy to heat the water. I can catch the water in a bowl and put it on the veg beds so it gets used again, and everyone wins.

My bill from Anglia Water arrived this week, £35 for the period 12th December to 17th June. A big chunk of it is for standing charges, and some of it is for sewerage services. There will be another bill arriving shortly, for about the same amount, from Severn Trent, they make a charge for removal of surface water through the drains. For single people a water meter is the way to go.

The weekend starts here, as they used to say on Ready Steady Go on a Friday night, remember that? If you are not a teenager of the sixties you won't know what I am talking about. Have a good weekend.
Toodle pip.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Crafty stuff

I think I've got the hang of this now. Dead easy with a bit of practice. 

I made a small one, isn't it cute.

Think I'll look at some more videos, find something else to make. 

I took this photo of Bugsy last night, he was fast asleep halfway up the stairs. I like the way his front paw is dangling over the the edge. This is his new preferred bed, until he finds somewhere else. Don't worry about me, Bugsy, I will just step over you. Goodnight. 
Shopping tonight, the search for bargains continues. Toodle pip.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

From garden to kitchen

Welcome. A garden catch up today. Here we have three beds of potatoes coming along nicely. Not sure if they are earlies or lates, or what sort they are. They all go in together in no particular order, and come out as and when I want to eat them. Looking healthy, looking good.   
One bed of broad beans. Not quite ready to eat, waiting for the pods to fatten up. Some of the plants have not grown as high as last year, so maybe they are a different kind. I put the pieces of wood across to stop the cats from using it as a toilet.

Runner beans at different heights, some planted early some late. I have wrapped the outside in net curtains, again to stop the cats getting onto it. It will be another month before they are ready.

Six courgette plants showing signs of flowering. Another couple of weeks and there should be something to eat. Bits of wood, and plastic and anything else, to keep the cats off. Looks untidy but needs must.

This is the chuck it and see bed, chuck the seeds on and see what comes up. Something is growing. Think I used three different kinds of seeds. Radishes and turnips possibly.
 And last but not least, the bed occupied by frogs. I have planted a few dwarf beans in here, let's hope they start showing soon. I grow just the basics, not faffing around with anything that is too complicated, haven't got time.

Has anyone got one of these gizmo's? It's a wotchamacallit thingy. You know, a wotsit that you put in your saucepan to steam vegetables. Now this one looks like a shiny new one, but it isn't. If you had seen it 24 hours ago, it looked 'orrible. Even though I wash it each time it is used, the limescale in the water builds up on it. Time for action. I soaked it for 24 hours in the saucepan that I use it with, in a solution of diluted vinegar. A scrub with a wash up brush gets rid of all the gunge and it looks shiny new again. 
I love my steamer gizmo, would be lost without it. There are two sizes, I have the larger one which fits in a large pan. You can buy them for around £5, can't remember exactly, I have had this one for a couple of years.

The pan has also come up like new. Hurrah for vinegar :o))

All ready to go again. This is in constant use in my kitchen. An inch or two of water in the bottom. All the vegetables go in together, starting with the hardest root vegetables first, softer quick to cook ones next, and leafy ones on top. It only takes a few minutes to cook vegetables in this. Stick the fork in to test if they are done, switch the heat off when they are nearly ready, leave for a couple of minutes more, the steam will finish them off.

It was still warm as the sun started to go down last night, a good opportunity to take a walk in the park after dinner. The hall looks splendid.
And Rocky came too.

Looks like another nice day. A bit more playing with fabric, then playing outside. Enjoy your day. Toodle pip.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Crafty things to learn

Hi , I've been playing with bits of fabric today, trying to copy something that Janet showed us yesterday at Craft Club. I didn't make a very good job of it so I won't post a pic of my failure, it was only a practice. I used the wrong coloured fabrics, I knew it wouldn't work before I finished it so lost interest quite quickly. I will have a better idea when I try again. 
Janet brought in this bag to show us, it's made out of squares joined up. I was trying to make one of these squares. 

This is a needle case she made with two squares, by joining them together and putting a piece of fabric in the middle to stick the needles through.

 Basically it's a circle of fabric, with a square of contrasting fabric which sits inside the circle. The colours I used were too bold and a similar pattern, it didn't work.

Here is Avril having a lesson from Janet on how to make the squares. I wasn't taking much notice as I was getting on with my own thing. Avril is usually a knitter, so making something with fabric is new to her. She quite enjoyed it, a new skill learnt. We all swap ideas, it's a great place to be on a Monday morning. 
This morning I did my community service and went out with the garden shears again and chopped back a mass of brambles on some rough ground which were spilling out over a well used footpath.  It's the time of year when everything is growing like mad, and needs to be kept under control.

After lunch I had a bimble around yoootoob, looking for small projects to try, and came across this one. The presenting style is very clear and easy to understand.

I can do that I thought, so here is my finished article. A dinky little dangly ornament to hang wherever. Dead easy to make, if you don't have a machine you could sew it by hand.

I'm getting hooked on these yoootooob vids, there are instructions to make almost anything. Think I'll go and have another look, always something new to learn.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Freezing !

Hello, this is an advert for Tesco, ha ha, only joking, it's a tasting exercise.  Most supermarkets have their own cheapo range, Value, Basics, Savers, Smart Price, or whatever. I happen to shop at Tesco because it's the nearest to me. Anyway, I bought a selection of frozen Value foods a few weeks ago, yesterday I cooked them up into a meal so I can compare frozen veg to fresh, and evaluate the taste/texture of the sausages/grills. All items are around £1 a bag. so for about £6 there is enough for several meals.  
The blurb on the veg bags declare that their products face more test tastes with more British tasters than any other supermarkets, and they don't reach the shelves until they pass. Well they won't mind one more taste test then, from someone who loves the taste of real fresh veg.

According to the bags the veg can be microwaved, or simmered in boiling water on the hob. I don't use either of these methods, all my veg is steamed in a pan on the hob in one of those colander type thingys which fit inside. I suppose I could microwave, it would probably produce the same results, but I would never boil veg.

On opening the bags I noticed that the pieces of cauliflower and broccoli were all different sizes. When I prepare fresh veg I cut all pieces more or less the same size so they all need the same length of time to cook. I don't like over cooked or under cooked veg, so I stab it with a fork to check when it is ready. For this test I tried to pick out pieces of veg the same size.

Results of my test, (my opinions). Broccoli, The stalk was hard and chewy, and the flowers mushy, taste ok but not as delicious as fresh. Cauliflower, texture slightly mushy and watery, taste bland, not much flavour. Sweetcorn and peas, you can't go wrong with these, they freeze well, and in my opinion taste better than canned.

I grilled the Sausage and the burger shaped grill. Cooking instructions on the sausage packet say they should be done in the oven. I don't use my oven full stop. The sausage was a bit too salty, I never add salt to my cooking, it was slightly spicy and the texture was chunky. Not too bad but one is enough due to the saltiness of it. The burger grill was more like a potato cake, less salt than the sausage, a bit spicy, and a pasty texture. On the box it says six servings, but they are quite small, and I could easily eat two with a meal.
To summarize, I haven't tried the more expensive similar branded frozen foods so I can't compare to those, but overall I would say that these are acceptable. Saying that I wouldn't want to have to rely on them for most of my meals. I nearly always have peas and sweetcorn in the freezer, because you can add them to anything and they always taste fine. The rest I would buy them occasionally and use them as a standby, once a week, or every two weeks. To make these more palatable I suppose some kind of gravy or sauce could be poured over them, but I try and keep that to a minimum. Naked veg is best.

I will always go for fresh veg first, but only if it's the right price, and that means buying local and seasonal. I steer clear of fancy veg that has been shipped halfway across the world, except if it has a yellow sticker on it and has 90% off  :o))  I will buy veg from our near European neighbours, if there is no British to be had.

That's all for now, thank you for popping in. Catch you tomorrow. Toodle pip.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

A walk meet up with some forum pals

A new day a new start. I feel a lot better after a good nights sleep, and that's pretty much the same feeling I get every morning. I am a morning person, and sleep well. I've just checked the mileage for yesterday's walk, it was as I thought, more than 15 miles, the total was 18.5. A good achievement in my book. So, I was tired, now I am rested and looking forward to the day.
The first pic is starting to cross the Humber Bridge, looking back at the South Bank, my car is parked on the road under the bridge. The red brick buildings down there are the Old Tile Works, you might have read about them in a previous post. It looks like the place is deserted, I have a feeling they were pretty much flooded out during the massive tidal surge we had during the floods of December. The Reeds Hotel a bit further along the river was also flooded, there are big signs up saying closed till further notice. There is talk that it might never be opened again. It's a lovely morning for starting a walk.  
Looking ahead at the North Bank. The bridge is just over a mile long. I met runners, cyclists, dog walkers, and families with kids all out for their morning fun.

As I was meeting up with a couple of walking pals from the Walking Forum, I took the shortest route and cut a few corners by walking on the road. I have walked this area before so know it quite well, still carry a map though as you never know when you might have to take a diversion, and my memory is not that brilliant. I don't do sat navs, it's paper maps for me every time.

I spotted this low plastic fence through the hedge, and had a closer look. I think it has been erected around the edge of the wood to keep in small furry animals so they don't stray onto the busy road.

 The road to North Ferriby is long and straight, passing by lots of seriously large expensive houses.

Oh, and here is another sign, half a mile past the first one. Why have one when you can have two, ha ha. 
Several text messages went backwards and forwards between me and the walkers I had arranged to meet, to check on our locations. We were due to meet on the Yorkshire Wolds Way, a long distance path between Filey in North Yorkshire, and Hessle near Hull. As I had cut a few corners to make progress, when I got to Welton I needed to know their exact location so I rang them. It was at this point that I needed to get on the actual YWW, so I didn't miss them. I have walked up Welton Dale before it is a lovely route to take. Heading up into the top corner to go through the wood.

Looking back, someone is behind me. There were a few walkers about.

Another phone call and I knew it wouldn't be long before we found each other. Over on the right the clump of trees is Fox Covert. What a glorious sight is a field of poppies.

At the top of Turtle Hill I spotted another red field in the distance.
Up to that point I hadn't eaten much so I sat down among the tall grass and had lunch. Cheese and lettuce sandwich and tinned peaches which I had decanted onto a sealed plastic pot. As I got up to walk a bit further I saw two people walking towards me, ah, this must be the guys I am looking for. Sure enough Shaun and Andy appeared. I hadn't met them before, didn't know what they looked like, but there's no mistaking two guys who have walked a long way, as opposed to two guys out for an afternoon stroll. Nice to meet you.

I turned round and we went back the same way as I had come, through Welton Dale. Shaun stopped to chat to a couple walking their dog.

We had a rest at Welton village, sat on a bench and I ate my pasta pot which I had made up the night before. The ducks liked the bits of sandwich that Shaun and Andy were throwing to them, but they showed no interest in my pasta, ha ha. Oh well, more for me.

Staying on the Yorkshire Wolds Way we headed down to the waters edge through Long Plantation. A long stretch of woodland that is popular with dog walkers and kids building dens, from the nearby housing estate. Here we have reached the Humber Bank. There are metal steps to go down over the rocks to the shoreline. Hmmm, doesn't look too good, a bit muddy.

Shall we give it a try? Yeah, let's do it. 
We turned left, see the bridge in the distance? We didn't get very far, our boots were sinking into the mud, and it was very slippy. Shaun was keen to go on, but Andy was struggling. I didn't like it very much. We abandoned that idea, Andy had a massive blister on his heel and it was causing big problems, mainly pain. At this point there is nowhere else to go. If the tide is in then the path is impassible. Private houses back onto the shore and you can't walk through people's gardens. There is another route, but that meant going back through Long Plantation. Hindsight says you should check tides before setting out. This actually caught me out on the last day of my first long walk. I did exactly the same thing, and ended up doing 30 miles, walking back up Long Plantation and along the road to the bridge. It was a killer.

We walked back up Long Plantation and Andy was at the point of not being able to walk any further. Something had to be done to help him. Luckily we came across a couple walking their dog, and another stroke of luck was that their house backed onto the wood, and they had a back gate into their garden. They were so kind, let us take a short cut onto the estate, which cut out a couple of miles for me at least. Andy however could not go any further, so the nice couple called a taxi to come and pick them up. I said goodbye to my walking companions. I was able to carry on through the estate and join the YWW further along the shoreline. If you are doing this walk the other way round, from east to west then you see this sign, and as you are already at the waters edge you can see whether the tide is in or out.

My feet are ok today so I was able to pick up the path at this point. Looking back to where I have come from.
The impassible bit is only a short stretch, but it's treacherous. Once past it, it turns into a nicely laid footpath. Not far now, just got to walk over that bridge.

I got home at 7pm. A quick home made ready meal in the microwave, and a feeling that I have achieved something today. Walked a long way, good exercise, enjoyed our green and pleasant land, and met some new people. Perfect. The sun is out now, I hope you have the same. Let's get outside, are you coming? Catch you tomorrow. Toodle pip.