Saturday, 31 May 2008

Season of change

Tomorrow Beloved leaves us for three months. We will drive to the airport at lunchtime so that we are in plenty of time for the flight. Everything is packed except hand luggage. Insurance is bought. Drivers license is packed. Medication is definitely packed ( we once went without it and had to pay a taxi driver to chase us to the airport with the missing bag.)

From Monday I am working on my programme of improvements to the house and to our life (mostly based around organisation and introducing new habits.) I have another area which I should probably look at during the summer. One of my comments in my blog tile talks about our work towards financial security. I am considering a few things to bring in extra cash (I don't suddenly want to start spending, just want to pay my mortgage as soon as is reasonably feasible.)I have access to some really good jewellery from South American and from the Far East. However I am not a natural retailer. I know they are beautiful and good value but I don't know how to capitalise on what I know. Maybe I should just wear some myself and see if anyone asks about it. Maybe word of mouth is the best way. oh, dear. Looks like this isn't going to be my path to riches after all!!

Friday, 30 May 2008

It's raining men!

Okay, its not. But it is raining some very impressive rain. Pretty much every blog I read has had rain, no matter where they are in the world and where they are in their seasons.

We should be in early summer and yesterday it rained like I have never seen before. I heard my son screaming from the conservatory, it turned out to be screams of laughter actually as he tried to get the windows and doors shut without drowning. Water came in from everywhere. Within a few minute the lawn had disappeared and the door mat was floating several inches above the ground! The whole garden looked like a massive pond. The noise was so great that the cats hid behind the chairs. The whole family stood mesmerised and watching the performance. Then we all moved out front. The drive is on a slight slope but even the concrete at its highest point was under water. Very impressive. I read on the BBC news this morning that in areas further west a car was swept away and lots of people had to be evacuated from their houses.

Here we should have had gentle rains but no-one told the heavens. We should have been testing our new guttering but instead the rain was so fast that that it all shot out over into next doors garden anyway. However it did seen to be all in working order as far as a more normal downpour is concerned. Now I just need to get my water butts in position before the next downpour. I believe that our local county council has some kind of deal going on where you don't pay full price for your butt (if you see what I mean).

I will investigate.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Counting down

I notice my average day was distinctly odd yesterday. I didn't mention any cooking, or feeding the cats ( I would have heard if this had been forgotten - miaowing half the night.)This has more to do with my scatty mind this week that actually leaving the household to starve yesterday. I will try to record an properly average day another time.

At the moment we are counting down until Beloved goes off on his travels and days are not at all average. Tomorrow we must shop for all of the items that my various n laws have requested. Not posh handbags or designer jeans but far more down to earth. One sister would like 4 plastic containers for setting up medication a month ahead (most of the family suffer with hereditary heart conditions -pills and tablets are a way of life to them all.), also some zinc and Castor oil cream, another wants strong sunscreen.

Friday will be packing day. (did I mention, no more work until next Monday). Saturday will be a barbecue at my sisters caravan in Dorset if the weather is sunny. If it is rainy then we will have lunch together at a Gurkha restaurant nearby. In fact as the restaurant is doing a bargain buffet at lunch time then this is looking all together the preferred option. We are hoping for threatening clouds if not actual rain.

Sunday we drive to the airport as a family but we come home as only three quarters. I am making plans to keep myself seriously busy during the three months that he is away because that seems all together the best way to cope. My mum is coming up during the first week to help me sort out my front garden. It is okay but needs someone with more of a knowledge of pruning than i have. My dad also has his eye on pruning back a couple of trees which are over growing and starting to block the main window. My parents and my sons will look after me for sure. I am also going to keep a spending diary for the full time (excluding the holiday)and somethnig like a walking diary as well to ensure I walk more each day - I have back problems which need to be taken in hand. All will be well.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

An average day and some more ideas

I have been blog hopping this evening. Beloved is watching an endless, endless DVD of Lord of the Rings. I have long since lost the plot (literally and figuratively)and so have taken to blog hopping. I notice a lot of bloggers recording an average day. I think this is event that I have missed. Today wasn't especially average, in fact it was dull because I wanted to be at home with every else and instead was stuck at work. This was how my day went.

Alarm at 7am. I go down stairs. Put the kettle on to boil and make up a tray with mugs and bowls. Put on a load of washing. Put spun washing into tumble dryer ( I know it is a sin but it was raining, i don't dry washing on radiator's as I am too mean to heat my house and the tumble dryer is A efficiency and in theory doesn't waste too much power.) Empty the clean dishwasher and put dirty dishes from the work top inside ( family members have instructions to return dirty dishes, glasses etc to sink or draining board - I am the Queen of stacking.) Prepare bowls of cereal for all and coffee for over 40s.

After breakfast I shower and dress, kiss everyone god bye and drive to work. I have tried car sharing but lately I can't leave work early enough to join in with the rota. The car drive is 10 minutes. A walk would be 40 & a bus ride is even more (circuitous route rather than especially slow vehicle.)Cycle rides along this particular route already claim too many lives - I will continue to drive until I can car share again and one day perhaps I will advance to walking.

I am at work a little after 8am. First meeting was in my office at 10am, to discuss my thoughts for a meeting I wont be attending on Thursday. Beloved ring at 10.30am to say he has lost the diary that I wrote his repeat prescription requirements in to take to his doctors appointment this morning. As I am still on the phone he finds the book under my pillow (how very unlikely!). Moving swiftly on to lunch break. A ham roll. Normally left overs but yesterday was bank holiday and we ate out as part of the on-going long farewell to Beloved. I miss my leftovers, a ham roll is not sufficient! My lunch break is usually spent completing paperwork for home however today there was too much to do to allow this luxury as I wanted to leave early.At 4.20pm I left for the afternoon. I dropped a friend at his doctors surgery in the town on my way. I also had to pick up some pizzas from Lidl on the way home. There is a house full of teenagers (again!) and three of their favourite pizzas is £2 from Lidl. I bought 6 for £4. The kids all found places to sit in the sitting room to watch an old DVD. Afterwards some went out to play and others stayed home to chat with mates.
Beloved and I came up to bed early. I didn't feel well yesterday after taking pain killers for my backache. I still wasn't feeling so good today so an early night is still my intention. Beloved is watching his endless DVD of the second part of Lord of the Rings. I have read blogs and the news. Now I write my blog ahead of an early snuggle down in the world most comfortable bed. I intend to wake refreshed in the morning.

Nighty night

Monday, 26 May 2008

Home made soap

I am having some trouble typing tonight. Not a problem with my computer but with Lulu (chief cat) being in attention seeking mode. She is walking back and forth across me and my laptop. She knows that something is going on. She always gets restless when she sees suitcases about the place. She is adorable though and is mummy's girl so I put up with it.

A friend sent me a recipe for soap. I don't know where it came from but it looks really good and easy to follow. I love the photos too. Nice and simple. I really want to make soap but I am nervous. This looks like the recipe I can follow though. Now I am on the look out for a suitable thermometer.

Note: these are weight, not volume measurements
6 oz distilled water
2.25 oz lye (sodium hydroxide)
10 oz olive oil
6 oz coconut oil
1 tbl/0.45oz Castor oil

The tools you will need are:
- safety goggles to protect your eyes
- thick rubber gloves to protect your hands and arms from the lye (wear long sleeve shirt, long pants, and socks if possible so none of your skin is exposed in case there’s a splash/spill)
- a good scale for weighing the water, lye, and oils. it should measure down to 0.25 oz, and preferably have a “tare” function which allows you to reset the reading to 0 after putting a container on the scale, or after you add each ingredient so you have a clean reading of how much of the next ingredient you are adding
- a instant read digital food thermometer to measure the temperature of the lye water, oils, and the soap mixture
- two heat proof 4 cup/32 oz glass measuring cups (e.g. Pyrex or Anchor brands), one for the lye & water solution, the other for the oils
- plastic, ceramic, or glass bowl for measuring the lye
- plastic or silicone spoon for stirring (wood is not recommended because lye will “eat” it away over time)
- stick/hand blender or stainless steel whisk (if you use the whisk be ready for a good arm work out)
- small cardboard box or plastic container to pour the soap into
- plastic bag, plastic food wrap, or wax/freezer/parchment paper for lining the container so the soap is easy to remove
- knife for cutting the soap after it solidifies

Caution: do NOT use nonstick, aluminum, cast iron, or tin pots/pans, containers, or utensils because they will react badly with lye and ruin both the soap and the tool. Also wood is not recommended for repeated use because over time the wood will eventually break down from coming into prolonged contact with lye.

The instructions for this basic recipe is for cold process soap making, which doesn’t require cooking the soap after mixing the oils and lye water together. This method takes less time while making the soap, but requires longer curing time (3-4 weeks minimum) before the soap becomes neutral and mild enough to use. In contrast, the hot process involves cooking the soap mixture in a stock pot or double boiler for a few hours which speeds up the neutralization process but also takes longer to make the batch

At a high level, cold process soap making is pretty simple - mix lye with water, mix lye water with oils, pour mixture into container, cut solidified soap, and let cure for a few weeks. Below are the detailed steps:

1. line the container with plastic bag/wrap or wax/freezer/parchment paper

2. put on your protective gear - goggles and gloves
3. weigh the lye - pour 2.25 oz of lye into the bowl
4. weigh the water - pour 6 oz of distilled water into one of the glass measuring cups
5. pour the lye into the water slowly and stir to dissolve - this generates a lot of heat and will give off fumes (just stand back a bit or hold your breath while stirring). Never pour water into lye as this will cause a strong reaction and the splash/eruption can incur serious injuries. Set aside the lye water to cool. You can reduce the amount of cooling time by sitting the measuring cup in a cold water bath in the sink, or by freezing the distilled water into ice cubes beforehand, which also seems to reduce the fumes generated when lye is added.

4. weigh the oils - scoop out 6 oz of coconut oil into the other glass measuring cup, follow with 10 oz of olive oil, and 1 tbl/0.45 oz of Castor oil. Melt the oils in the microwave - start with 1 min, then 30 second increments if needed. Avoid overheating the oils because it will take longer for the oil to cool than the lye water.

5. measure the temperature of the lye water and the oils - if they are within 20 degrees (usual range is 90-110 degrees), then it’s OK to proceed. If the oils have cooled down too much, you can warm it up a bit in the microwave - use 30 second increments and avoid overheating. I’ve never had the problem of the lye water being too cold…

6. pour the lye water slowly and carefully into the oil while stirring. measure temperature of the mixture.

7. use the stick blender or the whisk to stir the soap mixture until it reaches a thin pudding or gravy like consistency - when you lift the stick blender/whisk out of the soap mixture, the drippings should leave patterns on the surface of the mixture instead of disappearing completely. Another way to confirm the soap mixture has “traced” is to check it’s temperature - if it has risen a couple of degrees Fahrenheit, you are there (this is a great tip from the book “Smart Soap making” by Anne L. Watson). The stick blender will take a few minutes if not seconds (depending on the power of the blender), the whisk might take up to an hour if you have weak arms like mine.

8. pour the soap mixture into lined container, cover with plastic wrap. let it sit for 2 days.

9. 2 days later, check the soap with your goggle and gloves on (because the lye is not fully neutralized yet and may cause some skin irritation). if all went well, it should look solid and relatively smooth. take it out of the container and cut into bars with a stainless steel knife. if the lye water separated out of the soap mixture and is floating on top, or if the soap is crumbly or has shiny crusts - something went wrong and it’s lye heavy - do not use. I’ve only read about these issues, since I haven’t had a single batch of lye heavy soap having followed the recipe exactly.

10. cure - let dry for 3-4 weeks, turning daily to ensure even drying on all sides.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Re-use, revamp and re-cycle

The increasing cost of shopping and fuel is well documented everywhere. I don't usually find increasing food prices to impact on us too much because we cook from scratch. Convenience foods are far more expensive (and rarely seem very convenient). My friend spend about three times the amount that I do on her weekly shop because they prefer their food to be instant and heavily packaged. This time though, it is noticeable to everyone. We have to be extra diligent. Keep an eye on expenditure. Cut down on waste. Make do and mend. Probably pretty much everything that Grandma did. I have been trying.

First, there is the dyeing experience for the conservatory sofas. A great success. The actual sofa covers came up beautifully and the cushion covers looks pretty god too. I am particularly pleased with how well the tapestry cushions came up. They look like the were planned to be that way. One of the sofa covers has a whole in it. I mended this with a white denim patch before the dying process but it doesn't look good. I have decided the sacrifice a small cushion cover to stick a patch over the hole. I hope to get this done tomorrow and then the covers can all be back in place. A quote for new loose covers was quoted as between £600 and £1000, so I think that counts as quite a saving.

Secondly we are mending the garden chairs tomorrow. They are all broken but the seats can be re-stitched using fishing nylon. My mum has loaned me an upholstery needle (which I have lost already but hopefully I will find it again tomorrow). Replacement chairs would be around £30 each so this is a saving of £90. There is no additional cost being incurred because we have the nylon fishing line since my husband was a fisherman twenty years ago. Total saving so far £1090 (kind off!)

Third idea for the day is saving related but not a direct saving. I am going to invest in a copy of Microsoft money so that we can easily keep an eye on all of our accounts, mortgage etc. I want to ensure we maximise the interest when we are investing and minimise when we are borrowing obviously. The saving element of this is obviously that in future we will be exerting more control over our expenditure. However I don't want to pay more for the software than I have too, so I will be eBay searching for this during the evening.

We have a bank holiday here tomorrow so no work (yay). However we have to visit the shops again as we need a new suitcase for my husbands upcoming travels. We don't ask much though of course, just top quality and fit for our purpose, at a very affordable price. Wish me luck!

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Saturday round up

On Saturday night I normally look through my list of activities for Saturday, see what has been completed and what can be abandoned, what needs taking forward to Sunday. Well I managed a couple of my tasks, the sofa covers being mended and dyed is almost complete and I also bought the materials that we needed for building work.

However we decided that instead of taking several days to finish off the work which the men had planned today, we would all join in and get it finished in a day. The job for the week was to water proof and clad the side wall of the new building. We have to move into next doors garden to do this so we didn't want it to take too long. We had to remove the fences, hanging brackets and so on. Attach the water proof finish and the clad it with pressure treated feather board. Then to fit guttering to ensure that the water doesn't fall straight into the garden and ruining their plants (it has). Everything was finished during he week but unfortunately there was a problem with the clear roof on the final section and that had to be repaired. So we worked as a team and got it all finished in one day. The day was very windy so we had a bit of a problem working with the bigger pieces or wood and the fence panel. When my oldest son was on top of the roof trying to negotiate the fence panels right into the slots i thought he was going to get carried away like Mary Poppin. I also dropped a drill on my foot!

Our neighbours have a beautiful dog. A huge Newfoundland called Murphy. Murphy really wanted to join in with us. He barked and barked until he could come out but was a bit disappointed that the 'playing' didn't really include him. I am pleased to say that my boys are both pretty good at building work especially carpentry. We have been renovating this old house since they were 6 and 8. I think they think that spending your weekends drilling, screwing and hammering is the normal. It certainly meant they did very well at school in their 'resistant materials' class.

Tomorrow I will carry out all of the plans for cleaning, washing and other household chores that I didn't get to today. Fortunately I find these tasks therapeutic rather than stressful (it was always this way) so I am looking forward to my day.

Speaking to my mum and dad at their house this evening. My mum asks what I have planned for the next three months. She thinks it would be a good idea if I kept busy sorting out the garden and getting it back to normal. She would like to come up and join in. I think my dad also has an eye on painting my sitting room ceiling. Lucky for me I wasn't thinking of three months of bed rest then, looks like I am going to have little chance to get lonely!

Friday, 23 May 2008

Preparing for the weekend

I am just writing a few notes tonight to plan for Saturday.

This evening we all went to the cinema to watch the new Indy film. It was excellent, great family fun. We laughed out loud through half the film. It was especially good because we had free tickets from the last time we went to the cinema. Last time we went they gave our seats away and so gave us free tickets for our return visit. We only go about once a year so we still had the tickets when we needed to book this time.

So, tomorrow. I plan to make a brunch of bacon, sausages, fried potato and egg. Whilst my husband is at work I will start on my cleaning and washing. Also a trip to the shop to buy some exterior silicone to mend a area of the conservatory roof which is being problematic. I need to finish dyeing the covers for the sofas in the conservatory. When this is all finished then I can move on to the garden. I am still clearing up weeds and mess and preparing my tubs for the summer. I also need to get the swim school paperwork up together before Beloved goes off on his travels.

Hopefully there will be photos of the sofa cover tomorrow, fingers crossed that they are coloured properly.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Some good news and a new idea

I spent the evening at my sisters house yesterday. Half watching the football and mostly chatting. My sister said good news, the scarf she is knitting me for Christmas (last Christmas) is almost finished. That's lucky, as its my birthday in a couple of weeks. I bet not too many people have a scarf for their birthday in mid Summer. So I mentioned that I hadn't been able to knit or do needlework lately because my joints in my hands are too painful. My sister said the same, especially when it is the end of the month (invoicing time - they have their own business). However she found that as long as she takes an aspirin twice each week and cod liver oil tablets, then her joints improve when she knits after the initial couple of weeks. I have been wondering whether knitting through the pain would make my hand worse or better but now I am inspired to give it a go through the summer. Maybe by the winter I don't have the problems which I often have with painful joints in the wet weather. I have to make myself a note to remember my cod liver oil etc each day because I am very sporadic in my habits with it.

I was also thinking about how to adapt 'Move to Portugal' Laura's method of organising her paperwork to suit my own needs. I have a three tray set of in trays & intend to buy another the same. Each day as the post arrives it will be sorted into household - filing,payments, other action & business- filing, payments, other action. On Sunday morning payments will be made and filing completed. Other action can come to work with me for action during the weekdays (especially if it requires phone calls or visits). Sounds simple and easy to maintain. The only problem will be if I don't stick to it but hopefully if I make a real effort to make it a habit then I am on to a winner (and a winner with a tidy desk and no late payment charges too!)

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Another thing to add to the list

Quick post tonight as I have been watching the football and it over-ran somewhat.
I spent enough time in my sitting room lately to notice that it really needs a coat of paint. This is added to my list of things to do in the next 12 weeks. It cream walls and picture rail (its an old house)but the door frmaes and skirting are not painted, they just need a rub down and then varnish. If I can get this done, including a coat of paint on the ceiling then I will be content. If it paints up nice and easy (not too many coats) then I might even start on the stairs.

My list gets longer and longer.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Time for change

My husband is broadly in agreement with how things work around here. He likes that I get the best price for things and that our food is home made, affordable & nutritious. He likes that we are comfortable and that we don’t waste.

What he doesn’t like is ever being told that he can’t have what he wants. I understand why. He was orphaned and doesn’t remember his parents that well. He also didn’t have toys or even a bike as a kid, before he lost his parents. Now he wants toys (now the toys are drills and saws at least!) So he has a sense of deprivation that he carries with him from his early years plus he can’t remember what it is like to be told no. He also comes from a city, so chicken keeping & vegetable growing are a mystery to him. He was really surprised by the way that so many English people have a vegetable garden.

Over the years he has improved tremendously. Our children are as lacking in the desire for material possessions as I am and it has rubbed off on him too, mostly. He has had his car for 4 years and is happy with it. He says he will keep it until it dies of old age. He likes to have a modern TV. After some time I gave in and bought one. No-one watches TV in this house so that was a big waste of money. I think he realises this now and we don’t have such a direct problem again.

So from next Sunday for 13 weeks he is away travelling and visiting family and friends. I am taking the opportunity to overhaul the house and the household and to start us on some new positive habits. Hopefully he will come back f=refreshed and thrilled with the efficiency of his home, happy to fit in with our weird ideas! (Okay, that’s the plan.)

So we have 4 weeks from when he goes until we have our own holiday. Then 16 days of holiday. Afterwards we have almost 7 weeks until he returns.

It is my plan to use the first 4 weeks to really sort the place out here. A BIG BIG spring clean & de-clutter. Also a time to make plans for the household. When we come home from holiday then it is time to put our plans into action. My first thing on the list is an hour on Sunday morning to ensure that all post and other paperwork is kept up to date. I also want to make up on diary system on the computer which I can print out on A3 to stick up in the kitchen every month or week. I need never be surprised by parents evening again or forget to flea treat the cats. It could incorporate the meal plans & shopping list. The possibilities are endless. If we can show such things are impacting on our lives in a good way then I think we can win him over.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Saving money on insurance

This year I have saved money each time that I have renewed insurance. It seems that insurance companies offer good deals to tempt you to them and then increase your premiums in the following years hoping that you dont realise or cant be bothered to change to another provider.

The most recent renewal came through a couple of weeks back. Renewal for my car with full no claims was offered at £225. It would renew automatically in 28 days. I searched through many providers and eventually purchased through the Quidco website. I opted for the same conditions as my original insurance, hire car, legal protection, no claims protection etc. The annual insurance was £185 but I also got £75 cash back from Quidco. So the cost for the year to me is less than half of the outgoing insurance.

This method only works when insurance companies are prepared to offer discounts in year one with the hope of getting back to proper rates from year 2. However this is the fashion in the UK at the moment and being sure to react to renewal notifications has saved me a lot of money this year.

Sometimes it pays to be loyal but on this occasion not all.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

More about increasing income

Beloved is getting nervous about his proposal to find a part time job when he comes back from holiday. He came home from his class this morning with news that he has been offered 4 hours coaching each week. I think he is looking around for extra lessons with swim schools, as well as running his own, rather than work outside of his usual environment. He likes to have a job where he can be really good at what he does rather than mediocre. So maybe I don't get my 10% from B&Q but I have a happy husband.

My eldest son is also looking for work. He didn't get on at all well at college and drove the lecturers nuts. I think I encouraged him to go to the wrong college. The one he attended seemed even more controlling than school and didn't want the kids to grow up. Anyway now he must look to find his way in the world and find something to do whilst he seeks something he wants to do. It will be useful that he is working and contributing to the budget of the household instead of draining my resources. I cant imagine it but I guess it will come.

I have also been on Laura at 'Move to Portugal's' new website. She is amazingly organised and has decided to re-launch he own business sorting out the rest of us. Check it out on Organised Clutter. Maybe she could help you in your work or home life?

Okay, now I have to work instead of talking about it. Supper needs to be on the table in an hour and the chicken is still raw. Tonight we are having Pad Thai for a nice change. Hope everyone enjoys it.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Looking for 'extras'

Beloved is off on his travels in two weeks time. He is going to visit his family, attend a family wedding, and generally catch up with a home land he hasn't seen since 1985. He will be away for 3 months and during that time there wont be any building work completed so I intend to get to grips with house and garden. I have permission to get rid of anything! Ha!

But back to my point. When Beloved comes back from hols then he is looking for a little part time job to help us to clear our mortgage more quickly. At the moment he is a self employed swimming teacher and works all day on Saturday and Sunday, and from lunchtime or mid afternoon until around 7pm on the other days. He is looking for something which he can do in the mornings, maybe 25 hours each week. So with only 25 hours each week we need to look for a job that has other benefits or extras.

At the moment he teaches at the local leisure centre for 1 hour each week. He gets paid for this but better than that we also get free membership of the gym and unlimited use of the other facilities and swimming pool for all four of us. This benefit is worth about £2400 per year. The kids get particularly good use of it but we all use it from time to time.

I work full time with all the usual benefits, a good pension scheme etc (and cut price gym membership - who needs it when you can have it for free.)We also have discrete access for all family members to an advice and counselling scheme. Any family member can ring up for help and advice on a range of subjects. Counselling, legal advice, health care advice.

I have a friend at work whose wife works for 4 hours each week for a big supermarket chain (Sainsburys I think). They get 10% discount off all the products from the chain. So 10% of all grocery shopping, but also 10% of any insurance and other banking products. Quite a saving in some cases.

My dad worked for the railway and had a number of rail travel free passes for him and my mum, plus us kids when we were little. Passes are for UK travel and across Europe. When I was a little we holidayed in Europe every year for only the cost of hotel and spending money.

So our plan is too find a job with the most helpful fringe benefits. At the moment we have our eye on a job at the local DIY Warehouse, B&Q. We use a lot of building materials as our house is renovated and 10% plus an opportunity to spot any other good deals would be really handy.

Now its time to stop planning and sceming and start on mySaturday chores. See you later.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

For craft lovers

I like things which are a little bit different. I like second hand furniture because I like the look and thought of something with its own history and of course because I don't like to spend too much money. A lot of my furniture is new but it is heavy wood which will last my lifetime. I don't like something which has a short shelf live, like plastic containers that break against metal or glass which never deteriorate. I will pay the extra for long lasting items. I also like things which have been handmade by me, or someone else.

When I was younger I loved to knitted, do tapestry, make patchwork, embroider and all sorts of things.Unfortunately I have problems with my joints in my hands for the last few years which means a single row of knitting causes me to ache all night. I am trying different things and smaller projects to see whether they improve with use or whether this makes them worse. I still have lots of my finished work around the house and I think it adds to the character of the place.

I recently needed so new items, a bedspread, some cushion covers and a tea cozy and I found that eBay was an excellent place to find hand crafted items at affordable prices because there is no middle man and also because I am happy to have second hand goodies.
I have actually bought loads of tapestry cushion covers and a couple of picture (okay, i admit not to needing them but they are lovely), quilts for everyone for the Crete house and an excellent tea cozy. I just wanted to post in praise of the wonderful crafters of ebay!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Peanut Butter

I have tried my hand at making peanut butter. Fairly successful but not stunningly so.
I blitzed 3 packets of peanuts with the stick blender. Okay but as it became creamy then it got stuck up in the blender blade. I transferred to the food processor and let it down with some extra virgin olive oil (from Sues olive farm in Crete). This made it a little easier to work but it was still very very crunchy. I carried on processing it but I have to say its not a brilliant food processor and it was still very crunchy indeed. I tested it out on Beloved, who complained that it wasn't sweet enough! Sure enough shop bought peanut butter has added sugar so I added some but it retained its grittiness. Perhaps I should have used icing sugar instead.
So overall it wasn't a great success although it was perfectly edible. My son said that when I make food at home instead of buying it then it is normally better than bought but not so good this time.
I think I might need peanut butter practice but in the meantime I will make cookies with my home made peanut butter at the weekend. Nothing is lost.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Food Waste

According to the BBC, institution that I thought was above reproach until recent admission of fixed phone in voting and keeping charitable contributions, we are wasting 3.6million tons of food each year in the UK. 3.6 million tons is 3,600,000,000 kilo of waste. Can this be true? 60,000 people live on our island. So that’s 60 kilo a year for every man, woman and child. 240 kilo per average household of four. I just can’t believe it. 5 kilo per week for each family of four ( I know families don’t come in fours but they average out at about 4, probably!). According to WRAP the average family with children wastes 27% of the food that they buy. So the 5 kilo each week that we waste is 27% of what we buy. That should bring my weekly shopping in at 17 kilo unless I am much mistaken. (I would be surprised if it does weigh this much)

I am disgusted if this is true. Horrified, in fact... We have to do something about this. I have included at least a day of leftovers in my new meal plan but more importantly I keep an eye on leftovers and make sure they get eaten up by someone or frozen for another day. I know it is easy for me because I have teenage boys who are able to eat 8 meals a day if required. But it is do-able for most anyone if you are a little flexible.

Yesterday I made egg mayonnaise for Beloveds lunch. I had leftovers from Saturday dinner. One son had toast and the other ate at his grandparent’s house. In the evening we had a barbecue. Today I took left over French bread for lunch with a couple of nice sausages. I heated them in the microwave at work and they were scrummy. Eldest son and husband had leftovers salad, potato salad and cold meat for lunch. Youngest had noodle soup straight from school (he doesn’t like food at school, just a big breakfast and an early dinner and another later one) and we all had leftovers for dinner. Tomorrow Beloved will use up the egg mayonnaise in a baguette with some left salad and potato salad. The boys will have pizza and I will have corned beef sandwiches with the meat left over from Friday. It’s a continuous rolling use up of leftovers rather than a specific way of dealing with them. It works for us. In my bin today were some tins (cat food) for recycling, a half dozen lemon peels (can’t find a sensible use for these) and my sad failure, 6 inches of French bread which is too hard to cut. I should probably have ground up the bread for bread crumbs but the freezer is full to capacity.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Truly Organised

I always read the blog of Laura at Move to Portugal. Laura is the kind of organised that I am striving to be and you can see it in her progress towards her families goals (which incidently are speciific and measureable, making them more attainable that my own vague desires.)
Here are some of Lauras ideas for keeping on top of things.

Lizzie from Lizzies Homeworld gave me the idea for this week's organising post. Having seen the photos of my house she assumes that I clean a lot, lol, oh if only you new the truth Lizzie :)

I don't clean a lot but I am very tidy. I'm very ruthless about clearing the clutter as soon as it hits the house. I spend about ten minutes in the morning before work, after the kids have finished their morning rituals, and then ten minutes before bed at night. The only cleaning I do mid week is a quick wipe down of the kitchen and bathroom. At the weekend, usually Sunday morning, dh and I both spend an hour cleaning the whole house, he will hoover and dust upstairs while I sweep and dust downstairs, dh will then clean the floors downstairs while I blitz the bathroom.

Once every three months we 'spring clean', this means go behind cupboards and beds, hoover the blinds, clean the windows inside and out, clean out all the kitchen cupboards etc. This takes about 4 hours.

To keep paperwork clutter down I deal with the post delivery daily, I sort it and put it on the dresser for dealing with on a Sunday morning.

This routine works for us and keeps the house reasonably clean. It also never takes priority over doing something else ;)

This is the simple method I use to keep all our paperwork/bills organised and paid.
When anything arrives in the post during the week it goes on top of the boxes under the pig, then once a week on a Sunday morning I pay it, file it or shred it.

We have a file for each personal account, a file for the joint account, a box for insurance policies etc and a box for the children's finance stuff.

There is also an A4 book that I use for keeping a written monthly budget, this also has our annual goals printed at the front.

We have gone paperless on most bills but not all companies offer this service. I like to be organised, it saves time and it can save you money. Who wants to pay late payment charges to a bank or company?

This is a a level of organisatioin that I aspire to. Maybe I need the building work finished first ( excuses, excuses...)

Saturday, 10 May 2008

A good days work

I normally have my weekends planned out ahead of time. Not months ahead, as I don't know what I will need to do. Friday night is when I think my weekend through. I wasn't always like this. I really fought getting organised for years and I still know I have a long way to go but life is considerably easier now that I have admitted organisation has a place in my life. Back them I happily went out, shopping, friends, trips to the seaside etc and them quite surprised myself by not having any clean school uniform ready for Monday morning. We habitually ran out of food & it never occurred to me to buy coffee, for example, whilst we still had some in the house. I still run out of food from time to time but that is more to do with the erratic eating habits of my family than any organisation skill on my part (cereal last thing at night for a phase means no milk defrosted in time for morning coffee.

This Friday night Beloved decided that we should work on the house extension on Saturday afternoon when he came home from work. This meant a trip in the morning for eldest son & I. We drove about 25 miles into the forest to pick up 100 pieces of feather board. We had a really nice time, plenty of time to chat when you drive 50 miles. Also the wood was cheaper than we though so invested in a few little vegetable plants as well. During the afternoon we all worked on the house. We are boarding the side with feather board on top of a weatherproof sheet. It looks just lovely. We got a lot done but the usual work of weekend got forgotten. Sunday is my catch up day.

So, tomorrow, cleaning all of the floors right through, finish all of the washing & drying, sort and fold the clothes. Clean the kitchen and bathroom. Plant up a couple of pots for the garden. Plants out all of the vegetable plants. Pop to the shops for some extra salad vegetables as Beloved has decided we will barbecue in the evening. Order the children's Passports. A few other bits of paperwork. In fact quite enough to keep me busy I think!

Friday, 9 May 2008

A typical Friday evening in our house

Friday night and the house is full of teenagers (again).

I sometimes think no-one else allows their kids friends into the house except me. One lot are making a lot of noise in the sitting room, playing a game on the TV. The other, older ones, are much quieter, sitting chatting in the conservatory. But the rooms have no doors so they are mingling together too. I know that by the time that the parents of the younger ones arrive to collect them then it will have turned into one big social event. I like to hear them laughing and talking but I don't allow much after 10pm because of the neighbours.

If we are going to be making any noise then we always check with neighbours both sides anyway.

As far as I can see the kids are just happy having somewhere indoors and safe where they can socialise together. They haven't wanted any food (although there are Lidl pizzas just in case.)and haven't required entertaining or DVD rental even, they are just enjoying each others company in a safe (if noisy!) environment.

One of them has a voice that would pierce metal though, and I shall be very glad when her dad gets here in half an hour!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

BBCI player

I have just discovered a very reasonably priced (by which I mean free) source of entertainment.

We do have a TV but don't very often watch it and certainly don't have any idea what time or day particular programmes come on. At work today a friend of mine said that I had missed a really good programme this week. I assumed it was too late worry about it and asked to let me know if he ever heard it was coming on again. Instead he directed me to the BBC news website. From there I had to click through to something called BBCI player. I downloaded the Iplayer software and them had a choice of programmes which I could watch online or download for any other time within the next 3days.

I am not suddenly going to download programmes every five minutes but I think its quite a nice idea especially if you are likely to be travelling or alone for some period. Personally I think I would aways prefer a book but someone like Beloved, who is dyslexic, would find this very useful.

Of course it is also a BBC service which means, in my opinion at least, that the programmes are of good quality. I am downloading ny first programme as I write this so will ahve the opportunity to feed back in a few days time.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Wednesday already

On Wednesday our dinner is something simple, beans on toast, noodle soup ( I was introduced to this by my Chinese friend, Irene)cheese on toast or something similar. This week I bought a lot of salad vegetables because they start to taste good again at this time of year. So our snack dinner this week was organic wholemeal pitta with peanut butter & lettuce. I really tasty sandwich and nothing like you would expect it to taste. Unfortunately I made the mistake of reading the contents of the jar & of course there was far more inside than just peanuts. So I have decided to make some peanut butter at the weekend, to see if it is possible to have tasty peanut butter without 'e' numbers, stabilisers and sugar. Of course I need to find peanuts which don't already have loads of additives. Maybe we will get to the stage where I have to grow my own peanuts but hopefully not!
Beloved also ate 2 cucumbers! I need to plant some cucumber plants here at the house, in pots, to keep up with the cucumber habit of my men.
I also need to try an aubergine or two in pots because I like them in our version of moussaka & also Beloved makes Baba Ganoush, similar to Houmous but much much better. I am going to have to learn to do these for myself because beloved is away for 13weeks in the summer! I can see the diet around here wont be so exiting and the house will start to fall down!

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Hummus (also spelled hamos, houmous, hommos, hommus, hummos, hummous or humus

Tonight Beloved decided to make some houmous. Years ago we always made houmous from scratch. Soaking chickpeas and boiling them for ages, then blitzing them with garlic and tahina paste. Now we don't have so much time on our hands, at least for the moment, & although we still cook from scratch for most things, some of the more labour intensive don't get made very often. Today we decided to try making houmous but not quite from scratch. Beloved bought two tins of chickpeas for 37p each. We used a half jar of Tahina - approx 50p for the half jar. Juice of three lemons (value from Tesco - total 30p)Two cloves of garlic, from the garden. A little salt to crush the garlic.

He used the stick blender to puree the chickpeas in their water, then used the food mixer to add all the other ingredients, having already crushed the garlic to a cream with the sale. These ingredients made a Pyrex casserole dish full (maybe three pints). The total cost was less than £1.50. You could refill at least ten of the little pots of Houmous that Lidl sell for over £1. So we are £8.50 ahead, assuming that we don't waste the dip. From now on then I think this will be our choice for Houmous. Now we have to consider a few other foods which we can make from almost scratch.
By the way Houmous is the Arabic word for chickpeas.

Monday, 5 May 2008

A day of rest

Another day off. I love long weekends.
It rained all night from Sunday to Monday so the bushes and trees which were transplanted are very happy. It was still raining hard this morning and so another day in the garden did not seem a good idea. Baby was meeting friends and going to the cinema so, after a bit of pottering around at home, we decided to give him a lift and, on the spur of the moment, we decided to have lunch out. There is a really good Colonial Indian Restaurant in town. It is decorated in the style of the Raj and far too expensive for us even for a celebratory meal. They do however have a lunch buffet which is very affordable. £6.50 for unlimited buffet, starters, curries, rice, vegetables, salads and dips, naan bread and poppadoms. We don't go out very often so we did eat quite a bit. In fact we wont need to eat again for quite some time! It was lovely though. We had the pleasing surroundings, lovely food and an opportunity to sit quietly together and chat. A bargain.

My Simple Day

A three day weekend gives even those of us in full time employment a chance to have some stay at home time.

Saturday was a day of errands, some shopping, dropping broken toe son at the spots centre (don't ask!)and then to the allotment with the family to dig up the fruit bushes & trees.

Sunday has been an all together gentler day. This morning a little cleaning. Then a lovely lunch of chicken & potatoes, cooked in the oven in Lemon Juice and a little olive oil & black pepper. Two minutes of preparation and then just left to gentle cook in the warm oven. The lovely smell was making its way all around the house & tempting everyone to the table. Unfortunately we didn't have the chance to eat together with everyone being in and out today (except me, refusing to leave my lovely refuge today!). During he afternoon I spent some more time in the garden tidying up from the building work. I planted all of the fruit bushes and trees in the garden & the weather kindly rained with ten minutes of my finishing. It was lovely warm rain though and didn't make me seek the indoors at all. Later I caught up on paperwork for the swim school and for the house. I am in bed now, content after my busy but peaceful day. Tomorrow another lovely day at home. I love bank holidays.

Saturday, 3 May 2008


Continuing on my theme of being hopeless I also forgot to take my bag to work with me yesterday. This morning I came down to find the dishwasher had not done its work. I checked it was plugged in etc and still couldn't work it. In the end I switched it on and then it worked much better!! Oh, dear.

Anyway I have now had 10 hours of sleep so perhaps today my brain starts to work again.

This afternoon I am off to the allotment with my dad and my youngest son. We are digging up our fruit trees and bushes to bring them back to the gardens. The are a fair number of bushes. Some will go into the borders and the rest have to go into large pots. I have a feeling that this will take most of the day however I will also take the time to clean my floors right through and to get all my washing dried and put away.
Since we wont have the allotment from now on, and we were right to give it up since my sister and myself have both been working until late late late this week,there are so many offers of vegetable seedling. Hopefully we can have it back in future when we are able to work part time (or better yet, no time).

Its a lovely warm and sunny day but not too warm, just right for garden work.
Have a nice day!

Friday, 2 May 2008

The New Me

The new, super organised, me didn't do so well this week. My meal planner (up to Christmas!) fell down a bit when I was stuck at work for 13 hour days this week. Eldest son broke his toe and we spent the evening in A&E & the boys had takeaway for dinner. On the other days they also cooked but being three men there was way more meat involved and far less vegetable and carbs. This has left my freezer looking a bit sad.

I didn't remember to order any shopping this week in all of the excitement and finally got around to it by Wednesday. So I had a first delivery slot of Friday lunchtime. On Friday evening at 7pm broken toe son phones me at work to say 'what time is the shopping coming? I have been waiting 8 hours already'. I check my order on line to find that my order is back in the shopping cart and hasn't been through the check out. I really couldn't face shopping after work today so have asked for it to be delivered Sunday morning and in the meantime we make do with what we have.

Tomorrow we will be having what we call Syrian Corned Beef Hash. Chopped corned beef chunks, fried potato chunks, cooked up together in a little olive oil (make sure the potato is pretty much cooked before you added the meat). When it is brown and cooked right through then add 4 r 5 beaten eggs, and a little salt and black pepper. Its actually nothing like corn beef hash, much more like Corned Beef Fritatta. Cooked until set and serve in slices with salad.

I also have run out of washing powder so I am following some advice from other blogs and washing two loads with just water. Apparently there should be enough soap hanging around in my clothes and machine to get them just as clean as usual. I don't know if it is true but it will be an interesting experiment.

So instead of going to the supermarket tomorrow I will spend some time in my garden and my house. An all together more pleasurable experience. I need to re-charge my own batteries after my ridiculously long working hours this week.

Blogger problems

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