Saturday, 28 February 2009

Why?

What is it about Saturday mornings. My head feels like I partied until 3am. In reality I was in bed with a good book by 11pm and haven't had a glass of wine in a week. Something about the weekend allows my headaches to run riot.

However I wont let it beat me. Half an hour of blog reading whilst I drink my coffee and then off to meet my day.

Stripping the bedding.
Last two under bed boxes out from under my bed for sort out and disposal.
A small bed side table is coming downstairs to be a printer table.
A quick trip to pay in cheques at the bank.
To the chemist for some pain relieving balm for my husbands back (should be good, its recommended by a friend who broke their neck!)
Buying a small piece of lamb for a treat lunch for everyone. I don't buy red meat very often so i thought i would make them smile today.
Maybe a haircut if i can find the time.
Small bookcase to go upstairs.
Tidy, vacuum and floor scrub in the sitting room.
Same in the kitchen.
Wash, dry and sort washing.
Collapse in a bed exhausted heap!
Oops, forgot, I should also put clean sheets on our bed. In reality i very often forget and go up to bed to be quite surprised to find a mattress and pile of pillows only

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Weekend Plans

I know, I know. Its only Thursday. We were away last weekend, having a lovely time in France. Lovely time in France equals no time at home though so I am looking forward to my weekend at home doing domesticated things.

As usual there is a charity drop required. I am slowly, oh so slowly, emptying the house of its major clutter. Ia m also planning to start sorting out stuff to go on eBay. I do this for a while and then get lazy, then I forget I ever do it. So time for a kick start there.

On top of that there is the usual cleaning. Last weekends cleaning was minimal so it needs to be a bit of a deep clean this week. Also laundry. Always laundry. I have booked my shopping to arrive on Saturday afternoon so that I dont have to leavae my lovely house.

I was also going to set up my inventory in Excel but somehow Excel seems to have disappeared. How does that happen. I use it on this computer for years and suddenly I don't have it. So, something else to do at the weekend.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Inventory

I am fairly sensible in m u shopping. I do a sort of half meal plan thing too but on the whole I am pretty organised with my food provision. I have a big gap in my knowledge though. The only way I know what I have in my freezers, fridges or cupboard is to check or to try to remember (pretend to remember might be a better way to put it). A new notebook is required! I am going to go though my food storage at the weekend and do a stock count. AFter we re-organise the kitchen I will have a larder (just waiting for the guest bathroom etc to be finished first)so its a good diea to get into this habit whilst I still have small storage space. Goodness knows how much I could lose in a bigger space!

Monday, 23 February 2009

Creative Cookery

I normally buy grocery shopping weekly but didn't buy last week as we were away at the weekend. This week we are going to try to be a little more creative with what we have around the house, so that we don't need to buy for a few more days. Of course the cupboard and freezer are full of food, so this shouldn't actually be hard but all the same, it is something new to try.

Today's Dinner
Almost fish less fish pie
Yesterday I made potato dauphinoise, but with milk instead of cream. It was acceptable rather than especially tasty. Today it had a new lease of life.
I also used up the last of the smoked salmon from the valentines breakfast.
The main flavour provider - I made a stock by boiling the leftover head & skins from some prawns we bought in France and ate on Sunday night.

I heated a little butter in the pan and sauteed the salmon. Then i stirred in the potato mixture. Lastly I topped it up with the prawn stock (drained of course!).

The house smells a bit (or so everyone says as they come in the door) but the food was delicious and a good use of leftovers.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Thoroughly recommended

I am thoroughly recommending taking a little weekend break, as we just have, for anyone is who thinks winter just goes on too long or just a little stressy at the moment. This little trip worked for us.

Overnight on Friday to St Malo, all day in the town and surrounding area. We had coffee and breakfast in the wall town in the morning and a nice walk around the ramparts. Then we drove off to the local supermarket to stock up on things we cant get at home (like mutton sausages and seriously stinky cheese, then to another little seaside town for a long long lunch. Back to St Malo for a stroll along the beach. Loads of people were playing with kites and dogs on the beach, pretty good for February. Then we walked around the fair for an hour or so. Back on board we had a nice dinner together before turning in for the night. Overnight sleep back to England.
It feels like we were away for days. The cabins were really nice and had superb showers. There was a choice of restaurants and bars on board and really good live entertainment. It worked out well for us because
1)It was a bargain!
2)We only live 15 miles from the port in England, so getting there was easy.
3)We all get on well together & we know how the team dynamics work for us. We have never had an argument so I don’t think we are likely to start now.

Thinking about it, these three things are what make any short break relaxing and do-able.
It needs to be affordable (not necessarily a bargain but within your budget. Convenient to carry out. Trekking the Amazon is not generally suitable for a quick weekend break (unless you already live on the Amazon).
You need good company, which can be no company if you are happy alone but don’t waste your weekend with people that drive you nuts.

No I know the rules I might start looking around for our next little jaunt.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

We were right about allotments too!


According the the BBC we are positively trendy!

It wasn't that long ago that "allotment gardening" was almost a synonym for "unfashionable".

It was something that people did when they were too old to have anything interesting to do with their summer evenings, before going home to put their slippers on and have a cup of cocoa.

But, spurred on by Jamie, Gordon, Hugh and the rest of the TV cheferati, and combined with concerns about climate change and sustainability, there has been a dramatically increased interest in growing your own.

Up and down the country, old allotment hands are pestered for advice, as yummy mummies and other urban trendies rediscover the joys of peas fresh from the pod and just-dug potatoes.

Those who sneered at the allotment brigade are now green-fingered with envy, as waiting lists top 100,000 nationally.

In some areas, it's more difficult to get an allotment than it is to get in to the most exclusive London clubs, with waiting lists running to 10 years - those that have not been closed altogether.

Which is why the National Trust is now weighing in, releasing land which could be used for up to 1,000 allotments on some of the best known country estates in Britain.

The land will be available to individuals or community projects at about 40 sites in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, ranging from small patches suitable for first time veg growers, to larger areas which could be co-worked by community groups.

The allotments will be available in the spring through the Landshare website , which was set up to link those wanting to garden with those who have land to spare.

The Trust's director general, Fiona Reynolds says staff are very committed to getting people out in the fresh air growing their own.

"We already have allotments and active kitchen gardens at 50 of our properties and many of these already provide spaces for communities to come together and grow their own fruit and veg."

She said: "But there's a huge demand for us to do more. We've taken the first steps to increase the amount of growing spaces available, and we are working with Landshare to encourage other landowners to do the same."

One of the Trust's properties which already offers allotments is Hughenden Manor near High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire.

The former home of the Victorian prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli, it attracts visitors every year who delight in the formal landscapes.

But the 18th century walled garden has been given over to allotments, raised beds - even old dustbins - all growing veg, and all proof that no matter how small the area, it can still be used to provide food for the table.

"We have community groups, people with mental health issues and many other people here" says Alison Mascarenhas, who leads the community gardening project.

"They find working here very therapeutic."

And Alison says once people are hooked, they come back year after year.

The manor has a full time head gardener and 60 volunteers, who are all ready with advice for novices. Even Archie, the pony in the nearby field does his bit - well, every veg grower will tell you about the benefits of a constant supply of well-rotted manure.

Experts at the Trust say the land they have released will be enough to grow 50,000 sacks of potatoes, or mixed produce worth about £1.5m. If the scheme is a success, they will look to release more.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

We were right!

All our little positive projects are doing us good. This from todays BBC website

Knitting is good for you

Engaging in a hobby like reading a book, making a patchwork quilt or even playing computer games can delay the onset of dementia, a US study suggests.

Watching TV however does not count - and indeed spending significant periods of time in front of the box may speed up memory loss, researchers found.

Nearly 200 people aged 70 to 89 with mild memory problems were compared with a group who had no impairment.

The findings are to be presented to an American Academy of Neurology meeting.

The researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota asked the volunteers about their daily activities within the past year and how mentally active they had been between the age of 50 to 65.

Those who had during middle age been busy reading, playing games or engaging in craft hobbies like patchworking or knitting were found to have a 40% reduced risk of memory impairment.

In later life, those same activities reduced the risk by between 30 and 50%.

Those who watched TV for less than 7 hours a day were also 50% less likely to develop memory loss than those who spent longer than that staring at the screen.

"This study is exciting because it demonstrates that ageing does not need to be a passive process," said study author and neuroscientist Dr Yonas Geda.

"By simply engaging in cognitive exercise, you can protect against future memory loss. Of course, the challenge with this type of research is that we are relying on past memories of the participants, therefore we need to confirm these findings with additional research."

Sarah Day, head of public health at the Alzheimer's Society said: "One million people will develop dementia in the next 10 years so there is a desperate need to find ways to prevent dementia.

"Exercising and challenging your brain - by learning new skills, doing puzzles such as crosswords, and even learning a new language - can be fun.

"However, more research, where people are followed up over time, is needed to understand whether these sorts of activities can reduce the risk of dementia."

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Ikea meatballs and ice cream!

Today was the MRI scan. The week can only get better from here. I am seriously claustrophobic. The nurse told me I was a big brave girl, which leads me to believe that I wasn't at all!. It was awful but I finally did it after a few false starts. I hope I never have to do it again. I am still balancing up in my head what is worse, MRI or migraines!

Afterwards my husband took me to the new IKEA store in town (which he hates roughly as much I hate being stuck in a npisy, scary tube for 30 minutes)to make me feel better. We went for meatballs(ofcourse) and even better, we were given them for nothing. On the house, they said. How kind, they must have known I was feeling under the weather. In the store we bought a new wok and some knives. On the way home my husband bought me a container of fancy ice cream. He knows how to cheer a woman up!

I have busy days at work for the rest of this week But I also have to plan for the weekend. We are going to St Malo, in France, with the rest of the fmaily. We are on a voluntary budget because times a little tighter this year, but its not a problem, we know how to ahve fun on a budget. The whole trip only costs us aorund £50 per family group, with tokens my dad saved from the papaer. We wont use much petrol/gas as we dont drive more than 50 miles in total, the boat does the travlling not us.



We plan to take a home made picnic with us, and of course we will have some glasses of wine in evening. We will have oysters on SAturday from the market at the end of the beach. They serve them to you on a dish with lemon quarters and you sit on the sea wall to eat them, then return the tray. A dozen oysters for the price of a single oyster at home. Then lunch in a seaside cafe.




Things are definitely looking up!!!

Sunday, 15 February 2009

A new week

I can normally get the best out of most things but last week left me stranded. It was awful, just migraines and headaches all week. However today is the start of a new week so hopefully that is behind me now.

We started the day with a belated Valentines breakfast of smoked salmon and creme cheese on warm baguette halves. Scrummy. Surely that means it will be a better week? Then I opened my email and had a note from my friend in Crete whose husband just noticed part of our old house has fallen down in the rains! Okay, so maybe not.

I am going to be a bit more gentle on my myself today, and this week, to make sure I am not stressing myself out. Yesterday I had a couple of hours on the sofa with the cat in the middle of the day, when i would normally have been doing some thing more 'useful'! Today I am planning a trip to the shop, a charity drop, vacuum and steam clean the floors and sorting out the clean washing. Nothing too strenuous!

Hope everyone is having a good day.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Left town

Just to let you know I havnt left town, the migraine monster is on my shoulder. I will be back!

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Snowballs and handbags

Bit of background. I wrote a few months back about the efforts we were making to repay our mortgage, loan etc early (with a view to retiring early, but I may not have mentioned that). Also it was one of my plans for the year to repay at least £20,000. I have a snowball calculator which I keep updated and everyone I make a change which will effect the end date then I record it. So I know, for example, that the reduction in interest rates knocked 6 months of my end date (yay).

Today I downloaded my bank statments for December and January. I analysed all the income, expenditure and transfers. I spent too much at Christmas but not so much too much! More importantly I discovered I spend £5276 on debt/mortgage repayment. That was more that I realised. This was mostly because I accidently both the old man and I set up standing orders on a couple of things. However we managed and so I am sticking with it going forward. So I have reapid over 1/4 of my planned amount in just two months. If I calculate the average repayment amount per month and run it through the snowball it actually bring the DMFD (debt/mortgage free day) forward to April 2019! Wow. Amazing. I could retire at 56. The only fly in my ointment is that naughty blogger over a Early Retirment-The Middle Way who is leading me astray with talk of property purchase.

SO on that happy note I am off to clean out my handbag with Laura.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Planting Plans - the conclusion

I have decided on a my planting plans for the year.

A small herb garden. Basil, Parsley (and lots of it)and Oregano, from seed.
Sage and mint from offcuts from my dad.
I actually already have some pots of parsley, mint and basil n the go but I will need more.

Fruit orchard. Cherry tree & cooking apple tree. Blackcurrant & gooseberry bushes. Kiwi vine. Already in place but I must learn to maximise the crop (or at least aim to get some crop!). I am to plant an almond tree and possibly a fig. Also a rhubarb crown from my dad or my sister.

Vegetable patch. Aubergine (violeta de firenze), tomato (cuore di bue), cucumber (pasandra), garlic (sultop), radish (china rose winter), beetroot (cylindra), chillies (red cherry hot and georgia flame, maybe others), lettuce (tom thumb), watercress aqua, potatoes (three types but not sure which ones yet.)


I intend to spend some time with a gardening encyclopedia and my diary so that i know when to plant, when to plant on, when to feed etc. I am always pretty good at the actual planting and I got good crops of the things which need no further action, like the garlic and runner beans, but things which need additional feeding to produce have gone a bit hungry in the past.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Planning my planting

I have been pouring over my seed catalogues for the last two weeks. Deciding what I think I can cope with in my little patch. I didn't want to go totally over the top, as I know I wont be able to keep up with everything that needs doing and it will all end in chaotic failure. On the other hand I don't want to be ill prepared if it turns out that I can organise my self in my garden (with my trusty diary for assistance of course - I cant organise my way out of a paper bag without that.)

There were a few bit of guidance form the main 'eaters' in the house.

1)Old man eats chili peppers every day - However many I can grow, it wont be too many.
2)No-one like cherry tomatoes, they like their tomatoes big and tasty.
3)Cucumbers should be small and have smoothish skin but not require a greenhouse (because I haven't got one).
4)We eat more salads then other veg so it makes sense to concentrate in the 'salady' area.
5)We love garlic, more the better (so naturally, we have no friends or at least only friends with blocked noses)s for fun.
6)We like lots of parsley in some salads and other dishes. Also not possible to grow too much of it.
7)We like to try new things too so chuck in a couple of new things.
8)We don't have much space so no point to grow things we are not mad about.

By tomorrow I should have ordered and be ready to share my plans.

I love being out doors and pottering about and I love eating so this should be the perfect hobby for me!!

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Honeycomb Caramel Candy

friend sent me this recipe. Naughty bit nice, so I felt I had to share!


Honeycomb Caramel Candy
Ingredients:
• 400g sugar
• 100ml water
• 40ml golden syrup (about 2 tablespoons)
• 1 tablespoon baking soda
What to do:
1. Combine the water, golden syrup and sugar and cook over medium heat without stirring until the sugar dissolves.
2. Turn up the heat until the mixture becomes the deep golden colour of honeycomb, stirring if it cooks unevenly.
3. Stir in the baking soda, until it is fully combined, but don’t over-mix! It will froth up and more than triple in volume.
4. Immediately pour out onto a non-stick baking mat or greased baking sheet.
5. Allow to cool fully.
6. Break into pieces and enjoy!
Note: 1. For those scientifically minded, the sugar mixture should reach hard crack stage, which you can test by using a candy thermometer or spooning a few drops into a glass of cold water, where it should immediately harden and break easily when you take it out. That being said, I find that once the colour is right, the temperature is right!
2. Make sure there are no lumps in the baking soda, or it might not dissolve fully!

Monday, 2 February 2009

Another Goal Post

A bit of goal obsessing going on at the moment.

I am happy with my goal results so far but I am wondering if they were a bit too attainable, because I am doing so well against them.

The other thing to remember is that I am a finance manager. Each year the managers work with the executive on a strategic plan, the we work out a departmental action plan and this dictates our priorities for the year. I must be so programmed into this that I really respond well to structured plans. Who knew!! I am not the wild, free spirited hippy that I thought, but apparently a finance manager through and through! Oh,dear.

Anyway, what to add. Outcomes, actions, activities???

Sunday, 1 February 2009

January Goals - Outcome


I read a post on 'My Life Makeover Journey' about revisiting January Goal for outcomes. My goals weren't set month by month but this prompted me to check what I was up to.

• Pay at least £20000 from debt/mortgage (Debt can only be paid off i.e. no further debt can be incurred). I have downloaded a new snowball sreadsheet which I am updating monthly and then noting the date that we will have fully repaid everything. So far I have decreased it by six months.
• Finish Crete house so that it can be rented.No progress here because of exchange rate but also state of the economy means no-one will want to rent it for a while anyway, so not a huge priority.
• Increase exercise through additional walking. Not yet because Chiropractor is still working on me but she says I will soon be able to walk for miles without problem. YaaaYY!
• Keep swim school afloat.Haven't lost any more customers so 'so far so good'.
• Take lunch to work each day unless provided at work. Most days I have taken lunch but I have decided to have lunch with a friend once a week, but a bargain basement lunch, so nothing too wild.
• 5 No spend days each week. No problem. I only go to the shops once a week and I take a list, which I stick to. I don't waste money there at all.
• Meal plan each week. No, just plain rubbish at this but all the same our food bill is not usually more than £50 per week for four of us, and two of those are teenage boys who are never full!
• Re-visit single area of expenditure each month to ensure we are getting the best deal (i.e. car insurance, mortgage cover) Success with the buildings and contents insurance in January.
• Try salsa dancing. I have found lessons and we would have started this Tuesday but the old man has work and we cant turn any customers away at the moment, so Salsa is postponed temporarily.
• Take short course in digital photography. Started last Wednesday. Not sure if I will learn anything but it is quite fun.
• Sell £500 if possessions on eBay. Hmmm, nothing yet. This has prompted me to make more effort though.
• Make salami & sausages. I got my lovely sausage maker for Christmas but haven't made any sausages yet. Checking out the Farmers Market next Sunday for meat.
• Taster ski lesson at the local Alpine centre. This will be once I am able to walk properly again. I set this when I had not known about the nerve trapped in my hip. Maybe by the autumn.

I am glad to have made this review. I am prompted to make more effort on Ebay & Amazon, and also to choose an area of expenditure to look at in detail in February.

Summer Rain

The middle of summer on the sunny south coast of England, and the rain is falling heavily enough to keep us indoors again. We were hoping to...