Friday, 30 November 2012

Official Start to Christmas


December the 1st tomorrow. Fahed's birthday is on Sunday. We always count that as official beginning of Christmas. As it is his birthday weekend then he chooses what we do over the weekend and then on Sunday evening we have or traditional birthday dinner (steak in a cream sauce, those lovely big flat mushrooms, Fahed special chips made with red potato)yum.

We planned to sort out the attic tomorrow but it seems mean to do this on his birthday. I suspect we will do very little, he is a proper home boy.

Rupert the laptop will not be sent away for repair. Fahed will try to repair it. I can see he is dying to get his hands on Rupert! I am looking at a cheap 'box' to go with a flat screen and keyboard which I already have. This will make it easier to use or Excel and all of my lovely spreadsheets. Talking of which I now need to rebuild all of them (Nooooooooooooooooo) Maybe time to have a rethink on some things. We will be short of cash for a while as every spare penny is going family in the war zone in Syria. Ater that we will make new plans.

I believe I want an ipad, to use for playing (such a blogging). What do we think? Shall I?

My knitting has so far been a disaster. The needles are too big for the yarn. I knitted a few inches of what looked like manky lace. I need more needles to try again. Foster Mummy, please can you tell me what size needles would be best for chenille? I am such an amateur



Sunday, 25 November 2012

Lists are back



Lists have re-asserted themselves in my life. I feel so much more focussed when I have my list. Such an enjoyable and productive weekend. And I have an extra day at home tomorrow. By the end of that my list will be sorted except for one item. We didn't quite face the attic but we did plan a shelf in the kitchen so that the cookery books have a home (when we find them). So we adapted our plans a little rather than failing (yes, I do believe that, honest :)).

My baby is now wondering whether he can use the next 10 months until his sponsorship start travelling with his mate. His mate has a few problems and Jamal think it will do him good to broaden his horizons before he gets left at home for 8-% o the year whilst Jamal is away. I am listing all my overseas friends and relatives to find a bargain basement basis or their travel. Might come to nothing but its fun to plan. His older brother, who watches too many films, already banned him from hitching and hostels. Bless.

My lovely little laptop, Rupert, has died. He is making a clunking noise. That cant be good. I am not sure when I last backed him either. Oh dear. I will check with Dell tomorrow but...... So I might just get a desktop. Its easier for actual work. Then would it be a bit too indulgent to also consider an ipad? They are just lovely pretty, bright and shiny. Oh dear. Well in the meanwhile I am using old fella's laptop (hence the missing letters from time to time), my iPhone and hopefully breaking my habit of googling everything I don't know whenever I realise I don't know something.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Big fat fail


So my idea to pre prep loads of meals and keep them in the freezer (uncooked), use slow cooker and all that. The idea being that I then had extra time in the evenings to do housework? Big fat fail. As far as I got was to order some large zippy plastic bags from eBay. I am not very disciplined at this time of year. Maybe start again in January? Sigh!

Plus I stopped doing my Saturday list. I noticed that really made me make less use of my time. So listing is back:

Treat -Have eyebrows threaded by nice Aghan lady -cost a couple of quid but looks much better and is less dangerous than doing it myself. My husband can thread but has a very funny idea of what eyebrows should look like so that would be a false economy. Also buy a purple scarf to go with newly black dress or Christmas party.

Upcycle (is that really a word)Buy some black fabric dye. I am dying a really good suit I have which is brown, so I don't wear it. Also a white dress with a weird palm tree pattern, which should then be suitable for Christmas parties.

Sort out - Attack attic with the old fella (with his help not use him as a weapon). A good sort out and de-clutter plus I get to bring down any shoes, my cookery books, my crating stuff from my jewellery making days and a massive piece of velvet which I have plans for. Re-arrange some down stairs furniture so that it nice or Christmas.

Admin - Make sure RAC cover is on the right cars, now that we have changed them around. Also change Fahed car insurance. Check any other paperwork from last two weeks to ensure nothing remains un-done.

Housework - Vacuum, dust and tidy everywhere (small statement but lots of action). Also Finish laundry. My baby really helped yesterday by getting washing collected p and sorted, and doing first load. Plus emptying all the bins.

Cooking - nope, we are invited out tonight by the couple who borrowed our house last summer. Should be fun.

And in other news. Jamal finally got his place in the merchant navy, subject to fitness and references. So he has bagged a ully sponsered three year uni course with untaxable pocket money of £170 per week. Go Jamal. No student loans! Plus a pretty much guarenteed job at the end of it. Very happy mummy.

Ahdel got 95% in his latest coursework assignment but his other good news is that his band is going to play in front of someone from a big record label in February, and have three other gigs booked.

Fahed has bagged another days work. He is also happy as he has his new (to him) car.

I have a new boss and my work lie has improved tremendously. Whoops.

Okay, spring into action!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Some steps closer to crafting



Today I borrowed my mum's sewing machine ( I know at fifty I am old enough to have my own but I still love the Bernina she had since I was 10. I completed finished all of the mending in my basket except for a button on Fahed's favourite trousers. I still need a button.

I also found a big basket of fabric pieces big and small. A basket with some knitting needles, embroidery thread, some embroidery fabric. All sorts of toys really. It made me remember a lot of things that I know (or maybe knew) how to do but might have forgotten. During the week I plan to start work on the lovely wallet kit which I bought form Carla.

Lastly I bought a pair of long knitting needs on eBay,to start knitting my wrap. I also need to find a pattern for cable stitch. I used to be able to do it so I am going to be able to do it again. Yep, I am. Hopefully!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Housework during the week and an unexpected economy for Christmas



I read on someone blog this week a plan of housework to be completed during the week instead of in a big lump at the weekend (if you saw it or it was yours then send me a link and I will connect up). At the time I thought no, not for me. I have enough to do during the week. Now I have had more of a think about it though maybe bite sized chunks is better than a weekend blitz. I am thinking of going there.

I normally come in from work and start cooking. But if pre prepared a load of food like chicken pieces, veggies and potatoes in chicken stock, and then got my slow cooker on during the day. I could come in and have that 45 minutes to clean the bathroom, vacuum floors, wipe the doors and drawer fronts and stuff. It might not suit me but I am going to give it a go.

I have one less Christmas present to worry about. My son split with his girlfriend of three years. I think they were not well suited although she was a very nice, kind girl, so I guess this is for the best. Again we will see. He is a little distracted but otherwise doesn't seem to be suffering so that's a pretty sure sign that it was time.

So there we are. Some changes you plan and some surprise you.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Some additional pre Christmas prep



I have started on the gift buying. I have to be creative as we have 'rules' to abide buy. This years gifts include something to eat, to drink and to grow. pretty sure everyone has enough clutter so I will try not to add to that.

On Friday I went to my first party of the season. It wasn't actually a Christmas Party but a leaving party for a couple of colleagues. Everyone seemed to be in Christmas mode though so it was great. On Sunday we attended a birthday dinner for a friend who is also a colleague. We have at least five more events planned and that's just with my work makes. I am sure there will be plenty more with friends and family.

So I thought i should probably go carb free in between these events to avoid turning into a complete telly tubby by new year. I started this morning. Low far yogurt for breakfast (Rachel's, so yummy), some cold meat and cheese for lunch. The weird thing about not eating carbs is that you get a lot less hungry. very weird. For dinner Jamal made chipotle chicken noodles for everyone. I had my chipotle chicken with sliver of carrot and mushrooms. I craved the noodles even though I don't especially like noodles until I cant have them. So not feeling hungry is weird and craving carbs I don't even like makes me even weirder.

Last time I tried this I lost about 12 kilo. I have put about half back on but now have stabilized. My plan is to do something similar again. I should be slender by the time I am about 80! That's okay, there is no hurry. If it bothered me I guess I would make more effort but my cholesterol is low and my blood sugar is fine. Sometimes I even get chatted up a bit, despite being overweight and middle aged (its good for the self confidence!).

We planned a short trip to France with the family before the break but the trips are not on offer after Fahed breaks for Christmas so its one less events but does save us a few pounds.

So anyway that's my plan. How are your Christmas plans coming along?


Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Feeling crafty


I printed off my (hopefully idiot proof) instructions from Carla today. I plan to borrow my mums sewing machine at the weekend and try to make my own little patchwork purse. i love nearly all of Carla's creations so if I can make something similar I will be a happy bunny.

I have also bid for a large large ball of chenille wool on eBay. I am going to attempt to knit a shawl. I am even going to see if I can remember how to knit cables into the patter I used to be able to knit and knitted a ton of baby clothes but that was 20 years ago. In fact I used to do a lot of things back then that I don't do anymore. I might have to invest in some seriously strong glasses but I enjoyed being productive and think I would again.

So between now and Chrissie, a patchwork purse, the beginnings of a not entirely simple shawl, some embroidery/stitchery/cross stitch.

Good for keeping my brain functioning (my new boss is into work life balance - it is no longer frowned uon to go home)and for keeping my finger joints flexible. And possibly for keeping me off my lovely little laptop Oops.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Christmas Prep


Yes I am using the C word It is indeed that time. I am not quite as good as Fostermummy with her home made this's and that but we do have rules to play by!

The old chap & I will pay our Greek emergency property tax (yes another lot)as our gifts to each other.
I will spoil both kids hugely.

My family and I have a £10 per person limit on all other gifts. The circle is composed of my lot, sister and brother in law, niece and husband, my parents. That't the lot. You have to be creative and homemade or recycling is encouraged. I started on Saturday to get a few things for everyone I also invested in chocolate (needed for kids Christmas stockings).

This year I am doing a theme of Christmas stockings for everyone. They will look good and also my wrapping skills are abysmal. I am trying for an eBay bargain but if that fails then I can get creative with mums sewing machine.

My kids get their gifts from us on Christmas morning and the rest all get exchanged after the walk which is after lunch at mum & dads house. Same old routine every year and we all love it.

Food is the other major expenditure. My responsibility is the Christmas Eve dinner (M&D Christmas day - a proper Christmas Dinner, Sis & BIL Boxing day - usually a bbq is the snow - so cool!). Christmas Eve supper has got lighter and lighter over years as fashions for food change. I find that very often the most popular thing is the crudites. I also do a few things for Christmas day like a nice Christmas cake, the stuffing and pigs in blankets at lunchtime, maybe some quiche or something to add to the supper table, red cabbage.

I also like to make sweeties. I don't make them all year but i enjoy the making and the kids are old enough to cope with the sugar rush now. So I will be making rocky road, Cornish tablet and coconut ice at the very least.

We have plenty of decorations, so the only limit to creativity there is effort. I only send Christmas card to people I wont see that are not on email, make the Christmas card bill considerably more manageable. I normally buy some tins of chocolates for work but I might make them suffer some home cooking this year.

So only just started but not actually doing too bad!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Frugal Food Prep


Not quite up to Froogs standard but I have really been trying. I started off by cooking up a flavour base of all the celery some onoins and a bag of carrots with some olive oil. When it was cooked I scooped half of it out and added mushrooms, cabbage leaves and chicken stock. Further cooking and two tablespoons of single cream made that into enough cream of veg soup to last for two or three lunches.

To the rest of the veg is added a soup mix which is dried barley lentils and stuff. Also some chicken stock. Once it was all soft I blitzed with the stick blender and set aside. Next, in the same wok, i cooked two packets of minced beef. To this I added sliced mushrooms and the veggie slushy stuff. Then added boiling water and gravy powder to gravy it up a bit. |Two thirds of this went into a vast roasting pan to be the bottom of a cottage pie (which will last whole family two days). I added tomato passatta and a tin of kidney beans. I made a vast white sauce so all of this became a massive lasagna. It was a bit runny so I left some tomotoey beefy juice behind mixed it with the last of the white sauce and it tastes like Oxtail soup. That's tomorrows lunch.

My first session of this time and I don't think I did too badly. Practice is the key.


How frugal am I being?



Since my decision a couple of weeks ago to be more frugal I have had a few 'situations' and I thought I would think through them today and see how true to our decisions we have been.

Car engine in Fahed's car blew up. It was an LPG conversion in an attempt to be frugal and as green as you can be with massive 4 x 4. In all honesty its been a pain from the the time we bought it back in 2004. This is already its third engine. We tried to be frugal with keeping the same car for years and with using LPG but it wasn't enough.

So now we have made a decision. Frankie the Frontera is being retired. Instead of replacing the engine (again)he is being hopefully stripped of his gas system to be sold separately and then Fahed & the kids say they are going to fix the car themselves. Apparently Frankie is going to be a teaching aid. If they fail then we can sell the parts I guess but on the off chance that they succeed then he will be taken out to the Crete House to live a happy retirement in the sun (if it ever gets that far I will be astonished but re-sell value is nothing in one peice so I dont mind them trying).

So what is he doing for transport? There is no public transport tot where he works so its another car. He has gone for a smaller model, a Vauxhall Astra, with a diesel engine. Its about 4 years old. They retail at around £7k to £8k but we have bought one with only 20000 miles on the clock, but which needs a new gear box. It was for sale for £4k (we did check with our mechanic before buying it). Astonishingly Fahed explained that our budget was only for £3k and were they interested? Astonishingly they were. Our mechanic John says the gear box change will be max £800. So I am pretty sure we have got our new and more efficient car for £3800. I think I am pretty please with this.

The dishwasher broke last week and Fahed & Jamal got the parts and fixed it. That must get us some good frugal points as it saved money we didn't replace with a new one and washing the dishes in the machine apparently wastes less water and power than by hand. Which is good because I apparently hate washing up.

Now come a couple of things where I have done the frugal thing (mend rather than replace) but which are very unfrugal. The TV has broken. We have had it for five years so it is not very electrically efficient. We looked at fixing it ourselves but it thought it might be a bit risky, even for us. So we sent it off to a local company to be looked at. Cost so far is £85 but the company have been less than efficient. They were picking it up Monday morning early and turned up at 5pm. They were coming back to us the next day about what the problem was. We phoned on Friday and they hadn't yet looked at it but would call us by Saturday. Actually we have heard nothing since. I hope they are better at repairing TV's that their organisational skills suggest.

Lastly I have been trying to dry all of my washing by hanging in the conservatory, since the tumble dryer died. We made a conscious decision not to repair it as it uses so much power. It was fine in summer, not that we had much summer, but when it stopped being sunny and dry then things when bad. The conservatory is always full of wet clothes. As we don't have anything much by way of doors yet then the damp seems to be permeating the whole house. I asked Fahed to fixed the tumble dryer. Its lovely and I feel like I have my house back. I will do my best to wash only what needs washing and drying but otherwise the tumble dryer is back in use through the damper days of winter. Washing will still be going out of the line on sunny/windy days. My new, to me washing machine does spin the washing pretty well so hopefully the power bill doesn't go up too much.

I feel we might have managed 6/10 in frugalness?

MW, if you see this, your blog wont let me comment. The box doesn't come up at all

Friday, 2 November 2012

Friday Night



Friday night is party night. Not for us. Its 8.30 and we are tucked up in our sluggly warm bed. Delightful. The winter seems to have suddenly arrived so we are fighting the cold as best we can. We have fitted a door between the front room and the kitchen. Our house is usually completely open plan downstairs, which is how we would prefer it but needs must so now there is a door. I have picking up nice pine doors as they come up locally on ebay. In four days time there is a nice pine and etched glass one which would suit the sitting room to bottom of stairs. I might need to make a few snakes (draught excluders) for the bottoms. I am also looking out for double doors for the kitchen to conservatory (which is really another reception room and not a conservatory at all)and lastly I have some nice doors for Ahdel bedroom but need a bit more wood for that job. We will be open plan no more. We have to arrange it so that they can all be left open again in the summer though or it gets really claustrophobic.

I have a few plans for tomorrow. I am going to try to follow Froogs example and get a few meals in the freezer. Lasagne, make some lovely HM burgers (which I bulk out with porridge oats that he been through the blender - try it much better than you would think.) HM meatballs. Also pre prepare some chicken pieces and freeze them in a marinade. The family don't really like food that is frozen after it is cooked but there is plenty of prep which I can do and then freeze. No one seems to notice if the lasagne has been frozen though.

Before that some food shopping with my (20 year old) baby and collect the spare part for the dishwasher. Jamal is waiting for the results of his interview for a cadetship If he gets it then I barely see him for three years. I can't imagine him not being here & will miss him so much but he needs to go to get his career off the ground. I must learn to SKYPE.

Re-arrange the birds! (two have been in side by side cages for three weeks and can now go in together). As I don't like birds to be in small cages they take up a huge amount of room, which is why the two cockatiels will be sharing now. Once those two are in together they can all come back into the sitting room. All of the cages have been out on the conservatory but I don't like to not be able to hear them and have them hopping around the front room in the evenings. Ace got stuck behind a cupboard this week so he needs to be back in a smaller and safer room, bird brain.

Oh and I should also do a bit of cleaning. Anyone else have such an exciting weekend planned (my tongue was in my cheek then).


Thursday, 1 November 2012

Lead me not into temptation

I have been muttering to myself for ages about unwanted and unloved emails hitting my inbox everyday but I finally managed to join up my head that if I unsubscribe then I might not have to delete them daily.

All of the KGB deals, wowchers, zoo something or other, and all the others which try to sell me daily deals are gone.

I have kept KGB destinations as there are some real deals on there and part of the reason I like to be frugal is to afford a bit of travel. I have also kept Groupon as I have actually used them a few times for deals in the past such as half price gas servicing, car servicing.

One less temptation.

Almost December

How did that happen. I have been a bit wrapped up in things htis year and missed a year going swiftly by. Fahed has now had his operation....