Monday, 31 March 2014

the knock on effect

I think what I was trying to say yesterday was about unexpected benefits and the power of letting things unfold. I don't always know what will be most beneficial to me, buying the best isn't always going to be best value for money. I think we all know the best things in life are free but sometimes maybe don't see the other side of it that other stuff can be a drain.

I say this as I look at our tv unit. It was the best we could afford and now I dislike it very much indeed!

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Art Pass



I know I've gone on about it before but we were talking this morning about the benefits of having a National Art Pass. We signed up for ours last summer when Dan decided he wanted to go to Bowes Museum to see the swan. The entry fee for Bowes was £9.50 each and the annual pass was £60 for both of us. Seemed like good value at the time. We've also received discounts in some gallery shops and half price entry to exhibitions at Tate Liverpool. 

The benefit of the pass has been so much more than getting free or reduced price entrance to various exhibitions though. It has kept the idea of going to a museum or gallery in our mind wherever we go - even when the place is free entry, we're just more aware of the choice we have. It's opened up the places we travel to too. 

Before we went to Bowes we thought it would be much too far to do in one day, but it wasn't. A long day yes, but not impossible. A few weeks ago the latest magazine plopped through the door (as well as the pass you receive a book with all the various galleries and discounts and a quarterly magazine). In with the magazine there was a leaflet outlining the various upcoming talks and one jumped out at me. A talk about "Art and Optimism in 1950's Britain" at mima. I didn't even know there was a modern art gallery in Middlesborough. So we booked our place on the talk and we went yesterday.

It was brilliant. I loved the setting of the gallery, the curator was excellent, the artwork was fantastic - there were pieces from Lucien Freud, LS Lowry, Anthony Caro, Francis Bacon and others, plus a small section about the Festival of Britain. the best part for me was something I didn't know about at all. I love New Towns, having grown up in one, and hearing all about Peterlee and basic design was amazing, something new for me to explore. I'm now desperate for an open weekend so I can visit the Apollo Pavilion. Simple pleasures. 

After our visit to mima we wandered around the town, which I loved abd there was plenty to enjoy - I think Middlesborough may be the centre of street food in the north of England, I've never seen so many vans and stalls in such a small place! Then we looked at the map and decided to nip to Saltburn. I've seen pictures of Saltburn on so many blogs that my interest was aroused. It really was worth the visit, so cute, very nice hot chocolate and huuuuge sea. We would never have gone were it not for the art pass. I know this is pretty garbled, I apologise, but after doing the coast to coast trip yesterday I am worn out, and we still have to go to watch Widnes v Bradford this afternoon.   

Friday, 28 March 2014

Four Years

Four years ago yesterday three men came, packed up all our belongings and moved us across the county, from a big Edwardian terrace, to a sugarlump.

When we first bought our house in East Lancs it was ideal, the neighbours were fine, the house needed a ton of work but was great, the area was suitable and everything was grand. Sad to say I couldn't say the same about the place when we left. Our final morning at the house involved Dan, the most placid man in the world, having an argument in the street with a near naked neighbour, our removal guys offering to superglue his wiper blades to his car, another neighbour refusing to get out of bed to move their car so our van could park and thus causing a massive traffic jam up and down the main road. 

"So why are you moving?" asked one of the cheeky removal men. 

Four years ago I had only been to this town twice, I had never made a quilt, never prepared tofu, never eaten samphire, never seen a rabbit on a dune or an old man on a scooter. Never spent a day in the small towns surrounding where we used to live, never been to a book launch, for that matter never featured in a book. never realised how much of a pain it is to remove magnolia paint from every single painted surface of the entire house, never grown a strawberry.

I have still never been up Blackpool Tower. 

I should really stop calling this our new house.

Due to the success of the scarf and the bag, I wondered what else I might be able to make and wear. So I attempted a ruffle necklace, I was promised it was very easy. It was! A long thin strip of fabric, folded in half with a chain tucked into the fold. Running stitch to keep the chain in place, ruffle up to the desired rufflyness and secured. That's it. I added a couple of beads, just for the sake of it. 


Thursday, 27 March 2014

Do instead of Buy, Part Two

For the past few days, since looking at my spring and summer clothes I've been thinking about a new bag. I have a beach bag but the straps are not great so it's really uncomfortable on my shoulder as soon as there's any weight in it at all. My attention had been drawn to these Jenn Ski tote bags, I love these designs and used the Mod Century range for Dan's sofa quilt. But then I thought, "I have Jenn Ski fabric, could I make a tote bag?" Answer, yes I think so. 

I've never made a bag before believe it or not, so I have made a part practice run part I'm going to use this one bag. Again, were I the owner of a sewing machine this would have taken about an hour but I don't so it didn't. I have a ton of canvas bags but I tend to find that the straps are too long or too short for me. I chopped the straps off one of these bags and used the bag bit as a lining/pattern then stitched up some of the very large piece of zig zag fabric I bought from Abakhan and here we are.

the eagle eyed amongst you may have noticed I sewed the straps on the wrong way!


It's not quite finished on this picture, I've since used some fusible webbing to stick the straps together and I just need to do a bit of additional stitching where the handles meet the body of the bag for strength. 


It's hard to know if I like it or not. I'm not used to making plain things like this so I'm living with the uncertainty. I'm sure I'll get used to it. If I get bored I can turn it inside out and display a happy image! 


Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Focus Of My Attention

This is how my garden looks after tidying!

The focus of my attention at the minute is this very normal looking bush.

We usually have a blackbird nesting in the garden. But now we've cut the garden back, although there's still a lot of mess and space for wildlife, the tree they usually use isn't quite as full. 

Yesterday I saw the male blackbird on the fence with worms in his beak, so I watched. I had an idea where the nest was a I'd seen the female carrying bits and bobs back a little while ago. They've built a nest in a smallish bush on the other side of the garden. I am on high alert, five cats use our garden as a thoroughfare and they pass right by the bush, one was having a little sniff around this morning, so I am right there as soon as I see a cat. Luckily for me the buns dislike the cats so let me know about it as soon as one appears. 

It's a stressful time, but I do enjoy it. 

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

A Few Small Things

We've been puttering around the house this weekend and a few things that could have cost us cash have been sorted out for little or no cost.

1. As you know I made a scarf, removing an item from my wants list. 

2. I tidied the coats in the porch cupboard which lead to

3. I moved my shoes into my wardrobe and laid out all my spring summer clothes, I want/need a pair of trousers (I only have a pair of walking trousers) and some leggings as my current ones have baggy knee syndrome. I would like a bag and a coverup/cardi but I don't need them. That simple act has reduced my shopping list by about 6 items. I also located my two summer hats.

4. We planted some old packets of seeds. If they grow then great, if they don't then it doesn't matter but it got us doing a few bits in the garden.

5. We needed to replace the lino in the bunny pen. We took the spare bits we had and found one that was just a tiny bit short, the pen is 8ft x 4ft so takes up a fair bit of space in the living room. We covered the end bit with one of their rugs and it's done. We did buy two new rugs, which cost £3.29 each, so not a no spend but certainly a low spend makeover. We covered some of their sleeping shelves with car mats, we had some mats for the back of the car that we didn't need when we last replaced the front ones. They work a treat! I realise that all sounds a bit wonky-bonky.

6. Dan fixed a couple of wonky drawer handles and other things that needed to be screwed in and did a mini tidy of the garage while he was at it. 

7. Dan found some Christmas stamps to use on Mother's Day and wedding acceptance cards. We also remembered we had already bought a gift for Dan's mum. I promise it is the only time we will indulge her love of meerkats. 

Small tasks, but moving things on.




Monday, 24 March 2014

We Use A Credit Card

There you have it. Shock and gasp.

In July 2003 when we started to get our financial lives sorted I read all the old stuff, Tightwad Gazette etc and tried virtually all of the tips. We got rid of the credit cards, I had one, Dan had a few. It was fine, we paid them all off, cancelled them and life was grand. Then, we bought something and like good people we paid cash all was well. In the time it took for us to pay for it and wait in for delivery, the company went bust.

I was distraught. Were it not for the fact that the administrator was very approachable, our item was in the storeroom and one ex-employee was amazing enough to bring the item to our house and fit it, on a Bank Holiday Monday, without being paid we'd have lost the item and our £1541. It would have been a very painful case of "stupid tax" and was sheer good fortune that it worked out in our favour. 

Never again. Dan got a credit card soon afterwards and we use the card for any larger purchases that we're not taking with us there and then, so we have Section 75 protection (at the time our debit card providers were a bit sketchy about the reclaiming process so we went for the easy option). We paid cash for the car though. That was an amazing feeling, well worth the additional two years of saving after debt freedom, I thought buying a car would take ages, I'd hardly had time to finish my free caramel latte before we were driving through the dales back home. 



  

Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Tyranny Ends

We've learned a lot from my food fug and subsequent cookbook cooking experiments. Realisations for today are that a week long menu plan doesn't work, planned leftovers don't work and that we buy way too much food. 

It's all to do with barriers. When we were paying off our debts, saving up for the car, saving up to move and all that stuff (the first three of which cover the period 2003-2010) it was good to have the barriers. Having barriers meant we could rationale our thoughts. Obviously getting out of debt was for the best, paying cash for a car was for the best, overpaying on the mortgage for the old house was a good idea but the barriers protected us from feeling too glum about having no spare money. 

All those games we play with ourselves, sealed pot challenges, making something from nothing, finding free things to do, it's good to convince ourselves that they're the best thing to do because it removes anything else from the equation. If we're already doing the best thing then having a holiday or buying the plants we'd actually like rather than swapping plants with our family to get things for free, all those things would be daft. We've been in that mindset for a really long time and those thoughts really helped, they freed us up to achieve our goals rather than kept us thinking about what we'd given up to get to where we were going. 

Now though, those things aren't working and I'm looking around at how the barriers have closed me off to some things so much that they're, well, not exactly harmful but just not helpful. Being organised with a menu plan and shopping list means that occasionally I think about food sitting needing to be eaten when I should be thinking about nothing more than the fun time we're having doing whatever it is. Having booked the three nights away we're having this year and trying to cram as much into that time as possible is making me think about all the things I don't get to see because I won't leave the rabbits. I know there's always stuff going on, but it's only now I realise how I've used things as protection from the wider world. 

All this to say, I'm only going to menu plan for 4 days each week and make up the rest. When it comes down to it, I'm not all that bothered about food. If I have cereal for every meal for a day, it's fine, I won't keel over. Food is a big part of life for some people, but it's not for me yet I let it have a giant hold over me. No more! As I've mentioned before, I once lived for weeks on only rice, frozen peas, tea and popcorn, it's not a good dietary choice, but I'm still here so not having a huge variety of foods available to me all the time won't do me any harm at all. I embrace it.

Friday, 21 March 2014

New Scarf



I've mentioned a few times that I'm sorting out my clothing in an attempt to look less scruffy/relaxed and I think a lot of that, for me, is about accessories. Jewellery gets on my nerves and never lasts the day, but I do like badges, brooches, scarves and things like that. 

We have set a bit of our budget aside each month for me to build my new wardrobe (or to spend on whatever I like). This month I spent it on some Tevas, I wanted something I could walk for miles in but that weren't too clunky and that I could wear on the beach. They fit the bill well, I'm made up with them.

Back to scarves, I've seen a few I like but they were over £10 each, which is a bit much. I am keeping an eye out at the charity shop where I could get a few for a tenner, but no luck yet. Yesterday I saw someone with a beautiful mid-Century style one, absolutely gorgeous, she was a craft teacher. Then I thought "hang on, I do crafts, could I make a scarf..?" Answer, yes I could!

A sewing machine would have made this a 30 minute task but as I don't have one it took me the whole of Warrington v Wigan. I used some of the fabric I bought for my birthday from Abakhan. I finished it off with a badge I got from the Platform Gallery in 2012 and off we go. 



  I have decided to save my clothing money for the next little while and use it to buy a sewing machine. I won't use it for quilting as long as I can continue to quilt by hand, but I will use it for household things and hopefully for a few things to wear. 

Thursday, 20 March 2014

March Shopping Week Three and Menu Plan

We've done a menu plan for the next week (Thursday to Thursday) as we've been a bit all over the place this week and it's been a bit "grab and go". We're trying a few new recipes. Some are from Vegetarian Living Magazine, some are from "Anjum's Indian Vegetarian Feast", the book I talked about a while ago that came from The Book People. Finally there are a couple of junky things that we just wanted. 

Th. Mexican bean and tortilla bake extra will be frozen for Tuesday
F. lentil bol
S.  pizza
Su. soup w. falafel toasties
M. Rogan Mushrooms
T. blackened tofu w. bean bake
W. tofu tikka masala it's supposed to be paneer but we'll have tofu left over from the night before
Th. use-it-up one pot rice or quinoa with whatever's left in the fridge

It seemed like we spent a lot this week, although the pantry is looking very plump so I can't complain. 

£10.78 f&v the usual - broccoli, onions, lemons, many many mushrooms, salad etc
£ 3.55 dairy and non-dairy milks, d/f spread
£  .90 bread
£12.77 pantry spices, cereal, spaghetti, porridge, tortilla chips, passata
£ 7.14 lentils and things tofu, assorted beans
£  .52 drinks 
£  .36 junk chocolate bar

total £36.02

running total £149.50

Oooh, that's very dull, here's a nice picture of the beach




Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Doing

I always think I'm fairly lazy, or at least not rushed. Although I could certainly cram more into my day I've been having a look around myself and I've been getting a bit done recently. 

I've not been sleeping well at all for the past week so I think the extreme tiredness has kept me moving. If I sit down too much I might never get up again. My wardrobe has been cleared out, shopping list written and stuff for the charity shop has gone to the charity shop. The cabinet revamp has been slow but it is ongoing, the garden is having bits and bobs done to it, the house is alarmingly tidy, we had a couple of decent walks over the weekend and everything just seems to be ticking over. I guess it's true that doing things gets things done. Things seem harder when I sit and think about it rather than just getting on with it.

Funnily enough, after saying I didn't want to eat the orzo pasta thing, guess what we're having for tea tonight? Yep, it's the best way to stretch the ingredients we have left and prevent us from going to the supermarket for another night. The spending is slowing down and that feels good. Although Dan has added new voile for the middle window to the urgent list as a bird flew into it this morning. It's doesn't happen often but it does happen and it's never nice.

We had a bit of an odd day at the charity shop yesterday and I'm very glad to not be there today too!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The End of the Experiment

As we're approaching week three of River Cottage week it has become clear that I don't want to eat the risoniotto at this point and we don't have anything to go with the potato layer thing. We certainly will at some point, just not this week.

Having the idea of following the book has been brilliant though. The recipes we did try were all delicious and they'll be added to future menu plans and there are many others in the book we're looking forward to trying over the course of the year. I will tweak some of the ingredients a little for some added protein but other than that I have been pleasantly surprised (as I have mentioned before) at how inexpensive the dishes are to make, just normal veg and normal pantry ingredients. Cooking instructions for dried or tinned beans and all those little things that make things simple. 

The other great thing is how it's made me think about cooking and ingredients in general and also about the meals we eat that I've really missed. It seems a little bit of creative deprivation has been a very good thing. Just thinking that there were certain things we wouldn't be eating this month has made me appreciate these staples a lot more. 

Speaking of things I've missed, I haven't found the lost thing but I have found a work around. I say I have, I mean Dan did. Just for the record, the dining table is clear and my quilting bag is tidy, let's hope it's as successful as the junk drawer. 

Monday, 17 March 2014

Friend of the Junk Drawer


I received this large and very nice bag for my birthday. Well, I received a TK Maxx voucher and used it to buy this bag. I use it to hold my WIP items in a vague attempt to keep the coffee table clear.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I can't find something and thought maybe it would be in the bag. You see, it's a little bit like the junk drawer, it occasionally contains the items it should and more often contains everything else. 

I emptied the contents onto the coffee table. Well, that's how it started, it then took up a large part of the living room floor too. Nothing can spend more than about 5 seconds on the floor before rabbit investigations begin so I laid it all out on the dining table, the measurement of which is 75 x 119.5 cm. I could measure it easily and quickly as there was a tape measure in the bag, as you can see from this photograph -  




It doesn't look all that bad, other than the sheer amount of stuff, the fabrics are neatly folded now, they were not beforehand which added to the explosion in a streamer factory look. Much of it is fabric or quilting related, not the quilt I'm currently working on and in some cases not large enough to use. 

There is also a purple box full of tiny bits of wadding, unfinished felt Christmas decorations, two hearts, one of which has become a second pincushion. The holder for a book token I received for my birthday (yes, the gift givers I know are pretty unimaginative). Not one but three notebooks of different sizes, a menu plan, two cards, a out of date voucher, many receipts and scrunched up bits of paper, an empty box, a single knitting needle, metallic florists wire, lots of hay and ten writing implements. 

But what of the junk drawer, is that full again too? Let us see 



Not as empty as it was, but I do enjoy a packet of Fishermans Friends.

I still haven't found what I'm looking for. Just in case you were wondering, the rest of my house isn't like a larger version of the craft bag, the craft bag exists so the house can be tidy, if a little hay strewn. 

Slight Overreaction

I am suffering with a small amount of rage today.

Something has been put in a safe place and you can probably guess the rest. 

Also my webcam just came on and there was a person sat sitting there. As I am in the rage I said "go away" in my sternest voice and hung a sock over the camera bit.

Time for tea. 

Sunday, 16 March 2014

March Shopping Week Two

Outside the grocery budget it's been quite an expensive week. We've booked the hotel for Bournemouth and had the car serviced. That's the two biggest expenses (unless there's an emergency) of the year over and done with.

The next week was supposed to be cooking from the Indian Veggie cookbook, but as the last cook from the book has taken longer than expected we've had to rejiggle. There are still a couple of River Cottage recipes to make, then we're going to just have simple stuff over the weekend. Then to see us to next Wednesday it's going to be a case of using up everything we have in the house ready to start again.

In terms of groceries, this is what happened -
£ 3.50 f&v broccoli, tomatoes
£ 5.26 dairy and non-dairy milk, almond milk (almond milk is 3 for £3 again)
£ 6.25 bread (full freezer!)
£ 6.49 pantry chutney, tinned beans, tacos
£ 7.79 lentils and things v-pud, falafel, omega burgers
£ 1.41 junk
£ 1.90 non-food daffodils, handwash

£32.60

Running Total £113.48

We have been working up good appetites walking this weekend. Today we walked to Lytham and back, in the wind and rain on the return! Yesterday we started off visiting the "Atom" Panopticon in Wycoller Country Park. Wow, it was windy at the top of the hill! We parked up at the Trawden side (watch out for witches) so had to tramp up the hill. The Haworth side has a very nicely situated carpark.

We were then going to have a look around Skipton as it's somewhere we never visit but when we got there we didn't really fancy the look of it and remembered why we don't make the effort to visit (I know it's very popular, I'm sure it's lovely, just not for me) so we went to Settle instead and it was fab. I haven't been able to extract the photographs from the camera yet but we saw a very nice little gallery there, it was worth the small walk up a fairly steep hill...

Friday, 14 March 2014

Weekends

the ogre
There is no mention of cooking today!

This is nothing to do with anything, or it's about loving life, maybe both. I know anyone not having to work at the weekend says they love weekends but these days I really do enjoy them. In the past I've not been all that bothered, a week was just a week, the weekend was fun but it was also hectic and involved squeezing too much in to too little time. Just recently though I've really started to get a lot from them. It's not all about lazing around, I can do enough of that during the week. We don't have a lie in or anything special for breakfast and we don't always have a day out, but they're just special. 

It's all a part of our stripping things back and looking at what we want to do rather than what we think we should do. OK, sometimes we need to go off somewhere to buy socks, sometimes we "need" to watch Widnes but even things as fraught with danger as that can be fun if we structure the day well - like visiting Southport to play on the outdoor gym, or going to St Helens to have a look at Dream. Small no-cost tweaks. This may seem pretty obvious to a lot of folk but it takes time for us to slow down when we spend so much time with stress heads who are on the go all the time. It's the kind of stress you don't notice until the energy source has gone. 

Last week we had a chat that lead to a long walk that lead to have tea and a hot cross bun in a cafe we'd never been to before near the beach, which lead to planning for future free time which lead to gardening which lead to more tea. And it was all inspired by the Ogre.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

More Cooking...

Meal 4, Wednesday was peppers stuffed with beans. It's supposed to be chillies stuffed with beans but I couldn't find any large chillies, to be honest I didn't actually look and I had a reduced family pack of peppers already. 

The prep for this was marginally more faff than on previous nights and a bit of washing up was created, but when I say faff it went from zero on the other nights to mildly detectable. I also ended up with all the worksurfaces covered in water, not quite sure how that happened. Anyway. the main source of fiddling was removing the skins from the peppers. I did the grilling until charred thing but but had some difficulty getting the skins off, so I didn't bother. If life is too short to stuff a mushroom then I don't really know what to say about peeling a pepper! I know it's possible to do something with a bowl and some clingfilm, but I don't buy clingfilm so that was out of the question. 

Regardless, I soldiered on. The recipe itself was simple to follow. More onion and garlic, grate a few tomatoes into the pan add the beans, spices and fresh coriander, stuff the peppers and bung in the oven. 

The verdict - pretty, prettay, prettay good (said in Larry David voice, I'm going normcore). As suggested by Hugh in the book we had this with salad, another departure for me as I am usually a salad dodger. Just a simple mix of lettuce, red cabbage, tomatoes and carrot with a little bit of French dressing - another new thing for me, I'm being very brave! The fresh coriander really makes the filling very zingy and was the thing that made it for me. The grated tomatoes work well to coat the beans and carry the paprika and cumin flavours - using fresh tomatoes made it feel very light and had none of the acidity that sometimes comes with tinned. The flavours worked really well together, it was a good mid week meal, again made with things we'd generally have in anyway so no special ingredients required.   

I will certainly make it again and I know we'll both be very happy to see it appear on the menu plan when I do. I can picture us now eating this in the garden on a nice summer evening. I am learning from this week that neither chefs nor food critics need fear for their jobs!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

River Cottage Week Continues

It's still not over, I know, it feels like forever.

Now it's not the weekend, the sun is out and I feel happy the cooking is back on track. I cooked two things on Monday so I didn't have to prepare anything when I got home from the charity shop yesterday and I'm glad I did.

On Monday night we tried Curried Bubble and Squeak scroll down for the recipe. Very simple to make, no special ingredients required and if you're using leftover potatoes and veg then it's a one pan dish too. I used potatoes and cauliflower in mine, we have a huge cauli and it seemed sensible to use some of it here, I love cauliflower and curry. I also used green beans instead of general greens as I'd bought some for the stew so these were left over. As we were having this as the main dish I added some Quorn squares too as they were languishing in the freezer. 

Verdict - another winner! It was very tasty, simple, no fuss, full of the flavours we like and endlessly adaptable. Next time I think I will add a little bit of liquid to the pan or mash the veg more for for a more mushy texture. This time I just left everything chunky but for extra comfort food points mashed would be good. Dan loved it too, I can see this being a staple for when we fancy a bit of junk food.

On to Tuesday and the much talked about Porotos Granados here's a link to the recipe. I thought this was going to be a bit more fiddly than the other things I've made from the book, but I was wrong. Another really easy recipe. Once the onions are cooked (Hugh uses many onions in this book) it's pretty much a case of sling it all in - squash, sweetcorn, beans, stock, paprika and oregano. As I mentioned the other day I was a bit worried I'd added too much stock and it would feel a bit thin, but after a night in the fridge the consistency was ideal. 

The verdict - yum yum yum. I really wanted potatoes again last night so I just roasted a spud each in some rosemary oil and that was that. The flavours worked so well together, it was light but substantial, really tasty, warming without feeling wintery or stodgy and exactly the kind of thing to make me want seconds. I will certainly be making this again. It's a really good meal for a sunny but cool day, just like yesterday, ideal for days when we go out for a walk or have a full day gardening or doing DIY. Next time I think we'll serve it just with a bit of bread on the side, should work a treat. 

A big thank you for the comments yesterday, it was really interesting and plenty of food for thought.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Incomplete

It's going to be hard to get through this without sounding like I have a giant chip on my shoulder. I don't, I'm amused and vaguely annoyed by this in equal measure. I think probably more because of the insensitivity and the "oooh, so that's what you really think" than anything else.

Twice this morning I've had the mother v non-mother thing in my face. One was one of those text about the beauty of motherhood alongside an unrelated picture of a rainbow infographics informing me that I have never been in love until I have looked into the eyes of my child. That confused me as Morrissey told me I had never been in love until I'd seen the stars reflect in the reservoirs. That was an eye roller as it was only indirectly poking the childfree and childless. Interestingly (or not) childfree has a red squiggly line under it here, childless doesn't.

Second thing was said in a message. I had dared to use the word, hang on to your hats here, it's pretty offensive, promise. I have been told in no uncertain terms that a parent or childcare professional would never use that word. I am an uncaring monster with no capacity for kindness or caring because I do not have a child of my own nor have I chosen to care for a group of children for money. 

It's ok, I know some of you believe that my friends have a point.

I say this - do as you see fit but don't impose that as the truth onto the rest of the world. If you had never appreciated what love meant until you had your child then brilliant, it must have been the most overwhelming experience for you, but it doesn't diminishes the feelings of others and it's kind of arrogant to put it out there as a fact. It's only a fact for you. And if you think that words have power then appreciate the potential power they have regardless of the age of the audience. 

Monday, 10 March 2014

Just Like Everyone Else



As the sun is out I can see the dust so like everyone else (or so it seems) I am doing a spot of spring cleaning. The big and boring things like washing the mattress topper, cleaning on top of things, wiping ignored surfaces and maybe even behind the fridge, but probably not. We've also been doing a bit in the garden, mainly removing the thick covering of leaves that have sat around for months. I'm working on spending a little time every day in the garden, even if it's only a couple of minutes, just to get into the swing of it. 

I'm also catching up a bit on the cooking. Currently simmering away is a pan of porotos granados and some potatoes and cauli for curried bubble and squeak. The squash stew smells fine but it looks nothing like the picture so we shall see. That's on the menu for tomorrow, the recipe states it benefits from sitting in the fridge for a day before eating so it should be ideal for when I get home from the charity shop. the bubble and squeak is for tonight. It feels like a long time since we had curry so I'm really looking forward to it.

That's it!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

River Cottage Everyday, Day Five

Quick update. Day five of cooking from River Cottage Veg Everyday and I've made... pearl barley broth. That's it! I made that on Wednesday we had it again on Thursday and I have cooked nothing since. So it's not going very well. It's a good lesson though as I now know that no matter how amazing the food sounds, I just don't want to think about cooking at the weekend. 

I went to the market on Thursday and bought a veg black pudding from the black pudding stall. On Thursday night we had some of that to top the broth, on Friday I cooked the rest with some onions and mushrooms and we had it as a gigantic sandwich. It was delicious. This weekend has been far to enjoyable to be in the house cooking so I haven't. Yesterday we ended up in Grange over Sands and we didn't have anything to eat when we came home. Today we had another walk, this time we didn't get any further than Cleveleys but we had a good wander. Then it was time for Blackburn v Burnley and a spot of gardening. As Burnley came out on top for the first time in 35 years Dan was far too busy being happy to think about something as functional as sesame cauliflower. Tonight we're having chilli from the freezer. I'll be back on with the cookbook tomorrow, it might turn into a ten day experiment rather than a week, never to worry.

What I now know is that before the weekend begins I need to either have all the ingredients prepared and ready to go, have a quick and easy something or other ready and waiting or have something in the freeze for a no fuss ready meal. I thought I wanted to like cooking but I don't so I'm not going to stress about it any more.    

Thursday, 6 March 2014

River Cottage Week, Pearl Barley Broth

No photos, I don't photograph food, imagine a bowl of soup, that's what it looked like. 

The worst thing about making this was that it was the first time I'd chopped anything since hurting my hand, so my hand was aching by the time I'd chopped the onions, celery, carrot and parsnip! We started the week with this as I knew this would be the meal to drop off if my enthusiasm diminished, after all the name isn't all that exciting, it sounds a bit austere. 

It was simple to make, the main work was all the chopping and the not getting stuff all over the book. It didn't generate much washing up which is also a good thing. Other than mace which I'd never used before all the ingredients were things we'd generally have in the pantry so no one use ingredients were needed. 

Taste-wise it really was delicious. The broth is flavoured with cayenne, thyme, mace, nutmeg and coriander so there are some really nice warming flavours in there. The texture was good too, the pearl barley adds a nice texture which keeps things interesting. We had some bread hanging around so I made some croutons, they added an extra layer of yum. I followed the recipe exactly which means there was more than enough for one meal for two of us. We'll be eating it again tonight, which is good as we're going to watch Widnes. 

Would I make this again? Yes, with tweaks. My main concern about the recipes in this book is that they feel a little protein light and I was worried I'd feel hungry later in the evening. With this I did feel hungry and by this morning I was desperate for my breakfast. Next time I'll use half the barley and top up with quinoa and some butterbeans or something like that, Dan said a bit of cheese on toast on the side would be good too. All in all a really tasty, inexpensive and warming meal. A winner!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

March Shopping Week One

I've done a lot of ordering this week. Today the order from Seasoned Pioneers should arrive with all the spices for following the Indian cookbook next week. Last night we went shopping for this week. We arrived at the right time as plenty of stuff on the shopping list was reduced, not to rock bottom prices but cheaper and as it was all on the shopping list it was a bonus. 

£12.50 f&v onions, broccoli, beans, squash, peppers, salad stuff, apples
£ 7.28 dairy and non-dairy cheese, butter, milk - apparently dairy is the order of the day.
£ 3.33 bread
£10.06 pantry barley, sesame seeds, curry paste, salad dressing, orzo, veg sausages, beans 
£29.83 herbs and spices 
£ 9.37 drinks tea, coffee beans, wine for cooking
£ 3.87 non-food kitchen roll, 2 x books from library book sale
£ 4.64 junk chocolate, nuts, cake

total £80.88

We only caught the tail end of the book sale at the library as we'd been to Preston as I mentioned but we had a look at what was left, everything was being sold off for 20p so I picked up a low salt cookbook, I've tabbed about a dozen recipes so I think I'll get good value from it. I treated Dan to a book too so we were both happy. 

About our London trip, we're going to be staying in/around Greenwich, if anyone knows any hidden delights over that way I'd love to hear about them. The following day (being "tired and emotional" permitting) we'll have about 6 hours before our train so we're looking for something fun to do. Top of the list currently is going to Tate Modern for the Matisse exhibition (half price with our Art Pass) but we're open to offers, we wouldn't want to wander past something and kick ourselves later - although I know there will be plenty of things going on that we won't be able to get to. 

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

One Week On

More mundane fun. 

I couldn't feel more different to the way I felt this time last week! It's Tuesday which is charity shop day and that's fine. I haven't really thought about it since last week and that's the way I like it, it's just a thing to do for a few hours. 

I had some money to spend on myself this month. I had some last month too but I spent that on a salad spinner and a bin. This month I spent it on a pen, a notebook, a make up bag, an embroidery book (someone wanted to borrow the one I had from the library so I had to return it) and some trainers. It felt very strange to spend £60 on things just for me, rather than on things I like but are for us both or for the house. But I have and that's that. 

The pen and notebook are for me to write things down as I go through the workbook section of "The Desire Map", the embroidery book is for the sampler I started last month, the make up bag is for when we go to London in May and the trainers are for all the walking we're going to do over the summer. I have walking shoes but they're a bit clunky and ugly for wandering around the beach and stuff, they're ideal for winter, my new ones are lighter and nicer to look at. They were in the sale, so not too bad. 

I mention the sale because it was a bonus, I'm not justifying any of the purchases. It's one of the things I notice I do a lot, buy or do something I want or need then spend a ton of time explaining (mainly to myself) why it happened. So I'm not doing that from now on. I know if I want/need/can afford something and no-one else really cares so why waste the energy when it doesn't change the outcome? 

There's been a slight tweak to River Cottage week, we're not having the pie, we're making mushroom risoniotto using the orzo pasta instead. I'd forgotten we're going to watch Widnes on Thursday night so I needed something simple. 


Monday, 3 March 2014

River Cottage Veg Everyday, Everyday

For the week of March 5th - 11th we're preparing things from the River Cottage Veg book. We've waited until then for reasons such as money, shopping, being in to eat "proper" meals and so on. 

We chosen - 

chillies stuffed with beans
courgette and rice filo pie
three root boulangere
porotos granados (aka squash and bean stew)
pearl barley broth
oven roasted ratatouille
and curried bubble and squeak

We've chosen these as they seem pretty simple, we already have some of the ingredients in and the additional ingredients will all be used up, so we're not buying any single use spices. 

There will be a couple of tweaks. Dan chose the pie but I didn't realise it had cheese in. Ages ago we had a rice filled pie at FILs and I've been thinking about it ever since so we are going for it but the filling will be ever so slightly tweaked. Probably cheating but who cares? When we were in Preston the other day I picked up some orzo, I thought it would be super duper expensive but it was 95p so not too bad, we'll get a few meals from it. 

The stuffed chillies will probably be stuffed peppers, just because I don't know if we'll be able to get stuffable chillies, but the filling is the most important bit I think. I don't really like aubergines but I'm going to give the ratatouille a go, if I follow the instructions then it might be alright. I'll have to serve something with the root veg thing, don't know what though, maybe just a veggie sausage or something. I think we're going to have the bubble and squeak at the end of the week so we'll just have any left over bits and bobs with that, veg, houmous or whatever. Now I think about it, we haven't planned a very rounded week but I don't think we'll keel over. 

I didn't plan for the first few days of the month, this is how it's going - bean burger with wedges, tacos, jambalaya, roast veg with pasta. Exciting. 

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Silliness Stops Play



On Thursday evening I knocked my wrist on the top of the airing cupboard door, now I can't do much. No quilting, no furniture scraping, no chopping and very slow typing. What didn't help was all the clapping and arm waving on Friday night when Widnes defeated Huddersfield 22-20, another great performance by Joe Mellor. Just for the record, we play Salford Red Devils on Thursday, who plays for them now? That's right, my ex-bad boyfriend Gareth Hock. 

So instead of spending yesterday tidying the garden and sorting out the cabinet we went to the art gallery in Preston. Preston really frustrates me as a city, there are so many great buildings, not just the amazing bus station, but no-one seems to make a big deal out of it, all the nice bits are obscured by some of the most hideous, uninspiring shopping arcades I've ever had the misfortune to see in all my days. I feel cross whenever we go. But go we did, to see a fantastic exhibition which is one of the Artist Rooms  exhibitions appearing all over the place. The exhibition in Preston is Bruce Nauman. I loved it, I was in the minority though I think! It was the perfect time for me to see it as a lot of the work was about communication and miscommunication, something I've been dealing with recently, as you know from my charity shop stuff. I think I was just really in tune with what was going on so I got a lot from it. 

When we got home the latest magazine from the Art Fund had arrived so I was even more fired up for things to see, most free (if far away) and some discounted due to the art pass. We've booked to attend a guided tour of an exhibition "Art and Optimism in 1950s Britain" at MIMA. I didn't even know Middlesbrough had a modern art gallery so to see that they do and they're holding this exhibition was very exciting. I was nearly blown into the river and we saw a car explode the last time we went over there so who knows what could happen this time?

Which reminds me, we wrote a list the other night of the many and varied jobs to do around the house, it included the list of things we'd like to replace when the time arises. Most of that stuff is in the living room. Neither of us like our tv unit but obviously something like that is so low down the priority list it's barely worth using the ink to write it. Then I had a brainwave, the kitchenette. A bit of measuring and chin scratching, I think it could work. I'll have to cut a hole in the back for the wires but in terms of size, shape and style it should be ideal. Watch this space, but not for a while.