Thursday, 28 September 2017

Freebie And Bargain Of The Week

Sainsbury's tempted us back this week with some smashing vouchers £4.50 off £30. We wanted to buy a few nice things for the weekend and we knew hemp drink was on special, we had been hoping to get Oatly Barista for £1 but it's always sold out and at that price I'm not surprised. 

Without thinking, Dan turned left out of the supermarket and on to the prom just as the lights came on, they're free to visit but at each end are collection stations, and I just can't go through without giving some money as I know they're strapped for cash and I'm a sucker. I don't know why, maybe it was the music combined with the mist coming in off the sea, or just having some nice time with Dan after a stressful day (I love going to the supermarket) but I was actually charmed by the illuminations this time round so I handed all my change to the man in the booth. 

Anyway, the purpose of this delightful tale is that I was handed a leaflet. full of advertising for the various attractions in the town, and along with all that was a free weekday evening parking voucher. Assuming the ceiling of the Empress Ballroom is repaired in time we're going to see Placebo in a couple of weeks - bargain, free parking! Should the problem remain unfixed then we'll get a refund, so good either way. 

On Tuesday I was sorting out my emails and spotted a Holland & Barrett voucher in my junk mail, the expiry date was the end of the month and was worth £2.25. Everything is still buy one get one half price so I bought 4 cartons of the soya drink I prefer so I got  4 litres for £2.51, at full price it's £1.59 a carton.

Finally, I mentioned that I had to get changed at the shop this week. I decided to keep the dress as it was very comfortable and although it's not my usual shape or colour, it will be ideal for wearing at the shop or lounging around at home. I paid my 99p and it's ready to go. 


I also rescued a couple of items from the mending bag so I can wear them when we go out at the weekend, a button returned to a top and, thanks to the huge array of beautifully organised threads passed on to me I repaired my crimplene skirt.


That's me for a week or so now, as we're having a break. Not going away on holiday but we will be out and about. I do have yet another window post so might pop up with that at some point. See you soon!





Wednesday, 27 September 2017

In The Window - The Whinge

If you don't like people complaining about things of absolutely no importance then this is not the post for you. 

Three of the many things I find unpleasant about the world are - 

The phrase wine o'clock

Trite phrases on "decorative" signs

Charity shops filled with brand new, bought in goods

I actively avoid charity shops with bought in goods, so imagine my dismay when I turned up for my shift yesterday to discover we now have to flog a ton of the stuff. For me, and I think a lot of other people, one of the best things about charity shops is the recycling element and the fact that we're turning turning junk into money*. Now apparently we are buying junk to turn into slightly less money and in turn generating more stuff that will back in the shop for us to sell for even less in a couple of months.

The other thing (I promise I'm not going to go on about it) is that the bought in stock is stuff we already sell! Cushions, mugs, decorative items. WHY? What is the point of that? If we must sell this junk why not sell things that aren't items people generally donate? It's absolutely ridiculous and makes no sense to me in the slightest.  

Anyway, I was tasked with making this tat look appealing in the side window, I had as much fun as it was possible to have when I didn't like anything I had to use and wasn't allowed to take anything from the packet. I did break one thing though, I consider that my protest. Can you tell I'm not impressed?

tiny things look terrible in a window!
my future self is already cursing me, I'll have to separate the buttons from the confetti at some point!
 
I'd lost all hope by the time I got to the bottom shelf

Good taste - I'm so sorry, please forgive me
At least there was some orange, I was the only one who wanted tea towels and washing up brushes in the window
Oh and the main window was pretty much empty when I turned up, almost everything had sold but nothing had been replaced, it was left for me! Cheers everyone! Anyway, enough whinging, just enough time to share the secret that I was so hot after about an hour I had to nick a dress off the 99p rail to wear for the rest of the day. I did not know I could be so stinky! More of the same today, thank goodness I'm on holiday next week.

*I know the purposes are to raise awareness of the charity and maybe make some money

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Getting Ready For Guests

In the spirit of not being distracted by other things when getting the house ready for our visitors, this is what the kitchen looked like at one point yesterday


I attacked the pantry. 

But it was a thorough examination, I didn't just clean everything and put it back (to be honest, I didn't even clean everything) but I did get rid of some things. Capers, an enormous tin of water chestnuts and a couple of other things I'm never going to use have gone to work with Dan, someone will take them. I used up a couple of near empty packets of things, and I threw some things away.


Coffee grinder, Dan bought a better one recently and I planned to keep this one to grind spices. The thing is, I don't tend to grind spices, and when I do it's only in small amounts so I use the pestle and mortar, so it's off to the charity shop.


A yellow trolley


A green trolley! These are two of the first things I bought from the charity shop, I love them but the thing is, they're not very useful! So with a hardened heart they left the house. 


A big stack of jars. This is another task I'd been putting off. We bought these jars to stage our old house when it was on the market to make the place look a bit more fancy (it worked). Some of them were cracked, some had lost their clips and the clips weren't great quality (looking at you Ikea) and some I just wouldn't use. the usable ones are on their way to the charity shop. 


More space up on the top shelf, now the flasks have a proper home. 


Space at the bottom for the steam cleaner and iron without taking any space away from food storage. Another thing I noticed when putting everything back was how few herbs and spices I use these days, I'm happy with that, I don't mind using the same things - cumin coriander, sage, chilli, paprika, I'd rather have that than lots of things I hardly use hanging around. 

Maybe to the untrained eye it looks exactly the same in there, but to me there's room to breathe, which is what I need right now. Yes, I do use my laundry basket to store crisps. 

Monday, 25 September 2017

Another Cup Of Tea

As I've probably mentioned before, Dan's friend and his wife are coming to stay at the weekend, so I have a ton of stuff to do. Naturally having lots of stuff to do has meant it became very important for me to try to find something (that I've obviously thrown away) which meant pulling boxes of things from the garage. Can I get the things back into the box so it will shut? Of course not.

We were busy all weekend so I didn't get to do anything and I'm sure you know how it is, everything happens at once and so focus has flown out of the window. My plan is to have nothing but the regular basic housework - litter trays, floors, bathroom to do on Thursday and Friday so today is really the main day for getting thing done, and not being distracted by craft projects, rearranging my wardrobe, charity shopping and sorting out the sideboard (which has fallen foul of the wrapping paper curse).

I have outsourced a few things, I was going to make a birthday cake for Jay but instead asked Dan to message a local baker who makes a nice lemon drizzle cake. While he was at it he ordered a few of his delicious falafel rolls (like a sausage roll but made with falafel) and some curried vegetable pasties for an easy Saturday lunch. Dan just has to collect them on the way home from work on Friday. He's also booked a table at a restaurant for Saturday evening, so even less cooking for me. What a relief. 

So far this morning I've made up the spare bed and done a load of laundry, now it's time for another cup of tea! 

Sunday, 24 September 2017

How Not Menu Planning Helps Me

For years and years I created a menu plan every month. It started in 2003 when we started to pay off our debts and had a £90 grocery and household budget each month. At this time we'd also taken our car off the road to save more money, and with a steep hill on the way home, we had to be careful. We did try online shopping a couple of times but we had some poor quality vegetables and rubbish substitutions, not to mention no yellow stickers, so it was a no go for us. 

Even when our budget wasn't tight I continued to plan for various reasons, the main one being that I didn't want to get cooking block and find myself standing in the pantry just before teatime with not a clue what to make. The times change though and over the past few months I've moved away from it, and I feel it has been beneficial. Without a plan I prevent cook block by having at least part of a meal ready to go, cook double for the following day, or at the very least I have a couple of ingredients I know I want to use so that's my starting point. When it comes down to it that's all I need to get going.

We've never been huge food wasters as planning means buying only what is needed anyway but not planning hasn't increased waste at all, in fact I tend to under buy these days as I'm conscious of waste. In fact I tend to only really think about evening meals for five days of the week as there will always be leftovers from at least one dish, and there's always enough for a pantry meal or twelve so I don't need to cram the fridge full of fresh food. It adds more creativity to cooking too as I can just have a quick look on my phone for a couple of ideas after looking at the ingredients I have. 

This doesn't mean there will never be another plan, I know there will be one around Winter Festival as we're out and about so much that I'll need to keep control of the budget and the fridge so no money or effort is wasted, but for a normal week, I'm happy to relax a little bit, not that I have become a fan of cooking you understand! 

Friday, 22 September 2017

Just Food

Here are a few things we ate this week, it's been a week of repeats, eating most things twice.



Obligatory stirfry, this was veg (carrot, red pepper, mushrooms, peas and broccoli) in teriyaki sauce with brown rice and topped with a Fry's schnitzel. I didn't know what to expect from the schnitzel as I'd only had it made with celeriac before, but I enjoyed it. We had a full one each but I think next time I'd do one between us, when we have processed food I like it to stretch as far as possible. We had the veg and rice again, but just topped it with cashews.



All week I've been eating a simple lentil soup for lunch. I tend to like really thick soup, this was not, so after blending I added some quinoa to soak up a bit more liquid. This was just made with a red onion, a couple of carrots, red lentils, stock, quinoa, sage and chilli flakes.



On Wednesday we had this rather harshly lit roast with a pile of mash and an Artisan Grains nut roast. Same again on Thursday only with a small amount of bubble and squeak made from some left over mash. Fret not, there was gravy, but you'd see nothing else if I showed an after shot. 


Dan hasn't made bread recently so it seems that our lives have been all about going to buy bread, I ended up at the corner shop after I'd had my hair cut, but couldn't find anything for my breakfast (I have smoothie bowls or oats as second breakfast when I can face it) so I decided to just buy some sugar and make scones. When I got home I realised there were no sultanas left, we did, however have some plums in the fridge so I made a scone round using this recipe. I was a bit skeptical as I didn't have all the ingredients so I added extra plums, this is how it turned out



Not a thing of great beauty. The flavour is very nice, although stodgy, probably because I didn't follow the recipe properly, and it was a bit on the thick side when I put it in the oven. I think it's clear why Dan makes the bread. 

Thursday, 21 September 2017

In The Window

At the shop I've got into the routine of doing one window each week, only in my mind, I haven't mentioned it to anyone! When I arrived on Tuesday the manager pointed out that the window was a bit bare as he'd sold some items. I told hi, it was my plan to redo it and he was heartily relieved - I literally got a pat on the back!

This window certainly hit the right notes with the people of the town, by the time I took the photographs I'd already sold a few things and by the end of my shift on Wednesday I'd sold even more. 

Without further ado


As you can see, it's quite a narrow space, I always think I'm going to knock out a pane of glass!






You may have noticed to the left of one of the pictures we now have a donation bin, I can confirm that people are not paying any attention to the "no rubbish" request printed on the side. Apparently it's going to be opened next week, I think the manager might be on his own going through that, I hope he has some very heavy duty gloves. 

Monday, 18 September 2017

Bump & Grind

When I got up this morning I felt disgusting, as though I had climbed out of the belly of some recently killed beast and was having to find my way to the kettle. 
Then Dan squinted at my face and said "have you got some kind of spot?". I never get spots, so something was clearly amiss (no, I wasn't hungover) and I had to take action. 

I love the Lush Ocean Salt body scrub but I haven't had any for a while as it's a little bit expensive, although I love it so much I do believe it to be value for money. So I made my own scrub in an attempt to remove some of the bumps and other unpleasant things that coated my skin. I used some salt, lime zest and a small amount of almond oil I found in the bathroom cabinet. 


Professional skin care producers need not worry about me taking over their empire just yet. Still, it smelled amazing and was suitably scrubby on my arms and legs. I even found some body lotion to slap on afterwards so if very much felt like I was as pampered as I can cope with, in fact I'm a bit shiny. 

I don't know if there's a coconut, apple, mint and lime based mocktail out there, but if there is, I smell like it.

Then I faced my wardrobe, which is always a bit of a mess, despite there not being all that much in there. The main problem are things like the bag I use twice a year when I have to go somewhere nice, belts, scarves, gloves and all that stuff. Then it dawned on me that two drawers of my chest of drawers were empty - and here I am drowning in mess like a fool. 



I swear, I am this close to being a genius.  

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Throwing Good Money After Bad

The problem with abandoning Em's quilt is that we then had to find a suitable gift to send. Not easy with a budget of around about zero pounds. So I decided to just finish the quilt, despite that one piece of fabric - right next to the binding that insisted on fraying. I took Catriona's excellent advice and tied the layers together and called it a job not-all-that-well-done-but-done-nonetheless. 

Flowers and other pretty things on the front 


Cats on the back. 


Out in the soggy garden



And that's me and quilting over and done with for a good long while. It's for the best anyway, we each have a sofa quilt and there are coverings for both of the spare beds. I don't want the house to look I've quilted everything in sight so a change of hobby will do me, and my surroundings, the world of good!

Friday, 15 September 2017

I Am Done

Em's quilt will not be finished, nor will any of the other quilts I have on the go. 

I don't enjoy making quilts. 

I love the patchwork side of it, cutting and piecing the fabrics, but the actual construction of the quilt I do not enjoy at all. My reason for making the first one was just that I'm not a finisher, I have loads of ideas, enjoy the prospect of so many things but I never see them through to the end. So I thought a quilt would be a great project. And it was, that first quilt, which is still my favourite was great, I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed learning how to do everything, choosing fabrics and taking time over putting everything together. 

As time has gone on I haven't taken as much care, I've just wanted to make the blocks, then finish, the attention to detail has gone, so there's no point. When I found myself this morning, sitting on the dining room floor close to tears making the gift for Em I just said enough is enough. I was even slightly cross with Dan for suggesting we send it as a birthday gift and even more cross with myself for agreeing. 

I haven't decided what to do with all the fabric and equipment, but I don't need to act just yet.  I think I need to deal with how I feel about the wasted time, effort, money and emotion I've put into these projects I'll never finish, but at least I'm not going to waste any more just for the sake of finishing.

No Freebies No Bargains

I wish I could say it's because we spent no money, but we spent lots, mainly on gifts. One of the bathroom quotes came through, it was about what we expected, no nasty surprises. 

I took in a parcel for my neighbour (the newish one), it was one of those recipe boxes. We had a chat when she came to pick it up, it was her first trial, £15 for two weeks, which is six meals apparently. Turns out they're a vegetarian household so she said she'd let me know how it goes. It would be interesting as a one off so maybe we'll give it a try too. 

But until then here's a few things I made this week. 

We had a fry up brunch on Saturday 


We used up some more of the curry paste I wasn't fond of and made a double portion of chickpea curry, also using the rest of the squash I bought from the market. With some extra spices the paste is fine. We had the rest on Thursday with some left over roast potatoes cooked in some spices.  


Two sausages, leftover from the fry up, turned into a very tasty sausage casserole. 


It should be a simple weekend this time round, nothing planned other than returning some books to the library, I need to start a spring clean as we're having guests at the end of the month (I hate working up to a deadine), I want to get those cubes painted and hopefully there will be a bit of time in the garden and finish this peasky quilt. Oh, and maybe fit in a bar of chocolate. 

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Disorganised

I am never busy. I just don't really have that much that I need to do on a certain day or to a deadline. Turns out that's exactly what I have this week. 

We went to see the comedian Stewart Lee last night and something he said forced Dan to have a realisation. Our friend Em (she of the record player and huge amounts of chocolate) is nearly 40, and by nearly I mean in 8 days. I'd been making a quilt for her but Dan suggested it might be nice to send it as a special birthday gift along with some other things. That doesn't sound too bad, but she lives in Germany, so less time for sewing. So this morning I have had the sewing machine out. It didn't start off well.


First block I started, sewn back to front. I also forgot how to refill the bobbin - mind totally blank, YouTube to the rescue! But I made progress in the end.


This is not the first time this has happened with this particular friend, there was the mammoth sewing session just before the winter festival last year too. I think I might have to take over birthday remembering duties! 

Du to a couple of other things the house has been very neglected this week and it is a total tip. Not just a couple of things out of place, a total disgrace - laundry spilling out of the basket, dishes not put away, fabric everywhere, hay strewn about the place. And I remembered to bring the display cubes home from the shop, so they're in the way too. Not one of my better ideas for this week. 

We also want to have a quiet weekend so I'm dashing round town this afternoon to pick up the other bits of Em's gift, plus a gift for my niece and something else that I can't remember at the moment. I know I could do it online, but we have so many independent shops in the town these days that it seems rude to not use them. Plus it will get me away from the sewing machine for a while. 

I also bought Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin (£1.99 on Kindle), judging by how thrown out I am this week it's in good time, my habits certainly need a makeover.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Through Another Window

No window posts for ages then two come along at once. 

I got round to doing something with the much neglected side window yesterday. It's a very tight space and the rest of the shop isn't visible from there so it's hard to get the time to make it look nice as I tend to work on my own. 


I like it to look a little different to the main window, but not too different that they clash, so I added a couple of splashes of red. 


I used a scarf as a belt for one of the dresses.


A couple of bits of bric a brac, the red pigs didn't stay there for long!

We have two sets of these display cubes, as long as it's not too wet or windy I'll be bringing one set home today as they weren't painted particularly well and they're already looking shabby so they'll be getting a layer of Dutch White paint to smarten them up a bit. 

Monday, 11 September 2017

Freezing

When the fridge freezer started smoking we had a bit of decision to make in terms of a replacement. 


We have always disliked the fact that it had to live in the dining area, rather than the kitchen proper, so when we had the push to replace it what would we do? There was still no space in the kitchen for a fridge freezer and we were reluctant to buy another and have to put it in the same place. So we made the decision to just buy a fridge with a small ice box and do without the freezer. 

I did use the freezer a lot, but when we emptied it ready to be taken away I had to face up to the fact it was a little bit of a dumping area. If we hadn't eaten something I'd shove it in the freezer, a recipe that didn't quite work, stick it in the freezer, buy in bulk, stick it in the freezer. Which is fine, it meant there was always something to eat, but most of the time it wasn't something we really wanted. If we wanted it it wouldn't have ended up there.

Although a few things went into the bin, I did rescue some dough and turned them into something, usually Dan's job, but I don't think I did too badly. 



Half a dozen pitta



and two smoked garlic bread. 


The new fridge has plenty of room for our needs, along with the roasted squash on the bottom shelf are two tubs of soup and tucked behind is a tub of lentil bol. Above there's half a tin of tomatoes and some other essentials which leaves the salad drawer for all our other veg. The ice box is just visible, we have plenty of space left even with some ice packs, ice cubes, peas and a packet of sausages already inside. You can see the space where the new fridge lives here.

The dining area seemed a little empty afterwards so we borrowed the shelving unit from the living area and popped it in that space instead. 



As the old song goes - such a little thing makes such a big difference. 

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Freebie And Bargain of the Week

All food this week, my parents came to visit on Sunday and brought us some plums from one of their trees - absolutely delicious, they didn't last long. Sadly it rained all day but we went out to the kite festival anyway, it was good fun. Such a difference to Saturday when it was so amazingly busy, hardly a parking space to be had. We only drove by as we'd been food shopping in Lancaster but I'd never seen it so busy. 


We had a bit of a spendy shop at Single Step as we wanted to stock up with tahini, yeast extract and a few other things, but we picked up some good stuff from the market. The broccoli, onions, carrots, baby potatoes, and  a bag of three orange peppers were 50p each. The baking potatoes were £1 as was the massive box of flat mushrooms, a couple were a bit beyond but the rest went down well. 

My parents also brought over some peppers and tomatoes from their greenhouse so I roasted them with some of the onions and mushrooms on Sunday for tea, we had them with an Indian spiced patty my mum donated to our BBQ which became a "grill-a-que" and some salads we picked up on the way home from the kite festival. 

Here's a few things we ate this week 


On Monday we had some leftover tomato flavoured lentils, roast veg and orzo salad stuffed into the bargain peppers with some pitta on the side. 



Tuesday and Wednesday we had mushroom and lentil stew with the baby potatoes and broccoli. 



On Thursday I made a messy bowl of noodles with veg cooked in the cheap korma paste I bought last week for 20p. Neither of us liked the korma at all it just tasted like ginger with not much else. I don't think it helped that I accidentally bought reduced fat coconut milk so there was no body to the sauce at all. I'll use the rest of the paste as a base for the soup we take to the football and add some extra spices as I go along. 

Friday, 8 September 2017

In The Window

I haven't shared a charity shop window display for a little bit, so here's the one for this week. As ever, there's plenty of glare but you get the idea.

I did an extra shift yesterday as the back room was in such a state I said I'd help give it a tidy up. I focused on the shelves where all the window props live and found some very exciting things I'd never seen before that I can use for the winter festival window. Plenty of things went into the bin - we sell and recycle what we can but some things just have to go! I can imagine it'll be just as bad again when I start my shift next week, but for one afternoon it looked better. 

I was the best shift I'd done in the shop, when I started all I wanted to do was to work in the back, processing stock but was told I couldn't do that, so I ended up stuck behind the till. I very much dislike working in the shop but there you go. I've told both managers how I feel about the matter but there's no-one to replace me in the front so I think my fun shifts will be few and far between.

Never to worry. Here's the window.