Thursday, 31 December 2015

Hope is smiling

Isn't it odd how the change of that one special digit at the end of the date makes us reflect?  I enjoy the reflection.  It's been a good year.  I've enjoyed it.  There have been ups and downs, darkness and light, but my overwhelming emotion has been contentment.  Maybe that's the upside of the gift of years.

I haven't managed to lose as much weight in 2015 as I did in 2014 (ten pounds as opposed to fourteen) but I weigh twenty four pounds less than I did on 31st December 2013 and I feel quietly proud of that.  My pattern of Sabbaths continues and I have maintained both my blogs.  These three habits I established in 2014 are now part of my lifestyle.

I decided to end the year with less messy places than I started with and I have achieved that modest aim.  I still haven't got a tidy house, most people would be horrified by the state of my bungalow but it's my bungalow and I live in it with great joy.  I shall carry on with this programme of gradual simplification and doubtless it will only be complete when I am myself packed into a box.

I am blessed with kind people all around me, my nephew and his wife who have invited me to go to Belgium to visit in 2016, my lovely cousins who help me as do my friends and neighbours, and Jack who comes and sorts me out every so often (see my other blog to read about Jack).

I searched for a quote for New Year and found this one from my fellow yellow belly, Alfred, Lord Tennyson "Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, 'It will be happier'"

The problem is I can't imagine how I could be any happier.

May you have a happy and blessed 2016.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

A premature birth and a very good party


The final door has been opened in my Advent calendar today and out popped a baby.  I think a lot of mothers would think that is a good way for children to arrive in this world.  This baby is a little premature as his birthday is scheduled tomorrow but this was the last door in my set


 I also checked on those travellers who are still camped out by the sherry.  They appear to be having a good party as one camel and one traveller have fallen over.  Hope they've left enough sherry for Santa.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Interlopers

As predicted Joe has now brought his missus to the stable and they have set up camp in the far corner.  The animals aren't too bothered.

As a small aside when I was driving to see a cousin today I passed a bovine which had gone awol from the field and was enjoying some succulent grass by the wayside.  It was no more interested in passing cars than the creatures above are interested in the interlopers in their stable.  There is no way anything momentous could happen there.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Checking out the premises

Someone has appeared on the other side of the stable.  Could it be Joseph, looking for somewhere for his wife to sleep?  Nobody seems very interested.  Even the angels are just carrying on with rehearsals.

Meanwhile it would appear that the magi and camels have decided that, having lost the campfire, they'll resort to sherry to keep warm.

Monday, 21 December 2015

The laziest shepherds in Bethlehem


That fire is so inviting that a third shepherd has come to enjoy it and the animals too are gathering around.  You'd think that angel with a loud trumpet would be enough to ruin anyone's rest but they seem content to sit around the fire.  Three shepherds seem excessive for four sheep, one goat, one donkey and one cow.  

Sunday, 20 December 2015

The donkey gets warm.


The focus of the action (if it can be called action) has moved back to the stable and a second shepherd has now appeared.  They've got a camp fire of vast proportions and are more interested in keeping warm than in keeping sheep.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

On the move at last


I think that third man may have been the wisest of the three because he's made the camels move.  They must have left in a rush as they have left some evidence as to how they were persuaded.  


A sneaky look across at the stable shows that there is, at last, a shepherd to keep an eye on those sheep and other animals.  He's got a nice fire to keep him warm.   In fact maybe he's a bit sleepy as he doesn't seem to have noticed the angels on the roof.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Incentives for shifting


The camels have still not moved.  A third "wise man" has appeared and it would appear that he means business.  He's got rid of that nice fire that they were sitting around so maybe by tomorrow they'll have started on that journey.  

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Reinforcement!

A second wise man has arrived to back up the first but they still don't seem to be able to get the animals to shift!  

I've often heard it said that if it had been three wise women they would have asked directions,  arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and brought practical gifts.

I wonder if it would have occurred to them to fetch a few carrots from the fridge to spur those pesky camels into action

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Meanwhile, away from the stable

I was wrong about it being a shepherd next!

Away from the main scene of the action four camels and a donkey have been warming themselves by the fire.  A wise man with a parcel has just arrived to tell them to get their acts together and prepare to move.  Very little enthusiasm is being shown.




Tuesday, 15 December 2015

An expanding company





A second angel has taken up residence over the stable. I think we could do with a shepherd for those sheep but I am resisting peeping in the next cupboard to see what's going to happen next.  

Monday, 14 December 2015

The company of angels

Today an angel has arrived at my stable and taken up residence on the roof.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Back at last


Well, December didn't go to plan blog-wise.  I'd hoped to do (almost) daily posts but the pooter decided to play up and had to go the pooter doctor.  It's been back a few days but I lost the rhythm and it's time I got it back.  My Advent stable has been revealing its secrets day by day so here's an update.  

Four sheep, one goats, two cows are now around the stable.  And en route there are three camels and a donkey warming themselves near the fire.

And there's one sign that something unusual may be about to happen in that stable.  A star has appeared and attached itself to the front.


Sunday, 6 December 2015

Sorry

My apologies for the lack of posts.  I had a post written for "Trundling through life" which I have managed to publish but my usual pooter has quite a nasty problem so I am using a rather unsatisfactory old machine and won't be writing new posts until I get my usual laptop back.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Oooh! Lovely!

Sometimes December can feel like a time when if I stop pedalling the world will stop turning!  That was especially true in my younger days but even now I'm not sure what will happen if I get off that bike.

Flowers from Amy
And sometimes one gets a joyful reminder that other people are pedaling, others are also thinking and planning.  Such a reminder happened today so today's Christmas decoration is a gift from someone else.

A dear friend who lives a long way away sent these gorgeous flowers with the label, "An early Christmas present to enjoy before the Christmas rush."  She knows that having a bunch of flowers in my house is almost an essential for me and that these will give me great joy until the tree and all the other stuff decorate the house..

Today I shall arrange my lovely flowers and remember this wonderful friend

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Enter Rudolph

Today's decoration is again hand made but this time I have made it for me!

I have always been loath to have purchased decorations on my Christmas tree.  Years ago I couldn't afford to buy them anyway but as time went on I found that I preferred the originality of my tree.  I've had origami decorations, walnuts sprayed gold, fans made from scrap fabric and scrounged edgings, wired fir cones - you name it, I've had it.  These days most of my decorations are still home made but I keep more of them from years to year.

A somewhat surprised looking Rudolph!

So here's one I made earlier!  Earlier today - but I may make some more tomorrow.  I'll bet no-one else has tree ornaments like mine - but maybe they wouldn't want them!


A very calm cow
The Advent stable continues to reveal its secrets.  This time a recumbent cow.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Stockings


Today's Christmas decoration is something that I make a lot of - but I make them to give to other people.  Christmas stockings.  I love collecting all sorts of bits and pieces and making a stocking for various friends.  I have to admit though that what I don't like doing is wrapping everything.  However, people seem to like the stockings without worrying too much about the contents. 

I've decided that I will show you each figure as it appears in my advent calendar and maybe show you the whole stable occasionally.   Yesterday it was a donkey, today a cow.  Tomorrow - who knows?
Placid cow
Recumbent donkey

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

And so to December

1st December is always such an exciting day!  I love it!

It's the day when I get my Advent stable out.  Advent started two days ago but Advent calendar and Advent stable makers can't cope with that!  You may remember it from last year,  I've had it for a long time and each year I take it out with renewed pleasure.  Today it is an unremarkable stable but things will happen.

During December I want to share some of my Christmas bits and pieces with you.  Some have been in use for years, like the stable.  Some don't exist yet because I shall make them as the month goes on.

But for today, there's just the solitary donkey.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Frogs

I'm sorry I haven't been around much but I have had a few days of eating frogs.  I am sure you all know that if you have to eat a frog, the best thing to do is to eat it early in the day so that for the rest of the day you know that the worst thing you have to do today has already been done. You didn't know that?  Well, you do now.

I keep chipping away at the Room of Shame and will take you back in there soon, but of rather more urgency has been doing a little financial re-organising.  This was provoked by the closure of the only bank in our little town.  I've long done most of my banking on-line but have always used one of the Big Four banks (even though I knew I could get a better deal elsewhere) because I felt that it was worth supporting banks which provide a service in rural areas.  Well, they have changed their policy on that one so I decided to go for the better deal.

Never one to do things by halves this provoked a full scale money makeover.  So far I have changed my broadband/TV/telephone package, my car insurance,my energy tariff, my current account and my credit card.  None of these has been easy, largely because of my personal inefficiency, and the whole procedure has taken rather a lot of energy so blogging is taking a back seat

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Taking Myself In Hand

This post is actually a wrist-slap for me.

Back at the beginning of the year I resolved to finish the year with fewer messy places than I started with and at first I did well.  I sorted drawers and cupboards and even (more-or-less) sorted The Room Of Doom.

The Room of Shame
But other parts have not gone so well.  Back in July I decided that the sewing room / dining room/ spare bedroom had to be tackled and I pitched in with great enthusiasm.  But it didn't last and this is the latest view of what I have decided to call the Room of Shame.  

This cannot go on.  I need to get it sorted so that Louise can come and do her stuff with the cleaning.  I have bits towards several Christmas presents somewhere in that mess and if I don't find them soon I am going to have to do some unnecessary spending to buy other presents.

But the most important reason is that there are just two months left of this year and they are not ikely to be the least busy months of the year.  I want to get to the end of the year with that resolution intact and well advanced.

So my wrists are now well slapped.  Watch this space!

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Frugal hero(ines) 6

No prizes for guessing the last frugal heroine in this short series - Mother.

Sometimes I resented the frugality of the fifties, the decade in which I spent my childhood.  One economy which I really resented was "sides to middling".  If a sheet from their double bed got worn out the two sides would be joined together, the worn out middle bit would be cut away and the new sides hemmed to form a "new" single sheet - very economical.  The trouble was that the French seam used to join the old sides was right up the middle of my bed and not very comfortable.  I longed for new sheets (but I liked the super-soft hankies made from the remains of the worn out middles).

Christmas was a time of more extravagance but the phrase "stocking filler" was not to arrive in our language for many years.  We had a single present from our parents and maybe something small from the various aunts and uncles.  Selfish little horrors that we were we took it for granted that adults didn't get presents - I think we believed they had everything they could possibly want anyway.  However, I remember that as a small child I was not allowed to unwrap my presents until a grown-up had removed all the sellotape for me - the paper had to be saved for next year.

Mother never went out to work but she worked very hard at home.  She made all clothes for my sister and me and she even learnt shirt making but I think she decided that making shirts for my father was not successful.  However she would unpick the collars and cuffs from his worn work shirts and "turn" them, extending the life of the garment considerably.  She was always knitting or darning, unless the garden needed her attention.

In many ways I had quite a privileged childhood.  My father was a white collar worker, mother was always at home when I got home from school and I was always loved and cared for.  I had properly fitting shoes (always bought new, even if quite a lot of clothes were had-me-downs from various cousins) and I could always go on any school trip.  In retrospect I know that much of that security came from Mother's hard work.

But Mother often said No to demands from my sister and me.  No new sheets, no ripping off wrapping paper, no cheap clothes from the shops.  I suspect that sometimes I sulked and was "a little Madam" in the face of many noes, but because of her constancy in making everything last there I was aware of no hardship and there was no debt.

Thanks, Mummy.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Frugal hero(ines) 5

This post is a little different from the first four in the series in that it is about a partnership of two people.  Those two were my parents and they had a partnership which lasted fifty five years.

My parents had a very united front when it came to finance.  It was a partnership in which he earned and she spent!  That sounds a bit like a bad situation comedy but the simple fact was that she had day-to-day responsibility for making sure bills got paid, food was bought and the family was kept warm and clean.  They had a joint bank account into which his salary was paid but both could draw cheques on it.

Major financial decisions were taken jointly.  When my shoes needed repairing for example, Mother would send me to the cobbler, but new shoes couldn't be bought until Father was also in on the decision.  

I am not suggesting that their budgetting strategy would suit everyone, far from it.  What I am saying though is that household finance should be discussed and discussed frequently.  When I was conducting marriages regularly I always used to raise the subject and was often horrified about how little couples had discussed money beyond the cost of the wedding.  

This partnership makes my parents financial heroes for me because right from my childhood I have known that good budgetting means getting everyone on board and communicating,  however the details are sorted.


Thursday, 8 October 2015

Sorry!

No posts for a few days.  Life and all that.  But it's all nice!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

You and your money

People who read blogs with the word "frugally" in the title will, I assume, have an interest in how to make the money last longer than the month.  We have our ways of making cloths last longer, economising on energy, cooking economically and the rest.  Undergirding all that though there has to be some sort of a budget.

Next week the Open University is offering a MOOC (Massive Open On-line Course) called You and Your Money.  It lasts for four weeks.   I've done it before but I'm doing it again because I think I have more to learn.

Quite apart from showing how to create a household budget it explores the financial services industry, explains the basics of debt and interest, compares forms of lending and generally demystifies money.

Of all the MOOCs I have done, this is the one which has had the most impact on me.  It is taught in a fun way with videos, quizzes and practical tasks as well as reading and on-line discussion

Monday, 28 September 2015

Frugal hero(ines) 4

Down a generation for my next hero.  Grandad and Grandma's son-in-law.  In other words, my Father.

My sixty fourth birthday is approaching and my Father would now have been over a hundred years old so for some of my readers he is old enough to have been their grandfather or even great grandfather - maybe even great great grandfather but that makes me feel very old myself.  He was born just after the outbreak of the Great War and was the eldest child of a family of eight.

My paternal grandparents are not as vivid in my memory as my maternal ones but they must have been truly devoted parents.  Their youngest child had severe epilepsy which was regarded with great suspicion in those days.  They were urged to commit him to an institution but grandma was adamant that she was the best person to care for him which she did until he died aged fourteen (quite a while before I was born).   Of the remaining seven three went to Grammar School which was impressive for a steelworks labourer's family in those days.  My father was one of the lucky three.

Daddy left school when he was about seventeen and became an apprentice on the steel works but he was a hard working man and he steadily worked his way up to become general manager of those same works.  His salary was good and I didn't understand for years why we always lived in rented houses.

The reason?  He still took a lot of responsibility for his parents and younger siblings and he bought the house in which my grandmother lived until she was well into her eighties.  He would not commit to a mortgage on a second house until the first was paid off.  

He abhorred debt.  If you could not pay for something you didn't have it.  You saved a cushion for emergencies and you planned your spending.  

So the frugal example of my Father was two fold.  First and obviously, you do not get into debt.  I didn't always take this to heart when I was younger but these days I like a good night's sleep.  The second thing might not seem so much frugality as ethics but it is this: you take your financial responsibilities seriously.  Daddy was grateful for the sacrifices his parents had made and after making sure that my mother and sister and I were OK, he continued to help them until their deaths

Sunday, 27 September 2015

My frugal hero(ines) 3

Ah dear, sweet Aunt Alice!

If my grandmother's life was hard, Great Aunt Alice's was even harder.  At only 47 she was left the widow of grandad's younger brother.  They had eight children but two predeceased their father.  Their youngest son was only six when the children were left fatherless in 1939.  The family lived in a cottage on the farm and doubtless were helped and supported by the extended family but I think it is fair to say that Aunt Alice had  very little.

I can't remember much about Aunt Alice's time on the farm as by the time I can remember she was living in an old person's bungalow in the village.  For a rather greedy little girl that was great!  You see, we could walk down to the village-shop-cum-post-office for some sweets then call at Aunt Alice's in the sure knowledge that she would feed us home-made cake.

To be fair to myself I continued to visit long after the cake was a major attraction and indeed until I was grown up but there was a small ordeal each time I went.  I had to have a cup of tea.  Despite having spent most of my working life as a Christian minister I am not a "more tea, Vicar?".  I loathe tea.  I would rather be thirsty!  However, there was no way that I would hurt my dear Aunt Alice, so when I went to her I made sure I had some peppermints in my pocket to take the taste away.

For Aunt Alice, offering a  cup of tea was one of life's pleasures.  Out would come a pretty cup and saucer and a lacy tray cloth.  The cake would be on a dainty plate which probably didn't match the cup and saucer but it was nevertheless cherished.  Chatting about the little things of life whilst sharing a cake and a cuppa which she had made was something to be treasured.  After I had left she would wash up, still thinking about me.  Later still she would make another cuppa and drink it remembering the things we had talked about, the news which I had brought.

And that is the example of frugality which she taught me.  It was actually a very lavish frugality.  In terms of "things" Aunt Alice had very little but what she had was to be cherished and shared.  In terms of a heart, Aunt Alice's was as big as a bucket and she showed me that the simplest of things can be pleasures and when done with love, they are priceless.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

My frugal hero(ines) 2

Grandma was married to Grandad.  No surprises there!  

Grandad was also an amazing role model for a youngster to grow up with. He had left school as soon as he could (about ten or twelve years old) so that he could contribute to the family purse.  However, he was an intelligent man and made the most of every opportunity.  I think he always wanted to be a farmer but as a youngster he had to work as a joiner.

He was one of three brothers and eventually the three set up in business as farmers.  Farming was not very profitable and indeed it must have been very hard work.  However, Grandad took every opportunity to learn more and more.  Not for him Oxford or Cambridge or even the Open University - his education was in the University of Life.  He could do most simple construction jobs.  He was the cattle man in the farming partnership but he was also involved in the arable side of the business and at lambing time, he did his shifts in the pens.  His regular reading was The Farmers Weekly but he read much wider than that.

Grandad did the most beautiful copperplate and I still have some samples of his handwriting.  He did the admin for the farm, keeping the books, paying the men, and doing the thousand-and-one paperwork jobs which needed to be done.

So how do I see him as a role model for someone aspiring to be frugal?  Well, like most people of his generation he wasted nothing but the special inspiration for me is that he wasted no opportunity.  He had few advantages.  His schooling was curtailed but he learnt many skills, including book-keeping, by whatever means he could.

I think I follow his example most especially when I do MOOCs, Massive Online Open Courses.  Like grandad I do not believe that education comes to an end when the school door closes, rather that is when true education really begins.  I had far more opportunities than grandad did and sadly I wasted some of them but that won't happen again.  I want to be like my grandad.  


Friday, 25 September 2015

My frugal hero(ine)s (1)

If you read my other blog you may remember that earlier this year I wrote quite a lot about my dearly loved grandma who died well over thirty years ago.

Grandma lived in a big old-fashioned farmhouse which looked very elegant from the outside but was cold, inconvenient and rather uncomfortable to live in.  She had an amazingly hard life but for all sorts of reasons she is one of my frugal heroines.

Grandma had more than enough to do, running the farmhouse and doing quite a bit towards the running of the farm but she always kept a few hens.  Looking back with rose-coloured spectacles it could seem idyllic but those couple of dozen birds caused a lot of work.  Grandma had to let them out in the morning and shut them up at night, often searching for a hen who had gone broody in a very inconvenient place.  Egg gathering sounds lovely but mucking out hen houses was not so much fun.  The fox was a constant enemy.  Grandma had to cope with delicate day old chicks and had to wring the necks of birds whose time had come.  The birds would come to the back door but when they left they would also have left poo behind them.

All in all the hens were hard work but there were beautiful fresh eggs for the farmhouse and grandma would always give me one or two to take home for my tea during the week.

The surplus eggs would be sent to the egg packing station.  They had to be buffed clean, sorted and packed into trays and seeing to that was sometimes my job.  Just a few dozen eggs would be sent each week and some weeks there would be very few to send,

Whatever money there was from the eggs was grandma's own, not "farm money" and she used to squirrel it away along with butter money.  Once a year she used to treat grandad and herself to a week at the seaside, staying at a guest house in Skegness.  

A few days ago I mentioned to a friend that I earn about £60 to £70 a month doing on-line surveys and she said, "Ooh, over a year that's enough for a holiday!" 

And I thought back to grandma and her hens.  I'm not pretending that the surveys are anything like such hard work but they can be very tedious and the only way to get anything like £60 a month is to be very constant in doing them.  The money doesn't go directly to my holiday budget (I'm usually paid in Amazon vouchers) but it does free up money to enable my holidays to be taken.

I think Grandma would be pleased with me.  I hope so.  

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Job done

Wednesday evening
Sunday evening
I can't believe it's taken less than five days but I have finished the throw I started on Wednesday!  Actually Claire-up-the-road thinks she may have more raspberry yarn and if she has I may do a few more rounds, but even without that I've got a cosy throw ready for the winter.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Further decluttering

The reduction in messy places goes on-and-on-and-on-and on!  

I wonder what decluttering means to you?  Is it just a case of unwanted stuff leaving the premises, in other words working towards minimalism?  Or do you see it more as an exercise in tidying and organisation?  I suppose for most of us the answer lies somewhere between the two.  

The problem with stuff just leaving the premises is that it may still have its uses within my home.  The part of me that longs to be more frugal wants to make the most of what I have got, even though another bit of me wants just to run through the house with a big black bag and then hire a skip whilst ignoring the part of me which hates landfill.  My problem is finding that fine line between frugal keeping of stuff and just plain hoarding.  I doubt if I am alone in that predicament.

About a third of a lap blanket
As I have gone around the house I have found quite a lot of knitting yarn which I have now collected in a designated drawer whilst thinking of how to use it up or pass it on. This week I have had problems with my eyes which have meant that I don't want to do any sewing so I got my crochet hook out and I have started on a lap blanket.    It's nowhere near finished but it has satisfied my need for something to do which doesn't require good eyesight, my need to do something with various small quantities of yarn and my fast approaching need for extra warmth over the winter.  Not just win:win but win:win:win!

The trouble is that I may feel like a decrepit old granny when I use it

Monday, 14 September 2015

Remember me?

  • It’s a whole week since I wrote on this blog so I think I ought to report in.
  •  
  • The dehydrator is again full of tomatoes.  This is the third batch I have done.  Most I have semi dried and then frozen but I filled a jar with some along with a few capers and some olive oil mixed with crushed garlic.  The main problem is keeping my paws off the jar.  They are totally delicious!  I bought a jar of dried tomatoes in Lidl yesterday to compare with my home made stuff and mine knock the commercial ones to a cocked hat.  OK, maybe I’m prejudiced!  I don’t know if mine would keep as well as the Lidl ones but I see no need to find out.
  •  
  • My MOOCs are both going well.  The Nutrition and Wellbeing one technically finished last week but I haven’t finished the material yet.  I’ve been enjoying it so much that I did far more than the minimum and have hardly started the final week’s materials yet.  The one on Falls I am actually enjoying even more. 
  •  
  • My holiday is in three weeks so I’m turning my thoughts to preparation.  Quite honestly, I prepare more for coming back home than I do for going on holiday!  I like to leave the house extra tidy, as many jobs as possible done up to date and my life ready for me to step back into it.  

Monday, 7 September 2015

Another MOOC

This is just a quick post to alert anyone who is interested to a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) which starts today on the subject of falls.  Go to https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/falls

I know some of my readers are carers for people who have a risk of falling and others are at risk of falling themselves.  This course is on risk management and strategies and is run by the University of Newcastle and Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals' Falls and Syncope Service.  It's free and takes only four weeks.  I normally allow about three or four hours a week for a MOOC but that does not have to be in one big chunk - I sometimes watch a video while I'm having a coffee .  

Signing on to a MOOC is easy. If you don't like it you can drop out with no fuss made.  If the subject is interesting and relevant to you - have a go!

Friday, 4 September 2015

Dried tomatoes

I left the tomatoes in the dehydrator all day yesterday and this is the result.  This little pile weighs just under ten ounces.  I put about 3½ lbs in yesterday.


The semi dried fruit is lovely.  Leave it until it is totally dry and it’s not so good.  I shall pack some into screw top jars with a few capers and cover with an olive oil and garlic mixture.  These will be stored in the fridge for up to a month.

The remainder I will freeze.  I know it is possible to dry them thoroughly and just keep them in a cool dry place but I don’t like them over-dried as I don’t think they soften up thoroughly if they have been allowed to get too crisp.  For safety’s sake therefore I will freeze them but they take far less space in the freezer than fresh tomatoes and they taste much more intense.


I’ll try and report back as I eat them over the winter

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Another unused gadget gets a temporary reprieve


Another gadget I found whilst decluttering the cupboards was my food dehydator.  I bought it years ago when I had a large garden but I haven't used in a very long time.  Things can  be dried in the oven but as I have the dehydrator this is a cheaper method to use.  



At this time of the year I have a glut of tomatoes, tomatoes are cheap in the shops, tomatoes can be bought from wayside stalls, and friends are anxious to give me tomatoes.  That is a lot of tomatoes.  I slow cook some and make a tomato sauce for pasta but I decided to have one last go with the dehydrator.  What I am hoping is that if I add a few dried tomatoes to slow cooked foods they will absorb some of the excess liquid.  Dried tomatoes also have a very intense flavour which may enhance some dishes.  

We shall see.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

It's that MOOC again!

I'm about half way through the short course on nutrition and well-being which I mentioned here a couple of weeks ago.  I'm really enjoying it and have been learning about macro and micro nutrients as well as the effect of my dietary habits on the planet.

One of the activities this week is to develop a healthy recipe so I decided to look at the minced beef recipe which I cook about every six weeks or so.  I suppose it was originally some sort of Bolognese sauce but I doubt if any Italian would recognise it now.  Anyway I decided to look at how I could make it low fat, high fibre and tasty to boot.  I recorded what I put in it and investigated the nutritional values and as this is called Frugally Challenged, I took on the costing challenge as well.

750 grammes mince (I used Tesco less than 5% fat mince)
2 tins Everyday value chopped tomatoes (I drained off some of the juice)
3 tbsp Worcester sauce
about 20 grammes garlic
350 grammes mushrooms sliced (again I used Everyday value)
500 grammes frozen mixed vegetables (see below)
500 grammes chopped onions
1 tube tomato puree

I used Tesco vegetable mix for Bolognese because it's on special at the moment at 50p but I think I would normally use any mixed veg.  I cooked this first then pureed it.

Brown the mince and put it in the slow cooker.  Bung in everything else (semi drained tomatoes, Worcester sauce, garlic, sliced mushroom, vegetable puree, chopped onions and tomato puree).  Cook on high for four hours then switch to low and remove the lid until it is the consistency you want.

The total cost was £8.10, the total calories 1920.  This meant it cost 68p per portion and had 160 calories.  I won't bore you with the carbohydrate, salt, fat and sugar figures but they were pretty good as well.

And the sauce was scrummy!

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Burgers

As I have scrabbled through my cupboards bemoaning my lack of discipline, I have found quite a lot of gadgets which I have acquired over the years.  Some were gifts, others were purchasing errors but some have real use.

This burger press came to me as a present several years ago and has done sterling service and will continue to do so for many years to come.  I dearly love a good quality beef burger but sadly they are not easy to find.  I've often been appalled that the huge burger I put in the pan turns out to be a minute blob swimming in a sea of fat.  

That never happens with my home made ones.  I buy "not more than 5%fat" mince and get to work with my press.  Really it isn't necessary to use a press - just pressing mince firmly with your hands will do - but as I have the press and I rather like using it, it gets used.  If I became more limited for space it would probably go.  Today 750 grammes of mince made six very generous burgers so they cost 84p each.  Not the cheapest burgers but worth that to me.

And I used a gadget which I've never used - the camera on my tablet!  (Only because I can't find my "real" camera!)

Sunday, 30 August 2015

One year on

It’s a year since I started this blog and it seems like a good time to take stock.


Before I had this Frugally Challenged blog I already had Trundling Through Life but I wanted somewhere to muse on how it is to be frugally challenged.   As I have said many times over the past year, I know all the frugal theory but I’m not so good at the practice.  However, I still live below my means, I am retired (and so not saving for retirement) and I am in a much more fortunate position than many.  I simple want to be able to do as much as I can with my resources and that includes my time and my possessions as well as my cash.  My underlying principle is that I can have anything I really want – but I can’t have everything I want.  I have to work out what it is that I really want and my answers may not be the same as anyone else’s.

During this last year I’ve faced my habit of hoarding food.  I’m getting better and this blog has helped but I know I still have a long way to go on this.  I don’t waste much food but I know that if I controlled my food stores better I could eat more healthily and more economically.  The quest for food stock control is on-going and I doubt if it will ever be fully solved.


My other huge hoard is of craft material.  Making good use of my craft stores is a good way to save money or rather not to continue to waste it!  I make bags, quilts, clothes, whatever for myself, for my friends and sometimes for charity.  I have also given away quite a lot of stuff to be used by Brownies and various other groups. 



And then there is The Mess, exemplified by The Room of Doom.  My hope was that 2015 would be the year that I would have less messy places and I am happy to say that this is true.  I've still got far too many messy places but there are less of them than there were on 1st January 2015.


Thank you for your encouragement and your interest.  I wonder where the next year will take Frugally Challenged?



Thursday, 27 August 2015

In praise of slow cookers.

I love salads.  I love fresh fruit.  I love all the wonderful flavours of the summer.  But regardless of all that, there is something wonderful about the first rice pud of the season.

Image result for slow cooker tesco
Today I realised that action needed to be taken to avoid wasting some milk so I found rice, sugar and butter from my stores and I dragged the slow cooker out of the cupboard for the first time for several months.


There's something magic about cooking in a slow cooker.  Bung in a few ingredients, switch on, leave it for a few hours and voila! dinner is served.  Tough meat becomes tender, flavours meld together, and the electricity meter is scarcely troubled.  Good, wholesome food is on the table and there's always some left to freeze for another day.  I even bought mine in a Tesco Clubcard boost event so it has always been a bargain!

Truly it is one of the joys of cooler days.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Using the stash

OK, who recognises this?

You buy things for a project.
You put them in a safe place.
You forget where the safe place is.
By the time you find the stuff you've gone off the project.

Anybody else recognise themself?
It's me, many times over!
Plenty for the Christmas cards



Anyway, my 2015 project was to have fewer messy places and as I have worked, fairly steadily, to achieve this goal, I have found the graveyards of many projects so I have decided to use a few things up for Christmas.  

Someone will get a lap quilt

So here's the stash stuff I've found ready for my Christmas cards and the stuff for a lap quilt.


Couldn't resist this fabric!
Although I did but this lovely fabric to personalise it for my intended recipient.

I'll put the progress reports on my other blog in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

MOOCs again


I was quite surprised that my commenters hadn't heard of MOOCs and I thought it might be helpful to be a bit more specific about places to find them.


My own usual portal is https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/categories.  Courses on this site are mostly offered by British Universities although there are a few others.  The course I mentioned, "Managing my money" is offered by the Open University and shown on the FutureLearn site. Students are not necessarily UK based - "Nutrition and Wellbeing" which I have just started has students from Australia and New Zealand and doubtless many other countries but it is offered by the University of Aberdeen.


https://www.coursera.org/ is an American based site but trails courses from all over the world - the list of institutions is truly impressive.


MOOCs are also offered for professional development so don't be put off if the first course you click on looks too hard or specialised for you.  The various sites cater for all sorts of people and your only real probem is deciding what to do first.


These are high quality courses which, amazingly, are free to use.  You won't qualify as a brain surgeon but you will find out more about our world.