Saturday, 31 January 2015

Happy Days

I don't know if you all saw the 'Eat Well for Less' programme the other evening. Basically Greg Wallace and award-winning greengrocer (whatever that means), Chris Bavin were purporting to help families eat healthily while saving money. What they actually did was swap the branded products the couple normally bought for cheaper alternatives. Good in itself as it did save them money, but they didn't tackle food waste, balanced diet, proper menu planning, food management, i.e. cook once eat twice, nor the possibility of them growing some of their own fresh produce. Amazingly they also ignored the elephant in the room, the £1000 worth of excess food they already had in their home. No, they sent them out to buy more. I thought the programme failed on many levels and I'm sure that many of my fellow frugally clued up blogging chums will feel the same.

It did get me thinking though about balance and harmony in the home and how important it is to me and my husband that we live and eat well and make the most of all of our resources. A strong waste not want not ethic. Since I stopped working full time I have had the luxury of being able to spend more time making sure we get the best value for money on everything we 'consume'. This gives me a great sense of contentment. Money is hard earned and should be spent mindfully. That's not to say we don't spend when we think something is worth it and will enhance our life experience.

Sue over at Frugal in Suffolk  has just written about finding pleasure in small things and how it can make you happy. I couldn't agree with her more. For me, having everything in order at home is my life base from which everything else stems. It does indeed make me happy. Yesterday I made a lamb casserole in the slow cooker for dinner last night and cooked up a batch of roasted red pepper soup to have for lunch today and froze the excess for another time = happiness.

Because we don't waste our money we have more disposable income then friends who earn more. I feel it's a strong framework for a happy life.

It also means we can book tickets to go and see a poptastic icon of the 60s.

A warm welcome to my latest Google Friend Connect follower Carol, thanks for joining my site.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Year of The Sheep

2015 is the Chinese year of the sheep.

The first day is on February 4th, with the Chinese New Year day on February 19th.

For the Chinese New Year celebrations China Town in London's Soho goes into carnival mode and the streets are filled with much gorgeousness and festivities. It's a great place to be, the atmosphere is high energy and the food and 'dancing dragons' make it a very special celebration.

Because it is the year of the sheep, the Campaign for Wool has collaborated with the Michelin starred Chinese Dim Sum tea house Yauatcha, and will be transforming the restaurant by designing a pop art window display. There will also be an unconventional art gallery and woolly make over of the restaurant space. All sounds jolly interesting to me.

At home my woolly endeavours are still going apace, working towards the completion of my knitty blanket.

I'm working on my forth strip of knitty squares, 36 squares in each strip, with one more strip to go. Then I intend to sew the long strips together and finish off with a fancy edging of some description in black Lopi Icelandic wool, which I bought during my trip to Reykjavik last year. I have been sewing ends in as I have been knitting so it's nice not to have to do that all at once.

I have been using up my stash to make the blanket, so it sort of feels as though I'm getting it for free. I have to admit though it doesn't seem to be making much of a dent in my yarn supplies. But it has stopped me buying more yarn for the time being, which is defo a good thing.

Welcome to my latest Google Friend Connect follower, KimmyKimmy 07, who I don't think has a blog for me to mention.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Inspiration And The Snow Child

Champneys is a great place to recharge your batteries and enjoy a wee bit of pampering. I went hoping to energise myself, get loads of exercise and to get my head around reducing my portion sizes.

The Mister and I eat really well and healthily but my portion sizes have crept up, and with drinking a glass of wine most nights, the weight has crept on. I can happily report that I achieved my goals, made a dent in my flobbage and have returned home with a good mind set. Now I need to carry on.

I went with one of my best chums, no Willie that is not her in the waistcoat. She, god bless her, managed to get us a tremendous deal through an associate so we only paid about a third of the going rate. I wouldn't say it was worth the full rate. But for my budget it does feel as though I have made a good investment in my health and appearance.

Whilst there I read the most extraordinary book, inspired by a Russian fairy tale, Snegurochka. The tale of an old man and a woman who form a little girl out of snow and she comes to life.

"Alaska, the 1920s. Jack and Mabel have staked everything on a fresh start in a remote homestead, but the wilderness is a stark place, and Mabel is haunted by the baby she lost many years before. When a little girl appears mysteriously on their land, each is filled with wonder, but also foreboding - is she what she seems, and can they find room in their hearts for her?"

This Newsday review sums it up beautifully. 'Ivey, a native Alaskan, knows how to make the frost glow in a window, how to describe light flickering through birches in a way that plays with the reader's imagination........The book is full of reflections in dark windows, lamplight, alpenglow.......Ivey sets up the two most powerful forces in any story: fear on the one hand, potential for the miraculous on the other'.

A wonderfully evocative and spiritual story of love, in an icy magical and powerful landscape. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Another book to mention is the cutest little journal that arrived at my house whilst I was away.

A giveaway win, my first, from Cornish Chickpea who has a smashing blog just here. Thanks again Chickpea, I will put it to good use. Can you all see the quote on the front? It's from A Midsummer night's Dream. " Though she be but little, she is fierce". Sounds like my kinda gal.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Hello All

image via 

Hello everyone, had a great time away, but happy to be back now with my family.

I'm chuffed to find I have another three new Google Friend Connect followers, who have pressed the button whilst I was away. Cat, who I don't think has a blog, Emma who also doesn't seem to blog. And Michelle who has a delightful blog over here.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Cake Baking and Fitness

I have recently had a cull of my cookery books, taking them off to my local chazza shop. With I might add, the firm intention not to buy anymore, under any circumstances. But oh, my Scandi crush continues, and Trine Hahnemann has done for me with her Scandinavian Baking book.

It was a necessary purchase in some part, because the Mister and I are formulating plans for the future and cake may be playing a part in that. More of that later.

As you know dear reader I am also trying to keep the body (not so beautiful at the moment) under control. The two don't really mix. But I have decided to bake only once every two weeks. Thus the sweet intoxicating pastries and cakes will truly be a treat.

It's not all sweet recipes in her book, although there are some real doozys. She covers some smashing bread recipes too and Smorrebrod, that's danish lunch to you and I.

The top two images are from her book. The last one is not from her book but she does provide a recipe for these oh so darling little Medaljers.

Anyway back to today and the news is I'm away for a week with a girlfriend  to Champneys, to make a dent in my flobbage, to re-educate my portion size and generally boost my fitness and energy levels. It's a New Year present, investing in my health and of course I got a deal, win win for me.

A very warm welcome to two new Google Friend Connect followers, thank you for clicking on my button. Wean who blogs here and a 'Few New Pennies' who blogs over here 

Friday, 16 January 2015

All Creatures Great and Small

image Jeff Moore for Daily Mail

I do love all creatures, yes I eat meat but I'm very particular about where it comes from and how the animals and birds have been treated and raised before they arrive on my plate. I do have friends that are vegetarian and I respect their attitude to meat. I myself believe that everything on the planet eats every other living thing on the planet, and that includes living plants. I feel it is the natural order of things. I know there are others who would disagree with me and I'm totally cool with that.

What I can't abide is cruelty to any animal or bird. It's never ok and it's never necessary.

So I was pleased to read that finally a gamekeeper has been given a custodial sentence for killing a bird of prey. Actually he trapped it and then battered it to death. You could be forgiven for thinking it is not illegal to kill raptors in this country, it happens so frequently. But it is against the law.

The Scottish man in question is the 28th gamekeeper to be convicted of wildlife crime in the last 3 years, but the first to receive a custodial sentence.

The big surprise during the trial, and it is to be applauded, is the Sheriff's ruling that covert video footage taken by the Scottish RSPB, was admissible evidence.

The list of birds, trapped, poisoned and shot is huge and includes Buzzards, Red Kites, Barn Owls, Tawny Owls, Peregrines, Hen Harriers, White Tailed Sea Eagles, Golden Eagles and Goshawks.

John over at his blog wrote a piece a couple of days ago about Badgers being persecuted, and the dogs that are injured too during this barbaric activity. You can read his post here.

Finally I would like to ask you to consider signing a petition to stop another illegal activity that is cruel beyond words. That is the trade in dog meat. Please take a look here and see what is going on and how we might put an end to it.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

New Rooms for Old

I've had a bit of a shifty around today and I'm feeling mighty pleased with the new arrangements. The 'let's move a whole lot of stuff around seed' was sown on Saturday. The Mister was up t'big smoke with some chums overnight guzzling beer and eating greasy food, celebrating a birthday. I took myself off early doors to a jumble sale with my good friend prof, who I didn't know until Saturday is actually happy to frequent such lowly places. Anyhow we didn't find much but we had a nice brekkie together and popped over to her local high street, which has some lovely shops and quite a few chazzas too. In one of the antique shops I saw a beautifully upholstered chair, priced at £395. I was totally smitten with it and thought how nice it would look in our kitchen. But as we have two sofas in there already one would have to go to fit it in. I pondered this for a while. And then a light bulb moment. Ping. I didn't need to buy a new chair because I already had a beauty in our bedroom that has probably never had a bottom parked on it. I could move that downstairs and it would be perfect. And it is.

I had thought to put our small leather sofa on ebay but then I remembered a good friend had said her son was looking for some furniture for a new flat. He came and picked it up this morning.

He's super pleased, we've got some money in the coffers, more space and the chair is perfect under the standard lamp for reading and knitting.

Needless to say because I moved the armchair out of our bedroom I've moved a lot of things around in there too. It's all looking fresh and different and not a penny spent.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Goodbye to Anita Ekberg

As so often seems the case with glamorous film stars from the golden age of Hollywood, Anita had a sad, lonely and poor old age.

A tremendous fall from grace and a tremendous shame.

She died today aged 83.

She will of course always be remembered for the iconic Trevi Fountain scene in Fellini's 1960 film, La Dolce Vita.


A welcome also today for my latest Google Friend Connect follower Coco Jayne, who blogs here.

Friday, 9 January 2015

A Smile to Beat The January Blues

Photo by Snowdon

I read a very funny letter a while ago now in the Mister's 'This Week' magazine. Concerning the use, back in the day, of the old noble fax machine.

The letter recounted the tale of an incident at Stirling University which happened many years ago during a visit by Princess Margaret. She was due to speak, but confessed to having forgotten her speech. A professor said to her "fax it up", and Princess Margaret, quick as a flash, responded with, "it does rather."

Another rib tickler was provided this week by Libby who comes to my weekly knit and natter group. She's 80 this year, and was complaining that when she visited her daughter's house over Christmas, she felt very cold.

I helpfully suggested (because I'm like that), wearing a good pair of bloomers may have kept her warm. "Oh those things" she said, "when I was young we called them Harvest Gatherers, as they kept everything safely in".

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Did I Say..................

I'm learning Italian. Back to night school Monday 12th. I've just written out the lyrics and translation to this mighty song. Domenico Modugno singing Volare, on the Ed Sullivan show 1958.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Elvis at The O2

I spotted details of this exhibition a while ago now, but haven't heard much about it in the meantime. I thought I would do a small post about it here, in case you lovely blogging chums have missed it on your radar.

Graceland is on my 'must see' list, the only problem being, I'd like to go without all the crowds, which let's face it is unlikely to happen. I will get there one day. Although it looks like they're now building an enormous hotel "just steps away" from the house, so I suspect I will have to break in, Ninja style, to see it without being crushed. Unless of course I can become besties with Lisa Marie, who is rumoured to have a house about 20 minutes drive from me. Now there's a thought.

image New York Post

This O2 event is billed as the largest retrospective ever mounted in Europe, with over 300 artefacts from the Presley family's Graceland archive. A visit should tide me over until I can get to see the real thing, who knows, it might even be better than the real thing, if I pick a quiet time to go.

A warm welcome to my newest Google Friend Connect follower Lisa Hills. Thank you for taking the time to press the follow button, it's nice to know who I'm 'broadcasting' to.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Saving and Spending

So the best bit for me over the Christmas period was spending time with our son. Back home from Uni' for a few days. He wasn't with us on Christmas day, so the day itself lacked sparkle for me. But next Christmas will be organised early doors, so I have all my family with me, for a change. Even my lovely brother who hasn't spent a Christmas day with me for about 40 years has already been invited.

Mind you, the Mister and I are planning a bit of an adventure in 2015, and so may well be living in Italy by December. We shall have to wait and see what fate has in store for us.

As usual we mainly bought presents for the children in the family, and a few other folk. Small gifts between us and of course some hard cash for 'the student' in the family.

I did get one fabulous 'big' present from the Mister. Which we went out to buy last Friday, just in case the store had January reductions. It didn't :(

As you know dear reader I've been experiencing a bit of a Scandi crush of late and these Danish, Ilse Jacobsen rain boots (all right, wellies), fit the bill. I'm super pleased with them.

Last of our Winter veg, harvested today.

We popped to Tunbridge Wells to buy the boots, which is our nearest big town and luckily for me, is home to the only Ilse Jacobsen store in the Uk.

One of my knitty group friends, Libby, also tipped me off that the big department store in T Wells had a brilliant bedlinen sale on. We took a peek, of course. So glad we did.

We bought this gorgeous Sanderson king size duvet set for our bed, reduced from £150 to £15. That's the sort of discount that keeps me smiling for a day.

Now we shouldn't need to be buying anything other than necessities for quite some time. Back to watching the pennies and making our money and resources stretch.

With that in mind I'm really keen to cut our food bill this year, without compromising on quality and taste. I think growing more vegetables and eating more meatless meals will be a good start, coupled with no food waste.

Tonight I will be using some home grown chillies which I froze at the end of October to pep up a home made chicken Jalfrezi. Just the ticket in this bitter weather, my mouth is watering already.