Thursday, 20 October 2016

Weekend Away

We're off on our hols to Great Yarmouth tomorrow. Well, a long weekend, returning Sunday evening.It's been touch and go whether DH would be well enough to travel; he's had a cold and a tickly cough but after a trip to the docs yesterday morning he has antibiotics, and with throat sweets to suck on he's not too bad today. 

Our bags are more or less packed, laundry more or less up to date and food left for the boys if they want it. They'll probably not bother, and anyway DS2 likes to cook while we're away. I've also left money for a takeaway should they want one.

We're looking forward to walking in new places, weather permitting, and hopefully visiting Norwich Cathedral; we do like looking around churches and other religious buildings. 

While DH was at his doctor's yesterday I went with DD1 to his doctor's surgery to discuss his assessment report. As a consequence he is also being referred for psychiatric assessment; he suffers dreadfully with anxiety, has issues sleeping (very vivid dreams) and depression. Apparently this is extremely common in people with autism, their brains are constantly overloaded with stimuli and they can't shut down. I sometimes get like that myself and can't sleep but to be like that every day and wonder he has trouble coping with the world around him. Since we started this assessment procedure I've gained much more insight into what he deals with day in day out. Anyway, although it does mean more appointments with professionals at least things are moving in the right direction. About time; it's more than 18 months since he was first referred.

I've thrown together a pasta sauce in the slow cooker for tonight's dinner and I've made choc chip muffins to have with ice cream for dessert. I would have done cowboy beans but don't think the other passengers on the coach tomorrow would appreciate the pollution we might produce.

So that's all for now. See you when we get back. Have a good weekend. Love Helen xx

Monday, 17 October 2016

Monday Reflections

Is it really Monday already? Where did the weekend go? Am I alone in feeling that as I get older and time is more precious it actually speeds by at an alarming rate? 

We're halfway through October already, the dreaded C is fast approaching and so far I haven't done a damned thing towards preparing for it. 

Actually that's not entirely true. I have ample wrapping paper bought at 6 rolls for £1 after last Christmas and I have a sealed savings tin containing £2 and 50p coins that I will open at the end of November. I haven't fed it too often but it feels quite heavy and I'm hoping the contents will fund the food for over the Xmas period and maybe a couple of pressies. 

I also know where we will be spending the big day - at my youngest daughter's - and that DS2's girlfriend will be staying with us from America. I also know that DD3 would like gift vouchers for stores such as Dorothy Perkins, New Look or Debenhams, and DS2 wants money towards driving lessons. DH and I have agreed to spend very little (around £10) on each other but to have a nice day or meal out somewhere instead. I've also been thinking about what food to buy for the days we're at home; I just haven't actually bought anything yet. 

Never mind, somehow everything always gets done and I have a more laid back approach in general these days...if it doesn't get done it's not the end of the world and spending time together is the most important thing. I just wish I could summon up more enthusiasm and put a bit more effort into the event but since the kids grew up it doesn't have the same sparkle and excitement it used to. Or maybe I'm just all Christmassed out after years and years and years of organising everything by myself.

Mustn't get melancholy...even if it is Monday. We've got our weekend away to look forward to this Friday. Hoping for good weather...and good health. DH currently has a cold and I'm praying it doesn't go to his chest as these things so often do. Also hoping against hope I don't get it especially as my throat is a bit scratchy this morning.

We had our appointment at the estate agents on Saturday and it actually looks quite hopeful that we'd be able to borrow enough, at a rate we could afford, to top up whatever we get for this house and buy something half decent either here in Dover or just along the coast in our home town of Deal. Properties in Deal are about a quarter again more expensive than Dover so we'd get less house for our money but in a nicer area. Deal would be closer to work for DH, but both the boys would need to travel a little further. But then they might both move out within the next year or so. We're having someone round to value this hovel the week after we get back from Norfolk...we'll have to see what the good or bad news is.

Some good news is that DD1 has an appointment on 22nd November for someone from the special autistic unit at the Social Services to come to the house and assess his needs. Top priorities are for him to be able to live more independently, get counselling or something for his depression and anxiety (he's got a doctor's appointment this Weds to discuss the recommendations in his Psychologist's report) and hopefully a new job with more hours but where he has less contact with members of the public. The state of the house might even count in his favour...they'll take one look at this place and want to rehouse him right away! LOL!

Anyway, I suppose I'd better bite the bullet and get stuck into this Monday. I have a load of laundry ready to go in the machine and an Approved Food order coming at lunchtime so need to get into town and back again before then. 

Thank you for reading my ramblings. Have a good start to your week. Love Helen xx

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Pies, Pasties and Great Yarmouth

I haven't taken photos but I've already made good use of one pack of the yellow-stickered frozen puff pastry I bought the other day. I used it in combination with a pack of Aldi ready-rolled shortcrust pastry that I rolled out even thinner, and I got 6 deep-filled steak and kidney pies and 2 steak and kidney pasties out of it. I used the shortcrust for the pie bases and the puff for the tops, the leftover puff made the pasties. I used my Salter deep-fill electric pie maker for the pies which makes lovely big, deep pies that I fill to the very top.

The filling was 2 lb of stewing steak from the local butcher and a large ox kidney (bought yellow-stickered from Morrisons) tossed in flour seasoned with salt and black pepper and lightly browned, and I also softened a couple of onions.This was all put in the slow cooker with some red wine, a couple of tablespoons of tomato puree, 2 beef stock cubes, a little water and dried thyme. The flour thickened the gravy nicely and 7 hours on low made the meat lovely and tender. After making the pies and pasties there was a little of the meat mixture left over which I'll freeze for another time. We each had a pie with mash and veg for dinner tonight, and that leaves 2 pies and the 2 pasties for my sons' lunches. 

The pastry cost £1.25 for the 2 packs, and the filling was approximately £5. So for £6.25 I made 6 pies, 2 pasties and have some leftover filling for another day. Not bad going!

We're not going to DD1's for the half term break as she has to work extra shifts to cover staff shortages. Instead I've used the money we would have spent on fares and eating out and booked a last minute coach break with Shearings. We're going to Great Yarmouth for 3 nights from Friday 24th Oct . For £99 each we get return coach travel from Dover, 3 nights dinner, bed and breakfast plus an outing to Norwich. Shearings hotels are certainly not fancy but they are pretty good value for money especially when taking advantage of last minute reductions, and East Anglia is an area on the country we've yet to visit. Fingers crossed for good weather.

That's all for tonight, folks. Enjoy the rest of your evening. Love Helen xx

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Latest Bargain

The weather has been pretty miserable here today, overcast, occasional showers and only the odd flash of sun breaking through the dark clouds. It's definitely colder too. I wore a long-sleeved nightshirt, leggings and socks in bed last night. I haven't quite needed a hot water bottle yet.

We did manage a slightly longer walk into town this morning despite the showers, but didn't quite notch up our 10,000 steps. We spent half an hour reading the local papers in the library and then treated ourselves to a hot choc for DH and caramel latte for me. 

We also popped into Miles and Barr estate agents and have made an appointment for next Saturday to discuss a possible valuation of our hovel and what our financial options might be if we were to sell and move elsewhere.  I'm going to be 60 next year and don't work anyway, so no income for me until I finally qualify for my pension at 67. DH is 56, 57 in December, and will also not get a pension until he's 67. We're interested to discover what mortgage options are available at our age. Our house will have more than doubled in value since we bought it 17 years ago, but then so has everything fact house prices are getting ridiculous in this area. I do want to move but don't really want us tied into another mortgage if I can help it since we've so nearly paid off the one we have. But then again if we want to move to somewhere nicer we might have to suck it up and pay out on a mortgage for a bit longer. We'd probably only qualify for a 10 year loan anyway. Still, we'll see what our options are and then decide. I just know I really don't want to stay much longer in this house.

And the bargain...

6 packs of frozen puff pastry at 35p each from Morrison's. There were more packets but I usually try and leave some for other people. They're now in my freezer ready to be filled with good things and baked. I love pies and flans but try to only have a small piece and lots of veggies on the side.

That's all for now. Hope you're having a good weekend. Love, Helen xx

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Random Mutterings

Not much of interest going on here at the moment so I'll just ramble on for a bit.

The weather's definitely getting colder, but not cold enough yet to warrant putting the heating on. Our boiler is about 18 years old, a big floor-standing Potterton that I've had serviced every year since we moved into the house 2 years after it had been fitted. The next service is due in January but I fired it up this morning to check the radiators would come on, not wanting a nasty surprise when we do finally need to use it, and all seemed fine. We could probably get a more energy efficient model and more up-to-date radiators, but that would cost a lot and we'll most likely move from this house within the next 5 years so unless it actually breaks down it doesn't seem worth it. 

There's a lot needs doing to the house, it's a real doer-upper, but as we're getting older it won't be long before we start looking for something with fewer floors and less stairs so we're reluctant to spend money on it when we might not stay here long enough to reap the benefits. Both houses either side of us are up for sale and how long we stay here will also depend on who we get as new neighbours. We've had our fair share of issues with the ones on one side of us, but we could get worse. I wish we could afford to buy somewhere in the middle of nowhere with no neighbours to worry about, but unless we win the lottery...

DS2 is back to work at the castle but his contract goes to zero hours at the end of this month so he's looking for seasonal work until the new season starts up again at the end of February/beginning of March. He's hoping his American girlfriend can come over for Xmas. We're going to DD3's again this Xmas so I won't have to put on a big spread for the actual day.

I've already knitted the back and both fronts of my cardigan and made a start on one of the sleeves. I don't really enjoy knitting with super-chunky wool and such big needles (sizes 8mm and 10mm); they make my wrists ache. But I do like how quickly the work grows. 

And finally, some cuteness. 

Yesterday was DD2's birthday and I had sent the cat blanket in with her pressies. Wookie loves it and she posted this pic of him on Facebook.

Have a good night everybody. Love, Helen xx

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

What's the Knit-Wit Knitting?

I've posted a lot of food-related stuff since I started blogging again and thought it was time to live up to my blog's title and show you some of the knitting I've been doing.

This blanket is for DD2's newest kitty, a gorgeous little black and white British Shorthair - cross Ragdoll called Wookie (her DH is a Star Wars fan).

He's a darling and so affectionate. I'll show you pics when I have some. Not having grandchildren I've knitted a blanket for all 4 of my grand kitties (both DD2 and DD3 have 2 each) and 1 grand puppy (DD1's). 

Yet another blanket. I don't know if anyone remembers the blanket squares I was knitting from all my little oddments of yarn. The last time I posted pics the squares had been sewn together but I was in the process of knitting what seemed like miles of border. Well, it finally got finished, the border was sewn on and here is the result.

I'm really pleased with how it turned out. It's going to hang over the back of one of the sofas and whenever anyone complains of the cold they can wrap themselves up in it rather than turn on the heating! LOL!

Also past readers might recall the great offer I got on Sirdar Denim Ultra chunky yarn bought in a sale from Kemps Wools. I bought 3 different shades, enough for 3 cardigans. Originally I was going to make 1 for DH and 2 for me (I'm of that age where cardigans are so much easier to remove than a jumper during a hot flush). Reverse that, and DH loved the one I made for him so much I ended up knitting him a second one. Until today I hadn't started on making mine, especially as the weather was getting warmer by the time I finished the second one for DH. With Wookie's blanket completed and the weather starting to cool down (although it's been glorious here in Dover today) I've just made a start on my cardi. This is the pattern I'm using although I'll add and inch or two to the bottom as I like my cardis longer. 

It's nice and simple as the yarn is lovely by itself, and with the thick wool and large needles (sizes 8mm and 10mm) it should grow quite quickly. I look forward to wrapping myself up in it when the days are colder. 

DH did his soup kitchen duty last night and I needn't have worried as my homemade offerings went down extremely well. He says the poor rough sleepers were so grateful that someone had taken the trouble to make homemade soup instead of the canned soup they usually have. Makes the effort all worthwhile. 

DS2 starts his journey home from America tomorrow, arriving back sometime on Friday afternoon. How that time has flown. He seems to have had a great time but I haven't seen many pics or had more than a very brief Facebook message from him; he's been so busy. I'm expecting him to be depressed for a few days, missing his girlfriend, until he settles back in to his ordinary routine. He's got a rock festival to go to in Wales with members of the band (just watching, not playing) in a couple of days time, though, so hopefully that will take his mind off things.

That's all for now folks. Back to the knitting. Anyone else knitting for winter or using up their odds and ends to create something beautiful? 

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Soup, Soup, Glorious Soup

No, I am not about to have a mega-binge on vanilla ice cream, although you'd be forgiven for thinking so given the six tubs lined up on my worktop.

The perfectly sensible explanation is, of course, that they all contain about a litre and bit of soup. 

DH has signed up to help out at the local soup kitchen. There are a lot of volunteers on the rota so he will only need to do his duty a couple of times a year. This Tuesday will be his first time. He'll go down to do the actual serving, but guess who gets to make the soup! I spent most of my Sunday morning chopping veg and using the soup maker. Nice of him to volunteer me...not that I really mind, at least I'm using my time for a good cause.

I made leek and potato first using a bag of frozen leeks, but it came out as there was a lot of the green bits of leek in the Farm Foods pack. 

So, I made a second lot using Morrison's frozen leeks that were mostly the white parts of the veg. It's a lot paler in colour and looks much more appetising. 

The first batch won't be wasted; we'll eat it despite the slimy colour. One tub will make my lunches for this week and the second tub will go into the freezer for another time. 

And this orange soup is spicy sweet potato and carrot. 

I made it for us earlier this week by tweaking a recipe to use up some carrots I had in the fridge and it was so delicious I decided it would be nice and warming for poor folks living rough. 

The tubs of soup will be stored in the freezer, taken out on Tuesday morning, and warmed through in the evening to be transported to the soup kitchen (or mobile hut in a car park) in flasks provided by the church that DH attends.

We love homemade soup and I use my Morphy Richards jug-style soup maker at least once a week so I hope the soup goes down well with the rough-sleepers. And if not, then I'll be cheating and buying cans to heat through next time.