Monday, 14 July 2014

Manky Carrot Pie and Yellow Stickers

This should have been posted  a couple of days ago but our internet has been extremely flaky over the weekend, cutting out for a few minutes here and there and for longer periods too.

I am definitely not happy with Sky broadband; we've had nothing but problems since we moved over to them about 2 months ago. The TV service is fine, although when the internet connection goes down we also can't access the 'on demand' service. Although Virgin's cable service was more expensive we rarely had problems with our internet connection and when there was an issue they'd sort it out quickly, but with Sky being satelite they like to blame atmospheric conditions etc. Also, because it shows at their end that our signal is fine they won't send anyone out to investigate why it keeps going down at our end. Whatever happened to the 'customer is always right'? Do they think DH and I get our kicks being on the phone for 40 minutes at a time while they go through the same old spiel time and time again? Is that why they won't take our word for it? And if the problems are due to weather conditions will we have internet at all during the winter? One thing's for sure, they will not be getting our business when this year's contract expires. We will probably go back to Virgin just for the internet and either get Freeview TV or do without TV completely and watch programmes through our laptops. If things get too bad during the winter we might even go to another company anyway and just have to continue paying Sky as well until the contract expires. This is a case of cheaper definitely not being better.

Anyway, following that rant here's the point of this post. 

Would you throw away this carrot? 

Many people would, but just look at it once it's been peeled? 

Not a mark on the inside of it. 

I had a few carrots like this that had gone a bit manky and just by chance I got an email from Penny's Recipes for Carrot and Onion Pie ( 

This is my version of this extremely frugal pie. Being lazy I couldn't be bothered grating the carrots and onions so I whizzed them up in my food processor and also mixed the pastry in it too.

I'm avoiding eating pastry so didn't try it but it was pronounced delicious by my 3 men and cost me virtually nothing to make.

As I'm striving hard to get the last few lbs off to reach my target weight I'm snacking on a lot of fruit at the moment so I'm always on the lookout for yellow stickers. Over the past week I've bought a lot of reduced price melon (including a huge chunk of watermelon for just 9p) and I got these in Asda a couple of days ago:-

The apricots weren't reduced but were only 67p on special offer, and I love the doughnut much easier to eat and a smaller stone than the regular kind. In the top picture there are also some Cornish crystal new potatoes reduced to 61p.
As DH has eaten out at a leaving do at college today and I generally stick to soup the day before my weigh-in, I'm doing the boys frozen faggots, chips and peas tonight for dinner. 

I'm trying to feed us from the freezer and cupboards again this week and spend as little as possible on extras. It shouldn't be hard as I have loads of stuff in. Today I've spent just over £1 and that was for paracetamol and micropore tape for the medicine cupboard.

Now, let's see if the internet will play ball and let me post this.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

I Can Crochet Update

I can definitely crochet. 

At least I can make granny squares, join them together with a crocheted seam, work a border around them and then neatly finish off the edge with double crochet. 

So here's the great unveiling of my very first completed crochet project.

I must admit to being quite pleased with the end result and it will go to my mother-in-law in the nursing home in Bridgend as a gift for her Christmas Eve birthday. I'm going to press it gently and then wrap it so its all ready for when I need to post it. One less thing to do later in the year.

I'm now looking forward to starting on another project since I've been concentrating on this one for a while. Or perhaps I could attempt to finish off my hexie quilt. Or should I start on something completely new? Or make more bags?  Decisions, decisions. I think a delve into my magazine stash for inspiration is the order of the day. Any excuse to spend a few hours looking at lovely crafty stuff.

In other news, on the strength of her performance as Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar, DD3 has been asked to perform in a play at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury. She will play the possessed daughter of one of the characters in a production called Horror Box at the end of September. I'm not sure whether I shall go to see it as she says its really scary.  Despite my enjoying True Blood and Penny Dreadful and such like on TV, I'm not so sure I can stomach that kind of horror on stage, especially as it looks like the audience might be involved in the action. I'm sure her brothers and sisters will enjoy it though. She's also in the local dramatic society's pantomime of Snow White, although she doesn't know what role she'll have yet. Now that's far more my kind of thing these days. She's also been asked to sing again at the Town Hall later this year in another 'music from the musicals' event. She'll be singing 5 songs this time including a duet with her boyfriend and another with the guy who played Judas in JCS. As she also has a full time job she's going to be rather busy with work and rehearsals over the next few months.

Since today is Thursday, we had our regular sandwich dinner tonight. Sandwich Night originated a few months ago when it was only DS1 still living at home. He would go to his Anime club on a Thursday night so DH and I would just have sandwiches and sometimes soup or salad for dinner. Since DS2 moved back home and the Anime club is on a break over the summer, I now make a bit more of an effort for the 4 of us, but we still have something bread-related for Thursday dinner. For tonight I made cheese-topped finger rolls, grilled pork sausages and fried onions. 

The rolls were made with bread flour from Approved Foods and yeast from Aldi, and just a couple of ounces of extra strong cheddar on offer in Morrisons. The sausages were 99p for 8 from Aldi and these are our favourite ordinary pork sausages as they are nice and firm and don't shrink much. The onions were also from Aldi.

I also made a tray of brownies as a treat for dessert to serve with vanilla ice cream. 

My greedy lot wolfed everything down so quickly it was only at the last minute I manage to snap a few pictures.

As I'm trying hard to stick to my diet lately and stay off the bread and cake, I had Quorn sausages, eggs fried using Frylight spray and baked beans, and a yogurt for dessert (although a few brownie crumbs might have snuck into my mouth when I was cutting them into pieces). 

Talking of my weight...guess who got her 4 1/2 st award this week?  I've had a surge of determination during the past few weeks and have lost 5 lbs over a 3 week period despite having 2 birthdays to celebrate. I've also raised my target by a few pounds so I now only have 4 1/2 lbs to lose. I decided to settle for a slightly higher target weight and will try to stay a couple of pounds below it rather than aim for lower and have trouble maintaining, which is what has happened in the past.

Right, I think that's all I have for now. Hope the weather is better where you are than it is here in Dover. Whatever happened to our summer?

Friday, 4 July 2014

Break a leg!

Quick update before we go out the door to see DS2 play a gig in Deal...hopefully, unlike last time, this one will actually go ahead and he'll get paid for it.

Of course, the title could refer to wishing DS good luck for his gig, but actually it's me who has broken something; not a leg, but a toe. Look away now if you're squeamish or don't like anything to do with feet.

This is the selfie I took of my poor toe, almost black after the silly thing decided to move in the opposite direction to the others when I came downstairs this morning.

It must be broken with the way it's swollen, the colour it's gone and how painful it is, but there's no point going to minor injuries as they don't even x ray breaks to toes any more and would only strap it to the next one anyway, so I've taped it to its neighbour myself. Now I'm hobbling about and my plans for a nice long walk this weekend are on hold until further notice.

I still limped to the bus station this morning to catch my ride to Hythe for a bag making workshop. No way was a little thing like a broken toe going to stop me going, but it was painful and the walk probably didn't do the injury any good. 

Anyway, this is the bag I made:-

And this is Shadow claiming it as his own. 
He fell asleep in it for hours this afternoon and I had to wait for him to wake before I could take it back to actually use as a shopping bag.

Okay, that's all I've got for now. Hope everyone has a good evening

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Makeshift Garden-Less Gardening

Inspired by what I've seen on other blogs I thought I'd join the green-fingered brigade and write a gardening post.

As for the title...well, I don't actually have a garden, just a pitifully small L-shaped concreted back yard with enough room to string a few washing lines across it and very little else. Nevertheless, today I've been gardening.

In the past I've grown quite a few bits and pieces in pots but haven't been organised enough to plant anything for a couple of years. I hadn't intended growing anything this year either but a lovely generous lady at my slimming club asked a few weeks ago if anyone wanted some tomato plants. Free is my favourite price so I thought I'd take a couple and see how that went. I still had some pots and plastic planters and also 1/2 a bag of compost from previous attempts, so the plants went into a nice big terracota flower pot and they're doing quite well and have now sprouted some pretty yellow flowers. I'm hoping to add a homegrown tomato or two to my salads in the near future. 

I hadn't intended planting anything else this year, but an idea in this month's Craftseller magazine caught my eye and I thought I'd give it a go. The project was to make a hanging basket from a metal colander. I had just the thing languishing unused at the back of my cupboard; a cream and green enamelled colander. I decided to make a mini herb garden as I already had some packets of seeds, and all I paid out for extra was a pack of 2 hanging basket liners from Poundland. 

This is the result of my makeshift hanging basket herb garden. 

It's not as pretty as the one in the magazine that had proper chains to hang it with, but then that one was intended to be sold for profit. Mine is suspended by some old boot laces but it does what I want it to and I'm hoping the seeds (basil, marjoram, chives and parsley) will sprout as they are a couple of years past their sell-by date. I'll keep you updated if (when) I actually get plants growing in it.

While I was sorting through the seed packets I came across salad leaves and lettuce. Using the last of the compost, I sprinkled those in one of the plastic planters. I've previously had good results with baby salad leaves and would love to be able to pick my own instead  of buying packets of chopped leaves that go off in a couple of days. 

Since I was on a grow-your-own-without-a-garden roll I also made a cress tray from an old ice cream tub lined with dampened toilet tissues and placed it on the kitchen windowsill. Once again, the cress seeds are out of date so I'm not sure whether my efforts will be successful, but I hope so as I love egg and cress with low fat mayonnaise on a jacket potato.

It just goes to show that anyone can grow their own veg at very little cost. The seeds themselves are the most expensive item nowadays as compost can be bought cheaply at a supermarket, and containers can be improvised from almost anything. If I'd had to buy my seeds then Ebay is the place to look or the £1 shops in the Spring as this time of year most have very little choice of seeds left.

I'm open to any advice from seasoned gardeners out there. I also wonder whether anyone else remembers growing cress in this way at school or, as my kids did, on damp cottonwool stuffed into an eggshell with a face painted on it so that it looked hair.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Just Checking In...

Hi, everyone, just checking in to let you all know I'm still around.

Sorry for my absence these past couple of weeks. June is always a busy month for us with 4 birthdays (including mine on the 21st) and Father's Day, but this year it seems to have been particularly manic with something popping up every other day. In between all the madness I had a week of feeling extremely depressed and not being able to pick myself up. It meant I didn't have the energy or incentive to do much of wading through thick fog that clung to me and dragged me down. I'm still a bit bleugh on that front but better than I was. I actually made 2 birthday cards and a Doctor Who cushion cover for DD1's birthday last week; a great improvement on the previous week when I couldn't do much more than sit on the sofa with a bit of crocheting. 

Talking of crochet, I'm hoping to have the blanket I've been working on finished to show you all soon. I'm really pleased with it as my very first crochet project and it will be put by for my mother-in-law's Xmas eve birthday.

Anyway, the month ends on a very positive note with DS2 getting his results for his HND course. Out of 8 modules he gained 2 passes, 4 merits and 2 distinctions giving him an overall merit profile. He needed merits to progress to the third year to gain a degree qualification so he's done that with knobs on. Now he just has to decide whether to go to a different college to continue with a degree in musical performance or to stay at the same one and concentrate on the technical side eg. recording etc. He got a special 'well done' dinner tonight of shop bought burgers and chips followed by choc button ice cream cones...junk food, but he loved it.

I'm hoping for a less hectic July, but with a bag making workshop and DS2 playing a gig this Friday, dinner with my sisters later in the month, and our wedding anniversary and holiday on 26th that's already a portion of the calender filled. Really looking forward to that holiday, though; I need a change of scenery and DH needs a break from work.

Right, it's getting late and I'm exhausted because I've not been sleeping well (either the depression gives me insomnia or the insomnia causes the depression...vicious circle!).

Take care everyone and see you in July.

Love and hugs, Helen x

Sunday, 15 June 2014

A Sea of Pink

I've had a perfect weekend. 

Yesterday my daughter drove up for the day from Winchester, Hampshire and we celebrated her 30th birthday (which is today) with a family lunch at the Jackdaw Inn in the pretty village of Denton between Canterbury and Folkestone. This is the place where DD2 and her fiance will marry next May and we managed to take some lovely photos in the garden where they will hold the ceremony. It was the first time in a couple of years that we've all been together and we had a fantastic time.

 The birthday girl and her younger brothers

My wonderful kids

Kids, partners and dad

Birthday girl with mum and dad

 Dad and mum

My family

Today I did the Race for Life at Folkestone for the very first time. DD2 and I walked the course (5km or 3.1 miles) in approx 53 minutes. DD3 ran the distance in 21 minutes and came 6th out of approximately 3000 entrants. It really did look like a sea of pink on the Leas at Folkestone. But, of course, the main reason for doing the race was to raise money for cancer charities and it was announced that over £135,000 was raised just from this one race. As there are similar races held throughout the country I'm looking forward to finding out what this year's overall total will be.

 Me, DD2 and DD3 before the race

DD3 working out before the race (her Honey Boo boo impression!)

A medal for everyone

After the race we all went to Starbucks for coffee, including DH and DS1 who had come with us for support. The kids treated DH to coffee and a cookie for Father's Day, as well as giving him gifts of dvds and Amazon vouchers. I cheated and bought fresh pizzas (2 for £4) from Morrisons for dinner served with spicy wedges (Aldi 59p) and a selection of salad veg. Dessert was vanilla ice cream, crushed Flakes (leftover from DD1's birthday cake), and squirty cream from a can. 

I have had an absolutely wonderful weekend, one of those magical islands of time that we all shared together and something to always remember as my children are now leaving home, scattering and building their own homes and families. 

I hope your weekends were as amazing as mine was. Love, Helen x

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Baked Bacon, Cheese and Onion Dumplings And My Latest Make

When I got my new phone a few months back I quickly knitted a 'sock' for it, but I've seen several patterns in magazines for stitched cases and wanted to give one a go. I tried one design earlier this week that didn't work out, so I found another one and this one was more successful. 

This is what I made this morning. 

It took about 2.5 hours from start to finish (including ironing and backing the fabric, cutting out etc.) I'm quite pleased with it and now I've made one and know the pitfalls I could make the next one more quickly. I spent about half an hour neatly sewing the velcro on by hand, but I've seen online that it can be done by machine so I'll give that a go next time. I'd also use a flat button as this shanked one made pinning and sewing the fabric together rather difficult. The case took only oddments of fabric so I'm thinking of making a few and trying to sell them. 

Dinner tonight was something I made up myself (out of my head, as my nan would say). DS2 had requested bacon roly poly but I only had a tiny bit of bacon so I combined it with some chunks of strong cheddar and some chopped spring onions that were going wrinkly. I made some suet pastry with dried sage added, divided it into 4 pieces, rolled each one out into a small circle, put the bacon/cheese/onion filling in the middle of each, gathered the edges up and rolled them into dumplings that I then baked in the middle of the oven, with oven chips on the top shelf, and served with baked beans. 

They were delicious and very, very filling and I think I'd make them slightly smaller next time.

We've had lovely weather here today and I took a little trip into town and around the charity shops searching for something pink to wear for the race on Sunday as I do not usually wear pink. I managed to get a nice pale pink M&S blouse for £3.99 in the British Heart Foundation shop that I will actually wear after the event, so I'm all set.

Hope you all had a good days. Love, Helen x