Thursday, 22 January 2015

Sticking and Stitching and Knitting

I've had a couple of lovely crafty days, knitting and stitching and card making. 

I started off at 7.30 this morning by making a card for DD3's BF's birthday on Saturday. Unfortunately I was in a hurry to get it finished and posted and forgot to take a picture of it. Suffice to say it had 6 layers of decoupage so involved a fair bit of cutting out and layering up with sticky pads. Luckily I enjoy all that cutting and sticking and it turned out well considering I was in a rush to get it done. I had some postage stamps left over from Xmas so popped it in the letter box on the way to Aldi to buy a few odds and sods. As I was passing I nipped into the hospice charity shop and bought this 250g ball of double knit for £1, and for 50p  I was pleased to find another ball of the same purple sparkly yarn I'm using to knit socks.

A couple of weeks ago I made another syringe driver bag for the hospice and I had 7 more cut out and ready to sew before I hurt my back and couldn't sit at the machine for any length of time. Last week I didn't feel like sewing and anyway I wanted to get my jumper finished. This week I'd decided to get on with it and put together 4 yesterday, and 3 more today making 8 in total with the one I'd already done. 

I've also got another 3 straps sewn up and just need to cut out and stitch the main bag pieces, or else I'll cut the straps into shorter lengths for tote bags that the hospice wants to put patients' belongings in rather than sending relatives home with their loved ones' bits and bobs in a carrier bag. DH is having a meeting with his business partner in Margate in a couple of weeks so I'll get him to take the bags into the Thanet hospice at Margate Hospital saving me the cost of postage.

And this afternoon I sat down watching Judge Judy and Extreme Couponing and finished off the first pair of socks.

So, that's Christmas pressie numero uno safely stashed long as I don't forget where I put them! I have enough of the purple yarn for at least one more pair, but to ring the changes my next pair will be the same sparkly green that I used for my hat. I'm going to make a pair for the 5 females in the family (including DS2's girlfriend), and maybe a scarf each too. I'm not sure if the boys would appreciate hand knitted socks, although DH loved the ones I made him last year.

Dinner tonight was sliced gammon and crusty rolls with pickles. The gammon was one of 3 joints for £10 bought from Morrisons before Xmas using my savings stamps, and I cheated and bought part-baked rolls from Aldi for 39p a pack. We already had pickles and chutneys plus some pickled onions I won in the raffle at my slimming club a couple of weeks ago...yum, yum. There's enough gammon left for me to add to a macaroni cheese for Saturday. I realised that I got the date of Burns' Night wrong and it's actually on Sunday, so that's when we'll have the haggis (is the plural of haggis haggii?), so tomorrow night we'll have the spicy chicken and veg savoury rice.

That's it for tonight, I think. I must get out for a walk tomorrow; Aldi is the furthest I've been for the past 2 days. Here's hoping the weather is good. Love, Helen x

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Almost Snow and Trying to Keep Warm

We had a tiny flurry of snow this morning but it was gone almost as soon as it started and left a slightly slushy, slippery covering on the pavements. I do hate this weather. I wish we humans could simply hibernate during the winter months. My favourite time of the day is when I can curl up in bed at night with my 2 hot water bottles. My most detested time is having to get out of bed in the morning!

I did brave the cold this morning to diligently attend my slimming club. My weight stayed the same this week which is fine as I lost 2lb last week and I'm dead on my target weight at the moment. I hurried home afterwards to get into the warm. Unfortunately I've had the heating on a lot today. Despite wearing three layers of clothing (long-sleeved t-shirt, brushed cotton shirt and a thick cardigan) and 3 pairs of socks plus slippers I still couldn't stay warm unless I sat on the sofa with a blanket wrapped around me and, of course, I couldn't do that all day.

Dinner tonight was the bolognaise sauce over pasta, and very tasty it was. I'm going to swap the menu plan about a bit and serve the meatloaf tomorrow with chips and baked beans, and the chicken and rice on Saturday instead.

That's about it for today. I hope the weather isn't too bad where you are, and you manage to stay nice and cosy. Love, Helen x

Monday, 19 January 2015

This Week's Menu

I meant to post this last night but time got away from me. 

I spent most of yesterday morning preparing food in advance, except a chicken which I cooked at dinner time, and I have most of the main meals for this week pre-cooked. Once again I mostly used stuff I had in stock.

Yesterday for the first time I cooked a roast chicken using my halogen oven's spit-roast feature, and it came out amazingly well, moist and cooked through with all the fat having dripped into the bottom of the cooker. I had already used the halogen to pre-cook the stuffing balls, roast parsnips and potatoes, and the peas, carrots and sprouts were done in the microwave.Yorkshire puds were cooked at the last minute while the chicken was resting.

Sausagemeat stuffing
 Stuffing rolled in flour
Cooked stuffing  
 Plateful of loveliness

I had 2 whole chickens remaining in the freezer from when Morrisons had their £5 off a £10 spend on meat voucher in the newspaper a few months back. I bought 3 of their 3 for £10 chickens but only paid £5 plus 40p for the paper which made each bird just £1.80. I also had sausagemeat, parsnips, sprouts, peas and carrots in the freezer and spent just 49p on a pack of 15 yorkshire puds from Aldi. Stuffing mix from the cupboard courtesy of Approved Foods, and potatoes were yellow stickered from Morrisons last week.

I calculated the whole meal cost about £5 for 4 people, but of course the chicken will stretch a lot further. In fact, I have already made a slowcooker casserole for tonight's dinner with the chicken picked from the carcass, the leftover veg, a yellow-stickered casserole pack and some butter beans from the freezer, and a sachet of casserole mix from AF. With dumplings cooked on top it made a hearty meal for a freezing cold day. The meat from the two leftover chicken legs will make spicy chicken and rice with vegetables later in the week. 

In addition I also stretched the sausagemeat and stuffing mix. I had a 750g pack of Tesco value minced beef in the freezer, 500g of this was mixed with half the pack of sausagemeat and half the pack of stuffing mix to make a couple of meatloaves, one for the freezer, the other for later in the week. The remaining 250g of mince was used to make a bolognaise sauce in the slow cooker that we'll have with pasta tomorrow night. All this was cooked yesterday morning, so I have very little food prepartion to do this week.

 Meatloaf before and after

Slow cooker bolognaise sauce

This is how the menu looks at the moment starting with yesterday -

Sunday - Roast chicken with all the trimmings
Monday - Chicken casserole with dumplings
Tuesday - Pasta bolognaise
Wednesday - Spicy chicken, rice and veg
Thursday - Sandwich night (I might slow cook a small gammon joint from the freezer to serve with homemade bread and pickles)
Friday - Burns night, so Aldi Haggis (I bought 2, marked at £1.29 they went through the checkout at 99p each) with mashed potatoes and swede. The haggis can be cooked in the microwave in just a few minutes
Saturday - Meatloaf, new potatoes and veg

I might swap the chicken and rice and meatloaf nights around, not sure yet.

Away from talk of food, I had to stay in today waiting for the man to come service our boiler and finally decided on my next knitting project. I'd vowed to make one thing a month towards this year's Xmas pressies so I've decided on socks to start with. I have some more of the sparkly wool I used to make my hat. I have various colours, enough to make at least 4 pairs of the easiest design from that 2 needle sock pattern I bought last year. I've also adjusted it slightly to make the leg length a bit shorter, and from experience I now know they knit up quite big so I'm making the large child size for my daughters. I got one sock done and have made a start on the second so will post pictues as soon as the first pair is finished.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Jumper Finished at Last

Before anything else I have to say a warm welcome to A Few Pennies. Nice to have you reading my ramblings.

I seem to have been knitting this jumper forever, but I finally finished it yesterday. The weather was horiible so I only made it along the road to Aldi for a couple of bits and spent the rest of the day cooking and crafting...and I made myself sit down and seam the jumper. 

Anyone else love the actual knitting part but hate sewing it together? I especially hate sewing in all the ends and with a striped garment like this there were quite a lot of ends. Still, it's done now and here's yours truly modelling it. 

I did press it, I swear, but it appears much more creased in the pictures than it does in real life. I knitted a size 12 and it's very loose so I could probably have got away with a 10, but then I like my jumpers baggy. I'm pleased with how it turned out and I've had a few compliments. I'll probably live in it for the next few days until I fancy a change as it's nice and warm and very comfortable to wear.

Last night we went to watch DD3 as Prince Rupert in the DODS' (Dover Operatic and Dramatic Society) panto of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves at the town hall. It was a fun evening, and everyone did really well. DD has a lovely voice (proud mummy moment) and she and BF are now getting paid gigs to sing at local cabaret nights and she's also been booked to sing at a wedding later this year. It would be lovely if they could both make a proper living from their singing.

Some random pics from my mad family...

 DH being the perfect husband and vacuuming this morning 

DH pretending the vacuum hose is a smoking gun (yeah, I didn't get it at first either).

 Shadow finally using one of the the pet 'igloos' we bought the cats for Xmas

Today's weather has been a bit of everything. Cold and icy, but really bright sunshine all morning, then torrential rain when we were out early afternoon. No snow so far...hope I'm not tempting fate by saying that. I hope it's not too terrible where you are.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Still Eating From the Freezer

Really pleased at today's weigh-in. Despite having a couple of piggy days last week, by eating healthily the rest of the week, lots of vegetable soups and fruit smoothies, I'd lost 2lbs taking me right back on target. I'd like to get another pound or two off so I'm just below target, but if I stay the same I'm quite happy that I'm managing to maintain my weight quite well. It seems I can get away with a couple of days a week eating whatever I like as long as I mainly stick to healthy eating the rest of the time.

And talking about food, I'm still managing to make meals predominantly from what I have in stock. Today was leftovers. DS1 had some Brains faggots, mash and veg for his lunch left from Sunday. Dinner for DH was liver and bacon casserole left from last night with jacket potatoes, while the boys had a pizza I got yellow-stickered for 49p from Morrisons and oven chips both from the freezer. Tomorrow will be Quorn mince and veg from the freezer made into a pasta bake using Approved Foods pasta from the stockpile in my bedroom, a homemade tomatoey sauce and grated cheddar on top. 

I did buy some frozen mushrooms (Farm Foods 500g for 79p) and frozen mixed peppers (Asda 500g for 89p) as I was low on them, and I've also bought salad veg, potatoes, yogurts, soya milk and bananas this week. But I actually have a whole month's main meals planned out using what I have in my freezer, fridge and on the shelves. In fact, I should have enough left at the end of the month to survive at least another 2 weeks without having to buy main ingredients, but when DH gets paid on 25th I might be tempted by Farm Foods latest deals and their money off vouchers to do a bit of a frozen foods stock up. Just one example...they currently have 3 x 600g packs of frozen back bacon rashers for £5 down from the usual £6. 

Thursday will be soup and sandwich night; a spinach and chickpea soup and bacon sandwiches using a Farm Foods bacon pack and a loaf made in my breadmaker. Friday will be sausage casserole from the freezer and couscous...nice and quick as we're out at the town hall to see the local amateur dramatics' society pantomime, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, as in true panto tradition DD3 is playing the principal male role. 

That's all for tonight. Hope everyone is well and not being too affected by the wet and windy weather. Love, Helen x

Monday, 12 January 2015

Feeling Better

After a very painful weekend when I felt I'd aged about 30 years, my back is feeling so much better today. I am being sensible and trying not to do too much, but it is so nice not to feel all bent over and wincing every time I have to get out of a chair or pick something up. I went into town this morning (horrible drizzly weather) and my back did ache a bit when I got home, but after a sit down I was fine again. 

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours at DD2's helping make her wedding invitations, along with her MIL (another Helen). The ceremony is on 30th May at the Jackdaw Inn in the village of Denton near Canterbury. It's where we had a meal for DD1's 30th birthday in June last year. We're hoping for fine weather as there's a lovely garden with an arbour where the ceremony will be held (indoors if it's wet) and she's having 2 bouncy castles, one for the kids and one for adults, plus a hog roast and sweets table. 

I'm also making the cupcakes although other Helen will be decorating them, and she's also making and decorating the wedding cake. I froze a cupcake without icing from DD3's birthday tea back at the end of November to see whether I would be able to make them well in advance of the wedding day rather than the night before. I defrosted it and took it round to DD2's and it was fine when we tried it...a third each, so not too naughty.

Now I have to keep my weight down so I can look lovely in the photos. When DD1 married 5 years ago I was 14.5 st and a size 20 and I wore baggy black trousers, a loose white shirt and a huge navy-blue jacket; this time I'm hoping to look more feminine in a dress. My weight stayed exactly the same all over Christmas and the New Year and I'm hoping for at least another stay-the-same at my weigh-in tomorrow. I've had a couple of piggy days this week but have eaten really healthily the rest of the time...lots of smoothies and vegetable soups. Continuing to attend the Slimming World meetings each week is definitely helping me to keep things in check. Knowing I have to weigh in (and start paying again if I go more than 3lbs over target for 2 weeks in a row) means that even if I do have a couple of bad days I always try to get back on track over the weekend and on Monday. So, fingers crossed for tomorrow. 

Not much else to tell for now. I'm still working on my jumper, the second sleeve is slowly growing. I might even have pics of me wearing it to show before winter is over!!!

That's all for now, folks. Have a good evening. Love, Helen x

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Not Amused

Today it's been one thing after another. 

Woke up late to the sound of pouring rain, and it was still almost as dark as night at 8.30. Didn't want to get out of bed, but there was laundry to do and I had hoped to pop into town despite the dreadful weather.

Perhaps I should have stayed where I was after all. Firstly, when I got out of bed, I bent down to pick something up and ping the muscles in my lower back popped. I have a slight weakness there and my back gives out for no apparent reason every now and then. So, my leg has just about cleared up and I've been happily striding out as usual this week, and now I'm back to hobbling around again, all bent over and groaning every time I have to bend and straighten up. Thank goodness I know from experience that it usually heals within a few days.The only good thing to come out of it, it's given me a valid excuse to sit on the sofa for most of the day with a hot water bottle against the offending region while I knitted away at my jumper. One sleeve has been completed and the ribbing done on the second. I can see the end of it in sight and can't wait for it to be done so I can start on something else. Oh, and another plus is not going out means I had a no-spend day. Had to be some silver lining to today's annoyances. Of course, being a mum and used to carrying on regardless, and despite being fairly immobile, I still managed to get that laundry done and dried over the radiators, and I've also made tuna pasta bake for dinner tonight. 

Second bad thing was DS1 having another streaming cold, the second in just over a month. He always has a serious case of man flu when he gets ill, convinced he's dying and I get a run down of every symptom and how he's going to suffocate because he can't breathe through his nose and he didn't get a wink of sleep last night. I do feel sorry for him, but it is just a cold and we all get them. That's what he gets for working in retail and being constantly in contact with members of the public and all their nasty germs. I've suggested he starts taking some multi vitamins I have in the bathroom cabinet.

Third c*ck-up was DS2 going to the railway station in the pouring rain only to learn there were severe delays in the services out of London due to signalling errors and his train could be an hour and a half late. He was soaked through and decided to come home instead of waiting around, especially as by the time he got to Uni his lecture would be best part over. He did phone to let them know he wasn't going to be in as he also had a meeting with his tutor. Fortunately the notes for his lecture will be online for him to catch up, and he's spent the time at home working on an essay.

Fourth, we had a power cut at lunchtime right in the middle of the auction on Bargain Hunt. I dare it cut out right then! LOL!!!! Everything went down and the alarm at the car hire business up the road went off, and I was just thinking I'd have to put towels over everything in the freezer so it didn't defrost when the power came back again. Not soon enough for me to catch that auction, though. I'll have to try and find it on the Catch Up tomorrow.

And lastly, DH decided to take the back roads home tonight, drove through a massive puddle, flooded the engine of our old VW Polo and it stalled and then wouldn't restart. So there he is, stuck on a tiny country road in the pitch black for over an hour waiting for Green Flag to send someone out. To be fair, they are very good and someone was with him within the hour and got him sorted out enough he could drive home, but all in all he was nearly 3 hours late getting in, cold and wet and tired out. I had dinner and a mug of hot chocolate waiting for him and now he's dropped off on the sofa, bless him. And...he's just started snoring!

Surely, surely tomorrow has to be a better day.