Friday, 13 February 2015

Snot Stops Play On Valentine's Day

Hello, everyone. Sorry for not updating, I was busy over the weekend and at the beginning of the week getting everything sorted to send to the clinic in Sevenoaks for DS1's autism assessment. I spent 4 days on and off wading through years of medical and educational reports going back to when he was about 3 or 4 (he's now 26) trying to decide the most relevant to send, photocopying everything as I didn't want to send originals, and helping DS fill in the forms that came with the application letter. 

This is the middle stage of the process and we have to wait to see if they will actually agree to assess him. The first stage was persuading his doctor to take him seriously and refer him. It's hard to believe that in this day and age this fairly young doctor still seems to think someone on the autistic spectrum shouldn't be holding down a job, or have any social life whatsoever. He really upset DS the first time DS brought the subject up...luckily being treated to breakfast at McDonalds (and a few hugs from mum) helped make him feel better, and the next time I went with him to the appointment and spoke on his behalf.

Anyway, I sent off a fairly thick envelope of stuff and now we have to wait and see. It could be weeks before we hear either way, and if the answer is positive it could be months more before he actually gets an appointment. 

DH is off for 2 weeks half term break after today. We were looking forward to lunch out tomorrow as a Valentine's day treat...but yours truly here has a nasty cold and can hardly sit at a table without snotting all over everything and my taste buds are completely on strike so we're going to defer it until sometime next week when I'm feeling better. I shouldn't complain as this is the only real cold I've had this winter. We're hoping to have a few days out round and about this area rather than going away this fingers crossed for some decent weather. I am sooo ready for spring to come; I'm just about sick of feeling so cold and everything being so dark and dull and dead.

Not much crafting going on here at the moment. I can't even really knit because of my dripping nose. I did cobble together a simple unlined tote bag earlier in the week as a practice for making personal effects bags for relatives to take patients' possessions home from the hospice. It wasn't too good, a bit small and I wasn't happy with the handles, so I'm using it myself and will have another go when I'm feeling better. I prefer lined ones I think, more substantial and all those seam allowances are nicely hidden, so I'll probably go back to my usual method. I haven't even made DH a Valentine's card this year, but have cheated and sent him a free E-card through Not that we're all soppy romantic any more but Valentines is another excuse to tell him how much he means to me...and to celebrate with a special meal!

I'm hoping my cold is best part over by Monday as I'm off to Maidstone with DD2, her maid-of- honour and her future mother-in-law for a practice run of her hair and make up for the wedding. The lady who is doing it will come to the house on the actual day, but DD needs to go to her salon for the practice. It's getting scarily close now (May 30th). After over a year of her turning into bridezilla and talking about little else it will be almost a relief when it's over, but I do hope she has a lovely day. I still haven't a clue what I'm wearing and the hen night is also fast approaching and that's a costume do with a female superheroes and villains theme. I am definitely not copying most comic book characters by getting into a skintight leotard and having my boobs hanging out all over the place for that.  I though I might go as Malleficent...suitably evil and well-covered up.

Tonight's dinner will be cowboy baked beans with chorizo served with jacket spuds and salad. Beans and jackets done in the slow cooker. Quick and easy to put together and flavoursome enough even I might be able to taste it.

The weather has been mostly dry here this week, but still very cold at times. I'm just thankful we have only had a few flurries of snow over the past weeks and none of it has settled.Bet I've jinxed things now and we'll have a right old storm before February is out.

Right, that's all. I'm going to toddle off round Aldi's and might even go into town for an hour to get out of the house and hopefully some fresh air will help clear my head and nose a bit. Hope you are all well. Love and hugs, Helen xx

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

A Woman Can Always Change Her Mind

After Slimming World yesterday morning (stayed the same at 1lb under my target weight), I spent most of yesterday afternoon helping DS1 with one of the 3 forms he needs to fill out to apply for his autism assessment. Last evening I sorted through 15 years worth of his school reports, special educational needs statements, speech therapy reports etc. etc. to find evidence to support his application. And for most of today I've been trying to decide which of them to send, and then spent hours photocopying pages and pages on our slow home copier. In between all that I've done a dark load of laundry, changed the cats' litter trays and disinfected everything, vacuumed through downstairs, emptied the bins and put the recycling out for collection tomorrow and made 3 days worth of dinners.

Talking of much for this week's menu plan. I was browsing through my Hairy Biker's Mums Know Best cook books last night and of course wanted to make half the recipes in there, so I decided to ring the changes on this week's dinners. We'd already had the corned beef/tinned ham, chips and beans last night instead of later in the week because I couldn't be bothered making the sausage plait yesterday after all that sorting of paperwork. 

Before bedtime last night I took a 750g pack of value minced beef and 500g pack of puff pastry from the freezer to make a mince and onion plate pie. But, being me, I knew I could stretch it to more than one meal. The beef was browned in my large slowcooker and drained of fat before being divided into 2 portions into my 2 slowcookers. One portion had onion, garlic, frozen peppers, mushrooms and carrots sticks added to it, plus leftover sauce from Sunday's meatballs to make a pasta sauce. The other portion had onion, frozen diced carrots and swede, some leftover veg soup, a couple of beef stock cubes and some mixed herbs added to make the base of the minced beef pie. I then divided the puff pastry in two, half to top the pie and the other half to make 4 small sausage plaits using vege sausage mix.

So, tonight's dinner was the minced beef pie with the filling from the slow cooker, topped with puff pastry and cooked in the halogen oven. I served it with microwaved frozen cauli and green beans, and frozen mashed potatoes. It's the first time I've used frozen mash and it was lovely. I bought mine for 69p for 650g from Aldi and it easily did 4 portions. With the cost of fresh potatoes and considering what gets lost in peelings plus the cost of cooking I think it was pretty good value and so easy to prepare.

Tomorrow will be a sandwich night, except we're having some fancy crackers instead of bread and reduced fat Brussels Pate from Aldi (crackers approx £1 and pate on offer at 49p). 

Friday we'll have the individual sausage plaits with spicy potato wedges and salad. I cooked the plaits in the halogen, browing the bottoms first before turning them right way up to ensure the pastry was cooked on all sides.

Saturday will be a pasta bake using the slow cooker sauce, topped with some grated cheddar and browned off in the halogen. 

The weather was cold and bright today after yesterday's massive snowflakes that thankfully didn't settle with the ground so wet already, but I only managed a quick trip down the road to Aldi once I'd finished with the photocopying. I'm hoping it will be dry tomorrow so I can get out for a decent walk even if it's only in to town for a wander around the shops...although I only have about £4.60 left of this week's £50 and I need to buy the crackers and pate with some of that. I am doing well, though, and have only overspent on one week by just over £1.

Oh, and to put a dent in my budgeting plans, DH got a tax demand for £580 in today's post dating back to when he was supply teaching. He was actually paying though the agency for a firm to manage his tax and national insurance contributions but they obviously didn't do a very good job of it. We'll probably take a chunk of savings and pay it off rather than have them deduct it monthly from his salary. Thank goodness we're in a postion to do that and aren't having to face an extra £50 a month deduction from salary that we can't afford. It must be terrible when something like that happens to someone already just scraping by.

I hope you all have a good night and the weather isn't too terrible where you are. Love and hugs, Helen xx

Monday, 2 February 2015

Menu Planning For The Month

I'm trying to eat from the freezer and shelves again this month since I have lots of frozen meat and veggies, and tinned and dried goods in my stockpile. I've had to buy yogurts, milk and cheese and will need to get some fresh fruit and veg, and I also needed to buy DH's cereal, Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, but I got him the Aldi version as I couldn't find a really good deal on Kelloggs.

My housekeeping week goes from Friday to Thursday and I'm hoping to keep my weekly spend to £50 for everything, including household items.I've already spent over £30 this week because of the stock-up I did on loo rolls and cleaning products at Tesco on Saturday, and on cat food on Friday, but all that stuff will last a couple of months. I already have plenty of laundry gel and I bought 4 bottles of Persil washing up liquid on offer for 50p each at Morrisons a couple of weeks ago. 

As intended I did my freezer inventory today and while I was at it I also defrosted the freezer, a job I hate since it's a big chest freezer and I have to practically climb into the thing to reach the bottom of it. It was well worth the effort though as everything is now organised neatly into bags, and since I've listed everything in it I've made a preliminary menu plan for dinners for the rest of the month. Some meals will probably be swapped about and I might change my mind about others depending if I have leftovers or we just fancy something different, but basically I've managed to work out a whole month's dinners using the food I already have in the house. 

Breakfasts are generally porridge, cereal, fruit and yogurt or a smoothie, and lunches are usually soup for me with crispbreads or jacket spuds and salad. The boys prefer to buy their own lunches when at work or uni, or if they're home they might have something on toast. DH doesn't eat during the day. He only eats at breakfast and in the evening, when he makes up for not eating during the day by scoffing from the moment he sets foot in the house after work. At weekends he likes soup and also rice cakes and pate or hummus for lunch. I tend to buy liver and bacon spread for 41p from Morrisons and either make my own hummus or look for reduced items in Asda or Morrisons.

This year I had resolved to try a new recipe each week, but with eating from my stores I'm tending to stick to old favourites so I don't need to buy too many extra ingredients.

This week's menu (starting with yesterday) is as follows:-

Sunday - Meatballs in Tomato Sauce and Pasta

Monday - Lamb stew with Dumplings

Tuesday - Vege Sausage Plait (sachet of vege sausage mix and frozen puff pastry), mashed potato, peas and sweetcorn

Wednesday - Macaroni Cheese with Chorizo and Salad

Thursday - Sliced Corned Beef or Tinned Ham, Oven Chips and Baked Beans

Friday - Barbecue Chicken Drumsticks, Spicy Potato Wedges and Salad

Saturday - Chorizo and Vegetable Savoury Rice

The only things I will need to buy towards this menu are some potatoes for the mash and salad veg. The menu is a bit meat heavy this week with only one proper vege meal, but the chorizo meals will only contain half a chorizo ring each. We don't often do a proper dessert but there are always yogurts and tinned fruit in the fridge, and sometimes I'll make up a sugar-free jelly with fruit or a rice pudding in the slowcooker.

I forgot to take pictures of tonight's lamb stew but this is what went into it:- 


700g pack frozen chump chops - £3.33 (Farm Foods 3 for £10)

500g Pack of Fresh Casserole Veg with Leeks - 35p (yellow stickered from Morrisons)

1 Veg and 1 Beef Stock Cube - 7p (Aldi stock cubes 39p per 12 pack)

Few New  Potatoes - approx 15p (Aldi from a 69p bag)

Dried Rosemary and Thyme - 5p

Salt and Black Pepper - 2p


8 oz self raising white flour - 8p (Aldi 1.5 kg bag for 45p)

3 oz vege suet - approx 25p (Morrisons - 20g for 89p...I think)

Tsp baking powder - 2p 

I browned the chops in my large slow cooker for about 30 minutes on high, drained off the liquid fat and trimmed the solid fat from the chops with kitchen scissors. Then everything else was added, plus enough boiling water to just cover it. and it was left to cook on low for most of the day. An hour before serving it was turned to high and when bubbling nicely the dumplings were added. For the dumplings I stir all the ingredients together with enough water to bind them without making the mix sticky, divide into balls and then just pop them on top of the stew, put the lid back on and cook for a further 30 minutes until nice and fluffy. I always use less than half suet to flour to cut calories, but also because I find they don't cling to the inside of your mouth as much with less fat in them.

The total cost for 4 decent servings - £4.32 or £1.08 per serving

I've done a lot of little jobs today like defrosting the freezer, doing that inventory, replacing some broken hooks in the sitting room curtains, changing our bedding and doing a light load of laundry, washing the kitchen mats, vaccuuming throughout downstairs, a quick pop round to Aldi, clearing up cat sick (one of my darlings left me a lovely pressie to find when I got up this morning) and sorting out fabric for those tote bags. Actually I found 4 pretty cotton pillow cases that are exactly the correct width. I'd bought them for 50p each from the Age UK shop to use as bag linings, but they are such good quality fabric they will be fine to use as a bag in their own right. I'll just cut them down to the correct height, hem the top and either use the offcut of fabric for the handles or find something that coordinates. 

It's been a lovely bright, sunny day with a light breeze, but very, very cold. I couldn't feel my fingers at all while I was pegging the washing on the line, but the combination of sun and breeze did a good job of drying it all even in our tiny enclosed back yard. 

Thst'a all for now folks. Hope you are all managing to keep warm. Love and hugs, Helen xx


Sunday, 1 February 2015

A New Day, A New Month

I have to apologise again for yesterday's self-indulgent ramblings, but I must thank every one for taking the time to write to me. I am overwhelmed by all your kindness and understanding and today is a new day and I am feeling better.

Before joining Slimming World I'd have cheered myself up with an afternoon of cake making, but that isn't an option nowadays as I have absolutely zero self control when it comes to my own baking. So I really am going to have to find other ways to keep myself occupied since me and housework don't go together. I know for some people cleaning is cathartic but doing all that dusting and scrubbing etc. and knowing it will need doing all over again in just a few days just makes me even more depressed. I love the nice bits, the cooking and budgeting and shopping, and I don't mind doing laundry and pushing the vacuum around, but I gave up doing all but the most essential of everything else when I had post natal depression after DD2 was born and I had to choose between a perfect house and sanity. 

I'm sure that menopause hasn't helped with my moods, or that for the past 4-5 years everyone else has been having breakdowns/eating disorders/depression and I've been the one keeping strong and holding everything together while they all unloaded on me, or that whenever I think about getting help for myself something crops up like my MIL being ill and then passing away last  November just after I'd gone to the docs about my problem. And now DS1 is finally getting an adult assessment for autism that will mean a long-winded visit to Sevenoaks and hours of questions and trying to recall details of his childhood etc. I do really want him to have this done and to support him, just saying that as usual it's me supporting someone else. Oh, I sound so self-centred.

Anyway, this month hasn't been all bad by any means. I was doing quite well with the old mood swing thing until last week, and I have actually fulfilled my resolve that each month I'll make something for charity and something towards next Christmas. I have 8 syringe driver bags ready for the hospice and one and half pairs of socks knitted for Xmas pressies. I'm feeling a bit more positive again today and trying to think of others again and not myself. With this in mind I've borrowed my pinking shears back from DD2 (who has had them for months) and I'm all set to make some basic unlined tote bags for the hospice staff to use when returning patients' belongings to their relatives. I know that keeping myself busy goes a long way towards helping with my moods, but when I'm on a downer it's such a struggle to do anything at all.

Okay, let's move on. 

Yesterday's cheap and easy curry dinner was lovely and there was enough left over for DH and I to have with a jacket spud each for lunch and for DS2 to finish off with the leftover rice.

Tonight's dinner was meatballs in tomato sauce with pasta. 

Frozen Meatballs - £2.50 (4 packs for £10 from Farm Foods)
Carton of Passata -  35p (Aldi)
Onion - 10p, 
1/4 pack Frozen Peppers - 22p (89p per 500g pack from Asda), 
1/4 pack Frozen Sliced Mushrooms - 20p (79p for 750g Farm Foods), 
2 Tbsp Tomato Puree - 5p,
Garlic - 5p
Stock Cube - 5p, 
1/4 pint Red Wine - approx 50p, 
Italian Herbs - 5p, 
Salt, Pepper - 2p, 
500g Dried Pasta - 25p 
100g Grated Extra Mature Cheddar - 50p (Aldi £1.75 for 350g)

I browned the meatballs in the hologen oven and drained off all the excess fat. Everything else was bunged in the slowcooker and left to bubble gently for a few hours. The browned meatballs were added to the slow cooker about 2 hours before serving to absorb the flavours of the sauce. The pasta was also cooked in the halogen. Served the meatballs and sauce over the cooked pasta and then sprinkled each serving with grated cheddar.

Total Cost for 4 large servings - £4.84
Approx cost per serving -  £1.21

I have things planned to keep me busy tomorrow, including taking a beginning of the month freezer inventory using Elaine's printable form ( I usually just make a list, but think that this form will help me to better see what I've used and what remains. I used less than half the meat from the freezer during January and have stocked up on frozen veg this past week, so I'm hoping to get through to the end of February without having to spend much except for fresh veg, fruit and dairy.

Other plans for February are to make the other half of that pair of socks, plus a third pair, and to make more syringe driver bags and tote bags. Tomorrow I'll be cutting out the fabric for the bags. I also have a valentine's card to make for DH and I have saved enough in bits and bobs of money left over from my weekly housekeeping for us to have lunch out on Valentine's day. 

Now, if I can just keep motivated enough...

That's all for now folks, except to once again thank you all for your support. 

Love you all, Helen xxx

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Spending to Save

Sorry for my absence, I've had a week of being down in the dumps with no motivation to do anything other than the absolute necessities. DD2 (who has a Masters in Clinical Psychology) thinks I might be bi-polar as I have periods of intense activity when I feel on top of the world and get loads done, followed shortly afterwards by a crash when I'm so depressed and lethargic I could happily spend all day every day in bed feeling sorry for myself. I did finally take myself off to the doctor at the end of last year, but the anti depressants made me ill and I didn't gel with my counsellor so I gave up on it all and haven't been back since. 

I know I should get out and join some social groups and I did enquire about a local craft group but I seem to have developed something of a social anxiety problem and gave up on volunteering last year because I'd get so uptight before going out the door. After 30 years as a stay at home mum who devoted their whole life to raising kids, and as someone who has no interest in fashion, make up, celebrities or buying unnecessary household objects I really feel as if I have very little in common with most of the female population. I do chat at my slimming club, but then I've been going there for over 2 years so already feel comfortable and we have our diet in common. I guess I've turned into this extremely introverted person who has lost their sense of adventure and finds it hard to get pleasure out of most of the activities (even crafting and writing) that I used to love so much. Actually, losing the weight hasn't really helped because I used to love food and baking and it was my feel-good thing and I can't turn to it now if I want to keep the weight off. 

Sorry people for the unloading, I guess I really do need someone to talk to about this stuff who isn't a family member.

Well, wasn't that a fun post (NOT!). 

Now for the original purpose of this post. DH wanted to check tyre pressures today and as I had some money off vouchers for Tesco we went to their petrol station first and then I had a wander around the store. I had a £6 off a £30 spend voucher and a £2.50 club card voucher. I'd already decided to stock up on loo rolls and disinfectant, and I also bought some frozen veg, yogurts, quorn sausages, and a couple of tins of corned beef. The only things I bought not on my list were some rolls and haslet for DH's lunch. My total came to just over £32 but with my vouchers I paid just over £23. On the way home we popped into the pet shop and got 2 big sacks of cat litter. 

As I stocked up on other frozen veg during the week and I still have quite a lot of meat in the freezer, canned and dried stuff on the shelves, plus I have plenty of laundry and other cleaning materials and a stock of loo paper and toothpaste, I'm hoping I won't have to do another big shop this month, especially as we were short by £200 on DH's salary for the extra days he had off when his mum was ill and died last November. I've just about come to the end of the sealed tin coins that I've been living on during January, and that has really helped me to put extra by to offset the reduction.

Despite the reduced income I've still managed to overpay on the mortgage and, since the interest rate on our savings is currently so low, we're trying to decide whether to use part of the savings to pay a huge chunk off the mortgage so we can pay it off completely within a year or so rather than the 2-3 years we'd hoped for. If our mortgage rate was really high it would be a no brainer but our rate is low compared with most. It would be nice to actually own our house though, even if it is a wreck.

Dinner tonight is slow cooker veggie curry and rice - a bag of frozen casserole veg (£1), 2 sachets of Ainsley Harriott lentil dhal (£1 for 4 or 25p each from Approved Foods) and 350g long grain rice (approx 35p from AF). Total cost £1.85 or approx 48p a serving (4 servings).

Hope the weather isn't too dreadful where you are. We're forecast a little snow but hopefully it will clear without causing too much trouble.

That's it, I think. Sorry again for the self-indulgent ramblings. Hope you are feeling a good sight more cheerful than I've been lately. 

Love and hugs to all of you, Helen xx

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