Wednesday, 27 November 2013

A Scarf for Who?

Yes, yes, I know that gramatically the title should read Whom instead of Who but the misspelling was intentional because this is what I'm knitting at the moment. 

No prizes for guessing what it is, or Who's scarf it's based on. It's going to be an extra pressie for DS2 who's a huge Doctor Who fan. I did a lot of online research to try and find an authentic pattern for Tom Baker's scarf and found several great sites including which is a hive of info on all things Doc Who scarf related. I'm basing mine on this pattern

I used a size 6 needle instead of a 4 to get a tension I was happy with, and the colours aren't 100% accurate as I'm using a cheap acrylic yarn and including odds and ends I already have. The yellow is a bit bright, not mustard as in the pattern, but I couldn't get just the right shade in the same yarn so I've made do. 

In fact, the colours don't show too well at all in the pictures. The largest sections are a camel colour (a sort of pale brown/beige), the part that looks dark grey is actually a greenish brown, and the blues are actually purple. I'll have to take some more pics another time in daylight. I'm not sure I'll knit the whole length which is between 12-15 ft plus 6 inch tassels on each end adding an extra foot. DS isn't as tall as Tom Baker so I might adjust it to around 10ft instead so its actually wearable. The first stitch of each row is slipped which gives it a nice neat edge and should hopefully prevent it from stretching too much.

I remember having a long stripy 'Doctor Who' type scarf that my mum knitted for me when I was at Dover Girls' Grammar School in th late 60s/early 70s. I also recall getting told off for wearing it because it wasn't a uniform scarf. I guess I had a tiny rebellious streak in me back then because I carried on wearing it although I made sure to tuck it well into my school mack so it didn't draw attention. Not such a rebel after all.

Dinner tonight was that leftover chilli made into a pasta bake and served with salad leaves, cherry tomatoes and cucumber. I've found that serving salad with meals means I eat less of the main course but I still feel full up, so that's my latest plan for sticking to my diet. We'll see next Tuesday whether it has any effect on my weight loss.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Weight Lost, Money Earned

Much to my surprise I actually lost 1lb this week. I guess that the days I was 'good' must have outweighed the naughty days. I'm now only 3.5lbs off a 4st loss. I'm hoping to get there by Christmas if I can just eat healthily for the next 3-4 weeks. I won't beat myself up if I don't because we have a couple of meals out planned next month for DH's birthday, and I will get there in the New Year.

Tonight's dinner was leftover homemade chilli from the freezer served with rice. It was lovely and warming on a very cold day.  There was only 3 of us at dinner, so the chilli will do another meal tomorrow as part of a pasta bake. Including the original meal this chilli will have done 3 meals for between 3 and 5 people.

I made just over £30 on my bits of silver and gold I sent to Tesco Gold Exchange (they really were just broken bits and scraps) and another £20 from Music Magpie. Not a fortune but I'm pleased since it was just for odds and ends I had lying around, and it was much easier than listing everything on Ebay and having to send them off seperately. I'll either use the money to buy DH gifts for Xmas and his birthday or put it by so we can have a night out. We've actually agreed not to buy gifts for each other but to wait and have an outing or something in the New Year. I don't know if we'll both stick to it, usually one or both of us caves in when we decide not to exchange gifts.

This Sunday (Dec 1st) is the grand opening of the Sealed Pot. I only started mine around Easter time, and I just put in any £2, 50p and 20p coins I have left in my purse at the end of the day. I haven't kept a sum of what I've put in there so I'm really excited to find out how much it adds up to. Next year I'm going to have more than one on the go. At the moment I have several online savings accounts that I try and put money in each month, but its too easy to transfer between them all, pinching from one to boost another and vice versa. So I figure that as I've been so good not opening my sealed pot, if I have a couple of them that I put a regular amounts into each month for Xmas or a holiday I'm more likely not to touch it. That's the plan anyway.

Being the old grouch I am I can't wait for Xmas to be over so I can get back to my regular budgeting without having to work around my Xmas spending as well. Bah, humbug!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Slow Cooker Baked Potatoes Update

Just a quick post tonight and, as the title states, a litte update if you've been doing baked potatoes in your slow cooker. I did a batch tonight to serve with the leftover vege meatballs from yesterday. I did everything the same as previously, wrapping them in foil, slow cooking on high for around 4 hours, but they weren't all baked through. The smaller ones were done okay but the larger ones were firmer in the middle than I like and had to be finished off in the mircrowave in time for dinner. I wondered if it was because I'd used non-stick spray instead of oil on the skins but didn't see how that would make a difference as the oil is really just to stop them sticking to the foil. Finally, DD3's boyfriend suggested it might be the potatoes themselves. You know what, I think it was. The last sack we bought from the farm shop are a different strain of potato than the previous ones and I think they are probably more solid so require longer cooking. So, for anyone who's had trouble with their spuds not being baked through after 4 hours, maybe use smaller ones or give them an extra hour on high. I still love this method of baking spuds, I'll just make sure I cook this kind a bit longer in future.

The vege balls were just as yummy second time around, especially as I added a tin of chopped tomatos to the gravy and a few italian herbs to make a nice sauce, and served them with the baked spuds and some salad leaves.

I'm planning on us eating home made freezer meals this week, taking us up until the end of the month. I have a large chicken pie that will do 2 meals, some beef chilli, pea and ham soup and lentil soup. Five days worth of meals that will take us to the 30th November.

Tomorrow is weigh-in again, and I've been a bad girl this week eating cake and lots of bread, so a gain is probably on the cards. Today I've eaten healthily and with no birthdays or outings planned for the coming week I'm hoping to really stick to the plan and start losing again. It's time I stopped messing about taking off and regaining the same couple of lbs. I had hoped to get my 4st off my Xmas but don't think I'll do that now, but you never know.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Cupcakes and a Cold.

Firstly a big ‘HELLO’ to simplesuffolksmallholder over at Frugal in Suffolk. It’s really encouraging that folks are enjoying my little blog enough to want to follow it. 

Sorry for not updating much this week but I’ve not been too well, although I’ve still been busy.

The picture above isn't me, of course, but sums up just what I've been like the past few days. After spending all last week feeling under the weather and as if I was about to go down with a cold, it finally struck this week. I was at my volunteer admin job on Thursday morning and started getting a bit sniffly, then I went on to my computing course in the afternoon and by the time I left there I was starting to sneeze and feel a bit bunged up.

I woke up Friday morning with aches and pains and a sore throat. Despite DH telling me to take it easy I ran around doing lots of little chores which I’m sure helped to keep me from wallowing and feeling sorry for myself. I did a couple of loads of laundry and hung them outside, and then I went shopping at Aldi to get more eggs and icing sugar for DD3’s birthday cakes. After that I nipped into town to W H Smith to exchange a book for DS1 for Xmas that I’d discovered his brother had also bought for him. Luckily they were really good and I simply exchanged it for another one on the 2 for £10 offer.

I also went to the post office to send my little pre-paid package of jewellery bits and bobs to Tesco Gold. Ilona at Life After Money inspired me to have a root around and I found lots of oddments like broken earrings and a couple of rings I never wear. They won’t be worth much but its better to get something for them than have them sitting at the back of a drawer. Earlier last week I’d also sent a few cds and dvds off to Music Magpie that will make me £20 if they all check out okay with the company. I’m hoping to fund DH’s birthday and Xmas pressies with the money.

As well as the running around all morning I made dinner of chicken thighs with a garlic and thyme coating, and home made savoury potato wedges. We had this with salad. The coating mix I used was a freebie sample I got through the post by clicking on a Facebook link.

Yesterday, I finally gave in to the cold and spent most of the day on the sofa reading and doing not very much (we had leftovers of the chicken and salad for dinner served with spicy basmati rice – also 4 sachets for £1 from AF). I thoroughly enjoyed all the Doctor Who 50th anniversary stuff last night. I was 6 when Doc Who started and can remember our family sitting round the TV and watching in black and white. DS1 is a Doc Who fan so it was great to share that with him.

Today I’m feeling a whole lot better, which is a good job because it’s DD3’s 23rd birthday and I’d promised to make her cupcakes with American vanilla frosting, and a coffee and walnut cake. So that’s what I’ve been doing all morning. I think my head was still full of cottonwool, though, when I started baking because the first cake was awful and I had to make another. Any ideas what I can do with two halves of an 8 inch coffee and walnut cake that didn’t rise properly with both layers thicker at one edge than the other. If it had risen better I would have covered up the imperfections with butter icing, but it is quite solid and heavy. Maybe we can have it warmed up with custard as a dessert.

As you can see, the second one came out beautifully so I don’t quite know what the issue was with the first one.

No, I did not eat all of the great chunk that's missing, that was courtesy of the rest of the family although I did have a small slice and it was lovely. 

The cupcakes came out fine too but I haven't eaten any of those. Just didn't fancy one after all those licks of the spoon while making the very sickly-sweet frosting.

No fancy decoration on any of them, just walnut halves and chocolate buttons on the coffee cake with a Happy Birthday and candle, and either white of milk choc buttons on the cupcakes. 

They do look lovely on the poppy cake stand DD2 bought for a birthday or Mothers’ Day (I have a dreadful memory, so not sure which). I also used some of the cupcake mix to make little frosted fairy cakes for the birthday girl to take in to work tomorrow. Did I say she’s a gym instructor and is super fit? She and her work mates still love their cakes.

Her main meal was vege sausage meatballs in a mushroom and onion gravy with spaghetti, which her dad always makes for her. 

I have packets and packets of vege sausage mix I got from Approved Foods a couple of months back at 4 for £1. I snapped it up at the time as I used to get Sosmix at a reduced price when DD2 worked in the wholefood shop in Canterbury, but since she left I’d been looking for another cheap source.

One of the things I did on Friday despite feeling ill was to make DD’s birthday card. 

She loves her make up so I thought this image from a Joanna Sheen cd rom was appropriate. Her pressies were just gift cards, which she’d requested. I got her one for Fenwicks department store in Canterbury and also a £10 Starbucks one as she loves going in for a coffee with friends.

I’m all baked out now, ready for my last coffee of the day and relaxing in front of the TV.  I hope the last of my cold will have gone by the morning because I have my computer course again and the last assessment before I start on the European Computing Driving Licence course proper. Can't wait to realy get stuck in to all the useful stuff.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Cold Weather and Good Food.

Why is it, when I could do with the occasional burst of heat, my hot flushes have pretty much dried up now the temperature’s plummeting?

I hate the cold. Hate, hate, hate it. I even felt the cold badly when I was nearly 4 stone heavier; so much for fat being insulating. I’d gladly hibernate throughout the winter months and never leave the house, although with our icy house and trying hard not to put the heating on for more than thirty minutes twice a day, it often feels warmer outside than in. 

Sad but true, my favourite time of day in the winter is getting into bed at night, wrapped up in a thick nightshirt worn over pyjama trousers - I tend to curl up in bed and a PJ jacket always parts company with the trousers and leaves me with a chilly back so I opt for a long nightshirt instead. I have 2 hot water bottles – one for my feet and one to hug. Yes, I do have a husband to cuddle but the problem is I sleep best lying on my right side, and he snores less lying on his left so we generally end up bum to bum. For me the heat from my hotty botties is pure bliss.

During the day I might also be found hugging a hot water bottle if I’m just sitting watching the goggle box or on my laptop. In addition, on my feet today I am wearing 2 pairs of normal socks plus a pair of fluffy bed socks and my slippers. And on the old bod I have a long-sleeved t-shirt, a long-sleeved brushed cotton dress over that, then a thin cardigan, and on top of all that a big thick cardi that's long enough to cover my bum and reach almost to my knees. This snazzy enemble has kept me just warm enough today, and so far I haven’t had the heating on at all.

Of course, another great warmer is a hot meal. Today’s dinner was a smoked sausage pasta bake. 

I used 500g of tri-colour pasta twists bought in a big 3kg bag from Approved Foods (approx 50p), a cheese and bacon sauce mix (4 for £1 AF – so 25p), 2 heaped Tbsps dried skimmed milk (approx 20p), 1/3 pkt each of frozen peas and sweetcorn (Aldi 89p per pkt – so approx 60p for the 2 portions), some dried onions (from a massive AF bag – approx 10p), and 1/2 a Mattesons low fat smoked sausage (on offer for £1 in Morrisons – so 50p). If my maths is right that’s a total of £2.15 and easily made 6 large portions at approx 35p per portion. We had it on its own as there was so much of it, but you could serve with salad or extra veg. 

 It was full of flavour and filling on a chilly night.

This last week has been quite expensive with having to buy the big bags of kitty litter (our cats prefer wood chip litter which is 2 x 30 litre bags for £16), put petrol in the car and buy another sack of potatoes at £7.80, plus we had a day out in Hythe and Folkestone on Saturday and had a lovely lunch in The Old Willow Restaurant in Hythe. DH deserved the treat as he’s been working so hard lately. I had liver, bacon, mash and veg and DH had the all day breakfast and we each had a pot of tea. All for £18 including a tip. The staff were lovely and accommodating especially since DH doesn’t like eggs so they swapped for extra sausage and he doesn’t have butter or marg on his toast. The food was presented nicely, like in a posh restaurant but there was plenty of it and it was yummy. Will definitely go there again.

We didn’t have dessert so later in the afternoon we went into McDonald’s and had one of their Mississippi Mud Pie McFlurries. Once again, yummy and only £1.29 each.

Walking back along the prom at Folkestone as it was getting dark we were treated to this spectacular sunset. Isn’t nature wonderful?


My youngest DS visited and stayed Saturday and Sunday nights. He’s been missing his mum’s cooking with living in student digs so yesterday I made a chicken pie, and also my version of bakewell tart; basically the left over pie pastry lining a brownie tin, spread with jam and then topped with almond flavoured sponge. Nothing fancy, just cheap strawberry jam (Aldi – 29p a jar) and Mary Berry’s traybake recipe for the sponge with a teaspoon of almond essence added. Custard was made to go with it for DH and we were all stuffed once the meal was over. So…if I’ve lost any weight this week it will be a miracle; I’m expecting another gain at my weigh in tomorrow. 

Heigh-ho, never mind. Next week probably won't be any better as Sunday 24th is DD3's 23rd birthday and she's requested vegetarian meatballs with spaghetti, a coffee and walnut cake and my American cupcakes with vanilla frosting. I wish I didn't enjoy eating my own baking quite so much!


Thursday, 14 November 2013

Yellow Sticker Haul

Thank you for the comments on my weight loss; being lighter has made such a difference to my movement, my poor knees are very grateful and I hardly get a twinge in either of them now.

Not much to report today as I wasn't well last night. I keep thinking I'm going down with a cold, or maybe fighting one off, and last night I was all shivery and headachy. I couldn't get warm (except for the occasional hot flush) and sat on the sofa cuddling a hot water bottle. I kept nodding off so went to bed after the Tudor Monastery Farm programme. I'd been looking forward to watching it but kept missing bits when I fell asleep so will have to catch it again on the I-player.

I was a bit better this morning, but still feeling a bit weak and watery so I skipped my volunteering and the computing course. I pottered about the house, did some washing and hung it out as it was mostly sunny and there was a good strong breeze, framed a picture DH's friend drew for us last Christmas (took me long enough to get around to it!), scrubbed potatoes to do jackets in the slowcooker to be served with cauliflower cheese (55p for 2 caulis reduced in Morrisons yesterday), sorted out masses of junk mail to put out for the recycling collection this afternoon. Just a lot of little bits and pieces that didn't take too much effort.

I did have to go to the Job Centre this afternoon, though. Fortunately it's only a 10 minute walk away. On the way home I nipped into Asda and was lucky that a staff member was just further reducing the already reduced items.

This is my haul.

 I picked up 750g minced pork for £2.32 reduced from £3.36 but originally £4.25.

4 x 500g packs of diced carrot, swede and leek for 18p each reduced from 30p but originally 50p, and some celery for 35p reduced from 61p and not sure of the full price.

I like to mix pork and beef mince when I make a meatloaf so I divided the pack into 2 freezer bags each weighing around 13 ounces. The mixed veg also went into the freezer for use in slowcooker stews, and when I put the celery in the crisper drawer of the fridge I realised I had 2 green peppers in there so now I need to use those up as well. I think I might do a bolognaise or vegetable chilli over the weekend.

I'll have to remember that Asda do a second price reduction around 2pm because generally I don't think they take much off their full prices, but these were real bargains.

I'm starting to feel a bit headachy again now so I'll call it a night and hopefully will be all better tomorrow.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Say Hello to Miss Slinky

Well, thanks to my bingeing I might have gained ½ lb this week, but I was also voted as this year’s Miss Slinky by the other members of my slimming club. The pic is of me with my sash and certificate, and I also got a lovely flowering plant. I always get very embarrassed about things like this but I’m absolutely chuffed to bits.

This is a pic of me 2 years ago at around 15 stone when I met Gary Hughes, the singer of a band I like called Ten.

And here is a pic of me from this time last year at my daughter’s graduation ceremony when she was awarded her Masters in Psychology at Canterbury Cathedral.

I’d been dieting for 5 months at that point and had already lost 2 stone but still looked huge. I’ve since lost another 1 stone 9.5 lbs, but it’s been much harder this past six months and I’ve been a bit up and down. The overall trend is still downwards, though, and I’m quite happy for the rest to come off slowly. I now have another stone and a couple of lbs to go to get down to healthy weight and BMI for my 5ft 4in height.

Statistics-wise I’ve lost 51.5lbs in weight, and 10 inches off my hips, 8 off my waist and 5 off my bust, and I’ve gone from a size 22 down to a 12-14 in around 17 months. I hope to get to my ultimate goal by my birthday in June 2014 which means it will have taken me 2 years to lose just over 5 stone.

Okay, enough of showing off and on to a few pictures of tonight’s dinner. 

I used a big sachet of cooked chicken in its own juice that I got from Approved Foods a while back.

I divided it between my 2 slow cookers, added reduced price frozen stew veg and a sachet of casserole mix (also AF) to one of them to make chicken stew with dumplings for tonight (dumplings courtesy of an AF catering pack mix). 

To the other cooker I added frozen mushrooms and peas, a chopped onion and garlic, a tin of condensed mushroom soup (from guess where), a splash of white wine, a spoonful of wholegrain mustard (from a big tub, once again from AF) and plenty of black pepper. This will be served either tomorrow of Thursday with free rice. 

Yes, FREE rice that I got from Tesco using coupons printed from the Metro online newspaper. I got 12 x 250gm sachets of Uncle Ben’s 2 minute Wholegrain rice that usually retail for around £1.79 but were on offer for £1. Even so I got £12 worth of rice for free. I’d never normally buy this rice paying that kind of money for 250g cooked rice that’s probably only about 100g raw weight, but it was FREE. I love me some free food.

Tomorrow I don’t have to be anywhere so I’m hoping to have a lazy day and maybe do a bit of crafting, before my busy day on Thursday with volunteering in the morning, a trip to the Job Centre when I get back to Dover at lunchtime and then straight to my computing class in the afternoon.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Shopping, Remembrance and Freezer Meals

Just a quick post to let everyone know I’m still in the land of the living. I’ve been in a weird headspace lately and not felt much like writing or sharing my thoughts. I get like that from time to time and retreat into myself for a while before I pick up again.

Anyway, we had a busy weekend with Xmas shopping on Saturday morning and a 70th birthday party in the evening. I’m really making inroads into the Xmas preparations now, and have nearly all the food, and today DH finally got paid so I can get a lot more pressies bought. Not that I’m going mad with spending this year; we’ve really had to cut back but by careful shopping and combining offers I should be able to stick to a pretty tight budget.

Sunday we attended the Remembrance Day service at the war memorial next to Dover Town Hall. There was a good turn out and the weather was bright and sunny, although very cold. Afterwards we went for coffee, and then had a lazy afternoon. Dinner was a nut roast I had in the freezer. I made 3 roasts a while back when I sorted out my kitchen cupboard and found a load of wrinkled nuts and seeds. I use a recipe from a really old Cranks book that I’ve had for ages and made time and time again. I was going to do roast potatoes etc. with it, but ended up just doing some Ainsley Harriott roasted vegetable couscous that I got off Approved Food.

Because I was at my computing course for part of the day, today’s dinner was another pre-prepared one from the freezer; lamb mince and lentils which I heated in the slow cooker and made into a hotpot by arranging sliced potato on top. The lentils I get from France whenever anyone takes a daytrip, big tins of precooked brown ones for around one euro each. They’re lovely with lamb and bulk out what is now a very expensive meat.

Tomorrow’s my weigh in at Slimming World. I have no idea how I’ve done this week because I’ve had some very good days and some truly terrible ones. I’ve kept off the scales at home so I didn’t make myself any more depressed. I’ll settle for a pound or two on. And a stay-the-same would be amazing. We’ll have to see.

So much for a quick post. I’m too damned wordy to do short when it comes to writing. Hopefully I’ll have pictures to add to my next post.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Combining Coupons and Special Offers

Love this quote and it can so often be true, but not for me today as I'll explain later.

Lots of little things done today. Some of those little jobs that I keep saying ‘I must do such and such’ and then it promptly slips my mind.

I’ve done 2 loads of laundry; the first was the scrap cloths we use for wiping down the cats’ mats and inside their litter trays. These get stored in a bucket and then washed on 90 degrees to kill germs. Some of them are off cuts from towels and teacloths that got too ragged, and some are DD’s boyfriend’s holey towelling socks. The socks are great as you can stick your hand inside them which makes them very easy to use for cleaning.

After the cloths I put on a load of lights which was mostly made up of the boyfriend’s wearable socks, which for some reason he saves up until they’re spilling out of the basket. I also finally got around to taking down the kitchen net curtain which was looking decidedly grubby and added it to this load. I always put it straight back up once it comes out of the machine so it dries while hanging there.

I’ve vacuumed and cleared out the filter which always gets forgotten but makes such a difference to the cleaning power. I’ve also banged in a nail that that secures my indoor line above the boiler in the kitchen. The darn thing parted company with the wall and dumped a load of shirts I was airing on the floor, so brute force and a hammer has made sure it won’t happen again. That’s definitely a job I should have done sooner before it was later and I had to rescue all those shirts. bargains that I definitely did need at a price I couldn't resist. 

Another task was to finally get some Xmas food shopping done. I had a leaflet for Morrison’s through the door which included a £3 off a £20 shop coupon. Now, I rarely spend that much in one go in one place as I shop around so much, but they also had an offer of ½ price British chicken, which we prefer to turkey, and I also liked the look of their £7 gammon joints when I was last in there. We always have gammon, pickles and crusty rolls as our Christmas breakfast.

So off I went with my rucksack and a big reusable bag to the Morrison’s that is thankfully just a 5 minute walk away. I bought 2 chickens each weighing around 1.7kg for about £3 each, a gammon joint for £7, 2 x 750g boxes of Kellogg’s cornflakes @ £1.34 each, a packet of 16 rashers of smoked streaky bacon (to wrap around sausages) for £2, a packet of veggie sausages for £1 (DD2’s been veggie since she was 8 and her and her boyfriend are coming to us for Xmas breakfast), 15 Savers Yorkshire puds for 49p, 2 x large white toastie loaves @ 2 for £1, 4 shape yogurts for £1, 500g frozen minced lamb for £2.75 and a couple of other bits and pieces for a total of £25.13 which I only paid £22.13 for with the coupon. Plus the chickens would normally have been £6 each at full price, and the cornflakes at least double the price. So, all in all I was very pleased with my haul and I’ve now made some progress with my Christmas preparations. I still have chipolatas and veggie bacon to buy, but I’m making the bread rolls this year and also the desserts.

 Dinner tonight was a real mix of leftovers – the gammon, leek, pea and potato soup from the other day combined with some chicken curry (which had originally started life as a stew) plus additional curry powder for flavour. Sounds horrible but it was yummy served with spiced basmati rice (4 sachets for £1 from AF, and I used 2 sachets) and some cumin and chilli naan bread made from a packet mix I got ages ago in an AF £1 lucky box. 

I also made a raspberry trifle as DH loves his trifle. For the base I used some frozen sponge scraps I’d baked with the last of a huge packet from AF, some raspberries from the freezer that I’d bought for 19p in Morrison’s because they were going squishy, a sugar-free raspberry jelly (10 for £1 from AF), and custard made with powder (a huge 3kg bag from AF for – I think - £2.99), a little sugar and skimmed milk. 

I didn’t top it with cream as we use low fat squirty cream except on special occasions. 

 Another really cheap and filling meal that used up lots of oddments so nothing was wasted.

Tomorrow is my volunteering day and I have to leave the house just after 8am. I’m hoping that this week will be dry so I don’t get soaked simply walking to the bus stop.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Card Making Cats

Horrible weather again today, but I braved the rain to go to my Slimming World class. Another pound off…slow, but I’m getting there. That’s 3st 10lb lost now and I’m hoping to make it 4st by Christmas. Mind you, I was starving this afternoon and treated myself to a couple of wholemeal rolls that I had for lunch with low fat soft cheese and wafer thin ham, but then I chased that down with a cake from the baker up the road. I didn’t have breakfast, though, so hopefully not too much damage done. And I’ll be really good tomorrow. That’s the plan, anyway.

Anyway, before I went out I made a card to go with the bag to send to DS2’s girlfriend for her birthday. I stayed with the goth theme, and I'm quite pleased with it. I got it all packaged up and posted off this afternoon. 

Shadow, likes to help out when I’m crafting so he decided today to guard my box of card offcuts. He made himself comfortable by sitting in the lid so he could watch over it. 

I have to be careful when card making and sewing as the cats are so inquisitive they try and play with my paper cutter, rotary cutter and sewing machine. I have to watch out not to cut off little paws when they try to bat at the blades, or track the course of the machine needle.

No pictures of tonight’s dinner because it was just leftover meatloaf from the weekend served with oven chips and baked beans (Aldi crinkle cut chips- £1 and everyday baked beans – 25p).

I had a thoroughly lazy afternoon after so much running around for the past few days and looked through my vast collection of craft magazines for inspiration for a new project. I haven’t decided on one yet, but then I have Xmas cards to make so maybe I should concentrate on those first before I start something new.

But then again if something catches my eye…

Monday, 4 November 2013

Busy day. Lots done.

I started off at 7.30 am by working on the bag for DS2’s girlfriend’s birthday present. I need to get it sent off tomorrow as she lives in north Kent and her birthday’s on Friday. I’d cut all the pieces out last night and ironed the interfacing on to the main pieces and the straps, so today was all about sewing it together. I managed to get the straps, the main bag pieces and the lining all stitched before I had to go out.

Sadly, not having a dedicated sewing space where I can leave all my bits and pieces out for future use, and having to do my crafting on the dining table, I have to pack everything away each time I’ve finished or the kitties would have such fun playing with all my goodies while mum’s out. So, everything got put in my storage boxes and then I braved the rain, wind and cold to go to my local Pitman Training Centre to start my Learndirect computing course. I wasn’t looking forward to it as this was my third visit since completing the Employability course (which was great), and my 3rd attempt at getting started on the course. No fault of mine, I hasten to add, but each time I’d gone there they’d had problems connecting to their server so I couldn’t get online to access the study materials.

And this time was no different. At least when I first arrived. Surprise, surprise the server was down yet again, so I decided I’d give it half an hour and if there was no sign of any improvement I’d come home and get on with more important work…more important than sitting around watching the staff fiddling about trying to get a connection, anyway. Half an hour later and finally there was some hope and, after a change to another machine, I finally got started. I used my own headphones as I prefer the in-ear bud ones and I made sure I used a lot of sanitising solution on my hands before touching the mouse and keyboard that had been used by I don’t know how many people before me. I’m not a clean freak or germophobe by any means (as the state of my house will attest) but in the season of coughs and colds I wasn’t taking any chances. So, then I was all ready…at last.

The system was maddeningly slow, each new page taking an age to load, and I’m not a very patient person, plus I found a lot of the material quite patronising, more suitable for kids than adults with its cartoony presentation, but that might just be me. It was also really boring as I found myself having to work on areas of using a computer that I’d already been doing for years…like sending an email and even how to switch the thing on. So, not impressed really, but I’ll stick with it because there’s a certificate to be had at the end of it, and then I can go on to the next stage and hopefully learn stuff that will be useful in an office situation and maybe I’ll stand a chance of finding some admin work.

I spent 3 hours working hard at the course, then back out into the cold, into Morrison's for a couple of Toastie loaves for the freezer (2 large sliced white loaves for £1) and finally home. As soon as I got in I put all the bits in my slow cooker for a leek, potato, pea and ham soup and got a crusty loaf of bread from the freezer to serve with it.

I had a bag of diced leek and potato in the freezer (reduced to 19p in Morrison’s), a couple of potatoes leftover from yesterday’s dinner (20p), 2 gammon steaks from Farm Foods (6 large ones for £4.50 or 2 packs for £8, so approx £1.50 for the 2), 4 oz pearl barley (probably around 20p can’t recall the cost as I got it ages ago from Approved Foods – its dated March 2011 but is still fine), couple of stock cubes from a bulk buy from AF  (approx 10p), and a small white crusty loaf (2 for £1 in Morrison’s so 50p for 1). Total cost approx £2.70 for 5 servings or 54p each.

I used to buy bacon hocks for a few pence, cook them in the slow cooker and strip all the meat off but now they're around £2 each the gammon steaks are a cheaper option and easier to prepare ( I just cut them up raw into pieces and add them in with everything else).

I have 3 gammon steaks left and will either use them to make a bacon roly poly or a couple of quiches later in the week.

Once dinner was on the go, I got back to finishing off the bag. This is the 5th bag I’ve made since I took a 'get to know your sewing machine' course earlier this year. I've even made one as an order for someone at my DD2's work. I’m getting more proficient at the process so it doesn’t take quite so long and I feel more confident with each one I do. DS’s girlfriend loves her goth stuff so I hope she likes it. It’s fully lined and has an inside pocket and the straps are also made with 2 different fabrics. I bought the main fabric from Ebay (half a metre for about £6.50) but the lining material cost £4 for over a metre from a braderie in Deal earlier this year. I only used about a third of it so have loads left. I had no idea what I was going to do with it when I bought it, but like a lot of things if you hang onto something a use for it generally pops up sooner or later.


So, I’ve been busy, busy, busy for most of the day, even if I did spend 3 hours sitting on my backside in front of a computer screen at Pitman's. Tonight I might do a bit of knitting while watching TV. True Blood is on at 10pm, so vamps and knitting needles anyone?!

Friday, 1 November 2013

Hairy Bikers’ Great Sausage Casserole

Another horrible day weather wise. We did brave the rain and walked into town to go to the library and read the local papers, but it wasn’t a pleasant walk. To cheer ourselves up we went into Wetherspoons for coffee. Their ordinary filter coffee is £1.15 for a large mug, and before 2pm you can get as many refills as you like. We had 2 cups each, so £2.30 for 4 cups of coffee.

It was worth braving the weather, though, as I got an amazing deal for my two sons for Xmas. W H Smith just happened to have a Doctor Who book and a WWE (American Wrestling) book as part of their 2 for £10 offer. I had a Smith’s 20% off voucher that brought the cost down to £8 for the two, and I also had a £5 ‘Love your high street’ voucher that I earned for answering a doorstep survey some time ago. That reduced the cost right down to £3 for 2 books that retailed full price at around £15 each. I’m really pleased as, with the scarf I knitted for DD2, I finally feel I’m making a start on my Christmas preparations. This afternoon I’ve made lists of things still to buy for pressies and also what we’re having for Xmas breakfast and dinner, trying to incorporate items I already have in stock such as stuffing mixes, bread roll mix and vegetarian sausage mix. I’m hoping my sealed tin will cover the food items I have to buy plus maybe one of two people’s pressies.

Dinner tonight was hot, flavoursome and filling on such a dark, damp day. I made the Hairy Bikers’ Great Sausage Casserole but adapted it for the slow cooker.

You can find the recipe here –

but I also have their book.

As usual I changed it to make use of what I had in. I used 8 sausages (not 12) from the freezer (Aldi’s £1.09 pork sausages that I got at 30% off) cut into bite-sized pieces. Since I didn’t have any bacon, I put in a bit extra smoked paprika for flavour and doubled the amount of beans (kidney beans instead of butter beans). I added a few frozen, sliced mushrooms; I used light brown sugar since I didn’t have dark, and soy sauce instead of Worcestershire sauce. The wine was cheap plonk that a friend brought back from France and I added a chicken stock cube but not the extra liquid as there was plenty from the wine and tinned tomatoes (25p in a 4 for £1 deal in Morrison’s last week).  So…a totally different recipe, really, but based on the Hairy Bikers’ version and served with slow cooker baked potatoes. 

Most slow cooker meals I just throw everything in but to make this in the slow cooker you do need to brown the sausages first. I save on cooking time by cutting them up with my kitchen scissors before frying. I didn’t add any extra oil, just cooked the pieces until lightly browned. I then fried the onions in the tiny bit of fat from the sausages (these ones don’t shed much fat during cooking). I added all the other ingredients to the pan and heated through before transferring to the slow cooker and leaving on low for 6 hours. If using bacon that should also be chopped into pieces and browned.

Approx costing for 5 adults was about £3 (without bacon) for the casserole plus 10p per person for the potatoes, so around 70p per meal.

Finally a big welcome to my latest followers SFT and Rachel. Happy to have you reading and thanks for your comments.