Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Windy Day

We've been extremely fortunate with the weather down here in the south-east and my heart goes out to all those that are suffering as a result of the dreadful floods in other parts of the UK. It has been very blustery today, though, and I found it hard to walk against the wind sometimes, but at least it's been dry.  

DH and I decided to leave our next day trip until the wind was less fierce; it seemed a waste of money to buy a bus ticket to Deal and not be able to take a leisurely walk along by the sea. We still managed to achieve our 10,000 steps by taking a walk around River village, stopping off at Aldi on the way back, depositing our shopping at home and then walking into town for a coffee. 

We had a lazy afternoon after all that walking and an easy dinner tonight of barbecue beans with smoked sausage, jacket potatoes and little gem lettuce. I used 2 cans of Aldi baked beans (4 can pack for £1.15, approx 58p for 2), 2 cans Aldi red kidney beans, drained (23p a can, so 46p for 2), 1/2 a Mattesons smoked sausage (£1 from FarmFoods, 50p for 1/2), a sliced onion (aprox 10p), some sliced frozen peppers (25p) and a glug of barbecue sauce I got from Approved Foods (approx 20p). Left to bubble in the slow cooker all day, and served with jacket potatoes also done in a slow cooker for 4 hours on low (2.5kg bag baking potatoes from Aldi at £1.89, approx 20p per potato, 80p for 4) and 2 little gem lettuces for 39p as part of Aldi special offer veg. Total cost £3.29, 4 servings at approx 82p per serving. There was also some lettuce left over for tomorrow.

I expect we'll be up until the early hours tomorrow night as the neighbours nearly always have a New Years party. DS2 is playing a gig with his band in Sheppey and then going on to a club in Canterbury that's open all night. We don't usually celebrate New Year so we'll probably spend the night in (ignoring the thud of next door's music blasting through the walls), watch a dvd and hope the party doesn't go on all night. I enjoyed Christmas but now I'm ready for the holiday period to be well and truly over and to get back to some sort of normality. 

Goodnight everyone, I'm off to bed early tonight in case I don't get much sleep tomorrow. 

Love, Helen xx

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Not Too Bad

As promised, an update on my weigh-in. I gained 2 lbs. Not too bad so no tears required.  It takes me to 1lb over my upper target weight so I had to pay for the meeting today, but I was relieved that it wasn't more. A couple of ladies gained 4 lbs. Hopefully I can lose it if I'm careful this week. I'd like to lose another 2-3 lbs by the end of January to get right back on my target weight or just under. 

We had a lovely afternoon wandering around Canterbury, a bit crowded and I didn't buy anything except coffee in Starbucks, so I still need slippers, but it was nice to get out of Dover for a bit. The weather here is supposed to be okay tomorrow, a bit overcast but dry, so we might go for another bus ride. A bonus is that all the walking means I've reached my 10,000 steps today and have covered over 4 miles. My one New Year's resolution is to walk 10,000 steps at least 3 times a week. I know I should be doing it every day but I need to make achievable goals.

I'm sitting down now with a cup of tea, watching Bargain Hunt recorded on Tivo. Dinner is a vegetarian bolognese which has been bubbling away nicely in the slow cooker while we were out, so only the pasta to boil later. 

I used half a pack of Quorn mince (Aldi £1.49, so 75p for half), a jar of pasta sauce (Approved Foods 3 for £1 so 33p for one), 1/2 bag of Tesco frozen veg for bolognese (bought on offer for 50p, so 25p for half), 1/4 bag of frozen mushrooms (approx 25p), some frozen sliced mixed peppers (approx 40p), a glug of red wine (approx 25p) and 3/4 bag of value dried pasta (approx 22p). 3 of us will have a little grated cheddar sprinkled on top, say total of 50g cheddar (Aldi, 250g grated mature cheddar at £1.49, so 50g adds 30p). The Tesco veg and the sauce had all the flavourings so I didn't need to add extra herbs, garlic etc. Total cost for 4 large portions is £2.75 or approx 69p per portion. It smells delicious.

Hope you've all had a good day. Hugs, Helen xx


Damage Control

Off to my slimming club in a bit. Expecting at least 2-3 lbs on and to be over my upper target weight. Less will be a miracle, more and I'll probably shed a few tears. My own fault though; I lost the plot completely over Christmas and ate every yummy fattening thing in sight. I've already started back on eating more healthily and hope to shed it within a couple of weeks. Having lost and kept off nearly 5 stone for more than 15 months, I'm not about to go back on that slippery track I've trodden before and regain it all. It's a constant struggle between my piggy former self and my slimmer, wanting to be healthy self. Mostly the new me wins, sometimes after a week or two of piggy me having a tantrum and getting her own way. I'm always worried piggy me will take over for good and I'll end up back where I started at over 15 1/2 stone, struggling to get off the sofa or up the stairs. It's not being slim as such, or wearing smaller clothes or any of those vanity things that gets me back on track, it's the thought of being immobile that does it. I'll update later on just how bad the damage is.

After the club, DH and I are off on the bus to Canterbury for a couple of hours. We hope to get in a bit of a walk and I need a new pair of slippers, since mine have holes in, and a purse, as the clasp has gone on my current one. Despite dropping hints (like, 'If you want ideas for my Xmas pressie, I really need new slippers and my purse is broken') nobody bought me either of those things for Christmas.

See you later. Have a good day. Love Helen x


Monday, 28 December 2015

Leftovers - Pea and Ham Soup

Tonight's dinner used up all the Xmas leftovers. Leftovers of food I actually cooked, that is. With no idea until the last minute exactly how many I was catering for I bought far too much and have enough uncooked food in my freezer to make another full Xmas dinner. It will either stay there until Easter or will surface if we have visitors.

My pea and ham soup used the scraps remaining from the Xmas breakfast gammon, 200g of dried green split peas, a chopped onion, 3 diced medium potatoes, 2 chicken stock cubes and ground black pepper. I poured in hot water to cover it all, not sure exactly how much, and topped it up whenever it seemed to be getting too thick. It was cooked on high in my slowcooker for about 5 hours  To serve with it I baked the last few part-baked rolls that we'd also had for Xmas breakfast, and in the rolls we had the remaining sausagemeat stuffing, some vege roast and a couple of quorn sausages. I must say it was cheap, delicious and filling. And I'll be looking to make more meals like it over the next few weeks.

Despite having been offered a fulltime, permanent position at the school where he's been working since September, wrangles with them paying the agency to release him means DH is still on a supply teacher's contract and doesn't receive holiday pay. As he gets paid weekly in arrears his last week's pay, received on Xmas Eve, needs to last until he gets paid again on 15th January, after he's actually been back at work for 2 weeks. I've been careful to put money by from previous weeks for the monthly bills, but need to be extra frugal with housekeeping. So, my goal for the last few days of December and for most of January is to eat from the freezer, fridge and cupboards. I have so much in stock I really shouldn't need to buy any more, except for some fresh veg and dairy. 

Tomorrow is my post-Xmas weigh-in at my slimming club. I've been a right piggy during this festive season and expect a few lbs gain. I've tried really hard today not to eat too much and what I have had has been healthy (I didn't eat a roll, just had the soup and a couple of crispbreads for dinner) but I suspect it will take a couple of weeks being careful to remedy the damage done over the past few days. At least by facing the music tomorrow I'll know what I'm dealing with. This is my second Xmas since reaching my target weight and in the 15 months since getting there I have only once gone over my target allowance by just one pound.Tomorrow will probably make it twice, and by more than a pound, so I must get back on track. I refuse to let the weight start creeping on again...I enjoy my mobility too much.

To finish with here's some pics of Shadow finally working out how to use the toy DD2 and SIL bought our cats for Xmas. We had to put it up on the table for him before he'd touch it. And when he was finished batting the ball around he sat in the middle of it.

Have a good evening everyone, love Helen xx

Saturday, 26 December 2015

That was Christmas

I had a lovely Xmas day with DH, my two boys, my eldest daughter and my daughter-in-law who arrived at lunchtime. 

Me and my boys

Santa (aka DH) and the boys

DD1 and my lovely daughter-in-law
We had a quiet day, starting with our usual Xmas breakfast of cold gammon, pickles and crusty bread.

After breakfast DH and I went for a walk along the very windy seafront, dodging the spray flying above the top of the sea wall. Following that bracing walk we were home in time for DD1 and DIL's arrival and to start the dinner preparations. I was so thankful that I had pre-prepared so much and just had to reheat a lot of it.

We indulged in our usual Xmas roast lunch with far too much food, and then after the washing up was done we exchanged pressies.We spent the remainder of the afternoon and evening watching TV, playing some of the kids' old board games and tucking into too many Celebrations chocs. We also spoke to DD2 in Gloucester and DD3 way down in the Loire valley in France.

I received some great pressies including 2 interesting books about my long term interest, the second world war homefront, one a diary and the other an account of the children who weren't evacuated. 

DD1 and DIL stayed overnight and drove back to Basingstoke mid morning today. DH and I then took a walk into town for coffee. I avoided the sales except to pop in to the Card Centre to buy 6 rolls of Xmas wrap for £1. 

 Gift wrap, 6 for £1

If I can get some cheap gift tags I'm all set for wrapping supplies for next Christmas.

We also popped in to Smiths but didn't think much of their half price cards and gift wrap since the original prices were so expensive to start with. I felt really sad that it was only Boxing Day morning and yet they already had a display of Valentine's cards and were getting out the mini eggs and creme eggs for their Easter display. 

I thought it was Xmas, not Valentine's day or Easter!

So, that's it all over for another year. DD3 and her fiance are back from France on Monday so we might get together for another meal, maybe a takeaway or I might do another Xmas dinner since I still have quite a stash of stuff in the freezer. 

I hope you all had the kind of Christmas you wanted. Now the madness is over I can get back to budgeting and planning ahead for another debt free year in 2016.

Love and hugs, Helen xx

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Last Minute Christmas Preparations

Thank you to everyone who left such lovely understanding comments on my last post.

Today we're getting a few last minute cleaning jobs done, making sure there's no dirty washing in the basket, cleaning the bathroom, kitchen etc. before our visitors arrive tomorrow. They know we're a messy bunch so we're not busting a gut trying to wrangle this old house into a show home, but we're making a bit of an effort. 

I've the gammon to slow cook later so we can have it cold with crusty rolls and pickles for Christmas breakfast. Xmas dinner is turkey roast, hog roast, quorn roast in puff pastry, and all the trimmings. I've already precooked the stuffings, pigs in blankets etc. so they just need defrosting overnight and reheating tomorrow while the roasts are in the oven.  I'm cheating with frozen roast potatoes and parsnips which will be cooked in my halogens. Desserts are also all shop bought this year. 

Seems I've cheated a lot with ready made food, but I started preparations late this year and haven't had the time (or inclination) to spend hours cooking. Plus, it's only been in the last few days I've known for sure who would be here on the day. In my defence I did hand knit 3 cat blankets for DD2 and DD3's kitties. Next year I definitely want to make more gifts well in advance of the event.

DH, bless him, is vacuuming the stairs as I write this, and then we're off in to town...not, I hasten to add, to run crazily around the shops buying last minute food to add to the vast amount we already have. No, we're going to have a leisurely walk and hopefully find a couple of seats in Wetherspoons so I can indulge in a gingerbread latte and DH can have a regular coffee. 

Tonight's dinner is nice and easy, Aldi frozen cauliflower cheese with slow-cooked jacket spuds.

Here's hoping your Xmas eve is slow-paced and peaceful and not a huge last minute rush. 

Have a good day. Love, Helen xx

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Quick Update

Hi all.

Quick update on the madness here.

Well, we finally made the heartbreaking decision to return the puppies to the breeder. She's a lovely lady and would have kept them all if she could have anyway, so I know she'll take good care of them and find them loving homes. 

It wasn't just us not coping well, although having 2 together was definitely a mistake, but last week we got the news that DD2 will need a heart operation sometime in the new year. As she and her husband have only just moved to the other side of the country and don't have a support network over there yet, I will most likely go and stay with her while  she recovers. 

As DD3 is also having an op to remove a cyst that's actually growing inside her thigh bone in a couple of months time, it was all too much stress and gave us the final nudge to phone the breeder who was happy to have them back and even offered to hold them for us, but as we don't have definite dates or anything for the operations we know its best if she rehomes them. We've had a horrible few days since they went back last Friday. We were riddled with guilt but also missed them so much it was almost like mourning. Lots of tears from both DH and I. Funny how we got so attached to them in just a few weeks. 

The one consolation is that our cats are almost back to normal. I am enjoying cuddle time with Shadow who was always so affectionate but scared silly of the pups and hid in the bedrooms for almost 4 weeks.

So, now things are a lot quieter and less hectic and I can look forward to DD1 and her wife visiting over Xmas. They're at her parents in Cornwall for a few days and will drive up to us on Xmas morning, staying overnight and going back home to Basingstoke on Boxing Day. Apart from the actual food preparation on the day, as far as I can tell I have everything ready with all pressies wrapped and the house bulging with naughty things to eat. We've already had one family get together when DDs 2 and 3 and their other halves visited at the end of last week. I made 2 massive chillis in my slow cookers (one meat, one vegetarian), pulled pork, barbecue beans, salad, bread rolls, wraps etc. etc. plus 3 desserts (shop bought as we still had the pups and I couldn't find time to bake). Far too much food and we've been eating chilli nearly every day since.

In case I don't post again before Friday, I would like to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and hope that all your hard work and planning makes for a wonderful day.

Love you, Helen xx

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Better Day

Thank you to everyone who commented on my last post. Sorry I sounded so pathetic.

I do know we've taken on a lot and I was expecting it to be hard work but Sunday was just a bad day. I was tired and overwrought and I even had a cry in bed; it almost felt like the post natal depression I had after DD2 was born. I think it was also a bad time to get pups with all the stress of Xmas preparations too. 

Yesterday was a lot better. I got up early by myself and managed to get both pups to do their business outside before DH even came downstairs. Also during the day, whenever their fighting got out of hand, I separated them and distracted each with a chew or toy. I was also vigilant about poos and pees and I would say over 50% made it out into the yard.

Things have definitely improved, but this morning wasn't so smooth as DH got up the same time as me. I've come to the conclusion that, even though its more tiring, its easier when I'm here alone with them as other people are distracting and tend not to be as firm and sure in handling them as I am and I'm sure the pups sense that. 

We're also buying a second crate to separate them at night since Charlie settles down straight away but Ollie scrabbles about and digs and disturbs him, and DH is starting to take them out separately for a few minutes first thing in the morning and in the evening to get them used to their leads and street noises. 

Today I'm taking a break from the pups and in an hour I'm off to my slimming club's Xmas lunch. I popped into the club to get weighed already and then came home in the pouring rain. My weight is staying approximately the same within about a 2-3lb range (despite me eating a whole box of 6 mince pies last week). My sons are both here today so they can puppy sit between them.

Thanks again for all the comments and advice and I do know things will improve as they get older. 

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Not Coping

Feeling such a failure tonight, but we're not coping at all well with the pups. My stress levels are through the roof, I feel so depressed. DH and I have been constantly hovering over them all weekend and we're tired and strung out. Because the weather's been bad they won't do a thing out in the yard but will do it the moment they get back in the house even though we might have been out there in the wind and rain for 20 minutes waiting for them to 'go'. Not that they were getting it right all that often anyway. They're chewing everything in sight despite us providing plenty of puppy toys and chews for them, which they do use but the moment our backs are turned they're tearing up the carpet, or ripping the paper off the walls etc. etc.

I know its only been 2 weeks but I was hoping there might have been some improvements. Their play-fighting is also incredibly vicious and noisy and Ollie barks so much I'm worried the neighbours will complain. I'm practically confined to the house unless one of the boys is available to puppy sit for an hour, and then I'm rushing to the shops and back as fast as possible. It's not as if we didn't think long and hard before getting them (well, we thought long and hard about getting one) but it's so much harder than I ever imagined or remembered from our previous dog who we had at an even younger age, and I also had 5 children under 12 at that time.

We were idiots to think we could manage with 2. We're seriously considering returning them both to the breeder. I just want my quiet life back with my 2 cats (who I never see now because they're always hiding out in the bedrooms). Not sure how to tell the kids, although most of them don't live home I'm so ashamed that I've taken on these 2 little creatures and can't cope with them.

Sorry for the long, selfish rant. Just needed to get it off my chest.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Dec 2nd? Must Be Time To Cook The Xmas Dinner

I was awake until 2 am last night and then up to the pups at 6. My brain just wouldn't shut down enough for me to drop off to sleep. I kept going over all the things I still had to do for Xmas, the food I had to buy, who I would be cooking for, what I would feed my vegetarian daughter-in-law (should be easy as I catered for my veggie daughter for years, but I'm not so sure what DIL likes), what order I would cook everything in, the pressies I still have to buy, when to write and send cards, wrapping the pressies I still haven't bought yet...and so on, and so on. I even crept out of bed and in to the bathroom with a pen and paper to make notes since I didn't want to come downstairs and chance disturbing the pups who've been mostly sleeping through the night. 

I get like this every year in the last couple of weeks before Xmas, my brain gets all muddled between normal routine and Xmas, trying to still shop for everyday stuff but making sure I get everything I need for the holiday. Not knowing exactly how many I'll be catering for this year doesn't help, and who we'll be seeing the week before Xmas so that their pressies need to be ready a week early. It's also DH's birthday next Weds and on the 17th most of us are getting together for a big take away when DD2 and hubby visit. Having 2 puppies of course adds to the fun (?) with vets appointments for both them and the cats to fit in and a dentist appointment for me. 

In light of my manic desire to be as prepared as possible, I started cooking my Xmas dinner today. In between cleaning out the cats litter trays, washing the pups blankets, taking the pups outside for pees and poos and cleaning up the ones that didn't make it into the yard, vaccuming throughout, making macaroni cheese for dinner, doing more laundry, scrubbing out the oven and cooker top etc. etc., I have cooked both the sausagemeat and the vegetarian stuffings in loaf tins, the chipolatas wrapped in bacon, the Quorn sausages, and the Quorn roast that I will split in half lengthwise, sandwich back together with vege stuffing, refreeze and then on the day it will be wrapped in puff pastry and recooked. All went in the oven at the same  time as the mac and cheese to save on fuel. Everything will be returned to the freezer now its been cooked and then I will just need to defrost and reheat it on the day when I cook the turkey breast roasts and the rolled, stuffed pork along with the accompaniments. 

I've also had an Iceland and a Tesco delivery, and I've spent time online ordering the last few pressies. I have nearly everything now and although I can't exactly relax at least I know I'm mostly prepared.  Actually, I've probably overdone it with the food as usual and even if everyone turns up there should be more than enough to eat; if nobody extra turns up we'll be eating Xmas food for a month after the holiday. 

I know it's silly for me to get so uptight about everything, especially as my family won't really notice or mind if everything doesn't go to plan, but I do get kind of panicky if I don't feel I've got all under control. I try to have a 'so what' attitude if all isn't as it should be, but it doesn't really work for me.

So, how are the Xmas preparations going with you? Anyone else started their dinner preparations yet?