Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Change of Plans

We didn't get to Calais after all. The weather's been horrible here all day and was set to be the same across the Channel so we decided against it. It was a shame but at least we didn't waste much money as our fares were only £3 each. 

Instead I stayed for my slimming club (1lb on this week thanks to the bread pudding) and then DH braved the rain to meet me in town. We went for a coffee before treating ourselves to a pick and mix salad box from Morrisons for our lunch.

This afternoon has been spent trying to sort out our internet connection with Sky. We only swapped to them 2 weeks ago and the last couple of days we've had all kinds of trouble. TV and phone have been fine, but internet is more important for us and at the moment it's pretty unreliable so we're not best pleased. I must say all the staff we've talked to have been wonderful, polite and helpful, but we've probably wasted 3 hours in total with 6 phones calls since yesterday, and them trying to talk us through resetting it all and some woman in the tech department even had DH unscrewing the phone connector from the wall this afternoon. I'm keeping my fingers crossed all is sorted now, but not counting on it. It makes me anxious to try and go online each time in case it doesn't work and we have to phone up yet again.

DH has a meeting tomorrow with his partner about the educational software business they're setting up. They generally meet in the Toby Inn across the road from the Westwood Cross shopping centre near Margate. I might have a drive out there with him, stay for breakfast (all you can eat for £3.99) and then have a wander around the shops (all under cover) while they natter on about the business. Hopefully the weather is set to improve towards the end of the week as we were hoping to drive to Tenterden and maybe even on to Hastings for the day.

That's the current plan, but all could change depending on the weather.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Back to the '40s - Dover Castle WW2 Event

The following post was meant to be uploaded last night but with intermittent internet access I gave up trying to attach all the pictures before bedtime. I don't want to rewrite the whole thing so when I talk about 'today' I mean yesterday (Sunday).

We had a wonderful time at the WW2 event at the castle today. As English Heritage members we only paid a £1 each entry. There was plenty to keep us both entertained - military stuff for DH and homefront stuff for me. Plus a wonderful singing duo performing 1940s tunes. Oh, and bread pudding and strong tea in enamel mugs for £1 each. Naughty Helen had to have the bread pudding, of course. I never make it at home as no one but me likes it. The programme was printed as a ration book with a wartime bread pud recipe in that I'll reproduce here.

I have a not-so mild obsession with the WW2 homefront and own a large collection of original magazines, knitting patterns and cookery books, plus a veritable library of books and dvds about the period. So, I was in my element with the reproduction shop and post office, village hall being used as a maternity clinic, WI jam making and canning centre, laundry demonstration and Ministry of Food demonstration wagon. I snapped loads of photos and it would take ages to explain them all so I'm just going to upload as many as I can, including a few of the medieval interior of the castle keep, and a couple of views of Dover harbour and town taken from the castle walls, to let you have a good look. If, like me, you love looking at all the little details then you can click on each picture and it will load as a larger view.

So, here we go, and I hope I don't bore you all.

The castle exterior
 The exterior of the Keep

The chapel inside the Keep

The Throne Room



View of Dover from the castle walls

 View of Dover Harbour from the castle walls

 The 1940s Event


Mobile Canteen - Tea in an enamel mug and chunks of bread pudding

DH discussing the workings of German weaponry

The following pictures are of the shop exterior and interior, the living area, the village hall used as a maternity clinic and by the WI for jam making etc, a laundry display, a display of make do and mend and couponed clothing,  a mobile kitchen etc.

I was also going to post some video footage of the sensational Swingtime Sweethearts but since my internet access is playing up so badly I'll leave that for another time.
And now for the wartime Bread Pudding recipe, made under rationing restrictions and using up all those bits of stale bread as it was against the law to waste any food.

Bread Pudding (Almost as Good as Chocolate!)

5-6 Bread slices (stale is fine)
2 tablespoons fat or margarine
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons dried fruit
1 large carrot
1 teaspoon mixed spice or cinnamon
1 flat teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
4 teaspoons milk

Soak the stale bread in a little cold water and then squeeze the water out until as dry as possible. Beat out any lumps with a fork. Grate the carrot. Add the fat or margarine, sugar, dried fruit, grated carrot and the mixed spice or cinnamon. Stir the bicarb into the milk to dissolve and then blend well into the other ingredients. Spread evenly into a well greased tart tin or pie dish and cook in a moderate oven for 30-40 minutes.

I believe a moderate oven is about Gas 4-5, and of course as we're not on rations right now you could always add a bit more fruit and fatand sugar if you like your bread pud richer. The 'almost as good as chocolate' was actually a part of the recipe...who were they trying to kid? The piece I had at the castle was yummy though.

So, that was my eventful day, how did you spend your Sunday?

Saturday, 24 May 2014

The Prodigal Son Returns

My baby boy is back home. 

We loaded him and most of his belongings into the car this afternoon, and DH is driving him back over to the flat early tomorrow morning to collect the rest. He's also taking DS1 over at the same time to catch a coach to a comic book/anime convention in London, and will likely be back out again to pick him up early tomorrow evening. Talk about Dad's taxi service! We never had a car when the kids were younger (DH only passed his test just over 2 years ago and I've never learned to drive) and we managed perfectly well with public transport, despite having 5 children, but since we've had the car it seems to have become indispensible.

We spent a couple of hours in Canterbury before picking DS2 up, nipping in and out of shops dodging the rain rather than the walk by the river we'd intended. I was going to take some pictures but it was too wet and miserable to be lingering outside. I'd made myself comfortable in a chair in Waterstones with a book when DD1 rang on my mobile, so I had a little chat with her. Her flat sale and house buying is still not complete but she's now hoping all will go through within the next month.

Dinner tonight was a beef stew left to cook in the slow cooker while we were out. I made dumplings too and it was lovely comfort food on a wet and windy day. Of course, at 7.30 in the evening it's now blue skies and sunshine! I do hope the weather's better on Tuesday because there's no way I'll be getting on that ferry if it's anything like today. I don't get seasick; I just hate being on rough seas.

Nothing else to tell tonight. I think an early bedtime might be in order after the busy week I've had. I hope the weather's been better where you are.

Friday, 23 May 2014

A Healthy Meal from Frozen and Packet Ingredients

A couple of weeks ago Frugal Queen did a post about using frozen vegetables. Well, I've always used frozen veg, especially since I read years ago that as they're flash-frozen so soon after picking they often retain more vitamins than fresh veg that might have been sitting on a shelf for days. Of course, if you're fortunate enough to pick your own home grown veg then that would be even fresher. In addition to the nutrient value, with 5 hungry kids to feed frozen veg was much more convenient; I simply didn't have time to shell my own peas.

Anyway, tonight's dinner was made up almost entirely of frozen and packaged foods but was low in fat and high in goodness and, although most of the ingredents were frozen or from packets, it was virtually free from additives. 

This is a picture of some of what went into my Quorn mince bolognaise sauce:-

The Quorn mince was £1.49 from Aldi, the frozen sliced mushrooms and peppers were from FarmFoods at £1 a bag or 3 bags for £2 (I used 1/2 bag of each), the passata was from Aldi at (I think) 35p, the frozen pureed garlic cubes came from Tesco and, if I remember rightly, they were £1.50 a pack but on offer a few weeks ago at 2 for £1 (I used 2 cubes). I also added a slosh of red wine, some Italian dried herbs, a stock cube, some leftover gravy and some baked beans sauce from the fridge. I did use a fresh red onion, a couple of fresh diced carrots and some tomatoes from the fridge that were going squishy, so those needed a couple of minutes' chopping, but apart from that everything else was ready to just pop into the slow cooker.  

Served with boiled pasta shapes from Approved Foods (part of the enormous stash we're still eating our way through) and a sprinkling of grated cheddar, it served 3 of us with enough leftover for at least other 2 portions. It would probably serve 6 but DH and DS1 have enormous appetites.

It was absolutely delicious and I costed it at approx £4.50 including the extras such as stock cube, wine, herbs, pasta, cheese etc. For 6 servings that's 75p a serving.

DS2's gig went really well. He also did a solo accoustic spot earlier on that we only caught the end of, as an act had pulled out at the last moment. His band all dressed up as Power Rangers - one as the pink ranger complete with fake breasts. They did a heavy metal set, including a version of the Power Rangers theme tune. I managed to record about half of it but my phone acted up for the second half. They are always very well received because they mix fun with the music. 

We didn't get home until midnight. I was tired but still had trouble getting to sleep and ended up taking a Sleepeaze tablet and finally dropping off after 1 am. I always feel a bit out of it the following day when I take something to help me sleep, so today so I've just potterered about doing bits and pieces around the house, plus a couple of quick trips to the local shops; Aldi, FarmFoods and Morrisons are all within a few minutes walk of the house.

DH is now off work for a week so we're hoping to have some days out as well as our trip to Calais on Tuesday. But tomorrow and Sunday we'll be moving DS2's things back home from Canterbury. 

Let's hope the weather is good for the bank holiday weekend.

Thursday, 22 May 2014


I am a truly dreadful blogger. So sorry for my absence; it's not that nothing's happening in my life (not that it's exactly bursting with excitement, you understand), just that I don't always have the urge to spend an hour a day writing about it. 

And yes, it does take me that long to write a post. By the time I've taken pictures and uploaded them and then written and edited and rewritten and re-edited a dozen times, an hour at least has usually passed. I'm really anal about my posts looking just right and trying not to post anything with spelling or grammar mistakes. I hate when I re-read something I've written a few days later and see that, despite my attentiveness, an error or two still slipped by me. I'm the same when I'm writing anything else, even emails. I tend to go and correct all those underlined bits in a Word document as I go along rather than leaving it until the end. I simply don't feel comfortable moving forward with the next sentence if I can see a glaring error staring out of the screen at me. I know this probably stunts my creative writing abilities as one school of thought is to simply write away with whatever comes into your head and correct later, but my head would be so obsessed with the mistakes I couldn't think of anything else until they were fixed. 

And now everyone who reads this is going to be looking out for those errors I missed!

So, that's my little peculiarity; what's yours?

This post did not in any way start out to be about my writing style, so on to a brief overview of what's happening with me at the moment.

DD2's wedding preparations are still her main topic of conversation, but she's also having issues at work as they're all having to reapply for their jobs. I do not understand how organisations expect workers to do their best when there is so little job security nowadays, and when perfectly good workers have to reapply for the jobs they've been doing well for ages. Do they not want to retain their workforce? DD2 is a good, well-educated, consciencious worker who mostly enjoys her job in the Patient Experience Department of the NHS, but she is applying for other jobs because she's fed up with the politics and insecurity of her current position. I know they have to weedle out unsatisfactory employees, but they do observations and regular reviews anyway. Doesn't make sense to me.

Wow, that was a rant I also hadn't intended.

Other news is DS2 moves back home this weekend. He could stay in his student accomodation until the end of next month, but his flatmates are moving out soon so he'd rather come home. I've had to quickly buy another bed and curtains as DD3 and BF took theirs with them when they moved out, and I thought I had an extra month to prepare for his return. We have a spare mattress so I ordered this wooden bedstead from Amazon at the weekend.

I expected it to take a week or so to arrive and for him to have to sleep on the mattress on the floor for a few days, but it was delivered yesterday so it can be assembled at the weekend. He's also singing with his college band at another gig in the Student Union bar tonight. We're going over to see him, but unfortunately his band is on last so we won't be home until around 11.30. 

Next week is a bank holiday and half term and DH is taking four days off to give him the full week's holiday. College lecturers down here get an allowance of holiday rather than the full school holidays so he tries to combine time off with bank holidays to give himself a longer break. On Tuesday we're off on the ferry as foot passengers to Calais for the day. There was an offer for online booking in the local paper and it's only costing us £3 each. Even though we live in Dover we don't go across the Channel often. It's probably been 2 years since the last time so we're really looking forward to it. Just hoping the weather's fine.

As for me, well, I haven't made any more bags lately but I did sell another one on Ebay, although I've had to reduce the prices. I guess people look on Ebay for a bargain rather than hand crafted goods. I also sold a lot of other bits and pieces and earned enough to treat myself to one of these:-

And some of these:-

I'll use them for both my card making and for applique on bags and cushion covers. The 4 inch square will be for when I finally get around to doing more patchwork.

I used a £15 gift code that I earned from Swagbucks to buy the machine from Amazon, and the dies were purchased online from Hobbycraft using a 15% discount code for signing up to their email reminders.

This is a flower I put together using my dies. 

I used bondaweb to adhere two fabrics together before putting it through the die cutting machine, so hopefully the edges won't fray and it also makes the petals and leaves doublesided. I also bought a large 15.5 inch square acylic ruler from Create and Craft using my £10 voucher for joining their club. It's the perfect size for cutting out the main bag and lining pieces without me having to keep measuring (and making mistakes in my calculations). I'm aiming on making some plain, lined bags and embellishing them with applique. Using calico for the outside and a charity shop pillowcase or something similar for the lining I can keep the fabric costs low but still produce a lovely sturdy bag.

Right, that's your lot for today. Sorry again for the long delay between posts. I hope this epic has made up for that a little and I haven't sent you all into a coma with my ramblings.

Have a great day everyone. Love and hugs, Helen x

Thursday, 8 May 2014

My Latest Make, and a Slimming World Dessert

The weather is horrible today and, as my throat still isn't completely better, I decided getting soaked while waiting for the bus to Deal for my volunteering would not be a good idea, so I played hookey. 

It's a good job I did because I'd forgeotten I had a man from the insurance broker's calling at 9.30 to find us a better life insurance deal. We took out our 15 year policies 10 years ago but have decided it would be wise to pay a little extra each month and have them extended by a few years to take us into our 70s. It's much better to pay extra now than have the policies expire in 5 years time and then have to pay through the nose for insurance because we're 5 years older, probably getting a lot less cover for the money. All is now being sorted and, as we're generally healthy folks who don't smoke and only drink very occasionally, we've hopefully negotiated a pretty good deal and might not even need medical checks. Having seen some of the adverts on TV for over 50s cover that pay out such paltry sums and often don't even give you full cover until you've been paying in for at least a year, I think we've made the best decision.

So, what did I do while waiting for yet another call back after I'd posed more questions to the nice man on the end of the phone? (Well, I like to make them work for their commission and we want to get it right first time so we don't find ourselves having to amend it again in a few years). 

I made another bag, of course. Although I did also nip out for 10 minutes to the post office to mail off Kay's bag. I do hope she likes it.

So this is what I made today. 

As it's so wet and windy outside I thought I'd make something bright and summery, hence the flip-flop fabric. I made a pocket for the inside with a remnant of that fabric instead of making a rosette which would have been lost amid the busy outer fabric design. A lovely vintage style white button and ribbon fastening finishes it off nicely. I think I'll be putting this one on Ebay too with a Buy It Now price.

The bag making was made easier with my new steam iron. My old iron that I've had for donkey's years had got so clogged up with our chalky water that it really doesn't steam any more. I hardly ever iron clothes, but do need a decent iron for pressing my sewing. Anyway, I got this beauty in Argos at a quarter of the RRP. 

It was already half price which reduced it to 24.99 and I had £12.50 on my Nectar card so I paid just £12.49 for a £50 iron. I used it for the first time today and it makes things so much easier than using a pressing cloth that has to keep being run under the tap and repositioned on the fabric. Don't tell anyone, but I almost enjoyed ironing with it.

Dinner tonight will be the fishcakes I made earlier in the week served with oven chips and peas. I've also stewed some Bramley apples I bought a week ago (4 apples for 99p in Morrisons). I added some blackberries to half the apple and made a small crumble for DH to have with custard. We picked pounds and pounds of blackberries last year and I thought we'd never eat them all but unfortunately I only have one bag left in the freezer now. 

The rest of the apple was made into a dessert with a sugar free orange jelly, 2 tablespoons of granulated sweetner, 250g of 0% fromage frais and 250g Quark soft cheese.  You simply cook the apples to a mush (I do this in the microwave), add the jelly to the cooked apple and stir to dissolve, then whisk in the fromage frais, quark and sweetner until the mixture is smooth. Either pour into a large bowl or divide into individual dishes and put in the fridge to set. This is 1/2 Syn a portion (for the jelly) on the Slimming World plan with the stewed apple being a 'B' choice. Or you could be really piggy and eat the whole thing during the day for just 2 syns (the whole of the apple would be be just 1 'B').

I think that's all I have for now. The weather's supposed to be horrible again tomorrow so it might be yet another sewing day.