Monday, 30 June 2014

Just Checking In...

Hi, everyone, just checking in to let you all know I'm still around.

Sorry for my absence these past couple of weeks. June is always a busy month for us with 4 birthdays (including mine on the 21st) and Father's Day, but this year it seems to have been particularly manic with something popping up every other day. In between all the madness I had a week of feeling extremely depressed and not being able to pick myself up. It meant I didn't have the energy or incentive to do much of wading through thick fog that clung to me and dragged me down. I'm still a bit bleugh on that front but better than I was. I actually made 2 birthday cards and a Doctor Who cushion cover for DD1's birthday last week; a great improvement on the previous week when I couldn't do much more than sit on the sofa with a bit of crocheting. 

Talking of crochet, I'm hoping to have the blanket I've been working on finished to show you all soon. I'm really pleased with it as my very first crochet project and it will be put by for my mother-in-law's Xmas eve birthday.

Anyway, the month ends on a very positive note with DS2 getting his results for his HND course. Out of 8 modules he gained 2 passes, 4 merits and 2 distinctions giving him an overall merit profile. He needed merits to progress to the third year to gain a degree qualification so he's done that with knobs on. Now he just has to decide whether to go to a different college to continue with a degree in musical performance or to stay at the same one and concentrate on the technical side eg. recording etc. He got a special 'well done' dinner tonight of shop bought burgers and chips followed by choc button ice cream cones...junk food, but he loved it.

I'm hoping for a less hectic July, but with a bag making workshop and DS2 playing a gig this Friday, dinner with my sisters later in the month, and our wedding anniversary and holiday on 26th that's already a portion of the calender filled. Really looking forward to that holiday, though; I need a change of scenery and DH needs a break from work.

Right, it's getting late and I'm exhausted because I've not been sleeping well (either the depression gives me insomnia or the insomnia causes the depression...vicious circle!).

Take care everyone and see you in July.

Love and hugs, Helen x

Sunday, 15 June 2014

A Sea of Pink

I've had a perfect weekend. 

Yesterday my daughter drove up for the day from Winchester, Hampshire and we celebrated her 30th birthday (which is today) with a family lunch at the Jackdaw Inn in the pretty village of Denton between Canterbury and Folkestone. This is the place where DD2 and her fiance will marry next May and we managed to take some lovely photos in the garden where they will hold the ceremony. It was the first time in a couple of years that we've all been together and we had a fantastic time.

 The birthday girl and her younger brothers

My wonderful kids

Kids, partners and dad

Birthday girl with mum and dad

 Dad and mum

My family

Today I did the Race for Life at Folkestone for the very first time. DD2 and I walked the course (5km or 3.1 miles) in approx 53 minutes. DD3 ran the distance in 21 minutes and came 6th out of approximately 3000 entrants. It really did look like a sea of pink on the Leas at Folkestone. But, of course, the main reason for doing the race was to raise money for cancer charities and it was announced that over £135,000 was raised just from this one race. As there are similar races held throughout the country I'm looking forward to finding out what this year's overall total will be.

 Me, DD2 and DD3 before the race

DD3 working out before the race (her Honey Boo boo impression!)

A medal for everyone

After the race we all went to Starbucks for coffee, including DH and DS1 who had come with us for support. The kids treated DH to coffee and a cookie for Father's Day, as well as giving him gifts of dvds and Amazon vouchers. I cheated and bought fresh pizzas (2 for £4) from Morrisons for dinner served with spicy wedges (Aldi 59p) and a selection of salad veg. Dessert was vanilla ice cream, crushed Flakes (leftover from DD1's birthday cake), and squirty cream from a can. 

I have had an absolutely wonderful weekend, one of those magical islands of time that we all shared together and something to always remember as my children are now leaving home, scattering and building their own homes and families. 

I hope your weekends were as amazing as mine was. Love, Helen x

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Baked Bacon, Cheese and Onion Dumplings And My Latest Make

When I got my new phone a few months back I quickly knitted a 'sock' for it, but I've seen several patterns in magazines for stitched cases and wanted to give one a go. I tried one design earlier this week that didn't work out, so I found another one and this one was more successful. 

This is what I made this morning. 

It took about 2.5 hours from start to finish (including ironing and backing the fabric, cutting out etc.) I'm quite pleased with it and now I've made one and know the pitfalls I could make the next one more quickly. I spent about half an hour neatly sewing the velcro on by hand, but I've seen online that it can be done by machine so I'll give that a go next time. I'd also use a flat button as this shanked one made pinning and sewing the fabric together rather difficult. The case took only oddments of fabric so I'm thinking of making a few and trying to sell them. 

Dinner tonight was something I made up myself (out of my head, as my nan would say). DS2 had requested bacon roly poly but I only had a tiny bit of bacon so I combined it with some chunks of strong cheddar and some chopped spring onions that were going wrinkly. I made some suet pastry with dried sage added, divided it into 4 pieces, rolled each one out into a small circle, put the bacon/cheese/onion filling in the middle of each, gathered the edges up and rolled them into dumplings that I then baked in the middle of the oven, with oven chips on the top shelf, and served with baked beans. 

They were delicious and very, very filling and I think I'd make them slightly smaller next time.

We've had lovely weather here today and I took a little trip into town and around the charity shops searching for something pink to wear for the race on Sunday as I do not usually wear pink. I managed to get a nice pale pink M&S blouse for £3.99 in the British Heart Foundation shop that I will actually wear after the event, so I'm all set.

Hope you all had a good days. Love, Helen x

Monday, 9 June 2014

Race For Life

On Sunday 15th June I am doing my very first Race For Life at Folkestone. No, I will not be one of the front runners, racing away at lightening speed. Plans were for DD2 and I to walk the 5km together but as she texted this morning to say she's hurt her ankle and might not be able to do it, I may well be plodding along at the back by myself. I will be walking it in memory of my mum, Maureen Beniston, who died at the age of just 72 in 2005 from mouth cancer (and she was a non-smoker all her life), and for DD3's BF who had cancer as a child, endured months in hospital, operations and aggressive chemotherapy at a young age and may not now be able to father children. 

Being something of a recluse when it comes to social interaction, I haven't asked lots of people to sponsor me but thanks to DH and DS1 I have so far raised £60 in donations, plus the £15 I paid to enter the race. I hate asking anyone for anything but this is such a good cause I hope you don't mind me putting a link here to my fund raising page. It's a simple donation page and the charity will get the money whether I complete the race or not.  I am putting a link here just in case anyone would like to donate...even a £1 will add to the coffers of this deserving charity.


Thank you for reading. Hugs, Helen x

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Use It Up and Make Do Lamb and (Not) Lentils Update

I thought you might like the verdict on the lamb and lentils made without lentils and containing all those odds and ends of veg that I blogged about earlier today. It was absolutely delicious. The mushy peas mushed down even further and made the gravy lovely and thick. 

Here's a picture of the dumpling crust on top of the lamb in the slow cooker. 

To cook dumplings in the slow cooker you need to put it on high for about 10 minutes until everything is nice and bubbly, and then simply pop in individual dumplings or lay the crust on the top. Put the lid back on and then allow to cook for about 30-40 minutes. They cook up beautifully.

This is the meal on DS1's plate; he kept asking me to hurry up and take the picture so he could dig in.

Enjoyed by everyone and less than £1 a portion.

What do you so with your bottom of the fridge leftovers?

Using Up and Making Do

We were out quite early this morning to take our 2 cats to the vet for their annual check up and booster vaccinations. I pay into a monthly scheme that includes all check ups, innoculations and flea and worm treatments. It spreads the cost and I don't have fork out £60 or £70 twice a year for the check ups and over £40 every 3 months for flea treatments. We could also have their claws clipped as part of the package but they need doing every 10 days since they are indoor cats so we do it ourselves rather than traumatising them by taking them to the vet. They both moaned like mad in their carry cases in the car, but they were as good as gold when being examined and injected. Both were pronounced fit and well, thank goodness, and I think they've now forgiven us.

Here's Shadow in one of his favourite spots. Any old cardboard box will do. Whenever I have a parcel delivered he checks it out by first sitting on it, and then in it once it's unpacked.

And here's Halo in his favourite place on the landing, enjoying the peace and quiet.

They are pedigree British Shorthairs and brothers from the same litter but completely different in appearance, with Shadow being a 'blue' with the typical orange eyes, and Halo is a colourpoint with pale fur tipped with grey and fascinating blue eyes.

It bucketed down with rain as we left the vet, so we drove the cats back home and I pre-prepared lunch and dinner while we waited for the weather to clear. I made a tomato, courgette and pepper soup in my soup maker for lunch using a recipe from a book especially for soup makers that I bought for 99p in the Barnardos shop earlier this week. The courgettes and peppers were both 69p from Aldi. Unfortunately our Aldi is now closed for a week while they finish off their extension. What ever will I do without their fruit and veg offers? LOL!!!!

For dinner I've made lamb and lentils in the slow cooker...except I didn't have lentils. And that's where the make do and using up part comes in. Not having lentils I made do by substituting a 16p can of mushy peas, and I used up some manky celery from the bottom of the fridge, some wrinkly potatoes left from the last sack I bought, and some carrots that were going a bit soft at the ends. All was still perfectly edible; it was just on its last legs and needed using up rather than chucking out. 

Although it's now really sunny and hot I'm making a dumpling crust that will be added on top about 45 minutes before we need to eat. Who says you can't eat stew  and casseroles in the summer, especially when it's cooked in the slow cooker creating very little heat?

This afternoon I've been looking online for a charity gift to give as a pressie to DD1 for her 30th birthday next weekend. She says there's nothing she really wants and, as she and her wife both have good jobs and can buy most of what they need, she asked for a charity donation of some sort. So, I've bought her a 'build a bog' gift from Oxfam. The bog in question, if you haven't already guessed, is a toilet and the gift will provide toilet facilties in a refugee camp, school or similar location in a third world country. It's the kind of humerous gift I think she'll appreciate whilst also helping someone in need. I'll also get her flowers and chocs and we're treating her out to lunch when she visits next Saturday.

I think that's all I have from my neck of the woods today. I hope the weather's nice where you are and you're having a good weekend. Love, Helen x

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Going North of the Border

Yes, we're going to Scotland. 

I got an email yesterday from Shearings Coaches with their latest offers. We've had several holidays with them before and, although the hotel accomodation is quite basic, their late deals are really great value for money. Our last one was back in February 2013 when we had 4 nights half board in Scarborough, all travel to and from Dover included, plus 2 excurions, and all for £109 each.

We've prevaricated for ages about what to do for our 30th wedding anniversary at the end of July, and now I'm really pleased we didn't make plans earlier. Last night I booked us a 7 night break to Oban for just £438 for the both of us, saving over £600 on the original price. We're travelling up on our actual anniversary (26th) but, if we'd gone a week later, even with discount it would have cost over £900. Again its half board, all travel included, overnight stays on the way there and back in hotels in the north of England, and day trips to the isles of Mull, Iona and Seil and to the Trossocks National Park. I'd saved a tax refund DH got a while back so I paid the entire amount in cash and even got £17 cashback through Quidco. 

I'm really excited about it as I've never been to Scotland and nor has Dave even though his dad was Scottish. We don't travel much so although a trip to Scotland might not be much for some people it's a real event for us.

This is our hotel, taken from the Shearings website:-

And here are views of Oban:-

And the Trossocks:-

I can't wait for our holiday, but first this month is crazy with 4 birthdays, including mine on the 21st. The 15th is a triple event being DD1's 30th birthday, Father's Day and the Race for Life in Folkestone that I'm doing for the first time. DD1's coming over from Winchester for the day on the 14th and we're taking her out for a birthday lunch and then back here for cake. My youngest sister's birthday is on the 27th and DS1's is the 29th. So I have lots of cards to make and pressies to buy or make over the next couple of weeks. I have a Doctor Who cushion panel to make up for DS1 but I'm not sure what to get for DD1 yet.

The weather was good today after a horrible wet day yesterday. After I'd finished a good clean out of my kitchen cupboards I had a walk into town and wandered around the charity shops. I picked up a vintage knitting book for £1.50 but a lot of the tops I saw were more than I was prepared to pay. I'm still mostly making do with my old stuff, except for jeans and underwear. I always did wear loose fitting clothes, they're just a lot looser now I'm 5 sizes smaller. Talking of which, I had a 2lb loss this week, which took care of the weight I'd gained over the previous 2 weeks. So far this week has started well so I'm hoping for at least another 1lb off next week. I'm whittling away at it slowly and now have less than a stone to lose to get to my goal weight.

I think that's all for now. I've been trying to sew a phone case this afternoon but 2 attempts failed. I'll have another go tomorrow and post if it turns out okay.

Hope everyone is keeping well. Love, Helen x

Monday, 2 June 2014

How to spend £55 in 15 minutes

My freezer was looking pitifully empty and, as I had a £5 coupon off a £50 spend at FarmFoods, this morning I enlisted DD1's help and set off to fill it up. I'd already written a list based on their latest offers and we went early so managed to whizz around and through the checkout in under 15 minutes.

The actual bill was just over £60 but with the voucher it was around £55. For this amount I bought:-

3 x 1kg bags of chicken breasts (3 for £10), 
4 x 500g lamb mince (4 for £10), 
3 packs x 18 rashers back bacon (3 for £6), 
2 x minced steak and 2 x minced beef (any 4 packs for £10), 
2 x 8 Gammon steaks and 1 x 10 pork loin steaks (any 3 packs for £10), 
3 bags x 6 frozen baked potatoes (3 for £5), 
2 x 2 packs Birds Eye barbecue chicken grills (2 for £2), 
2 bags frozen sweet potatoes (2 for £1), 
2 packs x 4 chunky breaded fish steaks (2 for £4), 
2 x frozen carrots and 1 x frozen mixed peppers (any 3 veg for £2)
1kg fresh carrots (49p)
1 x cucumber (39p)
1 x Maxwell House 8 pack Cappuccinos (£1)

Okay, so the cappuccinos were a treat for me and not strictly necessary, but DH has his hot choc sachets from Aldi and I have my coffees and I only have 1 a day. 

Even though DS2 is back at home now, I'm hoping that lot will last me a good couple of months interspersed with vegetarian meals, .

I also made a trip into town and managed to get 2 packs of menopause vitamin supplements from Superdrug for £2 a box (one month's supply in each) instead of £4.99, and I bought cod liver oil capsules for £1 from Savers. I'm having all kinds of trouble with dry skin and some really horrible eczema patches since I went through the menopause. I have never before suffered from eczema, although my sister has had it all her life and was so bad she was hospitalised when she was in her twenties. I'm hoping that taking some supplements - especially fish oils - might help. I've tried various creams and lotions including Sudocrem, E45 and over the counter hydrocortisone but I also think I've developed an allergy to some of the other ingredients in them as none have helped and have even seemed to make it worse. Any suggestions gratefully received as it's driving me crazy at the moment.

Just so this doesn't end up as a words-only post, here are a few pictures of my latest makes. I had all the pieces cut out and the applique applied before half term but I was out and about so much last week I didn't get my sewing machine out once. This afternoon I just needed to sew everything together.

That's all for tonight. Slimming club tomorrow. I've had a mixed week food-wise so don't know how I've done. Hope everything is fine with you and yours, love Helen x