Tuesday, 30 September 2014

MacMillan Coffee Morning And Cat In A Box

Considering it was being held by members of my Slimming World club who technically should have been avoiding the goodies on offer, there was an abundance of cake brought in for today's MacMillan charity coffee morning. Just goes to show that, like me, many of the members love to bake and also eat the things they make which is why we all need to attend the club. 

I made lemon and poppy seed muffins and white chocolate and blackberry muffins. There were a few of the lemon ones remaining, but someone liked the blackberry ones so much they bulk bought some to take home. These are the few I hung onto for DH and my boys to eat.

£2 was charged for a cup of tea or coffee and a piece of cake. I was very good and just had one piece of Gypsy Tart which I counted as breakfast since I hadn't eaten before I left home. I love Gypsy Tart but would never make it myself as I'm the only one at home who likes it and I'd end up eating the whole thing myself. 

Everyone who attended the coffee morning was extremely generous both in making the cakes, bringing prizes for the raffle and in dipping into their pockets on the day. There were loads of raffle prizes and together with the money from the collection box and from the sale of drinks and cake the event raised £275. As we'd recently had a member die at the age of 50 from cancer and another who is just recovering from surgery for breast cancer it proved a great way to help a good cause.

Of course, I weighed in before I ate my cake, and I'd lost 2.5lb this week. As I gained 3.5 last week (on my first weigh-in since getting to goal) I was glad to get back to just below my target weight despite having one day mid-week when I ate everything in sight.

To finish this post here is a pic of the baby Oleg Meerkat toy I received for buying home insurance through that price comparison site (and also saving myself over £100 on the amount MoreThan wanted this year).

Here is a picture of the box Oleg was delivered in-

And here is a picture of the box's new inhabitant -

Shadow loves boxes and was trying to climb into it as I was getting Oleg out. He even managed to curl up small enough to have a sleep in it.

I've had a lovely day all round, the only blot on the landscape is DH has another cold and it looks like it's gone to his chest again. Luckily he saw the doctor yesterday and has been prescribed antibiotics, but he's needed the past two days off work. I am gettting worried that he appears to be taking after his mum who has a notoriously weak chest. Obviously, working in a school doesn't bode well for his ability to avoid coughs and colds over the winter months. One good thing to come from the doctor's visit is he's been offered a free flu jab because of his propensity to get bronchitis. Fingers crossed that helps keep him free of the very worst of the bugs.

I hope everyone else has had a good day and is keeping healthy as the weather grows colder.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Spending to Save

During September I've done fairly well using up some of my food stocks from the freezer, shelves and cupboards, but sometimes you just have to spend money in order to save in the future, and that's why I've parted with over £80 this week.

Firstly I spent £46 for goods worth £60 by doing a Tesco online shop. As I haven't shopped online with them for over 3 years I discovered I could register as a new customer and get a £15 discount on a £60 shop, and by tracking my purchase through Quidco I could also get cashback. With Tesco's reduced cost delivery charges adding only £1 to the bill I shopped wisely buying a lot of their a special offers for things I would definitely use. I stocked up on toilet paper, Quorn chicken-style fillets (on offer anyway), Bold washing gel, large bags of cat food, disinfectant, baked beans, frozen veg, frozen white fish fillets, frozen minced beef and tinned green lentils amongst other things that had a long shelf life.

In a similar vein, I took advantage of today's Aldi money off vouchers in the Daily Mirror. £5 off a £40 shop, plus a number of 50% off vouchers for items such as sliced Wiltshire ham (89p), a large jar of mincemeat (89p), soft brown sugar at 47p (unfortunately they only had light brown but the voucher for dark brown is valid for a week so I'll have a look for that again in a few days), malt loaf (24p) and a 6 pack of their Dreamy chocolate bars (only 24p with the voucher and given to DD1 as a thank you for his assistance with the shop). By using the 50% off vouchers and the £5 voucher my £43 shop was only £38. I have stocked up on those things already mentioned plus sausages (Pork, Irish and Cumberland at 99p a pack), Quorn sausages (£1.49 for 8), more toilet rolls, washing up liquid, extra mature cheddar cheese(£1.75 for 350g) crinkle cut oven chips (89p for 1.5kg), free range eggs (£2.19 for 15 medium) and funsize apples (69p a bag as part of their latest week's fruit/veg promotion).

I now have enough washing gel, washing up liquid, loo paper and disinfectant, plus 20 large tubes of Colgate toothpaste that I got last week in Poundsaver for 50p a tube, that will last me for at least 3 months if not longer. In addition, my freezer is pretty full again with frozen meat, fish and veg, plus about 5 lbs blackberries I foraged so they cost me nothing.

October will definitely have to be a very low spend month as DH's first salary payment from the school was lower than expected. By the time they've taken a huge chunk for pension contributions (that he won't even be able to claim until he's 68) we're actually worse off after taking petrol costs into account, despite him earning nearly £3000 a year more. He's seriously considering applying to go back to the college as it's a much shorter, easier and cheaper journey to work and they did say he'd be welcome back at any time.

Anyway, I'm hoping the food element of my stock up will see us well through the month of October -  and hopefully beyond - with just some fresh fruit and veg, yogurts and bits and pieces to add to meals. I'll definitely be meal-planning this month and trying hard to stick to it.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Making Not Buying

I used to do loads of cardmaking and really enjoyed it, and occasionally I earned a few quid making specially requested personal cards. Over the years card making has slipped lower in my preferred crafts and I now only make for family birthdays or if one of the kids asks for a card for a friend. Although DD2 and I will be making her wedding invitations next year. However, I do still have an embarrasingly large stash of card making materials. Next week is my daughter-in-law's birthday. They now live in Basingstoke and I had to send the card today to make sure it arrived in time.When I got up this morning I thought, can I really be bothered making this card or should I go to the shop in town that sells cards cheaply and buy one? Extending my decision to try and use up my food stocks during September to other areas where I have a suplus, I gave myself a good talking to and got stuck in. After all, I have the supplies, why spend money when I don't have too even if I could get a shop bought card for around 80p? So, this is what I made.

DIL is an army musician and although she can play several instruments guitar is her favourite. I'm quite pleased with it and it only took about half an hour to put together once I'd decided on the design and printed everything out. Not a great saving, but a sense of accomplishment nonetheless. I have several birthdays coming up over the next couple of months and while I was at it I've printed out all the images and inserts to make another 4 cards, potentially saving me another £3.20 at least. 

In a similar vein - and this time definitely food-related - we're having a sandwich dinner tonight and DH had requested I buy some rolls or a crusty loaf and cooked meat for his. I could have paid around £1 for rolls or a loaf in Morrisons, but I have a breadmaker that makes a fastbake loaf, bread flour bought from Approved Foods, and yeast from Aldi. I added cheese to the mixing process and then more on top at the beginning of the rise and here is a the end result.

It might not look as perfect as a shop bought one but I know it will taste as good if not better. and that's another £1 saved. Unfortunately, I did have to buy the cooked meat, but I didn't think 39p for 10 slices of garlic sausage in Aldi was too extravagant.

I saw that Ilona had repaired a table instead of buying a new, and wonder if anyone else has made or repaired anything rather than spending money this week.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Today's Bargains

Firstly, thank you to everyone for your congratulations and comments on my weight loss. I did allow myself a congratulatory eccles cake from my favourite bakers in Deal, but otherwise I'm trying to pretty much stick to healthy eating for most of this week because we're having dinner at DD3 and BF's on Sunday. It's a full roast and BF is cooking so will do the potatoes in goose fat. Also I'm taking an apple and blackberry cake and there will be cherry pie for dessert so I'm trying to be careful for the rest of this week.

Otherwise, I've had a lovely busy week. When DD2 received her new season ticket sooner than expected she let me have her weekly explorer bus ticket with 3 days credit remaining and I've been making good use of it. 

On Monday I had a morning in Folkestone but was disappointed that one of my favourite charity shops has disappeared. On Tuesday afternoon, after my slimming club, I went to Deal for a couple of hours, and yesterday morning I wandered around Canterbury. Despite trawling the charity shops in both towns I didn't find anything taking my fancy, although I did buy a metre of pretty butterfly fabric for £3 from a stall at the weekly street market in Canterbury. The ticket expired yesterday, so today I stayed put in Dover...and came up trumps in my usual chairty shop haunts.

For some time I've been thinking of getting a new stainless steel steamer since the knob on the top of the lid has come off mine leaving a hole in the middle. I have to remove the lid by sticking the end of a spoon through the hole and easing it off. Also, the handles on the saucepan part at the bottom are very wonky and I've been afraid that one might break off while it's full of hot liquid. Anyway, long story cut short, I found this one for only £3.50 in the Hospice shop just round the corner. It had obviously been used but is in brilliant condition and I am so pleased with it. 

Bargain number 2 was this piece of fabric for £3.99 from the Heart foundation shop in town. It's approx 2 yards by 44 ins wide and will do fine for making more syringe driver bags.

And bargain number 3 was 2 bags of parsnips reduced from 69p to 49p in Morrisons. 

I also got a nice big swede in there for 69p. I'll chop both the parsnips and swede up and freeze them until it's stew weather. Mind you, we have stew any time of year and dinner tonight was lamb mince with lentils and dumplings. Why I decided on dumplings on a hot day like today, I don't know, but my men enjoyed it and I had my mince with a jacket potato.

So has anyone else got bargains to declare? I'd love to hear about them.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

I Did It!

A quick post to tell you all that today I reached my target weight. 

It's taken me 2 years and 3 months but when I started this journey in June 2012 I decided I wasn't in a hurry as long as the general trend was downwards. At that time I hoped to lose maybe 2 st so I could walk better and be more active. Well, as of today I've lost 4st 13 lb. I'm 10st 8.5 which is 1.5 lbs below my target weight of 10st 10. At the start I was 15st 7.5. 

If you want more figures then I was a size 22 and I'm now a 12. My measurements were bust 45in/waist 39.5/hips 50 and now I'm 37/30/40. 

Here are a couple of pictures to go along with those figures. 

I don't actually have one of me at my very heaviest and in the top one I'd already lost about 1.5 st. The bottom one was taken when we were on holiday in Scotland at the end of July and I'm now 7 lbs lighter. The coat in the top picture was a size 20, the one in the bottom picture a roomy size 10.

I'm not a model thin and I could aim for another 1/2 stone or so off but I know from past experience I'd look too bony and as I have some wrinkly skin now I'm happy at this weight. I hope by continuing to weigh in regularly at my club, and because its taken me so long to achieve and I've learned new eating habits along the way, that this time around I'll manage to maintain the loss and not regain as I always have before.

And, yes, I did achieve my initial goal. I am so much more mobile now and the dreadful aches and pain I had in my knees no longer plague me from the minute I get out of bed.

I am duly proud of myself but the real achievement will be if I'm still this weight in a year's time. And many, many thanks to my wonderful slimming world leader, Marise, and the other members for all their help and encouragement during this journey and for those who have left encouraging comments on my prevouus posts here about my weight.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Feeling Better

Thanks to everyone who left me get well messages. Today I am feeling so much better, although still tiring easily. 

I can't believe it's taken best part of a week to recover from what is essentially a headache. Maybe I should take up meditation as suggested in today's papers as a way to manage migraine. I'm not sure I have the patience to sit and meditate (or the concentration; my mind wanders much too easily) but if I got migraines more frequently then I'm sure I would give it a go, clutching at anything to help with what can be an extremely debilitationg affliction that can really adversely affect your life. 

I have never been able to pin my migraines down to a cause such as a particular food, but I do think they are stress related as I generally get them when I've either been run off my feet or had a lot going on with the family etc. This time around I have been doing a lot of clearing out cupboards and such like around the house, and also we worry over DH's mum with her having had a second fall (not serious, just losing her balance), she's also caught bronchitis, and is feeling very low all round while still recovering from her broken wrist. It's so difficult for DH being an only child and living on the other side of the country. It's not as if he can simply up and visit every week, especially with having just started his new job. The council have still not sorted out her finances either and keep asking for more documentation which is difficult to get hold of as she can't sign anything properly with a broken wrist. At this rate, she'll run completely out of money before they get it all sorted. DH is doing his best to talk to them and explain but they aren't very helpful.

I sometimes also get a migraine once a period of stress is over, as if my body says 'now that's done with we're going to completely shut down for a few days'. So, just caused by life in general, and nothing I can really do to prevent them. It's not as if I can cocoon myself in cottonwool and, really, my life is a lot less stressful than most people. Whatever causes them, I'm just happy I don't get them as frequently as some people.

Today was my first day out for a proper walk, although I did nip along the road to Aldi yesterday. DH and I went into town to meet up with DD2 for coffee, and then we went to SpecSavers to help me choose new frames. Since my sight is so blurry without my specs I can't actually see very well whether a design suits me or not. Anyway, my bank balance is £129 lighter (£69 frames and £109 varifocal lenses, minus a £49 discount) and I can pick my new glasses up next week. I'll be glad to have them as I've found myself squinting and constantly adjusting my current ones lately when doing needlework. Which, I suppose, might have contributed to the migraine.

Back home just after 1pm, and DD3 and BF were here for a short visit. Sad news is that BF's grandmother (the one with the house in France) has probably got ovarian cancer. She's a lovely lady, only 70, full of life, so I'm hoping above hope that they've caught it in time. DH's mum had a hysterectomy in her 70s and recovered fine and is now 93 so fingers and everything else crossed for Sonia.

Doctor Who to watch tonight (still not sure about the new doctor). Dinner tonight is Irish pork sausages (99p for 8 Aldi), onion gravy (onions 3 packs for £2 Morrisons), small boiled potatoes (750g for 55p Aldi) and savoy cabbage (39p for a big one that will do 2 meals, Aldi's special deal).

I think that's all for now. Have a good evening everyone.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Migraine From Hell!

I was intending to post earlier in the week but it wasn't to be, and this will be fairly short as I don't want to tempt fate by being too long on the computer.

I have had the worst migraine ever and ended up taking to bed for 2 days. I started with a mild headache on Sunday afternoon and went to bed at 8.30pm. I felt a bit better on Monday morning so pottered about, went to Aldi and also picked a few blackberries from nearby bushes. Unfortunately, by the afternoon I was feeling really rough and once my stomach started acting up too, that was it and I had to give up and go to bed. I was either in bed or hugging or sitting on the loo for the next 48 hours and the headache was monumental. The trouble is, when I have a migraine I cannot seem to shut my brain down and simply sleep it off. Luckily I don't get them as often as I used to but they sure like to hang about when I do.

By yesterday I was starting to recover but still had no appetite and felt totally washed out, but I did spend my time on the sofa in front of the TV wisely by working on finishing the Aran cardigan I've been making with yarn bought for £3.99 for a 400g ball from Aldi. 

Today, thankfully, I am feeling much better although still a bit weak and spaced out, and I have eaten soup and a couple of crispbreads and completed the cardigan. Thankfully DH and the boys have been wonderful. DH has quite enjoyed getting his own dinner, although he's mostly just eaten sandwiches, but tonight I'm making a pork stir fry although I won't be eating any...more soup for me until I get my appetite back.

The photo's not great, but here I am modelling the cardigan. I'm not sure the short, waist length style flatters me particularly, but it might look better with a skirt.

The yarn is 72% acrylic, 25% wool and 3% viscose. I already had buttons that were the perfect size and a good colour.

At least it fits while most of my clothes are now way too big. I suppose throwing up for 2 days and barely eating for another 2 days might have its compensations in my weight loss this week. I don't think losing an extra lb or 2 is worth feeling that ill, though.

Hopefully tomorrow normal service will be resumed and I can get out of the house for some fresh air.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Using Up Everything and More Syringe Bags

I have actually stuck to my menu plan so far this week, mostly making meals using up the leftovers from Sunday's roast. 

Today's dinner was the last of the chicken meat made into a casserole with dumplings. I added carrots (39p last week from Aldi), leftover peas and sweetcorn (served with last night's dinner of homemade tuna fishcakes and chips), baby potatoes (also Aldi 69p), a casserole mix (Approved Foods 5 for £1) and onions (Morrisons, 3 bags for £2). 

Not wanting to waste a scrap, I incorporated a small amount of stuffing into the dumplings that had been in the cavity of the chicken. The meal was delicious and I am so pleased to have made the most of a small chicken and some stuffing to create a total of 4 dinners for 4 people. 

I have had quite a busy day today doing lots of little things around the house, following on from Sunday when I defrosted the freezer and itemised the contents, and yesterday when I sorted and cleaned out my kitchen food cupboards and my stash cupboard in the sideboard in the sitting room. Now, I know I'm not that fussed about sell-by dates, but would I really feel happy using cake decorations and treacle dated 2007? How I missed turfing them out before now I have no idea. Anyway, my cupboards are now free of potential food poisoning and so much cleaner and tidier that I can actually find any ingredient I need without having to take out a dozen other things first. 

Most of the morning was spent doing a favour for DD2 and fiance by waiting in their house for a delivery while they were both at work. But before I went round there I did a load of laundry and hung it on the line. While I was there I did their sink full of washing up and generally tidied the kitchen so they wouldn't have to do it when they got in. I did tell DD2 I'd done it, and apologised if she was annoyed because I remember getting quite upset as a young wife when my mother-in-law would interfere with my housekeeping. Luckily DD was pleased that I'd helped out although she told me jokingly that I was naughty for doing it as I was already doing her a  favour by waiting in for the delivery.

When I left DD2's I picked a few blackberries from the bushes along her road and then went home to soak them and leave my laptop behind before nipping to Aldi for a few bits and pieces. After Aldi, I came home, cleaned out the cats' litter trays, rinsed the blackberries and picked them over for maggots (only one little blighter) and then froze them, and then I vacummed throughout the downstairs before lunch. 

This afternoon I cleaned out and disinfected the outside food recycling bin after today's collection, before finishing off another 4 syringe bags. That's 5 I've made so far. I also have the straps sewn up ready to add to 5 more bags that I hope to cut out tomorrow and have completed by the end of next week ready to send off to the hospice. 

This evening I heated up the casserole I'd made yesterday in the slowcooker, and made the stuffing dumplings. 

I sometimes need to make a note of all the things I do throughout the day. I'm not much good with the actual housework side of things and our old house is decidely shabby without the chic, so it helps me realise I do actually make a useful contribution to the household since I don't go out to work and DH is the sole breadwinner. Of course, I also handle all the finances, making sure all the bills are paid, budgeting and making ends meet etc. so DH doesn't have to bother about that side of things.

So now I'm sitting on the sofa watching a re-run of Hustle and typing this at the same time, thoroughly worn out but with a sense of accomplishment, and a list of things ready to do tomorrow.