Wednesday, 28 September 2016

What's the Knit-Wit Knitting?

I've posted a lot of food-related stuff since I started blogging again and thought it was time to live up to my blog's title and show you some of the knitting I've been doing.

This blanket is for DD2's newest kitty, a gorgeous little black and white British Shorthair - cross Ragdoll called Wookie (her DH is a Star Wars fan).

He's a darling and so affectionate. I'll show you pics when I have some. Not having grandchildren I've knitted a blanket for all 4 of my grand kitties (both DD2 and DD3 have 2 each) and 1 grand puppy (DD1's). 

Yet another blanket. I don't know if anyone remembers the blanket squares I was knitting from all my little oddments of yarn. The last time I posted pics the squares had been sewn together but I was in the process of knitting what seemed like miles of border. Well, it finally got finished, the border was sewn on and here is the result.

I'm really pleased with how it turned out. It's going to hang over the back of one of the sofas and whenever anyone complains of the cold they can wrap themselves up in it rather than turn on the heating! LOL!

Also past readers might recall the great offer I got on Sirdar Denim Ultra chunky yarn bought in a sale from Kemps Wools. I bought 3 different shades, enough for 3 cardigans. Originally I was going to make 1 for DH and 2 for me (I'm of that age where cardigans are so much easier to remove than a jumper during a hot flush). Reverse that, and DH loved the one I made for him so much I ended up knitting him a second one. Until today I hadn't started on making mine, especially as the weather was getting warmer by the time I finished the second one for DH. With Wookie's blanket completed and the weather starting to cool down (although it's been glorious here in Dover today) I've just made a start on my cardi. This is the pattern I'm using although I'll add and inch or two to the bottom as I like my cardis longer. 

It's nice and simple as the yarn is lovely by itself, and with the thick wool and large needles (sizes 8mm and 10mm) it should grow quite quickly. I look forward to wrapping myself up in it when the days are colder. 

DH did his soup kitchen duty last night and I needn't have worried as my homemade offerings went down extremely well. He says the poor rough sleepers were so grateful that someone had taken the trouble to make homemade soup instead of the canned soup they usually have. Makes the effort all worthwhile. 

DS2 starts his journey home from America tomorrow, arriving back sometime on Friday afternoon. How that time has flown. He seems to have had a great time but I haven't seen many pics or had more than a very brief Facebook message from him; he's been so busy. I'm expecting him to be depressed for a few days, missing his girlfriend, until he settles back in to his ordinary routine. He's got a rock festival to go to in Wales with members of the band (just watching, not playing) in a couple of days time, though, so hopefully that will take his mind off things.

That's all for now folks. Back to the knitting. Anyone else knitting for winter or using up their odds and ends to create something beautiful? 

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Soup, Soup, Glorious Soup

No, I am not about to have a mega-binge on vanilla ice cream, although you'd be forgiven for thinking so given the six tubs lined up on my worktop.

The perfectly sensible explanation is, of course, that they all contain about a litre and bit of soup. 

DH has signed up to help out at the local soup kitchen. There are a lot of volunteers on the rota so he will only need to do his duty a couple of times a year. This Tuesday will be his first time. He'll go down to do the actual serving, but guess who gets to make the soup! I spent most of my Sunday morning chopping veg and using the soup maker. Nice of him to volunteer me...not that I really mind, at least I'm using my time for a good cause.

I made leek and potato first using a bag of frozen leeks, but it came out as there was a lot of the green bits of leek in the Farm Foods pack. 

So, I made a second lot using Morrison's frozen leeks that were mostly the white parts of the veg. It's a lot paler in colour and looks much more appetising. 

The first batch won't be wasted; we'll eat it despite the slimy colour. One tub will make my lunches for this week and the second tub will go into the freezer for another time. 

And this orange soup is spicy sweet potato and carrot. 

I made it for us earlier this week by tweaking a recipe to use up some carrots I had in the fridge and it was so delicious I decided it would be nice and warming for poor folks living rough. 

The tubs of soup will be stored in the freezer, taken out on Tuesday morning, and warmed through in the evening to be transported to the soup kitchen (or mobile hut in a car park) in flasks provided by the church that DH attends.

We love homemade soup and I use my Morphy Richards jug-style soup maker at least once a week so I hope the soup goes down well with the rough-sleepers. And if not, then I'll be cheating and buying cans to heat through next time.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Sausagemeat Pie and Cheese and Onion Flans

My mum used to make a delicious sausagemeat pie but unfortunately I don't have the recipe so I concocted my own which can be served hot or cold and was declared delicious.

For the pie I used -

1lb Pork Sausagemeat (3lb for £5 from local butcher) - £1.66

1 onion chopped and softened in oil - 10p

2oz (50g) Porridge Oats - approx -10p

2 beaten Eggs (Aldi - 79p for 6) - 27p

Salt and pepper/ oil - 5p

1 pack of ready rolled shortcrust pastry (Aldi 89p) - 89p

Preheat oven to Gas 6/200C/400F. From the pastry cut out a bottom to line the pie tin and a top. Mix together the sausagemeat, softened onion, oats, eggs (reserve 1 tablespoon of egg to brush over top of pie), and salt and pepper, and mix together well. spread the sausage mix into the prepared pastry case. Top with the remaining pastry, seal the edges together and brush over the remaining egg. Bake near the top of the oven for 30 mins, reduce the temperature to Gas 4/180C/350F for a further 15 minutes. Serve hot of cold. 

Total cost - £3.07 or 51p per serving (Serves 6)

Not wanting to have the oven on for just one pie I also made 2 cheese and onion flans.

For the 2 flans -

1 onion softened in oil - 10p

6 oz/175g extra mature cheddar cheese (Aldi 350g for £1.49) - 75p

300ml pot Double Cream (Aldi) - 69p

3 Eggs (Aldi 79p for 6) - 40p

1 pack ready rolled shortcrust pastry (Aldi) - 89p

Salt and pepper/oil - 5p

Use 1/2 pack of pastry for each flan, line 2 tins and bake blind for 10-15 minutes. Whisk the eggs, and cream together and season with salt an pepper. Sprinkle half the onion and half the cheese in the bottom of each pastry case and carefully pour the cream/egg mix over until about 1/4 inch from the top. Bake at gas 4/180C/350F for approx 30-40 minutes until lightly coloured and set. 

Total cost for for 2 flans - £2.88 or £1.44 per flan. Each flan serves 4 so 34p per serving.

In addition I used scraps of pastry to line 4 muffin tins and a little leftover cream/egg mix and cheese to make 4 little flans, and added a drop of milk to remnants of the egg mix and made DS1 eggy bread for lunch. 

The pie did us 2 meals, served once with chips and beans and secondly with salad and cold new potatoes. The 2 flans are in the freezer for another day. The little tarts made another lunch. And DS1 said the eggy bread was delicious.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Practising What I Preach

I'm feeling rather 'spaced out' today after waiting up until 1.30 am (without a Nanna-nap) for the all important 'I've arrived safely' message from DS2. By the time I actually dropped off to sleep I'd been awake for 21 hours straight. And then I was up again by 7.15 this morning.

DH advised I take it easy today to avoid getting a migraine. I'm trying, but I can't sit still when I know there's things to be done. So, I've done 2 loads of laundry and hung it to dry (and so far the threatened rain has kept away). I've also been to Aldi for a few bits and walked to and from town, needing the walk to clear my head. I'm now sitting down with the TV on and writing this and trying not to drop off because if I nap I'll feel even grottier and won't sleep well tonight.

Luckily I don't have to cook tonight as there's still enough left from the dinner DH made last night. Following on from yesterday's rant about the definition of thrifty meals I thought I'd give an example of practising what I preach. So, although DH did the cooking I sourced and bought the ingredients and acted as 'advisor'.

This is the recipe he made (with some alterations). It's from a Slimming World book I picked up for £1.25 from a charity shop. Forgive the stains on the pages; DH is a messy chef.

The substitutions were sunflower oil instead of Frylight (I find Frylight leaves a horrible sticky film on my pans that's hard to clean off), a pinch of chilli flakes instead of the green chilli, and he added 2 diced sweet potatoes, 2 chopped peppers and 1/2 can of leftover sweetcorn.

Here's the list of ingredients with pricing:-

450g Best Beef Mince - £2 (from a 5 lbs for £10 pack from our local butcher)

2 Onions - 15p (1kg/6 onions for 45p from Aldi)

2 Carrots - 10p (1 kg for 45p from Aldi)

2 Garlic Cloves - 10p (from a 35p bulb Aldi)

2 Sweet Potatoes - 28p (6 pack for 82p from Morrisons)

1/2 can Sweetcorn - 20p (Aldi 39p)

2 Baking Potatoes - 30p (4 pack from Aldi for 59p)

2 Peppers - 25p (8 pack of Everday Peppers Aldi £1)

Tin of Chopped Tomatoes - 25p (Approved Foods 4 for £1)

Oil/Stock Cube/Herbs/Spices etc. Approx 20p

Total Cost of Recipe = £3.83

By adding in the extra veg it made 6 large portions at 64p each

Served yesterday with 1/2 a 59p bag of Aldi salad leaves (30p/10p each) and a tomato each (59p for 6 or 10p each) which made each meal 84p per person

And today with 1/2 a 500g bag of Tesco couscous (79p or 40p for 3 at approx 12p each) making each meal 76p per person.

Lovely inexpensive grub and well below my cook book's Extra Thrifty £2 a serving budget.

So, I probably sound a little smug but I do practice what I preach...well, most of the time. Of, course there are times when I'll splash out and maybe buy the best sausages but even then I go for the local butcher's 3 lb for the price of 2 at £2.59 a pound essentially making them £1.73 a pound). I'll either freeze half of them or I cook them all and make 2 main meals plus a couple left for lunchtime sandwiches. They are lovely sausages in a variety of flavours and when cooked they shrink hardly at all. Even when splashing out a bit I still like to get value for money. 

Enough preaching to the converted for today.

Have a good day. Love, Helen xx

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Call That Thrifty?

Up at 5 am, walked with DS2 to the coach station to pick up his 6 am ride to Heathrow. Walked back home, did 2 loads of laundry and hung it out to dry. Three hours later I walked back to the bus station to catch a bus to Deal where I spent a lovely couple of hours wandering around the annual Braderie (fancy French name for open air street market). I didn't buy anything at the market but did pop into the Heart Foundation charity shop where I succumbed to this cookery book (as if I don't have enough cook books already)! 

From a cursory look at it I liked the idea of bringing traditional recipes up to date with a little less work and the word thrifty and economical always gets me interested. However, on closer inspection at home it's obvious my idea of thrifty is far removed from Reader's Digest (the authors of the book). 

As you can see from this section in the introduction even the thriftiest of meals is costed at £2 or less a head and normal thrifty is £2.75 or less. 

I would consider £2 a head quite extravagant; that would be £8 for just one meal a day for 4 people and £2.75 a head works out at £11. That's between £56 and £77 a week ( if my maths is correct) for just one meal a day. Add in 2 more meals a day plus a snack and that would make a whopping food bill each week for a family of 4. Definitely not my idea of budgeting. My idea of thrifty is half that at the most, and extra thrifty would be more like a quarter of their extra thrifty allowance.  And I cater for 4 adults; little old me and 3 grown men.  Of course, many of my meals use leftovers so I stretch the initial ingredients to make more than one meal. 

Having picked the premise of the book to pieces, it does contain some lovely recipes that I will try out, but I will be sourcing the ingredients carefully and substituting to get the cost down. Not a complete waste of money, but a lesson in looking more carefully at something before spending money on it...even if it does go to a deserving charity.

Having spent 2 hours wandering around the Braderie I caught the bus back to Dover. DH met me at the bus station and we took a walk along the seafront before treating ourselves to a coffee and then walking home. Altogether I did around 12,500 steps and covered over 5 miles. Much needed exercise given how much I've eaten this week and how little walking I've done on most days except the 15 minute walk to and from the shops. 

DS2 is currently somewhere between Iceland (where he changed planes) and Washington, USA. He's due to touch down in Washington at around 7 pm local time and midnight over here. I'm hoping to stay awake for when he messages me to let me know he's arrived...I might have a Nanna-nap on the sofa though, having been up since 5 am.

I just wanted to say a thank you to Pam and Rachel for welcoming me back. I really appreciate it. I feel guilty for being out of touch for so long, but hopefully I'll be more consistent from now on.

So, what's your idea of a thrifty meal? Is £2 a head acceptable? Or is that more like splashing out for you? Any thoughts?

Love you all, Helen xx

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Back Again

Hi All. Long time no post. I apologise to anyone who has tried to contact me, apart from occasionally checking in on a few blogs I've had a long holiday from most things blog-related. So much has happened over the past few months, lots of family medical stuff, and me battling as always with the ups and downs of depression I've had zero motivation to write anything at all. Simply getting out of bed has been a major victory on some days.

I'm not going to go into too much depth with all the medical stuff but here's a summary...

DD3 is still recovering from her hip operation but is doing much better. She and BF are currently sunning themselves (I hope it's sunny) in Majorca.

DD2's heart issue is ongoing. The op she was hoping to have is currently not available on the NHS but may be reinstated after a review and until then she's on blood thinners to prevent any more clots from getting through the hole. 

My hip has been okay lately (touch wood) after needing more manipulation from the chiropractor at the beginning of August, and DH hasn't had any more trouble with sciatica.

I've also had a hospital visit with DS2 who had a badly bruised and swollen knee after banging it on railings. He's still wearing a supporting bandage, but is off to the USA on Sunday to visit his new American girlfriend.

But, the big medical-related news is that DS1, at the age of 28, finally has a diagnosis of ASC, meaning he's on the autistic spectrum. We always suspected he was but testing back when he was younger was inconclusive. He's now been assessed by 2 clinical psychologists (the first one quit her job and didn't leave all her notes behind so he had to have a second assessment) and both came to the same conclusion. It's taken 15 months of waiting for his first assessment and another 4 months waiting for the official report before we discovered he'd need another assessment, but finally today we've received the written report. As the assessment service only does the diagnosis and not referrals to other services we now have the task of digging out info and discovering what services, benefits etc. might be available for him.

There have been a couple of other minor hospital/doctor related events but those are the main ones. I'm so fed up with hospitals, doctors etc. It's really just been one of those years. My hope for 2017 will be good health for all my offspring and, of course, for DD3's wedding to go off without incident.

Apart from all that, the other main news is DH is teaching at yet another school, but fortunately this time it's a permanent, full time position. We've been without income since the end of July when his last supply post ended. It's fortunate that I budgeted for it and I stashed enough money away to pay all our bills over the summer, but the pot is decidedly low now and I can't wait for his first payday next Friday. I am so looking forward to having regular income again and him getting paid over the holidays so I don't have to budget for days and weeks he doesn't work so doesn't get paid. 

The other noteworthy event is DS2's band, Alastria, have released their first cd. It's a 4 track EP that we partly funded, and if you enjoy power metal music it's one to listen to. They have t shirts too and here a pic of me supporting the band. LOL!

I'm still doing what I always do, trying to stretch the pennies and making meals without spending too much. Not much crafting going on. Depression robs me of motivation, but I have knitted a blanket for DD1's doggy and I've another blanket on my needles for DD2's second kitty but it's been far too hot to knit for the past week. 

I'm hoping to start blogging again at least once a week and more if I think I have anything worthwhile to relay. And if anyone's still interested. I will update on the family from time to time but will mostly concentrate on food, budgeting and the odd crafty things I manage to knock up. 

I just want to apologise again for going AWOL for so long and I love you all.

Hugs and kisses, Helen xx