Thursday, 30 April 2015

Menu for the week

Food shopping today. Wasn't really in the mood, but it had to be done, so I galvanised myself and went. It cost £121.19, but I did have to stock up the toiletries cupboard and we were low on stocks too as it was the end of the month. I've divided the amount by the number of meals it will create (taking into account people being out etc) and it amounts to £1 per head per meal across the eight days, so although it falls well short of Sue's eat for £1 a day, I'm happy enough with it.

On the menu this week:-

Spicy chickpea and potato stew
Spiralised courgettes with tomato and basil sauce
Veggie chilli and rice
Butternut squash and tomato posole
Curried root vegetable soup and home made bread
Sweetcorn pakoras, red onion relish and raita
Carrot and butter bean burgers and chips
Sweet potato fritters with smoky pinto beans

Many of these recipes came from the website, which I found when I googled "cheap vegetarian meals". I like to try and vary what we eat, especially as it almost entirely revolves around vegetables and pulses!! If I didn't have my spice collection, I'd be lost!

I'll try and remember to post some pictures!

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

What a simple life means to me

As you'll know if you read my post last week entitled 'My vision', I have a clear idea of where I want to be, but I'm not there yet and nor can I be. Circumstances aren't right yet. As of next September, I'll have one child back at Uni doing her second degree, another in America, one finishing his A levels and the youngest going into Year 8. My husband is nowhere near retirement age either, so we can't fully embrace the lifestyle I hanker after until at least summer 2016.
Nevertheless, I have already adopted a simpler lifestyle despite not being able to go 'the whole hog'. My interim simpler life consists of the following:-

  • I save money for our future every month, by sticking to a cash budget and buying what I need rather than what I want.
  • I eat healthily, making food from scratch and adopting a predominantly vegetarian diet.
  • I have reduced the quantity of chemicals I expose my family to by making my own laundry liquid, handwash, soap and cleaning products.
  • I try to use less of everything - turning the tap off when I brush my teeth, turning appliances off, turning lights off and also trying to use less product and re using when I can. 
  • I take longer over doing jobs so I can do it better, but also be fully aware of what I'm doing.
  • I go at a slower pace, allowing myself to stop and appreciate my surroundings.
  • I try to spend more time outside, either working in the garden, walking or just sitting listening to the birds.
  • I don't go shopping (except for the food shop). This way I avoid seeing items I might like. I haven't bought a single item of clothing for eight months now and plan on carrying this on for the whole year.  It's made a huge difference to how I view shops - it wasn't as if I particularly liked shopping before, but I can now be a targeted shopper, only picking up the exact item I need. 
  • I'm trying to make as many gifts as possible across the year, which not only saves money, but also gives me a good reason to be creative.
  • I'm attempting to grow some of our own fruit and veg to help bolster our diet and our savings.

There are probably other small ways in which I have simplified my life and I know that there are more I'd like to do in the future. Every little bit has an impact on my life and that of my family. I know I still have a lot of new skills to learn, but this is the start of the rest of my life so there's no great rush!

What aspects of a simpler life would you consider to have the most positive impact?

Monday, 27 April 2015

Lovely to go away, nice to be home

The weekend in France was absolutely lovely! Even though it was only two nights, it felt like a week - really relaxing. I'll post some photos when I've downloaded them.

Although I enjoyed going away, it's always lovely to come home again, isn't it? There something so special about slipping back into your normal routine.
The chickens had behaved themselves and we're all fine. It's the first time the younger children had looked after them, but they did an excellent job.
The veg are growing well in the garden, but I'm expecting a burst of activity in May. I had been thinking I was doing well, but seeing other people's blogs, I realise it's a bit behind. Still, allowing for various climatic differences, degrees of experience and access to greenhouses and polytunnels, I'm pleased with what's happening in my backyard!

A patch of onions in the flower bed next to the sweet peas  

Butternut and pattypan squashes in the new bed alongside the chicken run

Courgettes in a patch that was once part of the run, so is nice and fertile! 

Onions, shallots and broad beans in one of the two small raised beds 

Some of the six potato bags dotted about in spare corners

Garlic, some random potatoes and spinach just starting to appear in the second raised bed

Little lettuce seedlings waiting to be planted in gaps in the flower beds once big enough to transplant 

Romano peppers and chillies waiting to be potted on to be grow on the window ledge in the conservatory (praying for no white fly this year!) 

Tomatoes desperate to be planted out, but I'm just waiting for the bulbs which I had planted in my big pots to be over before putting the tomatoes in the Pots! It's a waiting game.

Cucumbers ready to go out and aubergines ready to be transplanted to grow in the conservatory too.

Friday, 24 April 2015

French farce at bedtime

I mentioned yesterday that my new ladies go through a ridiculous rigmarole when going to bed and the whole process can take quite some time. Mr D, having nothing better to do with his time, decided to video the French farce that is my ladies retiring last night, so here is the resulting video!

It's very silly and fairly pointless, but may make you smile :)

We're off to France for the weekend later with four good friends, so I've made a spiced pumpkin cake with cinnamon frosting, chocolate sponge with salted caramel sauce and a loaf of le Pain Montmatre. It seems criminal taking bread to France, but along with the home made jams and marmalade, it will make a nice breakfast tomorrow morning so we don't need to rush out to fetch croissant. I have also snuck in a bottle of limoncello, although I draw the line at taking wine to France!!

A la semaine prochaine - gros bisoux a tous xx

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Cheeky chickens

I thought I'd do a little update on my new ladies. They have settled in very well and are already developing their own personalities!


The last to go in at night and the last to eat out of my hand. She seems to be more of a loner and when the other four are all trotting around in a clump, she'll be off doing her own thing elsewhere. She was the first to make her way on to the coop roof, strutting about up there like she was queen of the castle! Mind you, she soon hopped down again when I strode down the path!


In the middle. 

The most timid and, even though I'm quite sure I'm not supposed to have favourites, I've got a soft spot for her. She goes in well at night and stays in rather than the ridiculous French farce we have with the others of two in, one out again, another in, two more out etc etc!! She's extremely soft too and seems to really like attention despite me getting the feeling that she doesn't feel she deserves any - I think she may have issues from her childhood!


Sorry it's a bit blurry - she was too busy strutting her stuff!  

Bossy and does the most posturing, reminding everyone she's the most beautiful AND the tallest! She was the first to eat out of my hand. Despite all this showing off, she hasn't tried to flap her way up on to the sides of the run or the coop, so it's all about appearance for her.


"Gimme the food!!"
 The largest of the group and prefers to perch on the perimeter of the run rather than being below with the others. She's the most enthusiastic feeder. She is a nightmare at going to bed, in and out like a yo yo, fearing she might be missing something (probably food!).


"It wasn't me miss - it was her!"
 Well now, this one is trouble! She's the escape artist - I looked up from making a cup of tea, to find her strolling around the lawn. She squawks like a banshee when you pick her up too. She is regularly trying to tightrope walk along the perimeter of the run, but keeps an eye out for me because she knows she shouldn't be up there, so as soon as I appear, she flaps back down again before I've even said anything. I get the distinct impression that Prim would put mischief before food!! One to watch I think!

HavIng spent many years teaching and working in Secondary schools, I can't help but view them as I would a small, slightly disparate group of teenagers. Prim would certainly have had a visit to my Inclusion room to consider the impact of her actions by now and I think Ginger would have had a few detentions for defiance. Hedwig would be the girl who carries a pink padded Paul's Boutique handbag to school rather than a school bag. The PE department would be worrying about ringing home with regards to Bluebell's obsession with food and poor old Maggie would be the 'grey' kid in the classroom, who is generally overlooked despite doing her very best in class and being well behaved.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Gardening pinny

I had the most lovely day yesterday for my non-birthday celebration! We went to Wisley, strolled around in the sunshine admiring all of its beauty, had a very tasty and leisurely lunch, another slow stroll back through the gardens and then back to my little patch for a cuppa. It was wonderful!

I've started clearing out Mum's house ready for sale, now that we know she can never move home. It's an emotional process as you can no doubt imagine. I lived in that house from the age of about 14 and although I moved away to Uni at 18, I've celebrated my engagement, my wedding tea, two of my children's christenings and obviously numerous Christmases and Birthdays there. I will be sad to say goodbye.
However, it's been a real pleasure 'revisiting' photographs and items that have a strong pull to the past.
This is one of my favourite photos of me, aged about 2 with my brother, who is 8 years older. It never fails to make me smile!

Thank heavens my brother doesn't read blogs - he'd have a fit, I'd put this on the Internet!! 

My mother has a lovely friend who made her this gardening pinny for her Birthday. It has Mum's initial in and a pocket for her to carry her phone with her, as I always insisted that she had a phone with her EVERY time she went into the garden (the garden is a death trap with steps, lots of different levels, uneven surfaces etc etc!). I loved the fact that she had gone to the effort of making Mum this personalised apron, so as Mum is no longer going to be able to wear it, I have brought it home.

My initial is J, so I decided to 'embroider' (I have never even picked up an embroidery needle before, so I use that term loosely for fear of insulting all those of you who are skilled!) a simple Mrs above, so I now have my very own gardening pinny. I have worn it every day so far as you can see my the fact it already needs a wash and it's so useful to have a dedicated gardening pinny with a big pocket.

There is still a huge amount of sorting to do at the house, but I'm not going to rush at it. It's all part of the process of dealing with the loss of my mother despite her still being alive and I feel I owe it to her and to myself to remain very mindful of our relationship and who Mum was as I work through the clearance.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Following your advice

Thank you so much to everyone who popped by and left some tips to help me overcome my obsession with keeping my house perfect. It really is something that I want, and indeed need, to overcome. I was a LOT worse particularly when the children were little, but they have helped me at least 'soften the edges' of my mania. I'm not in the realms of those people on Obsessive Cleaners or whatever that programme was called, but it has prevented me from going out and stopped me from inviting people in over the years, so I would class it as a problem.
Today is my 'non-birthday-birthday outing' which a very good friend and despite coughing like someone with a 60 a day habit, I'm going to enjoy myself!! My Birthday was last month but we booked in the 21st of this month instead!

Your tips were:-
A) focus on what is really important. ....I'm going to focus on me and my relationship with the lovely L today.
B) just tackle small amounts each time rather than trying to control it all. ....I'm going to clean the upstairs bathroom before I go
C) turn your back on the rest and do something else. .....I'm going to keep the bedroom doors shut...yikes!!
D) decide which areas of the house are a priority and focus on those first. .......Obviously, I like to have visitors and I want them to feel comfortable, so I will do a very light tidy and sweep downstairs too (all hard flooring) before I leave, just in case!

Final piece of advice from Susan M? .....
Blow the dust
Hang the washing
Sod the lawns !!

Love it :)

So you see, your advice was welcome, listened to and actioned!! Now I just need to keep it going to avoid the stress moments! Thank you everyone and I hope you have a lovely non-birthday day too x

Monday, 20 April 2015

Perfectionism - an affliction?

That's the kind of perfection I don't mind! 

By nature, I am a perfectionist. I like things just so, particularly in my surroundings. Pictures need to be straight, cushions plumped, surfaces clean and cupboards and drawers tidy. Over the years, I have spent a ridiculous number of hours trying to attain and maintain this level of perfection in my home. Frankly, I've had enough!!

The only trouble is, I don't seem to be able to 'cure' myself of the affliction of perfectionism! I manage to suppress it for a while, sometimes even weeks, but then the feelings of panic come rushing back in and threaten to overwhelm me!

Recently I haven't had either the time or indeed much inclination to clean the house thoroughly. I would normally ALWAYS clean the house from top to bottom, generally on a Monday and then maintain it during the week. However, I've been away, been busy and been poorly over the last three weeks, so I haven't done the whole house. There I was merrily congratulating myself on how well I was coping and half daring to think I had finally turned the corner......Ha Ha!! Of course I havent!! I even dreamt that I was stuck on the edge of a cliff last night with no way off, eventually falling to my certain death in the sea below, waking myself up in the process! I think that may have had more to do with the amount of medicaments I had dosed myself up with last night, but I did wake feeling very close to the edge this morning!

Don't get me wrong, I will always like a clean and comfortable home and it's important to keep a minimum level of organisation BUT I don't want to be a slave to house work forever more. I feel as if my husband humours me (although he definitely has a touch of the obsessive about him!) and my children probably think I'm unnecessarily fussy and I'm even driving myself a bit mad with it!

Do any of you know any helpful tips to help tell my brain that I'm not losing control of my entire life if my house is a little bit untidy!?! I'm not a stupid person, but writing that, I can see how stupid that must sound! I've come on such a long way in de stressing and re evaluating my life since giving up work and I don't want that progress to be eaten away at by my obsession with perfection in my home and being 'in control'.
I am asking my blogging friends for some help and advice.....over to you :)

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Thank you!

After my post about my vision for my future, Dawn from had suggested I read 'Hovel in the Hills' - an account of a couple's challenges and joys living off grid in rural Wales in the 1960s and 1970s. Dawn very kindly offered to send me her spare copy of the book, which arrived today. What an absolute treat to receive a gift from a fellow blogger :)

It arrived at just the right moment because I am feeling a little sorry for myself today, having developed a nasty cough which is tiring and debilitating, so I now have the perfect reason to sit quietly reading my new book (which is research after all!) whilst I recuperate!

Mr D and I watched a programme a couple of weeks ago about over the counter medicines, so I have been soothing my cough with hot lemon and honey. I wasn't at all surprised when they said that no cough mixtures contain ingredients that will help with a cough, although I have found one - Pulmo Bailey - an old fashioned concoction, which knocks you out at night when nothing else will! I'm hoping to be coughing less tomorrow as a friend of mine has offered me a chance to have a go at making a clay poppy head to put in my garden. Post to follow if it happens! X

Friday, 17 April 2015

Le Pain Montmartre

During my daily blog trawl, I came across this recipe on Mortgage Free in Three for a rustic style bread which only takes and hour from start to finish - brilliant!
I love making bread, but sometimes it can seem like half a day goes by in the making of it, what with kneading, proving, allowing to rise etc etc. I was very excited to try this one then...

Verdict? Super easy, only took an hour as promised, soft centre, crusty outer and nice flavour. Slices well too. Obviously it is neither vegan (honey) nor gluten free.

We had it with a bean casserole, which I like in a bowl with a sprinkle of grated cheese on top.

All in all, a tasty, simple and frugal meal :) Thank you Elaine at Mortgage Free in Three for a great bread recipe.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

My kind of food

I picked up a spring copy of the Waitrose recipe booklet the other day. There are always lovely recipes in there, all seasonal and a huge majority of them are vegetarian allowing me to tweak them to fit with our dietary requirements. I have cooked many of their recipes and they have all been tasty, easy and successful. They can all be found on their website -

This month I have made:-
Cauliflower and Sun-dried tomato Pilaf. I used normal tomato purée and a pack of mixed rice (spelt isn't gluten free). It wouldn't have been quite enough to serve all six of us, so I did some balti potatoes to go alongside it. Yum - you have to love curried potatoes!!

On Tuesday night, I made the Falafel hash with Baba Ganoush dip. The dip was particularly lovely and made a nice change from hoummous. I served it with pittas for us and GF flatbreads for my eldest daughter. We also happened to serve it with bubbles as we were celebrating my eldest daughter getting in to study graduate entry medicine, so not frugal, but some things need to be celebrated!!
I forgot to take a photo in the excitement of the moment but she and I had the leftovers served on a gram flour 'omelette' for a very nice lunch the following day.

Last night we ate outside for the first time this year. I cooked the Vegetable Thali. I made my own Tarka Dahl rather than buying pre-made and made the raita with soy yoghurt. I obviously didn't use Jersey royal potatoes either (way too expensive to curry!!). There was plenty for all six of us and then enough for three lunches, so not a bad price per head!

Vegetable thali  

Tarka Dahl 

Soy raita and red onion and tomato salad

I know everyone complains about Waitrose being pricey, but if you shop carefully, bargains can be had just like in any other supermarket, the service is excellent and I receive a lot of money off vouchers across the year, which can come in very handy. Besides, I loathe shopping in Tesco and Sainsburys is too far away to make it economical.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Guess who's come to live with us....

Firstly, a huge thank you to all of the helpful and encouraging comments left on yesterday's post. I have taken from them that I need to a) plan very carefully b) save like mad c) have another income source d) protect our pensions and e) be ready for compromise. Lots of pow wows to be had I think!!

I couldn't bear the stillness any more at the bottom of the garden. We have been doing our best to make the chicken area as unattractive as possible to the foxes, following advice from seasoned chicken keepers, since we lost our other two ladies on Mothers Day. So the eldest two daughters and myself drove off into the wilds of Surrey yesterday with a couple of cat baskets to collect some new ladies.
I had a 'hot cross bun moment' - ie like my husband when out shopping 'accidentally' allows a packet of hot cross buns to slip into the trolley and then denies all knowledge of them being there... We couldn't make our minds up between the ladies, so despite me planning to get 4, I came home with five! The run and coop are plenty big enough although I may need to add another perch inside the coop.
We are all very excited to have them, except the cat who doesn't like chickens because they peck her!

Mr D's snaps of them yesterday :-

Ginger, Hedwig, Bluebell, Primrose and Maggie x 

They're all still a little nervous but I don't think they'll take long to settle in. 

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

My vision

...Not my rapidly worsening eyesight, you understand, but rather how I envisage my future lifestyle to look like. Here we go......

Photo courtesy of Google images. 

I rise early, awoken by natural daylight streaming through the open curtains rather than by an alarm.
I get up and throw on some practical, comfortable clothes.
I pop down into a cosy, AGA warmed kitchen and place the whistling stove top kettle on to boil, whilst greeting and feeding various cats and dogs, who are all eager to see me.
The kettle cheerfully whistles at me and once armed with a warming cuppa, I slide on wellies and a warm jacket and out we all go, dogs, cats and all, to check on the chickens and have a tour of the very productive acre or two. We might all stop to appreciate how beautiful and peaceful early mornings are from a vantage point with a view.
I make a mental note of some little jobs to get done out there today.
Once all the animals are fed, watered and had some freedom to do the necessary, it's back to the cosy kitchen to prepare the day's loaf of bread. My furry troop of companions all settle themselves back down for a snooze in the warm, whilst I potter about preparing sustenance for the day.
Mr D arrives downstairs and makes himself a cuppa.
We sit and eat breakfast together - poached eggs on the last slices of yesterday's loaf and chat about what we're going to achieve today.
After breakfast, he goes out to start his jobs outside, whilst I finish off the bread and check what vegetables I'll need to pick for today's lunch and dinner - we eat predominantly vegetarian to make the most of our home-grown produce and to be economical.
During the day, we are outside most of the time, working alongside one another (we make an excellent team when we work together), stopping occasionally for a cuppa or lunch. We have amazed ourselves at how much we have learnt along th way, which we didn't know we could do.
By the end of the day, we have worked hard, but it's all been for our benefit and at our pace. We have spent time outside and together, practising the new skills we have gained along our new life path. We have gained a deep feeling of satisfaction in our hearts, peace in our heads and a reassuring ache in our limbs. In the evenings, after our simple meal, we may choose to watch a little TV or read by the stove. Then back off to bed to rest our tired bodies ready for another day ahead.

There are no alarms, no commuting, no consumerism, no excess.
We spend very little on food, preferring to eat our own produce. We are ultra careful with fuel, preferring to put on extra layers rather than heat a house. We use wood, collected as far as possible by ourselves to heat the stove. We think about our water usage and are prudent and not wasteful in everything we do. Clothes are only washed if absolutely necessary and line dried. I make our own laundry liquid, handwash, soap and cleaning products.
Excursions to supermarkets or other shops are kept to an absolute minimum. Clothes are only bought if absolutely necessary and before buying new, thrift shops are searched for bargains.
The house is clean enough, but I am not obsessive anymore, preferring to be outside. I have learnt that people will not judge me on how clean my house is if it's warm, comfortable and welcoming - besides with lots of animals, you can't be too clean! It's an old house anyway so a little dust and lived-in look suits the house better.

Mr D looks about ten years younger and has lost the 'haunted' look he has been wearing for the last ten years. We have much less money and nothing spare for material things, but we are peaceful and happy. There are still stresses and we still work hard, harder even, but we are the bosses. Friends and family love to come and visit, enjoying their glimpse into our 'dream' lifestyle.

This is what I spend hours and hours dreaming about. This is what I'm aiming towards. Is it possible? Are any of you living this dream already and if so how do you finance it? Do I have to wait until all my children have left home? What can I do now, to help this dream become a reality? Perhaps, you have words of wisdom and advice you can offer me to help me nudge closer towards this view of my

Monday, 13 April 2015

A day to be treasured

I had a lovely day yesterday! The sun was shining and there was a warm breeze - perfect drying weather for an early morning load of washing! I had lots of time gently pottering in the garden and managed to sow and transplant loads more seeds and seedlings.

Aubergines just beginning to germinate

Not a great photo because of the strong sunshine, but an idea of how I'm growing my veg in amongst the flower beds in a potager style. 

I now have runner beans, purple mange-tout, garlic, kale, spinach, sugar snap, broad bean, shallot, onions, lettuces, courgettes, pattypan squash, butternut squash and potatoes in the garden and tomatoes, Romano peppers, chillies, coriander and aubergines in the conservatory.

I even had some spare tomato, pepper and chilli plants for Mr D to take in for his colleagues at work. 

Our garden bench developed a crack after Mr D sat on it (!!), but I had picked up some bed slats from a lady who was throwing them out, so we were able to fashion a free repair. Once I've 'tarted' it up a bit, the bench should last us a few more years!
We had a lovely roast dinner in the evening - roast chicken for the meat eaters (a rare treat) with loads of yummy vegetables - polenta roast potatoes, maple syrup roasted parsnips, broccoli, peas and sweetcorn and 'buttery' carrot and swede mash. To be quite honest, all of us love the vegetables the most anyway!!
After dinner, we played some silly card games and then Mr D and I sat outside for a while longer with the chimanea lit. It was lovely and cosy on our bench and I used it to start the process of destroying mum's private paperwork as I don't have a shredder.


Days like that, filled with simple pleasures are really special aren't they? What makes your days special?

Saturday, 11 April 2015

A quiet day of rest and recuperation

I knew that the heady mix of adrenaline, nervous energy and wine consumption from the last few days would wear off and sure enough after a much better night's sleep, I awoke needing a quiet day!
Mr D and I have pottered about today, doing a food shop, some washing, a bit of paperwork, some light gardening and whilst he went out for a run, I had a snooze on the settee. (There may have been football on the TV which acts like a sleeping pill to me anyway!)
The cats were obviously also in the same frame of mind. When I went through the conservatory to go into the garden, I found them both enjoying the warmth and sunshine 😃

I now feel much more rested and ready for some lovely weather this next week?!

Friday, 10 April 2015

I'm back!

Sorry to have been off the radar for such a long time. As you know when we were in the Gower, we had no internet. When I came back, it was quite a quick turnaround and I was off down to Devon to see my Mum!
I'll post the holiday photos later - lovely place, but wild weather!!

I was really anxious about seeing my Mum. The last time I'd actually seen her was back in October when she was doing really well considering she'd had a stroke in August and was already suffering from vascular dementia. Physically she was up and about and quite strong and although her confusion was marked, she could manage independently with support. Since then, she had fallen and fractured her tibia and then had 10 different moves from hospital, to community hospital to nursing home in Shropshire (where she was when she fell) and then back through the system again back in Devon after she insisted on going 'home'. She is now only able to shuffle about 5 paces and is about half the woman she was physically and her dementia has deteriorated significantly.
I knew all of this of course because I had been in constant contact with the health care professionals and had regular (stressful) conversations with her, BUT there's knowing it and then there's seeing it for your own eyes! 
I was very relieved that she recognised Mr D and myself and we were able to have chats even if we had to enter her world for most of it because of the utterly random nature of her stories. 
Meanwhile, there's a house, a car, her finances and battles to fight about where is best to care for her. (The unit where she is now appalled me!)
It feels disloyal to be preparing her house to be sold without having told her, but it has to be done. I have spent a lot of time over the past few days remembering some very good times whilst looking through photos and other bits and bobs around the house. I lived there from the age 14, so it's been the centre of many special family moments and celebrations. I will be very sad to say goodbye to it all! 
I think I have survived the last few days on adrenaline and wine, which, now that I'm home again, is wearing off - I'm shattered! All of this, makes me very aware of just how lucky I am and I MUST make the most of it...
As Mr D was driving back through Somerset this morning .... A lovely sunrise x