Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Vegan stroganoff/goulash

I had a version of this in a small vegan café near Nottingham and decided to recreate something similar. It is an ideal store cupboard meal and takes no time at all to prepare. In the café, it had cashews in it, but I haven't included them here.

1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
3 carrots sliced
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tin kidney beans
1 tin reduced fat coconut milk
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp chilli
Salt and pepper

I cook the onion and garlic in a little oil, add in everything else and simmer until thickened. I serve mine with rice, but it would also work well with tagliatelli (GF or otherwise) or even a baked potato. The amount of spice can easily be adjusted and I have also added frozen spinach on occasion. I guess you could also do it with mushrooms.

Either way, it's super quick and easy and very tasty, which in my book, makes a good recipe!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

My wish list

I've just returned from meeting up with an old friend and her sister-in-law. I was of course chattering on endlessly about the new house and land etc and showing them some photos we had taken. (I'm not going to post photos yet for fear of jinxing it!). My friend's sister asked me what my wish list had been going into this process, so here it is:-

My forever home

What will it look like? 
An older house, perhaps white rendered. Between an acre and two acres of land, mostly flat *
Views and the potential for a cottage garden *
Fruit trees/orchard * 
Chickens * 
Vegetable garden *
Greenhouse * 
Outside storage *
Water nearby? Walks from the doorstep *
A community close by, preferably within walking distance *
Solar panels if possible 

4/5 bedrooms * 
2 bathrooms *
Good sized kitchen *
Snug *
White walls/ soft colours
Wooden or tiled floors *
Pre-loved furniture
Cosy settees - throws and cushions
Quilts and eiderdowns
White bedding
Natural materials - wool/cotton
Wood burner *
Flowers from the garden in jugs
Hand-made treasures
Aga/Rayburn *
Stable door *
Lots of storage *
Painted furniture
Fireplaces *
Soft green paint on the doors and woodwork outside
Utility room/boot room *
Interesting artefacts on display
Rocking chair
Stripey stair runner 
Hand knitted tea cosy

Everything marked with an * is already there, which isn't a bad  start!
The list was a verbal mood board for how I envisaged my next home. The beautiful farmhouse meets a large number of the criteria, but in particular the view, land, water nearby and old style house - all things you can't 'manufacture' or alter. Other aspects of the list can be additions and tweaks or I may in fact find that I don't care quite so much about some of the things after all....
Still keeping my fingers and toes crossed :) 

Sunday, 24 April 2016

We bought a house!

That sounds so weird and yet so exciting! Obviously, it could all fall apart at any stage, but if everything goes to plan, we have chosen our home for the next stage of our lives.

When I was a child, I always drew houses like this:-

So it should come as no surprise that this gorgeous farmhouse appealed so much! :-

All being well, this facade is what will greet me as I drive up. It comes with chicken run, barn, goose/duck enclosure with pond, natural stream, small veg plot and greenhouse, pleasant garden, summerhouse and 3 to 5 acres of field with natural spring and stock proof fencing. This photo is taken from the plot which is opposite the house.

We went back to view for a second time, spent about an hour and a half discussing all the options with a builder (who waxed lyrical about the house) and made our decision. It has 4 double bedrooms and a 26ft kitchen dining room with range. There is some work we can do to improve it, but none of it is pressing.

I woke up the following morning thinking "%€#} we've actually gone and done it!" Even Mr D, who up until this point has been decidedly lacklustre about the whole affair, is now officially excited!

I just need to keep my fingers and toes crossed that nothing falls through or I will be mightily upset.

Monday, 18 April 2016

And so it continues

Just before we left for America, I had a phone call from the estate agent dealing with Mum's house with an offer which we have accepted. I have now completed all of the initial paperwork for there too, so hopefully that will proceed smoothly now. I'm really keeping my fingers crossed because I don't want the responsibility of it across another winter.

Meanwhile, we had another visit from our buyers on Saturday bringing his parents along too to see the house. I did the viewing on that one - hope it went OK!

We are off up to Shropshire again on Friday to see the second house we saw last week. We really liked it, but are hoping that we might be able to extend it slightly to provide an extra bedroom and ensuite and possibly a garden room. We are taking my brother's builder with us to get his opinion on what, if anything, would be feasible and a rough idea of cost. We have made an offer on the house which has been accepted with the understanding that the opinion of the builder could be a deal breaker. Fortunately the present owners are being very accommodating.
Whilst we're up there, we will revisit the school with our youngest and look at a couple more houses for us to live in. It's possibly overkill, but we are also planning on looking at a couple of buy to let properties too. I figure that if I can sell two houses simultaneously, then I can buy two or three at the same time too?!!

Don't for one minute imagine I am some kind of property mogul! I have only ever bought one house in my life before this point!

Unfortunately with all that buzzing around in my head, I'm not managing anything creative, nor am I baking and my cooking has become rather simplistic too, so nothing exciting to report in the blog at all :( I shall get my growing/baking/creative fix from everyone else's blogs!!

Thank you all for the ongoing support and encouragement and welcome to Marlene, a new follower :)

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Reporting back on house hunting

What an interesting time we had in Shropshire!

We saw the school first and that gave us a good impression, so that's one thing ticked off. We saw some more of Oswestry too and we are sure it's an excellent town to be based near. Shropshire is a very beautiful county too so that's confirmed that. Now for the houses....

The first house we had booked into see was the gorgeous stone one in one of my last posts. Online, we had all loved it. However when we arrived, it was damp, dirty, smelt strongly of dog and needed a complete revamp. The land wasn't flat and not at all appropriate for polytunnels etc. The owner was odd and didn't seem particularly keen to sell - either that or she was the worst sales person ever! She was reluctant to show us various parts, partly because she had two poor dogs shut up in the barn, which would need fumigating! Anyhow, that house, from being a top runner is now totally out of the picture.

The second house we all loved. Georgian/Victorian, heaps of original features, a wonderful homely feel, good views, in a hamlet, short walk to the pub and bus stop, good land totalling 3 acres and a fabulous kitchen which would suit us perfectly. I definitely would like to see that one again.

The third house had great outbuildings, but the house itself didn't flow and the 'features' were from the 70s, so would need to be ripped out. The kitchen sink wasn't in the kitchen, but down three steps into a utility area nextdoor.... . Therefore this one isn't a runner either.

We had tried to book a fourth on the Monday, but they couldn't do that and they weren't able to let us see it until Tuesday afternoon, by which time we were back on the road, so we may try to see that one next time.

I had a phone call from an estate agent about another we had tried to book to view - she was asking me if I would have children living at the property because the present owner was building himself a house right next door. She had obviously been discharged with disclosing that it would not be wise to live next door to the gentleman if we had children! The poor woman having to have that conversation with all potential viewers. She will deserve a medal if she sells that house! Needless to say we didn't even look at that one!

The first one on Tuesday was lovely, but the house was too small downstairs and there was no land, so not really appropriate without a considerable extension and buying part of the field behind.

The second was huge and on paper had absolutely everything we want. Fantastic views from upstairs in particular - great flat area for polytunnels etc, existing fruit trees and greenhouse, outhouses. The only problem? Mr D didn't like it - not sure why, but he didnt. It probably didn't help that it was empty and needed some tlc. For me, it's my second favourite.

The third was another huge house, with a good sized garden, decent views AND a holiday let, already up and running so income generation potential. BUT and it was a big but, I could hear traffic constantly. In fact, I was probably aware of more traffic there than I am here! For me it's an absolute deal breaker, which disappointed Mr D because that was his favourite! There would be nothing you could do about it either. It didn't help that the farmer who owned the field nextdoor, had submitted planning permission to build 19 (!!!) houses on it!

We now need to spend some time discussing which to see again, when to go back etc. I think it's going to be a long haul......

Now I need to finish off the paperwork for selling mums house, check in progress with selling our house and get all the suitcases put away! I did sometimes wonder if a 'quiet,simple life' is just a pipe dream.....

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Guess where I've been!

I've been off air for a while, partly due to the fact we all went off to visit my second eldest daughter in the States. She's based in New Jersey, but we also spent three days and two nights in New York. I'm generally not a fan of cities, finding London almost unbearable at times, but I have to say I loved New York. We visited Times Square, the Rockefelle Centre, Central Park, the 9/11 memorial site, Soho, Greenwich Village, Manhatten, Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Staten Island ferry, the Stock exchange and Wall Street, rode the wooden escalators in Macy's and took in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. We must have walked miles, but it was such a great way to drink in the various flavours of New York.

A great view from 'top of the rock'

The lake in Central Park, setting for many a TV programme and film

The World Trade Centre - such a positive and vibrant building.

We ate some amazing vegan food too. If you are visiting New York, I can recommend Beyond Sushi between the Rockefelle Centre and Central Park; Peacefood Café on the Upper West Side; the Butchers Daughter in Greenwich Village; Candle 79 on the Upper East Side (posher, but really good food) and By Chloe on Bleecker Street. All served fantastic vegan food with excellent gluten free options too. You certainly wouldn't miss your meat if you weren't vegan!

My sweet potato and avocado wrap in Beyond Sushi - delicious! 

This is an American robin in Central Park. They are everywhere and, as you might suspect bigger than our little robin red breast. The first wildlife I saw in the park was actually a large rat! 

We had some excellent service in America, but I'm afraid I was also struck with some examples of very poor customer service. Some of these people really shouldn't be working in the service industry! I guess many cities suffer from that, but it's a shame for their tourism.

All in all we crammed so much in that it felt as if we had been there for two weeks. Our daughter is amazingly at home there, knowing her way around both geographically and culturally. She's so confident and relaxed which is great to see. Her host family (she's an au pair) are lovely and she's made great friends too. Such an adventure! It was hard to leave her again, but I take great comfort in the fact that she is doing something she has always wanted to do. I suspect it's just the start of the travelling adventure for her.

We got back this morning and are off again on Monday to Shropshire to start some house viewings. I'll let you know if we are bowled over by any!