Sunday, 31 May 2015

Just add chickens

Finally I have my chicken enclosure known as Fort Klux :-)

OH has worked his socks off to give me my dream.  I've wanted chickens for as long as I could remember and now I can safely have them.  The actual coop is a converted dog kennel.  I do have a detachable nesting box that's currently drying off in the garage after a final coat of paint.  We reused some scaffolding planks and sunk them into the ground with concrete and chicken wire to stop any night time visitors!  The paint I already had and brought from my old house.  I had some screws, nails and fixings.  OH contributed the extra wood and posts.  And the gate is a garden trellis.  Better than flowers and chocolates any day (but then I'm weird like that!!)  So some upcycled materials and some new.

Hopefully the new occupants will have moved in by next weekend.  I'm soooo excited!! :-)

Monday, 25 May 2015


I got this yellow stickered joint recently.  I hadn't planned on buying a joint but it was too good to pass up.  I didn't have any red wine or beer to cook it in, so it just got tossed into the slow cooker with some onion, carrots, water, a shake of soy sauce and Worcester sauce.  I cooked it on high for 5 hours.

After 5 hours the meat was so tender it was falling to bits.  I tried slicing it but as you can see it didn't really work!  It was more like 'pulled' beef.  It was very delicious!  The gravy was a bit bland so I added some balsamic vinegar.  Bingo!  That really perked it up.

I got 6 generous servings plus gravy from it.  The last few pieces were thrown in a casserole with the last of the gravy, carrots and onions.  To stretch it a bit further I made some dumplings.  I stole Frugal Queen's tip of rinsing the flour off so they could be gluten free ;-)  I pop the suet into a sieve and shake off the excess flour then rinse it.
Recipe on the suet packet
100g SR flour (I used Doves Farm GF)
50g suet
pinch of salt
approx. 5tbsp water
Mix together into a sticky dough and shape into 8 dumplings.
Put on top of the simmering stew, cover with a lid and cook for 20 mins.
I like my dumplings a wee bit crispy on top so I take the lid off and pop it back into the oven for another 5 mins.
So 8 generous servings in the end :-)  

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Once upon a time..

... my back garden looked like this, the day I moved in.  I knew the first thing I'd do was remove those Leylandii trees at the back and erect a fence to make it dog proof (I just knew Emma would find the gaps!) But I never thought I'd make so many changes to it. Remember I dug out a veg patch? Well, the next stage is nearly complete!

A quick sketch by OH and quick question 'Something like this?'

Followed by digging out several tons of stones!
Digging out holes and trenches, inserting fence posts and then adding concrete

And this is how it looks this morning :-)
We've created a sloping roof down to the fence level (it goes from 180cm to 120cm) so it doesn't annoy my neighbour's view (she's a lovely elderly lady who wouldn't mind anyway). We've sunk planks down to old concrete trenches so nothing should get in or out! I've ordered my chicken wire so hopefully it will be completed next weekend. 
Next stage, buy chickens :-)

Friday, 22 May 2015

It's all over

Exam season is officially over in our house.  PHEW!!!  It was a rather mixed event for The Teenager so we'll just have to wait and see what results he gets in August.  No matter the outcome he's done with school.

Exam results get you into university but there are lots of careers that don't need a degree.  I do wish schools wouldn't tell our kids that it's all or nothing.  It just puts extra pressure on them.  I'd rather he didn't fail anything but it's not the end of the world if he does.  Just look at Bill Gates!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Banana Bread

The problem with a lot of GF cakes is that they can be a bit dry.  This banana loaf is so moist thanks to the ground almonds.  I can't get the link to the website to work so apologies for not giving credit to the original post.  If you're not dairy and gluten free just use your normal flour and milk.
Gluten Free Banana Bread
1 and 1/4 cups ground almonds
1 and 1/4 cups oats
1 and 1/4 cup GF flour (I use Doves Farm)
3 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp mixed spice (original recipe said cinnamon but I was out)
3/4 tsp sea salt
3 ripe bananas, mashed
3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp honey
3/4 cup of almond milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Add the bananas then the wet ingredients.
Stir until completely combined.
Bake in a lined loaf tin for 1 hour (or a bit longer depending on your oven) at Gas 5.

Going into the oven
And here's what the original recipe photo looked like.  I forgot to photograph mine but it looked the same!  Very delicious and moist.
Work on my chicken enclosure is progressing.  Rain stopped play yesterday but we're about halfway there :-)
PS. I'm about halfway through Marie Kondo's The Magic of Tidying book.  A lot of things are making sense now!! 

Friday, 15 May 2015

Read the labels!

I'm an avid label reader anyway but it pays to read the labels on the supermarket shelf too.  I've been buying these basics pineapples for a few years now and have seen the price gradually creep up and up.  I went to pick up a few of my usual tins yesterday and just happened to glance at the other own label pineapples too.

Larger tin so you'd expect a larger price.  But look at the price per kilogram! £1.74 per kg for the basics BUT £1.53 per kg for the own label!!  The 'cheaper' basics range is more expensive!!!

Just as a check I looked at the mandarins.  Basics broken mandarins £2.29 per kg

Own label £2.18 per kg!
Supermarkets are just out to get our hard earned money.  It pays to be one step ahead of them!

Sunday, 10 May 2015


I've spent yet another day clearing and sorting through 'stuff' and trying to be ruthless about getting rid of it.  I'm working on the basis if I've not used it since I moved in 18 months ago then I definitely don't need it. 

It's not easy but I'm determined to keep going. Even if it's just one wee box at a time.  I've set myself the target of the end of the school summer holiday (mid August) to finally have less stuff.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Do not disturb

Yep, we're into exam season here in Scotland.  The Teenager celebrated his 17th birthday by studying and sat his first Higher exam this week.  One down, four to go.  The results of these exams will determine whether he gets into his university course of choice.

No matter the results he's leaving school.  He hates it!  If necessary he'll go to college to get the grades he needs for university.  That's Plan B.

He's got it all worked out *rolls eyes and bites tongue*

Sunday, 3 May 2015

St Andrews and Largo

On Friday night OH and I went on a short road trip in the van.  I'd never been to St Andrews so we headed east.  We wandered round the town admiring the university buildings and the ruined medieval castle and cathedral. This was the cathedral by moonlight, almost a full moon.  We had fish and chips from the award winning Cromars.  Very tasty!

Just look at the huge beach!

We found a good spot to park up for the night (so good that we had 4 other wild campers near us!)  In the morning we went for a walk on the beach.  It was very windy and very cold.  Despite that, it was full of runners, dogs (OH found a new friend!), horses (the 2 figures on the right in the distance), kite surfers (to the left of OH in the sea) and land yachts!  Later on we also saw a beach volleyball tournament!  And of course just to the right of the beach is the famous St Andrews golf course.

We then had a leisurely drive round the Neuk of Fife and stopped in Lower Largo, birth place of Alexander Selkirk the real life inspiration for Daniel Dafoe's Robinson Crusoe.

Now there's a fabulous front door!!  I just loved their boar's head knocker :-)

On our wander through the village we found this amazing gate.

And this amazing totem pole.  I've just looked it up and they're both by a local artist Alan Faulds.  Very unusual.
Although it was cold (come on weather it's May now!!) it was dry.  I think we got the best day of the Bank Holiday weekend as today it's foul with tomorrow's forecast even worse.  I'll be spending my day's holiday tomorrow on schoolwork. Actually it's school paperwork, the scourge of every teacher.