Sunday, 31 July 2016


I heard some very sad news today about a colleague's husband who died very suddenly.  Same age as me.  It's a stark reminder that life is precious and I'm so very grateful for the people in my life.

For C and her girls xxx

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Plodding on

I'm still painting my utility room *sighs*  I'm now on the third coat of paint.   I think the end may be in sight.  In between the paint drying (and my enthusiasm flagging!) I've been decluttering and organising other areas in the house.  I'm trying to get as much done as I can before school goes back.  My kitchen still isn't finished *rolls eyes* but I upcycled a tree mug by painting the red base in the purple colour I used on the door and radiator.  Quick, easy and free!!

I tackled my study.  It was the dumping ground for everything.  It's a through passage to The Teenager's den/family room so you can just see the floor is cleared enough to squeeze through!  A lot of this stuff was put there 'out of the way' to be dealt with at a later date, which of course never comes!  Some of it is school stuff to be taken to my new classroom.

 The view from the other end of the room

Ta da!! The after shot!  You can see the rugs again!!

And from the other end 

I currently have 3 book cases (this was my downsized collection after moving) but I'm aiming to get rid of one more.  If you notice the bookcase on the right is sloping (wonky floor!) and has a missing base plate.  This one will be Freecycled along with the books.  Then I'll put Emma's smaller bed in that place instead of in front of the radiator.  She prefers the small bed now so I'll Freecycle the big one she shared with Lucy.

The Teenager has been cooking some new dishes to get ready for uni.  This is his version of the  Versatile Vegetable Stew from the BBC show Eat Well For Less?  There's a new series on atm and already I've picked up a few new recipes from it.  Some folk like to knock it and make fun of the families featured but I think people just get in a rut when they're busy and running a family.  I could easily have been on it a few years ago.

It was actually very nice although we didn't have any paprika so used chipotle flakes instead.  He would make it again so big success!  Tonight he's going to try baked veggie enchiladas like the ones he ate in a Beefeater restaurant.

I made a big slow cooker lamb stew (Irish Stew) with some yellow stickered packs of lamb I'd picked up over the last few weeks.  Really simple, just carrots, onions, potatoes and lamb chucked in plus some veg stock.  I cooked it on high for 1 hour then low for 5 hours.  I read somewhere that lamb is a very good meat to have if you have food intolerances as sheep cannot be intensively reared like chickens, pigs and cows.  So it's not been mucked about by man over the years.  OH won't eat it as he thinks it's fatty but if you use lean cuts and skim off the fat after it's cooled it's fine (I think!)

It's already been portioned up and frozen, some for me and some for my eldest DS.  He does love a good homemade stew!

I also made him some buttery mash to have with it.  I've not frozen mash before but Sue over at Our New Life in the Country did a recent post on it so I'm giving it a try!

Monday, 25 July 2016

All white

I've finally started painting my utility room.  It is the worst room in the house and I knew it would be a big job.  OH and I spent last week filling and sanding all the botched DIY stuff from the previous owner.  All the sockets had been plastered in!  Instead of loosening or removing them they'd plastered right up to the edges.  If I'd been keeping them it wouldn't have been a problem but I'm replacing them with the same black/brushed chrome ones  I have in my kitchen.

The walls, ceiling and door to the downstairs toilet/wetroom are yellow and the woodwork is varnished pine.  The glass door is actually my side entrance and the main door everyone uses to come in.  So really the utility room is my entrance hall.  I'd like it to look welcoming but it needs to be practical as well.

That big white stripe down the wall was from a partition.  Remember this?  Although it's taken me nearly 3 years to get round to decorating the whole room! Again the wall had been plastered up to the partition!! So it's taken a bit of work to get it all smooth.  Plastering isn't one of our skills but with a bit of patience it's turned out ok.

Before (this wall has a large coat rack)

 After the first coat 

Doesn't look too bad so far! In this photo you can see the dreadful state of my back door.  I'm replacing it and the side glass door with simple white ones.

I'm painting all the walls and woodwork in white.  The whole house will be white with splashes of colour here and there.  This is not my forever house so I want it to look clean and neutral for when the time comes.  I don't want to be in the position of trying to decorate just to sell. Been there, done that!

I've upcycled this wee hook rack that I use to hang the dog leads.  It had 4 brass hooks, 2 broken off and 1 bent.  I bought 4 aluminium hooks at 99p each and painted the wooden back purple to match the kitchen door.  Looks much better and has a practical use.

I've still 2 coats of white to do on the walls and then I'll start the woodwork. That should keep me busy for the rest of the week!

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Currantly making...

See what I did there?  Ha ha!! What can you make with 9lbs of blackcurrants that's not jam?  Well last night I started some Cassis.  This morning I made Blackcurrant Chutney from this ancient recipe (if you've never visited Bealtaine Cottage I suggest you go have a look!) I tested it with some goats cheese.  YUM!!!

I doubled the recipe and used 2lbs of blackcurrants.  It made 5 x 1lb jars.  

I used 5lbs of the frozen blackcurrants to make cordial.  I based it on this recipe I used 5lbs of frozen berries and 1 litre of water.  That made about 3 litres of juice so I added 1.5kg (gulp!!) of sugar.  Apologies for mixing metric and Imperial measurements.  My lovely mum had weighed everything into pounds.

I actually have 4 bottles of cordial and it's delicious!

And finally I made Blackcurrant Vinegar, loosely based on this recipe I didn't have red wine vinegar so used the rest of the distilled vinegar as it's what I had!  I used 1lb of currants, 1/2 lb sugar and about half the jar of vinegar.  I didn't have any cinnamon sticks but will get some and pop one in.

And that's what you can do with 9lbs of blackcurrants!  Now I've got to think of some things to use up raspeberries and gooseberries.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Back to thrifty ways

I haven't dared add up the total cost of our Irish holiday.  I have a rough idea.  Eeek!! But it was all budgeted for and some expenses were paid earlier in the year like when I booked the ferry early in January and got 20% off.  So now it's time to knuckle down and get back to my thrifty ways.  Afterall it's the reason we were able to afford to do all the fab activities on holiday :-) I've got a couple of big house expenses coming up and want to make sure I've got the cash for them.

This week I've made sure to use up all the leftover bits n bobs of veg in the fridge.  First picture is a healthier coleslaw of carrot, apple, onion and walnuts with a cider vinegar and mayonnaise dressing.  I've added half a cooked chicken breast.

This one was a satay style sauce of peanut butter and sweet chilli sauce with leftover cooked turkey (yellow stickered of course!) and some sweetcorn from a meal The Teenager made himself.  It was nice but lacked something.

This morning I popped down to visit mum and dad.  I never leave their house without a bag of stuff!! Today it was soft fruit.  About 15lbs of blackcurrants, raspeberries and gooseberries!  Their garden is producing tons of fruit this year.  My lovely mum was running out of space to store it all.

Some of it was frozen.  The gooseberries are actually from last year.  The frozen stuff  I've popped into my freezer for now but it's bursting at the seams too.  So I need to find some good ideas apart from jam to use it up (as a family we don't eat much jam now).

I've already got 2lbs of blackcurrants soaking in a litre of vodka.  I'm using this recipe to make cassis.  I usually just add the blackcurrants to sugar and vodka and leave it for a few months before straining.  But this recipe blitzes the currants first and soaks them in vodka only.  The sugar gets added later.  I'm looking forward to seeing if it makes a difference.

I also brought home this dress that didn't fit mum.  It's a little big for me but I can take it in at the sides easily.  It's very pretty and will be ideal with leggings for work.

And finally, I found a face mask sachet lurking at the bottom of the bathroom cupboard!  I think it was a Christmas present from one of the kids in my class. So I had a wee pamper session :-)

The Teenager is away walking for a few days with his dad so I have the house to myself.  In a few weeks he'll be off to university so I need to get used to just me and Emma rattling round.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Back on the WW wagon

Well I weighed myself this morning!!  I have put a little weight back on.  No surprise really as I've not been following the WW plan for a wee while now.  I had always planned to get back on the wagon after my holiday to Ireland.  So I've started again. Lunch was courgette soup again (zero points until I added a little soft goats cheese) and a slice of GF sourdough bread (yellow stickered from £3.50 to 85p!) Good food, I don't feel deprived at all.

Fresh fruit and veg is free on the WW plan so I'm eating lots.  I snacked on some honeydew melon OH brought over at the weekend and flat peaches (yellow stickered to 24p for 5)

I even went out a wee run, first one for a while.  I actually managed to run all the way so was feeling rather virtuous.  I'm hoping to shock my body back into fat burning mode.  I've still got another 5kg to lose to be back in my healthy weight range for my age.

I made these at the weekend to use up a lone wrap. I cut them into triangles and then shallow fried them in hot oil for a few minutes.

They satsified my need for a 'crisp' snack as there weren't any in the storecupboard.  They were really good but won't be making these for a while now I'm being good again! 

Sunday, 17 July 2016

What we did in Ireland

This is pretty much how I was dressed the whole time!!  The weather wasn't kind to us but it didn't stop us enjoying our break.

Our first stop was Enniskillen, in Northern Ireland. This is Castle Coole a National Trust property.  Well worth a visit and free entry for us as we're members.  Nice grounds to explore too.  Then we headed over the border into Ireland to Sligo.  This was our base for 5 nights.  I'd picked a quiet scenic campsite but it had rather basic shower block facilities.  The site itself was rather windy as it was on a headland!  But it suited our needs as it was just a base.

Whilst in Sligo we went kayaking on Lough Gill and stand up paddling on the River Garavogue.  Both these activities we did with an experienced guide.  Expensive but amazing experiences.  We walked up hills, explored ruined abbeys and empty sandy beaches and enjoyed the beautiful scenery all for free.

I ate the biggest plate of seafood I've ever seen at Eithna's by the Sea a fab wee restaurant in Mullaghmore.  This was after the day of kayaking so I felt I'd earned it!!  Lobster, crab and prawns, yummm!

It's been a long held ambition of mine to catch a fish and cook it.  We went mackerel fishing and I caught loads of the wee beauties!  I also caught a pollock! :-)

Again the weather wasn't great.  OH was seasick and I held on to the side of the boat for dear life!!  But it was a great experience.

We then headed north with a quick stop in Donnegal.  We explored the castle and ate in the Olde Castle Bar.  I had the best Irish Lamb Stew I've ever eaten.  It was just delicious and exactly what my dodgy tummy needed. I have to say eating out was relatively easy as most places had menus that identified gluten, dairy, nuts etc.  I was very impressed.

We spent the next 3 nights on the Inishowen peninsula.  The campsite there was very basic and our neighbours were loud drunks.  We tried not to let them annoy us too much.

We went sea kayaking at Lenan Head in what can only be described as 'stormy seas.'  It was tough going but we did get to see some stunning coves, arches and waterfalls that few humans ever get to see.  Thankfully we were with a very experienced guide so it was reasonably safe!

Then we explored an abandoned army camp nearby (free!)  There were no keep out signs or safety warnings.  We scrambled over and in lots of ruined buildings.  Ireland was neutral during WW2 but the British had a few bases on the coast.  A huge gun had been in this spot.  There were 6 of these.

Standing on the roof here you can see the cliffs and bays in the background where we'd just been kayaking.  Don't be fooled by that patch of blue sky!! Look closely at the white waves on the sea!!!

We even went underground and explored the bunkers where the ammunition had been stored.  It was truly fascinating.

I really loved the way that nature was slowly reclaiming the land.  Most of the wooden structures on site had rotted and collapsed and only the brick structures remained.

 Very atmospheric!

Again we felt we'd earned a lovely meal so went to the famous McGrory's and I had yet another seafood platter. Different from the earlier one but every bit as delicious.  I even had a pudding as their menu catered for every allergy concern.

OH and his Teenogre tried some cliff climbing, again with a guide.  I knew I wouldn't be physically up to it so let the boys do their thing.  Afterwards we visited  Fort Dunree another defence base during WW2 but as it has a long history it has been made into a popular tourist attraction.  We preferred the abandoned one as we had more access but it was interesting nonetheless to find out a little more about why this coastline needed defending over the centuries.

We then headed over the border again into Northern Ireland with a quick stop in Derry to see the Maritime festival.  I ate a fab wild boar burger and sweet potato fries followed by a still warm coconut macaroon (not one of those wee fancy French macarons!!) We then spent time in our favourite place Balintoy harbour (one of the Game of Thrones locations!)  OH and his Teenogre went coasteering while I knitted and people watched.

It really is a beautiful place.  Unfortunately it was rather busy due to it being a public holiday but everyone was just enjoying the first dry day in weeks! We ended our holiday by having the best gluten free fish and chips in Ballycastle.

Like most holidays we spent a small fortune on some activities but did lots of free stuff too.  We ate out a couple times but mostly ate simple meals in the campervan.  The weather did affect us but didn't prevent us from doing the things we'd planned.  It would have been nice if the rain had stayed off though!

Next year we might venture into Europe.  I'm voting for the south of France!  At least there will be more chance of seeing some sun!!

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Plugged back in

We returned from a soggy Ireland last night.  I woke up this morning to see a strange yellow object in the sky and it's remained there all day.  We did have a lovely time but I am glad to be home to see The Teenager and Emma. He'd managed to keep all the creatures alive and not kill anything in the polytunnel or raised beds!

After doing a couple of loads of washing I picked a few bits and pieces for snacking and made some courgette soup for my lunch.

The sun might have been out but I did enjoy my favourite summer soup!

I thinned out my white turnips from the front raised bed.  Boy are they nippy! They taste a bit like radishes at this size.

This is my wee pumpkin before I went on holiday, about the size of a ping pong ball. 

And now it's the size of a grapefruit!  It's the one vegetable I'm really excited about.  I have another wee one so hopefully it'll survive too :-)

My raspberries are just about ready so I'll check them tonight and maybe start picking.

Yep, it's good to be home!