Saturday, 30 January 2016

Mental decluttering

Apologies for the lack of consistent blogging recently.  Life is rather dull and repetitive at the moment with nothing particularly blogworthy.  A typical January then!  The weather as always dominates activities (or lack of) and it has been particularly nasty this past week.  So lots of indoor stuff has been on the agenda, like making lists and more lists of jobs to do to further my efforts in decluttering.

There's lots of research that suggests when your environment is less cluttered your mind is less cluttered too.   I've also discovered that that mental decluttering works wonders as well.  I spent some time 'unfriending' people on Facebook this week.  Some 'friends' were people I saw regularly when I was part of the ultra running scene, most of whom haven't been in touch for years.  They never liked or commented on my posts or wished me well on birthdays or other special events.  So I unfriended them.  All 91 of them!  Very cathartic :-)

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Busy Sunday

January seems to be the time for garden and outdoor planning.  Today there was a break in the relentless wet weather so we spent some time outside.  OH added a new support to the roof in the chicken run while I did some general tidying up.  The chickens were not happy at his DIY efforts and spent ages shouting at him from the safety of the other end of the garden!  While he was doing that I went to the front garden to check on the raised beds.
There are still some veggies growing despite the recent wind/rain/snow. 

Parsley, leeks and kale
Something's been nibbling the green kale...

...but not the purple stuff!!

The pak choy (or maybe it's bok choy, I can't remember which) has a few teeny nibbles

And the spring cabbage is hanging on!
I ordered a third raised bed for the front garden.  OH assembled it and it's now in the garage awaiting a coat of blue paint before I put it out with the other two.  A few more seed catalogues arrived this week so I need to sit down and work out what I want to grow this year.  I do love the planning bit :-)
Back inside again and I made an almond cake.  I've made this before in a round tin as a pudding but thought it would work in a loaf form too.  It was a hit!  Gluten and dairy free and totally delicious.
Almond cake
200g ground almonds
200g Pure spread
200g sugar
4 eggs
Beat spread and sugar until fluffy. 
Add eggs one at a time then add ground almonds.
Pour into loaf tin.
Bake at Gas 5 for about an hour until middle is set. 
Cover top with foil if it gets too browned before it's ready.
Job done!
A visit form my lovely mum, a couple loads of laundry done, some ironing and a kitchen clean up saw the end of a busy Sunday.  I'm now waiting for a Sainsbury's delivery before settling down to crack on with my forward plans for work.  My 5 year old laptop is really playing up so here's hoping I manage to complete them before it gives up completely.  I'm thinking of replacing it as a 50th birthday present to myself.  I'll need to do some research on the best deal of course!

Sunday, 17 January 2016


This is my home town Stirling today :-) Steeped in history and has stunning scenery.  This a photograph of the castle by local photographer Jon Crisp.  I live on the other side of the castle.  I get free entry as I live within the old castle boundary.  What you can't tell from this picture is that the castle sits high on an extinct volcano.  The side I see doesn't have housing as it's just rock.  It's lit up at night and looks spectacular.

As you can see from the hills we've had some snow.  All perfectly manageable despite the hyped up news reports that are all doom and gloom about this cold snap.  It's January in Scotland!! What do you expect???  My road has been well gritted so I can drive in and out easily. People dress accordingly and there's no panic about running out of food.  Maybe I'm turning into a grumpy old woman but I'm getting more and more annoyed at non stories in the news!

As you can see from all the paw prints the dogs are happy enough running around in the snow!  They both love chasing snowballs.

Not sure the chickens are thrilled about their first snow though!  I gave them some porridge this morning for the first time.  They weren't quite sure at first then they went mental!! That's Merida with it all over her beak!

They won't walk on the snow, preferring to stick to the area under the tarpaulin. As a result it's becoming rather muddy and smelly.  When the weather dries up a bit I need to put more stones back down to help with drainage.
The down side of this snowy weather is that our school playground is a hazard and the kids don't get out to play on it.  However, I've been taking mine out for a more controlled daily kilometre walk, noticing wintry things along the way.  I did laugh the other day when I asked them if they knew the name of the mountain they could see in the distance.  One of my brighter(!) ones said it was Mount Everest!! It's actually Ben Lomond :-)
I'm very lucky to live and work in such beautiful Scottish countryside :-)

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Let it go...

No, not that Let it go!!  The letting go of things you can't control.  Over the holidays I decided to stop being angry at my Headteacher not giving me either of the 2 permanent posts over the last year.  She keeps telling me I'm going a great job,  HMI wrote in the inspection report that I've raised the standard of numeracy and writing and my colleagues tell me I'm doing a good job.  So I decided to believe them and just let it go.  On the first day back at work (Thursday)  my HT asked me to come and see her at the end of the day.  She asked me if I would job share with the returning teacher from Easter until June and she would offer me any extra days supply work in school.  I accepted on the basis that it would give me my required 30 months continuous service.  WOOHOO!
Then last night, the returning teacher told me she was pregnant again and the baby's due in July!  She'd already had a conversation with the HT who said she would work hard on asking Human Resources to let me stay and do the year's maternity cover on a permanent supply contract.  Double WOOHOO if that pans out!!
In the past when I've made a conscious decision to stop worrying or trying to control certain situations, something good has always happened as a result.  So I shouldn't really be surprised at this latest turn of events.  But I am!  :-)

On a completely different note,  Emma is 4 years old today.  It's hard to believe that the wee innocent 5 week old puppy in this pic would become Psycho Pup!!  But I love my dogs to bits and wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Winter weight

No I don't look like this lady sumo wrestler but right now I feel like it.  In the winter I do less exercise outside as the cold really gets into my airway and I cough. A lot.  Until I'm sick.  A nasty bout of whooping cough 5 years ago left me with an 'easily irritated airway' so I avoid doing any running/cycling/walking outside.  I do go to the gym 3 times a week with OH but obviously that's not enough and the weight has been slowly creeping on. Usually by the summer I get motivated and get more active and it 'usually' shifts.  But as I'm approaching a special birthday in March I thought I'd do something about it now.
So I'm doing WeightWatchers.  I've done it before about 12 years ago so I know how it works although it's all changed with their SmartPoints and holistic approach now.  I quite like it! And if you lose 10lbs in the first 8 weeks you get your money back.  I like that a lot!!  My first target is to lose 6kg which is 13lbs so I could be slimmer by my birthday and get my money back.  Win, win :-)
After the gym last night OH needed to pop into Sainsbury's.  I picked up a wee gammon joint and 4 packs of lean stewing steak.
There were loads of these all with the 6th Jan date on them!
So I popped the gammon joint into the slow cooker on Low and left it overnight for about 8 hours.  I added nothing else to it, just the joint on its own.  It has roasted beautifully and just fell apart when I took it out.
I portioned it into 5 x 100g lots and marked the SmartPoints on the bag and froze them ready for making some healthy meals.  OH doesn't eat pork (or lamb, he's weird!) so they're all mine :-)
The beef is currently in the slow cooker with some carrots and onions.  I'll divide that up into portions and freeze as well.
I'm back at work tomorrow :-( Just 2 days then the weekend so it should be ok.  I'm going back with a positive attitude and will keep reminding myself to put my health first.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Shopping from my freezer and storecupboard

My eldest son phoned me in a panic this morning.  He was expecting a Tesco delivery but they phoned to say his card had been declined and wouldn't be able to deliver his order.  I think I've said before he has ME/CFS and mental health issues and survives (I can't call it living) on benefits so stuff like this really throws him.  He said he 'literally has no food.' *insert rolling eyes*

After some interrogation quick questions I established that he didn't have enough money in his account to cover the cost of the delivery (although he has plenty of cash in hand after Christmas!) and found out what he actually needed.  Then I went 'shopping' in my own freezer and storecupboard to tide him over for a few days while the money I transferred showed up in his account.  Banks were closed today here in Scotland.

I took him a portion of the beef in beer casserole I made last night and a dish of mashed potatoes for tonight's meal.  I cut a huge chunk of cheese off the big block I always have in the fridge.  I scooped some butter into an empty spread tub. I took a carton of apple juice and 2 of the nectarines from my yellow stickered jackpot.  I'd just made a batch of butternut and apple soup so he got some of that.  He has plenty of pasta and rice in his cupboard; bread, meatballs and chicken kiev in the freezer and tins of baked beans and spaghetti.  I made him a 2 day meal plan so he's sorted until Thursday when he'll be able to get a new delivery ordered.  Suspect I'll be doing more of this as he's about to lose some of his benefits and he can just cover his rent but nothing else :-(

As well as making soup this morning I made a batch of sweet and sour sauce to use up the pineapple, peppers and spring onions from yesterday's haul.  I left out the oil so instead of frying the veggies I just put everything in a pan and brought it to the boil and simmered for 5 mins.  It's very light and fresh.  I'll be having it with some chicken tonight.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Yellow sticker jackpot

Tonight I had to pop into Sainsbury's to get something for my son. And I timed it perfectly!  It was awash with yellow stickers :-) The above cost me £10.44, full ticket price should have been £41.96.  I took what I knew I could use and left a lot of other yellow sticker goodies.

Bread 24p, 2 x giant crumpets 19p each, flatbread 24p and 8 croissants 39p.  All lunch/supper ideas for The Teenager to munch on after work and all freezable.
Cherries 49p, pineapple slices 49p, celeriac 14p, spring onions 24p, baby peppers 39p, 4 nectarines 89p and 2 avocados 44p.  All perfectly good and will used in the next day or so.
4 packs of responsibly sourced raw king prawns 89p each.  This was my biggest saving as the full price should have been £3.50!!  They're now in the freezer.
2 x veg spring rolls 49p each and broccoli quiche 49p for The Teenager, turkey and ham hock with parsnip rosti and a cranberry and orange sauce 49p and pork mince 59p for me although the parsnip rosti has wheat breadcrumbs so I'll be giving that to him too.
The turkey and ham hock couldn't be frozen so I put the meat through a stir fry with the spring onions (and peas and egg) and served the cranberry sauce on the side with some leftover cooked Mediterranean veggies.  It was rather tasty if an unusual combination!
I'm now going to dry fry the pork mince and drain the fat off before freezing it in portions.  I'm finding it easier to cook meat first and then freeze it.  It makes it quicker to pull together a quick meal at the end of a long day at work.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Create - Use it up January

Happy New Year everyone!  Did you have a good one?  For the first time in many years I was in a pub on Hogmanay (just for a wee while) then we watched the fireworks over Stirling Castle.  And it was the first time I saw the New Year in with OH (and 3 of our kids) as we normally spend it in our own houses. Twas rather lovely and low key :-) Luckily my dogs don't bother with the sound of fireworks, they're pretty chilled about most things.  That's Emma in her favourite spot.  Half in, half out the kitchen so she doesn't miss anything!

I've long given up making resolutions but this year I'm making a conscious effort to be more creative.  My lovely friend (of the purple teapot gift) who visited last month asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks.  "Where's your craft room?" I had to admit that most of my craft stuff is still in boxes from the move and as yet I don't have a dedicated area to craft.  But that's changing!

OH pulled out some bags and boxes from my under the stairs cupboard.  Stuff I've not needed and not used in 2 years so it's safe to say it can all go.  I'm going to invest in some stacking boxes and keep my craft materials and sewing machines in that cupboard.  This means I can easily pull them out and use my lovely big dining table as my crafting area. Yeay!!  Creating a space to create makes me happy already.

So I'm making January the month to 'use it up'.  Use up my craft materials and use up the odd bits and bobs in my freezer and storecupboard.

I used up some chestnuts that have been lurking in the cupboard for nearly a year to make chestnut soup as seen on Thrifty Lesley's blog 
Very nice with a slice of home made GF bread
I had a glut of eggs to use up and some leftover rice so I made a rice crust quiche with Waitrose's Essentials Feta which is made with sheep and goat milk (not all fetas are!!)

I added grated courgette (squeezed in kitchen paper first to remove water) to the rice crust.  You need 2 cups of cooked rice, 1 beaten egg and a dash of soy sauce.  Mix well and press into a pie tin/dish to make the pie shell.  Bake for 10 mins (until egg is set) then make quiche as usual.  I've been making these for years as the rice crust is healthier than a pastry crust.  Also happens to be GF!

I had loads of lemons that were beginning to turn so I sliced and froze them ready for adding to drinks or for making lemon tea.

I scored some reduced free range chicken thighs in Sainsbury's yesterday.  I had run out of a few things so popped in hoping to get some great bargains but sadly very little was reduced.  I'll maybe try again in a day or 2 as I can usually get some good festive food reduced. 

I wanted to cook them so I could have some ready to eat meals in the freezer instead of raw meat so I made a simple chicken curry with the thighs for tea and froze 2 portions for later.  Sorry no pics of the meal as I ate it before I remembered! 

Simple chicken curry

8 free range chicken thighs
1 carton Basics chopped tomatoes
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 heaped tsp garam masala
1 heaped tsp ground cumin
1 heaped tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp ground ginger (I didn't have any fresh ginger or I would have used that)
1/2 tsp salt
50g creamed coconut
oil for frying

Fry off the thighs until they have some colour and set aside.
In the same pan, gently fry onions for a few mins then add garlic and dry spices.  Fry gently for 2 mins then add tomatoes and salt. Stir and add chicken back into the pan.  Add enough water to cover the chicken. Stir again.  Cover and simmer for about 30 mins, stirring occasionally.  Add the creamed coconut and stir until melted.  Add more water if it's too thick and serve over boiled rice.

It's that simple!

I just use whatever spices I have to hand.  I have made it with just curry powder and nothing else.  You can use cream or yoghurt instead of the creamed coconut. I was just using what I had in the cupboard. Always turns out ok.

I'm rather pleased with my efforts so far to use up what I've already got.  Now onto some serious meal planning for the coming week.