Tuesday 28 April 2015


I'm still working my way through the mega bag of spuds! I shredded the remains of the bargain spring greens and quickly nuked them in the microwave.  I chopped and fried the last onion in the veg basket in a little olive oil until it was soft.

I added them to some leftover mashed potatoes and made some patties.  In Scotland we call them rumbledethumps.  In England it's bubble and squeak.  In Ireland it's called colcannon.  You can also make a large 'pancake' shape and cut it into wedges to serve.  But I like the smaller ones.

I then fried them until they were brown and crispy.  They were delicious with a couple of fried eggs.  I looked up a couple of recipes on Pinterest.  Basically use any leftover cabbage-like veg and mashed potato and add any other leftovers you like. 
The weather has turned cold again, dropping back below freezing some nights.  So eating lots of potato dishes isn't exactly a hardship.  There's still a third of the bag left and a big dish of mash still in the fridge.  And potatoes are naturally gluten free so an easy option for me :-)

Sunday 26 April 2015

Doors and potatoes

Decorating inspiration comes from all sorts of places.  This morning I was doing my bit for the Green Party's election efforts.  After last year's referendum many people in Scotland including me decided to become more involved in politics and became members of a party.  My friend's hubby is our local MP candidate for Westminster.  He's a Green local councillor and has been an MSP in the past.  I believe in him and was happy to put newsletters through doors. 
So I spent a pleasant morning legitimately having a good look at other people's front doors and gardens in a lovely posh part of the city.  I would love to paint my own front door purple (it's really a side door so isn't actually seen from the street) so I was looking at all the doors in order to see what colours people like. Mostly white, black, a few reds and some blue.  No one had purple!! ;-)
My door is sort of shaped like the one above so it's given me an idea of how it would look.  I just think it would make people smile when they came to my door.  OH thinks I'm bonkers but I'm making this house as neutral coloured as possible with bright/quirky accessories so that when I come to sell it will appeal to as many people as possible (channelling my inner Kirstie and Phil!!)

Then in the kitchen this afternoon I've started cooking up the massive bag of potatoes.  I made more rosti but yet again they were eaten before I could get the camera out!!  I made 2 different batches of stuffed cheesy baked potatoes, one with goats cheese and Pure spread for me.
Next task of the day is to make a big pot of mash :-)

Saturday 25 April 2015

Staying healthy

I work hard at staying healthy.  Women in my family tend to put on weight as they get older and there's a history of strokes, heart attacks and cancer.  Like most mothers there was a period where I didn't look after myself as well as I should and put everyone else first.  Now my health (and my weight!) is my priority.  But why is it so easy to put on weight during a holiday even when I'm busy and active and did loads of outdoor activities??  Over the Easter holiday I put on 2kg!!!! 
So it's back to stricter eating and more exercise *sighs*
I've been eyeing up Nutribullets for a while so was pleased when I saw an offer of free p&p, a free recipe book and £10 off the retail price.  And the Teenager was keen as he drinks a lots of protein shakes and smoothies, so I splashed out.
It doesn't look appetising(!) but really was rather nice.  Spinach, banana, blueberries and walnuts all smooshed up. All good healthy stuff.  I had it for breakfast after my run.
I find it's always easier to lose weight in the summer as I can do more outside running and cycling but I do love my food.  So it's time to be creative with salads again. :-)

Friday 24 April 2015

Thank crunchie...

...it's Friday!!  It's been a busy full on week back at school.  But I've stuck to my plan of being in at 8am and home by 5pm each night.  There gets a point where my brain just won't function so it's not worth hanging around.  So far I've not done any work at home but I have brought my forward plans to work on over the weekend.
I popped into the supermarket last night after the gym and snapped up a few yellow stickers :-) This 7.5kg  bag of potatoes was reduced to 50p!!!

A huge pizza for less than £1!

A bag of spring greens that are actually 3 small cabbages for 20p.  I also got 2 large sliced wholemeal loaves for 19p each.  They're already frozen for the Teenager to make sandwiches.
Grand total £2.02
When I came home tonight I found a box on my doorstep.  I ordered something I've wanted for a while but was waiting to find the best price.  Even the Teenager is keen on this item.
I'll post pics tomorrow ;-)

Monday 20 April 2015

Back to school organisation

OH gave me this fab whiteboard from his office when it closed and it's been languishing in my study for ages.  At the weekend we finally put it up on the wall (the one in the kitchen that's still to be painted!!) It's a big one (120cm by 90cm) and useful, but was a bit boring.  So after scrubbing it clean, I jazzed it up with some green washi tape.  I put some round the edge and divided it into 3 sections - a 'Don't Forget!' bit, The Teenager's stuff and a space for my stuff.  He's got his exam dates on his already (eek!) and I've got this week's work meetings and 2 urgent things to do.
I cleaned out an empty can to keep the dry wipe pens and decorated it with more washi tape (recycled whiteboard and pen container!) You're starting to see how my classroom is organised ;-)  This makes me feel organised so hopefully I will be more organised.  I'm a visual person in that I've got see it to remember it.

So first day back at work went well.  The kids were tired by 3pm!  I made sure I left by 5pm and went for a wee run when I got home as it was a nice evening.  These are my lovely shiny new shoes, a present from OH.  They're Saucony Powergrid Cortana 3 running shoes.  They should have been £139.99!!! They were reduced to £49.99 as they're last year's model *rolls eyes*  Who would pay that amount just to wear the latest model??  They are very comfortable and very light.  Sadly they didn't make me run any faster!
This term I'm determined to be more organised and not get stressed by our impeding visitors.  We're all trying to master that elusive work/life balance.  My colleagues are all trying to eat healthily and exercise, always easier to do in the summer term when the nights are lighter for longer.

Saturday 18 April 2015

End of the holidays

Snake's head fritillary
My holiday is now officially over and it's back to work on Monday.  I really have filled the last 2 weeks and haven't done ANY school work!  Apart from the 3 days I was away, the weather has been good.  My plan was to get the kitchen finished but the weather was just too good to be indoors.  The garden is beginning to look great.  My lovely mum visited yesterday and we went to the recycling centre to fill our cars with free compost.  Mum thinks our council's compost is better than hers!  I remember reading on their website they invested in a £2 million super composter that turns all our garden and food waste into the lovely stuff.  We topped up the 2 raised beds at the front and filled some pots at the back. 

The raised area in my back garden is a little wild.  The first thing I did when I moved in was to remove the Leylandii trees and put up a secure fence. In that pic behind the Teenager you can see how dominating they were!  Now they're gone all sorts of plants have been appearing and thriving.  Like the fritillary in the top pic and the blue grape hyacinths and primroses.  I haven't planted any of them so they've been there all along :-) I did put in some raspberry canes from my mum's garden and they're doing well.  I also put in a wee clematis that I thought had died but it's popped back up again.  Today I'm hoping to clear more of that area and prune back the quince(?) tree.

Mum brought me this planter she filled with bulbs last year.  It has an amazing scent!! The pink tulips are nearly ready to bloom.

I finally got my bare rooted trees planted up.  The wee labels on them have disintegrated over the winter so I have no idea what they are now!!  I know what I bought, I just don't know which is which except for the elder.  Once they've got more foliage I'll have a better chance of identifying them.  They are an elder, a hazel, a cherry plum, a crab apple and a blackthorn (for the sloes!!)  I got them from here.  They're a Scottish company so I know they'll survive our climate.

The peas I planted in loo roll tubes aren't up yet.

But the ones in pots are!!  Lots of peas for me this year I hope.
I'm planning to put in my shallots and potatoes today (Sarpo Mira, good blight resistance) and planting a rhubarb crown (Timperley Early) then tomorrow I can prepare for work next week. 
Time to get out there!

Friday 17 April 2015

A few more holiday snaps

The fab thing about wild camping is you never know where you'll spend the night and you never know what you'll find.  We didn't stay in Torridon but we parked up to have our evening meal (chicken fried rice, with all the ingredients taken with us) by the shore.  After we'd eaten, the rain calmed down to a 'light' drizzle and we went for a walk.  We passed a wee sign that said 'Open Air Church' with an arrow pointing across a field.  We followed it and found this.  Despite the rain, it was just amazing!

Of course OH had to climb up and be the minister!  I've not been able to find out much information about it yet but it really intrigues me that people would have an open air church in such an inhospitable environment.  There are plenty of churches in the area but it makes me wonder if it has pagan origins that were then taken over.  I've been interested in Celtic Christianity for ages so will dig deeper when I have more time.

This was taken at Inverewe Gardens.  I put my hood down for the photo but it was steady rain at this stage!
If you take a holiday in Scotland you have to be prepared for the weather.  When the sun shines it's a beautiful country.  When it rains, you pull on the waterproof trousers and jacket.  And wait.  There's a saying here that if you don't like the weather, wait 20 minutes.  It usually changes! The best time to visit is late Spring and the Autumn if you want to avoid the dreaded midge.  Now that really will spoil your holiday!!

Thursday 16 April 2015

Wee holiday

I don't think I've mentioned here that OH and I recently bought a campervan :-)  Luckily we share the same frugal values and each of us had saved a goodly amount to buy this lovely vehicle.  We bought it in February (which is the 'quiet' time apparently for buying them) after missing out on 3 other vehicles because we didn't act quickly enough.  We've had a few overnight outings but this time we went away for 3 days wild camping ie not using campsites.
We headed north to Inverness and then went across to the west coast following the north west coastal route.  I'd always wanted to visit Applecross, which is a peninsula that was only accessible by boat until the start of the 20th century.  Then a road was built literally up and over the mountain. 

This is us halfway up.  The road is VERY steep and VERY narrow (single track with passing places)and frankly VERY scary.  There are huge warning signs at the base that basically say turn back now!This is the 'famous' hairpin bend where we stopped to take a pic.  I really wouldn't recommend it. 
By the time we arrived in Applecross the weather turned really nasty.  Heavy rain and gale force winds forced us into the Applecross Inn where we spent a few hours by the wood burning stove eating excellent food.
We left by the newer longer coastal road that goes round the mountain, still steep and narrow but marginally less scary.  We headed for Torridon in search of a place to park up.  We found a lovely quiet spot in the car park of the Beinn Eighe and spent the night being battered by heavy rain.  Next morning we walked up a bit of the mountain before heading further North to Inverewe Gardens.  We have a family membership so entry for us was free.  We got rather wet.  Again!

Afterwards, still heading north, we stopped off at Corrieshalloch Gorge.  This is me being brave and standing on the viewing platform looking back at the falls.  You can just make out the suspension bridge above it.  As we were walking over it (I had to be 'persuaded' to cross it!!) some German tourists thought it would be funny to shake it.  Let's just say they got a mouthful from me!!!
After a quick stop in Ullapool for some delicious seafood (crab claws, scallops and cod) we found a nice stopping place that had a ruin in the background.  It was too wet to investigate (and it was getting dark) so we waited until morning.

In the morning, between heavy showers, we investigated Ardvreck Castle.  Luckily we didn't see or hear any of the ghosts!

With the castle on one side and Calda House on the other, we'd picked a fabulous spot :-)

Minutes after this was taken we had a heavy shower of hailstones!
We then meandered back towards Inverness via Bonar Bridge and back home down the A9 stopping for chips in Aberfeldy.
Despite the heavy rain, high winds and cold we had a lovely break.  In Scotland it's not illegal to wild camp.  Most people are responsible and leave no trace of their presence there.
Holidays are always too short but even a few days away together without kids is relaxing.  And I didn't think about work once :-)

Saturday 11 April 2015

Best pate ever

This is by far the best pate I've ever made.  Seriously.  And I've made tons over the years.  It's fast, cheap and is full of good omega oils.  It's the simplest and fastest recipe to make.

Smoked Mackerel Pate

2 large hot smoked mackerel
2 tsp mustard (I had the seedy kind)
2 tbsp Alpro 'cream'
50g goat's butter, softened
1/2 lemon, juice only

Skin and remove any bones from the fish. 
Blend all the ingredients together until smooth (about 20 secs!!)
Seriously, that's it!

The original recipe had some horseradish and parsley in it, plus cow's milk butter and cream.  But it still tastes amazing.  The goat's butter doesn't taste 'goaty' it's more like Lurpak.

I had some yellow stickered mackerel in the freezer so used that.  Next time I'll use the Sainsbury's basics stuff as it's getting blended any way.  And I think the parsley would make it look better if I was serving it to guests.

It's fab on oatcakes and the GF crispbreads I got this week. 

EDITED TO ADD: OH loves it too!!!

Friday 10 April 2015

Approved delivery

I've struggled lately to make up an order from Approved Foods as they don't have a lot of dairy and GF stuff.  So imagine my delight when I was able to get a huge box of goodies delivered yesterday.

Biscotti, rice crackers and dairy free mint chocolate.

Pudding mix, GF flour and Alpro 'cream'

So 8 boxes biscotti, 8 boxes of crispbreads, 8 packets rice crackers, 4x1kg flour, 4 bars chocolate, 4 boxes pudding mix and 4 cartons of Alpro cream came to £22.92.  That was a saving of £62.76 on the full prices.  And everything is in date except the flour which was the end of March but that's going in the freezer to stay fresh.  Even with the £5.99 delivery charge that's a great deal :-)
I'm still working in my garden.  I dug a wee trench and used an old scaffolding plank to divide the veg patch from the stoned area. Historically my back can't cope with digging but I'm pleased to report this morning I'm ok.  All that core work in the gym is working!! :-)  
I've also been working on my front garden, removing a lot of overgrown plants and emptying pots that were full of roots and not much else.  I've moved a lot of pots round to the 'fruit garden' area and just kept the blue ones at the front (to match the raised beds).
I'm really pleased with the progress of my wee garden this week.  It's been hard work but I've been able to do most of it myself, only needing the Teenager to move a few really heavy things :-)

Thursday 9 April 2015

Seed time

I soaked some seeds overnight as I like to give beans and peas a bit of a start.  Not sure if it makes any difference but my grandpa always did it and his allotment was full of plants.  These are leftover seeds so I'll not lose any money if they don't grow.  Peas from Lidl at the back right, Sarah Raven's runner bean 'Polestar' in the middle and French bean 'Blue Climbing Lake' at the bottom.  I'm hoping to save/dry seed from the beans for next year.  I've been doing some research on the subject.  I suspect the peas are a hybrid (packet info is in many languages!!) but the Sarah Raven seeds should be good to save.  EDITED TO ADD - they're actually Meteor peas, first early and pretty hardy.

Yesterday I pruned back the bush in this pic.  It was covering the step and anyone using my front door (just the postie really) has to fight their way past it!  I took this pic at 8am this morning with my back against the gate to the back garden.  It's still in the shade but in a few hours it will be flooded with sunshine.  The flat roof is my neighbour's garage!  I live on a hill and her house and garden are a few metres below me. But I was thinking this wasted area could be my fruit garden.  It's sheltered and south facing.  I could easily plant some fruit bushes and they'd be safe from chickens :-)

I couldn't resist this reduced mint plant at the garden centre!  I love fresh mint tea.  The mint I brought from my old house didn't survive.

And I'm not going to  pass up on a reduced avocado!!

I'm really making the most of my holiday.  The good weather helps. I'm trying to record everything I do here so that when I'm in the middle of the HMI revisit I can remind myself that when it's all over I'll have a lovely garden where I can relax :-)

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Another fruitful day

I had another very productive day yesterday.  I could get used to not working again!  Except I'd be really skint, now and in my retirement.  Ah well! I made 4 large and 1 wee jars of marmalade.  I was brave and potted it while it was still runny but it's cooled to a perfect spreading consistency.  This time I'll remember to put labels on them!!

The plums have been defrosting overnight.  I actually had 6 punnets still lurking in the bottom of my chest freezer, all reduced to 19p or 25p.  They're the 'ripen at home' ones so I guess people have been caught out so many times they've given them a swerve.  Why does some fruit stay hard for so long then overnight go off?? My gain as I'll get a few jars of chutney from them AND I'm going to make a few puddings.

Last night's quick tea after the gym was a speedy chilli.  My lovely mum had got steak mince from the butcher in a 'buy 2 get 1 free' deal.  She gave me the free one :-)  I cooked it with carrot and onions and the above has been portioned into 4.  I added half a tin of baked beans and the remainder of a packet of spices.  I served it with some white rice as it's quicker to cook (and stores longer!) than brown and enjoyed it while catching up on Back in Time for Dinner. 
Anyone else been watching this series on the BBC?  Last night it was the 80s, the decade that taste forgot!! And the most important one in my life.  I was 14 in 1980.  By the end of the 80s I was married with 2 kids and had a mortgage!!!
I digress.  I also spent some time yesterday finalising my price comparison list.  I used my store cupboard essentials list from this post as a starting point and have based all my prices on Sainburys as that's my main store.  It still needs tweaking but I'm pretty pleased with it so far.
It's yet another sunny day here so I'm off outside to work on my garden :-)

Tuesday 7 April 2015

Making progress

I'm making progress with the veg patch. I forked it over yesterday, took me just under an hour.  The soil was very compacted and there were a lot of roots to deal with near the fence.  The soil is definitely clay so will need to add lots of goodness to it over time.  At least I'll have chicken manure ;-)  My biggest problem atm is keeping Emma off it!!  Next stage is to build a fence round it.  I'm thinking metre high with chicken wire and a couple of posts.  Not worked out how to do a wee gate yet!!
Where I live we still get frost until May so I'm chitting potatoes and planting peas and beans indoors to get them started off.  I'm checking the viability of seeds I've already got so hopefully won't cost me much in terms of buying new seed this year.
I still have my 2 raised beds and pots at the front so need to get those sorted out today.  It's brown bin collection tomorrow so I need to get those weeds sorted and get fresh compost from my local recycling centre.  It's free but you need to bag it yourself.  Guess what the The Teenager will be doing today??

Look who was wandering round my garden last night!  He/she froze when I let the dogs out for the last time.  I was able to run back inside and get my camera.  Lucy walked past it but Emma wanted to play with it!  I watched it for a wee while before it decided it was safe to move again.  It ran across to gate and disappeared under it.

I took the last of the Seville oranges out of the freezer yesterday and boiled them overnight in the slow cooker.  They're cooling just now, waiting to be shredded and turned into whisky marmalade. When I got my empty jars down I found 2 large jars of Apple and plum chutney.  I'd obviously 'tidied' them away before Christmas.  They'll be perfect for eating now.  One for me  and one for my lovely mum.
I'm really enjoying my holiday.  Even though I'm keeping myself busy it feels relaxing doing all the things I just don't have time to do when I'm working.  I found a sock I started knitting last summer so might even get some knitting done today as well.  Lovely :-)

Edited to add:  Jars of chutney are actually marmalade!!  That's why I should label everything at the time :-)

Monday 6 April 2015

Best laid plans...

As predicted, my plans went to pot! Yesterday was too nice a day to be stuck inside painting my kitchen so it was spent in the garden.  I've tried to clear an area 3m by 3m to create a vegetable bed. You may remember my back garden is totally paved with a very large stone chipped area.  The dogs hate it but it's been low maintenance for me until now. 

The Teenager helped me pull up the black plastic membrane and rake the stones back.  It was messy hard work and my back is feeling it now!  Thank goodness he is fit and strong.  I wouldn't have managed it by myself.

This area will be for the chickens.  The coop that OH made last summer has been in position but due to various things I wasn't ready for them. Yet more stones need to be cleared away but it's doable.

There's a Leylandii tree stump at the back beside the fence.  I tried my wee greenhouse there to see if it would work but I later decided it wouldn't.  I'll just keep pulling up the roots and hope it eventually dies off. I've moved the greenhouse to the house side for now.
Next I need to dig over the area and see what the soil is like.  Suspect it's quite poor and will need some help.  Then I need to work out how to keep dogs and chickens off it so I'm thinking some sort of netted fence.  My lovely mum gave me some money for Easter so I'm off to spend it on garden supplies shortly.

Sunday 5 April 2015

'Fakeaway' sweet and sour sauce

The Teenager was in the mood for Chinese food last night so I made my easy peasy sweet and sour sauce.  Cheaper than a takeaway and no MSG!  It's a really easy sauce to adjust.  If it's too sweet for your taste add more vinegar.  If it's too sour add more sugar.  Sometimes I add carrot too.  Ready in about 10 minutes!
Sweet and Sour Sauce
1 tsp stir fry oil (I use the one from Lidl)
1 onion, finely sliced
1 cup vinegar
1/2 cup sugar (I've also used honey in the past)
230g can of pineapple pieces in juice (Sainsburys basics)
1/2 cup frozen sliced peppers (use fresh if you've got some)
2 tbsp soy sauce (I use GF Tamari)
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp cornflour
1.  Heat oil and gently fry onions for about 2 mins
2.  Add vinegar, pineapples and juice, peppers and soy sauce.
3.  Simmer for 5 mins if you want your veggies to stay crunchy or longer if you want them softer.
4.  Mix the cornflour in the water until smooth and add to pan.
5.  Bring to boil and serve.

I had some prawns with mine

I'd picked up some yellow stickered spring rolls a few weeks ago so The Teenager had these with prawn crackers from Lidl.

The Teenager's 'fakeaway.'  He had egg and cashew nuts with his rice as he's veggie
And here's mine, naturally dairy and GF with no nasty additives :-)