Thursday 31 December 2015

So that was 2015...


It's so easy to look back over the year's posts and remember what I've done!  Imagine my surprise when I realised I hadn't even mentioned buying the campervan at the start of February.  OH and I love our campervan.  We both scrimped and saved hard and did our research before buying this one.  We love spending time away exploring hidden areas of Scotland, mostly wild camping with the odd campsite thrown in if we have teenaged company.

OH finally got his license to carry a passenger and took me up in his microlight.  No mean feat when you know I'm scared of flying!!!  He's taken me up a few times since and I love it.

OH spent weeks in his spare time building me a fully enclosed chicken run.  I finally got my chickens :-)

A rare one with all 3 girls!
At the end of term I dyed my hair pink and we sent off to Northern Ireland for a fabulous holiday.  We will definitely go back there on day.

My kitchen saga rumbles on but I painted my door purple to match the tiles.  I've still to resolve the flooring issue but I have some money saved so will splash out on something suitable in the new year sales.
This picture still makes me laugh!  That post was my most viewed one and got the most comments.  It was lovely to see lots of us have been in this position and how we've flourished and grown :-)
I've ended the year with a full blown attack on my health.  I've spent the last week being really not well and I'm determined that in 2016 my health and fitness is an absolute priority.
I try not to make resolutions but there are a few things that need to be addressed asap beginning with a focus to improve my immune system.  I am susceptible to every bug and virus that sweeps the school.  I suspect my work/life balance is key here and once I get that sorted it will be easier.
Hopefully 2016 will be the year my job situation gets sorted out but beyond that being healthy and happy are all I hope for.
Thank you to you all for reading and commenting on my blog.  Here's wishing you a very Happy New Year, may it bring all you deserve and more.
Ali xxx

Tuesday 29 December 2015

Pearl and Crystal Necklace

I finished my necklace and couldn't wait to share :-) 

Here it is on my dressmaker's dummy for scale.  It has 50 soft grey freshwater pearls.  Each one is separated by a tiny clear Swarovski crystal bicone bead.  There's a tiny silver letter A for Ali. The focal point is a red Swarovski heart pendant.  I had all the other jewellery findings as I used to make a lot of stuff

You can just see the A peeking out!
Total cost £11.36 for the heart, £3.12 for the tiny crystals, £1.99 for the A and £5.99 for the pearls so £22.46.

This was the original necklace that inspired me.  A beautiful Claudia Bradbury piece costing £133.50.  It has a silver heart.
I might change the findings on my red heart so it can be removed and swapped for other focal points, making it a versatile piece of jewellery.
I'm rather pleased with it :-)

Christmas washout

Once again I have been knocked sideways during the school holiday.  Christmas was practically a non event for me as I was too ill to enjoy it.  I prepped and cooked a full Christmas dinner for 7 people but barely ate any of it. I'm still not well and have been nagged by most of my family to see my GP.  I will attempt to get an appointment when the surgery re opens again.  I know I need to sort out my work/life balance as I'm exhausted at the end of every term and I'm always ill.
But my washed out Christmas is nothing compared to those families devastated by the dreadful flooding in the North of England :-(   The rivers here have also burst their banks and there are fields surrounding Stirling full of water with only a few houses affected.  Everywhere is very wet and muddy, walking the dogs is a messy business.  We are on Amber alert again for tonight so although it's dry atm I'm expecting storm conditions tonight.  My poor wee chickens are very soggy!

I've been mainly confined indoors.  Resting doesn't do much for me but when you have uncontrollable coughing fits when you move about there's not much choice!  I've been knitting and playing with my jewellery tools.  I'm attempting a copycat version of a beautiful pearl necklace I saw costing £133.50.  My version, still with real pearls, will cost me a lot less than that!! 
I've also been doing a lot of thinking and planning.  2016 will be a significant year for me as I turn 50 in March.  I feel the need to do something different next year.  Watch this space ;-)

Wednesday 23 December 2015

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

I'm finally on holiday but suffering from another round of nasty bugs!  The food shopping was done this morning at 8am and Sainsbury's was pretty busy even then.  I used my points to buy our Christmas meal and had plenty left over to donate.  Grand total in money was £49.35 but I got it all free :-)  That doesn't include the turkey (OH gets that) but everything else is in there.  Plus there will lots of leftovers to feed us for another couple of days. 

Our menu is fairly simple.  Marinated prawns to start (cheese stars for The Teenager), turkey with all the trimmings and veg (or 3 Kings cheese tart) and trifle or Christmas pudding for dessert. 

I've done the last of my present shopping too.  I've managed to make a few gifts which pleases me greatly but I won't post pics until after the day ;-)

So for the rest of today I'll be drinking lots of hot drinks, wrapping presents and watching a movie or 2 to get me in the mood.  Tomorrow I'll start prepping the food to be transported to OH's house. 

Really is beginning to feel like Christmas, at last!!

Saturday 19 December 2015

Eat well for less

I must confess I love watching Greg and Chris on this BBC programme. I think I'm doing as much as I can to save money on food but I do pick up the odd useful tip here and there.  The recurring theme seems to be that people think they don't have the time or skills to cook from scratch and that they'll actually spend more on ingredients if they do.  Enter Greg and Chris to prove otherwise.

This week's Christmas special of Eat well for less has caused a bit of a ripple in frugal blogland!  The family featured spent £1400 on food for the festive period.  So here's my confession.  In my previous life I used to spend that amount of money.  Over Christmas we hosted the Christmas day meal for the whole family, many of them staying overnight and spending Boxing Day with us too.  We would have friends for dinner between Christmas and New Year.  We would have drinks and nibbles parties.  So we'd easily spend around that amount BUT we could afford it.  We chose to splash the cash and share with friends and family.

But as you know from my previous post about unplugging Christmas I wasn't happy with it.

Once again this year I'm using my Nectar points to fund Christmas.  I have over £90 worth!  That's more than enough to buy the Christmas meal and lots of foodie treats (GF stuff is expensive!!) and buy plenty of things to donate to my local food bank.  Win win!!

Friday 18 December 2015

Some job news

It's still under negotiation and obviously confidential ;-) but since I know you won't tell anyone, I'll let you in on it!  I have job permanency rights as I've now got 24 months continuous service.  This means I have the right to apply to the Education department to convert my temporary contract into a permanent one.  This doesn't mean I have the right to an actual post but it's a significant move forward.  The annual staffing review takes place in January/February where they look at the number of teachers available and the posts needing filled in August at the start of the new academic year.  I could be sent anywhere but right now I'm happy with that.

In the short term it looks like I'll be staying where I am until the summer with a high chance of job sharing from the end of April to the end of June.  That's ok with me as it all counts towards continuous service according to the lovely HR lady I've been dealing with today.  At the moment building up my continuous service to the magic number of 30 months is more important than halving my income.

Although it's not a permanent job yet, it's a huge step forward and frankly, a weight off my mind.

Wednesday 16 December 2015


Take one pack of reduced sausages and remove skins

And one pack of stuffing mix (water and oil added as per instructions) and squidge it all together
Bake in the oven until lovely and crispy on top

Serve with sweet potato mash and beans.
And very delicious it was too!  It was a bit of a dry run for Christmas day dinner.  I find using sausages instead of sausagemeat gives you a better quality of meat.  On the day I'll use more sausages but the above 6 sausages made 6 good portions of stuffing.  I picked up a few reduced packs of sausages so they're now in the freezer waiting for turkey day :-)
After Christmas you can usually pick up reduced stuffing mixes. One year I got loads of a cranberry mix one for 10p. It's a quick cheat's way to make meatloaf if you've not got the time or inclination to make breadcrumbs/chop and fry onions/prepare the herbs.

Sunday 13 December 2015

Mincemeat and apple sponge pudding

OH is a huge pudding fan.  Gluten free puddings can be a bit iffy  but mostly I prefer to go without.  So yesterday he had a real hankering for a pudding to have with custard.  BTW Alpro's vanilla custard is so good everyone eats it without realising it's dairy free.

So looking at what I had in the cupboard and fruit bowl I had an idea for using up some of that 5p mincemeat from earlier in the year.  I couldn't find a recipe so I made this one up.

Mincemeat and apple sponge pudding

150g Pure spread
150g sugar
150g Doves Farm self raising gluten free flour
50g ground almonds
2 eggs
4 tbsp. Alpro Vanilla milk

1 apple, cored and chopped into small pieces, skin on
2/3 jar of mincemeat

Cream Pure spread and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time with a spoonful flour and beat.  Add sieved flour, almonds and milk and beat together until smooth.

Grease a medium sized casserole dish and put mincemeat on the bottom.  Add the apple then the sponge mixture on top.

It took 50 mins in the oven at Gas 5 until the middle of the sponge was firm.

Serve with custard.

OH declared it the best pudding he's ever had, not just the best GF!  Bit chuffed here :-)

BTW, this morning I worked out that in 100 days I'll be 50!!

Friday 11 December 2015

Tree time

I gave in and put the tree up.  It's a pre lit one, obviously artificial.  Real ones are lovely but so expensive.  So out came the tree box and 1 single box of decorations.  I genuinely couldn't remember if I'd kept anything from last year.  I definitely had a big clear out so found no baubles or tinsel.  Just Santas!!! I've been collecting wee Santas for years.  Not expensive and definitely not tasteful.  They do make me laugh though :-)

I still have my 3 angels, one for each of my boys. I've got a quilted wall hanging and a small handmade yarn themed wreath and that's it.  Very understated.

I'm going stud some oranges with cloves and tie some cinnamon sticks together with ribbon.  And that's probably all I'll do this year.

Monday 7 December 2015

Faith restored ( a wee bit!)

Sainsbury's finally refunded my money.  It only took 3 weeks and 5 days!! They owed me £83.25 but they rounded it up as a 'goodwill gesture' to £90.   Plus they sent me a voucher for 2500 Nectar points on my next spend which is worth £12.50.  So I'm around £20 better off. 

I'm lucky I had savings in reserve but for many people it could have been a tricky situation where they found themselves short of cash for the best part of a month.  This is the second time recently I've had to fight to get my own money back from a large company.  Everyone I spoke to was very pleasant and tried to be helpful.  It was the electronic payment system that was at fault.  Apparently!!

A quick pop in last night resulted in a few yellow stickered goodies for the freezer.  Pancakes for The Teenager, cupcakes and croissants for me!  I've not tried the Genius croissants before.  I'm saving them for Christmas morning as we always had croissants for brunch.  The boys liked them toasted with cheese.  One Christmas family tradition I'm keeping :-)

Sunday 6 December 2015

Occupational hazard

The downside of working with young kids is that they get lots of bugs. Teachers do build up an immunity but every now and then you succumb to the sniffles.  I've been fighting off a sniffly nose and a bit of a cough all week but I've woken up this morning with a full blown stinker.  After getting up to feed dogs and chickens I've gone back to my bed.  Not like me at all!!

I know there's no cure for the common cold but if there's anything I can do to ease some of these symptoms then I'm game.  I've been doing some googling and have so far found these natural remedies.  Some I knew about and some are new to me.

Cayenne pepper in orange juice sipped through a straw to ease a sore throat.  Easy one to try.

Garlic in everything.  Already knew about that one for colds.

Pomegranates have more antioxidants than green tea and red wine.  Drinking the juice helps fight throat infections as well as having all round immune boosting properties.  New one for me.

Sage tea.  I've tried this one in the past, really works!  Fresh sage is good if you've got it, just infuse and drink.  Dried sage works best as a gargle.

Carrots, cooked not raw.  Full of good stuff.

Kiwi fruits, more vitamin C than oranges.  Apparently eating them reduces the number days of having a sore throat.

I know I've got garlic, dried sage and carrots in the kitchen so will be having those today.  Another good one is honey and lemon.  I did a nice Manuka honey and lemon remedy once.

But my personal favourite thing for a cold is homemade chicken soup.  And luckily I just happen to have made a big pot of it for my visitors yesterday :-)

Saturday 5 December 2015

Things making me smile today

I had a visit today from 2 of my oldest friends.  I've reached the stage where I find I can count true friends on the fingers on one hand.  I have many 'friends' that I've not seen in the last 5 years.  Guess they're not really friends then.  This couple are the kind of friends that you might not see for ages then when you do get together it's like you saw them last week :-) Although we've met up a few times in the last few years they hadn't seen my house so they came for lunch today and brought me a housewarming present.  A purple teapot and butter dish to match my purple tiles!  They know me so well :-)

And something else that made me smile.  These are some of The Teenager's toiletries.  I discovered he's cut off the top of the Nivea tube to get the last of the cream out.  Chip off the old block ;-)

Wednesday 2 December 2015

December eggs

The weather here is truly awful.  It's been a very wet November and the first 2 days of December so far are exactly the same.  My poor chickens will start thinking they're ducks soon if it doesn't let up!!  But they're still laying lots of eggs for me.  So far this week I had 3 on Monday, 2 on Tuesday and 2 today.  I had expected them to stop laying as there's very little daylight atm.  In the morning when I open the coop they don't even stir!  When I get home from work, they've already put themselves to bed.  But they're still laying so I'm happy.

Sainsbury's update:  It's now over 3 weeks since my delivery wasn't delivered and I still haven't had my money refunded despite repeated calls.  Tonight's phone call assured me (again!!) that the refund has DEFINITELY gone through and it should be back in my account in 3 days.  We'll see!!!!!