Thursday 30 August 2018

Free fruit!

These 3 bags of plums appeared on my desk this morning.  

I now have 1.5kg of halved and stoned plums in my freezer tonight!

One of my colleagues brought some plums from her garden the other day to share in the staff room.  She was complaining that her tree had more plums on it than she could cope with. I said I'd take any extra she had to make chutney.  She immediately offered me "loads more plums" and some apples too.  A conversation followed where several people asked me what you need to make chutney.  I said you can make chutney with most fruit and veggies.

This morning after the plums appeared another colleague asked if I could use some berries as her neighbour keeps giving her some.

So tomorrow I've been promised plums, apples and berries.  And I'm hoping to pick the elderberries in our school playing field! 

Sunday 26 August 2018

Busy weekend

Well my first weekend back at work has certainly been busy!  I'm a woman on a mission to get this house ready to sell!  😊 I finished stripping and sanding 3 layers of paint off the door into the downstairs wet room.  This door will be purple to match the door into the kitchen. 💜

This is the inside   It will be just boring white!!

Despite the pissing down heavy rain, OH sanded the area to the entrance of my front door and primed the sheltered bit.  What a huge difference painting it white will make!  The front door will also be white.  I never use this door but it's the one first time visitors will enter.  We're hoping the weather next weekend will be kinder and it will be finished.

I spent some time today meal prepping for the week.   I began by saving my veg scraps to make vegetable stock at some point.  I'll keep adding to the bag in the freezer and when it's full I'll make stock.  I don't know why I've never done this before!!!  I saw it on a Youtube video.  Just shows you can always learn something new!

So my fridge is now full with 4 portions pulled beef, 4 portions shredded chicken, 3 overnight oats, 1 portion almond pancakes, 3 mugs of soup, 1kg roast cauliflower, 3 roasted peppers and 2 sweet potatoes sliced and baked into 'toast.'  Since I took this photo I've also cooked some rice.

 So lots of meals all ready to go, no thinking required!

I recently popped into TK Maxx and found this jacket.  It's a Michael Kors and was £69.99.  Lightweight, warm and showerproof.  Perfect for work especially as it's got a hood!  Interestingly (or not!!) it's TJ Maxx in America.  I'm assuming it's the same company?!  That brings my annual clothing spend so far up to £421.21.  I need a few more technical tops for the gym so I'm keeping an eye on the sales for some good deals. 

Wednesday 22 August 2018

Yes, I do have a plan

I'm 3 days into the new term and I have already been asked several times if I know when I'm retiring yet!  The answer is yes I do.  Although I don't know when but I do know how.  I have a plan that's been formulating in my head since we came back from Australia.

First, I need to finish bringing my house up to date and making it sale worthy (on a budget) so I'm spending my cash and time on all those DIY jobs.  I'm working on a list of jobs to do and a schedule to do them.

Second, we will sell both of our houses and buy one together 😊😊😊 We have already looked online at the areas and types of property we like.  We've drawn up a wish list of  non negotiable items.  Large garage/workshop for him, large kitchen with Aga for me (I really miss my Aga).  Space to keep a campervan.  Garden/land for polytunnel and chickens.

Third, reduce my working week to 3 days.

Fourth, OH retires then I retire!

We both want to retire from our current jobs but actually we're open to still working in some other part time capacity.  We both have interests and passions that we could pursue that would generate an income.  Neither of us is the type to sit and do nothing!

So 3 days into the term and all is going well.  I have 2 new pupils who have settled into the class nicely but I'm getting another one next week that is going to change all that *sighs*

My classroom is still not fully set up but I'm gradually unpacking everything.  Hopefully it'll be finished in time for the Meet the Teacher event next week!

Wednesday 15 August 2018

The last few days

So these last few days of my holiday have been spent decluttering my huge kitchen cupboard.  For ages I've wanted to move my every day dishes into it but I'd been putting it off as it would mean completely stirring my kitchen.

I emptied the cupboard and started making piles of all the stuff I wanted to sort out.  I ended up with a large box for the charity shop (new students will be arriving in town soon) and I ruthlessly binned all the chipped and cracked stuff.   I took all the opened packets and put the contents into glass jars.  I binned some out of date stuff.  There wasn't much this time I'm happy to say!!

It looks so much better and my plates are easier to get to now.  Looking at it makes me happy although OH couldn't see the difference!!!  Pah!

I gave the fronts a good clean.  Although I don't like the rough finish of the technique I used with the chalk paint it does clean nicely.  I'm glad I spent the time applying the wax properly.

After 3 years I finally added a hook to hang my aprons.  It needed to be on the left so it doesn't bang into the cupboard when the door is opened.


I've also been sanding and stripping in my utility room.  The woodwork was varnished with a very shiny varnish so it's all been sanded off.  I don't do anything shiny!! It will be painted in a satin finish white.  I've started stripping the paint of the door into my downstairs wet room.  I love using the heat gun!! Doesn't look great atm but the bit I've sanded as well is very smooth so should be good to paint over.  It'll be purple, same as my kitchen door 💜

I've added my new rug and curtains to my family room/den and written a long blog post on My upcycled home. Do have a look HERE.  I'm going to do a detailed post about all the rooms in my house as I complete them.  Let me know what you think.

I now have just 1 day left of my holiday.  I still haven't popped into school as planned this week but I'm not stressing about it.  I am determined this year to keep a close eye on my workload and set an example for the younger teachers by not doing excessive hours.  That said I am going in tomorrow just to see what needs to be done.  8 of out 12 teachers were moving into new rooms and the resource room was relocated so the school was in quite a state on the last day of term. Hopefully it will be ok by Monday when the kids are back.  Eeeeek!!

Sunday 12 August 2018

500th post!

This is the 500th post on this blog.  Wow!! When I started writing in this one I didn't think I'd still be posting 6 years later, after all it was called 40k in 4 Years.

This isn't my first blog! I first started writing a blog in 2007 about my life in the ultra running world, encouraged by a dear friend who was sadly taken too soon.  Then in 2010 I started a new one about the period when I was first separated.  I re read some of it lately and it was a tough read! Then in 2011 I decided I would train for a triathlon and record my thoughts in yet another blog.  Oh and there was the Soup Kitchen blog too (link above) so that takes us to 2012 and the start of this one.

In 2012 I was still living in my dream house in the Perthshire countryside.  My ex had agreed to continue paying the mortgage as my youngest son was 14 and still in school.  Then when he turned 18 we would sell the house.  I would maintain and decorate the house in those 4 years while finding ways to generate an income from it.

I had a plan that required £40k to turn the house into 3 apartments (it had been staff accommodation for the big house next house and had been 2 apartments before conversion to one house) then I could live in one of them and stay there.  I decided I would keep a record of my efforts for the 4 years.

But very quickly my ex decided that he wanted to sell the house and get a clean break.  It took 2 very long years to sell and in the end we lost a LOT of money on it as house prices tumbled.

Looking back, despite the hassle selling the house was the right thing to do.  I love my wee house here and my life is good.

I never did save £40k but over the years my frugality has helped me save decent amounts to do things like buy a campervan, install a woodburner and go on several exciting holidays to see family in Singapore and Australia.  I also bought a wee flat for my son.

I'm still saving for my (early) retirement.  The current plan is to sell my house when OH and I eventually decide to buy a house together.  Or maybe he'll move in here with me.  Who knows??  I've learned over the last 6 years to just enjoy life in the present and not keep looking to the future.

So if you've been with me for a while or if you're new to my ramblings, thank you for reading and commenting and sticking with me as the blog has evolved.  It really makes my day when I get a comment 😘

I wonder how long it'll be until my 1000th post...

Saturday 11 August 2018

Last day: Cook, Clean, Clear and Create

Yesterday was the final day of my wee challenge as it was the last full week of my summer holiday.  I go back to school next Friday (17th) so next week will be all about getting organised for work.  I'll be popping into school as it will be open for the cleaners to go in and finish the 'deep clean.'  Our school has 3 cleaners who are all fabulous but just a few years ago there were 7.  So these lovely ladies have a lot to do in the time.

I did try to create some more of the crumb/scrappy squares but my sewing machine broke.  It's due a service any way but it has stopped play for now.

There was no cook, clean or clear yesterday as OH and I took a day off to go to the Edinburgh Festival for some Fringe shows. We do this every year and it's a fab day out.  We saw the play Brexit featuring some well known comedians (I loved it but OH wasn't as keen) and 2 stand up comedians Jo Caulfield and Mark Steel (both good but not as funny as I'd hoped).  As usual there were lots of free street performances (some good, some ok) and plenty of fab food and drink choices.  We took snacks and water with us but did indulge in some fish and chips!  It was very very busy!!  I thoroughly enjoyed the day but I'm done with people/crowds/cities/public transport for a good few months now!

Every morning when I let Emma out for the first pee of the day, Penny has been waiting for me on the doorstep.  She knows I'm going to feed her and shouts loudly at me to hurry up!!  One of these days she's going to come into the house if I leave the door open long enough.  🐔

Thursday 9 August 2018

Day 11: Cook, Clean, Clear and Create

Tonight's cook was a home made healthy pizza. I'd been looking forward to it all day.  It really was delicious!

My create project was to finish a purple square I started last night.  That makes 6 in total.  I really enjoy making these! I'll do 3 more and then get started on the quilting bit.

My clean and clear for today was to clear out a bit of the garage so I could put my road bike and turbo trainer back in there.  I ended up doing more than I thought but my garage is tidy again and I can access my bikes.  I took a full car load of 'stuff' to the recycling centre.  I always feel good when I do that!

I added the finishing touches to my family room/den.  I bought a plain red lampshade (£12 in B&Q) for the floor lamp and paid a whopping £3.50 for red curtains on Ebay 😂  I've also ordered a rug to disguise the horrible carpet until I can afford a new carpet.

I crawled into the eave space where I've got loads of things stored and looked through the assorted pictures from my old house. I forgot there were so many!!  I found a couple that I thought would look good.

Sadly there's not much I can do about the hideous fireplace!!

The TV isn't connected to an aerial but I can watch DVDs on it.  The cupboard contains my school stuff.  My new rule is if I can't store it in the cupboard it's not staying here.

I have several more boxes ready to take to school so my study is a little messy until that happens.  And as for my dining room again...


Wednesday 8 August 2018

Day 10 : Cook, Clean, Clear and Create

Hmm, not much new cooking has been happening this week but thanks to my full freezer I haven't needed to cook.  All my meals have been a defrost and cook affair.  Love it!

I spent a few lovely hours to create 2 more crumb/scrappy squares.  Top red one is my favourite one so far.

I rather like this pink/lilac one too!! I took some time to iron them all and they're looking much better.  I've got 5 now.  I'm planning a purple one and a neutral one tomorrow ✂

I didn't spend all day sewing (even though I wanted to!) as I was on a clean and clear mission to get my family room/den reorganised.  It's amazing how one change (getting the new to me sofa) has inspired me to change the whole room.  By the time I finished the light wasn't great for taking photos so I'll get some pics tomorrow.  I've got a carload of bags and boxes to take to the recycling centre in the morning and a few boxes that I'll take into school next week.

I'll sleep well tonight after all my efforts! 😴

Tuesday 7 August 2018

Day 9: Just create

Oh dear! I seem to have spent most of today creating these crumb/scrappy squares from the fabric I sorted out yesterday 😂 This one is sort of orangey colours.

This one is navy and blue 

And this one is green (although it looks turquoise on my monitor!!) 

They're very addictive (LOL!!) and easy to make.  They're about 11 or 12 inches and will be trimmed to 10 inches when I quilt them.  They're not ironed yet so look a bit crumpled!

I did give Emma a decent walk and I've been waiting for news all day on the Teenogre's exam results (he did ok but not got into his first choice uni) and DS's girlfriend who had an op (she's groggy but ok) so I don't feel bad for not cleaning or clearing today.  I'm off to the gym now.  I might cook something when I get back.  Or I might not 😉

Monday 6 August 2018

Day 8: Cook, Clean, Clear and Create

I had a stay at home day today as I was waiting for a delivery.  Lots of gentle pottering about was the order of the day!  My cook for today was to do something with these forgotten fruit bowl items.  Nothing very exciting, I just cooked and pureed the apples and popped them in the freezer for later use.  The banana got mashed and the lemons sliced and straight into the freezer with them too.

This was the delivery I was waiting for today.  I swapped 2 small armchairs for this sofa with my lovely mum for my family room/den. We are both delighted with our new seating arrangements!  My clean was to dust, polish and hoover this area before it arrived.  You can just see my road bike to the right on my turbo trainer.  It will be relocated.

My clear was sorting out the many bags of fabric scraps donated by my lovely mum's quilting group.  I've started sorting them by colour and then I'll sort them again into sizes.  Some will go to school and some I think I might try to make into a scrappy cushion cover or 2.  I watched a Youtube clip on how to make a crumb quilt.  That was a new technique to me.  I like how it uses up teeny bits of fabric that would normally get thrown out.

My create was a project I've had in my head for ages.  I made a new cushion for my living room.  Details HERE.  I am trying to finish off all the wee jobs and get this room totally finished.  I also stitched more of the squares on my blanket.  I won't wait so long next time to do the sewing together bit!!!

Sunday 5 August 2018

Day 6 & 7: Cook, Clean, Clear and Create

Yesterday's clean and clear was mostly getting ready for our family meal.  Here's the dining room (tidy-ish) with the table set for 7.  I am very guilty of using my dining table as a dumping area for 'stuff.'  Sadly it's just been stirred elsewhere in the house for another day to clear.

Cook was a Chinese meal for 7 people. This is all that's left from last night!!  The 5 spice pulled beef was AMAZING!! I will definitely make that again. The chicken was simply marinated in honey and Tamari and stir fried.  The prawns were marinated in sesame oil and chilli, also quickly stir fried.

For dessert I made lemonade fruity jelly.  Instead of adding cold water I added cloudy lemonade.  If you let the hot mixture cool a bit before adding it, the bubbles set in the jelly.  For posh meals with just grown ups I've used sparkling wine.  The fruity bit is blueberries and raspberries.

The birthday cake was a banana cake.  Recipe HERE.  Best GF banana cake recipe I've found so far!  I baked it in a bundt tin as my oven doesn't distribute heat evenly. Cakes take longer to bake in the middle and start to burn on the edges.  Having that hole makes a big difference.  To serve I filled it with blueberries and raspberries and dusted it with icing sugar instead of the cream cheese frosting.

My create last night was stitching a few more squares together.  I'm finding my eyesight doesn't like knitting or sewing in artificial light now so only managed 3.

Tonight's cook was a really easy leftovers stir fry.  Tasted better than it looks!

My create today was stitching yet more squares together.  I've now got 3 long strips to stitch to the main blanket.  Thank goodness!! Then I can get one with a different project.

My clean and clear was to totally strip my bed including the zipped on mattress cover.  It got washed and dried outside and after a struggle OH and I managed to get it back on.  Tonight I'll be sleeping in a bed with my new duvet, pillows and bedding.  Lovely! 😴

Friday 3 August 2018

Day 5: Cook, Clean, Clear and Create

Today's cook is really prep for a family meal tomorrow.  OH's daughter (the one in the army) is home on leave and it's her birthday.  Sometimes we go out for a meal but as there are 7 of us it can be expensive and honestly sometimes the food is just ok. So OH asked if I would do my Chinese buffet here.  Of course!  I love cooking for a crowd and I can control what goes into it.

So, I'm marinading a Lidl beef joint (silverside) in Tamari (GF soy sauce), Worcester sauce, brown sugar, white wine, sesame oil, 3 cloves of garlic, 2 inch piece of ginger and 2 tsp of Chinese 5 spice powder.  Tomorrow I'll pop it into the slow cooker and make Chinese spiced pulled beef.  We'll also have a chicken dish and a prawn dish served with fried rice, noodles and prawn crackers.

My create was taking these 2 framed photos to DS's flat.  The photos were taken a lifetime ago at Skibo Castle (where Madonna got married to Guy Ritchie) by a famous photographer.  We weren't members but our friends invited us.

John Swannell signed this one so it might be worth something some day (ha ha!!) but as it has the ex in it, it's been stuffed in a cupboard.

DS had a lovely watercolour painting but the frame and mount were damaged.  My idea was to take 2 pictures apart and create a new one.

I reused the mount and frame from the friends photo to make a new picture with the watercolour painting. It looks much better than this photo of it!  It's a lovely view of Schiehallion above Loch Rannoch.  As a family we spent a lot of time there when DS was young so it means something to him.  We hung the new picture on his wall.  DS loves it and it was free!! Some more details HERE

My clean and clear task for tonight will be the dining room for the meal tomorrow.  

Thursday 2 August 2018

Day 3 & 4: Cook, Clean, Clear and Create

Yesterday's cook was to poach some chicken breasts and shred them to add to meals.  5 chicken breasts made 7 portions for me.

Clean and clear took place at DS's flat.  I helped him clean his wee kitchen and clear out the pots and pans he can't use any more as his new cooker hob is halogen.  We also sorted out his cutlery and cooking utensils and hung up some of his pictures.  It's looking more homely now.

Create was to start stitching together my sock yarn squares to add to my blanket while watching TV.  I only managed a few as my eyesight didn't like the dim evening light.

Today's clean and clear was to make a start on sorting out my yarn and fabric scraps and put them into the chest of drawers I brought back from DS's old flat.  I sorted through all my various bags of sock yarn, threw out all the tangled messes and put the remaining balls in this drawer.  I also found a few more completed squares!!

I added a wee bag of lavender to keep it smelling sweet as the leather and wood smell of the chest of drawers is quite strong.  I've scrubbed clean some plastic tubs for my fabric scraps and I'll sort them out tomorrow.

I've spent a few hours on my create part during the day to make the best of the light and save my poor eyes!

I stitched 11 squares together for the bottom row and 12 for the vertical one on the left.  I've also placed another 13 ready to stitch tomorrow.  Placement of the squares is totally random.  My only 'rule' is not to have the same squares in the same column or row.  Unbelievably my blanket will have 156 squares!!

Tonight's cook will be to make a batch of soya yoghurt overnight in my yoghurt maker.

Thursday night is one of our gym nights but my sinuses are very sore so I might skip it.  I'll take some ibuprofen and see if that helps.  If not then it's a date with The Crown on Netflix!!

Edited to add:  I went to the gym and felt ok 

Wednesday 1 August 2018

Rhubarb Chutney

I'm writing this as I know I'll lose the scrappy bit of paper the recipe is currently on!  Based on THIS RECIPE here's my version based on what I had available.

1.2 kg rhubarb, chopped
750g brown sugar
2 large onions, chopped
270g raisins
600ml apple cider vinegar
4 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp corriander
1 tsp rock salt
1/4 tsp cayenne

Add everything to a preserving pan and slowly bring to boil.  Turn down heat and simmer until thick and pulpy (took about 90 mins for mine).  Pour into sterilised jars.

No need to leave to mature, it can be eaten straight away.  I had some on my cheese and toast 😋