Saturday, 21 May 2022

Some wedding photos


L to R:  Alastair (32), me, David (35) and Gordon (24)

My ex husband and his wife are just behind me. I played nice, lol! 😉

I'm obviously being very witty here!!

All my boys and girls! 😍

Sunday, 15 May 2022

Too Good to Go gone


I forgot to post about my last TGTG bag at the end of April.  It was an M&S bag for £5.  As you can see I got a lot of stuff.  There was: apple juice, cream doughnuts, eggs, beef slices, sour cream dip, mango fingers, smoked salmon and potato salad, luxury fish pie, sushi, Scotch eggs (yuck although my lovely mum ate one), chicken and avocado sandwich, spinach and falafal wrap and a strawberry mousse.  

Full retail price was £42.20!!  Definitely the best bag any of us have bagged so far!


Most of it I shouldn't eat as it contained dairy and wheat.  The apple juice, mango, eggs and roast beef slices were all ok but I ate the rest of it any way 🙄  And I suffered for it!!  My digestive system protested big time, not ideal in the run up to the wedding.

Too Good to Go is a fab idea if you don't have dietary issues.  So I've deleted the app and it's gone.  I can spend £5 wisely at Lidl and get plenty of healthy food my stomach likes.

After yesterday's post about finding stuff in the bottom of my freezer, I emptied it and sorted out what I have in there.  I've made a list so I can plan some meals.  I think I have enough to keep me going all month.  That's going to be my challenge! 

Saturday, 14 May 2022

Supermarket free May?


I didn't make a conscious decision to stay out of the supermarket this month but I've got to the 14th without needing to buy any food.  I've been using up what's in my fridge and freezer and will move on to the store cupboards soon!  I found another(!) tub of frozen mixed berries from the garden in the very bottom of my freezer (I really need a better system!) and used them in some sheet pancakes this morning.  Recipe HERE  I'm out of soya milk but had some out of date soya yoghurt so used that instead.  They taste great!

I had a load of eggs to use up, some from last month's Too Good to Go bag and some from Tuppence.  I also made a rice crust quiche and used up a wrinkly pepper and squishy tomatoes (also from a TGTG bag) 

Earlier this week I had some sweet potatoes that I just cubed and baked with fajita spice.  I made roast potatoes with the white potatoes.  They lasted me 4 days and I just ate them with beans and/or eggs on the side.  Simple food but delicious!

I've carrots and onions to use up so they'll go into some lentil and rice soup.  So I'll have pancakes for breakfasts, soup for lunches and quiche for evening meals served with frozen veg.  I've pulled some frozen duck breasts out the freezer (as you do!!) so need to find a way to use them up this week.  I have plenty of food, I just need to be creative to turn it into meals 😋

I popped over to the allotment and cleaned out the polytunnel. It's ready for my tomato plants! 🍅 I've also got some pepper and chilli plants but they're not quite big enough to put in yet.  The rest of my plot is a mess but I'm doing a wee bit at a time.  I've ordered some recycled plastic compost bins to turn my weeds into compost!

I've completed my first full week of teaching since January.  I'm a bit tired but I'm ok.  I'm learning to pace myself and not overdo things.  I'm not a patient person so that's hard!! 😁

Saturday, 7 May 2022

April Spending and health catch up


I'm a week late with April's spending analysis but I had a good reason last weekend!  As expected (and sort of planned for) it was a spendy month thanks to the wedding.  I haven't added up every single item as it was getting scary 😱 but items to note were increased food costs due to having my middle son home for a week and putting fuel in my car for the first time in 3 months.  I have a hybrid car so don't use much fuel.  And wedding 'stuff' is crazily expensive!

Me and my Lovely Mum

The short answer is I have nothing left to put in savings this month!  But I'm ok with that, this is a long term project and I'm back on track already.

Savings account at 30th April still has £3598.96.  

In other news, my youngest son and GF got the keys to their new house.  They're moving out on the 20th.  It's been lovely having them living with me while they saved up but I'll be glad to get my house back to myself.  No more washing machine on 3 times a day!! 

And they got engaged while on holiday! 💍

The week before the wedding I had my follow up doctor appt.  Unfortunately my own GP was off sick so it was with a different doctor.  I didn't have high hopes and was prepared to have to re book one with my own.  But she was amazing!  She checked out everything from my previous appt and updated all my prescriptions.  

I have a chest x-ray booked for next week (to check out the breathlessness) and I had bloods taken earlier this week.  I've already had the results back and everything is normal except for my cholesterol levels.  All I know is they're a 'bit high' but I'll find out more next week when I have a nurse appt.  It's not rocket science, I'll be told to exercise, lose weight and watch what I eat.  I am determined I will not go on statins (unless they're dangerously high right now!) and I'm pleased to report that my BP is completely back to normal! Phew!!

I've completed my 4 week phased return to work.  I've been summoned to an attendance meeting with HR (completely normal after a long term absence) to talk about my health and my work.  As I'm the union rep in my school I normally accompany other people to their meetings.  I get to have my union's  Local Secretary at mine!!  It's also being lead by the Head of HR and not an assistant!  It's normally just a box ticking formality but we're hoping to use this opportunity to raise our concerns about teachers (and others) feeling the pressure to return to work too quickly when they've been ill.  I wrote about it HERE

It's now the season of report writing, Parent Contact meetings and transition events for the Nursery children coming into P1.  School finishes here on 24th June so there's a lot to get done in the next 7 weeks!

Monday, 2 May 2022

Scrubbed up!


Actually scrubbed up nicely for the wedding!  My hair and makeup were done by 2 amazing professionals (I've recently taught both their sons!) so I felt good. 

I'll post some pics when the bride and groom have posted theirs publicly.

I'm exhausted now!

Friday, 29 April 2022

Wedding Weekend

It's all rather hectic here as we're preparing for my eldest son's wedding this weekend.  My middle son is home from Australia for a few weeks.  My youngest son and his GF get their new house today.  He had a collision in his car last night, luckily just pulling out from a junction but there's a lot of damage to his car.  Photo doesn't do it justice but it's undriveable.  Everyone was thankfully ok.  And at my doctor's check up this week I've discovered on top of everything I have high blood pressure! 

I'm soooo looking forward to some normality returning next week!!  Wedding photos soon 👰💕

Monday, 18 April 2022

Easter Monday


It was such a lovely morning, cold but sunny.  So I went to the plot.  Only the second time this year but there were a few things I had to do.  I was thrilled to see some blossom on my old apple tree.  This is my 3rd season on this plot and it's never flowered before.  The previous plot holder told me it hadn't produced apples for years so I've pruned it hard twice and it seems to be paying off.  Fingers crossed it's perked up and will grow some apples this year 🤞🍎

My main job was to get some potatoes planted.  It's traditional to plant your earlies during the Easter weekend.  Just made it!!  These are the early variety Casablanca, harvested when new and small 😋  I have some maincrop Cara to plant in the coming weeks.  I weeded and dug this long trench by going slowly and taking a few breaks.  But I did it!!  At the same time I chatted to my neighbour about his upcoming retirement.  I told him I was very jealous!!  He was asking me what my plans were for the plot this year and I told him it was simply grow as much food as I can!!

I earthed them up and fingers crossed they survive any frosty nights we might still get.  I harvested some leeks and onions.  They'd been left in the ground over Winter as I wasn't able to tidy up the plot in October. 

They're already chopped up and in the freezer!  As you can see I use the whole leek, not just the white bit.  Brilliant in soup but also a good sub for onion in some dishes.

My bruised knuckle is slowly healing (it got bashed by an apple corer, don't ask!!) 🙄 Luckily it's not my writing hand so shouldn't affect work.  Schools are back tomorrow (Tuesday) here.  I'm working 2 half days and 2 full days this week as I'm still on my phased return.  Genuinely no idea how I'll get on as I still get breathless and a bit tired.  I can't believe this is the last term with my wee kiddos.  There will be lots of outdoor learning with planting stuff and finding mini beasts 🌱🐌🐛🕷  It's highly likely we'll get our "Special Visitors" to inspect us this term but heyho, bring it on.  I'm not going to stress about it, that's way above my pay grade!!  If I'm doing it all wrong after 30+ years then they can show me what to do.  Or I'll just retire 😉

Wednesday, 13 April 2022

Empty fridge, full(er) freezer


I've really been making an effort to use, freeze or preserve all the fresh food I have.  This is my fridge this afternoon.  There's a full unopened pot of soya yoghurt, a couple of opened cheeses, butter and spread, various relishes/chutney, a tube of tomato puree, a filled mini roll (courtesy of my son's Magic Bag from M&S) and some poached pears.

I had some pears that were hard for aaaages then overnight started to turn mushy at the top 🙄  I poached them in a simple syrup flavoured with cardamom as I didn't have any cinnamon sticks.  Actually very tasty! 

I made apple and plum chutney, using up the apples from the Dobbies/Sainsbury's bag.  They were very sour!  The plums were in the bottom of my freezer from last year.  Recipe loosely based on this one HERE  I also finished making the bread and butter pickles.

I'd say my freezer is about 2/3 full.  There's a lot of food in there I need to get used up as I want to defrost it before the summer.  I noticed today my rhubarb is growing well in the garden so I'll need to start harvesting it soon.  I think I still have 1 box left in the freezer so I must use it soon!!

It's been a productive day using up stuff! 😋

Tuesday, 12 April 2022

More Too Good to Go and using up stuff


Oh dear, this Too Good to Go app is addictive!!  To be fair I was pre warned! 😂 My son's GF and I got a Magic Bag each from the above place.  It was £3.99 a bag (box of Timbits and box of 6 doughnuts per bag.)  Apparently these doughnuts (sorry - donuts!) cost £2.29 to £3.69!!! EACH!!! 😲😲😲 And the box of 20 Timbits is £8.99.  So sad person that I am, I looked up what each individual donut cost and think we each got at least £25 worth of food for £3.99.  I know they do bundle deals etc but really, my flabber is well and truly ghasted!!  And tbh, they just taste ok!!  My son and his GF are raving about them so I'm guessing it's a generation thing 🙄

I researched freezing doughnuts and they do freeze.  Cream/custard filled ones tend to split apparently (although they taste ok) so I picked 3 glazed ones and froze them.  I gave my son my box of Timbits to take to work to share and I'm giving my other son and his fiance the rest.  It was fun stalking the app to get a bag and then standing outside the drive thru at 11.30pm to collect it.  But I'll not be doing this particular one again unless I have an event or something where they would be a good value for money dessert.

I did secure an M&S bag yesterday but they cancelled it as they had no food to give away.  They do refund you quickly.  I'm getting another Dobbies/Sainsbury's one tonight.

Edited to say I cancelled this bag as I realised I didn't really need it.  You can cancel up to 2 hours before the collection time.  Within 5 mins I had my money refunded.  When I checked the app again my bag had already been snapped up so I hope someone else gets the benefit of a lovely bag of stuff.

I blanched and froze the mini carrots from the last bag.  I think these will be added to a slow cooker stew at some point.

I made mango and apple chutney with the 2 mangoes and 4 of the apples.  It's a bit sticky but tastes blooming lovely! 😋  I loosely followed this recipe HERE The apples didn't break down because they were eating ones and not for cooking really so I blended the mixture a bit.  I think that's why it's a bit more sticky.

And I've started a batch of bread and butter pickles as I had a cucumber lurking in the fridge.  Recipe HERE  They'll sit overnight in the salt then I'll pickle them tomorrow.

I'm tired now as I've spent all morning trying to use up what I've got.  Time for lunch now and a wee rest I think 😊

Sunday, 10 April 2022

Too Good to Go


I recently signed up to the Too Good to Go app and this afternoon I finally got a bag from my local Dobbies that has a Sainsbury's food hall.  I was really surprised at the quality of the produce.

My Magic Bag cost me £3.99 and contained:

  • 6 apples
  • 2 mangoes
  • sweet and sour sauce
  • baby carrots 
  • 200g smoky cheese
  • 6 premium eggs
  • lemon and lime posset (a posh pudding)
  • coleslaw

Full price would have been £12.70, the reduced price would have been £6.78.  So for £3.99 I have the makings of several meals, snacks and maybe some preserves.  I'll keep a note of what I make for a future blog as a bargain is only a bargain if you actually use it!   

I've made a few local businesses my 'favourites' so I can keep an eye on their future bags. You have to be quick to get some bags!!   I have a local butcher and a greengrocer as well as some well known high street chains on my list.

Since I was in a frugal money saving/use it up kinda mood this morning, I raided the fridge to use up some leftovers.  And to make room for my incoming Magic Bag! 

I had some cooked rice left over from Friday night that had to be used today.  I made a rice crust quiche.  Recipe HERE.   I mixed the eggs (from Tuppence!) with some sad looking spring onions, a handful of frozen sweetcorn and grated in the end of a piece of grana padano cheese.

I filled up the oven with a bag of sweet potatoes that were lurking.  I cut some into wedges and seasoned them with my home made fajita seasoning.  It makes me so happy to see a full oven!  My house guests haven't quite mastered the art of making full use of it when it's on.  I'm sure they'll learn quickly though when they're paying their own electricity bill! 😱😂

Lunch today was some quiche and a few wedges.  Tonight's meal was the same but with added coleslaw and the posh pudding!! 😋

I'm now entering the second week of the Easter break and I 'think' I'm finally getting my mojo back!  I've actually made plans to get and about but my main tasks are garden and plot preparations 🌱🌼 

Wednesday, 6 April 2022

Rainbow colours


I spent yesterday and today sorting out some paperwork.  Actually, quite a lot of paperwork!!  The 2 boxes on the right were full plus a few trays and baskets.  I filled 3 black bags of shredded documents! 😲  I'll add some to my compost and use the rest to make paper bricks for the woodburner. 

Throughout my 24 years of married life,  my ex took care of all the paperwork.  I've mentioned before he was an accountant by trade.  He firmly believed in keeping EVERYTHING for 7 years "just in case it was needed."  It's a habit I sort of continued but totally without a system.  I even have an office sized metal filing cabinet!!  It was ridiculous and it was starting to bother me.  So I made a start on clearing out my own paperwork and some of my sons' paperwork I had lurking.

I've reduced it all to just 4 box files in lovely rainbow colours.  In fact, I'm going to order a blue and a purple/violet box to complete the set! 🌈 If I have to have something boring and practical it might as well be pretty!

The box files will sit in the bottom of my living room bookcase which has books sorted by colour (the red, orange and violet ones are just out of sight.)  My (empty!) gin bottle collection is also rainbow themed.  I have been gifted a red bottle but will have to wait until it's owner has finished the gin!! 🍸

Monday, 4 April 2022

Filling the freezer and wedding outfit!


I'm still finding tubs of frozen fruit in the depths of my deep freezer!!  I keep trying to use up stuff I find in there but end up making stuff to put back in!! 😂  It is encouraging though when I thought last summer I wasn't growing enough to make the effort of growing it worthwhile.  Just putting a wee amount in the freezer regularly adds up.

I made a batch of sheet pancakes with some mixed berries and raspberries.  They were sliced into squares and frozen straightaway.  They reheat beautifully in the microwave 😋

I made a huge vegetable lasagne yesterday and a game casserole today.  I've started eating meat again.  Only a small amount and only if I know it's ethically/sustainably sourced.  Eating meat is expensive so a little every now and again should be enough to keep my diet healthy.  Everything was portioned up and labelled to go in the freezer.  

It's now only 1 month until my eldest son gets married 👰  I've had my outfit since last summer.  I tried it on in January and it still fitted.  I tried it on again last weekend to alter the length and I couldn't even get it up over my hips.  Being ill and inactive for a few months has made me gain weight.  I panicked, thinking I need to get a new outfit.  I hadn't budgeted for it and was really grumpy about the whole thing.  I ordered a new (similar) outfit in a bigger size and hung it up next to the original.  Something didn't look right.

Somehow I had tried on the original outfit with part of the fixed belt at the back instead of the front.  No wonder I couldn't get the blooming thing on!!!  Tried it on and still fits!

D'oh!!! 🤦

Thursday, 31 March 2022

March Spending


They're tiny but oh my goodness these wee asparagus spears did make me smile this morning! 😋 There was a hard frost last night, my road was even gritted by the gritter.  But they look so good in the stunning sunshine we have this morning.

This is a non work day on my phased return plan.  I've done 2 mornings this week and will be in school all day tomorrow.  So far it's been a smooth transition back.  I'm just very tired afterwards.  I slept 10 hours last night which is very unusual for me.  My body obviously needs it.  One more day then it's the school Easter break.

As it's the last day of the month, it's time to look at my spending in March.  Ooft!!  It's been a spendy month 😲  Biggest outgoing was my quarterly energy bills. £591.22 for gas and £276.93 for electricity.  This was for Dec/Jan/Feb so the coldest months of the year.  I've been off work for a large part of that time.  Plus my son's GF works from home 3 to 4 days a week.  I can't ask her sit in the freezing cold while she works for the NHS!  So the heating has been on all day.  They have given me a contribution towards it.  Luckily I had planned and budgeted for it so not (too big) a shock.  I usually switch the heating off in April and try not to turn it back on until September.  I remembered to take and submit my meter readings this morning.  If you're in the UK remember to do this as the energy prices go up from tomorrow.

I also had to pay my annual insurance on the flat my eldest son lives in.  Again planned and budgeted for so not a surprise .  It had gone up by about £40.  I can't really shop around as it's a specialist policy for a family landlord.

I found yet another subscription that slipped through my December clear out.  This one was a quarterly one.  I thought I'd cancelled it but apparently I hadn't checked the 'cancel auto renew' button on my account.  Very sneaky!!  It should be done now.

There were a few unplanned items like replacing my wee garden greenhouse that was damaged beyond repair in the storms, plus a takeaway meal to celebrate my son and his GF finally buying a house (just round the corner from me!)  I treated myself to a counter top compost caddy to remind me to put raw food in my own compost bin and not the council recycling bin.

I'm sticking to one big supermarket delivery at the start of the month and one other top up shop.  That seems to be working for me.  Food waste is minimal although my son and his GF (who do all their own food buying and cooking) aren't quite as good!  I regularly see stuff they've put in the bin that frankly I'd still eat or would feed to the chicken!!  I've gently hinted they check with me before throwing out stuff but it's taken me years to get to this point so I'm definitely not criticising.  I hope I've been showing them a good example while they've been living here.  They do meal plan and batch cook at weekends now.

Total spend for March (excluding known and budgeted for house and car costs) was £576.31 😲

Savings account total: £2071.96 but...

I realised that I didn't explain (or did I??) when I set up my challenge to save £10k in a year, that I'm paying for my new kitchen and bathroom in monthly repayments out of my salary account.  I already have the full amount for both sitting in another account (my inheritance from my uncle) so I'm going to move that monthly amount of £509 into my savings account as well.  That will give me a fuller picture of trying to save half of my actual take home salary and the inheritance money won't just get used up in other things.  So I'm adding £1527 (Jan/Feb/Mar payments 3 x £509) into my savings account.

Well done if you're still keeping up!!!  The actual numbers are boring for anyone else but I like to work out them out so I stay motivated!

So, savings account at 31st March now has £3598.96 😊  On target so far but it takes a lot of effort and planning to stay on track!!

Three months down, 45 to go! 👍

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

The day after


After a deliberately quiet weekend pottering around my garden in brilliant sunshine, I returned to work yesterday morning.  After just 3 hours with my wee kiddos I came home and collapsed!!!  Then slept 11 hours last night 😴 It's going to take the full phased return to get back up to full speed.  I'm trying to be patient as it will be worth it in the long term but oh it's hard!!!!

At the weekend I had to put up the old Omlet fencing round my raised beds as Tuppence has trashed them.  The small one has my 5 asparagus crowns.  I noticed the first spears popping up so weeded it and topped it up with fresh compost.  I noticed this morning that I have 3 spears that are now a few inches high.  This is year 3 for them so I can harvest lightly 😋  I read that asparagus and strawberry plants grow well together so my lovely mum has planted up some of her runners for me to put in there this Summer.

This longer bed still had a few red kale plants that were nearly finished so I pulled them out and gave them to Tuppence.  I had put cardboard and compost on it for the Winter but she has completely scratched up the decomposing cardboard and it's a mess.  I'll need to work on this bed over the Easter break as this is usually my Summer salad veg bed.

Look at that innocent face!!!

I had planned to potter in the garden today but yesterday has really wiped me out.  So it's a quiet day here, doing a few work things for tomorrow.  I did wander round and do a mental stocktake of what has survived.

Black pots are echinacea (bargain from Sarah Raven last year). It's starting to re grow already.  It'll probably be another year or two before I can harvest it and use it to make tinctures. I do have 2 larger plants in pots in my front garden.  Brown pots have the 3 blackcurrant prunings I literally just stuck in pots and they've rooted!  So that's 3 more bushes to plant at the allotment for my fruit forest bed, for free.  Blackcurrants are high in vitamin C so they're another source of healthy goodness I can preserve for Winter remedies.

This is last year's rescued rosemary plant from B&Q.  It's really doing well!

This is a mature gooseberry bush from my lovely mum's garden as she was clearing out some of her plants.  It's very prickly so will need extra careful handling when I take it to the plot!  More free plants for the fruit forest!

And finally my blueberry bushes.  All 4 have survived the Winter and are in bud.  I gave them a light prune and topped the pots up with ericaceous compost so here's hoping for an even bigger crop this year!  The fig tree has also survived and is doing well in the paler coloured pot on the right.

It's slowly coming together.  It'll take a few more years to get my perennial fruit and veg production levels up but I'm working hard on it.  I doubt I'll ever be on the same level as someone like Vivi but I really want to grow as much as I can.  We're living in scary times so the more self sufficient we can be the better!

Friday, 25 March 2022

Returning to 'normal'


The weather has been lovely this week.  I've been able to get out into the garden and gently potter.  Today I was brave and went to my plot.  And I was so happy I did.  I just had a good look at everything and sat in the sun, taking it all in.  It always brings me instant calm.

I went into school yesterday to meet with my Headteacher and discuss my phased return (well I drew up a timetable and gave her it!)  I went to visit my class and I was overwhelmed with the response.  My wee kiddos have missed me 😍 And my colleagues said they'd missed me too!  I was really tired afterwards.

I go back on Monday.  I'm working 3 mornings and an afternoon.  Then it's the 2 week Easter break.  I think that should be doable.  It feels like the beginning of things returning to normal, whatever normal is these days.

Wednesday, 16 March 2022

Quinoa, polenta and tofu


I've been going through my storecupboard with the intention of using up all the stuff that's been lingering in there for ages!!  I'm not a regular eater of quinoa and polenta so I've no idea how long they've been there.  At least I had the foresight to write the date on the quinoa!  Can't remember when or why I bought the polenta.  I don't think I've ever made anything with it so why did I buy it?? 😕

I made some quinoa last night and had it with fried halloumi.  I over salted it (forgetting that you don't drain the water out, you let it absorb) so the whole meal was just too salty.  I woke up this morning with a dry mouth!!  But I'll have it again to use it up, just less salt next time!

If anyone has any suggestions for the polenta, let me know!  The tofu is sadly well out of date!!!  I'm annoyed I've missed that.  Once the quinoa and polenta are used up I won't be buying them again.  With food prices going crazy I'm going to simplify my menu and ingredients.

I made some more bean bags for school.  That's all the cannellini beans used up and some soya beans.  These will be more useful than eating them!!

And my seeds are starting to sprout!  I didn't sow as many as I did last year.  I ended up giving away and composting more than half.  So I'm being more economical this time.  They're a bit leggy but I can transplant them deeper when the time comes.  Only ones that haven't done anything yet are the aubergines/eggplant on the far left.  It was older seed but maybe they take longer to germinate.  It always feels hopeful once seeds start growing 🌱

Speaking of hopeful, I've been offered a phased return to work.  Maybe next week or the week after.  I'm feeling a lot better, the cough has improved although I still cough and wheeze on exertion.  I've formally raised concerns with my union and HR about the pressure to return to work too soon.  And they're both taking it very seriously!!  At a time when we're seeing Covid cases dramatically increasing in Scotland atm I'm glad I'm being acknowledged.  

During my assessment for returning to work I was told that my chest infection probably wasn't from another virus as I thought.  It's more likely to have come from the original Covid virus in January. My  returning to work too quickly has had a direct impact on my illness now.

I'll not be making that mistake again!!

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

Loo rolls and those dried beans


I made some loo roll planters to get my peas started.

I filled them with compost and sat them to warm up at the window on the stair half landing.

I counted out the exact number of peas (33) and soaked them in water ready to sow tomorrow.

I found a use for those pesky dried beans (plus a spoonful of dried lavender.)

And made a prototype bean bag (pyramid shaped) that I can use at school.

It's been an odd sort of day where I didn't feel like doing very much.