Monday, March 18

 I am quite a stressy person! I have now been put on high blood pressure tablets by my doctor, which is not good! Ideally of course I should be losing weight, and I am cutting down on the nasty, but oh so yummy stuff! Anyway, along those lines I have decided to take up a relaxing hobby....knitting!
It is one of those things I have been wanting to take up for years, but have never gotten around to. Last week I spent a bit of time googling knitting basics to get me started, and bookmarked a few. Then today I went out to the local wool shop and asked for their advice. They recommended a knitting encyclopedia and a ball of wool to get me started and off I went happy as larry!
When I got home I dug out the huge bag of knitting needles my Nan gave me last year and set to work!
It took a combination of both the book and You Tube but I now have a lovely little piece of garter stitch! Now it is time to try purl! This is fun!

I also bought some material while I was there to have a go at the pattern my mother in law bought me at Christmas time. Another new hobby! I already have the cotton to match, so if it does work out I will have a new top for £9.....but that is getting ahead of myself.....

Tuesday, March 12

 Typical! I say how lovely the weather is becoming and it does an about turn right back into winter and snow! Snow! In March! Its very pretty, but no thanks! Besides, I nearly skidded across a busy road this morning when taking hubby to the train station, not good!
However, the sun is beaming and melting it, and its actually warmer today than it was yesterday. That called for thick leek and potato soup  to warm the cockles. Served with fresh toasted homemade bread, and a clementine and a little almond bun for pudding. Very filling!
Today I thought I'd follow a recipe for dough sticks, think of Pizza Express dough balls but longer, that I saw on a blog that I just adore: Danielle Blissful and Domestic blog. She is an inspiration! I highly recommend you pop along and have a read.
I used her recipe for breadsticks, but adapted it to suit:

2tsp dried yeast
1tsp sugar
0.75cup warm water
1.75cups bread flour (I used white)
0.5tsp salt
2tbsp oil
I put all these is the bread machine on the dough setting. When it finished I left it to prove for about 30 minutes before knocking it back and rolling it out. I cut it into strips using a pastry cutter which gave then a zig-zag edge. Then dusted them with parmesan and gave them a little spray of oil. I then baked them at 240C for just 6 minutes.

They are dangerously moorish! But they are a good little filler to go with a salad, soup or just to bulk out dinner. I also put some shropshire blue cheese into the machine as I had a small piece in the cheese box that was dated use by November 2012! Bah! Use by dates on cheese?! By definition its mouldy!
Hubby just came home.....cor something smells tasty....well they have been hit...hard! I was going to try freezing some but we will see!

Tuesday, March 5

What a beautiful day!
The sun is shining and we are in double figures! Wooohooo! I am sitting in the dining room with the french doors wide open and the dogs are loving having the freedom to wander in and out. They are bugging me no end to throw a ball, but I am doing my best to ignore them! Nasty mummy!
I (almost) dried two loads of washing on the line yesterday, and this morning I have changed our bed and the throws so the rotary line is weighed down once more. I even have the indoor airer out there too. You cannot beat the smell of line dried washing! Plus it saves having it hooked over the radiators day and night, it drives me nuts!
Can you keep a secret? I have knocked down the heating to just three 30 minutes slots now. I am just petrified of the heating bill this winter. I usually have it switched off completely by March so its time to cut back even though it is still cold at night.
The new hellebores I treated myself to last week seem to be ok out in the garden. One is in a slightly "dangerous" place, puppy wise, but I have made a little fence with some small bamboo canes so hopefully it wont get trampled. It will look so pretty for next winter though, just outside the back door that it is worth a go.
I made a "big" purchase last week. I won a dresser on ebay for £150. It is a huge solid wood one that is easily 6ft wide and slightly taller. I have to say a huge thank you to the previous owner as he delivered it for me (I did ask first!). It was within the village so it was too good an opportunity to miss, plus it is gorgeous! I polished it up yesterday with a dark oak beeswax that all our furniture is finished with, and it look fantastic! It is slowly being filled, but there is a long way to go! Once the warmer weather comes I will have a go at sorting out the garage and when there is room for the suitcases in there, I can clear the understairs cupboard where they currently live and can make that a more useful space. The shoes can live there and I can get a nice cabinet for inside the front door, and smarten us up.
The only downside to this purchase is that it has left me skint for the rest of the month, but it is worth it!
On top of that spend out, I also did a huge food shop as we had double discount for a weekend. I stocked up on all the basics like bread flour, rice, pasta, tinned goods, laundry detergent, cleaning sprays and meat. The cupboards are groaing and the freezer is at bursting point, but all I should need until the end of the month is fresh fruit, veg and eggs. I even made a fantastic yellow sticker purchase, 12 litres of UHT milk for just £1.50, two six packs that were short dates. They are 11th March, but we are already on the 6th litre as I have been making macaroni cheese, custard and such for dinners. I am sure it wont go off overnight though so there is no panic. I eat cereal four days a week on work days so that helps, and there is always tea brewing!
I am getting on ok with my meal planning, but I need to work on the veggies side of things as I am not always using things up while they are at their best. While I never waste anything, it seems a shame to be using slightly soft swedes, and yellowing brussel sprouts.
Here is this weeks offering although we are already part way through:

Sunday: Pork Roast with all the trimmings

Monday: Lattice Pie (store bought yellow stick)

Tuesday: Pork belly marinaded in free chinese sauce from the meat counter with mash and veggies

Wednesday: Quiche Lorraine (using gammon I got cheap and cut up for sandwiches)with jacket potatoes and veggies

Thursday: Chicken curry with rice and nan breads

Friday: Breaded fish and oven chips and mushy peas

Saturday: cooked breakfast with toast or pancakes

The garden is coming to life, and it really does lift the spirits! Strangley, shrubs and perennials seem to be waking up long before the tulips and daffodils! I do hope we do get some poking through soon!

Monday, February 18

Today is my last day off work. Usually you can say time off flies by, but not so much this time. Not that I am looking forward to going back!
Yesterday was probably the best day weather wise, I was finally able to go and potter in the garden without losing feeling in my fingers, despite work gloves! I cleared away the last of the autumn leaves that were missed. There are actually quite a few signs of life out there. The roses are beginning to shoot, the hucheras are producing a few new leaves, the potted hosta shows signs of stirring and the giant green hellebore in the front garden is going bonkers yet again! I staked up some most of the flowering shoots so they don't droop, and now you can see them in all their glory. I treated myself to another one the other day. I have been meaning to buy one for a long time, this time a beautiful dark purple one. I have planted it in the same bed as the other one, at the opposite end, but it will actually get even more sun that the green one so fingers crossed it will be happy.
I have a few seeds on the go in the extension, did I already tell you? Anyway, there are a few of signs of life there too which is encouraging. They are only very early things veggies and a few flower seeds, but it is spirit lifting none the less. It brings hope which is always welcome!

Sunday, February 10

Despite the thoroughly depressing weather outside, I persuaded Hubby to come with me to the garden centre to buy some growbags. I bought three, on offer for 3 for £12, though I may need some more later on. So, after digging out the little pots from the garage and washing them, I have made the first sowings of the year! There are a few tomato seeds gone in, early ones, cauliflowers, daisies, hellebores and cosmos. I am dreaming of warmer weather!
I also have a lot of broad bean seeds to go directly in the tubs, but I fear they will just rot if I put them in now as all it does is rain!

After the disappointment of only a £10 sale price, the saucepans were not collected, so they have been relisted, with over 8 days to go they have had their first bid, fingers crossed they will get a bit more this time!

I have the aroma of a roasting chicken in the house now, yummmmm, such a lovely comforting smell. Its a nice big one so I will definately get two meals for three, maybe even three if I am careful. Roast tonight, maybe a curry and then a pie mixed with some leftover bacon.

Monday, February 4

Late last night I decided to finally have a go at a bread recipe from the Hairy Bikers Bakation book I got from hubby for Christmas. After a failed attempt to get the yeast going from a new tub of yeast, I began again at 10.30pm! This time it worked perfectly and I left it to prove in the cool kitchen overnight. This morning I knocked it back and left it prove once more while I whipped up a batch of cheese scones using up the last of the Christmas Stilton and another new recipe, this time from Delia's Frugal Foods, but also using caraway seeds.
Its the first time In have used caraway seeds, and was very surprised to find they smell like spearmint! However, even after my first slice of Norwegian Rye bread, I am not quite sure.... I hope I like the "Old Fashioned Seed Cake" a bit more! However it has made me want to get back into hand baking our bread again. I used to make it every day when we lived in Canada for a year as we found the supermarket offerings far too sweet. But although we haven't gone back to store bought bread (apart form the occasional cheap loaf for an emergency), we rely on the bread machine. I wonder though, which is more energy saving, having the oven on for 40 minutes, or the machine on overnight?

Sunday, February 3

I have just done my first shop of the week, mostly meat, which is usual for Sundays.
My receipt:

2 x Large Chicken £1.49 each
Beef Braising Steak £1.15
Pork Belly £1.11
Pork Leg Escalopes 99p
2 x twin packs Haddock Fishcakes 98p
Squirty Cream £1
Naughty Half Price Chocolate Treat £1.05
Bunch of Daffodils £1

Total: £10.26

That brings my months shopping money down from the £100 starting point to £73.35p which bar a few pence is right on target.
There is enough meat on each chicken for at least two meals for 3 adults, maybe three depending on what I do with them, plus stock and scraps for soup.
I have half a small black pudding to go with the diced braising to make a nice stew in the slow cooker one night, probably a work night so its ready to come home to.

There has to be treats in there sometimes, or you'd go insane! So, apart from the naught chocolate there is the bunch of daffodils for the lounge. They are such good value, as long as they are not in direct sunlight they will last for well over a week, longer than your average bunch of supermarket flowers, and they are so cheerful to look at!

I have come up with my menu plan for the week ahead, but its more based on what is already in the freezer. I am trying to "rotate the stock" in the deep freeze so nothing is in there too long, well thats the theory anyway!

Sunday: Haggis with mash and swede
Monday: Pork something or other, I am going to hit the cook books for inspiration!
Tuesday: Spaghetti Bolognaise
Wednesday: Chilli con carne
Thursday: Fish cakes
Friday: Black pudding & Beef Stew
Saturday: Cooked Breakfast

I have just sat down with the last two buns and a cup of tea while writing this post, so I will also bake some more, or a loaf cake tomorrow while the oven is on.

While I was at work today my Le Creuset saucepans auction ended, and very disappointingly I must add. The set ended up on just £10.55! I am actually pretty gutted and angry with myself for not setting the end time for when I was here so I could cancel it if necessary. Oh well, c'est la vie!