Thursday, 18 May 2017

Ouch!

Thanks for the comments, the time is fairly whipping along now, OH only has 9 working days left.  We're still deciding on things to do during our anniversary/retirement week - a visit to see my cousins, hopefully, being one of them.  We've booked for a workshop our dog trainer is holding, it's an afternoon of clicker training, should be fun!  Going to have a beach day in Dorset, afternoon tea in the lovely grounds of a manor house near Castle Cary, and possibly a couple of National Trust garden visits.  Some of those depend on the weather, though, of course.

At the beginning of the week, whilst taking Betty round one of the local fields, my foot slipped on a lump of earth and it's obviously damaged my Achilles tendon.  It hasn't been too bad, just a bit sore up until yesterday evening, when we took the dog for a long walk round the Marshes nature reserve.  By the time we got back to the car, it hurt like hell and I could hardly walk.  Taking anti-inflammatories today, OH will buy some ibuprofen gel for me when he goes to work later.  I've ordered a support strap online, it should be here tomorrow.  If it's no better next week then I'll go to the GP.  In the meantime, I'm just going to rest it up for a couple of days - I've been on my feet all week in the kitchen doing a lot of cooking and baking for the freezer, which I don't suppose has helped it much.  I'll do some gentle stretching exercises too over the next few days, hopefully it will get better without me having to go to the doc.

This week I've made 2 lots of dog food and dog biscuits.  A fruit cake for the freezer, a double choc chip cake and some muffins.  2 cottage pies, one frozen.  2 fish pies, one to freeze.  2 lots of Frugal Queen's frugal tartiflette.  Sorry there's no photos, I didn't think to take any.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

To plan or not to plan....

20 days to go! 

We've been discussing how to do things once OH's retired....whether to just go with the flow and see how we feel each day, or have firm plans of things to get on with.  OH does feel that it will be nice not to have his days structured, after 51 years of work routines, I can see that will be attractive.  But I think we both work much better with some sort of routine.

Of course, it won't really be workable having a strict day by day plan, especially since most of OH's jobs will be outside ones.....if it's bad weather then he won't be doing stuff outside.  And we may well get up in the morning and think "I can't be bothered with that today, my back aches" - after all, we're not getting any younger!

We've decided to have a sort of compromise between structure and free 'n' easy.  Each week I will write two lists - one of things that we really want or need done that week, the other of less important jobs that we could do, but won't matter if we don't.  The idea will be that we make every effort to do all the important stuff for that week.  Then we can choose to do stuff from List 2, or not - we might want an extra day out, for example, if it's good weather.

We're definitely going to have at least one day out each week.  We've lived in this beautiful county of Somerset for 7 years now, and there are still many parts of it we haven't visited - it is a big county.  So much to look forward to!


Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Baking and Betty photos

Thank you for your comment, Sheila, yes we are looking forward to having a week of doing whatever we want....only 3 weeks to go!

I thought it was about time I posted some more photos.  I've had a baking session this morning:-


A date and walnut loaf - one of OH's favourite cakes.....I'm not so keen.


On the left, a half white/half wholemeal seeded loaf.  On the right, a parmesan cheese loaf, we're going to have some of that tonight with our dinner - smoked mackerel salad with a lemon and olive oil dressing.


Tuna and sweet potato loaf for Betty, chopped up and ready to freeze in portions.  I give it to her moistened with a little hot water, she absolutely loves it.

And some recent Betty pics:-


Betty and a pretty little cow having a staring match.....Betty gave up first!


Having a little rest halfway through an exhausting walk.


Dozing on my lap yesterday evening.







Saturday, 6 May 2017

Plans coming together

Thank you for the comments.  Sheila, I hope Betty does grow out of the digging and chewing soon, I miss having lots of flowers and colour in my garden.  Sue, Marlene and Chris - yes it's nearly here, just 25 days to go!  Julia - wow, 17 years, you got a good one there.  I've narrowed it down to about 3 different machines, am hoping to make the final decision and order one next week.  I've been pleasantly surprised at just how much better - more efficient, energy saving, better features etc - washing machines are now.  My old one takes only a 6 kg load and has a max spin speed of 1000 rpm....new ones have speeds of 1400-1600 and much bigger drums, taking 8 or 10 kg, and of course much quicker wash times.  Saw one with a fast wash time of just 14 minutes, amazing.

OH has chosen a Citizen silver watch as his retirement gift, and was told yesterday that his boss wants to take us both out for lunch, which is nice.  I asked him if he wanted me to make some cakes to take in on his last day....he said they're not allowed to take food in! (bloody elf n safety).  Having spoken to the boss, he was told that he could take cakes in, so long as each cake (or slice) is individually wrapped in cling film or foil, and not eaten on the premises - good grief!

I may have already said that we've decided to have the week following his retirement as a sort of treat week for ourselves - it's our wedding anniversary on the 27th (he'll be working that day) and we want to celebrate his retirement too.  We're not doing any garden or house works, other than essential stuff, that week, but will have a few trips out locally, plus a couple of full days further afield.  Planning on going to see my cousins and aunt, who we haven't seen for a few years, they live a couple of hours' drive away.

Our first major job after our treat week will be to get the utility room sorted out.  It's nothing fancy at all, simply a small brick built building stuck on the side of the house next to the kitchen.  At the moment it functions as utility room (washing machine, tumble drier, small chest freezer and spare fridge), OH's tool shed for when he can't be bothered to put tools away, store room for - well, junk basically, and larder for extra tinned/dry foods, toiletries etc.  The previous occupier gave the bare brick walls a quick coat of paint, now peeling off, and there's a patch of mildew on the ceiling where the chimney was leaking last year, that's since been fixed.  The previous bloke fitted a mismatched range of second hand cupboards, they're functional but unattractive and most of the doors have broken hinges and broken or missing handles.  The floor is bare concrete.  All in all, it's currently very uninspiring and cold (no heating in there), but could be made to look much better.  We don't want to spend a lot as we're tenants here and it's doubtful our landlord would give us any money towards it, although we don't know until we ask him.  We just want to clear it all out, paint the walls and ceiling, lay some vinyl flooring, put a nice blind up at the window, fix the cupboard doors and cover them with some Fablon to match them up more.  Just make it a more usable and pleasing space, really, at the moment I hate going in there.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Coasting along

Thanks for the comments, glad to note I'm not the only one with washing machine (or other appliance) problems.  You're very lucky, and in a minority, Chris, to still have yours working fine after so many years.  We've bought a combi microwave/oven/grill, it's a DeLonghi, I'll give my verdict on it once I've used it more extensively, but am pleased with it so far.

Going to do some thorough research into washing machines before we buy a new one.  I know I want one with a timer switch, fast spin speed, quick wash programme, normal 40 deg prog that doesn't take over 2 hours like my current one does!  Oh, and a larger drum to take a bigger load than my current one.  Plus not too expensive!  If anyone has any recommendations - or warnings to avoid - please let me know.

I feel like I'm just coasting along at the moment, simply marking time until two things happen - OH retiring for good (29 days!), and the dog growing up a bit more and stopping digging up and/or chewing everything in the garden.  I love my front garden, it's normally full of flowers and colour, but at the moment there's not a lot flowering....other than the clematis montana which is glorious - well, not so much at lower level, where Betty can reach it!  We love Betty to bits, but unless we're out in the garden with her all the time she's out there, which isn't always possible, she creates havoc.  Lots of the plants, shrubs and flowers she just chews (thankfully, I don't think we have anything which is toxic to dogs).  She does have several toys which she plays with out there, but quickly gets bored and attacks the plants instead!  Bless her!  I'm not going to plant up the tubs or put anything else in the borders for a while, bit pointless when Betty prunes everything for me (whether it needs it or not!).  I just shrug and laugh about it, not much else I can do right now, until she grows out of her chewing phase.  I will plant up the wall baskets we have - at least she can't reach those - so we will have some colour.

Both OH and I keep thinking of things we want to do or that need doing, and then say 'when I've/he's given up work' - it's like everything is put on hold, we really are counting down the days.  We're itching to really get stuck in to our new life.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Spending to save money

Thank you Chris and Gemma's person for your comments.

My microwave and washing machine are both on the way out.  The interior of the microwave is peeling off, and I've never been very happy with it anyway - it has a huge amount of condensation dripping down inside and pooling at the bottom after each use (it was a cheap one).  It seems to take longer to cook things now as well.

The washing machine is temperamental now, sometimes it seems to just get stuck - it's humming away but not actually doing anything, I have to shift the dial along a notch (when I notice what's happening when I get up in the morning) to get it to start up again.  It sometimes doesn't spin off the water properly, so the washing is still wringing wet, and I then have to put it on a spin cycle.  The fabric softener compartment just gets bunged up every single time now, I have to take the drawer out, empty it and flush it through constantly.  The normal 40 deg wash, which is the one I mostly use, is taking far longer than it used to, to do the full cycle - it took long enough anyway, without the 20 mins or so extra it takes now.  And it's not cleaning as well, sometimes OH's clothes (he's a dirt magnet) look almost as dirty after washing as they did going in.

We've been putting money by for ages specifically to replace appliances when we need to, so buying new items now isn't a problem.

I decided this time I'd have a combination microwave/oven/grill, mostly so that if I only have one thing to bake, I don't need to put the big oven on.  Our cooker is a double oven, but the smaller oven/grill compartment must have a loose wire or something, as every time we've used it recently it's thrown the main switch of our leccy supply.  The new combi oven looks good and isn't too much bigger than our old microwave....I need to read the instruction manual first before using the oven or grill part though, it's definitely more complicated than the old basic mic!

We're on Economy 7 for cheaper overnight electricity, so I do my washing mostly overnight....I load the machine before I go to bed, and OH puts it on when he comes home from work in the early hours of the morning.  So when the machine has had a temperamental fit and stopped mid cycle and I have to move it along to get it going again when I get up, this defeats the object of doing the wash on the cheap overnight rate!  I don't particularly want to be getting up in the middle of the night, once OH has retired, just to put the machine on either.  We've tried a few times putting the machine on a timer switch but, for some unknown reason, it never works.  The timer works, as we've tested it on other appliances, so I don't know why it won't work on the washing machine.  So I'm going to spend some time tomorrow googling for machines that have an inbuilt timer and shorter wash programmes, and are generally more efficient and cost saving.

Both of these new appliances should hopefully help us to lower our electricity bills, as well as working more efficiently.


Monday, 24 April 2017

Shopping in a different place - very good!

Firstly, thank you Sheila and Rainbowchild (new follower I think, welcome) for your comments.  Betty's ear infection has almost cleared, thank goodness.  Rainbowchild, yes I heartily recommend 1-2-1 training - Betty having the individual attention of the trainer without all the distractions of loads of other puppies has worked wonders.  We're seeing Carrie-Anne again this Wednesday, we're going to work more on recall, which Betty still only does when she wants to, basically!  Also the 'drop' command - she likes us throwing balls for her and she nearly always brings them back to us, but refuses to let go of them - the bulldog/shar pei stubbornness!

Following Frugal Queen's post yesterday about F**mFoods, we decided to try it out - I regularly buy toilet rolls there which are really good quality and very reasonably priced, but hadn't bought any food for ages.  We had a couple of disappointing buys from there a while back, and I assumed that because their frozen food is so cheap, it must be from dubious foreign sources. 

Well, I was very pleasantly surprised....I looked at the pack labels and it seems a lot of their products are actually British.  Quite how they manage to have such cheap offers, I have no idea.  I spent £62, some of which was food for the dog (I'm still making a lot of her food), and after a quick tally up of what I bought, I reckon what I got will make dinners for the 2 of us for about 6 or 7 weeks!  I was amazed, frankly.  I suppose the real test will be what the quality and taste is like when I come to cook it.

They have lots of multi buy offers - 3 packs for £10, 3 for £6, 2 for £5, 4 for £3 and so on, and there's a wide variety of products in each of the offer options, so you don't need to buy 3 of the same thing.  The only thing I would say is that I wish they grouped all of the products in each offer option in the same aisle - they're not, they're scattered all over the place, so I found it quite confusing to keep track of how many items I'd got in each offer bracket. 

I bought chicken thighs, breast fillets and Swedish meatballs, at 3 for £10.  3x 600g packs of thick cut bacon for £6 (bargain, I thought).  2 big packs of stuffed pasta for £5.  A box of 30 B***seye fish fingers and 4 large battered cod, also for £5.  Sausages, pizzas and chips.  They had several bags of frozen fish all at £3.99 - cod, haddock, salmon and yellowfin sole - I got the sole as it was a larger pack at 650g, the others were around 450g.  A large bag of mussel meat - not had mussels for years and wasn't all that keen on them back then, but OH likes them and I might have changed my view after all this time!  800g pack of fresh beef mince - we had their frozen mince way back and weren't keen on it...we like our mince chunky, and the frozen stuff just kind of dissolved into mush.  The fresh mince was good value.  Also got Cheddar, milk and some packet sauces. 

For the dog I bought 6 tins of tuna in sunflower oil for £3.99 (she loves tuna) and 4 bags of frozen veggies for £3.

I wasn't keen on their fresh fruit and veg, the veg in particular looked tired and limp, so went in the normal big supermarket (which is on the same retail park) for that.

So, all in all, and pending the taste tests, I think it's extremely good value and will be shopping there again.

As I've said before, we've always shopped in the big supermarkets before, when we didn't have to worry about how much we were spending.  Now though, as OH's retirement approaches (37 days to go!) and we need to think about keeping our food costs down, we've been trying out the cheaper shops and, quite honestly, wish we'd started shopping in them ages ago.  Their products are much better quality than we'd imagined, and at a fantastic price.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Lots of garden and kitchen work

Thanks for all the comments about Betty's training, we are noticing a difference in her now, she definitely doesn't pull on the lead as much and is quicker to respond when called.  We didn't take her to training today as she's got an ear infection, poor thing, and has been a bit subdued.  She went back to the vets this morning for a check up following 5 days of treatment - the vet said it looks like the infection is responding well to the antibiotics and should clear up completely within the next few days.

It seems we're not the only ones who aren't growing as much this year, or are late getting going with sowing and planting.  OH's been busy in the garden, the strawberry runners he potted up last year have now all been planted in a new bed, and he's done a bed full of early potatoes.  The 2 small old polytunnels have been dismantled, the covers have been chucked as they were so ripped and worn, but he's keeping most of the poles to reuse as cold frames or pea/bean supports.  We've bought a new polytunnel which is slightly bigger than the 2 old ones put together, OH has prepared the ground and put up the frame, we'll have to wait until next week to put the cover on as he's back to work tomorrow.  New neighbours have given us some staging to put in the tunnel, along with a couple of compost bins....these were left in their garden by the previous owners and they don't want them, we'll give them veg in return.  We'll buy some tomato and cucumber plants next week, seeing as we haven't grown any from seed this year.

I've spent a couple of days in the kitchen - two lots of dog food made, plus a trayful of biscuits for her.  A loaf of bread and 2 pizza bases for the freezer.  Fruit cake and 2 rhubarb and apple crumbles.  2 double portions of cauliflower cheese, a large trayful of roasted veggies portioned up, and a Savoy cabbage cooked and portioned, all for the freezer. 

We had a rare treat for dinner tonight.....nipped out to the supermarket late this afternoon and they were just putting out some meat reductions, got 2 small thick fillet steaks for a third of the original price.  We were going to have sausages tonight but had the steak instead, it was beautiful.  I can't remember the last time we had fillet steak, it must have been years ago.  Will have the sausages tomorrow.



Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Another good class, and garden stuff

Thank you for the comments, we are so glad to have found Carrie-Anne the trainer and Betty is doing so well.  Chris - £70 for training, blimey!  Was that for just one class? 

This morning Betty did brilliantly, I was so pleased and Carrie said she really is getting on very well.  We did more loose lead walking and even off the lead walking to heel - well, it was kind of off the lead.  Carrie had brought along a massively long training lead, about 30 feet or so, she held the very end of the lead very loosely with most of it just lying on the ground, and Betty walked alongside first OH, then me, with us keeping her attention and at our sides by holding treats, she did it perfectly. 

Betty's fine with her collar on but has never liked us putting a harness on her - it's not the particular type of harness as we have tried 3 different ones, she just seems to have an aversion to them when we first put it on her, although is ok with it once we're actually out walking.  Carrie showed us how to coax her to accept the harness, by first putting it on the ground and putting some food treats beside it, letting her come and take them of her own accord, and then letting her back away if she wanted to.  After a few minutes of this when she was more confident about staying beside the harness, Carrie said to then pick it up and hold a treat for her just inside the head opening.  We did this a few times until she was comfortable about putting her head inside the harness.  Then it was a case of actually putting it on her, praising her and giving her another treat once it was on.  Problem solved, Betty now doesn't mind the harness at all, and this took only about 15 minutes to teach her to accept it willingly.  Carrie-Anne really is worth every penny, she explains things so clearly and is so patient with both Betty and us.  We're seeing her again next week, she encourages us to think about any problems we might be having with Betty and promises to work on them the next time.

For various reasons, we're very late with veg seed buying and planting this year - in fact we've done nothing at all up until this week.  We've decided to not grow so much this year....having reviewed what we've grown for the past few years, we think it will be better to grow fewer things (as in varieties of veg), but instead concentrate on growing just the things we really like the taste of home grown, and that we use the most of.  So this year we will just be growing new potatoes, peas, onions & leeks, butternut squash, cherry toms, a few cucumbers, carrots, courgettes, purple sprouting broccoli and a few cabbages.  We won't be growing maincrop spuds - they get eaten very badly by slugs here, and maincrop spuds are so cheap to buy it's not really worth growing them for the space they take up.  We tried 2 or 3 different squashes/pumpkins last year - didn't get many, they didn't store as well as the butternuts do, and we weren't all that keen on the taste, so they're out as well.  No French beans either, we got totally inundated with them last year, to the point where we got sick of them in the end.  Fewer cucumbers, as again we had loads and it's not like you can cook or freeze them - our neighbours and OH's work colleagues were almost running away when they saw him coming for fear of having another couple of cucumbers foisted on them!  No tomatoes for cooking - I get fed up with skinning/cooking them all for sauces, when it's so much easier to make sauces using cheap tinned chopped toms. 

At least we have an established and good supply of soft fruit which we don't have to continually replant each year - strawberries, blackcurrants, blueberries and raspberries.  We also have 5 young fruit trees - 1 cooking apple, 1 dessert, 2 pears and a plum, not had much fruit yet as they're all young, but hoping to have some this year.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Brilliant!

Thanks again for all your comments....I had to laugh when Marlene said she has more photos of her cats' bums than their faces.

Well, the training went really well.  Carrie-Anne is lovely, so friendly, her love of dogs and her job shines through and she's so knowledgeable.  Betty took to her straight away.

Carrie showed us lots of techniques for getting Betty to walk nicely without yanking our arms off all the time.  She started off by showing us how to get Betty to focus on us, then to sit at our side on the lead, then to walk a few steps without pulling, all done with food treats.  She demonstrated herself with Betty, then OH and I each had a go, Betty picked it up very quickly.  It helped that we were in a big field with hardly anybody else around, so there were few distractions close to us.  There were kids playing football in another field nearby, which did attract Betty (of course!), but Carrie showed us how to get Betty's attention back to us - basically gentle but firm and persistent calling her name, using the word 'focus' and offering a food reward. 

She also showed us how to stop Betty from jumping up - turn our body slightly and totally ignore her until she gets down and has all 4 paws on the ground, at which time we should praise her.  Carrie said by just saying 'down' and pushing her off as we had been doing, we are in fact giving her attention and rewarding the wrong behaviour, encouraging her to keep doing it.  By ignoring her until she gets back down, and then praising her only when she's on the ground, she will quickly learn not to jump up.  We also have to get friends, family etc doing the same thing!  It's all so logical when you actually stop to think about it.

We had a full hour of 1-2-1 for £15 - a total bargain, considering we learnt so much and Betty was responding so quickly.  We are seeing Carrie-Anne again for another hour next week, to practise the loose lead walking for longer periods, and some other things - she told us to have a think about what else we'd like her to work with us on.  She's also going to give us a written report and work plan next week....how good is that?

She's a marvel and is such a lovely lady too, I'm so glad we found her.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Betty pics and good news

Thank you for all the comments on my last post.  Yes, I think you're all right - last week's puppy 'training' class was a waste of time for us, and a money spinner for the trainers.  Aly, having seen pics of Bruno and heard about his antics, I can just picture him as  Scooby Do!  Sheila, I did laugh at your comment....yes Betty is a cute hooligan!  Simple Living Marlene, that's terrible about your poor dog's damaged ear, the owner and trainer clearly weren't in control of their animal were they?  Marlene J, yes indeed Betty did have lots of fun at the class, shame she didn't learn anything though!

Following lots of positive and friendly emails with the new trainer I found, Carrie-Anne, I am happy to report we are taking Betty to her tomorrow morning for her first hour of 1-2-1 assessment and training, I am really looking forward to it (I expect Betty will be pleased too!).

Here are some updated pics of Betty, all taken within the last few days:-


Just look at that lovely squidgy face!


My 2 bubs asleep.....who's the cutest?!  ;-))


Out walking at the nature reserve.  She was facing me and just as I took the photo her head whipped round as a swan flew past!


 

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Nope, not going again!

We took Betty to her first puppy training class last week.....well, in the words of Craig Revell-Horwood it was 'a disaaaaaster dahhhling'.  We won't be going there again.

Several problems really - the biggest one being that the class was just too big.  About 12 or 14 pups of different breeds, ages and stages of training (it turns out it's an open, just turn up class so how they can work successfully with loads of different pups in various stages of training I don't know), plus about 20 or so owners.  As Betty just loves ALL people and ALL dogs, she was in a state of high excitement the whole time, which meant that she really wasn't interested in taking any notice of us or the trainers, she just wanted to play!  2 or 3 of the pups were quiet and well behaved, the others (including Betty) were just hooligans - all barking excitedly and jumping around, it was pretty much chaos.  And very noisy chaos at that. 

We started off with 5 mins of one to one with one of the 3 trainers, which was just getting Betty to sit for a treat.  Well, she does that very well anyway, doesn't need training for that.  Then it was loose lead walking, in pairs - Betty doesn't do loose lead at all, it's all running and tugging as hard as she can...particularly when she sees other dogs, one of the reasons we wanted to take her to classes.  Well, seeing as there were loads of other dogs there, that wasn't good.  You get just a couple of minutes' worth of training for that, seeing as there were lots of dogs to get through.  Then it was recall, one at a time...amazingly, as there were so many other dogs there, she actually did that quite well, as she could see OH was holding treats (she's totally food governed).  Sadly (and embarrassingly) it ended badly....the idea is you put your dog on the lead when she's come to you and had the treat....well OH did, or at least he tried to, but Betty was too quick for him and was off like a rocket tearing round the hall greeting all the other dogs, zipping in and out of people's legs and under chairs, to much laughter (and cringing from me).  Somebody managed to grab hold of her collar so OH could get her back on the lead....the lady beside me said "I'm not going to laugh, coz I know I'll be just as humiliated when it's my pup's (a spaniel) turn in a minute!".

The other big problem is that the class was only 30 minutes long - how the trainers are supposed to work with so many dogs and teach them anything meaningful in such a short space of time I don't know, I reckon it's impossible.

I've done some googling and found a local trainer who does one to one, at your home or a location near hers, as well as classes....she stresses that her classes are small, no more than 6 dogs at a time.  I think we need a few one to one sessions so Betty can learn without the distraction of loads of other dogs and their humans, and then perhaps a few of the classes.  I've emailed the lady this morning, she has some excellent reviews on her website and on Facebook.

Thank you for the comments on decluttering (I can't wait to get started on it actually) and Betty's antics with the dandelion.  I'll have to get round to putting on some updated pics.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Back to normal

Good grief, that was a moany post wasn't it?!  Sorry about that.  I've put my big girl's pants on and given myself a good shake.  I can't change what others do, I can only change myself and how I feel.  Thank you so much for all your lovely comments.....I should say here that my last post was not in any way aimed at any of my readers, it always warms my heart that so many of you read and comment on my posts.  I never thought people would be interested in my ordinary life. 

Anyway, I won't let the buggers get me down (as a couple of you said!), I shall just shake it off and carry on enjoying what we do.  We had a funny moment this morning when we were walking Betty on the nature reserve....I'd forgotten to take my phone with me so couldn't take a photo - pity, it was so funny we were both laughing our heads off.  Betty came across a dandelion with a full big fluffy seed head - it was her first time of seeing one.  She stood transfixed, one front paw raised like a pointer, staring intently at it for a few seconds.  Then, all of a sudden, she lunged forward and bit the entire head off - well, a split second later she coughed and loads of the fluffy seeds flew out of her mouth, much to her astonishment - she literally stared in amazement.  OH and I just stood there laughing out loud.  For the next few minutes as we walked along, she kept giving little coughs, blowing out a few more seeds each time....luckily, there were several mini flooded patches on the grass (it had rained heavily yesterday) so she could have a drink to get rid of the rest.  So funny!

It's exactly 9 weeks today till OH retires, it's going quite slowly at the mo but I expect it will speed up the nearer it gets.  He's been told that his firm have a retirement gift list that he can choose from - the manager couldn't remember all the things on it, he did say there's a silver watch, a decanter or a pen but was sure there are others.....hope so, as OH doesn't really want any of those!  I wonder if there's a cash or gift voucher alternative?  That would be good, OH could buy something he really wants then. 

We've decided one of the first things we're going to do when he's finished work is to have a major declutter of the house and garage.  I take after my mother, I'm a bit of a hoarder - not by design, somehow we just seem to acquire a lot of 'stuff', which then sits around gathering dust.  OH however is definitely of the 'I'll hang on to that, never know when it might come in useful' persuasion, he's got a garage and shedful of oddments of wood, bits of metal, old broken tools, old holey hosepipes, a few non-working electrical items, etc.  We have quite a large trailer so can take plenty of stuff to the tip, and loads of charity shops in the town to take anything not broken, or clothes or books.  It would be lovely to be more minimalist!

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Sorry for the lack of posts, I'm feeling hard done by and sorry for myself.  Can't even be bothered to think up a title for this post - well, not one that doesn't scream of self indulgence.

I just think I spend my life doing things for and helping to support others, but nobody does anything nice just for me.  I feel unappreciated and of no value.  I feel like I'm invisible half the time, nobody seems to take any notice of anything I say. 



Saturday, 18 March 2017

Training

After much thought, we have decided to take Betty to training classes.  In many ways she is the perfect dog/puppy - she sleeps all through the night and has done since a few days after we got her, she's completely house trained, ever since Week 2, she's not fussy about food and is happy to eat whatever we give her, be it commercial or homemade.  She's really good in the car, goes happily in her crate and we don't get a peep out of her on the journey, she doesn't mind being left alone in the car for short periods either (in fact she's usually still dozing when we get back).  She sits on command, because she's been treat trained.  Her nipping has drastically reduced and it's now just gentle mouthing, she's learnt that using her teeth is a No no.  She's teething so is going through a chewing phase, but will stop chewing anything inappropriate when we tell her.  She's not at all aggressive - rather the opposite, she's exceptionally friendly, with everyone and every dog.  Totally fearless, she's not intimidated by bigger dogs....even snarly aggressive ones (there's one living next door!) she's more puzzled than intimidated by. 

And therein lies part of the problem - she thinks every person and dog is her new best friend and just wants to play with them.  She tries to jump up at people, because she gets so much fuss made of her by most people we meet, and all other dogs she really wants to play with.  She just doesn't understand that not all people want a dog jumping at them, however friendly it is, and not all dogs want to play.

On walks now, we keep her on a short tight leash when we see other people and dogs, but she still strains at the lead and yelps and yelps until they've gone past.  She then whines and looks totally forlorn for a minute or two, as if we've spoilt her whole day!

And she constantly pulls at the lead - well, I say constantly, very occasionally she will walk nicely beside us, but that only lasts a couple of minutes, then she's back to yanking our arms off and practically choking herself.  We've watched loads of training videos by several different trainers and have tried all their suggestions, to no avail.  So training classes it is, as I'm fed up with having an aching shoulder and neck!  The first class will be the week after next, I hope it does the trick.


Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Breakfasts, lunches and dog food

Thank you Simple Living, Sheila and Gemma's Person for the comments on my menu plan.

I forgot to mention what we have for breakfasts and lunches.  I don't often have breakfast, maybe once or twice a week, and it's usually Greek yogurt with a few berries and nuts, or maybe bran flakes with nut milk and some berries.  When it's really cold in the winter we may have porridge (which we like made with water, no sugar, but with a few sultanas mixed in and a big splash of cream on top!).  OH usually has toast for his breakfast.  Occasionally on Sundays or when we're on holiday, we have a full cooked breakfast. 

Lunches are usually soup with homemade croutons when it's cold, maybe salad with ham or cheese or canned fish if it's not cold.  OH may occasionally have a sandwich instead with a cup a soup, I'll have sliced cheese with rye crispbreads and a few olives and cucumber slices.

Gemma's Person asked about desserts.....we rarely have them - well, OH has a yogurt after dinner.  I'm diabetic so hardly ever eat sweet things.....I've found it much easier to get into the habit of just not having them at all, rather than trying to eat a tiny portion of something that I'd really like to eat a lot of!  I'm not a saint though, on rare occasions we may have a Danish pastry or share a cake when we're out and in a coffee shop!

I made a week's worth of dog food today, it was turkey mince which I cooked in a little water in a saucepan (I nearly added seasoning but stopped myself just in time!).  Cooked a large sweet potato in the microwave, then mashed the flesh when it was cool enough to handle.  Boiled a head of broccoli and roughly mashed that.  Mixed the whole lot together in a large bowl, with a can of garden peas (having first checked that they were just peas in water, nothing else added).  Divided it into 7 portions.  I gave Betty half a portion at lunchtime, to see how she got on with it....she loved it, licked her bowl clean.  I've kept a couple of portions in the fridge and frozen the rest. 

I also made sardine oatcakes, following a recipe I found online from a very good website https://www.bdws.co.uk/2012/12/06/sardine-oatcakes/ he's a dog walker who, in conjunction with a canine dietitian, makes his own dog food recipes.  The mixture made over 80, luckily Betty loves them too!

Following a recommendation from a dog owning friend (thanks Aly!), I tried Betty with a scrambled egg....yep, wolfed it down (she's clearly not a fussy eater).

So our plan is to give her scrambled egg for breakfast, my homemade food for lunches (sometimes it will be sardines or liver with veg, instead of turkey) and her complete dry kibble for suppertime.  We will continue to give her this as it contains the vitamins and minerals she needs.  The oatcake biscuits will be  treats, along with dried out liver (strips cooked in a low oven for a couple of hours, then cut into tiny pieces) as training treats.  This is of course after we've monitored her for a couple of days to check that she's ok with the new homemade foods.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Menu planning

Thank you for the comments on my food shop, I do like Lidl and am slowly getting into the habit of shopping less often - you're right, Dawn, this is definitely one way of spending less.

I thought it might be useful to blog my menu plan each week....it will encourage me to keep doing it, which in turn helps with the shopping, and I can always look back at previous menus for inspiration.

So this week:-

Sunday (yesterday) we had sausages, roasted parsnips and sprouts, cauli & broccoli in cheese sauce (double portion made so the rest has been frozen for later)

Monday - Chicken & mushroom risotto....need to buy the chicken, I was under the impression we had a couple of breasts in the freezer but can't find them, must have used them (another good reason to maintain an inventory!)

Tuesday - Chilli with cheesy cornbread....have everything in stock for that, will make double so one lot can be frozen

Wednesday - Pork shoulder in cider in the slow cooker - need to buy the pork.  It will make enough to freeze for another day, probably two.

Thursday - Salmon with noodles and stir fry veg.....just need the veg.

Friday - Cottage pie and veg - all from out of the freezer

Saturday - Cauli & broccoli cheese with bacon and tinned tomatoes.....the remainder of Sunday's cauli cheese, bacon & tomatoes already in stock.

I'm going to start making some - not all - food for Betty too, will do another post about that.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Shopping cracked

I've got the shopping down to a fine art now.  We generally do it in Li*l now, I've found I prefer it to Al*i.  I can't get absolutely everything I want in there, like my Lactofree milk e.g., so nip into S*burys for the odd bits....handily, it's next door to Li*l.  About every 3 or 4 weeks we do a full shop in S*burys or Morr*ons, as obviously being bigger stores, they have a much wider range of stuff.  I now always do a menu plan and shopping list too.  Doing all this has saved us I reckon about £15 or £20 a week, which I'm really happy with.  We're also working towards going shopping less often, we've stretched it to about every 9 or 10 days now.

This morning my shopping came to about £56, but it should last us for about a fortnight.  I bought steak mince, bacon, liver and a trayful of butcher's sausages which had been reduced as short dated.....all the meat came to £9.80.  I've portioned it up for freezing, it will make a total of 13 meals for 2 bulked out with veg, pulses or grains, so working out to around 75p per double portion - bargain. 

I don't buy dog food from supermarkets.  We get it online, a 12kg sackful of dry complete food, which will last for ages, and it's delivered for free.  It's from a reputable company and is very good quality with high meat and fish content, plus vegetables, salmon oil and vitamins/minerals, with no artificial colours, flavours or E numbers.  It's not cheap, but we've done a lot of research and don't want our dog having the doggy equivalent of rubbishy fast food.  And as it's such good quality, we can feed her less of it.  So saving money on our food shop means we can afford to buy good food for Betty, we want her to have a good long healthy life.

Thank you for all the comments, I'm glad the lazy lasagne seems to be popular.  I'm all for meals that are easier or simplified versions of the originals.  If any of you have ideas for your own quicker, simpler or thriftier versions of meals, I'd love to read about them.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

A cooking and freezing day

Thank you for all the good wishes for OH's impending retirement....it's now 13 weeks exactly. 

I've had a day in the kitchen, doing a lot of cooking and veg prep for freezing.

Started off by making what I call a lazy lasagne.....it's basically mince cooked with onions, mushrooms and chopped tomatoes, pasta shapes part cooked and mixed with cheese sauce, the whole lot all mixed together, piled into a dish and sprinkled with grated cheese.  Saves all that faffing about with building up layers, but tastes much the same as a proper lasagne.  It made 3 lots of meals for 2.  One we'll have tomorrow, the other 2 have been frozen.

Diced swede and carrots boiled together, then mashed with parsley & thyme and seasoned, divided into portions and frozen.

Did a big trayful of roast spuds, enough for several meals, all portioned up and in the freezer.

2 massive sweet potatoes scrubbed and stabbed, cooked in the microwave until tender, then when cool enough to handle, halved and the flesh scraped out.  Mashed with smoked paprika and seasoning, portioned and frozen.

3 rashers of bacon chopped and fried in butter and oil with a finely sliced onion in a big pan, then a whole Savoy cabbage shredded and added, stir fried until cooked.  One portion to go with dinner tonight, the rest frozen.

Oh, and husband made a wholemeal loaf (under my direction).  It's risen beautifully and looks lovely. 

I should have taken photos of everything, but didn't give it a thought, sorry!

Now I just have to prepare tonight's dinner - diced chicken breast sautéed in oil & butter, with sliced mushrooms and onion, the zest and juice of a lemon added to the pan along with some sage.  To be served with new potatoes and some of the Savoy cabbage.




Thursday, 23 February 2017

It's going to be a looooonng few weeks.....

OH has made his decision official and informed the powers that be at work of his intention to retire.  Neither of us can wait now, we both wish it was this week!  We're going to be counting down the weeks (13 weeks and 6 days).

He intends to be busy finishing building his shed, which is happening very slowly, and working in the garden cultivating all our produce.  He likes to be busy outside, and usually has several projects on the go at once (one at a time would be good, he'd stand a better chance of actually finishing one!  But at least it keeps him occupied).  He's recently seen an idea for a woodwork project he'd like to try (a piece of furniture), so will have plenty to interest him.

I'm looking forward to doing a major declutter, as I really want to simplify our life, cut down on 'stuff', and have less to clean, dust and tidy up.  Having Betty though means, much as we love her, there will always be a certain amount of cleaning and stuff to clear up - the living room, at the end of the day, looks like closing time at a kids' nursery, with toys scattered everywhere.  I've given up putting them away in her toy box during the day, as she just gets them all out again!

It's actually been a lovely day here, glorious sunshine all day, just with lots of wind.  Storm Doris hasn't affected us much, other than a few things being blown around the garden.  I hope you've all been fortunate....I know it's been bad in other places.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

It's a hard life!

Betty after her play date with Poppy the 5 months old spaniel neighbour this morning:-


They absolutely love each other, they spend a happy half hour charging round the garden wrestling and jumping on each other.  Every few minutes they stop for a 'time out', both have a drink from the water bowl and a few seconds breather, then they're off again.....it's so funny!

Thank you again for the comments on my last post, and welcome to a couple of new followers, I hope you enjoy reading.


Thursday, 16 February 2017

Betty learns a lesson, and a query

My brother and SiL came to visit the other day, and brought their Airedale Terrier Molly with them.  She's the first big dog (and she is big) that Betty has come into close contact with.  Well, Betty has now learnt (we hope!) that Not All Dogs Want To Play! 

Betty loves all dogs and does want to play with them all.  When we go to the nature reserve, we have her on the extendable lead so she can have a good run around....we've not let her off the lead yet, as her recall isn't consistent and until it is she's not coming off the lead in public places.  When another dog comes into view, she races towards it - we rein her back in so we have more control over her and wait to see how the other dog reacts.  If they want to play (and the owner is willing), we let her have a bit more rein.  But even if the other dog doesn't want to, Betty still persists in trying!  She doesn't seem to be put off by aloof or even growly behaviour.

Molly the Airedale, who is 6 but still acts like a puppy a lot of the time, is bouncy and friendly and we all assumed she and Betty would get on fine.  Well, for whatever reason, Molly did not want to play at all, and made it perfectly clear with very loud growls and dominant behaviour, standing over Betty and even giving her a little swipe now and then.  Betty immediately took the submissive position or ran back to the reassuring safety of mine or OH's legs.  It didn't stop her going back for more though within a couple of minutes, she's full of courage for such a small young dog.  Eventually, her attempts to get Molly to play calmed down, she was clearly puzzled and kept giving us quizzical looks as if to say 'But why won't she play with me?'.  Hopefully, she will have learnt from it.

Thank you for all the comments about the bossy know-it-all woman.  I'm happy to be given advice, but she didn't give us advice (not that we asked for it anyway, we didn't), she told us authoritatively what we were doing wrong, and as for grabbing Betty's muzzle (because Betty was yapping), well that infuriated me - I mean, would you do that to a stranger's child just because it was making a noise?  For those of you who have offered us advice and websites to look at (the Victoria Stilwell one is very interesting, thank you), please don't think I was having a go at any of you - I wasn't.

Now for the query - does anyone know what's happened to Hard up Hester and her blog?  I read her blog regularly, she always makes me laugh, but her blog seems to have been taken over by someone going on about yoga!

On the subject of blogs, I feel for Ilona of Life after Money, she has a really nasty troll who's been attacking her for 5 years.  5 years!!  blimey, the woman (Ilona knows who it is) must be totally obsessed, or in need of psychiatric help.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Busy busy

Thank you all for the lovely comments about Betty.  She's slowly getting more obedient and less bitey, a bit less lungey on the lead, and calming down a bit.  Well, by that I mean she's still very excitable, but calms down a bit quicker.  Taking her out to busy high streets is still a challenge - we want to do it to get her used to crowds and to train her to be more restrained instead of jumping up at everybody who passes by.  However, since virtually everyone wants to stop and make a fuss of her, it's a bit of a double-edged sword.  And it takes us twice as long to do anything!  I was a bit annoyed at one couple we met up with, who had 2 pointer-type dogs - the woman clearly considered herself a dog expert (she informed us she has several more dogs at home and has bred these pointer-types for several years).  She proceeded to tell us what we were doing wrong, and took it upon herself to tell Betty off and hold her muzzle shut!  If we weren't in a public place I'd have done the same to her!  Bloody cheek.  I felt sorry for her partner, as she also told him off - it's obvious who wears the trousers in that relationship.  I know people will have their own ideas about how to train dogs, but Betty is our dog and we'll do it our way.

Ok, off the soapbox now!

Got lots going on right now, feels like I'm juggling a dozen balls and trying not to drop any of them.  Husband has decided he doesn't want to retire at the end of June....he wants to do it in May  👀  Fine, I have no objection, but have asked that he sticks to that or it will keep throwing my plans out if he's changing his mind every 5 minutes.  He made it official this week and told everyone at work....he said they all, from management down, keep saying they don't want him to go!  That's nice to hear, he's very popular at work.  I know he'll miss it, despite being ready to leave.  Just as well he's got lots of interests to keep him busy (as have I....got things to keep him busy too!! 😂 ), he's not the type to sit around just watching TV.

I've decided to draw up a list of light lunches and main meals we like...I think it will simplify things, I'll be better able to menu plan and shop, and it'll give me a bit of structure.  Once OH has stopped work, meal planning will be easier as I won't have to work around his shifts. 

I used my new stand mixer to make bread dough yesterday, it worked well and I'm very pleased with it, it'll be in use regularly from now on.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

A Betty post

We've had Betty 6 weeks today.  She's changed a lot in that time - when we first got her she looked more like her mum, the Shar Pei, but now she's starting to take on more of her dad's (the bulldog) characteristics.  Her face is getting broader, as are her chest and front legs, she's also developing the bulldog stubbornness!  She's also very strong for her age - 3 months old.  She's still wrinkly like a Shar Pei though. 

We took her to the vet this morning for her 3rd and final booster jab, a quick check up on how she's doing, and to get 3 months' supply of worming/flea tablets.  She was weighed.....she's now 9.7kg - she was 2.9kg when we first got her, so has put on an average of just over a kilo a week.  The vet said she's in excellent all-round condition, with no apparent problems. 

She's fully house-trained and clean, and has slept through the night without a murmur since the 2nd week of having her, both of which are fabulous.

Betty isn't really a lap dog - she's getting too hefty for that anyway!  She does quite like to sit on my lap, but won't sit still for a cuddle - she fidgets and wriggles for about 5 minutes, sniffing me all over, then wants to get down.  She comes to me for strokes and reassurance (if she hears an unfamiliar noise, e.g.), but goes mainly to OH for playing - the two of them have a lovely noisy boisterous time rolling around on the floor, throwing toys around and playing tug of war (I don't know who's worse - husband or the dog!  I have to tell them both to calm down after a while!). 

We're doing some training with her in short bursts (in common with most puppies, she has a very short attention span).  She now understands Sit, Down, Fetch, Leave and Bed....she understands them, but whether she obeys them is a different matter!  The bulldog stubbornness is very apparent here - sometimes she obeys, sometimes she won't, although she almost always will obey if a food treat is involved.  We're trying to train her to do things without having food treats all the time though. 

She's still quite 'nippy', although she hardly ever bites me, it's usually OH (something to do with the way he plays with her, I suspect!).  That's something we really want to get her out of doing....can't have her biting people when she's older.  She also tugs like mad on the lead....again something we're trying to get her out of.  To be fair, nearly all the time we take her for walks to the nature reserve, where she's on the extendable lead so she can run around.  We haven't really taken her out much on the short lead yet.  Today we took her to Wells (a very pretty small town with basically one fairly short high street) - the first time she's been to a town.  She was beside herself with excitement at all the people, dogs, sights, sounds and smells, so was tugging on the lead the whole time - probably not the best choice of place to go first!  Over the next few weeks we will be taking her out along the local roads where there are less people and vehicles (we live in a very rural farming area), to try to get her to learn to heel.

Pictures:-


Her lovely squidgy face.


Messing around in her bed....she drags the blanket out and runs around the room with it.


Playing tug of war with daddy.


Having a mad 5 minutes in her bed.


Investigating an irresistible smell in the nature reserve.


"Mum, do you have to keep taking photos, can't you see I'm having a comfy nap?"









Tuesday, 31 January 2017

More good value shopping

Thank you for all the comments on OH's impending retirement, it's certainly got us thinking and making plans.  Oh, and I've joined our local Freecycle group - no breadmakers as yet, and to be honest there's a lot more Wanteds than Offers there at the moment.  Still, I'll keep looking.  I seem to have a few new followers - welcome and thank you for reading.

We did our shopping in L*dl yesterday, with a top up shop in the big supermarket of things we couldn't get in L*dl.  I spent £22 in L*dl, and was surprised and pleased at how much cheaper, yet still good quality, the fresh veg, bacon and cheese is, we will be shopping there regularly from now on.  The top up shop in the supermarket was £16, it's a pity there are some things we just can't get in L*dl or A*di.

We're taking Betty to the vets tomorrow for her final booster jab and some flea and worming advice.  I'll do a Betty post, with pictures, tomorrow.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Exciting times ahead!

OH was 66 this month.  He currently works part time, 3 shifts a week....he was planning to carry on working until he's 67 or 68.  However, a couple of days ago he announced that he's now had enough of driving lorries (he's been doing it for around 40 years, and has been working continually since he left school the day after his 15th birthday) and night work and wants to retire this year.  He's looking at probably the end of June to stop work.

I don't blame him, I reckon he's well and truly earned his rest!  And I've had enough of spending so much time on my own (he works a minimum of 12 hours per shift, and is of course in bed for much of the morning, so on his work days I only get to see him for around 3 hours).  He gets very tired as he doesn't sleep well during the morning.....especially when Betty wakes him up when she's having one of her noisy play sessions!  He also doesn't much feel like driving on his days off....understandably. 

So we're now starting to plan for his retirement, a year or two earlier than expected.  Which means, of course, adjusting to living on a smaller income.  I'm not due for my state pension for another 10 years or so - if then even, since the Government keep moving the goal posts! 

Over the next few months, we plan on building up our savings as much as we can, and restocking our stores of dry goods and toiletries.  I'm going to scour the charity shops for a breadmaker (mine gave up the ghost several months ago), they often have them in.  I want to start making bread again, but my hands and wrists aren't strong enough for all that kneading.  We're also going to eat less meat - we're not planning on going vegetarian, both of us are confirmed carnivores, but we'll have 2 or 3 veggie days a week instead of the 1 we currently have.  We'll also eat less meat - I'll still buy the good quality meat from our local butcher, but will use less for a meal and bulk it out with veg or pulses.  I'll also start to do more shopping in the cheaper stores......we eat a lot of Cheddar, e.g., and a kilo of Cheddar for £4.99 in L*dl is a bit of a no-brainer really!  I was amazed to see it for that price when we went there a couple of weeks ago, it's so much cheaper than the big supermarkets.

As a couple of you pointed out, FarmF**ds do some good deals too - I've not really had much of a proper look round there in the past.  I do buy toilet rolls there (£3.99 for an 18-pack, Nicky brand) but am not very keen on their frozen stuff.  They do seem to have good prices for tinned and packet foods though, although it seems a bit hit and miss as to what they actually have in every week.

I'm not at all snobbish about where we shop....neither of us (husband in particular) just really fancies trawling around several places to get all the shopping, up to now we'd much rather do it all in one place.  But if it means we'll save money, and of course in future we'll have more time when he retires, then we'll have to start doing it!

Having OH at home 24/7 will be nice after all these years, it will certainly give us a lot more time to do things, and spend more time together.  I'm just slightly concerned I'll get a bit fed up with having him around ALL the time, after so long with my own company....

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Check your receipts

I have to say I don't always remember to do this, and if I do, it's only a cursory quick glance. 

Went shopping this morning armed with my list.  As usual, I did buy a few (and it was only a few) extras, things that were on a good special offer that I would normally buy anyway.  However, on going through the till, the total bill came to more than I was expecting (I'd had a quick mental tally up as I was going round).  Rather than hold up the queue, I paid and then checked the receipt before leaving the shop.....found that I'd been overcharged for 2 items.  They were on offer at £1 each, on a special display unit in a prominent position at the end of an aisle....but the till receipt showed them at full price of £1.95 each.

So I went to Customer Services - they paid me back the £1.90 overcharged with no quibble whatsoever.

Mistakes happen all the time, I'm not annoyed....although I probably would have been had we got home before discovering it! (we don't live near the town, it's a 25 min drive away).  But it does make you wonder just how often mistakes occur and we're inadvertently overcharged when shopping, and we don't know about it because we don't bother to check.  Well, I will be checking from now on!  £1.90 isn't a lot I know, but if it happened regularly it would soon add up.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Vegetarian Sunday dinner

Thanks for the comments re the A*di shopping and cheap washing liquid.  Haven't used it yet so can't comment on how well it works.  Sheila, I run the washing machine empty with a handful of soda crystals on a hot wash every month or so, seems to keep it clean and fresh smelling.

This is the dog after an hour's walk in the nature reserve this morning:-


She always sleeps for an hour or two when we get back, which is brilliant as it means I can get on with some jobs without her being under my feet all the time. 

I found a sheet of puff pastry in the freezer, had bought it reduced to half price a couple of months ago.  I'd noticed yesterday that the last 2 of our home grown butternut squashes were starting to go wrinkly, so whilst Betty was asleep I diced and roasted them, sprinkled with oil, paprika and sage.  Laid out the sheet of pastry on a tray, cut a border round it and part cooked it for 10 mins whilst the squash was in.  When it had cooled a bit I spread the base with a mixture of tomato puree and oil, piled on the squash and a whole pack of supermarket's own cheap Feta type cheese, diced up, and a sprinkle of grated Cheddar.  Back in the oven for another 20 mins.


We'll have a slice at room temperature with tomatoes, beetroot and coleslaw, the rest for lunch tomorrow.



Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Cheap week's shop and stocking up

Thank you for all the comments regarding shopping and dog walking.  We're certainly enjoying the dog walking, although everywhere we go with the dog takes much longer than anticipated, as everyone wants to stop us and make a fuss of her.  We've spoken to more people in the past week than we've done in years!  Having a dog certainly breaks the ice.

Well, I did my shopping in Al*i this morning, went armed with my list but anticipated buying a few extras, as I was sure I'd find things that we normally buy anyway that were cheaper in there.  And there were....I stocked up on shower gel, liquid soap and anti perspirant, all much cheaper than the ones we usually buy in the bigger supermarkets.  I also bought a few packs of bread mixes, they were reduced to 39p and dated mid April, so plenty of time to get baking.  Dental chews for the dog were half the price of the ones we've been buying in the normal supermarket or pet store, so got half a dozen packs of those too.

Even with the extras, the bill only came to a few pence over £30, very pleased.  I doubt we'll shop there every week as it is a bit limited, but will certainly go there every few weeks.

Welcome to a new reader, Sammie of Sammieskint.blogspot.co.uk.  She's got a good eye for a bargain and is kind enough to tell everyone about it.  Yesterday I called into B&M to look for the washing liquid she mentioned (we don't have a T**co in our town, amazingly, which is where she bought hers, although she did say she'd heard they could be found in B&M also).  I found them, they're called Enrituals, come in a couple of fragrances and only cost 99p for a litre bottle.  I bought 4.  Thank you Sammie!

Friday, 13 January 2017

A quick catch up

Sorry for the lack of posts, I've been so busy recently.  Betty is now able to go for walks (hurray!!).....pity it's just as the weather has decided to be awful!  We have managed to get her out to the local nature reserve a couple of times - not bad at all, actually.  She did wrestle with her lead and harness initially (although we had been putting the harness on her for a few minutes at a time for several days beforehand, to get her used to it), but soon stopped that and became very interested in the surroundings.  Especially leaves being blown about by the wind, she loved chasing them.  Oh, and whenever we saw other people approaching, with dogs or not, she was straining at the leash to get to them for a fuss.....she just LOVES people.  Well, it's more the fact that they all want to pet her as, being a puppy, she's so cute.  Well, in looks anyway....she's a right little madam in temperament haha.

The walking is great though, gets rid of a lot of her excess energy and she's out for the count, sleeping for a couple of hours, when we get home.  Marvellous - means I can actually get a few things done!

I've been making use of the time to do quite a bit of batch cooking for the freezer.  A slow cooker potful of mince and veggies, split into 4 portions for 2, to be used for cottage pie, pasta twists & cheese sauce stirred through for an easy cheats version of lasagne, or chilli powder and kidney beans added.  Spicy pork, enough for 2 dinners with noodles or rice.  Frugal Queen's version of Tartiflette - 2 double portions of that.  A big panful of mashed spuds & swede, portioned up into 3 lots.  A tray of roasted root veggies, enough for 3 meals. 

I will do another couple of freezer meals on Monday.....a slow cooker chicken casserole and a couple of fish pies.  That'll mean I don't have to do much in the way of cooking for a couple of weeks, so we can concentrate on getting out for longer walks with the dog, weather permitting.

I did an online supermarket shop this week, next week I should only need some fruit and green veg, hopefully.

We've had no snow, not even a flake, but galeforce winds and rain lashing the windows through the night.  Bright sunshine with blue skies peeping through today, still cold and windy but less severe.  Hope everyone is staying safe and warm, wherever you are.

Thank you again for the comments....a few of you have mentioned Farm Foods, Lidl and Aldi.  Yes we do have all 3 of those in the town, I do buy toilet rolls from Farm Foods but haven't had a proper look round there for ages (we get 3 or 4 packs of toilet rolls at a time, which last us for months, so I don't need to go there often).  The Aldi and Lidl are always heaving nowadays, so that tends to put me off of going there.  Perhaps I should investigate going at a different time.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

First shopping of the year

Took my shopping list and am pleased to say I stuck to it, apart from just 2 extras.  It's OH's birthday on Sunday, we always cook each other a meal of whatever the birthday boy/girl wants....he asked for steak (it's always that or a big pork chop!) so that's what I got.  And there was a large piece of fresh salmon, enough for 3 meals for the two of us, reduced to half price because of the use by date.  We love salmon and eat it a lot, so I got that, cut it up and froze it.

I had a look round the supermarket's sale section, just to see if there was anything we needed that had a fantastic reduction.....nope, so I wasn't tempted to buy anything.

I did notice that they've already started putting up some prices (to claw back what they reduced before Xmas I suppose), and again have made some packs of things smaller.  E.g., I usually buy a 400g block of prepacked Cheddar, whatever happens to be on special offer that week.  Some of them were reduced in size to 350g some while back, whilst keeping the price the same (do they really think us savvy shoppers don't notice?!), but there are still several that have stayed 400g.  Well, one of the ones I regularly buy is now 370g - that's new, it wasn't like that before Christmas.  Ho hum.  I still won't be caught out though, as I always check both shelf label and pack size.

Took Betty to the vets yesterday for her 2nd vaccinations....the vet gave her a bacon chew to have to distract her whilst she did the jabs - not a peep out of Betty other than chewing and slurping noises!  So now there are just 6 days to go before we can take her out.  She is such a funny little thing, she makes us laugh every day.  When she's outside sniffing around the garden, for example, she's making snorty snuffly noises, she sounds like a pig looking for truffles, it does make me laugh.  And if we tell her off for chewing something she shouldn't and give her a toy to distract her, she carries the toy over to whatever it was she was chewing, sits and pretends to play with the toy for a few seconds and then sneakily goes back to chewing the chair leg or whatever....little monkey!!

Thank you for all the comments yesterday, and welcome to Cheryl from MylittlepieceofEngland.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Aims for this year

Wow, such a lot of comments on my last post.  Thank you so much for all your good wishes and I return them all to each one of you. 

I'm not making resolutions as such....to me, a new year's resolution is something that's set too high and thus you'll soon get fed up with trying to achieve it or keep it going for any length of time.  But I have thought about a few things we want to achieve this year, starting now, all of which are well within our reach and can easily be maintained, with a bit of effort.

1.  Zero food waste.  I don't want to waste ANY food, if I can help it.  We never have to go hungry in this country, whereas thousands in poorer countries do every day, so to waste food is a crime.  I know it doesn't benefit any of those poor people (Mum used to say to us when we were being picky at mealtimes as kids "there are starving children in Ethiopia who'd be glad of that!"), but even so, we shouldn't take food for granted to the extent where we just throw it away.  So if I notice we have fresh food that's going past its best or is about to go out of date and we can't use it immediately, I will cook and freeze it.  Any leftovers from dinners will be frozen too, even if it's just a small amount of meat or veg.....added to over a couple of weeks and there'll soon be enough to make a hash or bubble and squeak.

2.  Cutting down on shopping, both the quantity and the time.  This can be achieved by doing a few things.  Writing a menu plan each week, by looking first in the fridge and veg baskets to see what we have that needs using, supplemented by frozen or larder stuff.  Then making a shopping list of only what we need and sticking to it as much as possible.  I plan on doing this every week from now on, but with the aim of eventually shopping fortnightly instead of weekly.  Although I want to stick to the shopping list, I won't exclude buying a few bargains, but only of things that we use anyhow if they happen to be on a good special offer, or are reduced a lot because of the date.  Our chest freezer is currently full, so we certainly don't need much in the way of meat, or even milk and bread, for a while.

3.  Doing more batch cooking.  At the moment, as Betty takes up so much of our attention, I don't have a lot of time for cooking on a daily basis.  So on one or two days each week when husband is off and he can keep her amused, I aim to spend some time cooking meals for the freezer, so there's always a dinner there ready to be pulled out when I don't have a lot of time.

There are a few other things I'm mulling over, but that's enough to be going on with.