Monday, 30 April 2012

New year aspirations update

I think I may have forgotten my round up post last month, so will roll March and April's together. I have copied and pasted the lists from my aspirations page and my last update post you can see what has been achieved by the strike throughs, or excuses in italics! The plans for them both were to;

  • Make summer dresses for Stephanie this isn't completely struck through as I want to do more
  • Work on Mum's crocheted blanket
  • decorate kitchen - Bumped I NEED to find time to do the hallway before I can contemplate this.
  • begin work on the allotment
  • swim- removed for now as a money saving measure, I need to find a free exercise
  • cycle I'm wary of cycling in the rain and every time I have 5 Min's it rains!- my excuse and I'm keeping it
  • plan any making required for Stephanie's birthday planning done and much of the making is underway Achieved and enjoyed (see previous post for results of this)
  • Decorate upstairs bathroom- see note on hallway above
  • Make curtain/ blind for bathroom again see above
  • exercise- one day I will, although tenuous link does digging the allotment count? thought not
  • plant seeds done, will be doing more but need more space/ less frost so that I can start getting them in the ground- All potatoes are in the ground and I have planted pea seeds directly in the ground unsure how they will fare yet. Green beans have been transplanted, just hope they survive

In my round up post for February I set myself

  • Make summer dresses for Stephanie I made 2 dresses for her birthday

  • Work on Mum's crocheted blanket started this already, need to buy some more matching yarn so I can complete - I need to dig this back out, I managed to buy matching yarn but have not picked it up since.

  • decorate kitchen - see above excuse logical reason

  • begin work on the allotment done this already, still more to be done but it is started  Looking much better, still some to go but it looks like an allotment again now

  • swim - see reason above

  • cycle - as above

  • I also plan on adding;
    • decorate hallways, they are looking VERY tatty so are higher priority than the kitchen now.- Still need to do
    • finish swoon quilt/picnic rug- the top is done just needs quilting now
    • finish Henry VIII cross stitch about half way there with this

    Sunday, 29 April 2012

    What did you do with your Sunday?

    I started off my day by going to the allotment and planting the last of my seed potatoes, I also planted a row of supermarket potatoes that had been in the kitchen too long and started to shoot to see how they grow. I put the bean plants I have been hardening off in the ground- I hope I get them to grow and the slugs don't attack them again like last time!

    From there I went to the supermarket to attempt the £40 challenge. I got some salmon, falafel, pork, bread and new potatoes in the reduced section. I needed to buy cleaning products today My shopping came to £47 this week which means for the next 3 weeks I need to spend on average less than £38 to achieve the target of spending less than £160 on food. I still have a lot of meat/ fish in the freezer so it should be possible.

    I read a post on Astra's blog last week explaining how to make bread. I followed her instructions from her post, and the ones she left me in the comments underneath it. Here's how I got on;

    The ingredients ready to be mixed

    After 10 minutes of amateur kneading

    Ready to rise


    Loaf one cooked, incidentally this loaf no longer exists just hours after this picture was taken.

    Loaf number 2, this one stuck a little to the dish so slightly misshapen on the bottom but does taste good still

    Loaf number 1 five minutes after coming out of the oven

    This bread is still slightly more dense than that we are used to but not as dense as previous attempts before I had Stephanie. When you consider she was 6 last weekend that is how long I have thought bread making to be beyond me. With the resounding success today I am going to continue trying to make my own this shot is Astra's recipe written out to go in my 'tried and tested recipes we love' box. Many thanks Astra!

    Whilst the bread was rising/ cooking/ being eaten we also made Yorkshire's to go with the roast dinner we had, cakes for this weeks pack lunches and pastry for tomorrows 'left over chicken' pie.

    Saturday, 28 April 2012

    Menu planning

    As part of my determination to stick to a budget I have been menu planning. I thought I would share with you my planned meals for the next week. The above is a picture of the whiteboard I have hanging in the kitchen for this.
    On the menu for next week the bulk of the ingrediants are already in the freezer, Monday and Tuesdays chicken dishes will be made using leftover chicken from the roast we will be having tomorrow. I don't plan for breakfasts; Stephanie eats hers at her childminders, Dylan will make toast/ have cereal bars and I have fruit/cereal bars. At the weekend I will sometimes make pancakes/ dippy eggs etc depending on what we are doing and what the children want. Lunches when we are at school tend to be very predictable- the children always want the same ham/cheese sandwich fruit and a cake. I'll make mine with whatever in the fridge needs using first.
    Underneath you will see I have my shopping list for the week, as the meats/fish are already here I should be well able to stick to my £40 food budget- if there are any good offers in the yellow label section when I go I pick them up and pop them in the freezer when I get home for use another week. You will see on the shopping list 2 items not usually there- yeast and bread flour. I have been inspired by Astra to have a go at making my own bread. Wish me luck.

    Friday, 27 April 2012

    Independence day challenge

    I woke up to this view this morning made such a lovely start to the day

    The rest of this week I have woken up to the black clouds racing across the sky and watching next doors guttering dripping. Not that I am complaining we need the rain but I do love the sunshine.
    Here goes for this weeks challenge.

    1. plant something I upplanted my bean plants that were growing in the kitchen, I am planning on planting them out at the allotment this weekend. I also planted some cucumber, sprouts and pumpkins
    2. harvest something compost for upplanting beans and planting the other seeds.
    3. preserve something nothing this week
    4. waste not I planted the seeds in old egg boxes
    5. want not I got some salad leaves and tomatoes for pennies at the end of the day last Sunday which have been in my lunches all week.
    6. eat the food We have had the birthday cake from last week (which was finished v. quickly). I made fairy cakes for lunch boxes. We have eaten the last of the frozen kale with our dinners. The other day we had the last of the fish pies I had made and frozen from the fish given to us by my uncle. Today we made homemade pizza for tea, I had apple crumble I had made from apples off of the allotment and frozen last year.
    7. build community food systems family and neighbours helped to eat the birthday cake, rather tenuous I know but sort of fits here.
    8. skill up I learnt this week how to make scrummy home made pizza. We have made it for years but I have never really enjoyed it I made it with the children for them rather than the taste. However talking with a colleague she told me that rather than jut spreading tomato puree on the base as I normally would to mix some ketchup with the puree for the sauce as it makes it less sharp <insert correct description here my mind is too tired!> Whilst browsing blogs early in the week I came across a blogger who posted her recipe for the base. I find my base very doughy and not crisp enough. The other blogger, so sorry if it is you I can't remember where I read it, bakes the base blind for 10 Min's then adds the topping and finishes the cooking. We tried this along with my colleagues sauce and I must say the result is the BEST pizza I have ever made. I loved it can't wait to make it again now.

    I forgot to take a picture of the whole pizza so you'll just have to look at my plate, sorry.

    This is my apple crumble and squirty cream. The cream is left over from the party. YUM!

    Another skill we tried this week is nail varnish making. Stephanie received a make your own kit for her birthday. We had a try tonight it was so simple and she loved it.

    I can't wait to see what you have all been up to this week, leave your post in the comments, or link to your blog.

    Thursday, 26 April 2012

    Shopping budget

    Just 'popping in' to say how the shopping challenge has gone this week.

    If you ignore the fact that Stephanie chose pizza hut for her birthday tea treat, costing £33, I have spent £3.55 on shopping this week. If you don't ignore this fact then I have spent £36.55 meaning I am UNDERBUDGET!!!

    I have been very strict due to spending so much on the birthday treat. All I bought was;
    • 2 packets of ham on offer so total cost £3.00
    • 1 packet of mixed salad, reduced to 30p
    • 1 packet of tomatoes reduced to 25p
    These items have been the main part of our lunches this week. Everything else has come out of the freezer and cupboards. I am feeling very proud of myself this week. It hasn't been easy, I have really ancied a pack of crisps all week, probably because I haven't got any in! I resisted the pull towards the shops, I have not been near one since going to the petrol station on Sunday where I purchased the above items. Oh I am sorry a small fib there- I went on Tues eve to get a gift for my Childminders daughter as it was her birthday and I forgot. I got her a present in the reduced section at the local outlet centre, it was a very pretty silver handbag for £4.

     I am going to do a strict menu plan for next week before I go shopping to see how well I can do, I have been so pleased with this week it has spurred me  on to keep going.

    Monday, 23 April 2012

    The craft party success!

    We have decided that the craft party on Saturday was a success. All those who attended, that I have spoken to since, have praised it. The children's Nan was very surprised at how relaxed it was. Busy yes, messy yes, stressful no.
    I put my 9 year old nephew in charge of the photo taking as I never get opportunity at the children's parties to snap away. Giving the camera to him to use gave him a grown up job to do, it also gave the other adults dotting around 'permission' to snap away for me when he put the camera down. Resulting in a massive 160 photographs roughly of the party.
    Here's some of the pictures;

    All hands on deck for the painting of the castle

    Children were amazed when I said they could chalk on the fences/ shed etc; My children and I had to show them that this really is allowed. It was as if I had set them a trap!

    The same with digging in the 'box'

    The birthday cake

    The smiles on every ones face made it worth while. Rough running order for the 2 hour party;

    1. guests arrived and set to work painting the castle on arrival
    2. crown/sword/shield etc making
    3. food
    4. pass the parcel
    5. garden games
    6. cake and singing
    7. party poppers and departure.
    The games we had in the garden were;
    space hoppers- or humpy hoppers as my nephew calls them

    nothing amazing or out of the ordinary but the children loved it.

    Definitely a party I would repeat.

    Thursday, 19 April 2012


    Party preparations are in full swing here I have made personalised aprons for all children who have replied so far, I need to make a couple of plain spares just in case those who have not answered come. I have had 11 confirmed attendees so far. Am feeling a little apprehensive as I did not expect this many to be coming so far only one child has declined, and the weather is supposed to be wet all day!

    This wouldn't be so bad if the main activity was not painting a large cardboard castle which was planned as an outside activity. It looks as though there will be some furniture rearrangement occurring Saturday morning as that is something that can't really go out whatever the weather as a soggy castle will not be easy to paint.

    Stephanie designed her cake, I made and assembled it. Tonight I iced it, here's a sneak preview as long as you promise not to tell the details to the birthday Princess.

    Sunday, 15 April 2012

    the shopping challenge

    OK so last week I decided that I need to control my spending.

    I wasn't going to begin the challenge until next week but as I checked the fridge I realised I have no fruit/ vegetable in there and I had no bread for lunches  so I thought I would share with you the results of my first week.

    My spending at the supermarket for this week was £43.92 now I know that is slightly over the £40 I set as a target spend. I'm not going to beat myself up over it as I had some extra/unusual purchases for Stephanie's birthday next weekend so I am feeling happy with a little over spend this time.

    Saturday, 14 April 2012

    Birthday preperations.

    I have been set the task by  Stephanie of making her a castle themed craft party. For this her friends and her are going to be painting a cardboard box castle and making crowns. I am told I am making said castle. Expect more about this later in the week I am roping Nanny in to help me with this.
    Whilst the children are crafting they are going to be wearing an apron which I am making and putting the child's initial on. I have done this for some of the children. I have 2 more definitely to make (the birthday girl being one of those). Plus any extra replies I get later in the week from those not yet responded.
    Another request from Stephanie was to make a pink tiered dress from a pattern I already have from her Halloween costume. I spent all of this afternoon working on it, I'm a little concerned it is going to be a little big so I anticipate that I shall be making a couple of alterations on it tomorrow when Stephanie is home and tries it on. What do you think?

    This next dress is a surprise for her which she shall get on Sunday with the rest of her birthday presents;

    When I was in the charity shops yesterday looking for things for school I found a couple of little treasures I am sure Stephanie will like so they have been added to her birthday pile. The first was this picture for the bargain price of £1.

    The picture doesn't do it justice really. It is one of those silk picture that is so shiny and beautiful. The next thing I know I am going to be reading at bedtime for the next few months and I'm sure Stephanie will love this too;

    I got that for the princely some of 89p.

    I have a few other presents to give to her all of which were bought in either the January sales or closing down sales. I haven't got her many as she asked for a trip to Legoland for her present which we went on this week as we all go back to school next week making day trips a little more tricky.

    Friday, 13 April 2012

    Independence day challenge

    It's time for the weekly round up to see how I am doing in my journey to become self-sufficientish. I am following the posts began by The chatelaine's keys.

    1. Plant something
    Not a lot here this week, I planted some pea seeds.
    2. Harvest something
    Nothing here this week
    3. preserve something
    nothing here either
    4. Waste not
    I used some more egg cartons to plant the pea seeds into. I also used some of the ready compost down on the allotment today
    5. Want not
    Whilst out browsing the charity shops earlier I found some bargains for Stephanie's birthday; a couple of books and a fairy silk picture I know she will love. I made the aprons for Stephanie's birthday party using some curtain lining I was given years ago and some trimmings from my Mum's flat. I have just made Stephanie a new dress for her birthday using some buttons and fabric also from Mum's stash. Not food I know but all helps me to have less dependency on the shops.
    6. Eat the food
    I am still eating the birthday cake I made for my sister.
    7. build community food systems
    Lots of support given to my sister who has gone home and started to make her own vegetable patch in her garden after staying here and helping me.
    8. Skill up
    I can't think of anything for here this week I think I have mainly been practising the skills I already have ie lots of sewing this week.

    So there you have my bid towards independence this week. If you are inspired to do the same please leave a comment below with your list, or a link to your post.

    Thursday, 12 April 2012

    apron tutorial

    This evening I made a start on the sewing for Stephanie's upcoming birthday party, after I had FINISHED the quilt topper for my swoon along picnic blanket (more about that another day, another blog post)

    Back to the aprons. You may remember that I had a couple made for the Virtual spring fair. I needed to make a few more for the party and I still needed to personalise them. As I made them I took some photos so that I could make a tutorial for how I do them so here goes;

    1. Cut out the shape of you apron

    2. Sew a hem all the way around the edges of the apron. I cheated a little and cut my aprons out so that the bottom of the apron was the selvedge edge, so I had a little less hemming to do.

    3. once you apron is hemmed then you need to cut the ribbon/ binding that you plan to use for the neck straps/ apron ties. I cut the neck strap to be 44cm and each of the apron ties 30 cm. Then sew them on, I use a small zigzag stitch to do this. Once these are on your apron is complete you can stop now if you want. I have made them like this before and then let the children loose with fabric pens to decorate how they want. I had a request for personalised aprons for her friends this time around. So I carried on;

    4. Select the fabric you want to applique the letter in. Use tailors chalk to draw the outline of the letter. Cut it out.

    5. use sewing machine to applique the letter on. I used a zigzag stitch for this, this should help prevent fraying of the edges.

    6. Admire your work!

    incidentally, does anyone else make this much mess whilst crafting??

    Sunday, 8 April 2012

    budget setting

    I have had a reduction in income which has given me the push I need to re-assess my finances. I have been procrastinating about this for the past few months and thinking I need to do this, but then I procrastinate and think of things I need to do first which then pushes the start date back.

    I am taking today as Easter day the symbol of new life etc etc to be my first day. I have written a list (surprise surprise regular followers will know I love a good list!) of my regular outgoings a month. I have read my gas/elec meters so that when my quarterly bill drops in the email in box during the next few weeks I know they will be accurate bills. After all bills etc are gone I have decided how much of the left over income goes into the new car savings pot and have left myself a weekly allowance for grocery shopping.

    I have allowed for £40 per week for the 4 weeks between pay days April- May pay day. If I find I manage easily on this amount I will reassess and alter the budget for spend the following month and save more.
    There is enough food in the house that I will only need to buy some fruit/veg/milk in the next 2 weeks before payday. This week we are away for a couple of days and then the children are at their Dads, so as it is only me home I don't need to buy anything as there is plenty in for me.

       Wish us luck!

    Saturday, 7 April 2012

    Independence day challenge #8

    I have had a week off work, with various family members having stayed with us. Here's what I have been doing garden wise this week;

    1. Plant something
    This week I have planted dwarf beans, and peas. I have also planted my seed potatoes in at the allotment.

    2. Harvest something
    We harvested lots of compost from the compost bins, some curly kale for dinner the other day.

    3. Preserve something
    I froze some prawns I bought reduced in the supermarket

    4.Waste not
    I have planted seeds in empty eggs trays now I have removed the potatoes that were chitin in them.

    5. Want not
    I can't think of anything in this section for this week, am sure there must be something though.

    6. Eat the food
    I made a birthday cake for my sister this week which we have all been enjoying all week. We also ate some of the vegetables I froze from the allotment.

    7. Build community food systems
    This week I have taken my sister and one of my nephews with me to the allotment to share the little knowledge that I have learnt in my short growing history. I have also given my nephew some of my seed potatoes and other seeds that he would like to grow to get the vegetable garden they are now planning on starting going.

    8. Skill up
    I have learnt this week that it is not slugs that are devastating my cabbages but PIGEONS. I was taught this by the man on the allotment plot next to mine, he has taught me a lot over the past year. So today, at his suggestion the children and I hung old Cd's around the cabbages to try and scare them away.

    Thursday, 5 April 2012

    viva la revolution.
    I have decided to join Astra and join the happiness revolution. I have been following her blog for a little while and love her happy bubbly (or that's how I read it) attitude.

    Astra invites us to "Just think of 10 things that are making you happy this month, write them down and grab the banner above for your post! Lets forget about the negatives for a minute, turn off the news and give some attention to all the good things in our lives!"

    So here are 10 things that are making me happy at the moment.

    1. Time at home with my children.
    2. spending time with my sisters, 2 have been staying with me this week.
    3. cuddles with my niece and nephew that have also been staying.
    4. Lay-ins as it is the school holidays.
    5. That I am keeping the surprise from the children that I have booked for next week.
    6. That I have lots of veggies etc beginning to grow.
    7. The lovely family days out we have had this week, we've not spent a single day at home yet.
    8. Listening to the children playing together.
    9. Not having the washing to do myself- my washer has broken and whilst I am waiting for the repair man to arrive the children's nan is doing my washing, I drop off a bag of washing and go back a couple of days later collect it all clean. Wonder how long it can be broken for ;-)
    10. The cake I made for my sisters birthday, we have all been enjoying it this week.

    Don't forget to link up your list below (and check out Astra's post) so people who want a positivity kick can come find you!