Thursday, 27 October 2011

Tempting Fate

I am not usually particularly superstitious, but since I have had my offer accepted on the cottage a number of people have asked to see photos. Now it may be ridiculous, but I have refrained from showing anyone because it feels like tempting fate rather, to show it before it is actually mine, everything has gone unbelievably like clockwork until now and I can't really believe house selling/buying is every really this smooth.
So, I have decided to compromise, I will show a couple of photographs of the view from the house but not the house itself. Hopefully that will mean fate will not be tempted! Meanwhile, all is set for the 1st December.

This is a view from the front windows of the house.

A nice woodland for some foraging I think and some great walks. On the other side of that fence is a public footpath into miles of hills and woods.

And this is the view from the back and a bit of my lovely South facing back garden.

Some lovely sunny times here and hopefully not too much of that famous Lancashire wind and rain!

It's all a bit different from where I have lived in London for the last 19 years! Can't begin to imagine how dark and quiet it is going to be at night, probably be spooked for the first few months, especially with all John's (Going Gently) zombie chat! Maybe I'll stop watching the Walking Dead for a while!

Thanks everyone, for all your comments, and welcome to my new followers. It is lovely recording all of this here with you.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Good news part 2

Hi all,

Just to let everyone know that I have had my offer accepted on the cottage I went for a second viewing of in Lancashire. Very excited and very thrilled. Everything is going for completion by 1st December, so it is all happening fast after all those months of waiting.

I had another moment of fear about the enormity of the move a few days ago, but now I am really on top of the world. It will be an exciting adventure, wait til i show you guys the view from my windows!

So now, being frugal and all the practice that I have had is going to become essential. There is an awful lot of work ahead of me and it is a real mess inside for now, but with some real elbow grease I can make is so lovely.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Any ideas?

Hi everyone,

One of the things that I was thinking of making for some of the adults this Christmas is Limoncello. It tastes really good, doesn't cost a fortune and should go down rather well. The process of making this well be a future post.

In general the recipe calls for between 5 or 9 lemons for 1 litre depending on the recipe but you only use the lemon zest. So if I make 2 litres of the stuff, to divide up, I could end up with up to 18 zestless lemons and nothing to do with them.

So, to the question, does anyone have any ideas what I can make from a whole load of zestless lemons? Are there any preserves that just use juice? It would be great if I could make something using them that would also go down well at Christmas.

All ideas welcome.

Paradox of our Age

Some of you may have read this before, I hadn't. I read it for the first time the other day on Gavin's excellent blog which you can find here. Well worth a visit.

It is quite a sad reflection of modern civilization, but oh so true.

The Paradox of Our Age by The 14th Dalai Lama

We have bigger houses but smaller families;
More conveniences, but less time;
We have more degrees, but less sense;
More knowledge, but less judgment;
More experts, but more problems;
More medicines, but less healthiness;
We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbour.
We build more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever but have less communication.
We have become long on quantity, but short on quality.
These are times of fast foods but slow digestion;
Tall men but short character;
Steep profits but shallow relationships.
It's a time when there is much in the window, but nothing in the room.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Bags and bags and bags.

What is it about plastic bags that makes me so annoyed? Don't get me wrong, we all have a few, mostly because we call in a supermarket on the way home, unexpectedly and don't have a bag for life with us. But any that I do have will get re-used for some purpose or other and in 99 times out of 100 I have my own shopping bag for life with me and don't need a plastic bag. No, that is not what annoys me, consumers using free plastic bags doesn't even annoy me. What annoys me is the pathetic, half hearted attempts at supermarkets, shops and the government to take no responsibility at all.
10 billion were given out in the UK alone in 2008, that is on average 400 per household.
Thousands of marine animals and over a million birds die each year as a result of plastic pollution.

Now there have been some good attempts by Marks and Spencer, who started charging 5p for a bag and have, I believe, stuck to that (I wouldn't know for sure as I don't shop there).
But other supermarkets are a bit pathetic. Sainsbury made a half hearted attempts at not having plastic bags out so you had to ask for them, but now, I notice, that has gone and there are just as many as there ever were. If you read there website on the subject it is a pathetic joke. Their reason for providing plastic bags still is:

Unfortunately, it's not possible for us to stop providing free carrier bags for our customers as it’s now considered a trading critical item in our stores.

Sounds like a load of non-words to me.

We did a 'pay-for' trial some years ago where we did charge the cost price for carrier bags to our customers, but our customers where not happy and complained.

Well, of course you are going to get that response if you ask regular joe blogs if he minds paying for something or not..

What does the UK competition law say?  Well, they don’t permit retailers to work together to agree between themselves to charge for carrier bags. Why?  It would be considered to be controlling part of the market for carrier bags, which is worth a lot of money to a number of UK companies.

Now I take this to mean that the basic reasoning is that because the plastic bag industry is making someone, somewhere a lot of money, that an individual company should not upset that. How short-sighted is that? Surely the bigger picture is of more importance.

The thing is, the government go around and around doing a sort of shall we, shan't we on the subject. I mean really, if they just either a, made a ruling that they must be paid for, or b, even better, that they banned them completely then people may complain for a few weeks but soon everyone would just be used to it and deal with it. In the past, supermarkets used to let you pick up their old cardboard boxes to pack stuff into, now they don't do that (except lidl, who seem to have a better policy). everyone would soon remember to take bags with them.
If the government takes this much to persuade and this much procrastination over something as simple as a fairly obvious plastic bag issue, then there is pretty much no hope at all over bigger and more important green issues going on. It is time they stopped worrying about who they will upset and started looking at making the Earth a cleaner, safer and longer lasting place to live.

Friday, 7 October 2011

On my mind

Show you care - give the perfect gift?

Christmas, I am told, is on its way. It is a time to be with family, to enjoy each other's company, especially when there is a distance between you. It is often one of the few times where all of you will sit down together for a meal or for an afternoon, to simply enjoy being together, reminisce and remember people who are not there. Whether you are religious or not, Christmas is a time to think about the year past and the year to come (much more so than New Year for me) and to reflect upon your own life and those who you love.

So why is it that it has also become such a nightmare for a lot of us? It is usually sometime during the next couple of months that various family members will begin to ask me: 'what would you like for Christmas?'. I usually answer, without really giving any thought to the question, 'I don't know'. This is because I really don't like to be asked this question, it seems to represent all that is wrong with the whole gifting business of Christmas. The best gift anyone can ever give you is something from the heart, even when it cost nothing. To receive something you weren't expecting, or something that has been made for you, with you in mind is worth more to me that any amount of expensive gifts. I am quite a simple man and as such there is nothing I really want for. But a couple of years ago when my 9 year old (at the time) nephew bought me a book from a library sale for 10p because it was a subject matter that he knew would interest me, it meant so much that I smile every time I see it. In this way, I try hard with the adults to find or make things that will make them smile, or surprise them. Sometimes I get it right, other times it falls flat, depending on the person. But the one thing that I cannot buy into is how much something is worth in monetary terms. To be smiled at on the surface but know that beneath the surface someone is totting up how much you spent on them and whether or not they spent more than you. When did Christmas turn into that?

My other bugbear with Christmas is children's attitudes. Don't get me wrong, I don't blame them for wanting stuff, because for the most part it is the way they have been taught either by well-meaning or guilt ridden parents, or TV and advertising hand in hand with spoilt school friends. Yes, Christmas is a time for children to be excited, to enjoy some of the magic and I remember my own excitement at what gifts I would receive. The difference between then and now is quantity, both quantity of gifts and quantity of money spent. I would perhaps get one main present and 3 or 4 little things and I was wowed by all that. Perhaps my granny would give me a record, or a book and that would be that. I would be happy with the excitement of it all. Now the children I know are getting hundreds of pounds worth of presents and if that weren't bad enough, not seeming to appreciate what they have been given. Parents are under an enormous amount of pressure, I get that, but I think it is a very short sighted way of being and they are doing their children no favours by allowing them to think they can have so much just by having a tantrum if they don't get it. Time and time again I have seen the children in my extended family receive 5 video games each at £40 a time and yet be in a bad mood because they didn't get the one they wanted. I know that I am considered a Scrooge with them because from me they receive a book or a book token in general, and it mostly goes un-thanked. Rarely a Christmas day goes by without some pointless mood swing or tears over not getting something.

So is there going to be a time when it swings back to the real meaning of Christmas? I imagine a lot of the people reading this have a very good attitude towards it, being a frugal minded bunch, but you all must have observed what I am talking about in someone's household? Is it simply because people work more and so give their children less time, so buying them stuff is to make up for it? I don't really believe this to be an excuse, because there are many hard working parents out there who are not buying into it. Or is it simply the same old media fuelled guff, where we are shown how we should be spending Christmas, like celebrities do, buying lavish gifts, having a new tree decorated with a new style every year, theming the table with brand new John Lewis Christmas table decorations in purple and silver this year - whatever was wrong with going out to collect fir cones, a bit of silver spray and imagination.

So here's to a simple, frugal minded and meaningful Christmas with no debts and no tantrums.

This is a Friday photo feature that anyone with a blog can join. To take part, post a photo on your own blog, write a short caption explaining it, and link it back to here from your blog by saying you're part of "On my mind"
Linked from Down To Earth

Monday, 3 October 2011

Good news

Hello everyone,

Well now my new journey begins because I have accepted an offer on my flat! I had some tough decisions to make because it is quite a lot below the asking price, but after negotiating and doing my sums I am content with selling at that price. When all is said and done the market is shocking and I have only had one viewer in 5 months, so holding out for a better price could take who knows how long. The lady who is buying it is nice and is so excited about it, old softy that I am it really softens the blow.

It is strange because I am looking forward to this next stage in my life so much and am ready for it, but it is certainly coupled with a bit of unexpected sadness in letting go of my home - I know this must be a normal feeling, but getting everything in motion seems a tough task now. Also a bit of fear that what I am doing is now becoming a reality.

Anyway, enough for now, I have stuff to do!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Melting moments.

Today I really fancied some biscuits! I was trying to decide if I had enough ingredients in my store to make some but was put off because I hadn't got any eggs. Anyway, I remembered my granny used to make some biscuits called Melting Moments so I had a hunt about on the internet for a recipe, turns out there are a lot of different versions, most of which use an egg. Well with a bit of perseverance I found a recipe that didn't require an egg and made 28 biscuits. Very delicious. I don't really like my biscuits too sweet so this appeals to me, but if you have more of a sweet tooth than me you may wish to add a bit more sugar.



175g s/r flour 
125g cornflour 
50g icing sugar 
225g butter 
1 tsp vanilla extract


Put flour, cornflour and icing sugar in food processor and mix briefly. Add butter (chopped into small chunks) and vanilla and mix until it comes together into sort of dough (can take a few minutes). 

Roll mixture into small balls size of marble and place on baking tray with a little space in between. 

Dip a fork in cold water and press down on each one to flatten slightly and score. 

Bake for 10-15 mins at 160C fan/325F/gas 3.