Saturday, 28 January 2012

I live in such a beautiful place

This is what I woke up to today.

I am a lucky man.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Slow cooker question

Hello all,

I have a question for those who have more experience with slow cookers than I do.

I have a whole free range chicken which I got from Lidl and I was planning on making a recipe from Nigellas kitchen book called Praised Chicken. Here is the recipe:

1 large chicken, preferably organic
2 teaspoons garlic oil
100ml white wine or dry white vermouth
2-3 leeks, cleaned, trimmed, and cut into approx. 7cm logs
2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into batons
1-2 sticks celery, sliced
approx. 2 litres cold water
1 bouquet garni or 1 teaspoon dried herbs
fresh parsley stalks or few sprigs, tied or banded together
2 teaspoons sea salt flakes or 1 teaspoon pouring salt
2 teaspoons red peppercorns, or good grinding pepper
chopped leaves, from parsley stalks above
chopped fresh dill
English mustard

Serves: 4-8

Get out a large, flame-safe cooking pot (with a lid) in which the chicken can fit snugly: mine is about 28cm wide x 10cm deep.
On a washable board, un-truss the chicken, put it breast-side down and press down until you hear the breastbone crack. (As you may imagine, I like this.) Then press down again, so that the chicken is flattened slightly. Now cut off the ankle joints below the drumstick (but keep them); I find kitchen scissors up to the task.
Put the oil in the pan to heat, then brown the chicken for a few minutes breast-side down, and turn up the heat and turn over the chicken, tossing in the feet as you do so. Still over a vigorous heat add the wine or vermouth to the pan and let it bubble down a little before adding the leeks, carrots and celery.
Pour in enough cold water to cover the chicken, though the very top of it may poke out, then pop in the bouquet garni or your herbs of choice, and the parsley stalks (if I have a bunch, I cut the stalks off to use here, but leave them tied in the rubber band) or parsley sprigs
The chicken should be almost completely submerged by now and if not, do add some more cold water. You want it just about covered.
Bring to a bubble, clamp on the lid, turn the heat to very low and leave to cook for 1½–2 hours. I tend to give it 1½ hours, or 1 hour 40 minutes, then leave it to stand with the heat off, but the lid still on, for the remaining 20–30 minutes.
Serve the chicken and accompanying vegetables with brown basmati rice, adding a ladleful or two of liquid over each shallow bowl, as you go, and putting fresh dill and mustard on the table for the eaters to add as they wish. 

Now to the question.

I wonder how I would do the same recipe in a slow cooker or if it were possible, perhaps it would leave the chicken not cooked enough. Anyone ever tried a recipe like this in a slow cooker?

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Average figures

Interesting isn't it, what the national average is in comparison with us people who consider themselves frugal.

I have been shopping about on uswitch and today to get my gas and electricity settled (taken me a month, but I needed to get used to things.). It started out by giving me a choice of 3 buttons, low user, medium user and high user. I duly pressed low user and continued putting in my answers. It then, is it's wisdom gave me prices starting at £750 a year. Now, this couldn't be right could it? In my last home, I had my usage down to a fine art and was paying £33 per month for them combined. Anyhow, after a lot of messing about I did the sensible thing which was to work out how much gas and electricity I actually use a year and it came out as 1300 kwh for Electricty and 3350 for gas. This is a preceise figure of how much I used in 2011. Now I realise that I am in a different address now, but the needs are similar, I don't leave lights on or heat unduly etc. so I am hoping that the usage will be similar. That gave me the figures of, guess what, £33 per month.

I find it very interesting that their idea of low user is using exactly twice what I use.

Perhaps they should add some categories to their choice such as:

high user
medium user
low user
very low user
very very low user
very very very low user
saving the planet user
not wasting a penny user


Tuesday, 24 January 2012

£26000? In my dreams!

Today  I have been inspired to write a post after reading a very good recent post from Scarlet.

As you will all have seen the recent news about people complaining that their benefits may be capped at £26000 and complaining about it, I was made very angry that people are playing the system in order to stay at home and do nothing, but can probably still afford lots of nice things to eat and new clothes and, I am sure, having their nails done etc.

I earn significantly lower than the national average, indeed, about half it seems, as my industry has taken quite a hit in recent years. I have seen a drop of about 4000 in my wage over the last couple of years and have I gone crying to the benefits office? No, I have changed my lifestyle significantly. Don't get me wrong, I have certainly not done this unwillingly, but have actually embraced the challenge 100% and I believe myself to be the winner in this. I have left a city I didn't enjoy living in and made the brave decision to move somewhere that I only know a handful of people, but in which I can make my life work on a small income. I can afford my mortgage repayments better now, I can grow my own food (if I could afford to plant things, which I can't at the moment, but hopefully by spring.....) and I can enjoy living close to nature. I don't go out to the pub, I have stopped my spending on new clothes 100% and have begged and borrowed things like a freezer from friends and family. At the moment I am living without a fridge because I can't afford one, so am keeping my fresh food in the garage where it is mercifully cold. But don't misunderstand and think that any of this is in the spirit of complaining, because I feel that I am richer than I have ever been in everything other than money. It makes me so cross to hear people on benefits complaining because they cannot have things that they consider their 'rights'. Benefits are not there for people who want to sit at home and watch Jeremy Kyle, but they are there for people with a genuine need, who have lost a job and don't know how to feed themselves until they get another or who genuinely don;t know where to turn to.

I have started to change the way I live completely, I don't go out for meals, I cook everything from scratch, I don't buy books, I use the library, I use my car as infrequently as possible and walk if I can. Holidays are a thing of the past (although I feel now that I am living in a holiday destination!). I will be foraging come spring. The major supermarkets are no go areas now, unless I genuinely cannot get an item anywhere else - Lidl and Aldi are life savers. Shopping for anything non essential is over. Gas and electricity wastage is not an option, I will use what is needed at that moment, heat the rooms I am going to be in and use blankets and throws, light the room I am using. Baths are a thing of the past as water is saved carefully, a short shower is all I am having. Internet usage is now capped to save money and phone calls are only made in my 'free' period, ie, evenings and weekend. Mobile phone usage is now a bare minimum and for emergencies.

And yet I still feel there is so much to learn from people like ilona or Frugal Queen can who put me to shame with the amount of frugality they employ. I wonder how many of the benefit people complaining about being capped at £26000 are doing as much to save money?

I love my new life and am now even considering a new job or career, were it possible to work somewhere walking distance from home. We will see what the next 12 months bring, but meanwhile I will be giving the news a miss to stop myself getting upset and shouting at the television.

Monday, 23 January 2012

I've finished a room!

I have a new boiler, internet (finally) and I have fully moved in now!

And more importantly I have finished my bedroom.

Lets remember how it looked.

And this is how it looks now.

All it cost me was a tin of paint and a curtain pole. The carpet was put in before I moved in by the previous owner (lucky saving), the curtains were given to me by my sister in law, the quilt was made for me by my mum and everything else I had already.

I have painted the hall and living room too but not quite finished either yet. I don't want to spend much more for a while because the boiler and the new windows are setting me back quite significantly. The way I see it though, once they are done, that is the last of big expenses for a few years. my sister just gave me a freezer, so I put that in the freezer and put it on this morning. Now I have to get my food stock piles back up and start saving money again.

More to follow soon, now I am back online.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

It's free!

A lot of you may have this already, but for those that don't, EDF are giving completely free cavity wall and loft insulation for everyone, you don't even have to be with EDF. I'm not. I have applied and within a week I already have my survey booked in. Here is the link for those interested:

If, like me, you wonder why they offer it for free, here is the answer from Martins Money Pages:

'Not out of the kindness of their hearts. This is all about the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) which came into effect in April 2008. Gas and electricity suppliers are obliged, out of their own pocket, to promote energy efficiency measures through professionally installed insulation measures'

Thursday, 5 January 2012

There must be pleasanter ways to spend a rainy day!

Hello everyone,
I am taking the chance to use my friends internet as I still don't have any in my house. I have been spending my days in tedious jobs. First off was wallpaper stripping. I can't actually complain that much, because compared with some wallpapers I have struggled with over the years this came off really very easily. Today I spent the whole day sanding down the walls and then washing up the dust, in preparation to pain the undercoat and woodwork, which I will begin tomorrow. My shoulder is killing me now, my muscled aren't used to this sort of thing it seems, I used to do gymnastics and thought my shoulder muscles were in pretty good shape - clearly not that good!
Anyway, the house will begin to improve when I get some paint on the walls this weekend and next week, so I hope to be a bit more sorted in the next couple of weeks.

I have had the builder in to measure up for my new front door and patio doors - an expense that I could honestly do without, but even I can see that neither of them are offering any security. I am waiting to see what the quote will be. Also the plumber has been back to the 20 year old boiler because it broke down. I think it is living on a wing and a prayer so I hope it has a few more months in it!

Here are some pics of my progress. I've worked like a dog and yet it looks worse! Always the way.

But some nice additions are on the outside.

My dad gave me the smart number 7 and my godparents the nice green trees (I already had the blue pots and think they look good)